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How to protect yourself from Jamaican lottery scams

Posted at: 03/27/2013 11:37 PM
By: Lynette Adams

You've heard it before. If it sounds to good too be true, it probably is.

That's the advice given Wednesday night from the Better Business Bureau and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The advice comes after the U.S. Attorney's Office announced the arrest of a Rochester man. Prosecutors say he took part in a phony lottery scheme that swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior citizens.

Rickey Miller Senior, 54, is charged with mail fraud, which is a felony.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says he took part in the scheme by accepting checks at his Rochester home from people who thought they had won big.

According to a seven-page felony complaint, prosecutors say Miller made $70,000 from the scheme. The complaint says elderly people were contacted by Jamaican citizens and told they had won a lottery and other prizes. They were then told they would have to send money to pay for delivery fees and taxes if they wanted to collect their prizes.

The U.S. Attorney's Office refers to the scheme as a Jamaican lottery scam.

Jamaica is known for it's beautiful beaches and warm breezes, but the Better Business Bureau says the island is also known as the headquarters of a foreign lottery scam. The BBB says about 30,000 of these phone calls are made every day from Jamaica to people in the United States. 

Federal court documents outline the cases of three recent victims of this Jamaican lottery scheme.

News10NBC is told an 85 year-old woman in Pennsylvania was told she'd won $800,000. Another person was told they won $2.5-million and the third victim, a 71 year-old was told she had won $14-million.

The victims were also promised money and prizes. The catch was they had to send hundreds of dollars to pay taxes and delivery fees to claim their winnings.

So how can you protect yourself or a loved one From these con artists?

“Often the first thing they're asking the consumer to do is wire a portion of the winning to them. It could be coming in the form of a phony check and they claim it's to cover some sort of taxes or fees and then those folks are out the money. So really, you should not proceed with any of this type of enticement,” said Peggy Pender from the Better Business Bureau.

Pender says watch out for calls from Jamaica. The area code is 876.

Pender says scam artists sometimes try to trick people by using the names of well-known companies like Publishers Clearing House. The Better Business Bureau says never give out your personal or financial information to these solicitors.

Also, for the record, purchasing foreign lotteries is illegal.

News10NBC has learned Rickey Miller Senior is a custodian for the Rochester City School District and the pastor of a local church.

Court documents say Miller admitted to being victimized by a Jamaican lottery scheme in 2011. The complaint states Miller received the checks, took a portion of the money and sent the rest to Jamaica. On Wednesday he was released and is due back in court May 1.