Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

We all receive emails that indicate we've won several different lotteries. Are any of these winning notifications valid? I'll review what to look for.

Leo, I received an email from a [name removed, just in case] of London England stating I had won US$ in a sweepstake organized by Microsoft and AOL. In the email numerous words were misspelled. I was told to contact [name removed], Claims processing agent, [number removed], Courier Firm: [name removed]. This email mentioned a [name removed], Microsoft Promotion Team,Vice President. The one stipulation is the winner remits part of the winning fund to a charity organization. Is this email for real or just another fraud email?

Man, if every "you've won!" sweepstakes message I've received in the last year were true I'd be a very rich man. Heck, if even one of them were true, I'd be doing pretty good.

Short answer: it's fraud. Run away. Delete it. Ignore it. Don't ever be tempted.

That clear enough?

Let's examine just why that is and what some of the clues are.

I just checked my junk mail folder, and in the last week I've received at least a dozen or more "winning notifications" of various flavors. "Staatloterij" (Dutch for state lottery), "End of the year lottery promotion", "YOU HAVE WON!!!", and so on.

Every one of them is totally bogus.

And worse, they're actually scams to take your money, not give you any.

Let's look at some of the clues the show you just how bogus these emails are.

And for the record, these clues apply to 99% of the all spam you get as these are excellent indicators of scams and other bogus emails.

"It's fraud. Run away. Delete it. Ignore it. Don't ever be tempted."
  • It's email. Let's face it, if you really won a lottery, someone would more likely knock on your door (with lots of proper identification) or at least send you a certified/registered letter. Email is an unreliable notification mechanism at best and should never be used for something this important.

  • The email's not even addressed to you! This just gets me every time I see it. None of the messages that say I've won actually have my name in the "To:" line. None. In fact, none of them even mention me by name. You'd think that if I had in fact won some kind of lottery that my name would be known to the organization, and that they would actually use my name when they tried to tell me that I'd won. It doesn't get much more bogus than this.

  • English is clearly not their native tongue. You said it yourself, "numerous words were misspelled". Once again, a legitimate organization would simply not do that. Even if they were based in another country they would take the time to make sure that spelling and grammar were up to business correspondence standards.

  • They ask for money. This is the big tip-off in my book. In your case: "one stipulation is the winner remits part of the winning fund to a charity". Here's how it works: in most cases you'll have to actually send money before you "receive your winnings". It'll either be in the form of fees that they say must be paid up-front, or in your case I'm guessing that you'll need to make your charitable donation before you get your winnings. And those winnings? IF you get anything at all, there are several scams right now that actually send you a check that's so real-looking that it even fools your bank. Until it bounces a week later and your "winnings" are removed from your account, that is. All that after you've paid the up-front fees with your own real money.

  • They ask for your details. Lottery scams are another great venue for identity theft. "Winning the lottery" seems like a perfectly legitimate reason to be asked for lots of personal information like Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and the like. It's not. Do not divulge your personal information to anyone you don't absolutely positively trust. Ever.

The fact is that the old adage is very, very true: If it's too good to be true, then it's not.

Unfortunately the sad reality is that these schemes exist because enough people fall for them every day. Out of ignorance, greed, or desperation, people think that they've actually won and fall for the trap. The net result is that they don't win at all, they lose. They lose their money, their belongings, their identity, and more.

It's fraud. Run away. Delete it. Ignore it. Don't ever be tempted.

That clear enough?

Article C3231 - December 8, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

June 23, 2008 12:25 PM

I just received a check, a real check, not a voucher, not a form that says this is not a check, or a check that obligates me to do something when I endorse it -- a real check for $2850 from a marketing company in Mass. that sent me a list of tasks to be done as a mystery shopper -- nothing that I've ever agreed to do.
The check, a real check, is written on Silicon Valley Bank, has the water marks, and has my name right after "pay to the order of". The letter says that if I don't call them they will stop payment on the check. In the meantime, I could cash the check at a check-cashing place. What the heck is going on and should I just go and cash this check? It was sent out of the blue from information "they ascertained" that qualified me to be part of this "select group". Any ideas?

On the above article, all of the signs you note are red flags. If you pop the email up to reveal full headers, it probably started in Nigeria, or,like many that I have received, University email addresses from accounts that were stolen, hacked into, or belonged to a retired professor.

June 23, 2008 12:34 PM

Hash: SHA1

All I can say is that if it sounds to good to be true, it
probably is too good to be true. There's no way I would cash
that check.

A couple of possiblities come to mind:

- - - Cashing the check obligates you to something. I know
you've indicated that this isn't the case, but I'm pretty
skeptical that it's not.

- - - The check is bogus. It's trivial to make a check - or
rather something that looks like a check. What you may
find if you do deposit it, in 10 days or so the check will
bounce and the money will be removed from your account.
In the mean time this mystery shopping thing may well have
asked you to pay them, or someone they work with, out of
pocket for "expenses" of some sort. When the check bounces
not only will you be out that money, but the money you
spend on their behalf as well.

I could be wrong about the specific scenarios, but both are

There's just no way I'd trust it. Even if it's legit, it's a
stupid way for them to do business just because of all the
caution and skepticism we continue to recommend.


Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


June 29, 2008 4:53 PM

There is another scam similar to the many email versions, and is also really scary. A wedding planner got a call from a supposed couple in the UK asking her to plan their wedding. They sent her a "cashiers check" from Bank of America, however they wanted her to pay the band that was to play at the wedding. The wedding planner deposited the check and sent a money order to the band. The whole thing was bogus. The ability to create even cashier's checks is now a better way to rob people than robbing a bank. Of course, the check was no good, and the wedding planner was out more than $6500. When the check bounced, she was liable for all the money deposited. And since the "couple" lives in another country, it will be nearly impossible to track them down.

I have gotten the email scams from people wanting me to help feed children (how low can they go?) by taking in "donation checks" from other countries and keeping a percentage for my trouble, winning lotteries that I never entered, "government" officials from other countries wanting to give me a huge percentage of a dead person's estate since their are no beneficiaries, and recently, someone from the "United Nations" wanted my assistance, and also part time jobs taking payments for articles of some sort and sending them money orders less my "commission." The checks are no good, but won't bounce for 6 to 8 weeks, and they get your SSN, banking information, and other personal information.

Don't fall for any of it. They are all scams.

dena hutton
November 12, 2008 2:29 PM

i recived a check today for 3,900.45 i supposedly won a random sweepstakes.they asked that i put the check in my bank account for taxs and clearence fees for the 47,0000 i won. i didnt deposit it,for i dont believe it is ligit, do you?

Sounds like a classic scam to me.
- Leo

Herman Moody
January 31, 2009 8:16 AM

I recieved a email stating i won 10M,here is the kicker. The FBI? contacted me in the email an stated i need diplimatic papers to recieve the money and to contact the name at the end of the letter which is a FBI director. What do you think about it?

You're kidding, right? That is obviously a scam. Ignore it.
- Leo

Sarita Devi
May 9, 2009 4:23 AM

Greeting Sir,
I have received an email as winning of 500,000usd from Australian lottery. So i want to know that whether it is true or false?They asked me for fees for taking affdavit of claim.Then i asked them for proof.So they sent me gurantee card of federal high court of Nigeria.
i am sending its details.

55 Forces Avenue GRA.
Our Ref: Australian Lottery Promo 2009,
Fiduciary Agent's Name: Dr. Frank Gilbert.

Kind attention my dear,

This is to let you know that I got your mail and regarding to your mail the union bank has asked you to get an affidavit of claim before there can be able to transfer your winning prize to you.

To respond to you about the (affidavit of claim) I have been to the federal high court of Nigeria after reading your mail to inquire how this document can be procured on your behalf and the chief justice said that your presence will be needed at the federal high court for the signing of the document and that it will cost you $890usd for the getting of the document but alternatively if you canít come to Nigeria then you will have to hire a lawyer who will stand and sign the document on your behalf and also you will have to send down the said amount of $890usd to them for them to get this document ready for you.

Mean while I also confronted them with the letter which you sent to me concerning the way there cheated you and there told me that many people are using there office to cheat people and that there are tracing the culprits that are using there office to cheat other people. And for those reasons there apologize for what ever that may have happened to you and say that there are deeply sorry. Because of that there have given me a guarantee letter to give to you so that you will be sure that you are dealing with the right office and not those that cheated you before. The attachment below is the copy of the guarantee letter which they gave me to send to you.

So I will advice you to go true it and follow the instructions which there have asked you to follow in order for you to get the affidavit of claim procured on your behalf so that you will submit it to the bank for them to transfer your winning prize to you. Because I think it will cost you more money if you decide coming to Nigeria.

Warmest regards,

Dr. Frank Gilbert
(Regional Claims Agent)
Australian Lotto Programme.
Tell: +234-7039327604.


Greetings Sir.
My Details as below:

1]BATCH NUMBER.....7050470902/189

4]TICKET NUMBER.............4700172507056490102

Did you read the article you just commented on????

To quote: "... it's fraud. Run away. Delete it. Ignore it. Don't ever be tempted."

Don't fall for it.

- Leo
Mark Jacobs
June 11, 2009 5:45 AM

I was surprised at some of the comments as it's not only obvious but Leo just told you guy that these are all scams. But if you want a really good investment I got a tool bridge I can sell you a stake in ;=)>

Mark Jacobs
June 11, 2009 5:48 AM

also if you include Nigeria in your spam filters you'll stop a lot of scams from getting into your inbox. Unless of course you do know some people in Nigeria. ANd incidentally a family just died in a plane crash and it has been discovered that YOU are the only surviving next of kin. Please write me for more informations ,=)>

January 13, 2010 5:07 AM

hi sir,
i`ve got a mail notifying me that i`ve won a prize of 500000GBP from BIG LOTTO.they told me to fill the form and i filled that.account number was not asked.they gave me a wininig certificate which is fully looking original.they`ve told me to contact some bank,i don`t remember which more thing i would like to mention that i don`t have bought any lottery.they told me that they`ve selected my email id for winning purpose just for the sake of happy ending of it possible that i can get this much money?

This is a scam.

February 10, 2010 12:52 AM

I am getting TELEPHONE CALLS with a Nigerian doing this scam. When I called him out and told him not to call again, he became beligerant and obsene and threatened to kill me and rape my wife. He calls once or twice a day. Law inforcement will do nothing.

May 20, 2010 9:36 PM

The national lottery said i won 750,000.00 euro pounds ? Ther email is from gorge smith at [email address removed] is this all fake ?

Fake fake fake.

July 8, 2010 9:14 AM

Hi Sir,
Yesterday i got mail from BBC ONE ONLINE NATIONAL LOTTERY.They didn't asked me my details n proofs.I've sent my proofs.After that they told me to pay Rs.20,000 in Air port.So i left it.But my ID proofs are sent to him.Is there any risk for me??

This is a scam. No lottery notifies by email.

July 9, 2010 9:33 PM

Thank you Leo for the straight answer. I (in the past month),have become a multimillionaire in the minds of at least 10 people, but not financially. How do I report these, they include Yahoo!, UKLottery, Coca Cola, United Nations?

In all honesty - there's little point in reporting them. They're so common that the appropriate authorities already know.

Dave Markley
July 13, 2010 10:56 AM

I'm sure Leo will agree with me in that virtually ALL of these 'winnings' are scams, and almost always from a country where this type of thing is not enforced by any law enforcement(if it's even illegal there). The FBI is who would investigate internet scams like this, but they can only do something if the scammer is in the USA. That leaves Interpol, but with global terrorism, child slavery, etc., they're a little too busy to deal with it.
I recently tried to report someone for trying to get me to launder money through my PC repair business. They wanted to buy a used pc from me with a money order, which would be for much more than the purchase price, then I was to split the difference with the person who would pick up the pc. I went to the Broward County, Fla., Sheriff's Office with the printed emails and was told by a deputy "By law we have to take your report, but I'll tell you right now it won't be investigated because money laundering is only a 3-year mandatory sentence in Florida and it's not worth our time and trouble". Yet God forbid you walk on the beach too drunk, right? So, the best thing to do is just delete these emails without even opening them.
Also, keep this little scenario in mind: If you reply with even just you're full name and date of birth, they can probably pull up your driving and/or criminal history. With either of these they most likely now have your Social Security number. With just that little bit of info they can now open accounts in your name, get into your bank accounts, steal your identity and so on, and no one can stop them if it doesn't originate in the USA.
Just remember the old saying 'If it sounds too good to be true - it probably is'.

Stephen R. Zimmett
July 13, 2010 12:57 PM

I get 5 or 6 of these each week. I simply delete them. Give me a break. I to would be a millionaire many times over if any of this were true.

john neeting
July 13, 2010 7:44 PM

Firstly - copy and past into the tool bar, this URL
Follow instructions and submit.
The federal government [ In Australia ] has come down hard on these scams and actually follows them up and have the highest success rate of prosecution on the planet. Don't matter what country they are in, our Government chases these retards down absolutely and gets foreign Governments to arrest them. I used to get plenty until I started reporting them, now the only scams I get is by snail mail [ No kidding ].

July 18, 2010 3:27 PM

I think the first question should be: "Did I enter a lottery?

Linde Nobre
July 20, 2010 4:50 PM

There are some of these scams that have even been rated dangerous. I received several emails from former "African politicians" claiming they had lost their positions and needed to get their money out. A friend told me about a site from Hamburg University (Germany). It states that some of these have actually resulted not only in loss of money but also kidnapping: People had to fly somewhere to get the money.
It is as simple as this: No money for free. If you didn't pay the lottery you won't win (to my experience you don't usually get it even if you pay..), if you think you get money without work, it's scam.
The Hamburg site tells you to inform the authorities of your home country. I did. They were not interested.
By the way: Cell-phone and Computerproducers also do not give away free new modells if you send them your data per email....

August 17, 2010 12:33 PM






REFERENCE NO: LSEAA/2031/8161/10
BATCH NO: R3/A312-59


This is to notify you that your email address has won £1,200,000.00 in the Ponds Millions Email Draw (Sponsored by Shell Global Camelot Groups in which e-mail addresses were picked randomly by computerised balloting, powered by the Internet. (One Million, Two Hundred Thousand Great British Pounds (£1,200,000.00 GBP) cash payment will be released to you from this regional branch office in JAKARTA INDONESIA . To claim your prize, please contact Claims Officer on the email with the claims requirement listed below;

Barrister Mohamad Mostafa (Overseas Payment Officer)
PHONE: Tel:+62-218-3333-151
Mobile : +62-856-7764-299

Claims Requirements:
1...........Full Name:
2...........Home Address:
7...........Country Of Residence:
REFERENCE NO: LSEAA/2031/8161/10
BATCH NO: R3/A312-59
Ticket/Lotto Number: LPH 09446
Serial Number: 009/552/007
Category: 2nd Category
Congratulations once more from all members and staff of this program.
Gavin Russo
Events Manager
This communication and any documents, files, or previous e-mail messages attached to it constitute an electronic communication within the scope of the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, 18 UKLN 2510. This communication may contain non-public, confidential, or legally privileged information intended for the sole use of the intended recipient(s). The unlawful interception, use or disclosure of such information is strictly prohibited under 18 UKLN 2511. Any review, reliance, or distribution by others or forwarding without expressed permission is strictly prohibited.

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