Senior citizens across New Hampshire and New England are the targets of a lottery scam originating from the Jamaican area code 876.
Here’s what happens: seniors receive a call from an 876 area code, often mistaking it for a toll-free number. They’re congratulated on winning a lottery or new car and asked to provide a fee of up to $4,000 to process their winning.
The money is typically requested through a wire service, or an unconventional method—such as placing 100 dollar bills between the pages of a magazine. Scammers also pretend to be IRS, FBI or Customs agents.
The scam has victimized elderly residents in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont taking hundreds of thousands of dollars. This year, a New Hampshire man lost more than $85,000. The money is nearly impossible to retrieve.
New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti says the scam artists are very persistent, and the scams are always evolving.
These scams tend to take different forms and versions and these people are very creative and just they change very quickly. They can disguise themselves and use other area codes besides 876. So just because 876 is currently being used, they could easily change that tomorrow. In fact, they could use a 603 number coming out from someplace not in New Hampshire at all.
Boffetti says it’s critical to inform seniors about the dangers of phone scams.
FairPoint Communications, New Hampshire Consumer Protection Bureau, AARP New Hampshire, and law enforcement are working in the state to raise awareness.
The lottery scam generates about $300 million per year. Jamaican authorities have begun arresting suspects in connection to the scams.