Hundreds lose cash to convincing prize draw scam – how to protect yourself

Martin Lewis warns of scam emails using his name

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Action Fraud reports that almost £1million has been stolen by fraudsters in online scams, with people being led to think they have entered competitions such as the Postcode Lottery. Criminals are contacting vulnerable people, who may have applied for similar competitions in the past, to tell them they have won the top prize draw. Part of the scam involves telling the victim that they must pay an advance fee to get their winnings, which in fact do not exist.

From April to October 2021, Action Fraud received 629 reports of lottery fraud by people across the country.

Some 89 percent of these reports mention well-known prize draws, with scammers purporting to be from the Postcode Lottery accounting for almost half of cases at 49 percent.

Since 2005, the Postcode Lottery has helped raise £900million for charities, including Maggie’s cancer centres, pet charities and the National Trust.

Those who look to get involved with competitions are encouraged to use advice issued in Action Fraud’s ‘Take Five to Stop Fraud’ campaign, which encourages people to take a proactive approach to stopping scams.

The advice encourages people to “stop” before parting ways with their money, “challenge” any offer they are presented with and “protect” themselves from any potential harm by contacting their bank.

Cara Govier, the Managing Director of the People’s Postcode Lottery, reminded the public as to how the organisation operates in order to caution those looking to get involved as to what to look out for.

On the rise in scams, Ms Goiver said: “Fraudsters often impersonate trusted brands like ours.

“Thankfully, we can all help protect ourselves, our families and neighbours by following, and sharing, some straightforward advice.

“Please remember, People’s Postcode Lottery will never ask for any kind of payment to claim a prize, you can’t win if you don’t play, and we don’t offer discount cards.”

On top of this warning, the scam expert reminded the public that Action Fraud is willing and able to help anyone affected by this issue, and other examples of fraud.

Ms Govier said: “Anyone who has any doubts about a call from someone claiming to be from the Postcode Lottery should hang up and call us on 0808 109 8765. Our customer experience team are available seven days a week to provide advice.

“We know scammers often use social media. Our official social media accounts are verified so there’ll always be a blue tick beside our name. If there isn’t, the message isn’t from us.

“Finally, we encourage anyone who believes they have been the victim of fraudsters to contact our colleagues at Action Fraud or the police.”

In response to the lottery scam crisis, the police have issued advice on how people can protect themselves further from potential fraudsters.

Craig Mullish, a Temporary Detective Chief Inspector from the City of London Police, broke down what lottery participants should potentially look out for when applying to win.

He said: “Criminals are experts at impersonating organisations and will mimic a number of well-known prize draws to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.

“Remember, you can’t win a draw that you haven’t entered so if you’re contacted out of the blue claiming you’ve won a prize draw but can only access these winnings by paying an advance fee: stop and think as it’s likely to be a scam.

“This could protect you and your money.”

More information and guidance on reducing the risk of falling victim to scams in lotteries and competitions can be found on the Gambling Commission’s website.

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