Moving aside from my continuing saga for a moment, today I received a letter from El Gordo - the Spanish Sweepstake - informing me that I have won 615,810 Euros (about £410,000) in their lottery. My first instinct, after I had overcome the initial shock, was to book a last minute holiday to the Bahamas - possibly a one-way ticket even. Then I calmed down a bit and decided a nonchalant stroll to the nearest estate agent to find out what houses they had in that price range might be more sensible. After all, that would give my daughter and me independent means to escape to a quieter environment than the one we currently find ourselves in. I was just about to do a list of minimum requirements needed for my soon-to-be new house, not to mention a list of flashy cars I might buy to replace my geriatric banger,
when the penny dropped. I googled El Gordo on my computer and came up with a genuine website for the Spanish sweepstake, but when I googled El Gordo Spanish Sweepstake SA - the heading on the letter - I came up with dozens of sites about a Nigerian scam using all sorts of names to inveigle money out of people.
Of course the letter I had received had all sorts of tell-tale spelling mistakes and strange English phrases which made it stand out a bit from the usual official letter you get, saying you have won something (not that I have had experience of receiving one before, mind you). According to the websites I researched, other people had obviously received exactly the same letter, some going back over three or four years, with exactly the same dodgy wording and all. One thing that made it have SCAM written invisibly across it was the fact that attached was a nicely laid out form asking for details of your name and address etc (why? - they had already sent a letter to my name at my address!!), my bank account details (aaah, now we are getting to it) and my next of kin (what???? - would the shock of me finding out a few months down the road that my bank account had been rifled give me a fatal heart attack?) One part of the letter advised "we ask you to keep this award top secret from public notice until your claim has been processed and your money remitted to your account as this is part of our security protocol". ( I bet it is... that would roughly translate into "don't breathe a word to the police until we have details of your bank account and have cleared the contents of it into ours, by which time it will be too late for anybody to do anything about it".)
I have sent off an email to BBC Watchdog about it and have got out the chocolate biscuits. I am in serious need of comfort. After all I have just lost £410,000.