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A lottery scam is a type of advance-fee fraud which begins with an unexpected email notification that "You have won!" a large sum of money in a lottery. The recipient of the message — the target of the scam — is usually told to keep the notice secret, "due to a mix-up in some of the names and numbers," and to contact a "claims agent." After contacting the agent, the target of the scam will be asked to pay "processing fees" or "transfer charges" so that the winnings can be distributed, but will never receive any lottery payment. Many email lottery scams use the names of legitimate lottery organizations or other legitimate corporations/companies, but this does not mean the legitimate organizations are in any way involved with the scams.
There are several ways to recognize a fake lottery email:
- Unless someone has bought a ticket, they cannot have won a prize. There are no such things as "email" draws or any other lottery where "no tickets were sold". This is simply another invention by the scammer to make the victim believe that they have won.
- The scammer will ask the victim to pay a fee before they can receive their prize. All real lotteries simply subtract any fee and tax from the prize. It does not matter what they say this fee is for (courier charges, bank charges, various imaginary certificates — these are all made up by the scammer to get money out of their victim).
- Scam lottery emails will nearly always come from free email accounts such as Yahoo!, Hotmail, Live, MSN, Gmail etc.
Most email lottery scams are a type of advance fee fraud. A typical scam email will read like this:
PRIME LOTTERY INTERNATIONAL Customer Service Ref:ABC/34085746305872/34 Batch: 293/34/3473
WINNING NOTIFICATION: We happily announce to you the draw of the UK-LOTTO Sweepstake Lottery International programs held on the 27th of March, 2004 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Your e-mail address attached to ticket number: 564 75600545188 with Serial number 5368/02 drew the lucky numbers: 19-6-26-17-35-7, which subsequently won you the lottery in the 2nd category.
You have therefore been approved to claim a total sum of US$2,500,000.00 (Two million, Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars)in cash credited to file ktu/9023118308/03.This is from a total cash prize of U.S $ 2.5 Million dollars, shared amongst the first nine (9) luckywinners in this category.
All participants were selected randomly from World Wide Web site through computer draw system and extracted from over 100,000 companies. This promotion takes place annually. Please note that your lucky winning number falls within our European booklet representative office in Europe as indicated in your play coupon. In view of this, your U.S$2,500,000.00 (Two million, Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) would be released to you by our payment office in Europe.
Our European agent will immediately commence the process to facilitate the release of your funds as soon as you contact him. For security reasons, you are advised to keep your winning information confidential till your claims is processed and your money remitted to you in whatever manner you deem fit to claim your prize.
This is part of our precautionary measure to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program by some unscrupulous elements. Please be warned.
To file for your claim, please contact our fiduciary agent: Mr Richard Diwar Email:email@example.com
To avoid unnecessary delays and complications, please quote your reference/batch numbers in any correspondence with us or our designated agent.
Congratulations once more from all members and staffs of this program. Thank you for being part of our promotional lottery program.
Mis-selling by lottery "win" 
Another type of lottery scam is a scam email or web page where the recipient had won a sum of money in the lottery. The recipient is instructed to contact an agent very quickly but the scammers are just using a third party company, person, email or names to hide their true identity, in some cases offering extra prizes (such as a 7 Day/6 Night Bahamas Cruise Vacation, if the user rings within 4 minutes). After contacting the "agent", the recipient will be asked to come to an office, where during one hour or more, the conditions of receiving the offer are revealed. For example, the prize recipient is encouraged to spend as much as 30 times the prize money in order to receive the prize itself. In other words, although the offer is in fact genuine, it is really only a discount of a few percent on an extremely expensive purchase. This type of scam is legal in many jurisdictions.
Sometimes lottery scam messages are sent by ordinary postal mail; their content and style is similar to the e-mail versions. For example some scams by letter misuse the names of the legal Spanish lotteries El Gordo and La Primitiva.
In the UK, lottery scams have become such a major problem that many legitimate lottery sites now have dedicated pages on the subject.
Blackmail variation 
This variation relies on the target agreeing to accept a sum of money that they know that they are not entitled to and then, when they refuse to pay the advance fee, the scammers then threaten to report them unless blackmail is paid.
A typical scenario is when the emails are sent to staff of a multinational corporation with offices/branches throughout the world using their work email address. The fraudsters will represent themselves as the agents of a scheme that the multinational has won. An example being the "winners" of a prize as a result of placing an advertisement with the supposed promoter of the scheme in an obscure (and sometimes fictional) trade magazine published in an equally obscure country. The scammers will allege that they have written to the corporation's headquarters and made every attempt to pass on the "prize" but without success. As they (the scammers) don't want to lose face with the promoters they are anxious to discharge their responsibilities to pass on the prize money. So they ask for the target's personal banking details to allow the "prize" to be sent and (of course) they will trust the target will pass it on to their employers. This immediately makes the target vulnerable to a phishing attack but, more significantly, to blackmail attempts. When they refuse to pay any advance fee the fraudsters threaten to report the matter to their employers and/or the police.
- World Lottery Association warns of foreign lottery fraud risks, the World Lottery Association
- The Rundown on Lottery Scams
- Lottery Scam examples