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Premium-rate prize draw scams

This advice applies to Scotland

Scams are schemes to con you out of your money. They can arrive by phone call, text message or email when you are not expecting them.

This page warns you about common scams which trick you into calling expensive premium-rate numbers. It includes advice on what you can do to protect yourself and what to do if you think you've been a victim of a scam.

The premium-rate prize draw scam

You get an email, phone call or text message that promises you an exciting prize or reward. To claim it, you have to phone a premium-rate number, beginning 070, 084, 087, 090, 091 or 098. However, the automated message you hear when you call the number tricks you into staying on the line for a long time.

The longer you stay on the line, the more money the scammers make from you. Your prize or reward may never turn up or it will turn out to be an item worth less than the cost of your call.

There are many variations on this scam. A message may say you've missed an important delivery, and ask you to call a number to rearrange it. Others entice you with holiday or credit card promotions. All of them require you to call an expensive premium-rate number. You could even be directed to a second premium-rate number for more information, to claim a prize, or order a product.

While many genuine companies use premium-rate telephone numbers, they make it clear in their advertising, paperwork or during the call how much the call costs per minute. They may also provide alternative methods of contacting them.

How to protect yourself

  • don't dial premium-rate numbers beginning 070, 084, 087, 090, 091 or 098 unless you know how much you'll be charged and you're sure you're willing to pay for it
  • beware if after dialling one of these numbers, a message tells you to dial a second number
  • if you become suspicious about the call, hang up immediately
  • consider asking your phone company to bar outgoing calls from your phone to premium rate services and/or international rate numbers, especially if others use your phone. Some companies charge for this call-barring service
  • do some research into the organisation if you've never heard of them. However, some premium rate scams may be organised from outside the UK and can be difficult to trace
  • always read the small print of any promotion so you know any hidden catches and costs and exactly what you are likely to get
  • to unsubscribe from a SMS/TEXT premium rate, text the word STOP to their shortcode number. If you're receiving more than two services from the same shortcode, you should text STOP ALL
  • protect your phone number in the same way as you would your PIN number. Only give it out if you're absolutely sure that it's needed and the information is secure.

Some common premium rate scams

You've won a top prize

You receive a letter, text or phone message telling you that you have won a major prize such as cash, a car, a luxury holiday, or a mystery prize worth at least £1,000. You are told to urgently ring an 070, 084, 087, 090, 091 or 098 number to find out what you have won.

Often there isn't really a prize, or the prize you receive turns out to be a near-worthless book of discount vouchers, or a holiday voucher with stringent restrictions. You'll often have to pay more money to use the 'prize' on top of the cost of the phone call.

There's a parcel for you

You receive an authentic-looking delivery card asking you to call a premium-rate number to rearrange delivery of a parcel waiting for you. You may think you have ordered something or have been sent something by someone you know. What you actually receive is likely to be worth less than the cost of the call.

Your dial-up internet connection dials a premium-rate number

A rogue premium-rate internet dialler is secretly installed on your computer - usually when you open a spam email or visit a website where the software is hidden. It transfers your dial-up internet connection from a low-cost or freephone number to an expensive 070, 084, 087, 090, 091 or 098 premium-rate number.

If you’re a victim of a premium rate scam

Report suspicious calls to PhonepayPlus, the premium-rate telephone services regulator. It can investigate complaints, has the power to fine UK-based companies and stop them offering premium-rate numbers.

Next steps

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