It is NOT possible to win a lottery that you have not entered. Do not reply to any letters, emails, phone calls or messages telling you otherwise and, more importantly, NEVER send money or personal information to someone who contacts you out of the blue.
How Lottery Scams Work
The majority of lottery scams work by convincing the victim that they have won a prize. The criminal may try to find out personal banking details or, while the victim is experiencing the euphoria of thinking they are now rich, they might attempt to deceptively extract money from them.
The latter is often part of an ‘advance fee’ scam, where 'administration charges' or payments to 'cover taxes' are requested. Genuine lotteries will never ask a winner to pay a fee before they collect their prize and UK players do not pay tax on lottery winnings within the country. In addition, taxes on lottery winnings around the world are paid to the relevant government, not the lottery itself.
How to Spot a Lottery Scam
- The letter or email is not addressed to you personally, but to 'Dear Winner' or something similarly vague.
- The email might be sent from a free email address, rather than an official account.
- The letter or email contains poor spelling and grammar along with unusual syntax. Letters are often on poor quality paper with badly photocopied letterheads.
- There is often a very tight deadline for claiming your prize, urging the victim to act quickly before considering the consequences or discussing it with others who might warn them off after recognising the scam.
It is worth noting that fraudsters are constantly refining their scams and some communications may actually look professional and genuine. However, you must remember that you cannot win a lottery you didn’t play so you should be cautious if anyone suggests otherwise.
Types of Lottery Scams
Lottery scams are constantly evolving so that the fraudsters can stay one step ahead of their victims. Here are some of the most common types of deception.
- Direct mail scam – Victims receive a letter informing them of a big win, with a request to divulge personal information or for a payment in order to release the ‘prize’.
- Email scam – An email could also request banking details or an advance payment from the victim. It might also contain a link to a site containing malware that could allow the criminal access to the recipient’s computer.
- Social media scam – The victim may receive a private message claiming they have won the Facebook Lottery, or something similar. They could be be asked to follow a malicious link, have banking details requested or both.
- Previous winner scam – A message is received claiming to be from a well-known lottery winner, stating they are donating some of their wealth to good causes. Recipients are encouraged to reveal personal information to receive the payment, leaving themselves open to becoming a victim of identity theft.
Where to Find Help
If you think that you have been a victim of a lottery scam, then you should report it immediately to your bank and your local police force, especially if you have made contact with the fraudsters and revealed personal information. Speaking out can help prevent it from happening to others.
Action Fraud is a service provided by the City of London Police and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to offer support to victims. They can be contacted on 0300 1223 2040.
The best way to avoid being scammed is to remember that you have to have entered a lottery in order to win it. Even the various free lotteries on the market require players to have registered and played a set of numbers. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.