Everyone has seen them in their inbox. If your’re smart you’ll delete them. After all, you can recognize an obvious scam, right? One of the most recent reincarnations of the classic lottery scam is a money laundering scheme by a company posing as UK National Lottery. The tagline of the message is ‘Final Notice’ and the premise is this:
“We are pleased to notify you of the release today as dated of the Lottery Promotions programme held on October 1st 2005. Participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from a sweepstakes database of over 25,000 names of distinguished professionals drawn from Europe, America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Middle-East, parts of Africa, and North & South America as part of our international promotions programme conducted annually Ã¢Â?Â¦ your name and email address attached to e-Ticket Number 902-65478542 with serial number 154, which drew the lucky number 02-10-30-36-37-43-29 and consequently won the lottery grand prize award in the 3rd category. Therefore, you have won a lottery jackpot prize awards of Ã?Â£850,950.00 (Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty pounds Sterling Only) in cash prize credited to file Ref. No: UKNL/255457014/05Ã¢Â?Â¦ has been insured in your name Ã¢Â?Â¦you are advised to expeditiously contact our licensed and accredited claim agent for Overseas Lottery Winners within a period of 7days (date of this letter inclusive) Ã¢Â?Â¦ Please be informed that claims not processed within the stipulated period may be forfeited to the pool without further notice. You may wish to establish contact via e-mail with the particulars presented below citing the batch and reference numbers to this letter. Telephone lines are open between the hours of 8.00am – 22.30pm on Monday through Friday” (Personal Email)
Supposedly you and thirty eight other people were picked to share about eighteen million dollars in winnings. Detailed information about how you won and the process by which you were picked sound almost plausible. Phone numbers and contact info follow the letter, and you are encouraged to both send an email and call in.
Even if they have inkling that it might be a scam, many people become intrigued. The scammers don’t ask for personal info up front, nor do they even hint at any fees associated with the claim until much later in the process. They offer phone numbers and a lot of info, making you feel comfortable and begin to question whether or not it might be real.
Intrigued by the intricacy of such a scheme, I decided to play along. I went through the process by email until they asked for information, including my full name, phone number, address, company, driver’s license or international passport, amount of annual income, and more. I stopped here, but each year people continue and are duped out of anywhere from thousands of dollars to their life savings.
After a few e-mail exchanges the scammers ask you to send upwards of three thousand pounds to insure vital documents like prize claim certificates and other transfer information, coverage charges, and the handling and opening of accounts.
When they were asked to pay money, some people backed out and decided to ask about the scam at factorfiction.com and other fact check sites, and some were diligent enough to ask about the legitimacy of the scam on the uk national lottery website, natlotcomm.gov.uk. Sadly, just as many people have fallen victim to the scam and paid the requested amounts in full.
If you have any questions about the legitimacy of an e-mail you may receive, the first step to take is to perform a simple search on google.com or factorfiction.com to see if there have already been scam complaints filed.
If this search comes up blank, check on the official site of the company name. If no company comes up, that should be a warning sign.
If a company does come up, you should still do as much research as possible on the company before going any further. Don’t take any information at face value, even if the addresses and phone numbers turn out to be real and actual people answer them.
Most likely, you’ll find mentions of similar companies with almost identical scams, and complaints by other people who have been bamboozled.
Legitimate addresses are used in scams like these, and much of the time these addresses get through the radar, even of huge companies like Microsoft and Yahoo. They often use free, anonymous email accounts and ISP’s need to know when their services are being abused by criminals and scammers.
Forward the email to the service provider using an address like fraud@nameofprovider and add a title like “criminal abuse” to your subject line. Add the offending address and full message with the email and ask the service provider to suspend the account. If they are a conscientious ISP, they will suspend the account and send a message back thanking you for the information.
Internet scams are numerous and annoying, not to mention potentially harmful and debilitating to those who fall prey to them. The uk lottery scam is just one of many, and there will always be others. So pay attention, be aware and remember: you can’t win the lottery without buying a ticket.