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Scam operators very busy post-Christmas

Scam operators very busy post-Christmas

Ministry of Consumer Affairs warns New Zealanders to be on the lookout for three prize and lottery notifications delivered nationwide to mailboxes this week from overseas. The schemes advise recipients that they are winners of prizes between $1, 700 and $315,000.

The Ministry’s Acting General Manager Tony Leverton said "Ministry staff have been fielding calls all week from consumers concerned about whether these prize notifications are real or scams. I can assure the New Zealand public that they are scams, despite the fact the letters are personalised to recipients. Our advice is throw the letters away."

The three schemes are Federation Internationale d’Attribution de Gains (also known as FIAG or Arlimbow), Mail Order Sweepstakes (also known as Prize Administration and Payments) and the El Gordo Spanish Sweepstake Lottery.

“FIAG advises recipients they’ve won a prize of $21,000. But to get the prize you have to send $48 to a return address in Geneva. With the Mail Order Sweepstakes you’re asked to send $39.99 to a postal box in London to claim an unpaid cash prize of $1793.95,” says Mr Leverton.

The letter from El Gordo Spanish Sweepstake Lottery does not ask for money but asks "winners" to contact the operators in Spain. Once an interest is shown in collecting winnings the lottery operators will request personal information such as bank account, drivers licence or passport details. “Winners” will also be asked for money in advance to pay administration costs. All of these requests should start alarm bells ringing. Legitimate lotteries do not ask for funds in advance of payout as operating costs are not taken out of individual prize allocations. “The Ministry operates a Scamwatch service to warn the public about such scams. All are known to the Ministry and are currently listed on Scamwatch as a result of previous notifications,” said Mr Leverton. Scamwatch is available on line at the Ministry's website at www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz and is updated regularly with new information.

Mr Leverton said "The best advice we can give is - if it looks too good to be true it usually is. Just as you shouldn't take a stranger seriously if they approach you in the street to tell you that you have won $21,000, treat unsolicited mail advising the same thing with a great deal of caution".

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