Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
JAMAICANS ARE being urged to speak out about the lottery scam with a view to dropping the guillotine on the massive transnational fraud scheme.
"It is very, very important for every Jamaican to feel a responsibility for this because somebody knows who is doing this, and there can be a kind of decision that we will turn this around as individual Jamaicans," United States (US) Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater said yesterday.
"It will help the Government and will help my government, and most important, it will help the victims, and it will help Jamaica continue to move forward with its wonderful brand of hospitality, friendliness, and goodwill," she added.
Bridgewater's comment was made at Jamaica House yesterday minutes after a top-level ministerial team addressed the media on efforts being made by the Government to fight the lottery scam.
National Security Minister Peter Bunting yesterday urged all Jamaicans to join in the fight against the advance-fee fraud scheme.
"I invite the Opposition and all well-thinking Jamaicans who share the embarrassment and distress we feel for our country to get on-board the mission of ridding Jamaica of this scourge," Bunting said during yesterday's press conference.
The country's image has taken a battering over the past few days as US networks aired features on the scam.
On Wednesday, the US Senate Special Committee on Ageing held a hearing into the matter of the lottery scam, which has seen thousands of Americans, particularly the elderly, defrauded of billions of dollars.
Senator Susan Collins, ranking member of the Senate committee, who, along with committee Chairman Bill Nelson, made repeated calls for the extradition of Jamaican scammers, said the island should do more to put a stop to the illicit activity.
"I think they are finally taking it seriously, but it has taken a number of years for them to do so, and I would like to see them put the effort in this, in stopping this scam, as it puts (effort) into enticing Americans to come vacation in Jamaica. A lot of money is spent on that," Collins said.
Angry and upset
Bunting said he was not surprised by Collins' stridency, noting many of her constituents were victims of the lottery scam.
"In one case, she told me of someone who has lost US$700,000 (and) had to mortgage their home to get money," Bunting said, while adding that Collins was "angry and upset and legitimately so".
He added: "If any of my constituents had suffered the same fate, I would be very angry and upset. I completely understand that reaction. She has got an appreciation of what we are doing now, but I don't think it will prevent the anger and outrage from being expressed."
Like Bridgewater, Bunting has called for Jamaicans to say no to advance-fee fraud. He said that with the negative publicity, the country should "use this as an opportunity to bring the urgency of the situation to every single Jamaican".
"Let us understand how corrosive this activity is and that everyone has to find a way to contribute to stamping it out," the minister said.
He noted that not all Jamaicans are "cruel, cold-hearted people that have no regard for the impact on the victims" and that the majority of Jamaicans "are deeply embarrassed and ashamed and are deeply cut up about this activity".