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Warning: Note on Scams Representing UK Organizations and Government

British Embassy, Washington, 3/3/2008

Wherever money transactions take place, there are scam artists eager to take advantage of potential victims. Recently, there have been a number of scams claiming to represent legitimate officials or organizations of the United Kingdom.

One example involves lottery scams in which con-artists send out e-mails informing individuals that they have won the British lottery, but in order to collect their winnings they must first pay a fee. Often this “fee” comes to thousands of dollars, which must be sent to a P.O. Box or foreign country.

Many people have reported these e-mails, which claim to notify winners of the British lottery that they should collect their winnings after sending in a fee. It is important to realize that such a promise cannot be legitimate since it is illegal to participate in the British lottery unless you are a citizen or resident of the UK. Furthermore, neither of the two legal lotteries in Britain, the National Lottery and the Monday Lottery, notify winners by e-mail.

Other scams related to the UK include:

  • West African “419” fraud involves requests to help move large sums of money with the promise of a large portion of the cash in return.
  • Printing machine advance fee frauds: con-artists offer victims to see an expensive printer at a price too good to be true in order to entice customers. These scams are often successful because it is common to make a 10% deposit prior to viewing the actual equipment.
  • High Yield Investment fraud, Prime Bank fraud or advanced fee fraud: this is a problem both in the UK and the US, and it describes different schemes designed to fraudulently obtain large sums of money. Some examples include:
    - Banks from remote areas of the world offering bank guarantees for hundreds of millions of dollars.
    - US Federal Reserve notes recovered from a World War Two Plane crash site in the Philippines.
  • Con-artists claiming to write on behalf of foreign nationals. Often, they appear to write from official British Embassy e-mail addresses, and they almost always demand that the task or money transaction remain confidential.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center encourage people to report potential scams. However, they do not have the resources to follow up on each case, especially since many of these con-artists operate remotely from different countries around the globe. Therefore, it is up to the public to be vigilant and careful.

Although many scam artists operate under different conditions, they all have the same goal: to make money. Therefore, the best way for consumers to protect themselves is to be extremely wary of any individual or organization that offers enticing prizes in return for large sums of money. As a general rule, the best way for consumers can protect themselves is to avoid entering into any agreement that appears to be “too good to be true.”

If you have received a suspicious email, phone call, or letter, contact the US Federal Trade Commission or the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center.

The original article may be found at the British Embassy website.