Scratchies travel lottery scam
Lottery scammers have become more sophisticated, according to the would-be victim of an unsuccessful fraud.
Kingston resident Justin Murphy was surprised and sceptical when he received a glossy brochure in the mail purporting to be from an established tour company, but he went along with it for a time.
He said the Malaysian and Hong Kong- based perpetrators used common sales psychology to try to suck him in.
A minor part of the package was two scratchy lottery tickets, one of which told him he had won the second prize, $US175,000.
It was interesting because the sum was not implausibly massive, like well-known Lagos scams, he said.
When he contacted the Malaysian travel company, the phone was answered by a professionalsounding receptionist, who passed him on to the ‘‘ claims manager’’, who spoke good English.
He was told he had won, but his win might not be valid because he was not a client.
They had dangled a carrot, and then taken it away, Murphy said.
Then they said the lottery sponsor would honour it anyway, if he first signed a non- disclosure agreement so real clients who had not won would not find out.
The sponsor company also looked plausible – a finance house that appeared to back hotels, resorts and other travel businesses. It was fronted by a man who gave his name as Kenneth Pan.
‘It all started to sound semilegit,’’ Murphy said.
In the ensuing days phone calls and emails were exchanged until they got to the real point: to satisfy Hong Kong lottery rules and the tax department, he was to deposit 2.1 per cent of the win into a holding account in Hong Kong – $US3675.
He was not to use his own bank of choice, the Hong Kong Savings Bank. Instead he was to send the money via Western Union. ‘‘That was a red flag,’’ he said. Western Union is the choice agency of scammers, because payments can’t be reversed.
Murphy refused to have anything more to do with them, but still receives their increasingly desperate emails and phone calls, and wants others to be forewarned. Murphy is a salesman. ‘‘The psychology was a wee bit slick.
‘‘One moment you’ve got it, the next you haven’t.’’
Building up a prospect’s hopes, dashing them and, after a delay, rekindling them was a commonly used manipulative ploy among sales people, he said.
A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman said the Scamwatch team was notified of this scratch-andwin type of travel scam about 18 months ago.
‘‘The company name changes every week or so, but it’s always the same method – two scratchies arrive, one of which wins a second prize of $175,000.’’
The ministry advised consumers to treat offers they received from overseas companies in the form of scratch-cards with free holidays or cash prizes with extreme caution.
They should not pay any money upfront for supposed taxes or fees and never provide personal information.
Sceptical: Justin Murphy wasn’t taken in by this Hong Kong scam, and he doesn’t want others to be.