Lottery scams - don’t chance your luck
A letter from overseas arrives in your mailbox. ‘This must be interesting,’ you think as you tear open the envelope. “CONGRATULATIONS!!,” the letter says, “We are pleased to inform you that YOU are a winner of €600,000 in the El Gordo Lottery!” But wait a minute; you haven’t entered any Spanish lottery. And you’ve never been to Spain…
Lottery scams from overseas have been around for a while, but unfortunately people are still falling victim to them and losing a lot of money in the process.
Recently, the Ministry has seen a rise in the number of lottery scams reported and believes that many New Zealanders have been a victim of a lottery scam. Figures from overseas government agencies show that the average amount lost by an individual is the equivalent of around $5,500.
Lottery scams come in a variety of guises, through email, fax and letter. All of them claim that you – the ‘winner’ - have won a large amount of money in a foreign lottery, which you hadn’t entered.
If further contact is made with the ‘lottery operator’ they will firstly ask for your bank account and identity details (which can in turn lead to identity theft). If these are given they will then ask for money to be sent to cover ‘taxes’, ‘administration’ or ‘release’ fees for your ‘winnings’.
Initially they may ask for a small amount of money, but if this is paid suddenly extra ‘charges’ are incurred before the ‘winnings’ can be released. This process can continue, leaving the victim sending larger and larger amounts in the hope of a return from the fraudsters.
Spotting a lottery scam
- The information advises that you’ve won a prize in a lottery - but you didn’t enter any competition run by the prize promoters
- The prize promoters ask for a fee to be paid in advance – legitimate lotteries don’t ask for funds in advance of paying out money
- They will ask for personal identity details – never provide this to a company or a person who you don’t know
- The standard of printing, spelling and grammar of the ‘prize winning notification’ may be poor
Note: All lotteries operating in New Zealand must be licensed by the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs. If you are unsure about a lottery, ask for their licensing information.