Scams are all too prevalent in today’s world. With the advent of technology, scammers have since used it to deceive people, prey on their dreams and vulnerabilities, all with the goal of cheating them out of their money.
Say what you will about lotteries, but regulated games such as ones offered by The Lott are transparent. Laws require that they publish the odds and results of the games. In addition, most lotteries must give a portion of their profits to the state to benefit the communities in which they operate.
Lotto scammers, however, use the public’s familiarity with lotto, combined with technology, to con people out of their money. And in the first five months of 2021, Aussies have lost more than $757K to prize and lottery scams.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission was borne of the Competition and Consumer Act of 2010, and the ACCC subsequently created Scamwatch. The goal of the latter was – and still is – to serve as a consumer protection agency, detecting scams and notifying the public of them.
Unfortunately, there are many types of scams perpetrated by criminals, ranging from attempts to garner Aussies’ personal information to setting up fake investment deals and charities. There are scams that try to convince people to work for free or for little money, to threaten to disclose personal information or hack their computers if not paid off, and even to offer items for purchase that don’t actually exist.
One often-successful scam is the attempt to pose as a lottery corporation. Those scammers try to request money in order to forward lottery winnings or a down payment of sorts to secure a competition win.
Three Main Types of Winnings Scams
Scamwatch categorizes lotto-related scams as “unexpected winnings” crimes, of which there are three categories.
- ) Scratchie scams are fake scratchies that promise a prize, but the winner must pay a fee or provide personal banking information to collect that prize. These scammers encourage “winners” to send money or disclose a photo identification, bank details for a wire transfer, or a debit or preloaded money card.
- ) Travel prize scams offer people free or discounted holiday packages. For example, a scammer might insist that a person won a holiday worth $3K, but the person must pay $100 or $500 to claim that prize. This happens with everything from theme park tickets to airfare and hotel prize packages. Scammers may also ask for prepaid cards or bank account details to facilitate the winning transaction.
- ) Lotto scams are common via technology used to claim that a person won a raffle or lotto-style drawing that they may not remember that they entered. Again, scammers will ask for bank details or for the winner to pay a fee for the winnings, such as a fee for taxes or bank transactions.
One of the most brazen lotto scams started years ago via email. The “Australian Lotto Lottery Inc.” sent a “winning notification” to people, stating that that email address was entered into a draw and won. The email listed a “ticket number” and “serial number” supposedly connected to that email address, and that person won $800K from a $2M lotto prize pool. The first ten people to claim it would win.
In addition, by claiming that win, the person will be eligible for an end-of-year international lotto for $1.3B. But for “security reasons,” winner information is not public to prevent “scammers” from trying to steal the prize money.
The email then asked for every piece of personal information from the full name to date of birth, address to occupation, and from nationality to marital status. This gives the scammer all of a person’s personal information they would need to steal that person’s identity. Requests for banking information typically follow soon after.
Money Lost in 2021
Only five months have passed in 2021 thus far, but Aussies have already lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to such scams.
In the full “unexpected winnings” category of scams, people have already submitted 2,696 reports in 2021 through May. While those have only included 4.4% with financial losses, those losses added up to $760,866 so far. April was the month in which people lost the most money.
Most scammers connected with victims via social networking sites and text messages.
- Social networking: 210 reports; $555,540 lost
- Telephone: 122 reports; $59,832 lost
- Text messages: 1,784 reports; $56,016 lost
- Emails: 372 reports; $51,037 lost
- Mobile apps: 110 reports; $25,133 lost
- Internet sites: 70 reports; $11,808 lost
- Mail: 15 reports, $1,500 lost
Females seemed more susceptible and targeted than males, with 71.4% of the money lost coming from women and 28.5% from men. More males reported scams, though. Men reported 40.5% of them, and women reported 58%.
Most scams target the elderly, and they are the most susceptible to scams according to the amount of funds lost.
- Ages 65 and older: 391 reports; $394,957 lost
- Ages 55-64: 386 reports; $80,734 lost
- Ages 45-54: 387 reports; $102,225 lost
- Ages 35-44: 434 reports; $45,911 lost
- Ages 25-34: 372 reports; $69,632 lost
- Ages 18-24: 182 reports; $15,928 lost
Regarding locations, Northern Territory and Tasmania reported no money lost, with ACT reporting only 77 times and little more than $1K lost.
- New South Wales: 759 reports; $423,579 lost
- Victoria: 611 reports; $161,257 lost
- Queensland: 574 reports, $91,770 lost
- Western Australia: 298 reports; $40,502 lost
- South Australia: 225 reports; $21,208 lost
The vast majority of the aforementioned numbers and statistics happened in the category of “unexpected prize and lottery scams.”
These followed the same patterns as shown above. Most of the scams reached victims through social networks and texts. And the majority of the victims were over the age of 65, female, and in NSW.
How to Detect Scams
Scamwatch and other consumer protection companies list the various ways that scammers locate and target their victims. There are many ways to absorb this information and protect from becoming the next victim.
- No official lotto will award a prize to someone who does not enter.
- No official lotto will contact a winner via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media site or mobile app.
- Beware of messages on social media from new “friends” or followers.
- Check a sender’s email address and compare the extension to that which might represent an actual company.
- No official lotto will send a message or email with misspellings or punctuation and grammatical errors. And they will never request personal information via these methods.
- Never pay a fee or tax to get winnings. No reputable company requires money to claim winnings.
- Never provide bank account information or details for credit, debit, or prepaid cards.
- Phone numbers from calls or texts beginning with 190 are not official.
- Any valid lotto or company will happily provide their phone number, address, email, and other company information so that you may verify it by calling back.
- Do not click any link in any text, email, or social networking message.
- There is no Australian Lottery Corporation or Inc.
- There is no Australian Online Lottery or Lotto Lottery.
- There is no Australian International Lottery or Sweepstakes.
- Never answer an email that starts with “Dear Winner” or misspells your name.
- No official lotto will use a Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook account for emails.
- Always verify information with sites like Scamwatch or other consumer protection agencies – or the purported company itself – before responding with information or paying any money.
There are legitimate ways to play and win lottery games in Australia, both in person and online. There are online lotto-style games on internet casinos that operate like slot games and online keno. But if anything triggers suspicions or falls into the categories of warnings above, have a good laugh and delete it.
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