Page last updated at 01:21 GMT, Monday, 30 November 2009

Lottery scams con thousands out of money

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, experts warn

Hundreds of thousands of people have been conned out of money in fake lottery scams, a watchdog has warned.

They are costing the public about £260m annually, with 140,000 adults losing an average of £1,900 each every year, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said.

Contact typically starts with a letter, e-mail or phone call promising cash winnings - lottery firm Camelot says it never notifies winners in this way.

The government says it is working to "stamp out" the practice.

The OFT estimates only 6% of victims report their loss to the authorities.


Heather Clayton, senior director of OFT's consumer markets group, urged people to recognise the warning signs.

"If a win looks too good to be true, then it probably is," she said.

Paul Jay, of Camelot, said people are never told they have won a prize via an unsolicited letter, e-mail or telephone call - and Camelot never asks for upfront fees or personal information.

"If you haven't purchased a ticket for the UK National Lottery, you won't have won a prize - and we would urge players to treat letters, e-mails and phonecalls telling you otherwise with absolute caution," he said.

Consumer minister Kevin Brennan said the government had "scambuster" teams throughout Britain.

"As we announced earlier this year, we are planning to set up new internet enforcement teams to target online scams in order to protect consumers," he added.

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