Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Focus on lottery scam like economic growth – Byles

Published:Wednesday | August 3, 2016 | 8:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
American law-enforcement officials escorts an alleged lotto scammer from St James out of the island last year.

Co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), Richard Byles, has urged the Government to treat with the lottery scam in as serious a manner as it is emphasising economic growth, with its establishment of a ministry specifically for that purpose.

Said Byles, repeating what he said he was told recently, and which he said made sense: "They said, when you look at the crime that really shocks us and is outrageous and accounts for a large portion of the murders, you will see that it really has nothing to do with, directly, social conditions and poverty, but it has to do with fighting for a bigger slice of corruption - the lotto scamming business."

He emphasised that "it's not that somebody is hungry and in the course of a robbery murders somebody. It's very much to do with, 'where is my U$50,000 that you are supposed to give to me and now that you haven't given it to me, retribution.'"

Byles added: "So if you know that, it's almost like a scab that you should be able to focus on and really deal with it in a specific manner. It doesn't require $10 billion of social upliftment, whole heap of equipment. It really wants a smart and skilful penetration and disruption of crime."

The EPOC co-chairman, who is also president and chief executive officer of Sagicor Group Jamaica, said that is how it appears to him "in a fairly simple way", although he admitted that it might be more complex in reality.

"The crime thing is really very devastating to an important industry and to Jamaicans' everyday life, so it's something we need to deal with, and I really would like to see this Government treat that issue of that scab of crime in as serious a way as they are treating the issue of growth. It goes hand in hand," he said.

The lottery scam is a type of advance-fee fraud which begins with an unexpected email notification, phone call or mailing explaining that someone has won a large sum of money in a lottery. The recipient of the message - the target of the scam - will be asked to wire processing fees or transfer charges so that the winnings can be released, but will never receive any lottery payment.

The American Citizen Services section in Kingston said it receives frequent inquiries from citizens who have been defrauded of hundreds and even thousands of dollars by advance-fee fraud scammers in Jamaica. It said the most prevalent in Jamaica is the lottery scam in which scammers frequently target the elderly or those with disposable income in the United States.

Scammers operate mostly in Montego Bay and its environs as well as other sections of western Jamaica.

The International Monetary Fund has identified crime among the major deterrence to improve the business climate and increase private investment in Jamaica.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com