How To Spot A Lottery Scam
It can be real exciting to get an email saying you've just won a million dollars. I should know, I've received dozens of them myself ;-) And dozens more from excited but cautious individuals just hoping the email is real.
If the email was from your lottery syndicate manager, or the lottery company itself, it truly would be exciting.
But sadly it's far more likely to be another lottery scam. These are far more common than you may realise, and turn up in millions of email inboxes every day. They vary in content and mention anything from winning a million dollars to millions of Euros.
They often quote plausible sounding names such as 'Europe Lottery International' in an attempt to sound genuine. They now even quote names of perfectly respectable companies such as Virtual World Direct (a UK syndicate operator) in an attempt to convince you they are real.
So how can you tell if it is a lottery scam?
The signs are usually quite clear, though it can be hard to see past the possibility that you really might have won a lot of money.
Here's 10 Top Tips To Spot a Lottery Scam:
1. What email address did the email come from, is it a real lottery company, or LotteryWinners@yahoo.com. If you're not sure, take the bit after the @ sign, put www. in front of it and type that into your web browser and see where you end up. If it's not a lottery organiser, that's a bad sign!
2. Spammers and scammers often fake the senders address but they need you to contact them somehow so they often include an email address to reply to. Do the same test as above on that email address. No genuine lottery company would use a free email account to correspond with jackpot winners!
3. How good is the grammar and spelling in the email? Lottery scam emails are often poorly written by people with a limited grasp of English.
4. Obvious one this. Did you pay to enter this lottery? There are free online lottery sites, but you'd know if you entered one. No company goes around giving jackpot millions out randomly to people.
5. Where did they get your email address? Similar to number 4, unless you entered an online lottery providing your email address, where did they get your email...?
6. Are they asking for a fee to process your winnings? This is a guaranteed sign of a scam. No genuine lottery would ask you to pay before they give you a prize.
7. Are they asking for your personal and bank details in order to pay your winnings? Very likely they only want those details to fraudulently empty your bank account!
8. Google is your friend. Many scams are listed on various websites. Do a search on Google for the claimed name of the company, and the names of people mentioned in the email. Use quotes around the names though, e.g. " Gina Bullork" or "European Lottery International". Use this step WITH the others, because as I mentioned, they are starting to quote genuine company names to get a better chance of scamming you!
9. Is there a phone number provided? Don't ring it, but try doing a reverse phone number search (search Google for websites that provide this service). If it turns out to be cellphone number, that's another bad sign.
10. Is there a street address provided? Again, search Google for this specific address, or just the street name and see what comes up. It wouldn't be the first time the claimed address belongs to a completely unrelated company!
Still Not Sure?
Even if all these checks still leave you wondering if it is real, you can easily put your mind to rest.
You can play along for a while. Reply to the email as instructed. Don't give any personal information, but just strike up a dialogue. Claim not to understand the instructions and repeatedly ask for clarification. Act dumb. A genuine company will be professional and bear with you. A scammer will quickly get frustrated, and it will show. Again, bad grammar and quality of English are a sign this person is unlikely to be part of a lottery organisation in a position to deal with paying out jackpots!
They ARE All Out To Get Me!
It is easy to start thinking the internet is full of scam artists when you see emails like these.
But please be reassured, they are in a tiny minority. It's just so easy now to send millions of emails out at virtually no cost, so those few people can have a wide reach (just like the relatively small number of spammers!).
So be careful out there, but don't let paranoia get you - there are an awful lot of NICE people out there in internet land.
It IS A Scam - So What Can You Do?
Sadly you can't wring their necks, not unless you fancy dedicating your life to tracking the scammers down... so your choices are:
1. Do nothing, delete the emails, make sure friends and family are aware.
2. Attempt to report the scammers to the authorities. Here's a useful contact list: http://www.consumerfraudreporting.org/reporting.php
3. If you want a genuine better chance to win the lottery, play with a lottery syndicate.