Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Poverty, low wages, immediate access to hundreds of dollars and the uncertainty even after receiving a good education make scamming a very lucrative option for Jamaica's youth, say several students of Herbert Morrison Technical High School in Montego Bay, St James.
"Look at how we are being reared. We are into technology, music and entertainment. These are our role models, our leaders, if we are constantly being told, 'Big up every scammer' (Vybz Kartel and Gaza Slim's Reparation lyrics), 'Want a million dollar by a mawning', what are we left to think," asked sixth-from student Kevon Richards.
Richards, who was speaking during a Gleaner-Island Grill Youth Editors' Forum yesterday, said with the persuasive messages that the country's youth are exposed to daily, it is difficult to decipher who to follow - whether it was the teachers who encouraged them to study their books through which they will probably get a job in 10 years, "or do you follow somebody that will get you $1 million by tomorrow morning?"
The advice from the teachers, young Richards said, might lead to them having the opportunity of gaining a street-cleaners job for 20 years before probably moving up to collecting garbage for the next 15 years, "then probably we might own something in the future".
He, like his schoolmates, was quick to point out that he did not condone scamming, but understood that the options for the country's youths were limited, and even when promised better conditions by politicians, those promises were never forthcoming.
Using the last general election as an example, Richards said he listened to a politician making promises of providing a studio in an inner-city community for the youth with talent.
"However, nothing has happened," he scoffed.
"The promises made by scammers are more legitimate."
Like Richards, Adrian Anglin is of the opinion that because there aren't enough options in the country, persons are attracted to illegal activities.
Another schoolmate, Sheray Reid, believes scamming will never end if scammers can make at least $100,000 by way of one telephone call, versus someone that earns a minimum wage of $5,000.
"You cannot expect school leavers to give up on the more attractive wages," she said.
Accordingly, she added, if an end is to be put to scamming, wages need to be made more attractive "because although scamming is wrong, it makes a more productive means of living".
The students, who were reluctant to lay the blame squarely on the Government and the private sector, said the decay in moral values as parents condone the illegal activities of their sons and daughters was a major contributing factor.
They, however, think the Government must find a way to use the skills of the youth so that they will not gravitate towards illicit channels.
"If I have the skills to contribute to my country and nobody is taking any interest in my skills and I am living in a financially deprived situation, I am going to use my skills and get out of poverty, which is what the scammers are doing," stated Reid.
Scamming has become the order of the day for many of the country's youth, many of them falling prey to the get-rich-quick mentality and dying in process.
Statistics from the Ministry of National Security estimate that in 2012, between 40 and 50 per cent of violent crimes in St James were connected to lottery-scamming activities.
The police have also confirmed that scamming has now made its way into every nook and cranny in Jamaica, as the perpetrators move to safer havens.