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Couple in Lottery Con
26 Dec 2006

A Hungarian couple who flew to London thinking they had hit the jackpot almost lost their life savings in a lottery scam.

Balazs Lukacs, 25, and his girlfriend Tenia, 30, had flown to London to collect the promised prize of 292,717 in the bogus UK National Lottery Sweepstake.

But they were told by the gang of con artists they first had to hand over 9,000 in stamp duty, tax and other fees.

The plot was only foiled when Mr Lukacs contacted police after becoming suspicious of the crooks' demands for cash-only payment.

Speaking exclusively to the Ealing Times, he said: "At first I was very happy. I could not imagine that amount of money. I replied to the email telling me I had won and after a few more emails it seemed real and I started to organise my trip."

Mr Lukacs, a former security guard at Heathrow airport, was told to hand over a signed Lloyds Bank transfer form with full account details and copies of his passport and international driver's licence.

They also said they would take him to a hotel where he could sign the paperwork and hand over the money.

He said: "I had checked on the national lottery website and the six numbers they said I had were the same but they wanted money in advance and only cash, which was strange to me."

Mr Lukacs had entered an online lottery in Hungary and been convinced by official-looking emails, documents and contact numbers.

The couple, who were staying in Acton, sought advice from police before their planned meeting with the fake lottery reps at Heathrow airport.

Mr Lukacs said: "I had spoken to them on the phone but before I was going to meet these guys I checked with the lottery again and they said they never send emails with the exact winning prize. I was very disappointed."

Trading standards consumer legal advisor Ranjan Parmar, who met with the couple, said: "This was an extremely intricate and complex scam and Mr Lukacs had significant supporting paperwork from the bogus lottery organisation.

"I advised them not to part with their money and alert their bank immediately. They were disappointed but very grateful for saving them from losing so much money."

The trip ended up costing 500 but Mr Lukacs added: "It could have been a lot worse. If I had lost 9,000 it would really have hit my family hard, especially before Christmas."

In October a West Ealing resident almost fell victim to a Spanish lottery scam. He had received a bogus letter from Loteria Primitiva, announcing he had won 415,810 euros and requesting personal details.

In both cases, the crooks asked the win be kept "confidential for security reasons".

Cllr Will Brooks, responsible for trading standards, said: "The genuine UK National Lottery would never ask winners to pay a handling fee to collect their prize, and they would never ask them to disclose personal information.

We are urging residents to be wary, seek advice, and remember that if something appears too good to be true, it usually is."

Associated Link: http://www.ealingtimes.co.uk/news/localnews/display.var.1089249.0.couple_in_lottery_con.php
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