How to Spot a National Lottery Scam
Last Updated: Friday 12th April 2019, 12:39
For the past month various counties in Britain, including Derbyshire and Dundee, have been targeted by a postal lottery scam suggesting recipients have won up to £900,000. With the recent news that lottery scams are on the rise in Britain once again, it’s more important than ever to understand how to spot a scam and how to avoid them.
Postal Lottery Scam
The recent scam letter in question purports to be from the “International Postcode Online Lottery” – and in most cases, addresses the recipient by their full name. The letter explains that the lottery is “designed and promoted by European Lottery, Loteria, El Gordo and Commonwealth Bank of Australia”, allegedly to promote last year’s FIFA World Cup and the 2020 Olympics. Recipients are told they’ve won a substantial sum, and to call a given phone number, or post their claim to a given address.
Of course, there’s no such thing as the International Postcode Online Lottery. There’s no ongoing promotion for last year’s World Cup, or between those organisations. The letter is rife with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, and even asks that the recipient doesn’t tell anybody about their win. The fraudulent nature of the letter may be obvious to some, but not to every one of the thousands that will have received it in the past four weeks.
The letter also comes only a couple of months after an aggressive social media lottery scam, carried out by fraudsters pretending to be EuroMillions winners Frances and Patrick Connolly.
As lottery scams become more commonplace, vulnerable people are put at higher risk of falling for the ploys, and potentially losing thousands in savings. So how do you spot a lottery scam?
How to Spot a Lottery Scam
We’ve compiled a series of simple questions below, to help you assert whether or not a message you’ve received from an alleged lottery is in fact a fake:
Does this lottery exist?
As with the International Postcode Online Lottery scam, some scammers pose as a new lottery or promotion as opposed to a pre-existing lottery. This is because it’s often easier to create official-looking correspondence for a fake lottery than to mimic a real one – and gives scammers more license to weave a believable story.
If a message you’ve received claims to be from a new lottery, or a promotional lottery run by several pre-existing national lotteries, search its name on the internet. If the majority of results are from other people questioning the message’s veracity, it is a fake lottery scam.
How did this lottery contact you?
Often, the biggest indicator that you’re subject to a lottery scam is the fact that you’ve been contacted at all. Lotteries will never directly contact you if you’ve won a prize; instead, the onus is on you to claim the prize in the event of winning.
Nevertheless, official lotteries may contact you by email or over social media, for marketing or promotional purposes. Scammers use these social engagements as an opportunity to impersonate an official lottery channel, and convince you to divulge personal information or even give money.
If you have been contacted on social media by an account claiming to be the National Lottery, check for a “blue tick” next to their account name. The blue tick is a verification tool adopted by most forms of social media, designed to confirm the account in question is official, and not an impersonator. If there is no blue tick, the message you’ve received is a fake.
Did you enter this lottery?
This is true of every lottery, including the National Lottery: you cannot be eligible for a prize if you did not enter. If you receive an unsolicited message claiming you have won a prize from a lottery you didn’t enter, the message is fraudulent.
You may have entered the lottery in question, and may be hopeful of a win – so how do you determine a scam in this case? While it is not uncommon for scammers to have acquired your full name and address (things like the UK Government’s Open Register make it relatively easy for people to pay for access to certain pieces of information), a sure-fire way of knowing a message you’ve received is a scam is if it is addressed not to you, but to “The Winner” or some variant. Any lottery you’ve entered online will already have your name, and any lottery you’ve entered via a retailer will have no information on you at all; not even your address.
Is the sender requesting personal or financial information over email, social media or phone call?
The majority of lottery scammers are ultimately after your personal or financial information. With personal information, they can commit identity fraud by opening credit cards and bank accounts in your name – potentially destroying your credit rating and saddling you with thousands of pounds’ worth of debt. With the right financial information, fraudsters can gain direct access to your savings.
An official lottery will never request information like this over email or social media, and will only request some bank details over the phone if you’ve contacted them regarding a prize of a particular size. If you are being asked to part with specific information like your bank details, home address or mother’s maiden name during an unsolicited phone call, you are being targeted by a lottery scam.
Is the sender asking you to pay a fee?
Not all lottery scams rely on defrauding victims of their personal or financial details. Many scams will instead focus on convincing victims that they have won a substantial prize, but must pay a nominal fee to “release” their winnings. Recent postal lottery scams have offered around £500,000 in prizes, requesting a fee of up to £1,000 to unlock the funds. No lottery will ever ask any winner to pay a fee in order to release their winnings.
What to Do If You Spot a Lottery Scam
If you’ve uncovered a lottery scam directed at yourself or someone you know, the first and most important step is to avoid responding. Even acknowledging a scam message can be dangerous; up until you respond, a lottery scammer doesn’t know for sure there’s somebody on the other end of that email address, home address or social media account. Replying to them confirms that you exist, and could open you up to more targeting from other scammers.
If you have already responded to them, cease responding immediately. Any further correspondence could lead to the scammers getting more personal information from you, either explicitly or implicitly.
If you have already divulged information to the scammers, whether personal or financial, your next step should be to contact your bank. With personal information, lottery scammers can create lines of credit in your name; with financial information, they can wipe your bank accounts. Contacting the bank allows them to monitor your money and financial activity more closely, cancelling any dubious transactions.
Another tip is to keep an eye on your credit score. This is the most efficient way of keeping track of any identity fraud, as any credit cards or bank accounts opened in your name will affect it, and be named in the process. Check your credit report on a monthly basis, to ensure your identity hasn’t been stolen.
Whatever your position with the scammers in question, be sure to report them to the police’s dedicated fraud team, Action Fraud. You can report to them either by visiting their website or calling their direct line at 0300 123 2040.
With these questions in your arsenal, you should find it easier than ever to spot a lottery scam. Luckily, with the explosion of online play opportunities, it’s becoming harder and harder for scammers to affect your lottery playing. There are many benefits to picking your National Lottery numbers online – winnings are paid directly into your online account in the event of a win; any correspondence will always come from a verified email address; no one else can gain access to your account without your details. You also stand to benefit from never missing a draw or losing a ticket again!