Lottery Scams - How to Recognize Them and what To Do If You Receive One

Lottery Scams - How to Recognize Them

"Congratulations!
You may receive a certified check for up to $400,000 U.S. CASH!
One Lump sum! Tax free! Your odds to WIN are 1-6."

"Hundreds of U.S. citizens win every week using our secret system!
You can win as much as you want!"

Sound great? It's a fraud.

Scam operators ' often based in the Netherlands, Canada and Nigeria' are using the telephone and direct mail to entice U.S. (and other global) consumers to buy chances in high-stakes foreign lotteries from as far away as Australia and Europe.

There are several different types of lottery scams:

  1. A lottery notifies you (email, mail or phone) that you won*, or
  2. You go to a lottery website, or by phone or mail to "play" / buy a ticket, or
  3. You buy a "program" of "secrets" on how to win lotteries.
  4. Green card (immigration VISA) lottery
  5. Sweepstakes scams (Sweepstakes are not actually a lottery, but are often confused with them)

This page discusses the first type, the fake lottery winning notification.  Click on the links above for the other types.

* Remember, no legitimate lottery will EVER notify you that you won.  They don't work that way!


What is a Lottery?

Unlike a sweepstakes, a lottery is a promotional device by which items of value (prizes) are
awarded to members of the public by chance, but which requires some form of payment to
participate.
In other words, if you did not buy a ticket, YOU COULD NOT HAVE WON a lottery - no matter what anyone tells you!

Lotteries in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain, and most developed countries, are illegal, except when conducted by states and certain exempt licensed charitable organizations. If you believe you have received a solicitation in the guise of a sweepstakes which is an illegal lottery, you should contact your local Post Office' or state Attorney General's consumer protection office


How does a lottery scam work?

Victims typically are notified they have won a lottery, yet have to pay transfer fees, taxes or provide proof of their identity and/or details of their bank accounts or credit cards in order to receive the "winnings". The names of these organizations change all the time (they just make up a new name when one is exposed as a fraud), although many of the notifications use similar wording.

Click here for a step-by-step description of how the scammers work their scams.

And if you want to see examples of the scam emails, click on the links in this page.

Here are some replies from scammers after victims replied to the lottery scam emails.

A lottery is a promotional device by which items of value are awarded to members of the public by chance, but which requires some form of payment to participate. In the United States and most developed countries, lotteries are illegal except when conducted by governments (states in the US) and certain exempt charitable organizations.

Here are key points for avoiding scam lotteries:

  1. You cannot win a legitimate lottery if you have not entered it.

  2. In almost all cases you must purchase a ticket to enter a legitimate lottery.

  3. You never have to pay to collect winnings from a legitimate lottery. You pay taxes AFTER you you receive the winnings.  There are no other fees.

  4. If you hold a winning lottery ticket, you notify the lottery (they do not notify you; not by email, not by phone, not by mail).

  5. It is illegal under U.S. federal law to play ANY foreign lottery from the United States. Many other countries have similar laws.  for example, you must be a Spanish resident to play the El Gordo lottery.

  6. Since scammers simply invent new names for their fake email scam (the email is the scam, not any persons or companies named in the email)s, it is more accurate to say that if you do not see the lottery on the list of legitimate lotteries, it is probably a scam.

  7. If it isn't conducted by a government or government-authorized charitable organization, it can't be a legitimate lottery

If you believe you have received a solicitation in the guise of a sweepstakes which is an illegal lottery, you should contact your local post office or state Attorney General's consumer protection office.

But how did they get my name, if not through a lottery I entered?

Names and addresses of potential victims are harvested by spyware, viruses and other tools and obtained through various trade journals, business directories, magazine and newspaper advertisements, chambers of commerce, and anywhere your name appears on the internet (such as in chat rooms, forums, etc.). They could simply use a phonebook for your country, either online or the paper variety.

But it COULD be a legal lottery, right?

Legitimate lotteries do NOT use email to notify their winners.  In almost ALL cases, it is up to the holder of the ticket to contact the lottery. And even if these were legitimate, these lottery solicitations violate U.S. law, which prohibits the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail. And in the United States, if it isn't run by a state government or authorized charitable organization, it can't be a legitimate lottery!

Online lotteries are illegal in many other countries, too: All lotteries, including foreign lotteries operating in Great Britain, are unlawful in the UK (except those provided for by the 1976 Lotteries and Amusements Act; meaning government run lotteries). See this page for information about the UK lotteries. Note: in the UK, call the hotline at 020 7211 8111 to check or report lottery scams. Some of these lottery schemes say that the Gaming Board for Great Britain has approved them, but this is not true. The Gaming Board has a list of these companies and lotteries on its website, and warns people not to take part in them. See this page for information about the legitimate Irish Lottery, which operates in a similar manner, and has also been the victim of email scams.

A lottery is a promotional device by which items of value are awarded to members of the public by chance, but which requires some form of payment to participate. Even lotteries which aren't conducted over the internet are illegal in the United States, except when conducted by states and certain exempt charitable organizations. If you believe you have received a solicitation in the guise of a sweepstakes which is an illegal lottery, you should contact your local post office or state Attorney General's consumer protection office

What are lottery and prize scams?

These are notifications that advise people that they have won a prize (often for a competition they didn't even enter). 

The notification could arrive through the mail, by email or from an unsolicited telephone call.

How to spot a prize or lottery scam

  1. Check the name of the lottery or sweepstakes against our list of scammer names - click on the blue box links at left, with the letter that corresponds to the first letter in the name of the lottery. Some of the names are links to samples of the actual scams to compare against what you received. But remember, they just make up the names, so once they see their name on our list, they will just invent a new name to use.
  2. Keep the following warning signs in mind:

If the prize or lottery notification has any of the following elements, we strongly suggest you do not respond to it:

  • The information advises that you have won a prize - but you did not enter any competition run by the prize promoters.
  • The mail may be personally addressed to you but it has been posted using bulk mail - thousands of others around the world may have received the exact same notification.
  • You are often asked for money up front to release your 'win'.
    The prize promoters ask for a fee (for administration or "processing") to be paid in advance.
  • You are asked for your bank account, credit card details or other confidential information
  • The caller is more excited than you or the stranger who phones wants to be your best friend
  • You are told you must reply straight away or the money will be given to someone else.
  • Other schemes pretend to be legitimate lotteries, or offer you the opportunity to buy shares in a fund that purports to purchase tickets in legitimate overseas lotteries.
  • The scheme offers bait prizes that, if they are real, are often substandard, over-priced, or falsely represented.  Or, as part of the prize you can purchase "exclusive items" which may also be over-priced or substandard.
  • To get your prize might require travel overseas at your own cost to receive it.
  • Click here to see examples of real scam emails
  • See this page for a list of names that the scammers have used.
  • This page has miscellaneous reports of Lottery, Sweepstakes and Promotions Scams from Consumers and Victims

A Talk With A Scammer

What will the scammer say when you call their phone number.  Click here to read a transcript of an actual call to a scammer, as we pose as one of the "winners" he's notified by email


Key Tips:

  1. You can't win a prize in a lottery you haven't bought or been given a ticket for.
  2. Legitimate lotteries don't ask for funds in advance of paying out prize money.
  3. Never provide personal identity information to a company or person you do not know.

What Happens If I Contact Them?

Ok, we've just told you that there's NO SUCH THING as a legitimate lottery that "selected your email from a database" or a "computer ballot system"; which means these people are criminals working a con. And you still want to contact them?  So, we know you probably also believe in UFO's, psychics, and the tooth fairy.

Albright, let's say you do contact them; click here to see what happens.

The Bottom Line: What You Need to Know

Click here for page 2;  to find out what to do if you receive a lottery email.


Names of Scam / Fake / Fraud Lottery 

Click here for the huge list of the names of the currently identified lottery scams companies

 


 

For a comprehensive list of national and international agencies to report scams, see this page.