No one likes to think about death and how to deal with the consequences of losing a loved one. However, some people found a way to make a profit of human loss in the most dishonest way. Scammers use the unlikely but desirable scenario of people finding out a very distant relative died and left them the inheritance. The vast majority of us would gladly accept additional money or property, and that makes scammers try their luck. If you want to learn more about inheritance scams and how to avoid them, keep on reading.
Inheritance scam – what is it?
An inheritance scam, also known as a “dead client scam,” is a specific type of fraudulent activity in which scammers use a tale of a now-deceased person who has left their estate to the intended scam victim. Scammers usually contact their victims with an email or a letter, telling them that someone who has recently died and whom they don’t even know, is their distant relative. Why do some people believe it? The email or letter appears to come from a law firm that tries to resolve legal issues and find relatives to receive the inheritance. Scammers can even go as far as creating false profiles online, so when you do a research online, you’ll find out the law firm actually exists. To make their message more authentic, they can even use the letterhead and the name of the law firm. Their goal is simple: they want to scam you out of money.
How scammers get your information
To make their scam more believable, scammers may personalize their emails using your information. For a reasonable price, they can purchase lists with hundreds or even thousands of names of people they can scam, including their personal information and home addresses. Many people end up believing that if the letter or email has this information, it must be legitimate. As a result, even with a low rate of responses, scammers can make more profit than the overall list cost.
So, how do scammers actually make money? Upon sending the email or letter, they ask the recipient to cover an administrative fee by sending a small and reasonable amount of money (between $20 – $50). Now, if you’re supposed to get thousands or even millions of dollars in the inheritance, that doesn’t sound like a lot of money, and you figure it’s worth the risk, even if it proves to be a scam. However, it doesn’t end there. Scammers don’t get rich because of the “administrative fee” of $50 you decided to pay. They want to get your bank account information. Once they receive the money from a person, they tell them they can transfer the inheritance money to their bank account. Encouraged by a lucrative and straightforward process, the person will then provide them with the necessary information, expecting to receive inheritance soon. By that time, a scammer may have already stolen their identity, emptied their bank account, and settled somewhere using their credit card information to live a good life.
Immediate red flags
You may know how to spot a scam letter. Maybe the name sounds fake, or the email is riddled with grammatical or spelling errors. It’s good if you know about such tactics. However, scammers use them for a reason. Sometimes they insert a couple of mistakes to avoid contacting people who prove to be not gullible enough to buy their story. They simply don’t want to waste their time on those who won’t follow through. Instead, they target people who are not perceptive enough to be aware of the scam, and usually, the first email helps them weed out the savvy ones. Their real “work” begins after they narrow down the list of their potential victims.
What to do?
If you’ve received one of those emails or letters, the most important thing is for you to know that you should never respond to such a message. If you send a reply, scammers will see that they have a valid email address. What happens when you reply? That gives scammers even more information. They can find another way to steal your personal information even when you ultimately decide not to follow through. They can gain access to your computer and IP addresses, and then, if you shop online or pay a bill, they can get your bank account or credit card information. If you realize you’re about to be on the losing end of the inheritance scam, you can always report the email to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Also, you can contact the law firm and warn them that their name and logo are being misused in an attempt to scam people out of money.
Always be alert and cautious to protect yourself from inheritance scams. If you receive a suspicious letter or email, do not respond. Also, raise awareness among your friends and family members to make sure they won’t fall for it, either. Remember, if something sounds too good, it’s probably not true.