back to article UK police bust lottery scam centre in Somerset

Police have busted a bogus lottery winner scam, following a raid on a cheque processing and clearing house in Somerset. The letter-based scam attempted to dupe prospective marks into thinking they had won a non-existent prize. Recipients were asked to send in £20 as an "administrative fee" to get their hands on their supposed …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Greedy Ba$t@rds

    Lets face it... you know if you entered a lottery or a prize draw... these people attepting to claim the prize money must know they are not the winners...

    and on top of that, what rock have they been under for the last 10 years not to know its a scam...

    the age old saying.... fools and money are easly parted !

    mines the one with the zip on the pocket to stop the theving bastards helping themselves to my money...I at least try to make it hard for them....

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    stupid people deserve to be parted from their money.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Greed induced lapse of brain

    People who would fall for this are letting greed get in the way of commonsense. They should ask themselves "If I have just won a cash prize and am being asked to send some cash in order to process my winnings, why don't they simply deduct the processing fee from my winnings and send me the balance?"

  4. Gabriel Vistica

    @ AC


    SOCA might think you're on the side of the scammers and raid you too.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns


    Idiot Tax?

    Sounds fair.

  6. Stu

    The Real Hustle

    Who was it that first quoted the BBC programme 'The Real Hustle' as being like open university for scamsters and thieves? It seems some yokel scum down in somerrrrset have actually been paying attention in class!

    I'm sure TRH did a feature on this very thing, probably in about a thousand different scenarios - I remember when they brought a few couples down to some luxury hotel, their gameshow-esque setup duped them into believing they'll win some luxury holiday if they only hand over a nominal admin fee! The hustlers just left with their money.

    Also didn't they have to foot the bill for the hotel conference room rental too!?

  7. Anonymous Coward


    So are the police now going to give me all the money that I have won?

  8. Jolyon Ralph
    Thumb Up

    £20 to learn how not to be an internet thicktard

    Sounds like these people were offering a valuable and relatively inexpensive service.

  9. Sekundra

    Good news for a change

    Weirdly this is actually really good. Think about it as an advertising campaign by SOCA / Police.

    They are targeting 22,000 people (morons) who fall for this type of rubbish. We know that these people pay attention to unsolicited mail, and they are now going to get a very specific and effective lesson in why they shouldn't.

    Most campaigns of this type, like commercial advertising, are targeted more around likely customers (likely morons).

  10. Pedantic Twat


    Yeah, bugger the fact that the victims are almost certainly the old and the poor, without access to PC's the internet and the higher intellect we see displayed here.

    High horse? No thanks, too many people on it ahead of me.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    re. Greedy Ba$t@rds

    True; you can't con an honest person. The greedy and stupid deserve all they get/lose.

  12. Tony Hoyle

    What a waste

    They could have setup a real lottery. People are bad at math. They'd have been clamouring to send money to these people on the one chance that they might make a million (despite the odds of that being similar to the odds of bill gates being hit by an asteroid *and* lightning simultaneously, on a thursday. In the rain.).

  13. Arclight

    Before you all go off on one

    Most of the people, although not all, are OAP's. They aren't stupid, they don't deserve to have their bank accounts sucked dry, and they sure as hell don't deserve scorn from a bunch of geeks.

  14. ratfox
    Paris Hilton

    Sometimes, I'd like to meet one of these people

    In this day and age, how come anybody is still answering these??

    Mandatory PH icon

  15. Ivan Headache

    A fool and his money etc

    The comments posted earlier by the 2 ACs are to be expected on a techy site like this. However, did either of you hear the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 today? I doubt it.

    It would appear that a more than significant number of 'marks' in this scam (and others) are not techy people, do not have computers - and more importantly, are generally over 70.

    The spokesman from SOCA explained that there is far more going on with this scam than just fleecing people of 20 quid. This was born out by a number of callers who relayed their experiences after finding that their elderly widowed mothers or fathers had fallen victim and that they were paying out thousand of pounds a year.

    until I heard these stories today I was of the same opinion. Now I'm not.

    Listen again on iPlayer - it's an eye opener.

  16. Kenny Swan


    We seem to be getting closer and closer to becoming the United States Of Britain every day. It's a little worrying. Sometimes I'm actually not that sorry I left the UK.

  17. Alexis Vallance
    Thumb Down


    How is this different from private parking companies who dupe victims into paying with their unenforceable invoices?

    Oh yes, silly me. The DVLA makes £6m a year selling addresses to anybody at £2.50 a pop.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know.....

    Send me £20 and I'll tell you how not to fall for scams like these.

    Oh - then again, we've been being scammed by the government for ages!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    SOCA Prize Draw !

    >>>>>These cheques will be returned to 22,000 senders, with a note telling people that the supposed prize was a scam and urging people to be more careful in future,

    Right.....Time to get out the printer and run of 200,000 SOCA Titled Prize Letters.

    Cash cow primed.....SOCA the fall guy ;)

  20. Anonymous Coward

    I hope ...

    ... that the perps also lose property, chattels and belongings that may have been manifested through income from criminal acts.

  21. Neil Woolford
    IT Angle

    Stupid people deserve to be parted from their money....

    Do you include my then aged and now late mother in the class of fools who *deserve* to be parted from their money?

    For the last few years of her life one of the problems I had to deal with was her willingness to send cheques for five to ten pounds to this kind of scammers at a rate of several a week, sometimes several a day.

    Initially she'd show me the letters, and I'd explain that they were from swindlers and that she should throw them away. Later she concealed them from me because she didn't want that advice.

    If you had sat at the Sunday tea table with your octogenarian mother and said "Mother, I am worried sick that you are being targeted by confidence tricksters from across the world. Please do not send them any money, please do not respond at all to any of their approaches." without it having any effect on her behaviour, perhaps you might have a different opinion on this problem.

    Until the end of her life she was capable of shopping, holding a sensible conversation, personal care and (limited by mobility and eyesight) housework. Her critical faculties were not totally impaired, as letters from 'psychics' were always shown to me and laughingly chucked into the bin as ridiculous.

    However, she was preyed on systematically by confidence tricksters who used carefully crafted letters to steal money from her. (Letters managed by sophisticated mailing techniques and response monitoring, undoubtedly using computers. Look, an IT angle!)

    So tell me why she deserved that?

    I am glad that the police have taken action here; I know that there are many other similar crooks who also need to be pursued.


  22. Anonymous Coward

    readers digest...

    i didnt enter into any prize draw either.... stop sending me crap.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Sod that

    I'm starting my own scam - £35 million is not to be sniffed at, and if I shift it somewhere safe before getting caught,a few years inthe pokey will be nothing to what awaits me when I get out.

    Mines the one with the list of your email addresses on it....

  24. Tim


    22000 fell for it? I'd expect a handful of mugs would be gullible enough, but that's a lot.

    Er, a friend of mine wonders what's the likely sentence if anyone should get caught for this scam?


  25. H2Nick

    What a lot of fuckwitts

    22000 of the critters

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Wow, the dickheads are out en masse today. I'm with Neil Woolford on this - the posters here argue that it's fine to commit crimes as long as you commit them against the most vulnerable?! What the fuck?

    I suppose the same argument could justify beating up children - they're too weak to prevent it, so they've got it coming!

    I look forward to the day when those saying that 'the stupid deserve to be victimized' find themSELVES victimized by someone who happens to be even smarter than THEY are. As long as you're stupid compared to the conman, you're fair game, right? And, of course, anyone stupid enough to fall for a con is by definition too stupid to be worth worrying about. Ergo, conmen are doing the world a service! QED!

    Brilliant, people. You're a real bunch of winners. *rolls eyes*

  27. jake Silver badge

    Gotta wonder about names sometimes ...

    "Officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)"

    As opposed to the not very serious organized crime agency?

    The disorganised crime agancy?

    How about the plain-jane "organized crime agency"?

    Seriously, who decided that the "Serious" bit of SOCA was important, leading anyone capable of rational thought (hah!) to believe that "OC" wasn't really all that serious?

    Bureaucracy. The mind boggles.

  28. Tony

    @Neil Wolford


    Couldn't agree more with your comments - I had similar conversations with my grandmother in the early 90's. Fortunately, my mother was a bit more switched on.

    "Letters managed by sophisticated mailing techniques and response monitoring, undoubtedly using computers."

    Now isn't this exactly the sort of thing that Phorm / Webwise will be doing?

    And for all the others, one day you will also be old and vulnerable - and a new breed of scammers will have have yet more techniques to rip you off. Will you still be laughing then?

  29. BioTube

    @Bleeding hearts

    Most of the people who fall for these scams have the ability to figure it out. However, they're so damned greedy that they'll respond to Nigerian scams(especially those who fall for it time after time) - those who don't know better usually don't receive mail direct. So yes, most people deserve our scorn.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My mother got a SOCA letter...

    ...and sadly, because it wasn't a scam letter, she barely bothered to read it and just filed it away in her usual pile (which is a mix of scam and non-scam letters!). I know people think that victims are greedy/naive/foolish, but there are elderly people with bad memories (don't remember what they did 10 minutes ago, let alone 10 days ago), such as early dementia/Alzheimers, who are prime targets for the scammers.

    My mother's about at half-stage of Jessica's Story - see - and it's bewildering that no matter how many times you explain they are scammers (including showing them the recent BBC article/video on this and the SOCA letter and Jessica's Story), they just keep on doing it the next day and so on. It's hard not to get into major rows about this and she just bottles up and tells me to stop talking to her.

    If you have a relative mired in this, there's several steps you can take (I've done some of these and will probably do more of them over time if the problem persists):

    * Ask the victim to give you their cheque book and debit card and set them up with a low credit limit (enough for regular monthly use and a little extra for emergencies) credit card instead. If they *must* write a cheque, ask them to explain who for and for how much and refuse if it's for a scammer. Most mail scammers ask for a cheque, so this can be quite effective. A new cheque book arrived recently and my mother "hid" it from me (more likely forgot to tell me about it) - I found out a week later and by that time she'd already written and sent off 3 cheques to scammers for 20-40 quid!

    * If you live in the same house or visit them daily, put an internal mailbox onto the letterbox which only you have the key for. You open up the mailbox and sift it through, filtering out the scams - you'll have to get agreement with the victim to do this of course (because intercepting mail without permission is illegal). Note that mail preference services don't work, because they don't block non-UK snail mail and you can't get the Post Office to bin international snail mail for you.

    * Get yourself on the Telephone Preference Service (OK, this one is obvious) - doesn't stop non-UK scam calls though. I asked BT if they could block non-UK calls to my mother's phone and they said no, which I find hard to believe.

    * If things are still bad, you can look into Third Party Mandate for the victim's bank account - HSBC are a good bank to try for this. Gives you access to their account to check up on it.

    * The final step is drastic - getting some form of Power of Attorney, where you have to take control of all the victim's finances. You might have to end up taking all chequebooks/cards away from them, setting up a new bank account which you have PoA over (into which any income/pensions are paid) and doling them out cash as "pocket money" - desperate indeed, but it can sometimes be the only way.

  31. Allan Hawdon


    I'm inclined to agree with the previous poster. Too many commentators on here just take

    the attitude that if you're gullible enough to fall for it, you deserve it. Summed up in the

    old cliche "Never give a sucker an even break"

    I'm sure many of the victims are just greedy and I don't have much sympathy for them

    but plenty more are, as has been pointed out, old and/or vulnerable. I've had a similar

    experience with a friend's mother who got very frightened if she didn't reply to official

    looking correspondence which was obvious scam. We tried to get her to show us

    everything before she thought of replying, but I'm not sure she did.


  32. Mike Bronze badge


    so, these types of scam really do still work that well?

    @AC (SOCA Prize Draw !)

    you can have london, i'll have the rest, sound good? (i really don't give a crap about londoners, i'm not going to help educate them on scams!)

    i think £1000 a pop should work, sure i'll get fewer responses than £20, however the fewer responses should still add up to a larger amount

  33. neil

    How many people?

    £35million a year at £20 a pop, that means getting 1.75 million mugs to fall for the scam, every year. I suspect this is like the Police and the vastly inflated figures placed on drug finds.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Jolyon Ralph

    >£20 to learn how not to be an internet thicktard

    Sounds like you needed to spend twenty quid to learn how to read before blowing off your mouth and letting the whole El Reg world know that you can't, but it's too late for that now. But hey, what the hell, we all now think that you are very humourous and can probably stick tard on the end of every other word.

    If you're still puzzled, the scam was letter based.

    Many of the respondents sent letters with the twenty pounds in cash(*) most likely indicating that they didn't have a bank account let alone internet access and as such were probably at the lower end of what some call the social scale. These people might not be so fortunate as others but to try to insult them will neither help them avoid such scams in the future nor show us how clever you possibly might be.

    (*) Try not to get confused with the money being returned in the form of a cheque.

  35. kissingthecarpet

    No,they do need insulting

    Usually the non-senile who fall for this are a bit slow, so shouting insults at them might actually penetrate in a way that reasonable explanation never will, certainly in my own experience. Its the way that ignorant people communicate, by shouting insults at each other, especially if its something important.

    If the victim is suffering from dementia, then obviously its time for power of attorney,etc. if you care about them. Of course, the only thing most relatives care about is how much dosh is left for them after the scammers have had a go.

    @what a waste - people don't do the lottery because they're bad at maths, they do it because a pound is negligible, but the winnings are huge(certainly a lot more than a giro)

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Serious" as in either large amounts of money/goods and chattels or large number of people involved, either in commiting the crime(s) or as victims.

    Which reminds me, isn't it Budget Day tomorrow?

  37. N

    Some people

    Dont, or wont take any notice anyway, they are just terminally thick or too stupid to work it out for them selves.

    Unfortunately, whilst this is prevalent, theres always going to be people who will prey on them, criminally intent or otherwise.

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