“Congratulations, you won the lottery! Pay $200 to claim your prize!”
Ever found a lottery scam? You land on a pop-up website or get an email about a prize. The algorithm has blessed you: here are your X million dollars. BUT FIRST, someone needs to cover those admin fees and logistics.
Scammers may further use the information you provide them to steal their identities. And when fake lotteries don’t work, they use other variations to cut it: Bitcoin cash prices, fake product returns, early-bird rewards, giveaways, and tickets.
What do all these have in common? You can’t win without participating. That’s the problem with the unexpected prize scam: it’s unexpected.
- Lottery Scam: Where’s My Prize!?
- Anatomy Of The Lottery Scam
- Types Of Lottery Scams
- How To Detect Unexpected Prize Scams
- The Bottom Line
Lottery Scam: Where’s My Prize!?
Sorry, there’s no prize, no lottery. The reason they fake this opportunity is to get something from you.
- You paid the fees but got nothing (lost the money)
- You enter your credentials, but they steal your identity (and money)
- If they scam you, the con man sells your email to other con men to scam you again (sucker list)
The lottery confidence trick somehow makes victims believe that they qualify for a prize they didn’t earn, their company is legit, and they guarantee free money after the upfront payment.
Other terms match with this confidence trick definition. Advance-fee scam, money laundering, pigeon drop, fake money order, you name it.
It’s obvious once you address it, but not as much when blinded by temptation. There are no better words to explain scamming than this thirty-second advert.
In the ad, a couple driving on a dark road stops to help a hitchhiker. He holds a pack of beer that lures the driver, who doesn’t pay attention to the obvious trap.
Greedy victims fall for the same tricks when chasing money.
Why Lottery Scams?
Compared to other schemes, the unexpected prize is ineffective. It’s rare to find someone who buys into it, which is why scammers use it as a secondary tactic or create dozens of these sites.
A lottery scammer will likely be using other scams (such as charities, collectors, e-com) to steal other people’s information. If you find a victim, you can take their money with low risk of getting caught: easy money.
Prize scams are quite shallow and easy to detect, so their favorite targets are money chasers, the elderly, and kids.
If kids use their parent’s device and find this scam, for example, the site may tell them to download an app (spyware), which could then monitor the device and log their keystrokes. Scammers can watch them enter their accounts and steal their identity.
Others fool the elderly with charity or money laundering schemes. They promise a good paycheck if they manage donations for them— which only puts them at risk of criminal activity.
Unexpected prize scams are common, being lottery schemes a tiny part of them. As you’ll see in the variations, scammers can trick people like you and me with enough misdirection.
Anatomy Of The Lottery Scam
Lottery letters are no different from sales pages. You need copywriting to “increase conversion rates” and persuade people.
On a fraudulent email, every word you read has the purpose of building rapport and removing objections. Craft your letter carefully, and you may cause the biggest lottery scam of all time.
Let us look at a sample lottery letter and disect it. Click here to see the letter we are going to review.
#1 Only YOU
Every good sales letter starts with your first name. If you can include personal data to customize the email, you will get the victim’s attention. Personalized emails also have a lower chance of ending up on the Spam folder.
“You’re the lucky person our random algorithm has chosen. Your name was attached to X number.”
Most people no longer believe it. But scammers could attach a fake lottery website where they manipulate the database. If you click and search for the mentioned ticket, you indeed appear as the winner.
#2 Lure The Greedy
Here you find your prize worth around a million. It must be low enough, so it doesn’t feel fake but high enough to justify the risks of an upfront payment.
All you need is a person who wants something for nothing among the thousands of emails you’ll send.
#3 Don’t Tell Anyone!
Keeping on with greed, the victim has to keep it private to protect the prize from others. Thus, there’s nobody to take it away, neither to help you recognize the scam.
People’s actions usually reflect what they say. If someone tells you to hide it, they’re likely hiding something from you too.
#4 (Un) Lucky You
Everybody has the same chance to win, but you’re the chosen one. However, the software they use to pick winners may be a stolen database or a suckers list.
Scammers know most people will delete their messages right away. So they don’t mind making bold claims to reduce conversions, because the few who get hooked will trust them more.
In this Spanish lottery example, scammers send it to thousands who may have never played that lottery. But if only 15% of those contacts used that same lotto in the past, they would believe it because it’s specific and relatable.
#5 The Catch
Once you get the victim’s trust and interest, next is the instructions list. People will follow the con man’s steps as long as they don’t look suspicious. If you have to enter your credit card number for the prize, most people would say No. But if they ask for a login password, many would move forward.
#6 Hurry Up!
Speed is scammer’s best friend. If people get a unique opportunity such as the lottery, they’ll start thinking of it. It’s only a matter of time their curiosity finds out the truth.
The fear of missing out prevents clear thinking, which makes victims miss the red flags.
“If the other ten winners are involved, the lottery must be real. I wish I could research it, but at that time, others may steal my price, so I’d better act now, think later.”
They give you a (short) time to claim your prize, if not a countdown timer.
#7 Credibility Marker
You find the signature of the coordinator, the brand name, and their logo. A three-minute photo edit will be enough to fake it.
The bottom of the page could include contact information and official web addresses to make it look legit.
Types Of Lottery Scams
People know winning the lottery is almost impossible, and many already know about online scams. So lottery scams have a double objection. (Un) Fortunately, scammers have found other credible ways to sell the lottery.
#1 Advance Lottery Fee Scam
Here’s the classic well-known scheme: pay-to-win. You’ll pay for administrative fees, logistics, and upfront payments. But don’t worry, your prize (if any) will cover it. Or so they say. If you pay up, you will become the next victim of an advance fee scam.
#2 Fake International Lottery
Fake lotteries are cheaper and advertise guaranteed instant-win tickets on their sites. Because if only a few people know about the lottery, you have a higher chance of winning.
Fake lotteries can use referral tactics to bring more suckers. “For every two people that buy from you, get a free ticket.”
Thus, hundreds of people are buying “easy-win” tickets for a lottery with no real prize. The con man can invent the winner’s names, and victims won’t ever suspect of it.
#3 Counterfeited Ticket Sale
After a lottery takes place, a scammer fakes winning tickets to sell them for hundreds of dollars. He doesn’t counterfeit the highest prizes (which would be suspicious), but amounts between $1,000 to $5,000. For a million-dollar lotto, there must be dozens of these.
But selling a winning ticket for less needs a good excuse to explain it. More often, counterfeiters will try to give these to other sellers to buy something expensive.
- You offer a (fake) winning ticket as you’d do with a check scam.
- You prove the buyer on the phone that the winning number appears on the official site.
- You pay a high-volume purchase with the ticket. You just traded fake for real money.
#4 Pigeon Drop Scam
The fake check can also happen to you online. If a scammer finds out your bank number or address, they can mail you a check or deposit fraudulent funds on your account.
That money has earned your confidence. You have no objections to pay for the fees and percentages to the lottery. But weeks, later a chargeback returns the “prize” to the scammer.
You paid, thinking you had free real money. But if you can’t keep it, it’s not. You neither can refund whatever the amount you paid.
#5 Picked For A Giveaway Program
Small sellers giveaway products to rank on sites like eBay and Amazon. Big brands also give away new products to test or old ones to liquidate.
You may qualify if you create an account and follow the application steps. Scammers target people with accounts who may not know about the reward program. Here are some examples:
“You’ve qualified for a free iPad because your two-year membership has proved your brand loyalty for apple. Login to your account and tell us what address to send the prize!”
“We’re a small Amazon brand trying to launch “X” product with give-aways. You can get one for free by logging into your Amazon account via our branded site.
They will send you to a fake imitator website and steal your credentials.
#6 Money Laundering Lottery Scam
Real candidates win a real lottery of $500K, for example. After they claim the price, they may lose over 25% in administration costs. And after your win becomes public, you’d get more fraud attacks than ever.
A smart criminal negotiates with you mentioning those risks. Before the winner claims the price, this scammer contacts the person to trade his money for the lottery ticket.
$500K could turn out to be less than $400K after taxes. But the criminal offers to buy your ticket for $500K flat. You won’t share your money with the lottery and keep more.
What you’re trading is clean for “dirty money.” The criminal now holds the lottery winner title, and your money is a link to his past crimes. You put yourself at risk for FBI calls, jail time, prosecution, and fines.
#7 Bitcoin Reward Scams
With today’s crypto trends, it’s easy to justify unexpected prizes coming out of the blue. You receive an email from a bogus trading firm, saying you bought Bitcoin in the past (or bought by accident). It’s now worth hundreds of thousands.
“You can access the amount after you log into your account. If it’s not registered, use your email credentials to access. [phishing]
You’re receiving this message because you’ve been inactive for the last twelve months [you never joined in the first place]. That’s why we’re closing your account in two business days. You may still cash out any bitcoins you earned till that time. [urgency]”
HYIP members are common phishing targets.
#8 Unexpected Item Return
A scammer poses as an e-com brand and sends you fake money plus a phishing email about an order you didn’t make.
We’re sorry you didn’t like our service. We’ve confirmed your refund request and have already canceled the order. Please, log into your account via this link and tell us where to return your $234.65 payment.”
Victims know they didn’t make the order, but the cash reward may lure them to follow the steps. Of course, they could browse the website directly and find out it’s not true. But since they want the money, they will click the link and get their identity stolen.
The scammer can also send fake money and ask you to pay for logistics [check fraud].
How To Detect Unexpected Prize Scams
Lottery scams aren’t technically fraudulent. Instead of paying for the prize, you pay for a promise, which is your responsibility. You may get free money sometimes unless you spot the red flags that thousands of fake emails have.
- If the message is a generic template sent to thousands of random people.
- If you didn’t register in the first place. Institutions emailing strangers without consent are illegal!
- If the lotto is foreign or international. You can’t qualify for prizes outside your country.
- If they ask for sensitive data. Your lottery doesn’t need your Social Security Number.
- If you need to pay upfront to unlock the prize. If you want to risk it, use a method that allows you to return the money in case of fraud. If they give limited payment options, scam!
- If you get an email. Your prize, your responsibility. Lotteries have never emailed people for their winnings.
The Bottom Line
All lotteries must be registered and licensed with a gaming commission or regulator. A regulator may be ministry of finance, ministry of economics, national gaming authority.
A list of European regulators for most of the member states can be found here. World Lotteries provides a great list of official government lotteries across the planet. And visit North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries if you are interested in lottery in the USA.
The best way to prevent prize scams is to ignore such lottery messages in the first place. Just opening the email already shows the scammer you’re interested in, who may use you for other unrelated scams.
If you still want to give it a try, go to one of the official regulator’s websites, check the lottery in question is real and read the terms and lottery rules. Contact a real person and play responsibly.
If you ever felt lured by these bogus lotteries, you may want to consider other legit ways to make money.