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Category: Consumer Protection Law
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Experience:  Consumer protection attorney with significant experience in fraud prevention.
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I received 2 contest scratch tickets from a Malaysian Travel

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I received 2 contest scratch tickets from a Malaysian Travel Agency called Best Grace Travel. One revealed that I had one USD 180,000. I called to enquire and was told I had won. Then there were several lengthy calls to say that as I was not registered as a guest, I did not qualify but the agent assured me she would argue my case at a meeting, as the terms and conditions did not state that I had to be a member. This went on for several hours til I received a call to say tha in the interests of the company's public image, they had decided to award me the prize as it was the company's mistake provided I did not reveal that I had not been a member. I was then to call their finance agent Financial Markets Authority Hing Kond www.fma.hk.com to release the funds to me. They only asked for a bank branch, I was not asked to give any personal details apart from my driver's licence number to verify my identity. I was then told that the Hong Kong government required an upfront fee to take the issue to court for an authorisation to make a payment (apparently to prevent money laundering for amounts over USD 100,000). The finance company would pay half of the $7400 fee but I was to pay $3600 up front, which I was told would be reimbursed. I have not proceeded. I have asked for verification of the finance company. I was told that would be embarassing to Best Grace Travel to ask but that they would try. Is this a scam?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  LegalPro replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.

You were absolutely correct to decline sending any money so far. There are no prize winnings and this entire scenario has been fabricated for the sole purpose of inducing you to send your up front fee.

This is known as an advance fee lottery scam. They are incredibly common, though yours has the interesting twist being connected to a travel agency and them trying to tell you that you don't qualify for the award. That is a no more than a reverse psychology ploy.

These scammers are trying to distract you from the implausible reality that a small, unknown travel agency is for some unknown reason raffling off almost a quarter million dollars. It doesn't make sense when you think about it, and that's because there are no prize winnings and these people are simply trying to induce you to send an advanced payment.

See this warning from the Australian government regarding lottery scams: http://www.scamwatch.gov.au/content/index.phtml/tag/LotterySweepstakeScams

See also this warning from the United States Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt022.shtm

The botXXXXX XXXXXne is that Best Grace Travel has almost no web presence aside from pages that they created themselves. There is no reason why a company so small would by raffling off hundreds of thousands of dollars to strangers. There is virtually no publicity surrounding the raffles, so they aren't even gaining any advertising value.

On a side note, the website given for the Financial Markets Authority apparently now links to an electronics site and is defunct.

This is clearly a scam. If you pay the advanced fee, you will never see that money again let alone the prize money you have been promised.

You can report this matter to the Australian Federal Police here: http://www.afp.gov.au/contact/report-a-crime.aspx

You can also make a report to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission here: http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/3634

I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX this information helps you and I wish you the best.

My absolute greatest concern is that you are satisfied with the answer I provide, so please do not hesitate to contact me with follow-up questions. Also, please bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.
LegalPro, Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 7649
Experience: Consumer protection attorney with significant experience in fraud prevention.
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