Members receive e-mails and letters from legitimate sounding lottery organizations that assure them they are winners in lottery drawings recently held in distant countries. This is an old scam, but every time there is a large multi-state "Power Ball" jackpot, the intensity picks up. The prize money varies from lottery e-mail/letter to e-mail/letter. They may even have an "official check" to deposit. The official check is counterfeit or drawn on a non-existent financial institution.
Each lottery e-mail or letter is rich in detail about when and where the drawing was held, the lucky ticket numbers, how the fortunate person or company name was included in the drawing, who was to pay out the funds, the payer's phone and fax numbers plus his web site information, and how much money is supposed to be coming. Most often, all the "supporting" information is fictitious. However, in other cases, names of real lotteries and banks are involved, and look-alike web sites accessed through URLs similar to those of the real corporations or institutions are used by the con artists as proof that the scheme is legitimate.
The scam artist changes the names of the lottery handing out the winnings, and some of the stories about why the lucky ones are suddenly in line to receive large amounts of money for a lottery they don't remember entering is just part of the scam. Those who try to collect their "winnings" soon find themselves receiving e-mails or letters informing them that they have to pay facilitation fees before the big payouts will come to them. There are no lottery winnings waiting, but rather scam artists ready to trick people into wiring "handling fees" directly into their accounts. The "lucky" winners scramble to pay the fees while the clock is ticking, but they never receive any winnings.
The victim receives repeated cautions to keep matters confidential until final payout is made, "as part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program by some participants." The thieves don't want news of false winnings being told, because if the information reaches the real lottery people, who will inform the victims about the scheme.