Company’s work to prevent lottery scams is singled out by the Publicity Club of New England
PORTLAND, Maine (May 28, 2013) – FairPoint Communications, Inc. (NasdaqCM:FRP), a leading telecommunications provider in northern New England, has been named a finalist for the 2013 Bell Ringer Award in the Television News Placement: National category competition for its efforts to stop lottery scams targeted at the elderly – especially in northern New England.
The Publicity Club of New England chose FairPoint as a finalist for a Bell Ringer Award, that recognizes excellence in communications and public relations work in every field and industry, across all forms of media. The awards honor the communications and PR professionals who leverage unique and creative strategic, tactics, and tools to achieve meaningful results for their clients, companies, organizations, and institutions.
FairPoint began its campaign, Beware: Scams from Area Code 876, last year, working with local law enforcement officials, AARP, state attorney generals and federal lawmakers to unmask the growing problem of scamming Americans out of millions every year.
“Hearing that our elderly customers were being preyed upon and bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars was too painful not to do something,” said Mike Reed, Maine state president for FairPoint. “We knew we must act to draw attention to this outrageous crime against unwitting Americans. Looking back, we believe that we have made a difference.”
Each day 30,000 calls are made from the Jamaican 876 area code attempting to defraud US citizens. An Associated Press report noted conservative estimates that put the yearly take from Jamaican scams at $300 million. Researchers say lottery and sweepstakes fraud is vastly underreported, estimating up to 92 percent of victims stay silent, so exact figures are impossible to tally. These figures are staggering, yet there has been little awareness warning our vulnerable senior citizens.
FairPoint began collaborating with the York County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) in Maine to support an effort to build a case against these scammers. Together, they identified the need to create a campaign to educate the public about these scams and how to stop them – thus Beware: Scams from Area Code 876 was launched.
FairPoint turned to Montagne Communications, its long-time strategic communications partner to help raise awareness and created a website, bewareof876.com and organized news conferences across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. What began as a cooperative information sharing effort develops into a communications campaign to educate the public and raise awareness about this scam.
Ultimately, the effort gained national and international attention, prompting additional media coverage that initiates a Congressional hearing and moves the Jamaican government to take action.
In late January, Sen. Susan Collins was named the top Republican on the Senate Special Committee on Aging which is chaired by Sen. Bill Nelson, (D-FL). Subsequently, the Special Committee on Aging held a hearing to investigate a growing scam that’s sweeping the country and robbing many vulnerable seniors of their life savings. Chief Deputy Bill King, from the York County Sheriff’s Office and Kim Nichols, a victim’s daughter presented testimony before the committee.
“While I believe that our Senate hearings will increase public awareness of these schemes, it is also critical that governments at all levels and across international boundaries work together to shut down these con artists before their sophisticated scams exploit yet another trusting senior citizen,” Collins added. Collins and Nelson also called on U.S. law enforcement agencies to step up efforts to combat the crime rings, assist victims and make extradition of these criminals a priority.
The publicity was noticed by many people – including the Jamaican Government.� Jamaican authorities have inquired about the unwanted attention because it was negatively affecting commerce, specifically tourism. Jamaica’s leading newspaper – The Gleaner – published a story saying: “Jamaica’s image will take a beating across the globe this week as the deadly lottery scam goes before the United States Senate.”
In late March, the Jamaican Parliament passed new laws criminalizing such scams with penalties of up to 25 years in prison. Passage of the bills came roughly two weeks after the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on the issue.
Then, in late April, U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater notified Sens. Nelson and Collins that Jamaican officials have agreed to extradite to the U.S. individuals involved in the lottery scam that is bilking hundreds of millions of dollars from senior citizens across the nation.
About FairPoint Communications, Inc.
FairPoint Communications, Inc. (NasdaqCM: FRP) is a leading communications provider of broadband Internet access, local and long-distance phone, television and other high-capacity data services to customers in communities across 17 states. Through its fast, reliable fiber network, FairPoint delivers high-quality data and voice networking communications solutions to residential, business and wholesale customers. FairPoint delivers Internet services through its resilient IP-based network in northern New England. This state-of-the-art fiber network provides carrier Ethernet connections to support the surging bandwidth and performance requirements for cloud-based applications like network storage, disaster recovery, distance learning, medical imaging, video conferencing and CAD/CAM along with traditional voice, VoIP, video and Internet access solutions. Additional information about FairPoint products and services is available at www.FairPoint.com. You can also connect with FairPoint on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/fairpoint), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/myfairpoint) and LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/company/fairpoint-communications).
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