Lottery Prize Scams

Many Are Based in Amsterdam, But This Is a Global Phenomenon

You don’t remember that you entered the UK National Lottery? Or Spain’s el Gordo Sweepstake (not to be confused with the country’s official el Gordo Lottery, which has been in existence since 1860)? Or the Australia Lotto Lottery Inc? (which doesn’t even exist). Or some pan-European lottery you’ve never heard of headquartered in Amsterdam?

Prize and lottery scams are a global phenomenon. They are so widespread that el Gordo’s website warns all visitors not to confuse it with the scam:

elGordo.com would like to inform the general public that a number of groups of criminals, of various nationalities, are using the prestige and the commercial names of the Spanish Lottery by fraudulent means in several countries, particularly in countries in the south-west of Asia and the Pacific, and countries on the American continent. They move with ease around the whole world and use mobile telephones, PO boxes, provisional or false addresses (including real addresses of official Spanish organisations), as well as names that bring to mind prestigious institutions ("el Gordo", "la Primitiva", "European Lottery Commission", etc.) They also forge the printed sheets and signatures of various banks.

In order to carry out the fraud, the procedure that is generally followed consists of informing the potential victim that they have been the lucky winner of a substantial prize (even if they have not participated in any draw), although they cannot collect this prize until they have paid an amount going towards the taxes, bank costs, delivery costs or insurance processing, etc. Usually, the fraudster warns their potential victim that the deadline to pay these charges is very soon and that their right to collect the prize is about to expire.

Prize and lottery scammers usually contact potential victims by email, congratulate them on winning and provide them with rather elaborate instructions on how to obtain their money. The emails will inevitably be sent from anonymous Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail accounts. Many are based in Amsterdam, where experienced Nigerian “419” scammers have set up shop.

Typical Lottery Scam Scenarios

Most likely, as is the case with many other scams, they will ask you to provide personal details, including a bank account number or credit card number, ostensibly to allow them to pay for the bank transfer and administrative costs. Instead, they will use that information to impersonate you, commit identity theft and make exorbitant charges to your credit card or withdraw your savings from your bank account, or both.

The scammers may also suggest depositing your prize in a euro bank account that they will open in your name in Amsterdam. To do so, they’ll tell you that you have to pre-deposit a certain amount of money. Of course, there is no bank, no account and no prize. Any money you send will go straight to the scammers.

In some cases, the scammers invite you to Amsterdam to pick up your prize in person in exchange for a “release fee, which you will be expected to pay in cash. They’ll then hand over your winnings, but it will be in counterfeit currency, while you paid for it with the real thing.

Usually, any payment you are asked to make will be by money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded cards, or digital currency like Bitcoin, since these methods are considered the most difficult to trace. Legitimate lotteries never require you to pay any fee to obtain your winnings.

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