Unexpected prize or lottery scams
What are they?
Fraudsters will inform you that you’ve won money or an incredible prize in a competition or lottery that you don’t remember entering. They may contact you by mail, phone, email, text or social media.
The prize you have ‘won’ could be anything from a beach getaway to electronic equipment such as a laptop or smartphone, or even money from an international lottery.
There’s always a catch! To claim your prize, you will be asked to pay a fee for insurance, government taxes or courier charges. The fraudsters make money by continually collecting these fees from you and stalling the payment of your winnings.
You may also be asked to provide personal information and bank account details so the prize can be sent to you. Fraudsters will then try to use these details to steal your money.
Signs of an unexpected prize or lottery scam
- You receive a letter, email or text saying you have won a prize in a lottery or competition that you didn’t enter. This may even come from trusted individuals like family or friends who’ve had their social media account hacked.
- The unexpected prize might be linked to a company which doesn’t normally run competitions.
- To claim your prize, you’re asked to buy a ticket or pay a fee.
How to protect yourself
- If someone asks you to pay money up-front in order to receive a prize or winnings, it’s always a scam. Legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay a fee to collect winnings.
- Never call the number included in the letter, email or text message you receive. Call the company through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
- Do an internet search on any of the details of the competition – many scams can be found this way.
- Never send payments to a stranger, especially via electronic funds transfer, international telegraphic transfer, pre-paid card or cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin. It’s very rare that this money can ever be recovered.