The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Prizes to be lost, not won

‘Congratulations. You tried your luck and won a prize. You will receive a cheque for $ 40,000. Guaranteed.’

The well-formatted communication from ‘WLC.News of the Netherlands’, indicating a lucky-draw windfall, should have gladdened the hearts of Sakti Ray and her family. But it didn’t, because of the catch — the prize had to be claimed “within 72 hours” and details of her credit card furnished in the entry form. Smelling a rat, she decided not to respond.

“I went on a Europe holiday in June this year with my husband and son. We bought Eurorail passes from Calcutta, but I don’t remember having taken part in any lottery there,” says the 48-year-old check-hostess with Indian Airlines. The letter from the Dutch agency reached the Rays’ Diamond Harbour Road residence 10 days ago.

It states: “The draw had already taken place and the results are confirmed. We are informing you that your personal number (EEJ189961) is a winning number. If you return the entry form, so that we can verify the winning first-prize number, you are guaranteed to receive a cash prize of $ 40,000.”

Saumitra Ray, husband of the IA employee and former CEO, Salt Lake Stadium, says he got suspicious after “friends in Delhi told us that organised rackets were working to dupe Indian tourists in Europe”, with the help of their credit card details. “We were scared this agency could be fake and might forge my wife’s signature to siphon funds out of her credit card account. I even checked with the Dutch embassy in Delhi and they didn’t have a clue about this agency.”

An official in the information department of the Dutch embassy told Metro: “We have been flooded by calls from all over India about similar lucky draws. The embassy has nothing to do with these and our hunch is that some of these agencies could be fraudulent.”

Such fictitious firms promoting fake lotteries have been active for some time now, picking people from an international mailing list. Recently, an Australian agency was in the news, informing a series of Calcuttans about ‘jackpot’ wins. The ‘rider’ was a ‘fixed’ deposit to avail of the bumper prize, which ran into thousands of dollars. Those who mailed the deposit amount never heard from the agency again.

“The problem is that these letters never carry any address, only a post box number, and you can’t trace the origin of the postal communication,” says MusicWorld regional manager Dipra Jha, who had received a similar “fake” jackpot intimation a few months ago.

Sakti Ray agrees: “I just hope others who receive similar communications are careful to check on the veracity of the agency before they respond. For there is no way one can nail them.”

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