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Lottery Cheque Scams

by Brett M. Christensen

A sinister variation of the International Lottery Scam is one in which the victim actually does receive a cheque from the criminals. Ostensibly, the cheque is a small portion of the large sum of money that the victim has supposedly won in the “lottery”. The scammers claim that this pre-payment is to be used to cover fees related to the release of the rest of the “winnings”.

A submission from a Hoax-Slayer visitor should help illustrate how these scammers operate:
I got a letter saying that I had won a lot of money in a lottery. The letter came with a check for $2,765.38. The letter said that I should put the check in my bank and then wire $2,745.20 to an overseas number to pay for the international clearance fee for my prize. They said that after I send the clearance fee they will send my prize of $83,598.12.

Since the check has already cleared in my bank and it seems all ok, does this mean that the prize is real? Should I wire the money?

In fact, the cheque that the victim received is likely to be stolen. By tricking a victim into wiring money from the proceeds of such a cheque, the scammers have effectively “laundered” their stolen funds. Of course, the promised prize is entirely imaginary and will never arrive. And sadly, the victim may have to face serious legal and financial consequences. The “paper trail” of the stolen cheque may lead police directly to the hapless “lottery winner”. Technically, he or she has committed fraud by depositing and using funds from the stolen cheque. Meanwhile, the scammer has picked up the stolen money and disappeared. This ruse is similar to payment transfer job scams, which are also intended to launder stolen funds.

Even recipients who have some awareness of lottery scams may fall victim to this cheque variation. Because a potential victim actually takes possession of a cheque that seems to clear without problems, he or she is more likely to believe that the lottery is genuine. In some cases, the scammers may convince the victim to wire money out of his or her own funds even before the cheque has cleared by claiming that the payment must be made within a certain time or the winnings will be forfeited. If the cheque is bogus and subsequently dishonoured by the bank, the victim will be left out of pocket.

Often, this sort of lottery scam message is sent to potential victims via surface mail with the cheque already included. Alternatively, an initial message may be sent by email or fax. If a potential victim responds to this message, he or she will soon be sent a cheque by mail.

No legitimate lottery would ever process winnings in this manner. Since there are many variations of this money-laundering ruse, people should be very cautious of any proposal in which they are requested to receive funds into their bank account and subsequently wire a portion of the funds to another destination.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,