A WOMAN has lost almost £50,000 in a World Cup-themed lotto scam.

The 51-year-old mum repeatedly handed over thousands of pounds to the conmen, having been duped into thinking she had won £1.5m.

Detectives are investigating the fraud and today issued a warning to people not to fall for scams that appear too good to be true.

The hoax began when the woman, who lives in Southampton, received a letter in the post claiming to be from the Euromillions Fifa World Cup Super Lottery.

The organisation claimed to operate from South Africa ‘World Cup’ House in London – an address which is actually the South African High Commission.

It said that they were “delighted” to inform the woman that she had won £800,000 in a draw a few weeks earlier and they wanted to make contact to process the winnings to her account.

The woman had never entered any lottery – but was told she had automatically been entered because she shopped at well known high street supermarkets.

But over the course of a couple of weeks, after handing over her bank account details where her winnings could be placed, she was plagued with phone calls and ended up handing over £47,320 before finally realising she had been scammed.

Police told how the woman: ■ Initially handed over £320 as a processing fee.

■ Was then told she’d actually won almost double - £1.5m.

■ Parted with £1,000 because the admin fees to transfer her money had gone up.

■ On the same day paid a further £2,000 because of “problems”.

■ Received a laminated certificate in the post declaring her a winner.

■ Twice handed over lump sums of £1,640 to help retrieve her winnings.

■ Paid a further £3,500 for “clearing” and then another £3,900 after a phone call asking her for more.

■ Then paid in £13,500 after being told there was problems transferring money from abroad.

■ Was told the money would be in her account the following day but was asked for a final payment of £10,000 which she made.

■ Was asked to pay a “release fee” of £9,820 to access her winnings.

It was only when the cash never appeared in her account and she was again asked to hand over more money – this time £14,000 – that the woman became suspicious.

She called police, who then launched an investigation, and closed her bank account.

Detective constable Howard Broadribb, from Bitterne CID, said: “This is a very significant amount of money which the victim has parted with, believing she had won the lottery.

These people can be very convincing, using headed note paper that appears to be genuine.

“It is clearly a scam and people need to be vigilant and not be fooled. If you think something is too good to be true then it more than likely is.

“If anyone thinks they have been subjected to something similar then they need to contact police.”

Southampton’s trading standards department have been informed and are investigating the matter.

Anyone who thinks they may have been duped should contact police on 101.

How to avoid falling victim to scams:

■ You can’t win a legitimate lotto unless you have entered yourself.

■ You must purchase a ticket to enter any lottery.

■ No legitimate lottery will contact the winner – you have to make contact with them.

■ You never have to pay to collect your winnings – only tax after you have received them.

■ Always beware that scam organisers will often use the name of a legitimate lotto organisation.

■ If you want to check the legitimacy of an organisation visit consumerfraudreporting.org/lotteryscamnames.