A reader of FraudO.com, Christoph, has reminded us of a particular type of scam called Lottery Scams, also called a Dutch Lottery or a 419 Scam or a lottery of various other European countries. These scams begin with a letter or email telling the victim they have won a lottery.
The email instructs the victim to contact a “claims agent” to collect their prize money. The agent then sends the victim a claim form to verify their identity. The fake agent is building rapport and making it appear that there’s a real agency behind the emails. The form is in fact used to collect personal information about the victim, such as their passport number and driver’s license number. This is where the identity theft begins.
If the victim asks for some proof of the agency’s legitimacy they often fax back a legal looking document (which of course doesn’t prove anything, it just makes the victim feel more comfortable). This web page has examples of the fax and other documents the scammers send.
The victim is then given some options on how to collect the alleged winnings. In each case the scammer is setting up the victim:
- The winnings can be deposited directly to the victim’s bank account. This seems to be the more popular option. The scammer will request a large fee to make this happen (such as special taxes, insurance or legal fees). The scammer will end up keeping this money.
- The victim has the option to open a new overseas bank account to receive the alleged winnings. The bank is fake, but the victim is told that the bank requires a large deposit to open the account.
- The winnings can be picked up in person, often in The Netherlands. The victim will later be told that they have to pay a fee in cash to release the winnings. The victim is then given counterfeit prize money.
What to do:
- Don’t reply to the emails (or letters or phone calls). Don’t give the scammer any indication that you exist.
- Don’t send any money or provide any personal details.
- Report the scam to your local authorities.
It seems many people are victims of this particular kind of fraud. In most cases the scammers are never caught, and even if they are the money is usually never recovered. Please be aware of how common this scam is and help your colleagues, friends and family to be aware of it.
The scam works because people want to believe it’s real, even if they didn’t enter a lottery in a foreign country. It’s up to everyone to talk openly about it and increase awareness of it.