Foreign lottery scams turn violent

Foreign lottery scams turn violent
A frightening trend of violence has trusting seniors, immigrants vulnerable consumers with dementia losing their life savings to foreign lottery scam operations based in Jamaica.

The con men claiming you've won lots of money, but must pay a tax or fee to collect your winnings.

Postal inspectors have traced lottery scam operations to Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Jamaica.

And it's the Jamaican scammers who pose a new and disturbing threat. Investigators say con men hiding in this beautiful island nation are increasingly abusive and verbally violent.

"If there is any kind of push back from the victims, they are incredibly aggressive," explained U.S. Postal Inspector Antonio Gomez.

Investigators say the con men use new technology like Google Earth to view satellite photos of your home up close, then use that information to scare you into sending money.

"I see you live at 12345 Main street and I see your red door with the blue bird on it, and if you don't send us the money, we will have someone deal with you personally," said Gomez, describing how the scammers make threats.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service says it's working with the U.S. Justice Department to extradite the scammers from Jamaica to the U-S, to face federal charges.

In the meantime, Gomez reiterates the warning investigators have issued for decades:

"There is no foreign lottery -- not out of Jamaica, not out of Costa Rica, not out of Spain, not out of anywhere," said Gomez.

Bottom line: If you're in the United States, getting involved with foreign lotteries is illegal. Anytime you're asked to pay to claim a prize, it's a scam.

If you get an unsolicited prize notification in the mail, throw it away. If you get an unsolicited price award phone call, hang up.

It's estimated the Jamaican lottery scam alone steals between $300 million and $1 billion a year worldwide. Unfortunately, investigators say 90 percent of foreign lottery fraud goes unreported because the victims are ashamed or embarrassed. And again many of the victims are your parents, your grandparents and your neighbors who spend time alone, need extra money and don't understand that they're being ripped off.