and Estate Locator Service Scams
Wouldn't it be nice if you came into an inheritance from a long-lost
relative or friend? It does happen, but not very often. So, if
you receive a notification in the mail from an "estate locator" saying
that there is an unclaimed inheritance waiting for you, beware.
You could be the target of a slick con operation.
These unscrupulous white collar criminals also call themselves "research
specialists"—but they didn't find you by doing research.
You are simply one of thousands across the country who are targeted
in mass mailings.
Thousands of individuals with the same last name receive notification
that inheritance funds have been located in their names. Many of
these recipients are lured into mailing in a fee—sometimes
$30 or more—for an estate report, which will supposedly explain
where your inheritance is located and how it can be claimed. The
promoter may also offer to process your claim for an additional
Everyone on the mailing list receives the same estate information,
so chances are almost zero that you are the actual heir. In the
rare instance when someone on the mailing list has the right to
claim the funds, the amount is often negligible, because many such
accounts were forgotten simply because they were so small. They
may actually be worth less than the fee you have paid to the promoter.
You can protect yourself by checking other sources before sending
funds in response to an "estate locator" solicitation.
Checking with relatives about recent deaths in the family is one
Remember, legitimate law firms, executors of wills, and others
who have been named to distribute estate funds to rightful heirs
normally do not ask you to pay a fee to find out about your share
of the estate.
In one inheritance scam, letters are being mailed to people of
German ancestry from a person representing himself as Dr. Manuela
Schachl. It states the recipient has been named as the sole heir
in the last will and testament of a "Mrs. Krammer." The
letter also says that as the sole heir, you will inherit $450,000.
But, in order to collect the money, you need to transfer $540 an
address in Linz, Austria.
Yet another informs people of Jewish ancestry that they are the
beneficiaries of previously unknown relatives who were victims
of the Holocaust.