Inheritance Fraud

How does inheritance fraud work?

You receive an email or letter from an overseas lawyer or some other legal official. You are told that a person sharing your family name has died and left behind a vast amount of money.

The lawyer is administering the inheritance and has been unable to identify any of the dead person’s relatives. As a result, the money will go to the government. The lawyer suggests that because you share the same family name as the deceased, he could pay the inheritance to you. You could then split the money between you, rather than handing it over to the government.

The fraudsters will emphasise the need for secrecy and warn you not to tell anyone else about the deal. To hurry you into making a hasty decision, they will also stress the need to act quickly.

There is no inheritance and the person contacting you is not a lawyer or legal official.

If you respond to the fraudsters, they will ask you to pay various fees - for example: taxes, legal fees, banking fees etc. - so that they can release your non-existent inheritance.

Each time you make a payment, the fraudsters will come up with a reason why the inheritance can’t be paid out unless you make another payment. If you ask, they will also give you reasons why the fees cannot be taken from your inheritance and have to be paid up-front.

If you become reluctant to pay a fee or suggest you can’t afford it, the fraudsters will put pressure on you by reminding you how close you are to receiving a sum of money much greater than the fees you have already handed over and of how much you have already paid out.

The fraudsters may also ask for your bank details so that 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.

How do I recognise an inheritance fraud?

  • The amount of money involved and the percentage offered to you will be extremely large
  • Letters/documents provided by the fraudsters are generally badly written. Look out for spelling mistakes and poor grammar
  • Be wary if you are asked to contact a webmail address such as @Yahoo or @Hotmail. As a rule, legitimate law firms do not use them
  • A legitimate law firm is highly unlikely to pay out an inheritance to someone who is not entitled to it. Any offer of a payout indicates that someone is up to no good
  • Fraudsters often claim that the person who has died was the victim of a well-publicised incident, such as a plane crash. To add credibility, they may even use the identity of someone who really did die in the incident.

What should I do?

  • End all further contact with the fraudsters
  • Do not send any more money
  • If you have already given the fraudsters your bank account details, alert your bank immediately. If you haven’t yet given the fraudsters your bank account details, don’t
  • If you receive any threats from the fraudsters once you have stopped co-operating with them, alert the police immediately
  • Beware that you are now likely to be a target for other frauds. Fraudsters often share details about people they have successfully targeted or approached, using different identities to commit further frauds
  • People who have already fallen victim to fraudsters are particularly vulnerable to the fraud recovery fraud. This is when fraudsters contact people who have already lost money through fraud and claim to be law enforcement officers or lawyers.
    They advise the victim that they can help them recover their lost money - but request a fee.

Reporting fraud

If you're a victim of fraud that is a crime in progress and you need an immediate police response dial 999.

If it is a non-emergency situation,

call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

You can also report fraud or find further advice and information on the Action Fraud website.