Avoiding Inheritance Scams
Most people are aware that online scams exist, but not everyone knows how to identify them. It’s particularly important to be able to recognize and combat scams when it comes to your money. While probate scams can be convincing, there are many signs you can watch out for.
What Is Inheritance Fraud?
Are you sure that your inheritance is legitimate? If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is! Watch out for signs of inheritance fraud.
In the normal course of business, we are routinely contacted by “heirs” who have received very official-looking emails, usually from a barrister or solicitor from Africa. Most frequently, the emails are said to be from Nigeria, Ivory Coast or Lagos.
These emails are all very similar in nature and are backed up by very official-looking probate documentation. They all purport that the recipient had a blood relative who resided in their country and left a very sizable estate (usually more than $10,000,000) after dying in an accident. This heir is always the sole beneficiary of this estate.
Here is how the inheritance scam works. This barrister or solicitor will allege that there are many millions of U.S. dollars currently being held in a bank account and that certain “fees” or “taxes” must be paid before the millions can be transferred to the U.S. and deposited into the recipient’s bank account. The fees are usually alleged to be inheritance taxes, transfer fees, and/or fees related to certification that the money is not laundered drug money.
This barrister, solicitor or one of his agents will often send the “heir” an official-looking receipt as evidence that they have actually paid some of these fees out of their own pockets. However, there is always a small “balance” that must be cleared up before the transfer can occur. This sum is usually $2,500 to $10,000 and must be sent via bank wire or Western Union.
Common Ways People Try to Scam
There are three primary ways that scammers try to trick people into transferring money to them — emails, letters and phone calls. These scamming methods are highly accessible ways for scammers to obtain someone’s personal information. Inheritance fraud emails and messages usually include documents and other attachments that are meant to make them look more authentic, like logos, passports and legal records.
Things to Look Out for With Inheritance Scams
Inheritance scams may appear legitimate on the surface, but they contain many subtle indicators that can point toward fraudulent activity. If you’re questioning the validity of an email or message that has any of the following characteristics, it’s most likely a scam:
- Spelling mistakes: Probate scam messages often have messy typos and grammatical errors throughout the text or within letterheads and logos.
- Domain name: If the email comes from a public domain like Yahoo or Gmail, it’s likely a scam. Reputable establishments usually use their own domain names for the sake of security.
- Document sharing: Scammers will be eager to send you lots of personal documents and account statements to prove their validity. In reality, a real bank official or lawyer would never share this type of information online, much less with a stranger.
- Inheritance size: Inheritance scams often alert heirs that their supposed inheritance is questionably large, sometimes containing millions of dollars.
- Fake addresses: Many scammers will tell you the name and address of the bank where your supposed inheritance is being stored. If you look up the address online, your search will likely reveal that the location is fake.
- Requested information: Scammers will almost always ask you for personal information like your bank account details and identification documents. They may even ask you to pay fees or transfer money out of the country.
What to Do if You’ve Received a Scam Letter
If you receive an inheritance scam, no need to panic. When you suspect that a scammer is trying to contact you, you can keep your information safe by following these steps:
- Don’t respond to the email
- Don’t reveal any personal information
- Don’t click on any links or documents
- Search the internet to see if others have identified the email as a scam
- Report the scam
What to Do if You’ve Given Personal Information to a Scammer
If you accidentally give your personal information to a scammer, it’s crucial that you take action immediately. Here are some measures you can take if you’ve fallen victim to inheritance fraud:
- Alert your bank, financial institution or another relevant agency
- Contact local law enforcement if you’ve transferred money to the scammer
- Lock your credit cards, records and accounts
- Change your account username and password
Facts of the Scam
If you send these people any money, they will simply come up with a new “fee” or “tax” that you must pay before you can access the millions. They will continue to do this until you have run out of money.
We all wish that we had a rich uncle in Africa who left us millions. Sadly for most of us, this is not the case. If the probate estate is not in an American Court, we cannot advance you money. We truly hate informing people that they have been scammed, especially if they have already sent money abroad. If you have not yet sent any money, consider yourself lucky and do not fall for the trap.
If you have a question about the legitimacy of your inheritance, contact Inheritance Funding Company today!
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