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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 08:10 GMT
Britons targeted in lottery scam
People have been cheated out of their life savings
UK consumers are falling prey to international fraudsters in a telemarketing scam.

Fraudsters persuade their victims that they have won a large prize in an overseas lottery and all they have to do is pay a fee to get the money.

The fraudsters - often hailing from Canada or Spain - target the elderly and strip them of their life savings.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said that consumers have been duped out of 3m in the first half of 2003 alone.


We waited into the small hours for the representative to arrive, he never did. I knew then that I had been conned - I was sick to the pit of my stomach

The scam - which has been active in the UK for some eight years - starts when people respond to mailings or telephone calls telling them they are being entered in a draw.

Victims then receive a phone call congratulating them on winning a big prize.

The prize is invariably bogus but unwitting consumers are persuaded to hand over thousands in fees.

Those targeted are often chosen because they have fallen victim to past deceptions or because they entered postal competitions.


Their names are circulated among gangs of fraudsters on what are charmingly known as 'sucker lists'.

Four out of five of those falling victim to the fraud are over 65, many lose their life savings.

Those who are conned are often too embarrassed to report the crime the OFT said.

As a result, the total losses suffered by UK consumers could be far higher than the official OFT figure.


There are at least 15 call centres in Canada solely targeting the UK. One centre is already known to have defrauded UK consumers of around 450,000 the OFT said.

British consumers appear easy prey for the men and women operating the get rich quick schemes

In an awareness campaign launched on Wednesday the OFT are urging consumers to hang up on the fraudsters when they call.

"This is a professionally organised operation and the people involved are very persuasive."

"Hang up, put the phone down, don't get involved in something like this. Secondly, never send money and never give your financial details," Penny Boys, OFT Executive Director, said.

Have you been approached by a similar "lottery" or been duped by another scam? Please send in your comments.

On a much smaller scale, I regularly get junk text messages to my mobile telling me I have "won" a prize. They don't ask for 1600, but they do (equally dishonestly) want me to give them 1.50 per minute for a premium rate phone call!
Dave Harvey, UK

I was born at night but not last night
Hamish Nicoll, Scotland
I work for an internet service provider. Many of our customers call and say they have received a call from 'Domain Register Services' or 'eCommerce' asking them if they would like to appear in a directory for a fee of 250. (The fee varies.) Others have received invoices purporting to be from these firms. This appears to be a common scam targeting small firms.
Honest John, UK

I have a 72 year old Mother in law who is quite vulnerable to this sort of thing, and I will warn her and her friends
Derek Tarr, England
My hope is that the government will find ways of protecting the vulnerable in our society from this sort of thing, but I fear that this is not a matter the government can do much about. Perhaps the real answer lies in the hands of individual members of the public, who should exercise much more vigilance and circumspection when faced with offers that are "too good to be true".
K L Maxwell, UK

The Canadian firm wanted 600 to pay the tax on my win, being from Scotland I said deduct the tax from my winnings, and send the rest. I was born at night but not last night. They also made the mistake of saying I had bought tickets with my MasterCard. I do not own a MasterCard.
Hamish Nicoll, Scotland

This particular scam is well known, being based in Canada makes them immune to British or USA laws (or seems to) I knew of a case in the USA whereby an elderly American lady lost everything to these fraudsters but the US Authorities said that as the scam was from Canada there was little they could do. Short answer is throw anything like that away, other scams include letters or emails from Nigeria offering you great wealth in return for your hard earned cash!
M Ballinger, England

I am based in Chennai, India. I get a lot of queries from people in the south of India who have received mails from so-called lottery organisers either from the U.K. or the Netherlands, informing them that they have won a huge prize and asking them to send processing fees to claim their prize. I myself got some of these mails. I always delete these mails immediately and also advise people to do the same.
V. Vijay Kumar, India

During the last month I received about 50 calls on my mobile phone. I answered none of them because of the strange number - it had 10 or 11 or 12 digits and began with the numbers '303' Reading your article of the 2nd. December, I believe I have possibly been subjected to the same scam attempt.
Peter B. Smith, Spain

Thank you for a very useful warning. Fortunately, I haven't fallen victim to such a scam, but I have a 72 year old Mother in law who is quite vulnerable to this sort of thing, and I will warn her and her friends. It is a pity that you can't easily get even with these people. I am going to suggest to mum that if she gets a call like this, that she makes an excuse such as "I've got something on the stove...can you hold on a minute..." and then leaves the phone off the hook. The call must be costing them quite a bit to call all the way from Canada, and it would be interesting to see how long they hold on before the call centre operative realises that they've been "suckered". I'm sure if people do this, it won't be long before there names are removed from the list.
Derek Tarr, England

My father-in-law was targeted by someone from Canada and my wife had great difficulty persuading him that it was a con
Phil Green, Wales

I was contacted by a telemarketer who said that I have been approved for a credit card. They just need my bank account information to verify that I did have a valid bank account. Then they drew $200 from my account. I think that my foreign name made me an obvious target. At that time I was a new immigrant to the USA having been here only 5 weeks.
Quazi Syed Fawad, USA

I received a letter like this. I got on the internet and checked out the company. Surprise surprise....nothing. I then emailed the Canadian Police in the city the letter had come from, saying I suspected a fraud. I did not send any money to the company. I have not been bothered since.
Dave, Wales

Strangely enough I received one last week. This particular one was from Spain and was obviously a scam but I can see why some people of a less cynical nature can accept the idea as the email was well written and appeals to base elements in human nature. I couldn't help laugh when it said "Until you have received your winnings it would be a good idea to keep this a secret" though.
Rob, England

I was sent a letter last month from a company called Fortuin International prize distributions, Saying we had won a new car, 2000 or a home entertainment system, all we had to do was send &19,95.
G Allison, UK

What are the Canadian authorities doing about this scam?
steve Sylvester, Norway

How do I stop this? Any suggestions? I get at least 10 letters a week!
Andrea Crawford, GB

My father-in-law was targeted by someone from Canada and my wife had great difficulty persuading him that it was a con, even getting the Police to confirm. My wife made contact with organisations in Canada to confirm that the details provided were bogus. The telephone caller wanted thousands of pounds to be sent before being able to claim a "large prize". They were very persistent and where even offering to halve the fee when things stalled. To a vulnerable person, they can sound very convincing.
Phil Green, Wales

Earlier this year I was approached by the Canadian Lotteries scam, which was operating out of Vancouver. Fortunately I contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who concurred with my suspicions. Every time the scam group contacted me following my contact with the police I spent a long time taking details of names, addresses and new company names. The details I happily forwarded to the Vancouver police as evidence. Initially they wanted 11,000 to pay for Canadian taxes, later it was reduced to 500 - the revised figure was for courier and clearing charges. Finally, and probably as a last resort they requested 70 to cover courier costs. The sum I was advised of winning was just over 1,300,000.00. They were very convincing and had answers for all questions asked. They could not however provide a call-back number to allow checks to be made. This is what caused my suspicions. The police were very good and requested should I receive further correspondence from the group could I forward it on. Unfortunately they are now encroaching into the UK with PO Boxes as delivery points.
Barry Davies, England

I was targeted and I have since joined the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). However I believe they have post office demographic information because my road is officially the OVER 65 area but I'm not! I don't enter competitions nor have I been targeted before by scams (except the usual 419 emails). Waste their time by putting the phone off the hook and DONT SEND ANY MONEY. It'll soon cost them more than they're getting and they'll move on to something else. I have also reported it to watchdog and BT. If it happens anymore I'll be back in contact with them.
Anon, England

We are also on a Suckers List of about a dozen (so far) New York investment brokers, who ring to speak to the proprietor of our business (me). Each has a similar VERY determined sales approach, pressing me to "just be open minded" about the investment advice I would be a fool to ignore. As always, I have only to ask myself coldly why I might ever deserve to get rich in this way.
Rupert Butler, Devon, England

Unfortunately my grandfather fell victim to this hoax earlier in the year
Dan S, UK

My mum has had similar things like this, except they come from Holland or Belgium and they say she has definitely won at least 10,000, but in order to get it, she must place an order for at least 25 and they will release the money. Despite my telling her there is no such thing as a free lunch, she did send the money, and surprise, surprise all she got was another letter asking for another order before they could despatch the money. It's a shame that nothing can be done about this, because the way they word their letters, makes it sound as though it is genuine, even though they are not. I think the moral of the story is to educate enough people to not fall for this type of scam so they can't profit through greed.
Jo Godwin, England

My suggestion, purchase a telephone with caller display (you have to contact BT and pay a small fee to get it set up), whenever Telemarketers or these fraudsters ring you generally the number is "Withheld" or "Unavailable", if this is displayed on your 'phone simply do not answer it.
Robert Cook, Wales

I regret to say that my mother and father without consulting me, yesterday posted their bank details to a Spanish lottery scamster. In the payment form it said in small print; I herby approve an agent to act on my behalf. And on the form states that an agent is entitled to 5% of the cash prize. However it did not say anywhere on either forms that any money would be withdrawn from their accounts. They are now aware that they are nothing but tricksters, but is it to late? Should I advise them to close the account before it is to late?
Dev Handa, England (UK)

I understand that because this scam is based in Canada, the OFT can't do anything about it. But what about the Canadian authorities?
Matt Forrow, England

Hang on a minute - this is illegal isn't it? Why aren't these people in prison? Our legal systems across the world are failing us big-time.
David, United Kingdom

There are services such as mail preference, fax preference and telephone preference that can cut down unwanted junk. I use these and this has radically cut back this nuisance. Unfortunately, it hasn't stopped the automated phone calls telling me I have won some competition or another. The simple truth is, if it sounds to good to be true, it more than often is.
Frank, Scotland

I am surprised to see that people are still being caught by this kind of scam. It is also surprising that in the 21st century the Canadian and UK authorities cannot act to prevent this sort of thing from happening. It is seems that crime pays.
D McGreevy, UK

I got fooled on behalf of my wife by the Data Protection scam targeting small businesses. My wife will never let me forget!
Simon, UK

To avoid telephone scams buy an answering machine. Tell all your friends and relatives to speak when the machine is answered then pick up the call.
Paul, England

My elderly uncle fell for a couple of these mail "draws" a few years back and ended up paying over 500 he couldn't afford on "processing fees". It got to the stage that he was being sent up to 50 different ones per week from Holland and Canada mainly, but a couple of Irish too.
Darren, West London, UK

Unfortunately my grandfather fell victim to this hoax earlier in the year. The operation is extremely sophisticated. They use previous entries into junk mail competitions to send you letters and mail shots telling you that you have been entered into Canadian lottery draw. In my grandfather's case they even made a couple of small payments (under 10) over the course of six months beforehand, which convinced him that they were genuine. Then he was stung with the "pay the 650 tax to free up the funds" scam. He did this but the funds still failed to arrive, but being older and more sceptical he still refused to believe that he had been duped. Next he was told that there was a courier fee to pay, amounting to the cost of an 800 air ticket for a representative of the lottery to come over with the money in cash. Still no courier. Fortunately, after he finally sought advice from the family, we were able to persuade him that this was not genuine. The most disturbing aspect of the problem was that the fraudster persisted in calling him even when he had made it clear that he knew they were bogus. The people behind this are very convincing and our feeling was that they would have taken all of his money had they been able to do so. Please take the time to warn anyone you know who is susceptible to these prize draws!
Dan S, UK

My mother in law was inundated with these bogus prize draw winning letters and despite our repeated warnings she began to secretly send off money in the hope that she would collect these supposed winnings .This made matters worse and in the end she was receiving over 10 letters a day promising prize money. I am sure that the trauma caused by this deluge of attention led to her premature death from a heart attack. She was obviously singled out once she had responded and then they latched onto her with breath taking ruthlessness.
Peter, England

I have won so many lottery prizes from Holland & Germany, I am beginning to lose count! All state my prize numbers came up in the draw - 40,000 was the last one. I haven't even entered any draws in these countries. The last one was a South African lottery 25 million US Dollars, which I had to collect from Nigeria!? Ignore the emails, and letters and throw them in the bin.
Carl, England

About 2 weeks ago I started getting numerous 'African' treasure scam e-mails. Strangely most hailed from Italy, where the 'refugees' were living until I could help get their wealth out of Africa. I responded to each by telling them I was passing the information to the Fraud Squad of my local Police Force, which I have done. After about 4 days the e-mails stopped arriving. Perhaps everyone should try this. The service providers claim that the senders accounts are transient and are only open for a week or two, making it very difficult to police. They send out vast numbers of e-mails and target any responses before moving on and setting up a new address. Golden rule - Don't send any money. You get nowt for nowt!
Paul Gardner, UK

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The BBC's Janet Barrie
"The fraudsters have their eyes firmly set on the elderly"

Have you been duped?
19 Sep 03 |  Business
Warning over lottery scam
16 Sep 03 |  Northern Ireland
Bank card scam alert
02 Aug 03 |  Mid
Q&A: Avoiding the con artists
08 Oct 02 |  Business

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