Foreign Lottery Scams

November 25, 2013

Raining Money

Pursuant to sections 206 and 207 of the Criminal Code, foreign lotteries are illegal in Canada. Anyone who makes, prints, advertises, publishes or participates in a foreign lottery is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

It is illegal to participate in foreign lotteries even if the offer to purchase tickets is from Canada.

That is, if the offer to participate in, for example, an Australian lottery, comes from somewhere in Canada, and you send off your money to a Canadian address in order to buy the tickets, then this activity would be illegal and you can be charged under the Criminal Code. If the offer comes directly from the foreign lottery country, then it is questionable whether or not the participants would be charged. The law is unclear about this situation, as it is difficult to determine where exactly the deal takes place.

Not only does participation in a foreign lottery carry the risk of criminal charges, it is also certain to separate you from your money, with no chance of ever seeing a financial return.

There are a number of twists on the Foreign Lottery scam, including:

  • Fee for Prize Recovery scam - The unsuspecting consumer receives a letter informing them that they have won a prize in a foreign lottery. The letter states that a firm has been hired by the lottery to distribute the unclaimed winnings. The consumer is told that to claim the prize, they must pay an administration fee to the firm, usually about 25 dollars. Consumers who respond are placed on mailing lists for other scams and never receive their prize.
  • Phony Collection Letter - Another scheme is where consumers, who had responded to a foreign lottery offer, receive a demand letter from a phony collection agency, for payment of lottery ticket purchases. These letters threaten legal action if payment is not received immediately. In most cases, the lottery debts were not incurred. The elderly are particularly victimized by this scam.

Foreign lottery solicitations do not come from foreign government agencies or legitimate lottery licensees. Instead, they come from companies that seek fees from those wishing to play. The activities of these companies are neither controlled nor monitored by the government of the country in which they are located.

Be aware of the risks of sending money to foreign countries. Our Canadian laws will not protect you if you are defrauded by somebody in another country, just as that country's laws do not apply to you as a Canadian.

For information on related topics, refer to our reports on Prize Schemes and Recovery Pitches.