Mon | Aug 20, 2018

Jaevion Nelson | A realistic view of scamming

Published:Thursday | August 18, 2016 | 12:06 AM

What is the reason for the dearth of discussion around why so many of our young people are involved in lottery scamming beyond the assumption that 'everybadi waan get rich quick'? When will we stop pointing our holier-than-thou, self-righteous fingers at others and think about how we can directly or indirectly contribute to an 'economy of hope' that will actually guarantee prosperity and give people an opportunity to enjoy this paradise as well as be able to say 'Jamaica nice'?

I am bothered that we seem to have a myopic perception of lottery scamming. Every discussion, every news article and documentary about lottery scamming is generally about three things: 1) lottery scamming is illegal (we know this!); 2) many people (typically, they're referring to Americans) have been deceived/robbed of their hard-earned money (we also know this!); and 3) hundreds of Jamaicans have been arrested under the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act, which is popularly known as the Lotto Scam Act.

It's almost mind-boggling to think that though more than 500 people were arrested between March 2013 and 2015, there seem to be so many more left in this business of scamming which, according to the police, is dangerous and has claimed many lives. In St James, for example, the police have said that the high rate of crime and violence there is largely a result of lottery scamming.




If this is the case, why then are so many persons opting out of participating in the formal economy to risk their freedom, assets and/or lives simply to get rich quick? I'd like to think that there are some underlying factors that contribute to the high prevalence of scamming other than what we are accustomed to hearing and saying about lotto scammers. It is imperative that we challenge ourselves to think beyond the moral and ethical rhetoric and consider that we actually need to do more than apprehend people to end scamming.

As my colleague Glenroy Murray eloquently said, "Crime doesn't exist in a vacuum. Scamming doesn't occur in a vacuum. Creating actual opportunities for meaningful employment matters and will make a difference. Minimum wage and the standard of pay in this country remain dismal for those near the lower end of the totem pole."

Last week, a friend shared with me that one of his colleagues said that these days, it is particularly difficult to find young people who are interested in working in the formal economy. He said they are not in any way bashful about telling potential employers that they can make more money in scamming. A couple years ago, I heard of a sixth-former who was being bullied routinely and decided to do scamming instead because his teachers and principal were reluctant to address the issue. Recently, a friend shared that before they left high school they were being pressured to do scamming.

I think it is incumbent on the government to develop a comprehensive strategy to address this grave problem that is wreaking havoc across the country in some ways, but at the same time, sustaining so many families. The strategy must be realistic and not be resigned in making arrests to solve the issue. We have to ensure that the formal economy provides people with real opportunities for advancement/social mobility.

Let us all play our part in acknowledging our role in helping to address this issue. We will have to do more than arrest people; we need to be able to guarantee that people will have opportunities to get a job when they have completed school. We need to encourage the government to do more to improve the economy and create more viable opportunities in the formal economy.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human- rights advocate. Email feedback to and