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Now your number's really up

EVERY day, people open their post, receive a telephone call, turn on their computers or switch on their mobile phones to find they have unexpectedly won a major prize in a prize draw, lottery, sweepstake or other form of promotion.  While some of these approaches may be legitimate, many are a dishonest attempt to make you part with your money. These scams are usually based outside the UK, although they may use UK Post Office or mail boxes.


How does it work? Typical scams may:

1. offer access to a winning ticket or the prize in an overseas draw or lottery, or membership of a lottery syndicate, in return for an 'administration' or 'registration' fee

2. require a purchase of some kind to receive a 'prize'

suggest that there are government funds available to be claimed by individuals.

3. More often than not, there is no prize or reward on offer. Anything that is 'won' is usually sub-standard, overpriced or misleadingly described and worth much less than the requested fee.


To avoid becoming a scam lottery victim, remember :

Ask yourself 'How could I win a lottery prize if I haven't bought a ticket?' usually, if you win something you don't have to pay anything to receive your prize

If asked to use a premium rate telephone number, remember these can be very expensive and may be part of the scam

never reveal credit card or bank account details unless absolutely sure who you're dealing with. These details may be asked for as 'identification'.


Typical warning signs include:

(a) the approach, whether in writing, by phone or by email, is unsolicited

(b) there is a very short time in which to respond to claim your prize or winnings

(c) an invitation to send a 'processing' or 'administration' fee to obtain a prize or reward

(d) the need to use premium rate phone lines

(e) the source of the promotion is based overseas

(f) an invitation to send money out of the country, particularly to the Netherlands or Canada, by money transfer

(g) prizes are expressed in foreign currency

(h) an invitation to provide credit card or bank account details.


How to protect yourself

Remember that if you win something you shouldn't have to pay anything to receive your prize; do not enter sweepstake contests unless they are run by a company you know; ask for advice - call Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.