Tale of a scammer : 'I used to take scamming for fun'
While it has been five years since Mark James* performed his last scamming act, he still claims to understand how the multi-billion illicit activity works.
He is no longer involved in scamming, having quit in 2012. He could easily recall the poverty and lack of proper guidance that led him to the lifestyle in the first place.
"I was about 17 years old and in the streets because most of the people who are involved in this thing (scamming) are kids who don't have parents around to really encourage them what to do," James told WESTERN STAR.
"I didn't grow up in a home where my father or mother had a skill. My mother kicked me out so I packed my bag and I hit the road, and came down in the town of Montego Bay. I used to sleep under the City Centre building, and I used to sell phonecards and bottled water out at Baywest and all around the town," James, 37, said.
He told the WESTERN STAR that during the time that he 'juggled' on the streets, he was introduced to lottery scamming.
"I found myself around some company and this thing was exposed to me, so therefore I went along with it," he said.
TRICKED TO SEND MONEY
The lottery scam has bilked countless elderly Americans out of billions of dollars. The victims are telephoned and told they have won lottery jackpots and are tricked into sending money to pay for processing and taxes.
According to James, first-time scammers are given detailed instructions on how to carry out their illicit craft.
"They normally email you a script teaching you the basics, a script of 70 pages, teaching you the 'nitty gritty' from top to bottom on how to do this thing. After studying that script one time, and catching the hang of it, you don't need a script again, you just go 'free flow'," said James.
"People can randomly call a number and bam, they make money just by a phone call, and with something like that. It is easy to make money, but it is hard to stop. If a man can take up a phone and he is at his yard and hungry, and he make two chat and he can make $50,000, you are going to find that everybody is going to want to do that thing."
NEEDED THE MONEY
"You know typical Jamaicans, we are not going to say no to money. And with the background I was coming from, I needed money," James said wistfully. "I used to take this for fun, like 'yo, dog, mi do it and it happen and it real for true.' I never really looked deep into it to say it is a crime, or that I was doing something that is not right."
Now, having abandoned that lifestyle, James wants to be a living example to deter those aspiring to take up scamming.
"By me doing this, I am paving a good path for youths coming up who think they want to be involved in lottery scam activities. It is a no-no for me because it will just lead you towards a path that is corrupted, and you know money is the root of all evil," he said.
And while the United States has pressed the Jamaican authorities in recent years to bring scammers to justice, Mark does not believe Jamaicans alone should get all the blame.
"The government and other high members of society are giving Jamaicans the blame for doing this, when originally, this was taught to us by people from the United States through emails and sending us scripts of how to do this white-collar criminal act," James griped.
"Now I see them extraditing Jamaicans, and Jamaicans facing 20-35 years in jail, when really and truly, it is people from the United States who taught Jamaicans how to do this thing. We are not the ones to be blamed."
* Name changed to protect identity.