My guess is no; but I’d kick myself if one of them ever was real and I refused to reply. Reassure me, Dopers.
No. I get about a dozen of these messages a week - they’re advance fee scams (they string you along until you’re hooked, then ask you to pay tax or transfer fees on the prize money, and you never hear from them again.
Generally speaking, you just don’t win competitions that you never entered, especially when the prize is significant.
You mean I didn’t win the UK lottery? Damn.
Actually, having demonstrated your sucker-hood, you’re probably extremely likely to hear from them again, or similar con artists, who will give you increasingly grandiose promises for… just… one… more… fee…
Simple question . . .
If potential winners of a lottery never paid to enter, where did the payout come from?
Lotteries are like a funnel. They collect from a large pool and scale the money down to a narrow recipient. However, that also means that nothing in means nothing out.
Ever hear of Publisher’s Clearning House? You don’t have to pay to enter those; they are legitimate and do pay out. Of course, that’s a sweepstakes, not a lottery, but all it means is that someone is willing to put up the money. In the case of PCH, they make money selling subscriptions to magazines (though you are not required to buy anything, many people incorrectly belive that if they purchase a subscription, their chances are better).
So, other than using “lottery” for “sweepstakes,” the model could work legitimately.
There are too many other problems that need to be dealt with, as well. What if the recipient is not of a legal age? How do you verify that the owner of the email address is really the owner (i.e., you aren’t required to present ID when you create an email address)?
It’d be too much of a headache to bother with.
On the internet this is easy, advertising. If I have a site that requires you to watch a 30 sec commercial to enter I could probably easily have dozens of sponsors paying me $0.25 a pop or so. Do that X 1,000,000 entries a week, hand out 5-6 assorted prizes ($100K, $50K, and 4x $10K, and 10x $1K) and somehow operate on $50K a week. By making the process involve 4-5 page views you can easily generate serious ad revenues. Better yet, force an adult check signup like many porn providers do.
With a little creative scripting you could even have the totals scrolling up live as ad clickthroughs post to the ad accounts.