"Lucky 13" clues to a new type of lottery scam: Internet Scambusters #527
By now you'd think everyone knows about the lottery scam in which crooks pretend you won and then ask for money to deliver your prize.
But what if you really have won and the person who sold the ticket or the syndicate organizer who bought it doesn't tell you, and keeps the money for themselves?
In this week's issue we reveal how these crooked operators work and how you can easily avoid their tricks.
Caveat: we do NOT in any way endorse lotteries. However, we recognize many people do participate in lotteries, and this Scambusters issue addresses lottery scams most people are not aware exist.
Now, here we go...
Ticket Buyers and Sellers Conceal Lottery Scam
As we've reported many times, lottery scams remain one of the most common and cruel con tricks, robbing victims, especially seniors, of many millions of dollars.
But there's another form of this trick, beyond the most common one where victims are told they have to pay to collect their (non-existent) winnings.
In this variation, the victims really have won money, but they never find out!
This lottery scam comes in two varieties.
In the first type, the scene is a convenience store or other outlet that sells lottery tickets.
Many people who buy tickets in these places don't bother to check with local media or the lottery organizers to see if they bought a winner.
They simply go to the store, present their tickets and ask if they won.
In several cases recently, both in the US and parts of Europe, an unscrupulous owner, manager or store clerk checks the number, discovers it's a winner but tells the customer it isn't.
Then they claim the winnings for themselves.
If they're big prizes, the lottery organizers often check the authenticity themselves and discover the crime.
In just the past couple of months, two New York storeowners were accused of filching the winnings from a $5 million prize ticket bought by a customer.
And in Britain, a convenience store worker was recently jailed after trying to claim a $1.5 million prize that should have gone to one of his customers.
In other cases though, prizes are too small to alert the lottery organizers and the real winners never find out.
In other cases, even if the crime is discovered, the lottery organizers have been unable to trace the real winner.
There have even been reported instances of scratch card winners being told their cards are worthless, or receiving only part of the prize they're entitled to.
Crooked Lottery Syndicate Organizers
The other main variation of this type of lottery scam occurs in workplace syndicates where groups of employees pool their ticket-buying in hopes of increasing their chances of a win.
Among recent crooked incidents, we've heard of syndicate organizers who:
* Don't tell their colleagues that they won and keep the winnings for themselves.
* Lie about the size of the prize and keep a bigger share for themselves.
* Claim that they bought a separate ticket of their own and that was the prizewinner.
As with the first type of lottery scam, only the big prizes come under scrutiny.
There's no way of telling how many lottery members are being scammed out of smaller prizes through this trick.
There have also been instances where even when a syndicate always uses the same set of lottery numbers for each game, and those numbers come up trumps, the organizer claims they forgot to buy the ticket.
Even worse, there have been incidents in which syndicate organizers NEVER buy the tickets and just pocket their co-workers' contributions each week, knowing how long the odds are of them actually having the winning numbers.
Victims only find out when it's too late -- and there is nothing they can do beyond suing their crooked colleague, which is unlikely to produce much in the way of compensation.
The frustrating thing is that either type of lottery scam is entirely avoidable.
13 "Lucky" Rules
Following a few simple precautions will eliminate the risks. And the basic rule is: When it comes to lottery playing, don't trust anyone, whether it's a work colleague or your friendly convenience store owner.
You don't have to be rude. This is all you have to do:
If you buy tickets or scratch cards yourself:
1. Always keep a record of the numbers/symbols.
2. If you're not using a machine, watch the clerk scan and enter your numbers.
3. Check winning numbers independently -- in the local paper or online.
4. Check the size of the prize with the lottery organizers -- again, many of these are published online.
5. If it's a scratch card, check the prize, usually printed on the back of the ticket or an accompanying leaflet.
6. If you win a lottery prize, make a copy of your winning ticket.
7. If collecting or notifying your winnings at a store, present your claim with a statement of how much you've won and ask the clerk to confirm it.
8. Don't let the ticket or card out of your sight until you've collected your winnings.
If you are in a lottery syndicate:
9. Insist that the group has an agreed set of written rules.
10. Make sure at least two members are jointly responsible for buying the tickets.
11. Insist that the tickets be purchased sufficiently in advance for all the members to see them and inspect them.
12. All numbers must be circulated to all members in advance along with proof of purchase, including date and location of purchase.
13. Check the numbers and the size of any winnings independently.
We make that 13 rules -- not always a lucky number for some. But in this case, they should be the key to protecting yourself and others from the risk of falling victim to this type of lottery scam.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!