George Graham

You Didn’t Win a Mercedes



If you pick up the phone and hear a Jamaican voice telling you that you’ve won a million dollars and a Mercedes (as I did), just hang up. It’s a scam.

The so-called lottery scam has become such a big industry in Jamaica that violence among rival gangs has spiked the island’s murder rate. According to an AP story this morning:

The Jamaica Constabulary Force said the country had at least 1,192 slayings in 2015, a roughly 20 percent increase from the previous year… By comparison, Chicago, which has roughly the same population as Jamaica at 2.7 million, had 468 killings in 2015.

Police blamed Jamaica’s high murder rate  – among the top five or six in the world – on “violent rivalries among Jamaica’s lottery scam rings.”

I find it hard to believe anyone gets taken in by the lottery scam phone calls. Trust me, if you win a million dollars and a Mercedes, you will get a letter, probably by certified mail, not a casual phone call by someone with a Jamaican voice. (And by the way, if you didn’t buy a ticket, you couldn’t have won the lottery.)

When I got my call, I just laughed.

“No man,” I said. “I didn’t win a million dollars and a Mercedes. You and I both know that. By the way are you Jamaican?”

We got to talking and it turned out there might be some kind of distant family connection. We parted amicably.

But apparently, a lot of other people believe the scammers, and shell out “fees” for “processing” and “taxes.” According to a CBS report:

Complaints about the scam jumped from 1,867 in 2007 to almost 29,220 in 2012 (but federal officials say far more are never even reported).

A CNN story a few months ago put the number of victims at “nearly 300,000.”

The victims are mostly seniors living in America. I guess, as we age, our brains aren’t what they used to be. The CBS report said one victim they talked to had paid the scammers more than $30,000. The CNN story told of an elderly man who killed himself after the scammers drained his bank account.

Despite numerous “exposés,” the scam still thrives. In fact, it’s bigger than ever. So big that rival scammers are killing one another.

Click for the AP story.

Click for the CBS report.

Click for CNN on the scam.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for