Reporting David Highfield
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s one of the biggest scams targeting older people right now.
KDKA has told you about Jamaican lottery schemes before. They’ve become such an issue that the United States Senate will hold a hearing Wednesday.
It was a little more than a year ago when KDKA’s David Highfield reported on the Jamaican lottery scam.
The scam artists don’t just trick people out their money, but they’ve become particularly nasty, even threatening people.
It begins with a phone call: “You’re name was selected for $2.5 million.”
Scammers in Jamaica call you and usually pretend to be with an American sweepstakes company. And then comes the catch, you need to pay money to get your lottery winnings.
CBS’s Jeff Glor talked with a 79-year-old woman from Maryland who was struggling to pay her family’s hospital bills when she got a call. Read the CBS News report here.
“Maybe I wanted to believe it,” said Dorothy, the a scam victim. “Maybe I wanted down deep to prove to my family that I could do something for them. I could help them. And he just sounded so convincing.”
Over seven months, she was scammed out of $30,000.
Typically, scammers keep calling back. And as the calls continue, they can turn threatening.
Scammer Phone Call: “Want me to come over there and set your home on fire?”
“They’re relentless. They will call 50 times a day, 300 times a week until you give in. And the thing that’s most worrisome to me is these are the most vulnerable people we have,” said Doug Shadel of the AARP. “They’re 75- to 80-year-old seniors who are scared to death by these guys.”
The scam is so popular in Jamaica, there’s a hit rap song endorsing it.
CBS News traveled to Jamaica and actually tracked down one of the alleged scammers.
He agreed to meet with their producer who he thought was bringing him money. He didn’t know they had a hidden camera rolling.
“What I did wasn’t right,” he said. “It’s taking from people in need like I am. For example, I’m in a situation where I’m in a deep hole.”
He claimed he was no longer involved in the scam, and that’s when Glor walked up.
Glor: “I’m Jeff Glor from CBS News. I wonder if we could ask you a couple questions.”
Alleged Scammer: “About what?”
Glor: “About the lottery scam.”
Alleged Scammer: “What?”
Glor: “The lottery scam.”
Alleged Scammer: “Go ahead.”
Glor: “How long were you a part of it for?”
Alleged Scammer: “About a week. Man, I don’t want to be on television.”
Glor: “Sir, we just wanted to ask you a couple quick questions.”
While he just walked away, back in Maryland, Dorothy can’t walk away from the fact that she was scammed out of money that she couldn’t afford to lose.
“I don’t want nobody else hurt. He had guts enough to steal money from me,” Dorothy said. “And I was foolish enough to do it. I pray that someday God will forgive me.”
Most of the phone calls do come from Jamaica.
But in 2011, five Jamaican citizens were arrested in Fayette County, suspected of running the scam.