How To Protect Yourself From Inheritance Scams

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These scams will offer you the bogus promise of an inheritance to deceive  you into parting with your hard earned money or

These scams will offer you the bogus promise of an inheritance.

Last Will and Testament document with quill pen and handwriting

sharing your personal information, personal documents, or credit card and bank account details.

How This Scam Works

A scammer might contact you unexpectedly let you know that you are eligible to claim a large inheritance from a wealthy benefactor or distant relative.  You could be contacted by email, by letter, by phone call, by text message, or by a social networking message.  The scammer will usually pose as a lawyer, banker, or some other foreign official.  They will claim that the deceased left behind no other beneficiaries but you.

Sometimes the scammer may say that you are legally entitled to claim this inheritance. Alternatively, they could say that a wealthy, but unrelated person has died without a will.   Additionally, they say that you will be able to inherit their fortune through some legal trickery because you have the same last name.  You then will be told that your alleged inheritance is difficult to access due to government regulations, bank restrictions or taxes in the country where the money is held.  And then they tell you that you will have to pay a sum of money and provide your personal details and information to claim it.

Beware of Official Looking Documents Claiming You Have Inherited A Large Sum of Money

Scammers Official Looking Inheritance Letter

Scammers will absolutely go to great lengths to try and convince you that a fortune awaits if you will just follow their instructions. They could even send a large stack of seemingly legitimate legal documents for you to sign, like power of attorney documents. In some cases, they will invite you to come overseas to inspect the documents and the money.

You might be introduced to a second or even possibly a third scammer posing as a lawyer, banker, or a tax agent.  You will be told that they are there to help facilitate the legal and financial aspects of the transaction.  If you fall for the scam and  make a payment, you will not receive the total of inheritance’ money that was promised to you, and you will not get your money back.

As an element of their story to prove your relationship to the decedent, these scammers will often also seek your  personal information or documents such as your birth certificate or other form of identification.  If you do actually provide this information to the scammer, you might also leave yourself open to identity theft.

Warning signs

Watch For The Warning Signs of the Inheritance Scam

Warning Sign

You are contacted out of the blue by a scammer who poses as a lawyer or banker and is offering you a sizeable inheritance from a distant relative or a wealthy individual. They might even ask you to pose as the next of kin to an inheritance that is unclaimed.

    • The offer looks very convincing and may use official looking logos and letterhead.  However, they will usually contain spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
    • The amount of the supposed inheritance might be very large, sometimes totaling many millions of dollars.
    • If you question the legitimacy of the offer, you are provided with counterfeit bank statements, birth certificates, and other documents.
    • You are asked to provide copies of personal identity documents or your personal your bank account details.  You are also asked to pay a series of charges,  fees, or taxes to help release and/or transfer the money out of the country through your bank.
    • Fees may start out to be for small amounts but then you will be asked to make larger payments on down the road.
    • The scammer will offer to meet you in person to confirm and verify the proposal, but this rarely ever happens.

Protect yourself

  • Don’t ever send money or give credit card, copies of personal documents, or personal account details or copies to anyone you don’t personally know or trust.

    How to Protect Yourself From Inheritance Scammers

    Protect Yourself on Chalkboard

  • Avoid any agreement with a stranger that asks for an up-front payment.  This can be in the form of a money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card, or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. It is very rare that money is ever recovered when sent this way.
  • Look for and seek advice from an independent professional such as an attorney, financial planner, or accountant if ever in doubt.
  • Do an internet search from specific information provided by the scammers.  This can include the names, contact details, or exact wording of the letter or email you received.  This enables you to check for any references to current or past scams, as surprisingly many are identified using this method.
  • If you feel like something is wrong and you think it’s a scam, simply do not respond.  Scammers will utilize the personal touch to try to play on your emotions to get what they want from you.
  • As in all dealings with financial gain, remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes.  Have we all heard this before: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If You Have Been Scammed

What To Do If You Have Been Scammed

You’ve Been Scammed

If you think you may have provided your personal financial account details, passport, or other personal identification details to a scammer, you need to immediately contact your bank, financial institution, or any other applicable agencies.

If you think you’ve been targeted by an Inheritance Scam,  you can report it to the FTC.  If the offer came in the mail, you can report it to the U.S. Postal Service. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my post on Inheritance Scams.  I hope it provided needed information and may be of use to you or someone you know.  You can feel free to pass it along.  If you have Comments or Questions, please leave them below.  If you know of other possible scams, leave them in the Comments and I will be glad to investigate.  Take care.

Best Regards,

Mike

 

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