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Lottery scam hits Indian community in UK

The Indian community is often targeted by ‘babas’ and ‘tantriks’ promising luck, lucre and love in return for cash, but the latest ploy has surprised many, prompting the police to launch a poster campaign.

world Updated: Jul 02, 2017 21:52 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Leicester police has printed posters in Gujarati, Gurmukhi and English, alerting the public to what is called ‘high-value fraud’.
Leicester police has printed posters in Gujarati, Gurmukhi and English, alerting the public to what is called ‘high-value fraud’.(Image courtesy: Leicestershire Police)

A woman approaches you, says she has won millions of pounds in lottery but cannot claim it because she is an illegal immigrant without identity papers, will give you the winning ticket if you pay £50,000. Would you part with the cash? Many did, as the police in Leicester say.

The town in the East Midlands has a large population of Indians, mainly of Gujarati origin. The community is often targeted by ‘babas’ and ‘tantriks’ promising luck, lucre and love in return for cash, but the latest ploy has surprised many, prompting the police to launch a poster campaign.

Posters in Gujarati, Gurmukhi and English have been printed and distributed across the town, alerting the public to what is called ‘high-value fraud’. So far, victims have parted with nearly £200,000 for ‘winning’ lottery tickets that proved worthless.

“Since April last year, we have had more than 25 reports of victims being approached in the street by individuals claiming they had won the lottery and because they were illegal immigrants, without a passport or valid identification, they were unable to claim the winnings,” the Leicestershire police said.

“The victims would then be asked for money in return for the winning lottery ticket…In the majority of incidents elderly Asian people, whose first language may not be English, have been targeted”.

The police say suspects are men and women. The most recent incident took place on May 18, when the victim was approached by two men claiming to have won the lottery but since they did not have valid identification they were not able to claim the money.

The suspects drove the victim to his house and then on to a bank, where he withdrew a substantial amount of cash. The cash was handed over to the suspects, who also used the victim’s mobile phone during the incident and never returned it.

“The suspects were both Asian. One of them was wearing a hat and carrying a metal walking stick. He spoke English but not fluently, with an Asian accent…The second suspect claimed he was a doctor, and wore a long dark coat, dark trousers and had an ID card and stethoscope around his neck,” the police said. 

Catherine Thompson of Leicestershire police said despite previous appeals and warnings about such scams, people were still falling victim: “Our enquiries have identified that the vast majority of victims are elderly people, who may not speak or read English.”

“As a result, we will be distributing leaflets and posters, which have been translated into Punjabi and Gujarati, in the hope that the warning will reach those who could be approached in similar circumstances.

“If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Large amounts of money have been handed over to complete strangers and we need to stop these offenders,” she added.