CNN reports about online scams

A recent CNN article described various online scams, including fake lotteries and other 419 scams:

As one scam-watch site pointed out, lottery companies do not organize “promotional” lotteries, they advertise. A free “promotional” lottery that you only hear about if you win would only promote the lottery to a handful of customers. That doesn’t make any sense.

If you answer the e-mail, after one or two e-mail exchanges with the so-called lottery officials or claims agent, perhaps accompanied by some official looking but fake documents, you’ll be asked to pay fees for taxes or handling or some other reason. This is the scam — you pay the fees and never see any winnings, mainly because there are none to see.

Currently fake lotteries are the most prominent of online scams. We get far more queries about fake lotteries than about all other types of scams taken together. More people fall for them than for any other scam, maybe because so many people play lotteries in “real life”, so the idea of a sudden lucky strike is not alien to them.

In case you wondered, the unnamed scam-watch site quoted by CNN is the one you’re looking at right now. It was a quote from our 419 fraud FAQ about fake lotteries. The article also prominently mentioned of which we’re a member and listed it as the first of several fraud-information websites.

Education is the most effective weapon against scams. People who know about scams are not easily tricked any more. If more newspaper and TV and radio stations were to talk about scams, fewer people would fall victim to them.

3 thoughts on “CNN reports about online scams

  1. Of all the scams out there in our modern “jungle” of commerce, it’s the overseas lottery scams which are the most difficult to understand. The U.K. scams are legend. The Netherlands con jobs were long ago exposed. And, the Canadian lotteries have long been thought of as a joke.

    Yet gullible people everywhere still are taken in by these get-rich-quick, pie-in-the-sky temptations.

    –Jack Payne

  2. Right now the number of queries I receive about fake lottery scams outnumber other queries about other types of scam about 5:1. Fake lotteries are by far the most successful plot the 419 scammers ever came up with.

    When you look at the real world, the “success” of fake lottery scams is really not so odd all: Millions of people play government licensed lotteries, spending money on it every month, money that would be more sensibly spent on paying off the credit card bill or bank overdraft. The scammers are tapping into the same widely held dreams of sudden riches against astronomical odds as real lotteries do.

    The British “Economist” once called lotteries a voluntary tax on being bad at math, or something to that effect. Lotteries are a regressive tax that falls disproptionally on low-income people, because they are the ones that play them the most.

    When people buy lottery tickets, it’s not really a rational investment. They simply buy a dream. It may not be rational, but that’s beside the point. It fills a psychological need for them. When you’re in a dead-end job, with no rational prospect of significant economical advancement, the chance of a sudden windfall is an escape ticket, despite the fact that lottery players on average get poorer through their habit and that many spend money on tickets they can’t really afford very well.

    The scariest part is how many poor people in developing countries like India or in the Middle East now fall for lottery scams, sometimes ruining their entire family. It will take a lot of education by the mass media before this cruel abuse will slow down.

  3. It is very tempting to fall into some of these scams. This week I’ve received 5 emails telling me I have won money. I submitted them all to This is a very useful site, I will definitely mention it in my blog.

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