Thu | Nov 15, 2018

New tactics needed for scammer fight

Published:Wednesday | November 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM


I recently attended a Press Association of Jamaica forum, which took place under the theme: 'Investigating and Prosecuting Financial Crime'. For the duration of the event, the audience was exposed to the dark and elaborate world of financial crimes. Major focus was placed on the troublesome scamming activities that have arguably smeared Jamaica international identity.

Professor Martha Steffens, who is the chair in business and financial journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism, took the opportunity to make Jamaicans aware of how masterminds behind scamming are evolving. Steffens pointed to a trend in scammers assuming identities of law enforcement and the fact that some are holders of

a first degree. It would seem this business of scamming is becoming so lucrative that it attracts persons with formal tertiary education - an asset being used nefariously.


The professor also shared the names of several databases that store an impressive amount of financial crime data, reports on such crimes and information on wanted perpetrators. It hadn't occurred to me that there was so much infamy behind Jamaica's area code. What struck me most was the organised effort being put into prevention through public awareness. One method America uses is publishing information that puts into perspective the dangers that lurk behind certain area codes, including 876, in publications for the benefit of the elderly. Preventative actions don't seem to be catching on here.


Senior superintendent of police, Clifford Chambers, made his presentation that was effective in outlining the various laws, and successes in charging persons involved in financial crimes such as e-fraud. However, there was nothing to convince me that there is emphasis being placed on prevention. That is the sort of insufficiency that plagues Jamaican crime-fighting. We keep exposing, charging and imprisoning, but there is no real deterrence. Certainly, it would call for investigative action, perhaps in collaboration with journalists to assist with understanding the mindsets, motivations and rituals of financial criminals. I recognise that may not be as feasible in the Jamaican context. It is not impossible, either.

That said, now that the holidays are approaching, it means we need to be more mindful of how we share identity and financial information online. Conducting business online or with credit/debit cards is even more risky. Criminal activities are intensified this time of year when everyone wants more money to make their Christmas merrier.

Yohan Lee