As much as gambling, especially online, is a hugely enjoyable and widely enjoyed hobby by many, with high stakes, high rewards, excitement aplenty and an unparalleled rush, it is undeniable that it can be dangerous. Gambling has become somewhat associated with addiction in the public eye. Unrestrained and wanton gambling is a real danger to people’s finances and health. In this age of contactless payments, seamless online transactions and credit cards, it is easier than ever to get lost in ‘just one more game’ when it is so easy to make that next game.

The point here is not just to gamble safely but to gamble intelligently. Part of gambling’s skill is in being safe and not taking more risks than you know you can handle. Gambling is a healthy and intelligent hobby provided you are careful. And below is some advice on how to stay safe gambling online, and the kinds of measures and services that are out there if you are struggling.

Lottery Scams

A further issue with gambling safely online is less with regard to your safety in using your finances yourself, but also in using your finances with unsafe sites and games.

Deposit Limits

Many gambling sites allow you to set a limit on the maximum you can deposit in your online accounts for use in web gambling and web lottery. For your own safety and self-control it is recommended that you do this, as it is easy for even the most mentally stable and controlled gambler to suddenly get lost in the game and forget how much they are depositing. These deposit limits often limit how much you can have at a time every 24 hours, weekly, biweekly or monthly. It is most certainly a good idea to use them. To this same end, many sites and also machines in gambling venues and casinos will remind you how much you are spending at various milestones, typically every $100 or $250.

Timeout

For your security online, many games will time out after a period of inactivity online to prevent other unwanted users using your account. However, another sort of ‘timeout’ that many sites implement is the ability for you to temporarily freeze your account for a period of a day, a week or a month to stop yourself from going overboard. These functionalities will have no impact on your earnings or expenses, or good standing with the company, they are merely for your own safety and wellbeing. If you feel yourself, or a family member, struggling with addiction, these services are perfect for giving a cooling off period, before moving on to heavier measures as follows.

Self Exclusion

By self-exclusion this could mean that you deliberately take yourself away from the tables, both physically and online, and avoid gambling while your mental state and your finances recover. However, many casinos, lottery services and gambling sites and venues allow you to put a longer term ‘time out’ from their services. You can ask to be excluded for terms ranging from 6 months to 5 years in many cases, in which you enter an agreement not to use their services and they are given license to do everything in their power to stop you from using their services. Furthermore, if the problem reaches greater levels, you might want to consider using sites such as GAMSTOP (gamstop.co.uk) which enables you to activate a self-exclusion for yourself from every online gambling company licensed in Great Britain, for free.

Signs that you may have a gambling problem:

  • You may find that gambling is always on your mind and you talk about it to the exclusion of almost everything else.
  • You make bets and gamble with money you don’t have
  • You argue with friends and family about your gambling
  • You no longer care about your other hobbies or social activities.
  • You lie about your gambling
  • You use gambling to escape financial trouble
  • You borrow money, avoid paying bills, or sell possessions to fund your gambling
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety or irritation

If you find yourself beginning to feel these kinds of emotions or exhibit this behaviour, it might be high time for you to take a break from gambling and seek some recuperative activity.

Web Lottery Scams

Web lottery scams consist of fraudulent attempts to extract money from a user by posing as a legitimate web lottery service or winning player, and asking for financial details through the net Web Lottery scams are hugely prevalent on websites that are third-party, not secure and especially on those that provide unlicensed content. Web lottery scams often occur in pop-up windows or sidebar ads on these sorts of sites, but often email addresses and contact details are phished from your computer during browsing and farmed out to these companies.

Web Lottery scams are often very convincing, with bright flashing and well designed animations and ads same as any other web lottery. What makes it even harder to tell is how they appear to tell you that you have ‘won’. They could send emails, messages, even ring your phone with a very professional sounding employee. They might send letters to your home address, or messages on your Facebook, informing you that you have ‘won’ and should give them details. Here is what to look out for:

Do you recall entering the lottery they describe, on the date they describe. Especially for enthusiastic regular gamblers, this can often be difficult to ascertain. The best way to avoid being scammed is to keep an accurate and up to date record of all the lotteries you enter.

Are they pressuring you to respond in a very short time frame? Lotteries have expiry dates, this is true, but most of the time it would be a period of months or even a year after the draw. A terms and conditions page would also normally be provided.

Are they asking you to keep the prize confidential? This is merely a ploy to keep the fraud secret long enough until they can safely cut ties and handle the money before they are caught by the police or indeed a company they may be impersonating.

Do they know your name? Professional companies more often than not, especially if you registered with them, would use mail merge systems and templates to make your name appear at the top of the award email. If it is something generic such as ‘Dear Winner’ or ‘Dear Lucky Customer’ then this is a pretty clear signpost that it is a scam.

Is the referenced prize realistic? Do the prize size, currency and lottery name sound like something you would have entered and do they correlate to your home country?

Are you being asked for payment? A legitimate lottery win would never ask for a handling fee.

If you do encounter a scam such as those described above, it is best that you steer clear from these communications at least until multiple emails are sent. Oftentimes a genuine site will message a winner multiple times to remind them of their prize needing to be claimed whereas a scam site generally only messages once or twice. Steer clear of these emails, or better still, report the scam to a relevant body.