Fake Lotteries and Sweepstakes are part of the Advance Fee Fraud toolkit, and widely used to scam millions of people worldwide. Unlike the general Advance Fee Frauds, this one deserves special attention because it is hugely popular and highly effective.
How many times I have seen questions like: "I have been notified I have won a Lottery I never entered, is this a scam?". Oddly, this is actually called a Rhetorical question because it contains the answer within the question itself. Here is the simple version for people that do not understand what I mean:-
* If you never purchased a ticket, you can never win..
The answer given is usually ignored by the person asking, simply because they refuse to use common-sense and logical thinking. However let me reiterate the point being made in a wordy way so that the 'Doubting Thomas' screaming inside your head shuts up.
* Be In It, To Win It
You cannot win a lottery or sweepstake without actually purchasing a ticket or other entry token. It does not matter one iota that the email you have recieved states "your email was randomly selected", because it is complete rubbish. Likewise, any excuses such as "Sponsored by [insert major company]" is equally false. Major companies may support a real lottery, but they do not provide the millions in winning funds... that is NOT how lotteries and sweepstakes operate.
Lotteries and Sweepstakes are commercially oriented, and they have to make money. The ONLY way they make money is by selling tickets to the public... ie: YOU.
The old saying "There is no such thing as a free lunch" fits quite well here.
* Foreign Lottos Banned
In some countries, foreign lotteries are outlawed and you would not be allowed to accept any winnings anyway (if it were a real lottery). This is worth noting, though really only a minor point when dealing with these types of frauds.
There are two main types of Lottery and Sweepstake scams, which may be transmitted by email, sms or postal mail.
* Advance Fee
In the case of the Advance Fee scam, you would be asked for personal information, possibly a scan of your passport or drivers license. You may also be asked for your banking details too. This seemingly insignificant data can lead to Identity Theft. However, once getting through that stage, you will be asked to pay a fee. The fee may be for taxes, clearance, insurance... whatever. THAT is the scam, and if you pay, you loose.
* Fake Cheque
The alternate Fake Cheque scam is very similar to an Overpayment Scam. Here you are issued a plausible looking cheque as "an advance of the winings" or similar excuse. You are told to cash the cheque and to forward a part of the monies somewhere else, again for taxes etc.
In this type of scam, the cheque is really a counterfeit. The proceeds of the cheque will be added to your bank account as you expect. Having sent the requested amount, usually via Western Union or MoneyGram, you sit and await your winnings.
Unfortunately all you are really waiting for is the bank to discover that the cheque is a counterfeit. At that point, the proceeds from the cheque are removed from your bank account and you are investigated for bank fraud. Depending on what country you live in, you may also be liable for immediate arrest and prosecution. Moreover, the bit that you sent to the scammers has to be repaid by you to the bank.
Generally the Advance Fee type is restricted to email or sms and the Fake Cheque type to postal mail. In the case of a Postal Scam, you should take the letter and cheque to your local police and make a report. You will help the authorities gather more evidence to catch those responsible.
Hopefully this serves as enough information to provide clarity to the question raised. Take away the big company names, excuses and theories and you are left only with a common scam that fools many people worldwide. Don't be a lemon, keep your wallets and purses in the closed position. Having read this article, you should never need to ask that question again, because the answer will be YES, IT'S A SCAM!
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