This story was first published on August 3, 2012
Email that pretends to be from UK lottery winners Colin And Chris Weir claims that the couple has decided to donate £1,500,000 of their winnings to the email’s recipient.
The email is not from Colin and Chris Weir and the recipient is not set to receive a donation of £1,500,000. The message is a scam designed to trick recipients into sending money and personal information to Internet con artists. Colin and Chris Weir really did win a very large lottery prize in 2011, but they did not send this email nor are they donating large portions of their win based on the random selection of email addresses. The scammers have used the name and photograph of the winning couple to make their lies seem more believable.
Subject: 2012 Colin And Chris Weir Cash/Charity Donation programme!!
Compliments of the day, My name is Mr Colin Weir.On 12.07.2011, my wife and I won the Biggest EuroMillions Jackpot of £161,163,000 GBP and we just commenced our 2012 Cash/Charity Donation programme.
To verify our identity, please visit the web page below;
Your email address was submitted to my wife and I by the Google Management Team and you received this email because we have listed your email as one of the lucky beneficiaries, Kindly send us the below details so that we can issue a cheque for £1,500,000.00 in your name.
Congratulations and Best of Luck
Colin & Chris Weir.
This email was supposedly sent by UK couple Colin and Chris Weir who won a very large lottery prize in 2011. The message claims that the couple is giving away a sizable portion of their winnings as part of their “2012 Cash/Charity Donation programme”. And, claims the message, the lucky recipient has been selected as one of the beneficiaries of this programme and has therefore been awarded the princely sum of £1,500,000. The recipient is instructed to email Colin and Chris with name and contact details so that a cheque for the “donation” can be issued.
However, the email is not from Colin and Chris Weir and the recipient has not been awarded any money as claimed. The message is an attempt by cybercriminals to trick recipients into sending them money and personal information. In 2011, the couple won £161 million in the EuroMillions lottery making them Britain’s biggest ever lottery winners. The huge win generated a great deal of publicity at the time, with the couple reportedly fleeing to Spain after being inundated with begging letters asking for a share in the fortune.
The scammers responsible for this message have attempted to capitalise on the publicity surrounding the win by posing as Colin and Chris Weir. By using a stolen photograph of the couple and linking to a news report that may seem to support the claims in their cover story, the scammers hope to make their lies a little more believable.
But, those who fall for the ruse and reply to the message to claim their money will soon be asked to pay a series of upfront fees. The scammers will claim that the fees are unavoidable and are required to cover a host of – entirely imaginary – expenses such as insurance, legal and banking costs or income taxes. The scammers will make it clear from the outset that all of the requested fees must be paid before the prize cheque can be sent. Under no circumstances, they will claim, can the fees be paid out of the donation itself. Further requests for fees are likely to continue until victims finally realise that they are being conned or simply run out of money to send. Of course, the supposed donation does not exist and victims who send money as requested are very unlikely to get any of it back. The scammers will demand that all of the supposed fees are wired to them electronically as cash, so after the scam has taken its course, they will simply disappear with the money. And, because victims may be tricked into submitting a large amount of personal and financial information during the course of the scam, they may also open themselves up to potential identity theft as well.
Advance fee lottery scams of this nature are extremely common and take many forms. Versions of the scam were sent out via surface mail long before the rise of the Internet. These days, such scams are commonly distributed via phone text message and social media outlets as well as via email. Be wary of any message that claims that you have been awarded a large sum of money based on the random selection of your name or email address. While some lottery winners might well decide to donate some of their winnings to charity, it is highly improbable that they would just hand out large sums of money to total strangers. No lottery or charity programme is ever likely to conduct its affairs in such a manner.