Feeling Lucky This Holiday Season? COVID-19, Google and Microsoft ‘Lotteries’ are Out for Your Info and Money

“Congratulations, You’ve Won the Lottery!” Such emails are popping up in inboxes across the world as scammers take advantage of the financial difficulties brought about by the ongoing pandemic.

Fraudsters are using popular brand names, existing lottery names and the coronavirus to mislead recipients into believing that they have won millions of dollars in various online lotteries. Each year, online lottery scams dupe unsuspecting users into providing their personal and banking details in mass-market spam campaigns which reign in millions to fraudsters.

As in previous years, these messages appear to be sent from a “Lottery” you never participated in, but lure you with the prospects of becoming an overnight millionaire. They are riddled with grammatical mistakes, and urge you to act fast or risk forfeiting your winnings.

Haven’t you heard of the Covid-19 Lottery Draw?

Scammers are piggybacking on the Coronavirus crisis and economic hardship to trick you into believing you’re the lucky winner of 8.5 million dollars. How? In one version of the scam, your email address has been randomly selected from a batch of 50 million international addresses in a lottery organized by global brands and organizations such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola, World Health Organization, Intel and Toyota, “to encourage the use of Internet and also advertise the coronavirus Covid-19 Worldwide.”

If you pay attention to the message, you’ll notice it’s riddled with grammar mistakes and absurd explanations of the origins of the lottery draw – does the coronavirus really need advertising?

As with any lottery or sweepstakes scam, a time limit for claiming your prize is provided. You have until 31 December to contact the “Department of Finance” or the funds return to the organization.

Sample 1. Covid-19 lottery scam

In a second version of the scam, picked up by Bitdefender Antispam Lab, fraudsters impersonate the transnational EuroMillions lottery that wishes to compensate individuals for Covid lockdown measures.

“We are happy to inform you officially about the result of the Interlotto Euromillion Bonus Lotto Program that was conducted on 14TH JUNE, 2020 with cooperation of the World Tourism Organization, To compensate many people around the world (Globe) due to: CORONAVIRUS Disease (COVID-19) OUTBREAK LOCK DOWN,” the message reads.

As a lucky winner, you are asked to contact a South African claim agent by July 27, 2021. Additionally, you are enticed with the prospect of receiving an instant cash-down amount of $10,000 US dollars through MoneyGram.

Sample 2. Covid-19 lottery scam

Spanish and UK lottery impersonations

Lottery scammers also used the names of legitimate lotteries such as El Gordo (in Spain) and the Camelot group, official operator of the UK National Lottery. Recipients are asked to provide their personal details including name, address nationality, occupation, date of birth, phone number, office number and a copy of their ID to receive the funds. The crooks want these details so they can steal your identity and the money in your bank account.

Sample 3. El Gordo lottery scam

Sample 4. Camelot lottery scam

Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Mastercard lottery scams

Tech giants, email providers and credit card companies have also been used in spam campaigns promoting online lotteries. Cyber thieves impersonating Yahoo, Google and Mastercard attempt to dupe recipients into accessing malware-infected PDF files that contain the documentation needed to cash in their prize. At the same time, “Microsoft 2020 Christmas Promo” entices recipients with the thrill of receiving 450,000 pounds as a result of the pandemic.

Sample 5. Google lottery scam

Sample 6. Mastercard lottery scam

Sample 7. Yahoo lottery scam

Sample 8. Microsoft lottery scam

How to avoid lottery fraud

“Have I entered an online lottery?” should be the first question you ask yourself when receiving an email claiming you’ve won any prize. Remember, you can’t win a cash prize in any lottery if you haven’t bought a ticket. Look for grammar mistakes and typos when reading the message – you’ll find some red flags.  The risk of infecting your devices with malware and info-stealing Trojans is also possible, so never access any documents or attachments.

Make sure not to contact the sender or provide your personal information. Scammers make money by stalling your so-called “prize money” and asking you to pay processing, insurance or bank fees. Additionally, most messages will encourage “winners” to not reveal their winnings to anyone, to maintain “security” of the funds. This step is meant to make sure you don’t start researching the lottery or contact any official organizations.