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 National Lottery Scams Work
The majority of lottery scams work by convincing the victim that they have won a prize. Fraudsters often pretend they represent the National Lottery or some other official lottery, and devise scams to try and appear legitimate. It may be that they ask for banking details so that a prize can be paid out, or ask for an ‘advance fee’ before the money can be transferred across.
You should remember that no genuine lottery would ever ask a winner to pay a fee before they can receive their money. Any mention of ‘administration charges’ or a fee to cover taxes is a sure sign of a scam. UK players do not pay tax on lottery winnings within the country, while taxes on lottery winnings around the world are paid to the relevant government, not the lottery itself.
Types of Lottery Scams
Lottery scams are constantly evolving so that the fraudsters can stay one step ahead of their victims. Here are some types of deception to watch out for.
- Email – A fraudster may try to fool you into thinking you have won a National Lottery prize by sending out an email, but this is one of the most common scams. The email could also request banking details or an advance payment. It might also contain a link to a site containing malware that could allow them access to your computer.
- Direct mail – With this type of scam, you may receive a letter informing you of a big win, with a request to divulge personal information or for a payment in order to release the ‘prize’.
- Social media – This could take the form of a private message claiming you have won the Facebook Lottery, or something similar. You could be asked to follow a malicious link, provide banking details or both.
- Previous winner scam – If you receive a message from someone claiming to be a previous lottery winner, this is almost certainly a scam. The message may state they are donating some of their wealth to good causes or to people they have chosen at random. You might then be encouraged to reveal personal information in order to receive the payment, leaving yourself open to becoming a victim of identity theft.
How to Spot a Lottery Scam
- The message states that you have been selected at random - possibly a draw of nationwide email addresses. Remember that no legitimate lottery picks winners in this way - you need to have purchased an entry to have a chance.
- 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.
- There is often a very tight deadline for claiming your prize. This is a tactic designed to make you act quickly before considering the consequences or discussing it with others who might recognise the scam and warn you off.
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.
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 need 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.