Australians should be aware of the prevalence of lottery scams emanating from individuals or organisations claiming to represent various state lotteries in Spain.
How does the scam work?
Letters addressed to individuals in Australia purporting to inform them of a lottery win in Spain are part of an elaborate scam. There are variations on the theme, but many such letters request the recipient to pass over their bank account details. More commonly, the intended victim is asked to contact a number in Spain (a mobile phone represented by 9 digits starting with a 6) to claim their prize. Once contact is made, they are told that certain fees need to be paid in advance. The victim is then typically strung along with ever more taxes and other charges which need to be paid before the prize can be theirs. Many Australians have fallen victim to the fraud and lost large amounts of money.
The scam is similar to those which operate in many parts of the world. However, the Spanish scams refer to what are indeed legitimate lotteries in Spain, for example El Gordo and La Primitiva. Spain’s biggest lottery, El Gordo (literally ¨the fat one¨), is drawn every year on 22 December. Lottery tickets do not go on sale via Official Lottery Offices until August of each year and are sold only in Spain. Only the Spanish National Mint issues official Lottery tickets and, when purchased, these tickets are not registered in the purchaser's name or address. Prize money can only be obtained upon the presentation of the winning ticket at an Official Lottery Office in Spain, or via a Bank which has a registered branch in Spain, within 3 months of the draw.
What should I do if I receive a scam letter?
If you receive a scam letter:
- Ignore it! If it sounds too good to be true – it probably is!
- Never send any money or bank account details in response to a scam offer! No matter how convincing the offer seems.
- Once money has been advanced in response to a scam proposal, the Australian Government has no legal power to assist in its retrieval.
- The recovery of funds in these cases is a private commercial matter and the onus is on individuals to recover their losses.
- The Government can assist only by providing the names of in-country legal representatives.
What do I do if I am a victim of a scam?
Australians who have been victims of Spanish lottery scams are advised not to travel to Spain to seek restitution but to obtain legal advice. Victims may also wish to avail themselves of the invitation of Spanish police to send information on their case to a special e-mail address, email@example.com. Further information is available from the Spanish Embassy in Canberra, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission; and the Australian Federal Police.