Bannister: Internet scams proliferate in The Bahamas

Bannister: Internet scams proliferate in The Bahamas
Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister (FILE PHOTO)

Minister suggests music artists like Vybz Kartel glorify scamming to the detriment of young people

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said yesterday that amended legislation relating to the Penal Code will go a long way to protecting The Bahamas’ international reputation, as he expressed concerns about a proliferation of online scams and “fake lotteries”.

“When I was preparing for this, I was thinking about all the scams we’ve seen in recent times,” said Bannister during debate in the House of Assembly.

“The lottery scams. They have these scams where people call you up and say you have won a lottery: ‘You pay the fees and the taxes upfront and we are going to send you the money.’

“Right next door in Jamaica, they have what they call the Jamaican phone scammers.

“They’ve had a lot of that in Jamaica and that has been blamed for financing gang warfare in Jamaica and for murders.

“Mr Speaker, the scams have even gotten into popular culture.

“Strictly speaking, I am a Percy Sledge (American R&B singer) man, but the young people listen to people like Vybz Kartel and what not.

“And Vybz Kartel has a song called ‘reputation’, which glorifies scamming.

“When you listen to the lyrics, it says ‘them call it scam, me call it reparation’. And it says, ‘Big up every scammer, we make US dollar. Build up the house for yi mama, Western Union people fi gi’ we more honor.’

“It’s a very catchy tune. A lot of our young people listen to it and they don’t realize that they’re talking about scamming; they’re talking about things that are illegal and dishonest. And you could easily catch yourself singing the lyrics.”

The minister said there is a prevalence of such scams online and millions of dollars can be scammed and transferred in seconds, wiping out bank accounts.

Bannister, who advised Parliament that he does not have a Facebook or Instagram account, also spoke about scam accounts purporting to be politicians who request funds.

“I can’t tell you how many people come to me and said they just talked to me on Facebook and they sent me the money I asked for,” he said, adding numerous parliamentarians have had a similar experience.

“I am not on Facebook. I am not on Instagram, but there are scammers.

“One of the things we are here today to do is to send a message to let it be said that The Bahamas is not in the business of facilitating or encouraging dishonesty or scamming. That is what this amendment is really about.”

Parliament passed the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

The legislation criminalizes defrauding or attempting to defraud the government of The Bahamas or a foreign government from The Bahamas.

The minister said there have been numerous instances of multimillion-dollar fraud matters emanating from The Bahamas, which have impacted other countries.

He said the bill is intended to safeguard the nation and “is not about bowing to any outside power”.