My wife received a letter from Canada the other day. It was neatly typed, but had no return address.
The first paragraph sounded promising, noting an “inheritance opportunity” with “genuine intentions.” Not suprisingly, letters that start this way are anything but genuine.
According to the letter, an unknown relative of my wife died in Canada in 2007: “Unfortunately, this customer died intestate leaving his bank account with an open beneficiary status.”
At the end of the second paragraph, the good news emerges: “I would like to present you to our bank as his next of kin to claims the dormant account worth $6.9 million.”
Oh boy, this fellow wants to help us claim $7 million from a relative my wife never knew she had — in Canada, no less. The money sure could come in handy!
Of course, this letter, if we reply to this fellow, is going to request our bank account and other financial information, perhaps even a Social Security number. Then he will either sell this information or just fleece us by opening up fraudulent credit card or other accounts. He’d also ask for a fee to cover transaction costs, which, of course, we’d never see again.
What tipped me off immediately? Here are the danger signals:
— No return address. Just a personal email is provided.
— No banking identification. Although “Richard Atkins” claims to be “an account manager with the Royal Bank of Canada,” why isn’t it on official stationery? Even if bank stationery was faked, if someone was trying to track you down for an inheritance it would be through certified mail and most likely through a law firm.
— The name used in the letter. Only my wife uses the surname in the letter, so it’s not possible she would have another relative with that name.
— Request for more information. The letter closes with “I will discuss more details…this is an opportunity of a lifetime.” Well, this is not about a sweepstakes. Had we followed through to give this guy our personal information, we would’ve gotten into trouble. The letter might also ask us to send cash “to complete the transaction.”
“Similar to the Nigerian Scam and the foreign lottery fraud, the promise of untold wealth is used to distract the overly trusting away from the sorry fact that they are being asked to send money,” notes Snopes.com.
“In all three cases, the con works the same way: after being mesmerized by the vision of riches to come, those being taken advantage of are required to open their wallets and whip out their checkbooks to bring about the happy event. There is no dead Uncle Fred, no rich deceased Reese. It’s all a lie told to part you from your cash.”
Moral of the story: Windfalls happen, but you should be able to verify them and not provide any money or information that can be used to fleece you. For more information on scam inheritance letters, click here.