More than 180 victims have been cheated of a total of $2.1 million by lottery scammers from January to July this year, according to police yesterday.
This is 50 per cent more than the $1.4 million for the first half of last year, and the number of victims have also been rising steadily. Police yesterday advised the public to be more wary of such scams, which typically involve con men telling a victim that they have won a prize in a foreign lucky draw or lottery.
The victim, who is contacted by phone or e-mail, will then be persuaded into making upfront payments, purportedly as tax or administration fees, before the prize can be awarded.
One recent victim was a 54-year-old retiree, who was cheated of more than $300,000 in the past two months.
On June 16, he received a call telling him he had won $180,000 in a lucky draw held by a Hong Kong-based company.
As he was not a Hong Kong citizen, he was told to pay $4,300 in order to claim his prize. Mr Tan (not his real name) transferred the money to an overseas bank account.
A week later, the same caller informed him that the company had invested the prize money on his behalf and made $2.7 million by betting on horse races.
To secure his winnings, the victim had to transfer more money to the company. By the time he went to the police last week, Mr Tan had already transferred about $310,000 to the scammer.
The caller had claimed to be a staff of The Hong Kong Jockey Club, he told The Straits Times.
"I told her I didn't want the prize money, but she sounded so convincing, saying I had won based on my mobile number. She arranged for a lawyer to call and explain to me about the prize.
"A few days later, she called to say that the prize money was deposited into a bank account in Hong Kong and even gave me the account number and a password to verify.
"I called the number and an automated message over the phone verified the amount. That made me believe that it was genuine." Mr Tan initially forwarded $4,300 in order for his prize to be transferred to his Singapore bank account.
After the scammer asked for more money, Mr Tan said he borrowed from friends and relatives. He sent the money to up to five different foreign bank accounts over two months.
He was told the money would be refunded.
"Now I realise I was very stupid," said Mr Tan, who has not managed to recover any money.
Mr Tan is one of 182 victims who were cheated from this January to July. In the first six months of last year, there were 79 cases. This went up to 134 from last July to December, when $1.9 million was cheated.
Police warned the public not to make any advance payment to claim any prize money, and to ignore messages claiming they had won a prize when they had not participated in any draws.
This article was first published on Aug 27, 2014.
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