Jamaica scammers target Georgia seniors with news of big prizes, cars and cash, to extort money in the form of MoneyPak cards.
LAWRENCEVILLE, GA -- A scam from offshore Jamaica is targeting seniors and costing them thousands of dollars.
Deanie Head thought it was a great moment. After buying everything from magazines to household appliances from the Publishers Clearing House, she answered her cell phone and heard the magic words that she had become an instant millionaire.
"You have just won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. You've won $5 million plus a Mercedes Benz," came the words from a caller from the island of Jamaica.
Head said she wasn't entirely surprised.
"Since my early 20s, I have been buying products from Publishers Clearing House and we joke about it that one of these days I'll win it," she said.
Thinking she was now a millionaire, Head listened carefully as the caller said he was at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with IRS Agents to pick up her new car. But before they did, Head had to come up with some money.
"He called me from the airport and told me to take possession of the automobile that he needed me to go buy two Green Dot Money Cards at $500 each. They he said call me the numbers to get the car out of customs." Head added.
Before she figured out it was a scam, Head shelled out more than $6,000 in Green Dot MoneyPaks -- which are as good as cash.
The scammers -- part of a Jamaica theft ring -- took it all.
Head reported the scam to police and the FBI.
Websites warn in glaring headlines about scams involving both MoneyPak and Publishers Clearing House, with seniors being targeted by Jamaican Scam rings.
Despite the warnings, Head wouldn't give up. She believed the Jamaican scammers right up to the end.
They promised her a full refund. She went to a local Western Union office at a Lawrenceville Supermarket to get her cash, but came up empty.
"Got no money back. Got no car and got no $5 million," she said.
Head says she learned a big lesson: "If you win something they will bring it to you. It doesn't cost you to win something."
It's a lesson Deanie Head learned too late.
Take a look below at our 11Alive Help Desk Resource Guide for detailed information on how to avoid these scams.