I Won! I Won! Hang On – I Didn’t Play
Along with the increase in lotteries online and lottery concierge providers has been the lottery scams. My virus protection collects these, so I don’t usually even see them, but I took a peek today and realized that over half of the spam that is coming in is precisely this – scams.
Where Did Scams Start
Many look to the 419 Nigerian scams, but it dates back to the 18th and 19th century involving the Spanish Prisoner scam and The Jerusalem Letter Scam. Both used snail mail to entice people for their assistance with sharing incredible cash of wealth. All they had to do was either help smuggle people (which required money up front) or smuggle money and gems (which required money up front).
Snail Mail Evolves to Email
Email seriously changed the game. It is fast and efficient, and emails do not cost anything. Scams can target many, many more people. Initially, it was usually money that some disgraced African political person (Charles Taylor as an example) who had stashed money (which everyone could believe) asking for your help to get the money out. All it would take is a small facilitation fee. Wives’ names, law firms and international organizations (UN) have all been used for authority. I caught on to this one fairly quickly as I noted the use of Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo addresses that were not reflected in the firm or the person’s name.
Scamming Stashes to Scamming Lotteries
With the ability to register different domain addresses, this became more challenging, and people started using reputable lotteries and online lottery concierge sites for their scams. They were pretty successful as most people just got excited about winning and didn’t look at the small print — these target two different groups.
Fees and Taxes for Winning
Probably the most populous scam out there is emails that state you have won a big lottery and simply have to provide a fee for the facilitation of your prize and/or taxes due. Folks, if you haven’t entered a lottery, then you can’t win! I know sometimes we can rationalize that maybe someone bought a lottery ticket for us, but the lottery itself would not know your name!
This does get a bit more complicated with online lottery concierge sites as they could know your name and how to contact you. But – yes the big but – no online concierge site will contact you by email. If you’ve won the big one, then they will contact you by telephone to make arrangements for you to get your jackpot. Usually, this will include you physically being involved. Protect your personal information.
Identity Theft Scams
That is the second way that these scams work. Supposedly representing legitimate lotteries, they ask you for personal details including your bank account information. These people are going to use this information for identity theft which can include either raiding your bank account, using your details to incur debt and/or using your name to defraud your friends and family. This can include emails that ask for your urgent financial assistance because of an accident or passport/credit card theft in another country.
Consumer Protection on Scams
There are a variety of different consumer protection sites that you can go to check out whether the email you have received is a scam for a lottery win. But folks, this is a common sense thing. If you haven’t played the lottery then you can’t have won! Online lottery concierge sites require people’s names linked to their payment details to play so you can’t play in another person’s name. Most reputable concierge sites will not award a prize to a winner where the identity does not match the registration. Smaller prizes go straight into your account so you can verify the win yourself!
What are the Authorities Doing
More and more of these scammers are getting caught as a result of the development of tracking software and people willing to admit they’ve been scammed. A Nova Scotia man was just arrested in April for running one of the fee scams. The most important thing you as a consumer can do is be vigilant. You have to play to win. Make sure you have good virus protection that also filters spam. My provider does this and to be safe, they send me a list of the emails they have filtered, and I have not received. If you do receive any of these emails, hit delete! That’s the best way to stay safe!