Foreign lottery scam warning

People have been warned to be on their guard against foreign lottery scams, after two Norfolk pensioners almost paid out £1,800 “tax” for a non-existent £250,000 prize.

People have been warned to be on their guard against foreign lottery scams, after two Norfolk pensioners almost paid out £1,800 “tax” for a non-existent £250,000 prize.

An elderly couple from Cromer were saved from being duped after vigilant travel agent staff smelled a rat as they set about “wiring” the cash abroad.

The pensioners were called by someone claiming to work for customs and excise, saying they had won £250,000 on the Canadian lottery - despite never having been to the country.

But they were told they would have to pay the £1,800 in tax before they could get their prize.

Staff at the Thomas Cook branch at St Stephen's in Norwich became concerned about the reason for the electronic money transfer, stopped the transaction and alerted trading standards officials.

Norfolk trading standards acting team manager for advice and compliance Alice Barnes said: “People need to stop and think. You don't get something for nothing.

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“If you have not bought a ticket you cannot win, and you should not have to pay for a prize.”

There was a growing number of lottery scams nationwide, and Norfolk trading standards officials dealt with hundreds a year, fro Canada and Spain.

Elderly people tended to be vulnerable because they were often more trusting and did not understand the workings of lotteries, but people of all ages could be caught out - particularly when the caller purported to be an official.

But Mrs Barnes said: “Winnings on these types of lotteries simply don't exist, and the public will see nothing in return for their money.

“Any unusual communication you receive which requires money to be sent abroad requires the utmost suspicion.”

Once people had paid over money it was difficult to get it back, so officials did their best to highlight the dangers in advance to the public.

She praised the travel agency staff for their actions and asked other branches and banks handling such cash transfers to also be vigilant.

If anyone was caught out advice was on hand from Consumer Direct on 0845 404 0506.

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