December 4, 2020

Inheritance Scam On Bereaved Families

With a vast majority of the world spending lots of time at home and online, scammers have been working overtime to try and get money from desperate people. The frequency of scams has jumped over 66 percent since January 1st because people are spending more time online than ever before. There are hundreds of thousands of different scams floating around the world right now that have been developed during COVID-19. Some of the most popular are investment scams, business scams, FedEx Package delivered scams, and credit card scams. Each of these targets a wide range of consumers and nearly anyone is vulnerable to them. 

The inheritance scam is one of the scams that has become very prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. These scams offer you the false promise of an inheritance to trick you into parting with your money or sharing banking information. 

How the Scam Works 

Scammers will attempt to contact you seemingly out of the blue either through a phone call, text message, email, or social networking. The scammer will pose as a lawyer, banker, or manager from a life insurance company. The scammer will then get you intrigued by telling you about large sums of money that someone in your family or someone who shares the same last name as you left behind. You’ll most likely be told that your “inheritance” is difficult to get because of government regulations and/or the current pandemic is making it hard to send money. 

Here is an example of a common inheritance scam letter – Scam letter. 

Many scammers go to extreme lengths to convince a family member of awaiting fortunes. They may send fake legal documents to have you sign or send money to cover the cost of shipping a check. In some cases, you may be introduced to a second or third scammer – posing as bankers, lawyers, or royalty – to help convince you of the scam. 

If they are asking you to send a check to cover the cost of shipping or depositing the money they claim to have, do NOT do it. You will not receive the “inheritance” that was promised to you and you will have lost whatever money you sent them. 

When a scammer calls you posing as an investment agent or other financial companies, oftentimes they will ask you to verify things like social security number, phone number, or address to make sure they are talking to the right person. Again, do NOT give out your personal information over the phone unless you have verified that it is a legitimate phone call. 

What To Look For? 

Personal Documents: If the “lawyers” and “bank officials” are overly eager to share their personal documents or bank statements from their institution, this is a huge red flag. Bank officials and lawyers will NEVER share personal documents with a complete stranger – especially over the phone or email. Never pay “shipping fees” to have legal documents or checks sent to you by mail or wire transfer. 

Banking: When the scammer contacts you, they will share the name and address of the bank where the inheritance is stored at. A quick google search of their name, address, and the bank’s name, will give you an idea of whether or not it’s reliable. The address or bank name may be correct, but oftentimes they will not match with an actual institution. Even if it does match, that does not mean it’s necessarily legitimate. 

A banking scam that ran for a long time (and may still be running) was the Royal Trust Bank of Pittsburgh, PA. According to a statement from Better Business Bureau, “On January 13, 2017, BBB received correspondence that the company claims non-existent Inheritance payout of Millions of dollars for an advance fee.  Consumers allege that they have been contacted by mail regarding an “inheritance” they are “entitled” to but no inheritance is ever realized after victims pay fees.  Therefore, consumers lose money.”

Better Business Bureau has also rated them as an “F” due to their business practices. 

Wire Transfer: Wire transfer is a popular form of payment that scammers utilize in the inheritance scam, due to the fact that it can’t be traced or disputed once the money is sent. After the scammer has contacted you about your inheritance, they may ask you to send a sum of money through wire transfer to pay for the “banking fees” or “shipping cost” of the check. 

Look For Discrepancies:  The biggest red flag to watch out for is when a company calls you directly and claims to have a large sum of inheritance in your family’s name. They may suggest you pose as the next of kin to an unrelated family member because they have an unclaimed inheritance. Large sums of money can be very convincing and life-changing for many people, but if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. If you receive a letter or email from “official-looking” companies, always check for discrepancies within the letters. Look for crooked logos, misspelled words, and in-correct phone numbers or addresses.  

Scammers will take lots of steps to try and convince individuals that their offer is reliable. From bank statements to birth certificates and tax forms, they will try anything. The scammers will often use the same documents for everyone they’re scamming and only change a few things to match your family history better. 

Protect Yourself 

In a time of grieving the loss of a loved one, large sums of money can be tempting, life-changing, and exciting for many families. Scammers target families when they are the most vulnerable and will say everything they can to try and get some sort of money from you. If you receive similar letters from various companies, do your due diligence and verify everything that you’re receiving. Doing an internet search of phone numbers, contact details, and exact sentences from the letter or email, you may be able to identify the scam if it has been ran before. 

At Wyuka, we are here to help you and your family. If you feel uneasy about a potential “inheritance,” contact our office or stop in and see us and we can help you determine if it is legitimate or not. There are a lot of real inheritance companies, but there are also a lot of fake ones. The last thing you want to do after losing a loved one is get scammed for hundreds, if not, thousands of dollars.  

(402)-474-3600 | 600 O St, Lincoln, NE 68510


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