BEWARE: Scams from Area Code 876

The New Hampshire Union Leader - 876-SCAM targets elders, ends up before special NH Senate panel

Mar 13, 2013 (The New Hampshire Union Leader) - Kim Nichols told a heart-wrenching story of her 76-year-old father being bilked out of $85,000 by a smooth-talking Jamaican woman who told him he'd won millions in a lottery. Her presentation to a forum in Manchester last July was part of an effort by telecommunications companies, law enforcement and senior advocates to bring attention to scams originating from the 876 Jamaican area code.
 
Nichols is on the witness list for today's hearing in Washington, D.C., titled "876-SCAM," before the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
 
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., is also scheduled to testify.
 
"It's especially disturbing that these ruthless scammers prey upon elderly citizens, and this hearing is an important opportunity to help ensure our seniors have the information and tools they need to protect themselves from these kinds of scams," said Ayotte, who served as the state's attorney general from 2004 to 2009.
 
The committee, of which Ayotte is a member, will receive testimony from other relatives of phone scam victims, law enforcement officials and officials from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Department of Homeland Security, starting at 2 p.m.
 
The scam involves telephone calls originating from the Jamaican area code, which is frequently mistaken for a toll-free number. When the call is answered, the scammer congratulates the senior on winning the lottery and requests a processing fee in order to collect the prize.
 
The victims are told that their winnings will be transferred to their bank accounts once the fee is received, but of course the funds never arrive.
 
Nichols is part of a Maine group being hosted by FairPoint Communications, which launched a "Beware: Scams from Area Code 876" campaign in late March, and created a website, www.bewareof876.com, providing tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
 
The campaign gained national and international attention, prompting additional media coverage that led the Jamaican government to establish a task force to address the 30,000 calls made each day from Jamaica into the United States attempting to defraud American citizens.
The Senate committee is chaired by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is the aging panel's ranking Republican.
 
The hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 562, will be streamed live at aging.senate.gov.

BEWARE: Scams from Area Code 876

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