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Scammers retreat - Remittance agencies, police say lottery scamming is trending down

Published:Sunday | February 8, 2015 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones
Leesa Kow
File A group of men who were arrested in Coral Gardens, Montego Bay for their alleged involment in the lottery scam.
File Members of the security forces conducting a lotto scam raid in Montego Bay, St James

The Jamaica Money Remitters Association (JMRA) is reporting a reduction in the level of lottery-scamming activities at outlets operated by its members, but is demanding that more be done to ensure the downward trend continues.

"Most of our members have experienced decreases between 10 and 20 per cent, while a few were not in a position to state an exact figure," said Leesa Kow, president of the JMRA and general manager of JN Money Services Limited, which markets its remittance services under the JN International Money Transfer brand.

Kow said the JMRA's position is based on a survey they carried out on the operations of its members late last year.

The police have reported that since the passing of the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) Act 2013, more than 900 suspected scammers have been arrested and charged, with 24 convictions.

Kow acknowledged the efforts of the police in the fight against lottery scamming, but is urging them to do even more to eliminate the criminal activity which has impugned the integrity of Jamaicans and sullies the profile of Jamaica as a place to visit and do business.

"We recognise the hard work of the police, based on the number of operations they have conducted, and the quantity of properties they have seized under the Law Reform Fraudulent Transactions Act. However, we still believe that more work is needed on our part and theirs."




Kow cited the increase in the number of money mules and the slow response by the authorities in detaining fraudsters, as well as the non-sharing of suspects' names with industry players, as the main things that need to be corrected to further reduce the level of scamming.

"There are cases where scammers change money- transfer agents when they come under investigation at one location," Kow said. "They also change parishes, and this continues to be a problem."

Inspector Dahlia Garrick, head of the Corporate Communications Unit, explained some of the difficulties the police are experiencing in their fight against lottery scamming.

"Lottery scamming is like any other advancing fraud; it keeps evolving," Garrick told The Sunday Gleaner. "Every time you do something and you curtail it there are various other emerging trends."

Garrick highlighted the partnership they have with international bodies as well as other local agencies, but said one of the prime obstacles is that some persons do not even recognise lottery scamming as a crime.

"Part of the problem is having persons understanding that lottery scamming is a crime and that they are victims that lottery scam affects," said Garrick.

"A lot of persons actually see it as not hurting anyone. So part of the challenge is actually the mindset of persons who are so exposed to scamming, who are not seeing it as a crime. Because oftentimes it is not something that will cause visible physical injury, so persons don't associate it with being a crime."