Please be sure to read my Scams Home Page
NOTE: All external links on this page open a new window.
Inheritance Scams are also known as Inheritance 419 Scams, Inheritance 4-1-9 Scams, Inheritance Advanced Fee Scams.
You receive an email (or letter or ...) telling you that someone, usually with your last name has died, and left an estate. This could be from a "lawyer", an "investigative group", an individual, etc. Those with the same last name are one thing, but others say they've been looking for heirs for some time, and haven't been able to find them. They'd like to present YOU as the rightful heir to the fortune, and you and the writer will share the inheritance.
[One of these I got said they have been working with Nigerian Authorities, and the money has been transferred elsewhere, since I'd been having "so much trouble" getting my inheritance, and such exorbitant fees have been demanded. (Far as I know, I never got any requests, nor paid any fees, before this email came!)]
The letter says that they have searched far and wide for an heir, and have come to you, usually on the basis of your last name.
[Since mine was somewhat different, I'm working from others' descriptions.]
You are asked to send a fee (usually a fairly low dollar amount, as scams go - these work more "by volume"), to get information from which you should be able to tell if the inheritance is yours or not. This may be a list of websites or places you will need to use or contact to find out for yourself. Turns out that many times, even if it's a real inheritance, it's much smaller than the fee you've already paid.
NOTE: While it is perfectly legal for "finders" to search state databases and charge a "finder's fee" to ... "clients", most of them have no idea whether what they found is YOURS or someone else with the same name. Most of these letters charge the fee for you to even find out. Use the links in the paragraph below this indented section, to search for yourself, and save many of the fees the "finder" may charge.
Foreign and other Inheritance Scams
In these, you will be asked to pose as the sole heir of someone who recently died. In some cases, the email is from a "lawyer" or friend of the "deceased" (who normally died with their entire family), and in others, the email will be from the spouse or another relative of the "deceased" who is dying, and trying to find someone to act as heir to disperse the money their spouse squirreled away for some "good" reason. In either case, they may ask you to contact a family friend or attorney.
In both, they will ask for your information, including banking or credit card information, and somewhere along the line there will be "problems" in retrieving the money, which will require you to send/pay more money. And if they DO get your banking or credit card information, your account may be emptied and your cards maxed out.
In many cases, you'll note that the email did NOT come to directly to your email address, but even if it did, it most likely was sent to a BUNCH of people, most with the same last names. In some cases, there really IS some type of inheritance, unclaimed property (free search) or unclaimed money (free search from main page). BE AWARE that the amount "found" (if it is real) may be MUCH less than the fee demanded, or will belong to someone else with your last name. If you live in the United States, use the links, above in this paragraph, and for non-US, contact your government, directly, and ask where to find the information.
Note: Again, the above links are NATIONAL (US). Please be VERY careful when dealing with international "finders". As with the local, the majority of these are scams. If they don't use your full name in their first contact with you (or even if they do), they are most likely trying to get the fee from you for a report showing who inherited what, or what and where unclaimed money/property is that is probably not yours. They may also be "phishing" for your information.
Be sure to look through my Nigerian Scam examples, too. It's sometimes difficult to define one as "an inheritance scam" or "Nigerian Scam". In most cases, when "someone has died" with my last name, or they ask to present me as "next-of-kin", I'm putting them in this category, but I may have missed a few.
Urban Legends Reference Pages (Snopes): Inboxer Rebellion (Windfall Inheritance)
National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA)
- I've been contacted FAQ
- NAUPA is "a non-profit organization affiliated with the
National Association of State Treasurers. ... The
mission of NAUPA is to promote and support excellence
and professionalism among those individuals charged with
the responsibilities of unclaimed property
administration and compliance."
Missing Money Free Search for Unclaimed Property
- Officially endorsed By The States
- Affiliated with NAUPA.
- Canadian Links for Unclaimed Property and Searches
- SCAM SHIELD - Phony Inheritance Scam
- Consumer Affairs - Consumer complaints about African Inheritance Scam
- US Postal Service - The Phony Inheritance Scam
- abc7news.com: Email Inheritance Scam Promises Millions
- Scam Description - AntiVirus Website for Lancaster University
- Watch For The Nigerian Inheritance Scam... - CNET Computer newbies Forums
- ScamVictimsUnited.com :: View topic - Victim of a 419 Inhetitance Scam...my start to recovery :) (Person was scammed in a chat room - See description of the effects on them, and what happened.)
- Crimes of Persuasion - Fraudulent Inheritance Locator Services
Following are links to some of the numerous versions of this scam I have received, or that were sent to me to "check out". I will try to "reproduce" the actual "look" of the email in my examples. Please note that the dates are simply when they were received by me or others.
PLEASE NOTE: Many of these use the names and business names of REAL PEOPLE who are in no way involved in the scam. Be sure to read my notes on each.