Inheritance fraud is when you are told that someone very rich has died and you’re in line to receive a huge inheritance.
Usually, a fraudster claiming to be a lawyer or some other legal official overseas sends you an email or a letter telling you that a person sharing your family name has died and left behind a vast amount of money.
They are administering the inheritance and have been unable to identify any of the dead person’s relatives so the money will go to the government. However, because you have the same family name as the deceased, the fraudster suggests that they can pay you the inheritance and you could split the money between you instead; emphasising the need for secrecy and to act quickly.
However, there is no inheritance, it is a fraud!
If you respond to the fraudsters, they’ll ask you to pay various fees – eg taxes, legal fees, banking fees etc. – so they can release your non-existent inheritance. Each time you pay, they will ask you for further payments to release the non-existent inheritance, giving reasons why the fees must be paid upfront. Reluctance to pay is responded to with reminders of how the inheritance is so much more than the fees being paid.
The fraudsters may also ask for your bank details so they can pay the inheritance directly into your bank account. But, if you hand over your bank details, the fraudsters can use them to empty your account.
Croydon Trading Standards have received a report of a resident who has fallen victim to such a scam. Contacted by fraudsters claiming to be in America, she was told that her late husband had left a huge inheritance in the USA bequeathed to her, but that she would need to pay various fees in order to release the money to be paid to her.
Her husband had never been to the USA. It is thought that she may have sold her home to cover the various payments that she has been asked for, which so far are understood to amount to over £100,000.
Preying on people’s vulnerabilities and current hardship, this type of fraud is very real and really does happen.
If you become aware of or think that someone has fallen victim to inheritance frauds, please report the matter to the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 (Minicom users should call on 08451 281384) 09:00 – 17:00 Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays and public holidays.