By Humphrey Carter THE British Embassy in Madrid yesterday issued a warning about the wave of lottery scams in Spain and across the world. Recently British Consulates in Spain have been made aware of a number of complaints about lottery scams. Victims receive what appears to be official notification by phone, fax, letter or email that they have won the Spanish lottery and are required to deposit an amount of money in a bank account to secure their winnings, which are normally supposedly very substantial.



The notification purports to issue from the Spanish Inland Revenue office (Hacienda) or from the Spanish Lottery Authority (Loterias y Apuestas del Estado).

The British Consul General in Madrid, Michael John Holloway said; “If you have received any suspicious correspondence of this kind or you believe you might be a victim of this scam, please check with the nearest British consular post in Spain and inform the Spanish Police. “In the UK, inform the Office of Fair Trading and alternatively the Spanish Embassy in London. “A number of people in the UK have lost considerable sums of money to this fraud and we want to raise awareness and prevent it happening again”.

ARRESTED
Spanish Police have already arrested and charged some members of groups operating from Spain.
This latest “scam” comes in the wake of last year's internet, phone and mail fraud trying to trick victims into falling for the “sweetner” that they had won a prize and, to claim their winnings, should contact telephone numbers similar to those being used by the present lottery scams. Scores of innocent victims, nearly all British residents in the Balearics, contacted the Bulletin after having tried to call the given contact number only to be put on hold for hours and forced to continue calling - spending a small fortune on phone calls, a share of which was being claimed by the hoax callers.

The police rumbled at least three groups of people running the phone scams in various parts of Spain but it appears that the fraudsters have found a new away of targeting people.

ILLEGAL
Police in the United States have informed the Spanish authorities that Spanish lottery fraudsters are also targeting victims in the US and are using a slightly different formula.

Apparently, victims receive letters and e-mails claiming that they have won a substantial amount of money, but that they are having problems in sending the prize.

The letters, some sent with the official letters headings of the “EL Gordo” and “Loteria Primativa” state “due to a mix up of some numbers and names, we ask you to keep this award from public notice until your claim has been processed and your money remitted to your account as this is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming or unwarranted taking of an advantage of this programme by participants.” The second page to the letter and e-mails contain standard questions including name, age, address and phone number - all the information they need to gain access to victims' bank accounts.

Back in February, the practice of operating telephone lottery scams was declared illegal throughout the European Union by the European Parliament.
The Office of Fair Trading in the UK believes that the practice is netting fraudsters up to £150 million a year.
The European legislation was intended to have spelt the end for the fraudsters - obviously not and tougher measures are going to be needed.
In the meantime, take heed of the Embassy's advice and use your common sense.

THREE TIPS TO HELP SPOT THE SCAMS

If you haven't played the Spanish Lottery then you should always assume that you haven't won.
Always be suspicious of gratuitous winnings, no one gives anything for free.
The telephone number given as contact is always a Spanish mobile (these start with a 6 in the same way as UK mobiles start with a 07).
No official body would give out a mobile number to call them back to check anything.
Spanish land lines always start with a 9.
Therefore, a contact number for Spain will begin with the international code (00) followed by the country code (34) and in the case of a mobile number 6xx xxx xxx or a land line 9xx xxx xxx .

The notification usually requires the winner to pay a deposit of funds in lieu of tax on their supposed winnings.
Tax is usually deducted at source if tax is payable on any winnings in Spain, therefore no one is required to make a down payment.