Unfortunately, there are many criminals out there who masquerade as legitimate gambling firms with the intention of stealing your money.
There are some tell-tale signs that can warn you if a site might be dodgy, so it is worth checking these before you provide a site with any personal details or money. Here we will look at some of the more prevalent scams out there, including Ponzi-type betting scams, pyramid schemes, fixed match betting scams, crypto scams, software scams and finally some betting coups where the bookmakers are the losers.
Ponzi Betting Scams
Ponzi betting scams are all too common, but once caught, justice tends to be swift and severe. Ponzi scams are named after the supposed originator, Charles Ponzi, or to give him his full name Carlo Pietro Giovanni Guglielmo Tebaldo Ponzi. Such scams rely on paying old investors using funds deposited by new investors. Usually impossibly high returns are offered, encouraging ever-increasing numbers of new investors.
Ponzi betting scams frequently involve betting syndicates. Peter Plimley’s scam is typical of most of them. In 2017 he convinced his victims that he had an almost foolproof scheme for betting on money markets. Although he was losing massive amounts, he was paying investors with money from new clients. In total he embezzled nearly £230,000 including the life savings of several friends and family members.
In a similar scheme, in 2014 Nicholas Peter Ford set up a spread betting syndicate and proceeded to take £1.3 million from investors but paying out just £240,000. As is typical with such scams, some investors trusted him with their life savings only to end up with nothing in return. He was sentenced to five years and four months in prison.
Ipswich-based gambler Darren Hudson-Wood was convicted of 13 counts of fraud in 2017 after running a “gambling pots” scheme whereby people would put in money and he would bet for them, telling them profits were “guaranteed.” However, after losing a large portion of their funds, Hudson-Wood failed to reveal to customers his losing bets but instead pretended he had been winning. In the end he was declared bankrupt in 2014 whilst owing his customers £30,000. He was given a 22-month suspended jail sentence after admitting the 13 charges of fraud made against him.
More recently, in 2019, 5,000 members of the Layezy Racing betting syndicate discovered they were victims of a Ponzi scheme. The syndicate was run by Mike Stanley, a retired police officer. Some victims began to suspect a Ponzi scheme, and Sports Mail launched an investigation. In response to this, Stanley immediately filed for bankruptcy, leaving a debt estimated by administrators to be as much as £70 million. Apparently, Stanley hadn’t placed a bet in years and lived entirely on the income provided by his investors, some of whom lost their life savings.
Fixed Match Scams
While there is plenty of evidence that there are fixed matches, a common scam often circulated via social media is an offer of information on fixed matches that you can purchase for a small investment, typically £100 to £200. The aim is to get you to pay for useless or non-existent information. Perhaps surprisingly, many people are taken in by this, handing the scammers significant amounts of money.
While a proportion of those punters will lose their bet, at least a third will win and believe that they were given accurate information. These will be contacted again, with another offer usually costing more money than the first.
In one variant of the scam, the scammers will only request the fee after the bet has been won. This lulls a proportion of their victims into false security. Those for whom the bet work will be instantly hooked and pay for the next prediction.
Always ignore such fixed match offers. Take it from us they are all scams. Naturally, there are fixed matches, but nobody is going to tell you about them even for a few hundred pounds.
One-Page Betting Sites
This is something we see quite often and is an easy trap for many punters to fall into. A glossy one-page website will go up advertising a new tipster or betting system. The page will make all sorts of outrageous claims about how much money the system has made, often with pictures of betting slips showing wins of tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds.
There will probably be stories on the page of how an “ordinary guy” was stuck in some job they didn’t like earning very little money until they discovered a “secret system” that made them loads of money and they are now living the life they always dreamed of. Alternatively the story will be about a “computer genius” who has created some super-smart software that automatically finds winners and makes them thousands of pounds profit a day. Normally there are no results published on the website or any kind of clue as to who the people behind the system are.
The reality of these sites of course is that they are all nonsense and completely made up. It is all just clever marketing aimed at dragging people in, preying on their gullibility and hopes that something like this may actually exist.
Let’s face it though, if a system could make £100,000+ plus per year, why would someone sell it for £30 (which is often the cost of the services advertised on these sites)? They would obviously just keep it to themselves and continue making money from it.
Invariably these one-page sales sites disappear after a month or two, to be followed by another similar-looking site under a different name popping up not long after. Digging into them a little you will find many of them based out of Asia under shell companies and the like.
So we would always advise people to look for full results published on a betting website, preferably that have been independently verified at a review site like this. Be very suspicious of a one-page betting site making outrageous claims of the amazing results it has achieved with supposed “proof” of betting slips – these can be easily faked.
As with all these things, the maxim “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” should always be used.
Dodgy Twitter and Facebook Tipsters
With social media becoming such a focal point of many people’s lives these days, it is perhaps not surprising that many tipsters and traders are now found on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Sadly however, the truth is that the vast majority of these services are either outright scams or of dubious quality. They will often post screenshots of their Betfair P/L account or their bookies betslips – all showing massive wins of course and never any losses. These are usually accompanied by lots of expressive “booms!” and emojis and supposed happy followers. The screenshots and followers can easily be faked though and even if they are not, they could have lost as much, if not more, the day before and not shown you. Or they could have two accounts, placing alternative bets meaning at least one will show a profit.
There are many ways they can manipulate things but ultimately if they don’t how a full betting record that has been independently verified, you should treat the service with extreme skepticism. You should always ask to see a full history of their results, not just the winners. If they refuse to do that then it is very likely a scam.
It is worth being equally skeptical of social media accounts claiming to be brilliant Betfair traders, which there are many of these days. In our experience successful Betfair traders are extremely rare and don’t tend to go bragging about it on social media if they are.
Beware also of YouTube scammers. There are quite a few videos around these days claiming they have some amazing betting/trading system that enables them to make a regular daily profit. The marketing behind these is often quite slick and usually tempts you into purchasing a very expensive trading course where you can learn their “secrets.” In our experience most of these courses are just fluff with very little actual value, just containing well-worn strategies such as lay the draw or over/under trading and will leave you feeling decidedly cold.
Although this article is focused mainly on betting scams, it is worth giving a quick mention to cryptocurrency scams, partly because there have been so many of them over the last few years. In fact there have been estimates that over 90% of crypto start-ups were either scams or are no longer active.
The bottom has completely fallen out of the crypto market over the last couple of years, no doubt as a direct result of the failure of so many cryptocurrency projects which has put people off investing any more money in the sector.
However, there are still a few floating around and they typically offer to make some ridiculous amount like 1% profit per day. This is simply not possible to sustain and is a sure sign of a ponzi-style scam. Avoid these at all costs.
There are also quite a few crypto scams involving gold, promising that their coin is tied to actual gold and therefore has real value. Most of these are outright scams or if not are very risky investments.
Finally there are cryptocurrency mining schemes, which were all the rage back in 2016-2017 but have largely died a death thankfully. There are still a few around though and again these should be avoided. We have written elsewhere about why mining is fundamentally flawed and if you really want to be involved with a new coin it is better to just buy and hold it rather than to mine the token.
Pyramid schemes are a controversial topic because they are not always scams, but can point towards one if there is no underlying value in a service.
Typically pyramid schemes involve what is called “multi-level marketing” or MLM for short, which means that if one person recommends a product to their friends, they get a commission if someone signs up through them. Then if someone signs up from one of those people, the original referrer gets another commission and so on. These can often go down five, six or even ten levels, meaning someone at the top of the pyramid can be making a very substantial income from all the referrers under them.
You may already spot the problem with something like this – how can the scheme afford to pay out so many people on all these levels of commission? Unless there is genuine value in the product and service being offered and all the commission can clearly be accounted for, then it is big warning signal.
The other issue with pyramid schemes is that they can proliferate very quickly and their reach greatly outweigh the quality of the actual service or product being offered. They can spread like wildfire before burning out very quickly and going under.
So we would advise that if you do see a pyramid scheme, look carefully at whether there is any intrinsic value in the product and how they will be covering all the commission payments to be made under the scheme.
Betting Software Scams
The rise of Artificial Intelligence may well change the landscape of sports betting. After all computers can now beat professional poker players and bookmakers use reasonably sophisticated software and data sets to determine their initial odds. There is also evidence that some researchers have achieved a high degree of accuracy, predicting the outcome of horse races using neural networks and machine learning. Over ten races investigators made profits of between 30% and 50%.
However, people advertising software race predictors for a small fee are unlikely to have access to the kind of supercomputers needed for deep learning. Avoid them, they are a scam.
So that is a list of the main forms of betting scams. It is by no means exhaustive as there are so many ways scammers will try to part you from your hard-earned cash, but the main themes tend to be the same. Most of them use FOMO – or “fear of missing out” – to lure you into thinking you have to invest quickly or you may miss out. A lot of slick marketing is used and people’s fear and greed is preyed upon.
Ultimately you should always treat any claims with a healthy skepticism and look for independent proof of their results. Are their claims realistic? Normally a return on investment of 20-30% is the best anyone can realistically achieve in the long run and doubling or trebling a starting bank in a year is about the maximum achievable.
If someone is claiming to turn £1,000 into £100,000 or to have a “secret system” that has a found a “loophole” that cannot lose, then most probably it is total BS.
As we say, always bear in mind the maxim “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Now let’s take a look at the other side of the coin, where people have managed to – legitimately – put one over on the bookies and pull off some amazing betting coups.
It isn’t always Joe Public who is the victim of a betting scam. Often it is the bookmakers who feel the pain. Perhaps the most famous betting soup, the so-called Yellow Sam coup, made around £300,000 on a single race.
Barney Curley entered his horse Yellow Sam in a small provincial Irish horse race at Bellewstown. In the days that pre-date mobile phones, the racecourse was serviced by just one public phone. To guarantee the horse began at generous odds, he had run it in several previous races where it was unsuited to the conditions and failed badly. On the day of the race, Curley’s agents were sent to many different bookmakers where they bet between £50 and £300 on the horse within the last few minutes before the start. In total they placed around £15,000. While this aroused some suspicions, the bookmakers were unable to contact the racecourse at Bellewstown as the only phone, a public payphone was continually occupied by another of Curley’s conspirators apparently in conversation with his dying aunt. Thus, the adds on Yellow Sam remained at 20/1. Had the bookmakers got through, the odds would have been slashed. Needless to say, Yellow Sam won at preposterously high odds, handing Curley a £300,000 profit which at today’s prices would be £1.4 million.
D Four Dave
In a similar coup, the small racecourse at Kilbeggan in Ireland where the horse D Four Dave won easily at 5/1 though earlier in the day it had been priced at 15/1. Douglas Taylor, and entrepreneur, had recruited 200 assistants and provided them with an alarm watch and instructions then shipped them to numerous bookmakers throughout Kildare and Dublin. They were instructed to wait for the alarm, set to go off a few minutes before the start of the race, then hand in a completed betting slip and the £200 bet. They were then told to return to their handler and get paid for their troubles. Although some of the recruits inadvertently gave the game away, even handing their written instructions to the teller, Taylor still made a handsome profit. Paddy Power alone lost £50,000.