How many times you’ve dreamt about waking up one day and finding out that some distant relative you’ve never heard of died and left you an impressive inheritance? And what would you do if that happens in reality?
The thing is, there is a high probability of receiving such news – for example, via letter or email, as probate attorneys frequently seek missing relatives. Only in most cases, it turns out to be an inheritance scam.
We’ve asked the experts from probateadvance.com, who specialize in inheritance processes and asked for some helpful advice. In this article, you will find information about how scammers get your personal information, how they make money on scams, how to detect a scam letter, and which steps you can take if you receive one. Read on to know how to protect yourself and your close ones from inheritance scams.
What Is an Inheritance Scam?
An inheritance scam is a type of fraud scheme in which the perpetrators try to convince the victim that he or she is entitled to an inheritance. The scammers usually offer to help the victims claim their inheritance for a fee.
The schemes are often run by fraudsters who pretend to be lawyers, solicitors, counsels, or other representatives of some financial institution. They use fake documents and forged wills to trick the victims into paying them fees for supposed legal services, probate costs, taxes, or any other costs related to receiving the inheritance.
In reality, the victims never receive anything and usually lose money because of the fees they paid to the scammer.
How Do Scammers Get Your Personal Information?
There are several ways how scammers can obtain your personal information:
- From public sources – online genealogy databases, social media posts, death notices.
- From authorized sources – probate attorneys who are trying to locate relatives and heirs.
- From private investigators – private investigators search public records and social media accounts and then sell their findings about potential victims to scammers.
- From your friends – scammers sometimes hire people who know the potential victims to persuade them to make payments.
How Do Scammers Make Money on Inheritance Scams?
Scammers make money by charging their victims fees for “services” such as probate costs or taxes. Usually, they ask for payment via bank or Western Union transfers.
It’s important to note that there are no charges associated with receiving an inheritance in most countries, including the United States. Therefore, you should be suspicious if someone asks you for payment before they give you anything in return – whether it’s money or not.
How to Detect an Inheritance Scam Letter?
Not all letters that look like they’re from solicitors or executors are scams. Actual probate attorneys can contact people who are searching for missing relatives to inform them about an inheritance they’ve received.
However, legitimate letters from probate attorneys will likely contain some of the following items:
- A cover letter explaining why the sender is contacting you.
- A copy of the actual will.
- A statement that clearly explains what steps you need to take next.
- If applicable, court-issued letters, divorce decrees, death certificates, etc., which prove that there is an estate in which you have inherited money or property.
- A phone number where you can reach them if you need more information.
- A deadline by which you need to respond
In cases when someone is trying to locate missing heirs and distribute assets fairly among beneficiaries, expect a call from actual attorneys who will verify your identity before they share any additional information about the estate.
In case of fraudulent letters from attorneys, expect a call from someone who will pretend to be your long-lost relative (or even yourself) and state that he/she is dead but has left you some money or property. Always double-check this information and never give the scammers your personal information.
Legitimate letters include relevant documents in PDF format (such as copies of wills, trusts, etc.) Fraudulent letters usually contain very little information – just a name, an amount, and a request to call some number. The names of the deceased persons vary, even in the same letter.
Moreover, legitimate letters come directly from the executor or probate attorney. You can always look for the person online to check if he’s real.
Some Final Thoughts
Inheritance scams are one of the most popular ways to cheat people out of their money. But while many people know much about that, it can still be quite easy to fall for the scam – or to lose some money if an actual probate attorney has contacted you. Because of that, it’s essential to learn how inheritance scams work, how to differ them from real letters, and what to do if someone tells you that you’re entitled to an inheritance.
This article was made to help you get some important information about inheritance scams and fraudulent wills. We hope that it was helpful and that if a similar situation occurs, you know how to act.