Like other "too good to be true" scams, lottery scams offer the victim great wealth in exchange for paying taxes and other processing fees up-front. In lottery scams, scammers generally send an e-mail, fax, or letter to potential victims announcing that they have won a foreign lottery. The "winner" need only provide personal bank account information and pay a few fees up-front to collect his or her substantial winnings.
What to Watch Out For
- If you did not purchase a lottery ticket in this foreign country, it is highly unlikely you can win a prize.
- No legitimate lottery requests advance fees.
- Characteristically, written notices contain spelling and grammatical mistakes or awkward wording.
- The primary methods of distribution for this scam are through the Internet, mail, or by fax. Legitimate government-run lotteries normally choose television, radio, or newspapers to advertise.
- Many of the prize letters state the deadline to claim the prize will soon expire.
- The written notice may come from a free e-mail account like Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail.
- You may be told to keep your winnings confidential for “security reasons.”
How to Protect Yourself and Your Assets
- Do not send any money! Participation in a foreign lottery through the mail or over the phone violates U.S. federal law. Furthermore, it will be essentially impossible to recover any money you send to a fraudulent operation.
- Do not give out personal information! Keep all bank and credit card information to yourself. Sharing this information can make you vulnerable to fraudulent use of your accounts or identity theft.
- Do not respond! Simply corresponding with the operators of a scam increases your chances of receiving similar offers.
Typical Lottery Scam
We receive frequent inquiries about the Spanish Lottery (sometimes referred to as "El Gordo"). Most inquiries result in complaints that purported Spanish lottery officials informed victims they have won a large cash prize. While the Spanish example is one of the most common versions, lottery scams can originate anywhere in the world.
How the Spanish Lottery Scam Works
There is a common pattern to Spanish lottery scams:
- The scam runs under many different seemingly official names such as "El Gordo Sweepstakes Lottery" or even actual lottery names such as "Once."
- Victim receives an "award confirmation" through fax or email informing them they have won a large amount of money in a Spanish lottery drawing.
- They are asked to contact a number in Spain to claim their prize.
- Once contact is made, they are asked to keep their prize confidential until the winnings are released to them. Often, there is a deadline to claim the money.
- Once the "transfer process" begins, the victim is informed of various delays requiring advance payment of certain transfer fees, taxes, anti-terror fees, insurance fees, claims agent fees, and other administrative costs before the prize can officially be collected.
How the Real Spanish Lottery Works
Two of the most common legitimate Spanish lotteries are "El Gordo," one of the largest lottery drawings in the world, and "La Primitiva." These are lotteries, not sweepstakes, and are a part of Loterías y Apuestas del Estado, meaning that they are government-endorsed. While some lotteries are drawn weekly, "El Gordo" is only drawn once a year during the Christmas season. The Spanish lottery does not tax any of its prizes.
To enter and win "El Gordo," you must be a resident of Spain and purchase your ticket within the country. Keep in mind YOU CANNOT WIN IF YOU DID NOT BUY A TICKET! You must purchase your entry to the drawing in Spain to win. It is against U.S. federal law to play a foreign lottery through the mail or over the phone.
Example: Spanish Lottery Scam Solicitation
According to our discussion regading the retrevition of the fund, please endavour to demand of your bank to look into the transfer process to verify:
1. The position of the money
2. If the fund is still laying in the bank where transferred
3. The statement of the account
I will be glad to hear from you as soon as the investigation is made.
Thanks and remain bless
Learn About Your Destination
Take precautions to avoid being a target of crime: Do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money. Do not leave unattended luggage in public areas or accept packages from strangers.