You Have Won A Lottery/Sweepstake - Or Have You?
There are a few common scams that stand out in the mass of others, and this one is a biggie. The Fake Lottery/Sweepstake is one of most popular forms of Advance Fee Fraud, and reaps rewards from hundreds of thousands of victims worldwide.
If you have been told you have won a lottery the very first thing to ask yourself is "Is This A Scam". If you never entered the lottery you just won, then it's a cast iron guarantee that its a fraud. Some people simply see money and forget their heads, but here is the simple version:-
- If you never purchased a ticket, you can never win..
This answer may seem illogical when you have an email in front of you stating you just won, but this is why people get scammed big time. They are simply being blinded by the lure of big money. Or to give it a highly descriptive term, try "GREED".
- You have To Be In It, To Win It!
Lotteries and Sweepstakes are entered by purchasing a ticket, either a physical paper ticket or by some form of electronic payment. It matters not one iota that the email you got states "your email address has been randomly selected", because it is impossible. In addition, it is common for big names to be mentioned in the email, such as large software companies, car manufacturers or even the names of real and genuine lotteries. However, if you see something like "Sponsored by [insert major company]" then its bogus. Big companies may support a Lottery but the funds come not from them, but from ticket sales. That is the only way a Lottery/Sweepstake operates.
There are a pair of lotto types which can come by email, sms or postal mail.
- The Advance Fee Type
This one is very unsubtle and follows a similar pattern to usual AFF scams, and is restricted to email and sometimes sms. Basically you are asked to pay some sort of a fee before you get your winning cash. No matter what the fee is for, it is a scam, and actually illegal in some countries for a real Lottery to demand an upfront payment from a winner. It is of course this fee that is the scam. If you pay one fee, you will be asked for another, then another and so on until you loose everything you have or give up.
- The Fake Cheque Type
This one is perpetrated via postal mail and is very similar to an Overpayment Scam. With this one there is a cheque attached to the winning notification letter and you are given various instructions. There will be some plausible excuse for the cheque, but in all cases you are told to cash the cheque and to forward a part of the proceeds somewhere else, probably via Western Union, MoneyGram or other cash transfer service. This cheque isn't for the full amount of the win, just a small part of it. As in the Overpayment Scam, the cheque is a fraud and if you cash it and send the proceeds onwards, you are done for. The bank will eventually discover the fraud, snatch the money back from your account, and probably report you to the Police for bank fraud. Depending on where you live, you could be arrested and thrown in jail, leaving you to prove yourself innocent. Oh yes, and you still have to pay the bank back the bit you sent to the scammer. Good eh?
Sometimes people get confused about these two types, so hopefully this serves as a good reference. In the case of a Postal Scam, you should take the letter and cheque to your local police and make a report. You will help the authorities gather more evidence to catch the perpetrators.
Just remember one simple thing; if you win a lottery or sweepstake you never paid to enter then YES, IT'S A SCAM!
So keep your cash firmly locked away.