How to Protect Yourself: Lottery Fraud
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office
Do not believe you have won a prize in a lottery in which you never participated.
Lottery frauds are becoming increasingly commonplace. These frauds are likely to be advanced fee frauds which aim to defraud honest people of their hard-earned savings.
Typically, the potential victim, or 'target' receives a notification by unsolicited mail or e-mail that they have won a large prize in a lottery even though they never even signed up to play. Often, the target is the sole winner or one of a very small group of winners. The target is asked to maintain confidentiality either for security or tax reasons in order to avoid duplication of claims.
Targets are told that winners were selected by a computer ballot system or by random searches in open address books and e-mail address lists. It is usually claimed that the lottery operates under governmental or international control using names such as the 'Spanish National Lottery', 'Sweepstake Lottery Company' to create the impression of an apparently bona fide lottery institution.
Usually a named contact point (claim manager or paying officer) is assigned to assist the 'winner' to claim his/her prize. Telephone and fax numbers or Internet website addresses are provided but postal addresses are rarely given.
Winners will be told they have a short time period within which to claim their prize before the money is returned to the lottery association or a governmental institution. In order to claim the prize, the winner must provide detailed personal information on an application form provided by the claim manager. Copies of identification documents are requested in order to prove the winner's real identity.
The target is able to choose whether to receive the money by wire transfer, a new bank account which needs to be opened, or by meeting the claim manager or one of his assistants and picking up the money directly. The target is then asked to pay several advance fees which are required to transfer the money using Western Union or other similar companies. These fees might include licensing fees, registration fees, and various forms of taxes and attorney's fees. Advance fees may also be required to open new bank accounts into which the money is to be transferred. All may seem plausible to unsuspecting victims and are required to be paid in cash before the winnings can be released. The fraudsters take a 'scattergun' approach by contacting large numbers of people knowing full well that most people will see through the scam. However, a certain percentage will be naïve and greedy enough to be taken in.
Sometimes money will be handed over to the victims at a meeting, but in all known cases where this has happened, the notes were found to be counterfeit.
Always be suspicious if you are asked to pay advance fees in order to get a prize! If it seems too good to be true - it probably is!
Be aware that your identity details can be used by the offenders to commit criminal offences in your name, to get access to your bank accounts, or to open up lines of credit in your name.
- Do not reply to any of these messages
- In particular, do not send any money
- Do not send or hand over identification documents - not even copies
- Never surrender details of your bank accounts or payment cards
If you are already in contact with these criminals or have already paid advance fees:
- Save all received and sent email and text messages
- Save all documents of transactions and remittances
- Never agree to meet the criminals in person in order to receive a prize - you will not receive any money and you may be putting yourself in danger
- Contact your local police immediately and follow their advice