The Business of Fake Lottery Scams and How to Avoid Being a Victim

Posted on November 30th, 2009

The OFT (Office of Fair Trading) has clocked that the business of fake lottery scams in the UK is a big one and has released a statement warning Joe Public to watch out for them.

These scams generally promise a big cash win and the lure  of a multi-millionaire lifestyle. We have been investigating this and it is quite scary how many of these letters, emails or telephone calls about a supposed lottery win are believed.

The problem is huge in the UK with estimates of 30% attributed to the number of people who have received this kind of communication. So don´t be hoodwinked! It is estimated that this scam fleeces people around the country to the tune of an eye watering £260 million a year, and almost 150 thousand UK citizens fall victim to the ruse. But the scam is rarely reported, due to people feeling embarrassed at having been so easily hood winked by the scam artists.

The average loss is about 2 thousand pounds, and the communication often seems like it has come from a genuine lotto operator such as the National Lottery or the Spanish “El Gordo” (literally the “Fat One”). Victims may receive motification about their win out of nowhere, informing them that they have jus scooped a life changing sum in a lottery or sweepstake. Then the scammers tend to ask for ‘administration fees’ to process the win, or for the victim to disclose details to confirm their identity in order to claim the win. The winnings are of course imaginary. The fees are real.

To help you identify these bogus claims, we have pulled together some key questions that you need to ask yourself if you ever get contacted with this kind of information. The overarching one is this: “Does this seem to good to be true?” If the answer is yes, the chances are that it is a scam, and you should investigate thoroughly.

Top Tips to avoid these Scams

  1. Have you actually bought a ticket. If you haven´t, file the communication away in the bin.
  2. Never send money in advance to claim a lottery win. Genuine lottery companies will NEVER ask you to pay fees or taxes before claiming what is rightfully yours.
  3. Never give out your credit card or bank account details unless you fully trust the merchant.
  4. Ask your friends and family their view on whether it is a scam. Two minds (or more) are better than one in these circumstances.
  5. The National Lottery never informs winners how much they’ve won by email. Period.
  6. Try the Consumer Direct site for a full run down.
  7. Never dial a premium rate telephone number for information on your win
  8. Be wary of letters suggesting you have a very short time in which to claim your prize or winnings. If you win the lottery and forget to claim, Camelot actively search for you over an extended period- they don´t require you to rush.
  9. Don´t send money out of the country, especially to Holand, Spain or Canada.

Also, remember that if you reply to these kind of scams, (much as with spam emails), you will be marked down in their database as a real person and you´ll get more junk mail and emails landing on your doorstep and email inbox.

Lottery scams that are doing the rounds at the moment:

Watch out for:

1. The Canadian lottery Scam

Thousands of UK citizens have had unsolicited phone calls and sent money to scammers from Canada. Some victims have lost over £250,000 as they reply to more and more telephone calls paying for the costs that these companies are requesting in order to receive their prize. The wining ticket is a fantasy, and they never receive a cent in winnings, be that American or Canadian cents.

2. El Gordo lottery email scam

Loterias y Apuestas de Estado is the offical Spanish lottery company (the equivalent of Camelot in the UK which runs the National Lottery). They have has issued a warning about scammers communicating under the name El Gordo and forging bank forms to con people out of money illegaly.

Interactive lottery scam mailing

Fake junk mail and emails are being sent to UK citizens claiming they have scooped “el Gordo”: The Spanish lottery. In order to claim their ‘winnings’, victims are asked to provide bank account details and informed that 5-10 per cent of the winnings will be held back for costs. The ‘winners’ are contacted in dure time and asked for fees to release their winnings: of course they never see a Euro. Genuine “el Gordo” wins do not come with fees, taxes, or Interantional transfer costs.

Keep your wits about you!

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