A new bill in Jamaica will crackdown on lottery scams that have targeted Americans for years. The schemes are conducted over the phone, and ask unwary individuals to pay an advance fee to claim nonexistent prizes or lottery winnings.
The new bill would streamline the prosecution process for those involved in the scams, which are prevalent in the Caribbean country. Charges stemming from advance fee scams could result in up to 20 years in prison.
Beyond legislation, the country’s is also launching a multifaceted initiative to deter the spread of such swindles in the future. The scams are often conducted by organized groups, but lack of individual culpability has made serious prosecution difficult. Jamaican Ambassador to the U.S. Stephen Vasciannie described the new plan to attack the problem in a statement posted to the Huffington Post.
“Jamaica is rolling out a five-point plan, which is a comprehensive approach to combating these scams that includes: public education, increased enforcement, laws creating new offenses, strengthened judicial and procedural rules, and restitution for victims,” Vasciannie wrote.
“Jamaica is committed to ending these attacks by unscrupulous scammers, and we believe that these tough new measures will help in this fight. It is a fight that we will win,” he added.
The con often targets elderly Americans, and serve as a precursor to similar schemes carried out via email. The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging met on Wednesday in Washington to discuss Jamaica’s reformed strategy for eliminating scammers. The committee’s co-chair, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), remained critical of the island’s handling of scammers.
“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 they put into enticing Americans to come vacation in Jamaica. A lot of money is spent on that,” Collins said during the hearing.