PORTLAND, Maine, Aug. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- FairPoint Communications, Inc. (NasdaqCM:FRP), a leading telecommunications provider in northern New England, has been named a finalist for a PR News Platinum PR Award in the category of Public Affairs for its efforts to stop lottery scams targeted at the elderly – especially in northern New England. The award recognizes excellence across all areas of public relations.
In a news release from PR News announcing the finalists, Steve Goldstein, editorial director of PR News said, "For us at PR News, and for our community, the Platinum PR Awards serve annually as a celebration of the year's top PR teams and as an ideal showcase for their most successful campaigns. There were so many terrific entries this year, and once again we were reminded that creativity and inspiration rule in communications."
FairPoint began its campaign, Beware: Scams from Area Code 876, by working with local law enforcement officials, AARP, state attorneys general and federal lawmakers to unmask the growing problem of scamming Americans out of millions every year.
"The more we found out about our seniors being preyed upon and bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars the more we wanted to do something to help," said Mike Reed, Maine state president for FairPoint. "We knew we must step up and take a leadership role to draw attention to this outrageous crime against our most vulnerable citizens. 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 U.S. 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 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 created a website, bewareof876.com and organized news conferences across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. What began as a cooperative information-sharing effort developed into a public awareness campaign to educate the public and raise awareness about this scam. Ultimately, the effort gained national and international attention, prompting additional media coverage that initiated a Congressional hearing and moved the Jamaican government to take action. Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, asked the chairman, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, to hold a hearing on the issue. Chief Deputy Bill King, from the York County Sheriff's Office and Kim Nichols from Hermon, Maine, a victim's daughter, presented testimony before the committee. In a news release, Sen. Collins was quoted as saying, "Our parents and grandparents worked hard their entire lives and saved for retirement. They should not be targeted by criminals who want to rob them of their hard-earned savings." 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.