Lottery fraud

What does lottery fraud offer?

You are told that you have won a large amount of money on an overseas or online lottery. Spanish, Canadian and Australian lotteries are among the most common.

How does lottery frauds work?

You receive an official looking email or letter advising you that you have won a large sum of money in a lottery. The letter provides a phone number and/or return email address. To process the payment of your winnings, it asks you to contact someone who claims to be an official at the lottery company. The letter warns you to keep your good luck a secret and tells you that if you do not respond within a short period, your right to claim your winnings will lapse.

The lottery doesn’t exist or you have been contacted by fraudsters misusing the name of a genuine lottery. Either way, there is no prize money for you to win.

If you respond to the letter, you will be asked to supply personal information and copies of official documents, such as your passport, as proof of identity. The fraudsters can then use this information to steal your identity.

Once you have provided your personal information, the fraudsters will ask you to pay various fees - for example: taxes, legal fees, banking fees etc. - so that they can release your non-existent winnings.

Each time you make a payment, the fraudsters will come up with a reason why your winnings can’t be paid out unless you make another payment. They will also give you reasons why the fees cannot be taken out of your winnings and have to be paid upfront.

The fraudsters may also ask for your bank details so that they can pay your winnings directly into your bank account. But if you hand over your bank details, the fraudsters will use them to empty your account.

How can I recognise a lottery fraud?

  • Official lotteries in other countries operate in much the same way as the UK’s National Lotto. You choose a set of numbers, buy a ticket and match the numbers drawn against those you have chosen. If you match enough numbers to qualify for a win, you have to contact the lottery operator to claim your prize. We are unaware of any genuine lottery operator that contacts winners to advise them of their win. If somebody contacts you to tell you that you have won a lottery you did not enter in the first place, it is very likely that you have encountered fraudsters
  • We are not aware of any genuine lottery operators that ask you to pay any fees to collect your winnings. Any request for a fee payment is a good indication that someone is trying to defraud you
  • Genuine lotteries thrive on publicity. Any win notification that asks you to keep your win a secret is highly likely to be a fraud
  • Many lottery fraud letters and emails are badly written. Look out for spelling mistakes and poor grammar
  • The fraud email/letter has to provide an email address and/or phone number for you to respond to. Look out for suspicious email addresses and phone numbers. Fraudsters generally use webmail addresses, such as @Hotmail and @Yahoo; and mobile or platform telephone numbers, such as numbers beginning with 07. A genuine lottery operator will not do this.

What should I do?

  • If you have responded to the email/letter, break off all contact with the fraudsters immediately
  • If you have given the fraudsters your bank account details, alert your bank immediately
  • Be aware that you are now likely to be a target for other frauds. Fraudsters often share details about people they have successfully targeted or approached, using different identities to commit further frauds
  • People who have already fallen victim to fraudsters are particularly vulnerable to the fraud recovery fraud. This is when fraudsters contact people who have already lost money through fraud and claim to be law enforcement officers or lawyers. They advise the victim that they can help them recover their lost money - but request a fee. See Fraud recovery fraud for further details.

Reporting it

If you're a victim of fraud that is a crime in progress and you need an immediate police response dial 999.

If it is a non-emergency situation,

call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

You can also report fraud or find further advice and information on the Action Fraud website.