How do I Avoid Inheritance Scams?

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  • Written By: A. Rohlandt
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2020
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The first step in avoiding inheritance scams is being able to identify the scams and the procedures scam artists use to lure unsuspecting victims. Keeping your email address private and limiting your online presence are good ways to reduce your exposure to these scams. If you do receive correspondence of this nature do not reply, or send the correspondent any of your personal details. Also keep in mind that no legitimate law firm would ask you to pay transfer fees in order to receive an inheritance.

It is not always possible to avoid receiving scam e-mails and messages, but being able to identify these scams will help you to avoid becoming a victim of an inheritance scam. Usually, an inheritance scam will take the form of a letter from a law firm, or executor of a will informing you of an unclaimed inheritance from a distant, deceased relative.

These letters or e-mails can be very convincing to an unsuspecting recipient. The correspondence often mentions the name of the deceased relative as well as the circumstances and date of death. The correspondence may sound official, and the scam artist may use complicated terms to make the documents seem legitimate. The amount of money mentioned in these messages is normally very high, and the sender asks for a response.


Once your response is received, you are asked for more personal information and for payment of certain administrative or transfer fees in order to receive the inheritance. This is how these scams generate money. There is no inheritance, and the "fees" go directly into the scam artist's pocket.

There is a checklist you can follow to see whether the message is genuine or not. The first sign of a scam e-mail is that the recipient field is left blank or contains another e-mail address. This means that the e-mail you have received was likely sent to many recipients. Check to see if the correspondent uses your full name, as scam artists often do not have access to all of your personal information.

Another sign of a scam e-mail is numerous spelling and grammar errors, despite the complicated terms used. If the e-mail contains bad spelling and grammar chances are that you have not been contacted by an educated professional. It is best to not reply to these e-mails at all.

Checking the originating email address is also a clue as to the authenticity of the email. More often than not the correspondent will want you to send your reply to a free e-mail account. Official e-mail is generally sent from a private e-mail address since law firms or professionals do not generally use free e-mail addresses to conduct their business. If you are still in doubt, do a search for the e-mail address. Many recipients list these e-mail addresses online to warn others.

The best way to limit your exposure to inheritance scams through e-mail is to keep your e-mail address and personal information as private as possible while online. Avoid posting your e-mail address in online advertisements or forums. Social networking sites are another easy way for a scam artist to gain access to information about you and to contact you. If your contact information is available, be alert and always check before replying to any unsolicited messages.


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