This scam – and others like it – starts with an unsolicited email that either tells you of a windfall and asks for processing fee, or directs you to deposit a check in your account, send a portion of the proceeds to the sender, and retain the balance as a fee for your services. In both cases, the scammers will keep your payment – leaving you with no windfall, or a check deposit that never funds.
Note: Federal law requires banks to make deposited funds available within a certain time period, but this does not mean a deposited check has "cleared." If available funds are withdrawn and the check is subsequently returned unpaid, the customer is responsible for repaying the withdrawn amount.
These scams usually begin with an e-mail notification from a free e-mail account (think Gmail, Hotmail or MSN) that you've won a large sum of money in a lottery. Recipients are usually told to keep the notice secret and to contact a claims agent for validation. The "agent" will ask for processing fees or transfer charges – and the promised windfall never arrives.
Online shopping scams
Not all online stores are legitimate – and it's crucial to use caution with new, unfamiliar sites. Consult credible third-party sites to make sure the online store you're shopping has an established track record, uses industry-standard purchase and return policies and has a history of satisfied customer interactions.