BURLINGTON, Vt. (January 30, 2013) – FairPoint Communications today praised the decision by Vermont Rep. Peter Welch to introduce legislation in Congress in an effort to thwart international phone scamming operations. At a news conference Monday, Rep. Welch, D-Vt., indicated the legislation will focus on combating phone fraud and he expects it will receive widespread bipartisan support.
Rep. Welch’s new bill will create a special fraud-focused office in the Federal Trade Commission. It will provide information, coordination from a centralized place where people can go to get relevant information on what to do and how to do it.
Many pleas are coming from phone scammers in Jamaica and senior citizens are the main target for phone scams. Conservative estimates put the yearly take from Jamaican scams at $300 million, up from about $30 million in 2009.
Mike Smith, FairPoint Communications Vermont state president, joined Rep. Welch at the news conference. “We have been working with local, state and federal officials to shed light on this issue for nearly a year; we applaud Rep. Welch for taking these proactive steps to combat this very serious problem,” said Smith.
“Our seniors are being abused and swindled of their hard-earned money and assets. We must all come together to help prevent it. That’s why FairPoint will continue our ‘Beware: Scams from Area Code 876’ campaign to keep raising awareness in an effort to stop scams before they happen.”
At the news conference, Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, who strongly supports Congressman Welch’s efforts, indicated his office gets scam complaints from hundreds of Vermonters and scammers have swindled residents out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
FairPoint launched the “Beware: Scams from Area Code 876” campaign in March, 2012 and partnered with law enforcement agencies in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to create a website, www.bewareof876.com to provide consumers with information on preventing phone scams. During the campaign, FairPoint has highlighted stories of people in northern New England who have been victimized by Jamaican lottery scams.
FairPoint’s “Beware: Scams from Area Code 876” campaign has gained national and international attention, prompting the Jamaican government to establish a task force to address the 30,000 daily calls from Jamaica into the United States attempting to defraud American citizens.
In November 2012, Smith traveled to Jamaica to participate in a forum on the lottery scam, hosted by the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS). The forum brought many of the stakeholders, including representatives from several financial institutions, remittance companies, diplomats and members law enforcement from Jamaica to examine the lottery’s impact on foreign relations, the financial sector, tourism, and the social impact of the scam. The U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, Pamela Bridgewater, also spoke at the meeting.