You receive an official email from a legitimate source (usually a bank, ebay, PayPal, or some other major retailer) that tells you something bad has or is about to happen unless you act quickly. Perhaps your account has been tampered with, a fraudulent account was opened in your name, or your account is about to be closed because someone appears to have stolen your identity.
In order to straighten everything out, the email urges you to click a link located in the email, provide some basic account information so they can verify your identity, and then you will get some additional details so you can help get everything cleared up.
In actuality, the link doesn't connect to the actual company but a look-alike site. The information you enter is harvested by cyber-bandits who then empty your accounts, run up credit card balances, open new accounts and assume your identity to commit all sorts of fraud. You end up suffering financial losses and major headaches.
Whenever you receive an email with such information, do not click on any links. Instead, open your web browser and go directly to the site. Even better, call the company directly. Most companies will ask you to forward the fraudulent email to them so they can try to track down the crooks. Because they are aware of this scheme, they will not generally ask you to click on links in their emails. Instead, they will inform you how to get to that area of their site from their main page.
This old fraud still seems to rope people in. A wealthy foreigner needs your help in moving millions of dollars from his homeland into the US. If you are willing to help him, he will reward you with a nice size percentage of the fortune. This is always a scam. There are organizations designed to help people move money around--they are called banks. If someone is unwilling or unable to go through a bank for a million dollar transaction, chances are it is a fraud or highly illegal. Don't risk it.
In these scenarios, you are asked to repackage and reship merchandise to a foreign company. What you do not know is that the merchandise was ordered from mail order companies or Internet auction sites and has never been paid for.
In another scenario, a job seeker was hired to collect payments from clients in the U.S. and in turn wire the money to a company located overseas. The employee was instructed to keep a percentage of the money as his or her pay. The employee later found out that the collected payments were for non-existent merchandise sold through online auction sites. Auction bidders would bid on an item and send in their payment to the seller, only to find out later that the merchandise never existed.
Never forward or transfer money from any of your personal accounts on behalf of your employer. Also, be suspicious if you are asked to "wire" money to an employer. If a legitimate job requires you to make money transfers, the money should be withdrawn from the employer's business account, not yours.
The idea behind this scam is that you will be hired to help people get their refunds, usually their HUD refund. For a price, they will send you a kit telling you how to get started. Even if you did get what you're requested--which you won't--the whole concept is illegal. The Federal government does not allow anyone to charge to help people get their refunds. In fact, there is a very simple form on the HUD website that people can fill out in order to get their refunds if they are owed one.
Allow me to explain why you shouldn't invest any money in a foreign lottery. It's illegal. A federal statute prohibits mailing payments to purchase any ticket, share, or chance in a foreign lottery. Also, sending lottery material through the mail is prohibited by federal law. You won't get what you're expecting, you'll have no legal recourse, and you'll be violating the law. Three good reasons not to even consider it.
If the government doesn't charge for the service, of course the public can't do it. The realm of these scams run from child support collection, finding governmental jobs, claiming unclaimed income tax refund or other funds and property tax exemption.
Don't fall for them. Always do your research before investing.