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Don’t Get Caught in an Inheritance Scam

Don’t Get Caught in an Inheritance Scam

Inheritance scams have been around forever, and they’ve gotten more prevalent with the advent of online and mobile communication. Here’s what to know about inheritance scams and how to protect yourself.


How the scam plays out


In an inheritance scam, a target gets an email or letter that’s allegedly from a lawyer informing them that they’ve inherited a large sum of money. The target is asked to pay an upfront fee to claim their inheritance. If the target complies, they’ll never see this money again – and they certainly won’t see the inheritance they’ve been promised.


In another version of this scam, the target will be asked to share personal information, including checking account details, so the inheritance can be transferred to their financial institution of choice. The scammer will then use this info to empty their accounts and/or steal their identity.


Red flags


Protect yourself from falling victim to an inheritance scam by looking out for these red flags:


  • You’ve supposedly inherited a fortune from a distant relative you barely knew.

  • You’re asked to pay a processing fee to receive an inheritance, and the fee can only be paid using a prepaid gift card or wire transfer.

  • You’re asked to share personal information to receive an inheritance.

  • A letter or email informing you of an inheritance is full of typos.

  • The street address and phone number the “lawyer” provides you with are bogus.


If you’re targeted


If you believe you’ve been targeted by an inheritance scam, take these steps to stay safe:


  • Don’t respond to the letter or email. Delete the email and mark it as spam.

  • Never share personal info with an unknown contact.

  • Never wire money or share a prepaid gift card with an unknown contact.

  • If you receive a notification that you’ve inherited a large sum of money, reach out to family members to find out if it’s legit. 

  • If you get a missive from an alleged lawyer, do an online search for the name, street address and phone number. If nothing shows up, Google again, along with the word “scam”.

  • Don’t click on any links in an email from an unknown contact.

  • Report the scam to the FTC.


Use the tips outlined here to stay safe.

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