How to spot a lottery scam
Ever got an email saying that you have won the lottery? If the email was from your lottery syndicate manager, or the lottery company, it would be quite exciting.
But sadly it's far more likely to be yet another lottery scam. These are far more common than you may realise, and turn up in millions of email inboxes every day. They vary in content and mention anything from winning a million dollars to millions of Euros.
They often use plausible sounding names such as Europe Lottery International in an attempt to sound genuine. They now even quote names of perfectly respectable companies such as Virtual World Direct (a UK syndicate operator) in an attempt to convince you they are real.
So how can you tell if it is a lottery scam?
The signs are usually quite clear, though it can be hard to see past the possibility that you really might have won a lot of money. And this is one of their ploys to entice you.
Here are our Top 10 Tips To Spot Lottery Scams:
- What email address did the email come from, is it a real lottery company, or something like LotteryWinners@netscape.net. If you're not sure, take the bit after the @ sign, put www. in front of it and type that into your web browser and see where it takes you. If it's not a lottery organiser, then that's a bad sign!
- Spammers and scammers often fake the senders address but they need you to contact them somehow so they often include an email address to reply to. Do the same test as above on that email address. No genuine lottery company would use a free email account to correspond with jackpot winners!
- How good is the grammar and spelling in the email? Lottery scam emails are often poorly written by people with a limited grasp of English.
- This one is obvious. Did you pay to enter this lottery? No company gives out jackpot millions randomly to people and if you didn’t pay to enter… There are of course free online lottery sites (such as some on this site), but you would know if you entered one of them.
- Where did they get your email address? Similar to number 4, unless you entered an online lottery providing your email address, where did they get your email...?
- Are they asking for a fee to process your winnings? This is a guaranteed sign of a scam. No genuine lottery asks you to pay before they give you a prize.
- Are they asking for your personal and bank details in order to pay your winnings? Very likely they only want those details to fraudulently empty your bank account!
- Many scams are listed on various websites. Do a search on Google for the claimed name of the company, and the names of people mentioned in the email. Use quotes around the names (ie. "Gina Bullork" or "European Lottery International"). Use this step with the others, because they are starting to quote genuine company names to get a better chance of scamming you!
- Is there a phone number provided? Don't ring it, but try doing a reverse phone number search (use Google for websites that provide this service). If it turns out to be cellphone number or a premium rate number, that's another bad sign, plus they will use it cost you lots of money.
- Is there a street address provided? Again, search Google for this specific address, or just the street name and see what comes up. It wouldn't be the first time the claimed address belongs to a completely unrelated company!
If all these checks still leave you wondering if it is real, you can easily put your mind to rest.
You could play along for a while. Reply to the email as instructed. Don't give any personal information, but just strike up a dialogue. Claim not to understand the instructions and repeatedly ask for clarification. Act dumb. A genuine company will be professional and bear with you. A scammer will quickly get frustrated, and it will show.
Again, bad grammar and quality of English are a sign this person is unlikely to be part of a lottery organisation in a position to deal with paying out jackpots!
So be careful and don’t fall prey to the scammers.