You’ve just inherited millions! Or have you? Inheritance fraud isn’t new, but scammers have recently upped their game to be more convincing.

In this scam, you’ll receive an email from a foreign “lawyer” or “bank official,” claiming your long-distant relative has just died intestate, making you the sole heir. You’ll be warned that immediate action and the payment of various fees is necessary to keep the government from seizing the money.

The email will include identifying documents from the lawyer or bank official, as well as an overseas address for the bank in which the money is supposedly being held. Recently, scammers have begun using a local address for this step.

Unfortunately, there is no inheritance involved; just a crooked scam. If you answer the email, they’ll start charging you various fees which will gradually increase in size. Next, they’ll ask for your checking account information so they can transfer the millions of dollars supposedly coming to you.

Sharing this information will open you to more loss or identity theft. Once the scammers have this information, you’ll never hear from them again. Be on the lookout for these warning signs to help protect yourself from becoming the next victim of inheritance fraud:

1.) The initial email

The email itself is a red flag. You’ll never be contacted by email regarding a matter of this magnitude. Secondly, the email’s wording will be riddled with typos. Third, if the contact’s email address uses a public domain, such as @gmail.com, be cautious. Banks and reputable law firms use their own domains.

2.) Personal documents

Is the “lawyer” sharing his own personal documents? This is a huge red alert. Nobody, especially a bank official or lawyer, would ever share personal documents with a stranger. Certainly it would not be shared online or by email. Never give account details or copies of personal documents to a stranger, especially over the internet. 

3.) Bogus bank
Check the legitimacy of the bank address provided by doing a quick Google search. It will usually be a bogus address, or at least not an address at which a reputable financial institution exists.

4.) Overseas wire transfer

Never agree to make an overseas payment to a stranger via money order, wire transfer, pre-paid debit card or electronic currency. Once these transactions have been made, it’s nearly impossible to recover the funds.

Have you been scammed? Remember to contact your credit card companies immediately to minimize damage. Also, be aware that you are now a likely target of other fraud, as fraudsters commonly share details about their victims.

How do you protect yourself from online fraud? Share your best tips with us in the comments!