Spanish police bust Nigerian lottery scam

Madrid (Reuters) – Spanish police have arrested 87 Nigerians they say are linked to a scam which embezzled millions of dollars out of Americans and Europeans by sending letters saying the recipients had won the lottery.

The fraudsters sent around 15,000 letters every day telling people they had won up to 3 million euros (USD 4.8 million) in the Spanish lottery, but asking winners to pay official costs to release their prize, police said on Thursday.

In this way they swindled 20 million euros out of 1,200 people at an average payout of 18,000 euros per victim.

„As they sent an average of 15,000 letters every day, only 20 or 30 people had to fall into the trap for their earnings to be very high,“ a source close to the case told El Pais newspaper.

Police estimate the total amount of money swindled by the ring could be as much as 170 million euros, as the majority of victims were too embarrassed to admit they had been taken in. Similar scams are run via emails. (Reporting by Sonya Dowsett, edited by Richard Meares)