• Preventing lottery fraud.


    As of the time of the publication of this article, the winner of the EuroMillions draw number 348 of Friday 8th October has yet to come forward to claim their prize of £113,019,926. This may be for several benign reasons, such as not having “checked their numbers” as they away on holiday or some other reason. It is of course very early days and in all probability the real winner will soon come forward.

    The British Gazette however is aware of a potentially serious flaw that MIGHT exist in the Camelot system. British Gazette readers may themselves have noticed – as has the editor of this organ – when standing in a queue at such as a petrol station, the occasional customer ahead of them hand a lottery ticket to the sales assistant with the request to “check the numbers.” At this point the sales assistant will feed the ticket into the lottery terminal which, if the amount won is £500 or under will show the amount won and the assistant will then be in a position to pay the winner the sum (under £500) from till. If the retailer is not able to pay the prize money upon presentation – and the ticket has not been validated (scanned through the terminal) – the winner can return to the same retailer when funds are available, go to another retailer, or go to a National Lottery Post Office. If the ticket has been validated, they must return to the same retailer when funds are available.

    In the circumstances of a large win of £501 up to £50,000 the winner would be advised to contact a Post Office to obtain a form and make a written claim. Above £50,001 (not just the jackpot) the terminal will show the message: “Contact Camelot.” Whereupon the sales assistant will advise the winner to do so.

    It is at this point there is a potential for a dishonest employee to commit theft. British Gazette readers may be aware that there have been numerous instances of credit and debit card “cloning” by dishonest employees at such retail outlets as petrol stations. In fact, according to some reports, there is a greater likelihood of people having their card details unlawfully copied at petrol stations that in other retail establishments. It also a fact that many petrol stations are lottery retailers. Here there is an obvious potential danger of theft.

    Let us suppose that the winner of the £113 million purchased their winning ticket at a petrol station. Let us also suppose that the winner handed their winning ticket to a dishonest sales assistant to have the numbers checked. Upon checking the numbers at the terminal, the dishonest sales assistant looked at the ticket before putting it into the terminal, ascertained that the numbers had been selected as a “Lucky Dip” (and therefore not numbers that the winner will have used regularly and would remember), did not advise the winner to contact Camelot (as the lottery terminal message stated) but instead said something along the lines of, “Nothing.” At this point, the dishonest sales assistant would only know for certain that the winning ticket was for an amount in excess of £50,000. Let us say the dishonest sales assistant placed the winning ticket in the bin – to avoid immediate suspicion from other colleagues – and then retrieved the ticket along with others later, when “the coast was clear.”

    Were the dishonest sales assistant to discover that the winner had not purchased the ticket from their place of work – the retailer ID number being different – the dishonest sales assistant would presumably start visiting – as a member of the public – other lottery retailers in the area to purchase lottery tickets in the hope that they would obtain a ticket with the same retailer ID. Presumably they would start off with retailers nearest their own employer and work out from there. It would very probably be the case that having discovered they were in possession of a £113 million ticket they would quit their job and embark on a full time search to find the particular lottery retailer. Let us suppose the dishonest sales assistant eventually finds the retailer – before the 180 day deadline (winners have to make a claim within 180 days of the draw date, as failure to do this results in the win going to “the good causes”).

    Let us then suppose that following the discovery of the identity and location of the retailer who sold the winning ticket this dishonest sales assistant approached a similarly dishonest friend (birds of a feather do tend to flock together) and the two conspired to obtain the winnings – which a check on the internet would reveal to be £113 million.

    Their plan would likely be to wait for a period of greater than 31 days (the period of time that retailers store the CCTV recordings before wiping the hard disk of the images) if the ticket had been purchased at the dishonest sale assistant’s place or work or that the identity and location of the retailer had been discovered within 31 days and for the accomplice to come forward as the winner, stating that the ticket had got lost behind a sofa or some such lie to explain the delay. This accomplice would of course know or will have subsequently found out where the ticket was bought. The pair would not however know the date and time the ticket was bought. To avoid being rumbled it is therefore likely that they would wait to nearly the 180 day deadline before coming forward so that the accomplice’s statement, “I don’t know the date and time I bought the ticket, only the shop…” would ring true.

    There is a very good chance that such a pair of thieves could get away with this. However there are measures that Camelot could and should take to prevent such a theft from being successful.

    Firstly some facts: When a lottery ticket is purchased from a retailer the date and time the ticket was issued is recorded. When a winning ticket is scanned in a lottery terminal and the lottery terminal detects this, the date and time (and of course, location) are recorded. This is why the thieves would wait for at least thirty one days. This is because were the video data to be checked it would show the image of the true winner purchasing their ticket and subsequently requesting for the ticket to have the numbers checked by the dishonest sales assistant. The thieves would want to be sure that this data will have been discarded before making their fraudulent claim.

    The solution to guard against such an eventuality is therefore obvious: Camelot ALREADY know where and when the £113 million winning ticket was purchased. They should contact the retailer within 31 days (preferably ASAP) to request that retailer NOT TO delete the video data for that day. To preserve any confidentiality they could do this through the local police, as police regularly make such requests. Should the winner then subsequently visit a retailer to have their numbers checked, this too could be the subject of a request to retain the video data as evidence. Therefore, should a thief come forward to unlawfully claim the winnings they (and their accomplice) can be dealt with by the authorities.

    Camelot have been advised of these suggestions.

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