A Malaysian lottery scam promises to make everyone a winner.

It sounded too good to be true and it was. Consumer member John Baldwin received a glossy brochure and two scratch-and-win cards in the mail from Absolute Traveling. One card revealed he’d won second place in the company’s anniversary lottery, earning him a cool US$160,000. All he had to do was contact the company to claim his prize.

John isn’t the only person who’s recently “won big” in a travel company lottery. Our advisory service regularly gets calls from members who’ve had mail from companies variously called Absolute Traveling, Tunes To Travel, Woods Tourism or some other travel-inspired name.

Our adviser Maggie Edwards says the names of the purported companies may differ but the brochures and scratch cards are almost identical: “The scratch cards routinely reveal the recipient has won a significant cash prize and should contact the company by phone or email to claim it.” All give a Malaysian address.

“At first glance, the brochures look professional and may entice some people to respond. That’s what the sender is banking on. But this has all the hallmarks of a scam and the best thing you can do is put the material in the bin,” Maggie says. John did exactly that.

Prize scams are extremely popular with fraudsters. You’re promised some fabulous prize that you’re guaranteed to have won. All you have to do to claim the prize is pay a small fee which you never see again. You don't get the prize, either.

This scratch-and-win con doesn’t reveal the fee upfront. It relies on people contacting the scammers and being snared at that point. You’re likely to be told you have to pay taxes or some other charge before you can claim your award. The amount may be several thousand dollars.

Don’t fall for it: No legitimate lottery gives out winnings to people who never bought a ticket or demands a hefty fee before you get your prize. The best protection against scams like this is simply not to respond.

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