Examples: [Collected via e-mail, 2004]
This investigation involves a client who shares the same surname with you and also the circumstances surrounding investments made by this client at HSBC Republic, the Private Banking arm of HSBC. The HSBC Private Banking client died in testate and nominated no successor in title over the investments made with the bank. The essence of this communication with you is to request you provide us information/comments on any or all of the four issues:
1-Are you aware of any relative/relation who shares your same name whose last known contact address was Brussels Belgium?
2-Are you aware of any investment of considerable value made by such a person at the Private Banking Division of HSBC Bank PLC?
3-Born on the 1st of october 1941
4-Can you establish beyond reasonable doubt your eligibility to assume status of successor in title to the deceased?
It is pertinent that you inform us ASAP whether or not you are familiar with this personality that we may put an end to this communication with you and our inquiries surrounding this personality.
You must appreciate that we are constrained from providing you with more detailed information at this point. Please respond to this mail as soon as possible to afford us the opportunity to close this investigation.
Thank you for accommodating our enquiry.
Becky J. Harding.
For: Midland Consulting Limited.
Origins: We all dream of rich relatives kicking the bucket and leaving us their fortunes, which is why this "unexpected inheritance" scam works as well as it does. Imagine being transformed overnight from office drudge to a member of the jet set — it's the stuff of daydreams! (or at least the impetus to buy lottery tickets). Because this urge for the big "something for nothing" runs so deep in us, it makes us vulnerable to the machinations of con men, which is what these
This scam has been part of the grifters' bag of tricks for many a year. It was only a matter of time before it began showing up on the Internet, where those who make their livings by defrauding others have an even easier time vending their cons to the unwary.
Though the text quoted above as our example is one of the more common forms this sort of
- Are you aware of any relative/relation who shares your same name whose last known contact address was [name of foreign city, often Brussels, Belgium]?
- Are you aware of any investment of considerable value made by such a person at [name of real bank, such as HSBC or Barclay's]?
- Born on [date many decades in the past, often in the 1930s or 1940s]?
- Can you establish beyond reasonable doubt your eligibility to assume status of successor in title to the deceased?
Similar to the
There is no dead Uncle Fred, no rich deceased Reese. It's all a lie told to part you from your cash.
So far we've seen versions of this scam emanating from supposed private investigating firms named Cappa Consultants, Midland Consulting Limited, and
The email claims that HSBC Republic has employed investigators to contact the family of a deceased client who died intestate. To our knowledge such claims have no validity and we strongly recommend that recipients of such emails do not respond to the sender.
It does occasionally happen someone so contacted does eventually find he or she has a right to claim against the estate of a distant relative who died without leaving a will. But in those cases, the amount garnered generally proves not to have been worth going after (indeed, often less than what was paid to the "locator" for the information).
Estates do hire actual "heir locators" to find missing beneficiaries, but those so engaged are paid by the estate, not by the folks they find. There are also heir locators who freelance on a contingency basis, entering into agreements with those they connect with their rightful inheritances for percentages of sums so recovered. While this might sound like the scam being described above it's not — these legitimate heir locators receive payment only after estates are settled and heirs so found have received their bequests.
Ergo, if a "locator" is asking you to pay up front, it's a scam.
Those still clinging to the hope that there might still be something to their pie-in-the-sky
We find it somewhat amusing that "intestate" (meaning to die without leaving a will) is so often
Barbara "fortune hunters" Mikkelson
What You Can Do:
- Realize from the get-go this is a scam and have nothing to do with it.
- If you must correspond with the con artists to satisfy your curiosity as to whether you might not after all be in line for an unexpected inheritance, at least do so with the firm intention of not sending them so much as a dollar of your money no matter how credible-sounding or affordable the
- If you have been bilked, call the U.S. Secret Service at (202) 406-5572 or write to
U.S. SecretService, Financial Crimes Division, 950 H St. N.W.,Washington, DC 20223. Also, call your state attorney general's consumer protection division.
| Phony Inheritance Scam |
(United States Postal Service)
Choney, Suzanne. "Key Flaws Reveal Truth Behind New E-Mail Hoax." Copley News Service. 7 July 2003. Bangor Daily News. "Be Wary of Inheritance Notifications." 2 February 2004 (p. A5).