Foreign phone scams are a multimillion dollar business. And Vermont's attorney general is recognizing one man's effort to protect Vermonters from wire transfer fraud.
"They're smooth talking people. They promise you a lot of money," said Linda Mae Clow, whose sister was scammed.
The Hardwick woman says Jamaican scam artists stole her sister's life savings. They promised her a million dollars, and all she had to do was wire them a deposit. But the more money she sent, the more the scammers demanded.
"All of a sudden her $18,000 was gone. By that time she panicked and told her husband. There was anger, confusion and so much stress," explained Clow.
Clow and her family are not alone. Vermont's attorney general says tens of thousands of phone calls come into the U.S. every day from Jamaican area code 876.
"This is a huge criminal scam enterprise," stressed Bill Sorrell, D-Vt. Attorney General.
Last year the Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program received 1,700 complaints of scams directed at Vermonters. Advocates say this is likely just the tip of the iceberg.
"The federal government has to do more," said Mike Smith, the president of FairPoint Communications.
Smith learned that his elderly customers were being targeted. When their money ran out the threats began. A recording of a woman from Maine getting scammed prompted Smith to take action. He partnered with police and advocacy groups to stop the criminal activity. He traveled to Jamaica and Washington, D.C., meeting with various law enforcement officials and testifying before Congress. With the help of the attorney general's office Smith got national attention for his cause.
"The Jamaicans have responded. They have passed legislation to make scamming illegal and starting some prosecutions on that. They have reformed their court systems so they will allow video affidavits from victims from the United States," Smith explained.
But for the victims here in Vermont the pain is permanent. The chances of getting their money back are slim. So the attorney general says education and prevention are critical. Bill Sorrell honored Smith Tuesday with the Pure Vermont award for his efforts to put these foreign criminals out of business.
It's a lesson Clow wished her sister learned before answering the phone for a Jamaican scammer.
"They pretend to be your friends. they're not. All they want is your money and you will not get anything except pain," said Clow.
Smith says the feds need to extradite and prosecute these foreign criminals, improve communication with local law enforcement and put more resources on the ground in Jamaica.
Sunday, March 9 2014 7:56 PM EDT2014-03-09 23:56:33 GMT
Flags were flying on the Statehouse steps Sunday afternoon as more than 500 people gathered for the Gun Owners of Vermont Rally."Vermonters -- not just hunting Vermonters who happen to have firearms forMore >>
A trio of gun control measures may have gotten the green light from Burlington voters on Town Meeting Day, but the charter changes face strong opposition across the state, and a possible uphill battle at the Statehouse.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 7:43 PM EDT2014-03-09 23:43:32 GMT
Is the marketing behind Electronic Cigarettes aimed at kids?New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) says the industry's trendy packaging and flavors like bubble gum and cotton candy aren't foolingMore >>
Schumer is co-sponsoring a Senate bill that would ban e-cigarette marketing aimed at kids.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 7:42 PM EDT2014-03-09 23:42:02 GMT
Senator Bernie Sanders is among a group of Senators set to hold an "all-nighter" to call attention to climate Change.Members of the so-called Senate Climate Action Task Force -- nearly two dozen in allMore >>
Senator Bernie Sanders is among a group of Senators set to hold an "all-nighter" to call attention to climate Change.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 7:40 PM EDT2014-03-09 23:40:46 GMT
A Chimney fire is the likely cause of a blaze that destroyed a home in St. Albans Town.The owner of the home on Pike Drive called for help a little after 9:30 a.m. Sunday. When firefighters arrived theyMore >>
A Chimney fire is the likely cause of a blaze that destroyed a home in St. Albans Town.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 7:38 PM EDT2014-03-09 23:38:52 GMT
Jazz fingers, dance moves -- and plenty of passion. The Urban Reach Dance Convention is giving aspiring dancers the chance to learn from some of the music industry's most acclaimed teachers, who have workedMore >>
Aspiring dancers hit the floor this weekend at the 8th annual Urban Reach Dance Convention.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 6:08 PM EDT2014-03-09 22:08:59 GMT
This morning, Channel 3 has learned there will NOT be a bus strike Monday morning in Chittenden County. CCTA officials told us in a statement that after 19 hours of negotiations that went into the morningMore >>
Sunday morning CCTA officials announced that after a marathon negotiation session they delivered a complete contract proposal to the union.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 2:52 PM EDT2014-03-09 18:52:05 GMT
Governor Peter Shumlin was in Rhode Island over the weekend. His office says the Governor was at Brown University in Providence taking part in a forum with the Rhode Island Governor. He is expected toMore >>
Governor Peter Shumlin was in Rhode Island over the weekend.More >>
Sunday, March 9 2014 2:10 PM EDT2014-03-09 18:10:31 GMT
ANNOUNCER: FROM VERMONT'S MOST TRUSTED SOURCE, WCAX BRINGS YOU YOUR NEWSMAKERS, YOUR NEIGHBORS, THIS IS "YOU CAN QUOTE ME". >> HELLO, WELCOME TO "YOU CAN QUOTE ME", I'M KYLE MIDURA, TODAY WE TALK ABOUTMore >>
Stephen Dale, the executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association joins Kyle Midura to discuss education in Vermont.More >>