Lottery games both in the UK and across the world have strict rules in place to ensure that they are fair and fun to play. However, there are many people out there who try and use the allure of money to set up lottery scams to divert people away from legitimate games. These fraudsters take advantage of unwitting victims who are blinded by promises of receiving a life-changing amount of cash.
The scams generally rely on persuading the recipient of a bogus email, text, letter or phone call that they have won a huge amount of cash in a lottery, which will then be transferred into their bank account on payment of ‘processing fees’ or ‘taxes’. These amounts are kept by the scammers, who often request further payments, stringing the victim along. Often the fraudster asks for personal information which will then be used for the purposes of identity theft.
Responding to just one of these communications can open the door to a flood of unwanted letters, phone calls and emails trying to separate you from your money. Read this page to learn more about protecting yourself against lottery scams.
Avoiding a Lottery Scam
- If you haven’t entered a lottery, raffle, sweepstake or other competition, then you cannot win it!
- To win Lotto, EuroMillions, People’s Postcode Lottery, The Health Lottery or any other lottery game, you must have bought a ticket for the correct draw date and you must match the winning numbers exactly on your ticket.
- No legitimate lottery will randomly select email addresses or mobile phone numbers to win prizes.
- Legitimate lotteries will not approach you asking you to claim a prize. You may receive an email advising you of a win and instructing you to check your online account, but it is for you to approach the lottery company in order to claim any prize that you are due.
- Legitimate lotteries will not ask for any fee or upfront payment of taxes in order to process your claim.
Clues to Identify a Scam
There are plenty of signs by which you can work out whether the lottery communication you have received is fake. Your letter, email, text or phone call may have all or some of these indicators:
- Often the message will claim to be from a legitimate company, but the email address used bears no resemblance to that company name. For instance, it may be sent from a free webmail address like Hotmail.com or Gmail.com.
- If you receive a phone call, check the number – if it begins with +4470, it is a Personal Redirect Number, which can be used from anywhere in the world. No legitimate lottery would use this sort of phone number.
- It may not refer to you by name, but rather as “Dear Winner” or something similar but still suitably vague.
- Scam letters are sometimes printed on poor quality paper, often with a photocopied letterhead. Occasionally they give the address of a legitimate business to try and trick you into believing that the win is real.
- They will often include a strict time limit on claiming the prize, as well as a confidentiality clause, in an effort to pressure the potential victim into parting with their money or bank details. It means that the recipient of the scam has less time to properly investigate the communication or seek advice.
- Scam communications often have poor grammar and spelling mistakes.
What to Do if You Receive a Scam
If you receive any form of communication informing you of a win on a lottery that you haven’t entered, then it is recommended that you:
- Do not send any money.
- Do not reply to the message, as it will only encourage the scammers to send you more emails, letters and phone calls. If you have already responded, then cut off all contact straight away.
- If you received an email, do not open any attachments or files that came with it, as they could contain malware or a virus.
- Do not disclose your private bank or personal details. If you have already provided this information, then notify your bank or building society immediately.
- Contact Action Fraud either through their website (http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/) or on 0300 123 2040 for advice on what to do next.
Methods of Scamming
These are the most common types of lottery scams. You may be initially contacted through one of these means:
- Post: You receive a letter telling you that you have won a prize, but that you need to pay a fee to process your claim before any winnings can be paid out.
- Email: Similar to the postal scam, but emails from scammers can also link back to fraudulent copies of official websites in order to seem legitimate.
- Phone: You receive a call informing you of a lottery win and, during the call, the ‘lottery official’ will attempt to take advantage of your shock in order to obtain your bank details.
- Social Media: You receive a direct message telling you that your account has been selected for a lottery or raffle prize. You will then be asked to forward your financial details.
- Mobile: You receive an SMS informing you that your mobile phone number has been selected at random from a lottery to win a prize.
No matter how they get in touch with you, never give your personal and financial information over to a suspected lottery scammer. No legitimate, regulated lottery will ask you to pay a fee for your winnings. Just hang up, throw out the letters and delete the emails and messages.
Types of Scam
- Second Chance Lottery: You may be contacted by a scammer claiming to act on behalf of Lotto or EuroMillions and offering you a ‘second chance’ to win a prize that has not been claimed. UK lottery games do not offer this type of draw, as any prizes left unclaimed after 180 days are then distributed to good causes.
- Lottery Winner Trusts: These are scam communications which take the names of previous high-profile winners and claim to be donating funds on their behalf to those less fortunate. The idea is to obtain your bank details in order to make the ‘payment’. Well-known winners whose names have been used without their knowledge in such activity include £161 million EuroMillions winners Colin and Christine Weir from Largs in Scotland, Neil Trotter from Surrey who scooped £108 million and Northern Irish woman Margaret Loughrey, who genuinely did donate a portion of her £27 million winnings to those in need, but not through any scheme like the ones listed above.