Inheritance Scams

Inheritance In Depth

Sections on this page
  1. What are Inheritance Scams?
  2. Red Flags of Inheritance Scams
  3. Most Common Inheritance Scams
  4. How to Beat Inheritance Scams
  5. H2: Fallen Victim to Inheritance Scams?

If you’ve ever received a letter stating that you are owed an unclaimed inheritance, even though no one you know of has died, you may be the target of inheritance scams.

Often times, scammers will target their victims by telling them they have money waiting but need to pay lawyer dues, federal taxes, or other fees to claim it. Of course, this is a lie; they are looking to steal your money and personal information.

Learn more about inheritance scams, red flags to watch out for, and what to do if you’ve fallen victim to this type of fraud.

What are Inheritance Scams?

In an inheritance scam, a scammer will contact you out of the blue to tell you that you can claim a large inheritance from either a wealthy benefactor or a distant relative.

They could contact you by email, letter, text message, phone call, or social networking message. The scammer will usually masquerade as a foreign official, lawyer, or banker and claim that the deceased individual has no other beneficiaries.

inheritance scams
Inheritance advance fee scams usually promise an excessive amount of money. (Source: Inheritance Advanced)
The scammer will let you know that you are legally entitled to the inheritance.

They might also say that someone unrelated to you has died without a will and that with the help of some legal trickery, you could claim the entire estate.

But, whatever the scammer tells you, they will eventually either ask you for money to free up the inheritance, which they’ll take off with. Or will ask for your personal information and use it to steal your identity.

Red Flags of Inheritance Scams

Scammers are persistent. They will use many tactics to convince you of the legitimacy of the story they are telling you.

But if you are vigilant, you will usually notice one or more of these red flags and be able to spot the scam:

  • You are contacted out of the blue by someone claiming to be a lawyer or banker, offering you a large inheritance from a distant relative.
  • You are sent an official-looking letter offering you an inheritance, but it contains grammatical or spelling errors, clumsy phrasing, or blurry and misaligned graphics.
  • You are asked to pose as the next of kin to an unclaimed inheritance.
    inheritance scams
    Many inheritance scams will say the deceased individual doesn't have any next of kin and you're being contacted to claim the funds. (Source: Reddit)
  • You are asked to pay a fee to receive the inheritance.
  • You are asked to provide bank account details or copies of identity documents as verification for the inheritance.
  • If you question the validity of the inheritance, you are presented with fake bank statements, birth certificates, or other fake documents.
  • Despite the seeming importance of the inheritance, the representative is never able to meet you in person.

Most Common Inheritance Scams

While all inheritance scams involve the scammer trying to convince you that you are due an unexpected sum of money, scammers will adjust their story to avoid detection.

Here are some of the popular inheritance scams:

Advance Fee Scams

Some inheritance scams are a type of advance-fee scam. In an advance fee scam, scammers will ask you for an upfront payment with the promise of receiving something of greater value in return.

In this case, they will tell you that you could receive an inheritance but that you will have to pay an administrative fee in order to receive it. Sometimes this fee will seem reasonable because the scammer has a huge list of email addresses or street addresses of people with the same last name and will be collecting the same fee from anyone on that list who falls for it.

Nigerian Prince Scam

Another scam where the inheritance angle might show up is the infamous Nigerian prince scam. Although it has been labeled a “Nigerian” prince scam, the scammer could claim to be a prince from another country. Scammers also claim to be from the Ivory Coast and Lagos.

In this type of scam, the “prince” says he is the sole heir to an inheritance and may even present you with official-looking documentation. But the scammer will say that taxes or fees must be paid for him to gain access to the inheritance, and if you could pay those taxes, you will get a sizable finder’s fee. Then the scammer takes off as soon as they have your money.

inheritance scams
One version of the Nigerian prince scam. (Source: Mother Jones)

Romance Inheritance Scams

Sometimes scammers combine a romance scam with an inheritance scam. The scammer will contact you via a social media site or dating app and, after a few online chats, will claim that they have fallen in love with you. But they will also never meet you in person and may claim to have a job that requires them to travel a lot or live in another country.

Once you believe the story, the scammer will claim that they could receive an inheritance if only they were married. Then, the scammer will ask you for airfare to come see you and never show up.

How to Beat Inheritance Scams

No need to panic if you’ve been targeted with an inheritance scam. If you suspect a scammer is trying to contact you, you can protect your information by taking the following steps:

  • Never send money or give credit card, bank account details, or online account details to anyone you don’t know or trust.
  • Never give copies of personal documents or personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust.
  • Search the internet using the names, contact details, or exact wording of the letter/email to find any references of the scam online.
  • Don’t respond to the scammer if you notice any of the red flags above. Scammers can be convincing and will use the personal touch to try to trick you.
  • Don’t agree to any arrangement that requires an upfront fee via money order, wire transfer, gift card, cryptocurrency, or other unconventional payment methods.
  • Don’t click on any links or attachments in the message or email you were sent.
  • Block the sender in your email or text application if you were contacted that way.

H2: Fallen Victim to Inheritance Scams?

In the event that you are the victim of an inheritance scam, here are a few things you can do to protect your finances and keep your data safe.

Document the Scam

Inheritance scams often come with a lot of paperwork, emails, or electronic document. Make sure to collect all of this information for the authorities.

Notify the Authorities

You definitely want to report the scam to the authorities, so they know about it and have a better chance of putting a stop to it.

Contact Your Bank or Credit Card Company

If you have sent money to the scammer, you will want to contact the bank or credit card provider you used to make the payment and inform them of the incident. They may be able to reverse the charges. Many credit card companies offer protection against fraud.

Contact the Credit Bureaus

If you provided any identity documents to the scammer, you should contact one of the three credit bureaus to create a fraud alert. The one you contact will notify the others. You can also freeze your credit for an extra layer of protection against identity theft.

Scams Relating to Inheritance

Sort by:
Red Flags of Advance Fee Scams and How to Beat Them

Red Flags of Advance Fee Scams and How to Beat Them

A promise of a large sum of money in return for a fee should raise some red flags—more often than not, it's a scam.

Scams in Other Categories...
Navy Federal Scam Text: What to Know to Avoid Identity Theft
13 May 2022 |

Navy Federal Scam Text: What to Know to Avoid Identity Theft

A Navy Federal scam text is going around looking to trick individuals into giving up their personal or account information. Here's what you need to know.

AT&T Spam Text: How to Identify and Avoid Scam Texts
13 May 2022 |

AT&T Spam Text: How to Identify and Avoid Scam Texts

AT&T customers who have received spam text messages need to be careful not to click the link included. Find out how to identify scams and how to block spam texts.

Wells Fargo Text Alert - Is It A Scam?

Wells Fargo Text Alert - Is It A Scam?

Dangerous text message scams are targeting Wells Fargo customers. These text message alerts for Zelle transactions or purchases with retailers are scams.

Capital One Fraud Text Alert Scams: Spotting a Fraud
12 May 2022 |

Capital One Fraud Text Alert Scams: Spotting a Fraud

If you received a suspicious Capital One fraud text alert, it may be a scam. Learn how to spot the fake to protect your identity and funds.

Don't Fall for This U.S. Bank Text Scam Re: Locked Account
12 May 2022 |

Don't Fall for This U.S. Bank Text Scam Re: Locked Account

Get a text regarding your locked banking account? It's likely a U.S. Bank text scam. Here's what you need to know to protect your identity.

PayPal Text Scam: Identify a Fake & Protect Your Money
12 May 2022 |

PayPal Text Scam: Identify a Fake & Protect Your Money

Several versions of fake PayPal text messages are being sent to people worldwide. There are a few easy ways to tell which messages are scams and simple things you can do to protect yourself.

Citizens Bank Text: Scam or Real Message?
11 May 2022 |

Citizens Bank Text: Scam or Real Message?

If you received a text message from Citizens Bank asking for personal information such as your password or login credentials, it may be from a scammer trying to steal your money.

Netflix Text Message Saying Your Payment is Declined is Fake
11 May 2022 |

Netflix Text Message Saying Your Payment is Declined is Fake

Scammers are sending text messages claiming to be from Netflix and saying your subscription has been put on hold. Here's how to tell the texts are fake and what to do about it.

Amex Fraud Text Alert Scams: Spotting a Fraud
10 May 2022 |

Amex Fraud Text Alert Scams: Spotting a Fraud

If you receive a text message from American Express, don't click on any links or call the phone number listed—it could be a scam designed to steal your information and money.

Guides Relating to Inheritance

Sort by:
Spot & Avoid These 11 Common Facebook Messenger Scams

Spot & Avoid These 11 Common Facebook Messenger Scams

With every Facebook Messenger scam, the attacker is trying to steal from you—whether they’re after money, login credentials, or other personal information.

Guides in Other Categories...
The Military Diet: How Safe Is It for Weight Loss?

The Military Diet: How Safe Is It for Weight Loss?

If you're in a hurry to lose weight, the 3-day military diet promises to be the answer to shedding those unwanted pounds fast. But how safe is it really?

How to Protect Yourself from Fake Bank Text Messages
9 May 2022 |

How to Protect Yourself from Fake Bank Text Messages

Learn how to spot the difference between a genuine and fake bank text and protect yourself from fraud.

Comic Book Insurance: What is It and Do You Need It?
6 May 2022 |

Comic Book Insurance: What is It and Do You Need It?

When it comes to insurance coverage, every collector’s needs are different. It’s important to consider your needs and explore all of your options before buying coverage.

How to Buy the Real Baby Yoda Doll & Avoid These Fakes
5 May 2022 |

How to Buy the Real Baby Yoda Doll & Avoid These Fakes

Many third-party sellers on eBay, Amazon, and other sites are using the official Disney picture of "The Child" from the Mandalorian, aka Baby Yoda to sell counterfeit plush dolls.

News Relating to Inheritance

Sort by:
News in Other Categories...
Searches for "COVID Vaccine 5G" Hit All-Time High, But Microchips Definitely Not in Vaccine
2 February 2022 |

Searches for "COVID Vaccine 5G" Hit All-Time High, But Microchips Definitely Not in Vaccine

The number of people searching for the term "COVID vaccine 5G" on Google has just hit an all-time high, but there's one way to be sure that there are no microchips.

Social Media: The New Favorite Amongst Scammers
1 February 2022 |

Social Media: The New Favorite Amongst Scammers

Social media platforms are possibly the most used tools in committing fraud, responsible for $770 million in losses.

Beware When Scanning QR Codes, Even for Menus
20 January 2022 |

Beware When Scanning QR Codes, Even for Menus

The FBI is warning Americans about a new scam circulating in the country involving fraudulent QR codes in public places.

$30M Worth in Counterfeit Goods Seized in Los Angeles
2 December 2021 |

$30M Worth in Counterfeit Goods Seized in Los Angeles

Fake Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton handbags and clothing were just some of the items found in a large shipment of counterfeit goods coming in from China.

RobinHood Customers Are About to Be Phished—Here's What it Will Look Like (Examples)
18 November 2021 |

RobinHood Customers Are About to Be Phished—Here's What it Will Look Like (Examples)

Robinhood's latest data breach of 5 million email addresses means that Robinhood users are about to encounter a wave of phishing attempts.