A lottery scam is a type of fraud in which a con artist will try to extract money from innocent victims, usually by pretending to represent a lottery official. These fraudsters prey on the natural sense of excitement that people have about winning huge sums of money, tricking them into passing on financial details when they should not.
You can find out more about lottery scams below, including how they usually work and how to spot a scam. But you should always remember that it is not possible to win a lottery prize for a game that you did not enter.
Types of Australian Lottery Scams
Lottery scams have been common for as long as lottery games have been around, but fraudsters are constantly developing new ways to target their victims. The main types of lottery scam are shown below:
- Email: This is one of the most frequent scams so it is perhaps the one you are likeliest to come across. You may open up your inbox to find a message saying you are a winner. It may also contain a link to a site containing malware that could give the fraudster access to your computer.
- Post: With this type of scam, you may receive a letter saying you have won a prize or perhaps get an offer to purchase tickets at a very low price.
- Social Media: Another type of scam is one in which the fraudster will pretend to be a previous winner, who is saying that they want to share their wealth and have selected you at random to receive a portion of the jackpot they won. They may ask for personal information or financial details.
If you receive a telephone call from someone informing you that you have won a prize, keep in mind the golden rule that you cannot win if you have not bought a ticket. If it is a scammer, they may sound very convincing and ask for your bank details, but you should not provide them.
Official operators such as LotteryWest and The Lott do contact jackpot winners by phone to tell them about their success. However, this is only possible if you are a registered member and have submitted your contact details, then purchased a ticket with your lottery card. They will guide you through the claims process without ever asking for money. If you have won a prize, you don’t have to pay.
If you’re not sure whether a call is genuinely from an official lottery, you should hang up the phone and seek out the contact details of the provider so that you can ring them back and make sure.
Advance Fee Scams
Many lottery scams work in the same way, by asking for an advance fee from their victims. The fraudster will tell you that you have won a big prize, but first you must make a payment. This may be described as commission, tax or maybe a fee so that your payment can be processed.
It is important to remember that you never have to pay a fee in order to receive a prize. You would never receive such a request from a legitimate lottery. It is just an attempt from the scammer to take your money.
How to Spot Lottery Scams
With lottery scams so widespread, it is important to know how to tell the difference between a fake message and a genuine one. Look out for the following signs of a scam if you receive a prize notification:
- If it’s an email, a scam may have been sent from a free mail service such as Gmail or Hotmail rather than an official account.
- It is not addressed to you by name. Instead, it starts with an indirect greeting such as ‘Dear Winner’.
- Scam messages often contain poor spelling, grammar and syntax.
- Look at the branding of the message. Logos may be skewed or stretched, or the message may be crammed with a number of copies of official logos in a bid to look genuine.
- Scams often ask you to respond quickly or ask that you keep news of the win to yourself. This is an attempt to rush you into acting without thinking, or stop you from speaking to others who may notice it is a scam.
Even if a message you receive does not contain any of these warning signs, you should not automatically trust it and assume it is genuine. Lottery scammers are constantly refining their techniques. The only way you could have won a prize is if you bought a ticket.
Protect Yourself from Scams
You can protect yourself from lottery scams by being vigilant and recognising that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can only win a lottery prize if you have bought a ticket and matched the winning numbers.
Do not provide banking information to anyone whose identity you cannot verify, and never pay a fee in order to receive your winnings. You will never have to pay an amount before you receive your winnings. If you do provide your financial information to a scammer, contact your bank immediately.
If you’ve received an email, do not click on any links or open any attachments from a sender you do not know.
You can report lottery scams to your local office of Fair Trading or the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC).