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Scams and frauds

Unfortunately criminals pretending to be legitimate gambling businesses may try to steal your identity or take your money. Be aware of the potential for scams and frauds and check the business you are gambling with is licensed.

Claims that you have won a prize in a lottery you did not enter

Do not send any money or personal details to anyone who says that you have won a prize or anything else in a lottery or sweepstake that you have not entered. Such claims may well be fraudulent. 

You may be asked to pay a fee before the prize money is released: never respond to requests for advance payment. If you have parted with money you may wish to contact your bank and the police immediately. 

Some fraudsters set out to steal identities. Do not release personal information such as your passport number, home address, telephone number or banking details to unknown organisations. 

Such emails may seem professional at first glance, but look closely and you may find that text is inconsistent, there are spelling errors and the contacts page will contain mobile phone numbers. 

If you encounter a lottery or sweepstake scam you can report the scam to Action Fraud. However, the majority of these types of fraud operate from outside the United Kingdom and therefore police powers are very limited. You can read more about lottery scams on the Action Fraud website

We do not send notifications to individuals regarding lottery or competition wins. If you receive such correspondence, it is a scam and you should not respond to it. Please send a copy of any emails to us at: info@gamblingcommission.gov.uk. You may also wish to inform the National Fraud Authority and the Competition & Markets Authority.

Binary options

Binary options are a form of bet where you try to predict the outcome of events in financial markets. For example, whether a company's share price will rise or fall over a defined period (sometimes as short as 60 seconds). The use of the word 'binary' refers to the fact that there can only be two outcomes to the bet. If you predict correctly, you win the bet; if not, you lose. 

From 3 January 2018 UK firms offering binary options must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Therefore:

  • these firms will be authorised and supervised by the FCA
  • binary options will be subject to the regulatory regime for investment products
  • individual complaints can be referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service
  • eligible consumers will have access to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

However, those protections will not compensate you for any losses from trading. You should still be careful and consider whether the products are right for you.

If you have any doubts about whether an operator is authorised, do not use them, it is likely they are acting illegally. They will not abide by any code of conduct and have no incentive to deal fairly with you. Unauthorised operators are likely to use false names, addresses and contact numbers – they can disappear with your money and without a trace, making recovery impossible. 

Online scratchcards

If you play online scratchcards, please be aware of a money-making scheme that could result in them promoting an illegal lottery. We have been alerted to plans for a system which involved customers paying a monthly fee in return for digital scratchcards. 

Customers are also told they will receive more scratchcards in return for encouraging others to take part - but by doing this the player may commit the offence of promoting an illegal lottery. Anyone wanting to promote a lottery in Britain must either have a gambling licence from us or be registered with their local licensing authority.  

You can check if an organisation has a gambling licence by using our licence register. If ticket sales are less than £20,000 for a single lottery, or £250,000 from aggregated lotteries, in a calendar year, then the organiser should instead be registered with their local licensing authority. You can ask the lottery organiser which local licensing authority they are registered with.