Fortunately I googled this to see what would come up--it looks like they've tried this with many other people. I received a check in the mail with a letter explaining that I was "one of the declared winners of the NORTH AMERICAN SWEEPSTAKES LOTTERY held on OCTOBER 10TH, 2006 in the 1st category".
The letter went on to explain that I won $100K out of a total of $500K that was split with other winners, and the I was selected from a pool of 50, 000 names. The letter said I needed to contact a "Mike Johnson" within 5 days and gave a phone number. The letter said I needed to deposit the check in my bank and then use some of the money to pay the "non resident tax." I was supposed to send the money by Western Union to a "Gary Adam" in Nova Scotia.
I was bothered by the fact that I don't remember entering into any sort of lottery. The check was from EH Griffith Turf Maintanence Equipment & Supplies located in Pennsylvania, which seemed strange--why would a company like this be bankrolling a sweepstakes like this? My guess is that the scammers got hold of stolen checks, and typed in the information.
What would have happened is that after we deposited the check and sent the money, the check would have bounced a few days later and instead of being $100K richer, we would have had the bank expecting us to come up with the $2.9K cash we had pulled based on this check. My wife was thrilled and the kids were jumping up and down. I had to dissapoint them when I figured out it was a scam--we sure could have used that money. But we would have been worse off if we had not been sceptical and cautious.