The Microsoft lottery scam

The Microsoft lottery, British lottery, ATM PIN number reversal, and more scams: Internet ScamBusters #221

We haven’t done a subscriber Q&A issue in three months (there’s been so much to write about!), so we decided to do one today. You’ll find the answers to four questions (make sure you check out the second one):

  • Is the Microsoft lottery real?
  • Is my gut feeling about this British lottery correct?
  • ATM PIN number reversal: Is the email going around true or just an urban legend?
  • Is the check I’m holding in a safe place legitimate?

Let’s check out today’s…

Internet ScamBusters Q&A

Question: I have an email saying I am number 6 of ten possible winners of 2,500,000 pounds in the Microsoft lottery. I am supposed to contact a man and give him my info. Also, I will have to pay something for transfers. Have you heard of this one?

Answer: Yes, it’s a variant of the lottery scams we’ve written about extensively.

If you win the lottery, you will not have to pay any cash out of your pocket. Plus, international lotteries are illegal for US citizens. Visit our Foreign Lottery scam page for 5 tips to keep you from being scammed.

Question: I have read your articles for some time now and I have encountered several scams that you or other people have reported.

My problem is this: I have received an email regarding the winning of the British Lottery. Now, before you say “scam” please listen to this. I am so confident that this is not a scam, but I have about 5% doubt.

They did not ask me for any money or for personal information. They actually requested that I go to Amsterdam to the bank that is holding the funds and complete the transaction.

I have sent approximately 20 different emails and requests for information and they have responded to all and even sent me a photo ID and other information.

I would like to send you everything that I have received and see if you can prove it one way or another. I can not sleep wondering if this is for real. I have seen so many scams but my gut is telling me this is something else.

Please help me. I do not want to give up this money: what if, I keep saying. I could help out so many people. Please assist me.

Answer: We are sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but it is a scam.

It doesn’t matter whether or not they ask for personal info up front. Many times, scammers don’t. They communicate many, many times to build confidence. This seems to be working with you.

Of course they are emailing you — they are hoping to scam thousands of dollars from you. Isn’t that worth 20+ emails on their part?

The photo ID means nothing — it is bogus. We see this a lot. (It’s similar to men sending photos of beautiful women that they are impersonating in online dating scams.) Fake photo IDs can easily be created with photo editing software such as PhotoShop.

The big question: Did you buy lottery tickets for this lottery? If not, it is a scam. End of discussion.

It is also illegal for US citizens to participate in foreign lotteries.

As for traveling to Amsterdam, it is our opinion that you NOT go. Many of these scammers are serious criminals. In the Nigerian scam, people have been kidnapped, missing and even killed. Many Nigerian scammers and other professional criminals are now doing lottery scams.

People WANT to believe they won — that is one of the main reasons why these lottery scams are so effective. So, we don’t need to see the communication: we’ve seen thousands of these and they are all — without exception — scams.

Question: Hi, I received this via email and was wondering if there is any truth to it? I checked the Urban Legends section of ScamBusters but didn’t see anything about it… If true… “Good to know”!

— Begin Questionable Email —


If you should ever be forced by a robber to withdraw money from an ATM machine, you can notify the police by entering your Pin # in reverse.

For example if your pin number is 1234 then you would put in 4321. The ATM recognizes that your pin number is backwards from the ATM card you placed in the machine.

The machine will still give you the money you requested, but unknown to the robber, the police will be immediately dispatched to help you.

This information was recently broadcasted on TV and it states that it is seldom used because people don’t know it exists.

Please pass this along to everyone possible.

— End Questionable Email —

Answer: We answered this question about ATM PIN number reversal in a previous issue about ATM Theft — you can find the details at the top of the page.

The punch line, though, is that it’s an urban legend. Almost every email that says something like “Please pass this along to everyone possible” is a hoax — and this ATM PIN Number Reversal email is no exception.

Question: I was recently contacted by a lady overseas who said she didn’t have a bank account, and was not able to cash a check. She asked me for my address, sent me a $4000 check in my name, so I could send her the money back.

Is this money laundering? She wants $2000 back. I would appreciate your input. The check is in safe keeping until I get some info.

Answer: The real problem is probably not money laundering (although we’d need to know more if that was a problem as well).

The real issue is that this is a variant of the overpayment scam.

The check is bogus. It could take many weeks after you deposit it to find out it was either stolen or counterfeit. By then, you’d have sent — and lost — the $2,000.

You would be responsible for the money, not the bank (even if they told you they thought it was a valid check). You could even have problems for passing a bad check.

We hear from many people each week who have gotten taken by variants of this scam. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of variants of this scam.

You can read more about overpayment scams on our site — we want you to understand the principles behind this scam so you can protect yourself.

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.