Lottery, sweepstake or prize-draw fraud happens after fraudsters contact you to tell you you’ve won a large sum of money in an international lottery, sweepstake or other prize draw.
You’re told via email or letter that you have won a large amount of money on an overseas or online lottery. Spanish, Canadian and Australian lotteries are among the most common.
So that you can process the payment of your winnings, it asks you to contact someone who claims to be an official at the lottery company. You are warned to keep your good luck a secret and, if you don’t respond quickly, you won’t be able to claim your winnings.
However, either the lottery doesn’t exist or you’ve been contacted by fraudsters misusing the name of a genuine lottery. But you can be sure there is no prize money for you to win. If you respond to the fraudster, you’ll be asked to supply personal information and copies of official documents, such as your passport, as proof of identity. The fraudsters can then use this information to steal your identity.
Once you have provided your personal information, the fraudsters will ask you to pay various fees – for example: taxes, legal fees, banking fees etc. – so that they can release your non-existent winnings.
Each time you make a payment, the fraudsters will come up with a reason why your winnings can’t be paid out unless you make another payment. They’ll also give you reasons why the fees can’t be taken out of your winnings and have to be paid upfront.
The fraudsters may also ask for your bank details, saying they will pay your winnings directly into your bank account. But if you hand over your bank details, the fraudsters will use them to empty your account.
Victim of prize draw fraud?
- You receive an official looking email or letter telling you that you’ve won a large sum of money in a lottery.
- You’ve responded to the email/letter and supplied personal information.
- You’ve paid a fee to release your winnings.
- Never respond to any such communication. If you haven’t entered a prize draw then you can’t have won it.
- Official lotteries in other countries operate in much the same way as the UK’s National Lotto. No official lotteries that we know of contact people to tell them of their win.
- We don’t know of any official lottery operators who ask for fees to collect winnings. Any request for a fee payment is a good indication that someone is trying to defraud you.
- Never, ever disclose your bank details or pay fees in advance.
- If they’ve provided an email address to respond to, be very suspicious of addresses such as @hotmail.com or @yahoo.com or numbers beginning with 07 because these are free to get hold of.
- Genuine lotteries and prize draws thrive on publicity. If they ask you to keep your win a secret it’s likely to be a fraud.
- Many fraudulent lotteries have bad spelling and grammar – see this as a warning that fraudsters are at work.