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15 August, 2006

Think for a moment

Of those people who somehow mistake this for the website of a UK government department (The UK hasn't had a 'Ministry of Information' since 1946), a surprising number ask me to verify whether the e-mails they've received, saying they'd won the UK National Lottery, are genuine.

The big question is the simplest: did you buy a ticket?

No? Then how the **** could you have won?

Maybe some countries' national lotteries work by randomly selecting members of the population (I doubt it, but maybe); but surely that'd be based on census data or otherwise limited to citizens/residents of that nation. What are the odds of, say, a US citizen being randomly selected as winner of, say, the Bulgarian National Lottery? How would the organisers have obtained that person's name and address? Would they have entered the entire US population in the Bulgarian draw? Why?

To be clear – here are a couple of points paraphrased from the official UK Lottery FAQ & rules:

  • If you didn't purchase a ticket, you couldn't have won.
  • It's not necessary to be a British citizen, but you do need to have been in the country in order to participate. To have bought a ticket in person you would have had to have been in the UK. To have subscribed via the web you would have had to provide a UK address (thereby proving residence in the UK) and paid using a UK bank account.
Therefore, if you haven't visited the UK recently, it's somewhat improbable that you have a winning ticket.

Another point, about which I'm not certain: so far as I know, the Lottery organisers don't contact winners, it's for the winners to contact the organisers. I do know that millions of pounds of prizes have gone unclaimed since the Lottery was founded in 1994.

Another clue is that if the 'notification' e-mail asks for money to process the claim, it's a scam – the UK National Lottery doesn't do that.

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