May 26th, 2009 19:09 EST
The United States Embassy in Madrid, the United States Consulate General in Barcelona and the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at the U. S. Department of State receive frequent inquiries about the Spanish Lottery (sometimes referred to as El Gordo ?). Most inquiries result in complaints in regards to a scam in which purported Spanish lottery officials inform victims that they have won a large cash prize. This scam is just one example of the many advance-fee cons
being run around the world.
How the Spanish Lottery scam works
There is a general pattern among the scams. First, the victim receives an award confirmation ? through fax or email informing them that they have won a large amount of money in a Spanish lottery drawing. Due to a clerical error ? or some other sort of mix-up, the winner is asked to keep his or her prize confidential until the winnings are released to them. Most times, there is a deadline to claim the money. Once the transfer process ? begins, the victim is informed of various delays requiring the payment of transfer fees, taxes, anti-terror fees, insurance fees, claims agent fees, and other administrative costs that they must pay before the prize can officially be collected. The scam runs under many different seemingly official names such as El Gordo Sweepstakes Lottery ? or even by utilizing actual lottery names such as Once. ?
How the real Spanish lottery system works
Two of the most common legitimate Spanish lotteries are El Gordo, ? one of the largest lottery drawings in the world, and La Primitiva. ? They are lotteries, not sweepstakes, and are a part of Loterí¡³ y Apuestas del Estado, meaning that they are government endorsed. While some lotteries are drawn weekly, El Gordo ? is only drawn one time per year during the Christmas season. The Spanish lottery does not tax any of its prizes.
In order to enter and win El Gordo, ? you must be a resident of Spain and purchase your ticket within the country. Keep in mind YOU CANNOT WIN IF YOU DID NOT BUY A TICKET! You must purchase your entry to the drawing in Spain in order to win. It is against U.S. federal law to play a foreign lottery through the mail or over the phone.
What to Watch Out For
If you did not purchase a ticket to the lottery in Spain, you cannot win a prize.
The primary methods of distribution for this scam are through the internet, mail, or by fax. Legitimate government run lotteries normally choose television, radio, or newspapers to advertise themselves.
Many of the prize letters state that the deadline to claim the prize is soon to expire.
No legitimate lottery, including any Spanish lottery, would request advance fees.
Fake addresses are often used, and telephone numbers given are usually those belonging to cellular phones in Spain beginning 011-34-6_ _ _.
The names of the people allegedly sending the winner notices, as well as their associates and colleagues, usually have names that do not fit with Spanish tradition. For example, a normal Spanish name would have two last names, one for the mother and one for the father, such as Jorge Sanz Gonzalez. ? Instead, the names at the bottom of the notices are often composed solely of two first names, like Jorge Alberto, ? or are even more simplified names like Mr. Pedro. ?
Characteristically, written notices contain frequent spelling and grammar mistakes or awkward wording.
Here is an example of one official ? fax memo:
According to our discussion regading the retrevition of the fund, please endavour to demand of your bank to look into the transfer process to verify
The position of the money
If the fund is still laying in the bank where transferred
The statement of the account
I will be glad to heare from you as soon as the investigation is made.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Assets
DO NOT SEND ANY MONEY! Participation in a foreign lottery through the mail or over the phone violates U.S. federal law. Furthermore, it will be essentially impossible to recover any money you send to a fraudulent operation.
DO NOT GIVE OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION! Keep all bank and credit card information to yourself as it can make you vulnerable to fraudulent use of your accounts or identity theft.
DO NOT RESPOND! Simply corresponding with the operators of a scam increases your chances of receiving similar offers.
Who to Contact
If you have been a victim of this or any other type of advance fee scam, get into contact with the authorities. If you are in Spain, you can file an official police report with the Spanish police and contact the U.S. Embassy in Madrid or the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona at:
Tel:  91-587-2240
Fax:  91-287-2243
Tel:  93-280-2227 ext. 207 or 272
Fax:  93-280-6175
If you are in the U.S. you should contact your local FBI office or State Attorney General`s office. The FBI has an Internet Fraud Complaint Center, and you can file a report at http://www.ifccfbi.gov/index.asp.
The Federal Trade Commission works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and you can call them at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit www.ftc.gov.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department`s Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov
where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).