Your BBB regularly gets calls from consumers who were told they just won a big lottery prize–all they have to do is wire a few hundred dollars to cover some kind of fee. Of course, if they do, the money is lost and they never get their fake lottery winnings.
Many of these lottery scams are run out of Jamaica and it seems like the folks who do it will never get caught, but one just did.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced that 28-year-old Damion Bryan Barrett was extradited from Jamaica to Florida, where he will face charges for his alleged part in an international lottery scheme that targeted elderly victims in the U.S.
Barrett is the first Jamaican citizen to be extradited from Jamaica to the U.S. on charges of defrauding Americans in a lottery scheme.
Barrett and his co-conspirators allegedly tricked elderly victims in the U.S. into sending thousands of dollars to pay “fees” for lottery winnings they hadn’t actually won. The victims never received cash or prizes.
Barrett and his associates allegedly made calls from Jamaica using technology that allowed them to use a telephone number with a U.S. area code. The victims were reportedly convinced to send money to middlemen in South Florida, who forwarded the money to Jamaica.
If convicted, Barrett faces up to 30 years in prison per count, as well as a possible fine and restitution. Barrett’s co-defendant, Oneike Barnett, 29, pleaded guilty on Feb. 28, 2014, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. On April 29, 2014, Barnett was sentenced to 60 months in prison and five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $94,456 in restitution.
Here are five red flags of a lottery scam, so you don’t become a victim:
- You’re told you’ve won a contest you didn’t enter. You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery. Whether it’s by phone or mail, scammers seek out their targets. Verify that it is a legitimate business by doing research on the company.
- You are offered ‘too-good-to-be-true’ prizes. It is almost always a large sum of money, but there is always a catch. Scammers attempt to make it sound easy to claim your prize. The reality is it is very unlikely that someone will give away large sums of money with no strings attached.
- You have to give personal information. Anytime someone tries to get your bank account number, Social Security Number or other sensitive information, that should be an automatic red flag. There is also no need to access financial information, like a credit card number in response to a sweepstakes promotion.
- You have to pay to win. Don’t be blinded by the promise of a large sum of money in the future. If they are asking you to give them money first, that’s a red flag. According to the Federal Trade Commission, It’s illegal to ask you to pay or buy something to enter or increase your odds of winning. Legitimate prizes do not come with processing fees, and taxes are paid directly to the Internal Revenue Service after winnings are collected.
- You have to wire money or use prepaid debit cards. If you are asked to use these transfer methods in order to get a prize or any other large sum of money, that is a major red flag. It’s difficult to track these types of transactions, so you will have little to no way of getting your money back.