Unexpected prizes or lottery winnings

You receive a letter, telephone call of email announcing that you have won a prize from a foreign lottery that you have never heard of. You are asked to pay a processing fee or supply banking information to collect your winnings.

People all over the UK receive messages such as these on a daily basis. While some sweepstakes offers are legitimate, the majority of them come from fraudsters who are trying to trick you into paying them money or revealing your personal information.

This type of scam commonly appears in the form of a lottery based in a foreign country. Even though you did not enter this lottery, you have somehow won it, and need to pay money to claim your prize. Most countries do not allow non-citizens to collect prizes from their lotteries, so this is a dead giveaway that it is a scam.

You may also learn that you have won a promotional prize from a company whose name is well known, such as BMW or Coca-Cola. Some of these offers sound convincing because you recognise the name of the company. If you were to contact the company directly through their website, (not by using the contact info that you were given to claim your ‘prize’) they would surely tell you that they have no such draw and did not authorise their company name or logo to be used in such a way. If you receive emails that appear to bee impersonating a known company, it is a good practice to forward the email to that company to let them know that they are being impersonated.

Most of the scams directed at UK residents originate outside of the country, even though they may provide a UK address for contact.

This type of scam typically works the following ways:

  • You are guaranteed a winning ticket or prize in exchange for a registration fee
  • You are asked to make a purchase in order to receive a prize
  • You are asked to call or text a premium rate phone number
  • You are given a deadline in which to claim your prize
  • You are asked to disclose financial or personal information
  • You are asked to transfer money out of the country

Most of the time, there is no prize whatsoever, and once you have sent your money out of the country it cannot be recovered. If you provide your name, address and phone number, you have just given the fraudsters everything they need to use your credit card online. In the next step they usually ask you to pay a small processing fee via credit card so that they can get the card number. They make the fee extremely small so people will think nothing of paying it, not realising that it is not the money but the card number that the scammers want.

In the rare cases when there is a real prize, it is usually worthless, overpriced or misleadingly described and worth much less than the fee that you paid. (the bottom line is, you have just been tricked into purchasing a piece of junk)

To avoid falling victim to lottery scams, remember these tips:

  • Ask yourself how you could have won a prize in a draw that you haven’t entered
  • When you win a legitimate prize, you do not have to pay money to claim it
  • Being asked to use a premium rate phone number is the same as being asked to pay money to claim your prize
  • Never provide personal information, banking information or credit card numbers unless you can be absolutely certain with whom you are dealing.
  • After you have responded to a fake promotional offer, your name and address will most likely be provided to other scammers

Signs of suspicious ‘prize offers’ include:

  • The email, letter or phone call is unsolicited
  • You won a contest that you did not enter
  • You are given a deadline before which you must claim your prize
  • You are asked to pay an ‘administration fee’ in order to process your prize
  • You are asked to use a premium rate phone number to claim your prize
  • The ‘contest’ originates in a country other than your own
  • Prizes are in foreign currency
  • You are asked to transfer money out of the country, especially to Canada or the Netherlands
  • You are asked to provide personal information, banking information or a credit card number

You can protect yourself against unsolicited lottery scams by remembering that you should never have to pay money to receive a prize that you have won. Also remember that you cannot win a contest that you did not enter. The fraudsters usually claim that they selected you at random, but this is completely false; no legitimate contest in the world selects its entrants this way. Do not enter any sweepstakes from foreign countries, or any contests unless they are from a company that you know well.

Common lottery scams

Canadian lotteries

Many UK citizens have sent thousands of pounds in response to unsolicited telephone calls that they have received regarding fraudulent Canadian lotteries. Some people have been scammed out of as much as £300,000 as the scammers continue to ask them for more and more money to cover the costs of claiming their winnings. These lotteries are nonexistent, and the people will never get anything in return for the money that they have paid out. All Canadian lotteries are government-run and can only be claimed by citizens of Canada. Under no circumstances would they ever pay prizes to people located outside of Canada. Knowing this can protect you from this particular scam.

The El Gordo Lottery

Officials from the El Gordo lottery have sent out a warning regarding scammers that have used the so called Spanish lottery, for fraudulent purposes. They have even gone so far as to forge bank forms and other documents in order to fraudulently receive money. Loterias y Apuestas de Estado

People across the UK have been receiving emails and letters stating that they are Spanish lottery winners. The ‘lucky winners’ are told that they need to supply banking information to receive their prize. They are also informed that a percentage of the money that they have won will be held to cover expenses. The ‘winners’ are contacted at a later date and asked to pay an assortment of processing fees before their prize can be released. Those who are unfortunate enough to have sent money will never receive any sort of prize. Authentic Spanish lotteries have tax-free prizes.