January 4, 2017

Welcome to the first weekly Baker Fraud Report – News you can use.

As former FTC Chairman Bob Pitofsky said some years ago “We are awash in a sea of fraud.” That is still true today. We all get illegal robocalls and spam emails. FTC studies show that about 10% of the adult population of the US loses money to a mass marketing fraud every year – where the victim never meets the fraudster face to face but contact is by phone, email or the internet. But how do these work, and which scams should I really worry about?

This Report will try to let readers know what they really have to worry about, how the frauds work, where to complain (and why) and note the work being done by law enforcement to tackle this problem, not only in the U.S. but around the world.

If you find the Report useful please pass it along to others who can use it. Hopefully the information here will help you protect your friends and family from becoming fraud victims.

Tech Support

This fraud has exploded in size over the last year or two. If this has not yet happened to you, just wait a bit longer. Victims are contacted by phone or through popups on their computer claiming that the computer is infected with viruses or other malware. Often they claim to be with Microsoft. Scammers always want to be allowed to remote into your computer, and will invariably claim to find problems – even if none exist – and charge a healthy fee to remove them.
A simple rule: NEVER let anyone take control of your personal computer remotely. If you have problems, or fear that you do, take the computer into a brick and mortar business to fix. Read more about tech support scams and how they operate here.


The FTC recently reported that robocall complaints went up 50% between 2014 and 2015. Some of that may be because of political calls during an election year, but we all know that robocalls remain a huge problem. For more about robocall complaints click here.

Jamaica Lottery Fraud

Every day thousands of people across the country, mainly older people, get a phone call telling them they have won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse lottery and need to send money for taxes or insurance before the money can be delivered. The number of people being defrauded is staggering. Click here for an in depth look at how this works and what is being done.

Jamaican woman arrested in Florida
On December 15, 2016, Shashana Stacyann Smith, a Jamaican woman living in Florida, was arrested for conspiracy with others in running the lottery fraud. Press release. News article.

Another Jamaican woman pleads guilty in Florida:
On December 7, 2016, a different woman pleaded guilty to working with Jamaicans to help make this fraud work – and profiting from it. Press release. News article.

Seven sentenced in Jamaica
And December 21, 2016 Jamaican law enforcement announced criminal sentences for seven Jamaicans involved in lottery scammer. Here is one news article. Here is another.


Romance scams

Romance scammers sentenced in Houston

Two Nigerians living outside Houston Texas pleaded guilty in July 2016 and were sentenced in December for their role in a romance scam. They pretended to be South African diplomats, and contacted victims through facebook. They took victims for at least $2 million. Here is the press release for the guilty plea, and two news articles on the sentencing.  One, two.

Seven Africans sentenced in Mississippi for romance and other frauds
On December 16, 2016, one South African and six Nigerians pleaded guilty to fraud charges in the District of Mississippi. They ran a variety of online frauds, and recruited romance scam victims to receive money from victims and send it along to Africa. They made tens of millions of dollars, and had been operating since at least 2001. Six of these individuals had been extradited from South Africa.  And here is a news article.

Pittsburg man stole money for romance scam and is sentenced
Jeffrey Plimpton of Pennsylvania was the victim of a romance scam. Since he was the controller of a business, he stole $1.6 million, most of which he sent to the fraudsters. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison. News article

Romance scammers arrested in Malaysia
In December police in Hong Kong, Malaya, and Nigeria joined forces to bust a ring of people operating a romance scam that ripped off at least 73 Hong Kong women and 13 Malaysia women. The gang was headed up by a Nigerian man and a Malaysian woman. The gang also had victims in the US, Europe, and Australia. Thirteen people were arrested in Malaysia.

Other Recent News

Arrests in India on IRS impersonator fraud

Canadian Kardashian look-alikes use Sextortion on Nigerians

Consumer reports on how gift card scams operate

FTC settles with tech support scam

FTC brings another case against timeshare resale

NY man pleads guilty to cloning cell phones in Costa Rica

UK man sentenced for using malware to get bank account info and moving it into accounts of money mules

Interpol works with U.S. and Eight other countries in effort that leads to arrest of over 1500 people in the Philippines and Spain, mainly Chinese nationals, who were defrauding Chinese citizens.  A second article on efforts in Spain.

Fraud on the rise in Australia, with more use of gift cards and bitcoin.