At some point, a stranger approaches you with good news. He presents as a law expert who worked with a millionaire client with the same last name as you. He explains that by using some legal tricks, you could inherit his fortune.
Perhaps they say you’re already entitled to the whole sum. But unlocking the funds, however, makes a different challenge.
Here’s a man trying to make you invest time and money to reward far more money. You don’t know who he is, who that client is, or whether that’s possible. Would you take it?
- What Are Inheritance Scams
- Red Flags Of Inheritance Fraud
- What If You Say Yes?
- Inheritance Scams: How To Stay Safe
- The Bottom Line
What Are Inheritance Scams
Luckily, one doesn’t need to be a law expert to understand where inheritance scams lead. By looking at some red flags, one can relate this type with the advance fee fraud.
Inheritance scams are confidence tricks. It makes you believe you deserve someone else’s fortune, for that the agent knows magical law techniques to give you that right.
The question is, why is it working with you? How is it that they can reclaim the prize with no problem, but they can’t collect it without you? If you weren’t that important, they’d claim the whole inheritance themselves.
You may say: “it’s because of my last name, my ID document,” or something similar. The scammer needs to trick the system and use the right identity.
Well, identity theft is much easier to do than misleading law. You may assume there’s no inheritance. As soon as you give the agent money or account information, they will run away with it.
Red Flags Of Inheritance Fraud
He calls you lucky for sharing the last name. Seriously? There must be thousands, if not millions of people with the same last name. Are you willing to share your inheritance with all of them? Besides, how did he find you among millions of people?
The agent mentions his client can’t claim the millions he saved in the bank because he passed away. Does he really care that much to search for someone with the same match and give away the amount? Any efforts will aim to collect the money himself.
Inheritance scams make nobody special: they’re as sneaky as lottery/unexpected prize scams.
#1 Limited Information
You may think the con man will reveal his plot as soon as victims receive the first letter: not the case. They mention just enough to hook you and make you involved. As for every other detail, they say:
“I won’t add any further information due to security reasons.”
“I’ll share the rest in private after I hear back from you.”
“You should keep our secret in private. If other people with the same last name find out, they will want a piece too.”
What security reasons? To keep the scam undetected, he probably means. Hiding information does nothing for you. If you’re already confused about receiving the good news, that makes it even more confusing.
Scammers may explain they can’t share the next step until you’ve completed the previous one. They may use pressure tactics to make sure you do.
#2 Stressor Events
Congratulations, you can claim this inheritance. However, you may lose your prize if you don’t follow the conman instructions.
- You can only use the payment method told.
- You lose the deal if you don’t complete the steps by X time.
- The agent overwhelms you with questions but doesn’t respond to any of yours. He insists you should move fast.
Any unnecessary way to speed up the process only serves to hide the scam. Faster means less chance of getting caught. Futile speed only leads to making mistakes, which the scammer exploits with sneaky payment tactics, phishing tricks, and more.
You may think your agent only wants you to enjoy the inheritance as soon as possible. Do not assume they have your best interests at heart: don’t let them guide with steps until you’ve understood the Why.
#3 Pay To Unlock
If you can’t pay $50-$100, you can forget about your $22 million inheritance. Logically, victims will pay a few percents of the price because they expect to receive much more.
Big reward VS low entry fee almost seems to make sense. What con men don’t tell you is: those fees have no purpose other than taking money from you. You’ll forgive them as long as you receive the millions, right? But that won’t happen.
You need to pay first so that the agent can unlock the amount. Is it over? Sorry, one fee leads to an endless chain of payments until you realize the scam.
#4 No Guarantee
They can’t guarantee that you’ll receive the amount, but they can increase the chances if you spend more with them. Even if they promise you a 5% chance, it still looks much better than winning the lottery.
The joke? If you can’t claim the prize, you can neither refund the hundreds you’ve invested. You likely won’t have that conversation with your bogus lawyer. Instead, they’ll dissuade you from thinking that anything could go wrong.
“I’ve done it so many times. We’ll complete the process as soon as you complete the steps.”
“Once we’ve got the inheritance, I’ll be generous and repay you the initial loss from my pocket.”
“The inheritance is already guaranteed. Once you cover the processing fee, and it’s all yours.”
#5 Asking for Account Access
It’s not easy to scam people without raising suspicion. Some of them share so many steps that your mind gets lost in confusion. So the con man suggests a better idea:
“If you share your bank account and documents, I can complete the whole process alone. I’ll have the required information and will process the inheritance claim. And one day very soon, you will wake up in the morning and find some millions in your bank account.”
By that time, however, it’s too late to stop anything. The scammer has stolen your identity, and the only surprise you’ll find is that your money has disappeared as well. No reward is worth your identity information.
What If You Say Yes?
Have you ever received a letter like this one? The next time, recognize the scam red flags and delete the message. Some people, however, may be curious to know where it leads to, or how it evolves to identity theft.
Let’s see what would happen if everything for the scammer went as planned.
- You respond to the inheritance letter. “Yes, I’m interested. What do we need to do?”
- The scammer asks for upfront payment.
- You give him the money and ask for the next step.
- They demand another fee or request your account information.
- You share the account with the scammer. They say: “You’ve completed the steps. From now on, you can relax and let us do the rest. You’ll soon be truly rich!”
- He never writes back, and you never get compensated for the advance fee. You never heard anything else from the inheritance.
In some variations, the thief may send you chunks of the inheritance in the form of fake checks. He sends you $10,000 to prove the millions exist. You deduct your initial fees with that amount and keep the rest for yourself. We all know what happens next: the check cancels.
Inheritance Scams: How To Stay Safe
Inheritance scams may not be as common as phishing, identity theft, or online scamming. The fraudsters see inheritances as one of the many variations of the advance fee fraud. Today they may reach out for the inherited money, but tomorrow they may email for loans, romance, or lottery scams.
Ask Yourself: What Am I Risking?
When you fall for advance fee fraud, the best-case scenario is losing money. The worst? You give your identity to collect a better price.
How do all these cases end? You never receive the reward. If we questioned the promise and assumed the worst case from the beginning, we wouldn’t have moved forward. Do you want to risk $100, $200? Is it worth giving your credit card, knowing you may lose all its money?
Forget about the attractive upside. If you can’t tolerate the downside, don’t lie by saying it won’t happen. Don’t take it.
Learn How Confidence Tricks Work
How did you end up trusting a crook? They played with your perception. They convinced you that you are different, that the offer is real, or that paying upfront makes sense.
Confidence makes you play with assumptions rather than facts. To get out of the delusion, you have to be ready to walk away regardless of greed.
Who Before What
If you want to make extra money but don’t know how to do it, what do you do? You probably recur to a trusted person who can teach you. You don’t know what it will be, but you know it works because of who they are.
What’s the opposite? A stranger offers an opportunity. They have no identity nor social proof. Even if they do, you are unaware of their intentions. You have more chances to lose than to win.
Consult A Real Professional
The scammer explains he’s your only choice, that nobody else knows how to do it. Get a second opinion anyway; a real law expert may tell you: “That’s ridiculous. He tries to scam you.”
Professionals don’t mind helping you for free if that makes you trust them for future business.
Ignore The Letter
Once you’ve found the scam, delete the message. Rather than reacting/trying to play with the scammer, you’ll be better by blocking the contact or reporting it.
The Bottom Line
Inheritance scams use tactics from advance fee and confidence tricks. Even if they don’t scam you, responding to that message gives them hope to scam again with another method.
With enough knowledge, advance-fee scams become easy to recognize and avoid, no matter the countless variations.