PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Bolder and nastier is how investigators describe the crooks behind the latest scams that are victimizing people in our area.
The tactics they are using may shock you.
We've told you about Nigerian lottery scams before, but more scams are now originating from Jamaica.
They work differently than previous scams. Not only do they trick you into giving up money, but they use threats and intimidation to scare you.
"They start out friendly, but then one man when I told him to stop scamming to stop calling me, he said, 'I'll kill you,'" one woman said.
Postal Inspector Andrew Richards said Jamaican scammers can turn nasty.
"As soon as that senior citizen says, 'I don't have any more money,' they can get very, very hostile over the phone. Very hostile," Richards said.
These victims, who don't want their names used, but who talked to our sister station WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, said scammers have threatened them all. The treats range from burning down their homes to even raping their grandchildren.
Let's back up in order to detail how these scams start. Unlike many other scams, they do not begin with a letter.
Instead, they begin over the phone. It is not just one phone call, but many phone calls. They will call multiple times a day for a couple of weeks.
Richards said once your defenses are down, they tell you you've won a lottery. They'll tell you in order to claim the money you have to pay a special tax.
One man KDKA-TV's David Highfield spoke with used to work for one of the biggest scam operations.
"I told them yes indeed, they have won the money," he said.
He would keep telling them they needed to pay more and more fees with the promise of millions of dollars.
They can be very nasty towards the end of the scam. When they start to realize the money is drying up, they want the victims to take a loan or extend their credit cards.
WCCO-TV traveled to Jamaica a couple of years ago. As agents raided homes of suspected scammers, they confiscated computers, cellphones and what's called "suckers lists," which are names of potential victims and their phone numbers.
For some people, the scammers have taken everything. One woman was scared she'd lose her home.
"I don't have any money to send them. My life has been destroyed," she said.
This past fall, five Jamaican citizens were arrested in Fayette County. They were suspected of running a lottery scam. That's rare because most of the time the scams are conducted from Jamaica.
So, what can you do to protect your parents or grandparents?
Richards said pay attention to who is calling them and get them to let their calls go to the answer machine. He also suggested having a young person's voice on the machine, which can help deter scammers.
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