More than $300,000 will be returned to consumers who were victims of 37 North American-based scams after Australian Competition and Consumer Commission court intervention.

The Chairman of the ACCC, Mr Graeme Samuel told SCAMwatch about the win for Australian consumers:

"Consumers received letters which were carefully written to create a sense of excitement about a huge and unexpected win or prize, including as a result of a lottery, sweepstake, award or other unclaimed funds.

Sometimes the scammers explain that the reader was 'specially selected'. Most ask for the payment of a fee before the win or prize can be paid and others offer (often misdescribed) trinkets associated with a bigger win or prize. Some resemble official or legal documents.

Once the victim has responded, they are guaranteed of one thing: they will receive more and more letters promoting yet further wins.  Scammers often work hard to create a personal relationship with their victims, enabling them to elicit ongoing fees and charges for money that never arrives.

Some victims become so certain that they are only one more small payment away from getting a fortune that they find it impossible to accept that they have been scammed even when bank or police officers explain the scam. 
While many of the victims are older consumers, this is not always the case: scammers are happy to take anyone's money, they don't discriminate."

Consumers who can show that they paid money to one of the listed scams between 1 March 2006 and 28 February 2007 may be eligible to apply for a share of the refund money.  The ACCC has issued a media release: $300,000 refunds to scam victims which can help you identify if you may be eligible to apply for a refund and how you can go about this.  
SCAMwatch has already seen emails from scammers pretending to offer compensation to scam victims under a special reimbursement program offered by an African government.  These emails are hoaxes and the scammers are just after your bank account details.

You can reduce the risk of losing money to scams by asking yourself:

  • If I have never bought a ticket or entered a competition, how could I have won?
  • Should I really send all my personal details to a complete stranger?
  • If I have won all this money why do they keep asking me for more?

Learn more about competition and lottery scams and how you can protect yourself from scams.

To report a suspected scam, visit the SCAMwatch report a scam page.

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Unexpected prize and lottery scams work by asking you to pay some sort of fee in order to claim your prize or winnings from a competition or lottery you never entered.