SALE Police are warning people not to be fooled by a new “inheritance scam” that has been reported by Wellington Shire residents.
The scam involves a scammer contacting people out of the blue to tell them they can claim a large inheritance from a distant relative or wealthy benefactor. Victims may be contacted by letter, phone call, text message, email or social networking message.
The scammer usually poses as a lawyer, banker or other foreign official, and claims that the deceased left no other beneficiaries.
Sometimes the scammer will tell the intended victim they are legally entitled to claim the inheritance.
Alternatively, they might say that an unrelated wealthy person has died without a will, and that the victim can inherit their fortune through some legal trickery because of a shared surname.
The scammers then say the supposed inheritance is difficult to access due to government regulations, taxes or bank restrictions in the country where the money is held, and that money must be paid and provide personal details provided to claim it.
The inheritance scam is the latest in a long list of scams doing the rounds in Australia, with criminals in recent years claiming to be from the Australian Tax Office, the State Emergency Service, Telstra and the NBN.
In the latest scam, advice from the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission is that scammers will go to great lengths to convince victims that a fortune awaits if they follow their instructions.
They may even send a large number of seemingly legitimate legal documents to sign, such as power of attorney documents. In some cases victims may be invited overseas to examine documents and the money.
Victims may even be introduced to a second or even third scammer — posing as a banker, lawyer or tax agent — to supposedly help facilitate the legal and financial aspects of the transaction.
The ACCC advises never wise to send money or give credit card, online account details or copies of personal documents to any unknown person.
Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, preloaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin.
Seek advice from an independent professional such as a lawyer, accountant or financial planner if in doubt.