Advance fee lottery scams are one of the most common types of Internet fraud. Be wary of any unsolicited message that informs you that you have won a large sum of money in an international lottery. There is no lottery and no prize. Those who initiate a dialogue with the scammers by replying to the lottery scam message will subsequently be asked for advance fees to cover expenses associated with the delivery of the supposed “winnings”. They may also become the victims of identity theft. Advance fee lottery scams are normally distributed via email and social media messages. They may also occasionally arrive via surface mail or fax.
In a typical advance fee lottery scam, the criminals will send out many thousands of identical messages in the hope of tricking at least a few recipients into believing that they have actually won a large sum of money. In some versions, criminals may use terms such as “award”, “grant”, or “reward” rather than “lottery”.
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How Advance Fee Lottery Scams Work
You receive an unsolicited message, which states that you have won a major prize in an international lottery or award. Supposedly, your email address, name, or username was collected online and attached to a random number that was subsequently entered in a draw for the lottery. In order to claim your prize, you are instructed to contact the official “agent” in charge of your case. You are also advised to keep the win confidential for “security reasons”. This part of the scam is an initial phish for potential victims. If you respond in any way to the email, the scammers will send further messages or even contact you by phone in an attempt to draw you deeper into the scam.
You may be asked to provide banking details, a large amount of personal information, and copies of your driver’s licence, passport and/or other identity documents. Ostensibly, these requests are to prove your identity and facilitate the transfer of your winnings. However, if you comply with these requests, the scammers may gather enough information to steal your identity.
In due time, the scammers will request some sort of advance fee, supposedly to cover administration, legal, insurance, or delivery costs. This type of scam is just a reworking of the classic “Nigerian” advance fee scam, in which scammers also ask for upfront fees to facilitate a supposed business deal of some form. Like other types of advance fee scams, victims who do actually pay the requested fees will probably find that they receive continuing payment demands to cover “unexpected expenses”. The requests for money will go on until the victim realises what is happening or has no further money to send.
The details of lottery scams vary regularly with regard to the name of the lottery itself, the country of origin, the sponsoring organisation, the amount of the “prize” and other particulars. The scammers try to add a patina of legitimacy to their claims by mentioning real financial institutions, government departments, or well-known companies. They may also provide links to slick looking, but fraudulent websites that are designed to support the false information included in the scam emails. If the scammers are successful in establishing a dialogue with a potential victim, they may provide “proof” such as a scanned image of a supposed government official’s ID and even photographs of the “winnings” in cash.
What To Do If You Receive an Advance Fee Lottery Scam Message
If you receive one of these scam emails, it is important that you do not respond to it in any way. The scammers are likely to act upon any response from those they see as potential victims. Although it can be educational and even entertaining to “bait” advance fee scammers, such endeavours should only be attempted under controlled conditions. These scammers are unscrupulous and unpredictable criminals. There have been violent attacks, abductions and even murders associated with advance fee scams and the criminals that run them should not be trifled with. The best thing to do with these scam messages is to simply delete them.
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What To Do If You Have Submitted Information to Lottery Scammers
If you have supplied banking and credit card details, personal information, and/or copies of identity documents such as your driver’s licence and passport to the scammers, then you could become a victim of identity theft. For details on what to do, read the information about identity theft published by the Federal Trade Commission (US), ScamWatch, (Australia) or ActionFraud (UK).
What To Do If You Have Already Given Money To Lottery Scammers
Unfortunately, there is probably very little you can do to recover any money you have already sent. The first step is to cease all communication with the scammers and do not, under any circumstances, send them any more money or information. It is not uncommon for advance fee scam victims to fall into an escalation of commitment trap and continue to send money to the scammers even after they have been told they are being conned. This is because victims can become desperate and are unwilling to let go of the vain hope that the scheme that they are involved in is legitimate after all and that they will eventually get their promised windfall.
If you have sent money to scammers, you should inform your local law enforcement agency as soon as possible. Also, take steps to protect your identity by accessing information about identity theft published by the Federal Trade Commission (US), ScamWatch, (Australia) or ActionFraud (UK).