Unexpected winnings scams

Unexpected winnings scams, like unexpected money scams, lure people in with the promise of a surprise money or holiday win. They use your interest to steal money from you, as well as stealing your personal information for a range of fraudulent activities.

Scratchie cards are popular in Australia, including the Northern Territory. Although most scratchies are a legal form of gambling, some fake scratchies ask for money to release your winnings. The scammer might request bank details and photo identification, giving them valuable personal information they can either use themselves or sell on to a scam criminal group.

Naturally enough, because there is no prize money anyway, the winning amounts are excessively large and enticing.

Another similar scam involves winning a large prize, such as an expensive holiday. Yet again, the prize can’t be released without a fee and a set of personal information being supplied. Even if the holiday vouchers arrive, chances are they will be poor forgeries and not usable.

These scams come in as many forms as there are competitions and lotteries. Some scams focus entirely on competition, lottery or sweepstake prizes. They all follow a similar pathway with no actual prize and with you handing over your valuable personal and banking information.

Always remember, if you haven’t entered a competition, it’s impossible that you have won! Remember the adage, if it is too good to be true, it normally is.

Report all scams to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s ScamWatch website.

If you have incurred a financial loss, report it to your local Police. Please also let us know about the scam here at NT Consumer Affairs on 08 8999 1999 or 1800 019 319 or at consumer@nt.gov.au so that we can warn others.

Warning signs

News of winnings out of nowhere always has to be a warning in itself. Here are some signs to alert you to a scam:

  • You receive a letter or brochure in your mail which includes scratchie cards. Often there will be two cards – one is a losing card and the other has a second or third prize win.
  • The scratchies will say you need to call the company to claim the prize.
  • If you call the organisation they might claim that the scratchies were sent to you in error however you can pay a fee to enter the competition or become a customer to make the win valid. You are then asked to send a fee or bank account details to collect your prize. You might be asked to send personal information as well.
  • You are contacted by someone claiming that you won a travel prize in a competition you never entered.
  • In order to receive the holiday you still need to pay a discounted amount. Payment is often requested via cheque, bank or money transfer.

How to protect yourself

Unexpected winnings scams can be very frustrating and you can lose even more if you hand over fees and personal information. Protect yourself.

  • If someone asks you to pay money up front in order to receive a prize or winnings, it is almost always a scam.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, such as Bitcoin. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
  • Check the details on the scratchie card online to determine if the card is legitimate.
  • Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you do not know or trust.
  • Call the holiday provider directly and check the deal is legitimate. Do not use the contact details supplied on the scratchie card, search the internet for their legitimate website contact details.
  • Research the ‘business’ that you’re dealing with. Search online for reviews. Try searching using the business name or contact details provided to you. The internet is a powerful tool that can be used to uncover scammers. Often the scam you have encountered has already been tried, using the same detail and is fully documented online as a scam.
  • Be cautious about the requested method of payment. Cheques, bank or wire transfers are not typically used for secure consumer payments.

Last Updated:
18 Dec 2020

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