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