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Lottery scams: Don't believe that phone call that says you've won millions

By Lois Greisman
Associate Director, Division of Marketing Practices, Federal Trade Commission

For years, we’ve been hearing about lottery scams: the imposter who convinces you that you’ve won the lottery – you didn’t – and all you have to do is pay some fees to collect your millions – you won’t. And for years, we’ve been hearing about lottery scams that originate in Jamaica, where telemarketing lottery scams became a cottage industry in some parts of the island.

Here at the FTC, we’ve helped criminal law enforcers investigate these types of cases. I’m happy to report that our sister agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, recently extradited a Jamaican man on charges that he was part of an international lottery scheme targeting older adults in the U.S. He’s the first person to be extradited in this kind of case.

Here’s the story:

A 28-year-old Jamaican man, Damion Bryan Barrett, called people in the United States, spoofing phone numbers to make it look like the calls came from the U.S., and often claiming they were calling from the IRS or Federal Reserve, or a well-known sweepstakes company, according to the indictment.

Barrett, the indictment says, told people they had won cash and prizes – which they could collect if they sent up to thousands of dollars in “fees.” Then, Barrett and his colleagues allegedly told people to send money to middle-men in southern Florida, who sent the money on to Jamaica. But, says the indictment, not a single person actually got any money from their – ahem – winnings.

If he’s convicted, Barrett faces prison time, a fine, and mandatory restitution to the victims of his scam.

But, whatever happens in court, this extradition shows how serious the department and its law enforcement partners are about cracking down on people who try to defraud American consumers. That’s good news for all of us.

Meanwhile, if you get a call or email that you’ve won something, follow this advice: never send money. And, report the call or email so we can help in the fight against these scammers.

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