Criminals are taking advantage of well-known lottery draws to trick victims into parting with their money.
New data from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, reveals almost £1 million has been lost to lottery fraud in the past seven months.
What is lottery fraud?
Criminals will contact unsuspecting victims informing them they have won a lottery or prize draw. The victim is then informed that they will need to pay an advance fee in order to receive their winnings. In reality, the winnings are non-existent and it is an attempt to steal the victims money, personal or financial information.
Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Craig Mullish, from the City of London Police, said:
“Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations and will mimic a number of well-known prize draws to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
“Remember, you can’t win a draw that you haven’t entered so if you’re contacted out of the blue claiming you’ve won a prize draw but can only access these winnings by paying an advance fee: stop and think as it’s likely to be a scam. This could protect you and your money.”
Between April and October 2021, Action Fraud received 629 reports of lottery fraud, with 89 per cent of reports mentioning well-known prize draws. Impersonation of People’s Postcode Lottery accounted for almost half (49 per cent) of all reports.
Almost three quarters of victims (70 per cent) were aged over 50, with those aged over 65 accounting for 40 per cent of reports.
Over half of the reports (59 per cent) mentioned being contacted via telephone. Other methods of contact reported by victims included email (21 per cent) and postal letter (10 per cent).
Almost have of victims (41 per cent) said they were asked to pay the advance fee to release the alleged winnings by purchasing gift cards and relaying codes to the fraudster.
Fraudsters use gift cards as a form of payment as they can be easily redeemed and sold on. These criminals also don’t need the physical card to redeem the value and instead get victims to share the serial code on the back of the card with them.
In other instances, victims reported being asked for personal and financial information in order to obtain their alleged winnings. Some victims reported providing their bank details thinking they would be sent a small payment to verify the account. In reality, criminals will use these details to steal the victims money.
Clara Govier, Managing Director of People’s Postcode Lottery, said:
“Fraudsters often impersonate trusted brands like ours.
“Thankfully, we can all help protect ourselves our families and neighbours by following, and sharing, some straightforward advice.
“Please remember, People’s Postcode Lottery will never ask for any kind of payment to claim a prize, you can’t win if you don’t play, and we don’t offer discount cards.
“Anyone who has any doubts about a call from someone claiming to be from the Postcode Lottery should hang up and call us on 0808 109 8765. Our customer experience team are available seven days a week to provide advice.
“We know scammers often use social media. Our official social media accounts are verified so there’ll always be a blue tick beside our name. If there isn’t, the message isn’t from us.
“Finally, we encourage anyone who believes they have been the victim of fraudsters to contact our colleagues at Action Fraud or the police.”
People’s Postcode Lottery helps raise money for charities, big and small. Its players have raised over £800 million, since 2005, for 9,000 charities and good causes including Maggie’s cancer centres, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the National Trust.
How to protect yourself
Action Fraud advises that the public follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep themselves safe from fraud.
- Stop: Unsolicited offers of large sums of money in return for a small upfront payment should always raise a red flag. Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
- Challenge: Could it be fake? Remember, you can’t win a prize in a competition you didn’t enter. It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
- Protect: If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
You can find further protection advice around lotteries and competition on the Gambling Commission’s website.