Lottery Scams

Lottery scams are criminal operations which are carefully designed to steal personal information and money from unsuspecting victims around the world. Such scams are something that every lotto player should be aware of so that they don’t fall prey to one of them, and although there are various types of lottery scams being promoted at any given time it is quite easy to avoid being caught out. In this article we outline the five main lottery scam approaches that are currently in use so that you know what to look out for, and then we provide you with a handful of guidelines which will help you to avoid becoming a victim.

Lottery scams tend to take one of five different forms, and these are referred to as Telephone Lottery Scams, Mobile Lottery Scams, Postal Lottery Scams, Email Lottery Scams and Social Media Lotery Scams, according to the initial mode of communication used in each case.

Telephone Lottery Scams

Telephone scams usually begin with a phone call in which the intended victim is told that they have won a large lottery prize. The scammers are very good at sounding professional and knowledgeable enough to make the victim feel confident that the news is genuine. The victim will be asked to provide personal information such as their name, address, date of birth and so on, as well as financial information such as a credit/debit card or bank account number.

Where credit/debit card details are asked for, the usual explanation is that the ‘winner’ needs to pay a handling charge or use the card as proof of identity so that the prize can be processed, and where bank account details are requested the explanation is that this is needed so that the lottery prize can be deposited directly into their account.

Mobile Telephone Scams

Many people are familiar with landline telephone scams, but mobile scams vary slightly. You could receive a text message stating that you are the winner of a cash prize draw, mobile raffle, mobile lottery game or similar, and that your number has been chosen to win a cash prize. However, if you call the number provided you can expect hefty call fees, plus you may even get your phone hacked if you do respond.

If you reply in any way, you are enabling the scammers to access the information on your phone, SIM card or even data from websites you have visited - which, in the days of mobile banking, could be catastrophic for you.

Postal Lottery Scams

Whilst telephone lottery scams focus on approaching one person at a time, postal lottery scams attempt to scam hundreds or even thousands of people simultaneously by sending letters to a mailing list of names and addresses. The letter is usually designed to look as authentic as possible, being printed on good quality paper and with various official-looking logos and areas of small print, but some postal scams don’t even go that far and instead rely on the trusting nature of the recipient to assume its authenticity.

However the letter is presented, it follows a similar approach to the telephone lottery scam, informing the reader that they have won a substantial lottery prize and that this now needs to be claimed. And how does the ‘winner’ make their claim? Usually by calling a telephone number, in which case the scam proceeds as previously described, with the victim being asked for their personal and/or financial information. That said, in some cases the letter will ask the recipient to provide such information in writing and to return a ‘claim form’ to a response address provided.

Email Lottery Scams

The third main type of lottery scam works in much the same way as telephone and postal scams, but makes contact with intended victims by email. The advantage of using email (as far as the criminals are concerned) is that hundreds of thousands of people can be contacted at the touch of a button for little or even no financial cost. It is therefore unsurprising that email lottery scams are the most common lottery scams of all.

The approach taken in an email scam closely mirrors that of the postal scam, with the recipient being told that they have won a major prize and now need to submit their personal and/or financial information in order to make their claim. Of course, in this case all that the recipient has to do to provide the requested information is respond to the email as instructed.

Whether a lottery scam is conducted by telephone, the postal system or email, the only goal of the criminal organisation behind it is to obtain the personal and/or financial information requested. Personal information gained in this manner can then be used to carry out crimes such as identity theft, whilst financial information can obviously be used to steal money directly from the victim or to make fraudulent purchases using their credit card details.

Social Media Scams

With the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, scammers have found yet another way to try and con individuals. They send messages to social media accounts, especially Facebook, claiming the recipient's profile has been chosen at random to win a “Facebook Raffle” or “Facebook Lottery”. However, there is no such game organised by Facebook and never has been.

In the messages, which are sent to the private message boxes of recipients, the scammer will request either a “handling fee” to process the data, or will ask for personal information including your password for that account. They can then use this information across the web to steal your identity and run up debts on your behalf.

Avoiding Lottery Scams

Being aware of the three main approaches taken by lottery scams is a big key to avoiding becoming a victim, but there are three additional guidelines which can help to ensure that you don’t get conned:

1 - Remember ‘The Participation Rule’

First, remember that you cannot possibly win a lottery game unless you have bought yourself a ticket for that game. Scammers will try and tell you that some lottery or other has randomly picked you to win or entered a number on your behalf, but all of that is nonsense. If you haven’t bought a ticket, you won’t win a lottery prize. Bearing this rule in mind will go a long way to making you immune to the scammers.

2 - Take a Closer Look

If you ever receive a written lottery communication which you think is genuine, take a closer look because there are often flaws. First, check to see if the lottery organisation actually exists. ‘Euro Mega Millions Corporation’ might sound plausible to both EuroMillions and Mega Millions players, but it’s a completely fictitious organisation which is designed to scam you.

Also look out for spelling and grammatical errors (for example, “Your have won a big lottary prize!”) and obvious pseudonyms (“The Very Reverend Captain Tony Blair of the Royal Lottery Commission”). The examples provided might seem hilarious but we really have seen things like this – especially in email communications from lottery scammers who don’t speak English as a first language.

3 - Claim Direct

Should you receive a telephone call, postal or email communication which you really believe is genuine – and you remember buying yourself a ticket for the game in question – don’t simply go along with whatever is requested of you. Instead, dig out your ticket (if you purchased it offline), take a look at the small print on the reverse of that ticket and follow the official claims process as described. And of course, if you purchased your ticket online you should log into your account for the official claims process of your lottery vendor.

Lottery scams are not uncommon, but they can be avoided, and adhering to the guidelines presented here will help you to do just that.

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Friday September 22nd 2017