When people suffer the loss of a family member it leaves a void. Even though they are working through the grief, things can become much worse if the heir becomes the victim of an inheritance scam. Scammers try new ways to scam people out of money all the time. They don’t take days off and they don’t care if you recently lost a family member. That’s when they like to strike the most; when you are dealing with grief and not thinking clearly.
If you are in line for a large inheritance from a family member or friend, it’s important to know how to spot the signs of potential inheritance scams so you don’t lose your supposed inheritance before you even take possession of it.
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What is an Inheritance Scam?
First and foremost, you should never share personal information with anyone you do not know or trust. This includes your bank account details, social security number, or passwords to any of your accounts. The legal and financial aspects of a scam involving your inheritance can lead you to pay money to someone you truly don’t know. Sadly, inheritance is a stressful time and scammers try and take advantage of it.
The majority of inheritance scams begin with an email message or a mailed letter. The scammer will contact someone and explain that they are the distant relative of a person they have never heard of during their lifetime. The person they never heard of died and the letter is notifying the target victim that they have an inheritance waiting for them.
There are a lot of reasons why this type of scam seems legit, including the following:
- The correspondence sent by the scammer looks real and that it came from a law firm
- The letter will be printed on letterhead using the name of a real law firm
- Probate attorneys often search for family members of a deceased person and will contact them
Scammers Use Personal Information
Scammers purchase lists of information that feature thousands of names on them. They then send emails to these people with their home addresses listed to make the correspondence seem legitimate. Even if just one person from the list falls for the scam, these people have already made the money back that they spent to purchase the list of information.
Examples Of Inheritance Scams
Some scams are obvious like this one below. The "dear sir/madam" kindof gives it away. But other scams are much more far reaching.
For instance, whenever you are going to make a wire transfer, make sure that you double confirm the information with the receiving party and do it over the phone. It is possible for scam artists to find information of loves ones and set the "NAME" on their sending email address so it looks like it is coming from them. If you actually click into the email, you will see that the email address might be slightly off by one letter or number from the actual trusted party. Double triple confirm everything and make sure you do it over the phone. When you are in probate, information is public so it’s possible for a scammer to get ahold of other beneficiaries who may be trusted loved ones and send you an email trying to act like it is them. Whenever you are transferring money it pays to be extra prudent and confirm the sender. Better same than sorry.
Inheritance Scam Statistics
How the Scammers Make Their Money
They make their money by asking for a nominal fee from their victims that they need to pay. The fee is typically described as an administrative fee to process the will and ultimately send the inheritance to the beneficiary that the deceased left behind. That fee often falls around the $20, $30, or $40 mark, making the victim comfortable enough to send the money because it is so affordable.
The trick here is that they aren’t worried about the administrative fee. They want to build trust with you so they can gain access to your bank account information. The scammer will tell the victim that the inheritance will be wired to their account after the receipt of the administrative fee. That’s how they obtain the account information and wipe out all of your savings, use your credit cards, and steal your identity.
How To Protect Yourself From Inheritance Scams
Every letter sent out will have a host of errors. These errors will include spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Scammers do this on purpose in an effort to weed out the people who spot the errors, know it’s not legitimate, and won’t follow through on providing the account information the scammers need to access the financial aspects of the victim. Seemingly legitimate legal documents would never come from a real law firm and most people know that.
Other mistakes to look for include the following:
- Incorrect personal details
- A public domain name like Gmail or Yahoo
- The size of the supposed inheritance (if it seems too good to be true, it likely is)
- A fake address of a supposed bank where the inheritance is being held
- An offer to share bank documents and other items
- Asking you to transfer money in order to receive a larger amount
- Requesting that you provide personal details
- The letter says that you have an unclaimed inheritance from an unrelated wealthy person
- The correspondence looks like it should have a better translation
According to the federal Government there are some ways you can protect yourself (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-avoid-phishing-scams)
Four Steps To Protect Yourself From Phishing
1. Protect your computer by using security software. Set the software to update automatically so it can deal with any new security threats.
2. Protect your mobile phone by setting software to update automatically. These updates could give you critical protection against security threats.
3. Protect your accounts by using multi-factor authentication. Some accounts offer extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account. This is called multi-factor authentication. The additional credentials you need to log in to your account fall into two categories:
- Something you have — like a passcode you get via text message or an authentication app.
- Something you are — like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face.
Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.
4. Protect your data by backing it up. Back up your data and make sure those backups aren’t connected to your home network. You can copy your computer files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up the data on your phone, too.
Did You Receive a Scam Letter?
If you have received a letter asking you to pay money to obtain an inheritance from a financial institution, you should not respond. Instead, make sure to safeguard your personal details, personal documents, and credit card details. Do not reply to the letter, especially if it was sent via email. If you do, the scammer now knows they reached a legitimate email address and might even be able to access your IP address.
Be sure not to click on any attached document or link in the body of the email. Doing so could install malware on your computer that provides these people access to your accounts. Instead, report the email to the Federal Trade Commission or to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. You should also call the legal firm the scammer pretended to represent so they know that their name, logo, and other information was used as part of an inheritance scam claiming you are the beneficiary of millions of dollars from unclaimed probate.
Word To the Wise: Never send money or give personal information to anyone you don’t know or trust. Seek advice from an independent professional such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner if in doubt. Always confirm wire transfers over the phone and not only in email. If you’ve received a suspicious letter in the mail or by email claiming there’s an inheritance waiting for you or feel you’ve been a victim of a fake estate locator scheme, report it to the local U.S. Postmaster, U.S. Postal Inspection Service office, your state’s Attorney General’s Office or the Better Business Bureau or FBI if you have already fallen victim to a scam.
This information is free. We are not a security firm and have no incentive to help the public regarding inheritance scams other than our own moral responsibility. Since we deal with many beneficiaries that are in the probate and inheritance process, we have seen a lot of deceitful acts. Below we have included more frequently asked questions that might help you. If you or a loved one are in probate and don’t have time to wait to receive your inheritance, we are able to help by providing an advance on those funds. Unlike the scammers, we have an A+ rating with the BBB and take great pride in helping our clients receive cash today.
Don't Wait For Probate
Frequently Asked Questions Related to Legal and Financial Aspects of Inheritance Money Latest Scams
The advisors at Inheritance Advanced understand that your hard-earned money is precious. Take a look at some of our frequently asked questions on this issue below.
What if I already gave my information?
If this is the case, you need to take immediate action to protect yourself. Call your credit card company, your bank, and do not pay anything to the scam artists. Change the username and password of any and all financial accounts. Contact law enforcement if you did pay for the scams.
How do I really know if there is a wealthy benefactor in my life?
The best way to find out this information is to contact a legal firm near you or near where the family member lived. Avoid providing any information to scams so you do not lose your life savings.
What are the telltale signs of inheritance scams?
The correspondence will request that you need to pay someone via a wire transfer that invited overseas banks into the mix. Any request to send money overseas should immediately be flagged as a scam, even if the person named in the correspondence has the same last name as you.
Inheritance Advanced Can Help You With a Probate Advance
Legal trickery is all too common these days, especially with social networking message apps. Do not fall for the claims that fortune awaits you from a scams offer. We encourage you to contact a law firm or the police if you believe you have fallen victim to an inheritance scam.
We have more than 1,560 happy clients across the country. We provide advances on inheritance so you don’t have to wait for your money until the probate process is complete. Call us in West Palm Beach, Florida at (866) 510-2576 to speak with an advisor.