Move fast to crush lottery scammers

Friday, November 09, 2012

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All the frightening data associated with the lottery scam have already been published, discussed, analysed, and promises made by the Government to take decisive action against this fiendish activity.

All well-thinking Jamaicans agree that the lottery scam is besmirching the country's name internationally and is threatening our relations with our traditional partners the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

We are, therefore, heartened that the Administration has taken steps to introduce legislation to punish the criminals involved in the lottery scam.

As we understand it, even persons found with paraphernalia linked with the racket will be subject to sanction under the law. We are also encouraged by the intention of the Government to amend the Evidence Act to allow video testimony from lottery scam victims who live abroad to be used in court without them having to travel to Jamaica, which is often a deterrent.

A few months ago, National Security Minister Peter Bunting told the country that these laws would be tabled by next year. That, we hold, can't happen too soon. For the impact of the lottery scam on this country is going to be devastating if the illegal activity is not crushed.

We have already seen the creation of a 'beware of 876' campaign and website, as well as the overseas media coverage — albeit limited to this point — of the scam.

Even more damaging has been the scam's impact on the lives of elderly people in North America and Britain. Many of those persons have lost their life's savings and/or social security payments to the scammers and, in most cases, have no way of recovering what was taken from them by trickery.

This newspaper has even reported on the sad case of a woman who committed suicide after finding out that she was duped by scammers.

The fact, too, that the lottery scam is being operated by organised, violent gangs whose members, in furtherance of their fraud, threaten to burn down elderly victims' homes or rape their grandchildren if they don't keep sending money, has made the problem even worse.

Of great concern to us as well, is the fact that the scam continues to thrive, despite the commendable arrests and seizures of money and property by collaborating Jamaican and American law enforcers.

Against that background, we urge our legislators to fast-track the legislation and amendments to existing laws necessary to deal decisively with this problem.

But passing the laws alone will not be enough. The matter of their enforcement is just as crucial, and therein lies the key to Jamaica overpowering this activity that is threatening our existence.

And even as we focus on the legislative and enforcement authorities, we need to give support to the Government's planned public education campaign targeting teenagers and addressing the dangers of the scam.

At the same time, we must address the culture of silence, among the public, about the lottery scam. That, we submit, is a sign of deteriorating values in our country.

Changing those values, we know, will not be easy, particularly in the current economic environment. However, we must make a strong and sustained attempt.

The cost to the country will be too great if we fail.




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