Every day hundreds of people around the world receive fake notices of an inheritance that a claimed distant relative has left for them. “The fake inheritance scheme has been used for long, and although it seems an obvious fraud, it isn’t” says Stephen Garcia, VP of International Private Investigations at Wymoo International. The versions of inheritance fraud have evolved into complex schemes that involve forged documents, corrupt lawyers, fake passports and wills, and bank representatives, and a whole criminal network behind it. It can be difficult to verify the facts in these cases.
How it inheritance fraud works
Many years ago, when the internet became popular, people received poorly written emails claiming a Prince in Nigeria had picked them as their heir. As absurd as it may seem, that inheritance fraud had its good run back in the day. But today inheritance scams are far more complex.
The first thing to know is that experienced criminals dedicate a lot of time and effort now to study their victims, and use more than one technique to trap their victims. They no longer rely on an email, but have a whole strategy. Online criminals have studied what people share online in social media networks and use it to make sure the fraud works. They use Google Street View to view your home, public records to obtain your information and put your family at risk. The more criminals know about you, the better they can tailor their fraud and steal your money. This is how they manage to make the victims lose their life savings in the fraud, which is increasingly common.
Many victims of inheritance scams have been selected from online dating websites or social media. The more information that you post on the internet, the more at risk you are. Widowed or divorced people are more willing to meet new friends online, and being able to relate to create a bond with the victim is one of the most important things for con artists. One of the differences with the initial inheritance scams is that the victim is not always presented as the direct beneficiary of the inheritance, but just someone who is related to the supposed heir, for example, a friend or partner that can help the beneficiary claim their inheritance and will get a part of it in exchange for their help. It is particularly important to be careful with people who claim to be from (or currently located in) high risk countries, and to contact local private investigators in Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, the Ukraine, South Africa, or any other high risk country where you need the help.
How to recognize an inheritance scam
It is hard to tell a true inheritance from a fake one these days. Scammers will pose as legitimate bank directors, lawyers, representatives from ministries and other government organizations, etc. If we add other factors like romance scam in the picture, it gets even more complicated.
International private investigators advise being very skeptical and cautious of anyone who claims they have inherited gold or money from someone overseas. For cases involving someone you met online in a romantic relationships, hiring a dating background check investigation is an effective way to know from the beginning of a relationship if the person you met is honest and real, or just trying to take you for a ride and take your money. Inheritance scam is no different. Professional investigators based in the country where you need them can verify the claim, verify the authenticity of documents, IDs and passports, and check with government and court records to verify the company.
It is extremely important to have a professional verify the inheritance documents, any other people involved like bank representatives or lawyers and their official IDs. In order to be able to verify, you will need to request as much proof and documentation as you can. Local investigators will check with the authorities in the country the legitimacy of the inheritance and whether or not you or your friend are the beneficiaries. And remember, if something sounds too good to be true…
Be safe! Contact us for a private investigation quote if you have met someone online or in person who claims that you are the beneficiary of an inheritance or property in another country.
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