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Jamaica Comes Down Tough on 'Lottery Scams'

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AP
AP

This week, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held an important hearing on the recent scourge of phone fraud schemes, which target U.S. seniors. The schemes, commonly known as 'advance fee' or 'lottery' scams, target unsuspecting individuals with false promises of prizes, such as lottery winnings or cars, in exchange for an advance fee. The Government of Jamaica is working very closely with the United States to end these schemes and catch the scammers who operate them.

For more than 50 years, Jamaica and the United States have maintained a close relationship based on our shared values, reflecting a commitment to human rights and personal dignity. Jamaica's culture is rooted in the fundamental importance of family, especially the guidance and leadership of our grandmothers and grandfathers. We do not tolerate the abuse or harassment of any seniors, be it within our borders or abroad. Jamaica is very concerned for the victims of these scams and their families, who withstand devastating financial losses and emotional trauma.

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.

The Government of Jamaica has launched a public awareness campaign on the dangers of scamming and is encouraging people to report scamming activities in their local communities. We are also working on outreach here in the United States -- raising awareness by providing tips on how individuals can protect themselves from this type of fraud.

The Government of Jamaica is also fortifying our laws and strengthening enforcement. Last week, Jamaica's Parliament passed tough new legislation -- the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act 2013 -- designed to crack down on individuals who use lottery and advance fee scams to prey on the elderly and other vulnerable groups; the new measures also provide for sanctions to punish persons who aid and abet perpetrators of these unlawful schemes. These new measures reflect the sincerity of our commitment to work with the United States to protect its citizens and end lottery and advance fee scams.

The passage of the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act 2013 by Jamaica's Parliament is the latest in a series of tough measures that the Government has taken to deal with the problem. Under this new law, offenses relating to advance fee fraud and other fraudulent transactions can bring prison terms of up to 20 years, and provision is made for restitution to victims upon conviction of perpetrators.

Similarly, a recent amendment to Jamaica's Evidence Act allows for victims of certain crimes both in Jamaica and the United States, including those related to lottery scams, to give anonymous testimony by video, thus eliminating the need for them to come to Jamaica to testify. New legislation also provides for stiffer penalties for a range of crimes conducted using cyber technologies.

In 2012, our government established an anti-lottery scam task force to ensure that Jamaica devotes its best resources targeting these fraudulent activities. The task force has already made significant inroads, carrying out nearly 40 major operations and seriously disrupting several criminal networks engaged in scamming.

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.