30

Someone contacted me and said that someone with a similar last name died and left me a large amount of money. He gave me information and forms from a bank, and other pertinent information.

I then got a message that there is fee and that I need to send it before any money could be released to me. I checked and his office really exists but I think he just trying to pull a fast one.

What should I do?

marked as duplicate by Pete B., JoeTaxpayer taxes Feb 1 at 19:14

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 13
    Also - how would someone with a 'similar' last name have money to leave for you? Do you think that if they can't find any related 'Smith's they just try to go down the alphabet and find a related 'Smiti'? – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Jan 30 at 15:49
  • 51
    @Grade'Eh'Bacon not a dupe of that particular question because that was the ONE case in a million where it was legit. – stannius Jan 30 at 17:16
  • 2
    First off you need to know whether you even have relatives in Canada. Just ask yourself, if they're supposed to be long-lost relatives, how do they even know about you and why would they bother leaving you any money. – pboss3010 Jan 30 at 17:31
  • 3
    @stannius I removed the link so it won't close this one to answers, but the key is that the answer in that one does outline how to prove whether it is real or not. – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Jan 30 at 17:47
  • 2
    Long lost relative situations do happen, but an uncle is normally a fairly close relationship. Can you check with the rest of your family or even public records to verify that this person is your uncle? – TimothyAWiseman Jan 31 at 17:47
174

If I had a legitimate reason to give to you $100,000 with a $500 fee, I would ask you if it is okay to take the $500 out of the $100,000, and if you agree, I'd pay you $99,500 without any cost for you.

Someone who wants to give you money doesn't ask for fees, they just deduct any cost from the money they give you. Same for lotteries, inheritances, tax returns, forgotten bank accounts and so on.

This is a scam.

  • 26
    There is at least one exception. If you win, say, a car, you may have to pay the taxes on the car before they can give it to you. However, you never accidentally win a car, without entering a contest to win a car. – stannius Jan 30 at 23:05
  • 12
    @stannius Even in those cases, isn't there often a cash alternative to winning the actual car for that very reason? – jamesdlin Jan 31 at 5:54
  • 3
    @jamesdlin It likely depends on the contest. But there will likely be a clause saying no cash prize before entering. But I would imagine for larger contests done by large companies that a cash equivalent is offered. – The Great Duck Jan 31 at 6:48
  • 13
    @DonQuiKong is right. Why would you wire someone money and not pick up the car? Just go pick up the car and, when you confirm it is legit, signed all the papers, then you pay the money. There's no scenario where it benefits you to wire over some cash for a car that you won. – Nelson Jan 31 at 14:30
  • 4
    Worth nothing that this scam has a name: Nigerian Prince, 419, Spanish Prisoner, or in general, the Advance Fee Scam: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advance-fee_scam – Endy Jan 31 at 16:51
16

If it were a legitimate case of them recovering money for you for a percentage, then they would be working it in a different direction. Asking for a "fee" puts this very much in suspicious scam territory.

Look up the supposed bank online (do NOT use whatever links or contact information were sent to you), contact them, and ask if the person you're talking to is working with/for them. Tell them you're working probate for your uncle, and ask them to confirm information based on what you've been sent. They won't be able to release much, but they should be able to tell you if you're being scammed or not.

  • 36
    Don´t bother, just forget it. It is 100% for sure a scam. Search this stack or the internet and you´ll find tons and tons of exactly this and not even one real case! – Daniel Jan 30 at 14:50
  • 2
  • 7
    @daniel: Agreed. All I had to hear was "fee". Actually had a guy contact me with an "Unclaimed Money" situation which turned out to be legitimate, and he went about it entirely differently, offering to do all the claim paperwork, etc, in exchange for a percentage. Really, if there is unclaimed money in your name, it's not hard at all to claim. – Satanicpuppy Jan 30 at 14:54
  • 12
    Also, if I look in my own personal spam folder I have hundreds of dead uncles so ... – Daniel Jan 30 at 14:55
  • 4
    @Daniel You tried printing out any of them to get grievance days at work? – Nelson Jan 31 at 14:32
16

In a genuine probate case the executor of the estate will not ask beneficiaries for money. The executor has a duty to identify the beneficiaries of the will and notify them, usually before the will is probated.

There is the possibility, however, that the will has been probated and the beneficiary has not been found or the person died intestate. In this situation, there are people who will try to broker the situation by making guesses who the beneficiary might be. These people are called "heir hunters". That might be the situation here.

However, just because the estate is real doesn't mean you are the beneficiary. It is possible that the fee hunter just mailed everyone with the same name of the missing beneficiary, which could be 100 people. Maybe one of them is the true beneficiary, maybe none of them are. If you pay him $500, he will probably just refer you to the executor. In the slight chance that you are the real beneficiary, then it is your lucky day. It is far more likely that you have no relation to the deceased and the executor will determine that and inform you.

If you want to pursue the case, you can start searching through unclaimed inheritance databases. Two of the provinces, Alberta and Quebec, have a comprehensive consolidated database of unclaimed inheritances. Unfortunately, the other provinces are harder to research, but there is a guide to how to do it.

In all probability, however, you are not the heir. If you were definitely the heir, the heir hunter would have given you a much more personalized letter and would have demanded more money, as much as 20% of the inheritance. Since he only asked for $500 it means it is probably just a random name match and nothing more.

  • 12
    "Heir hunters" will ask you to agree a fee or percentage that they will deduct from your inheritance once they have successfully claimed it for you. Money paid up front is the clearest possible indication of a scam. You pay the money and you'll never hear anything more (though you'll now be on a black market suckers list that other hungry scammers will buy). – nigel222 Jan 31 at 9:36
  • 2
    I'll add, they will not be in the least surprised if you initially demur to attempt your own genealogical and family research. They'll be expecting you to call back a few months later -- they are experts, you are an amateur, and nine times out of ten you will not be able to find your (usually accidental) inheritance from a distant relative unaided. Putting you under time pressure is another warning sign of a likely scam. – nigel222 Jan 31 at 9:49
  • 2
    @nigel222 from what I've heard, you actually will hear more... once they know you're willing to fall for it, they'll keep asking for more fees, taxes, etc. until they bleed you dry or you realize you've been had. – stannius Jan 31 at 16:14
  • 2
    @stannius - my second comment is about genuine heir hunters. Yes, they just about might be scammers playing a long game ... but any demand for money up front, it's a scam. Heir hunters do exist ... someone dies intestate, no close relatives left alive, an heir hunter steps in to locate their closest living distant relatives as per the law on intestacy, and it's fair enough that they get paid a fraction of what you get if you get anything! – nigel222 Jan 31 at 16:24
  • @nigel222 I was only replying to your first comment "You pay the money and you'll never hear anything more" – stannius Jan 31 at 17:14
6

When there is an inheritance, then any costs associated with executing the inheritance are taken from the estate of the deceased person.

So when you are supposed to receive an inheritance, and a fee needs to be paid in order to get that inheritance to you, then that fee would be paid from the estate and you would receive your share of the remaining money. It's the duty of the executor of the inheritance to take care of these formalities.

So yes, this is an advance-fee scam.

This question is also tagged as . Depending on where you live and what grade of relation you had, you might or might not have to pay inheritance tax. Depending on country, there are two options: Either the inheritance tax is paid from the estate, and it's the executors duty to do so (A comment claims that Canada is such a country). Or the inheritance tax is paid by the receiver. In the latter case you would list your inheritance in your next tax return and then you get a tax bill from your national taxation bureau. Consult your local inheritance tax laws or ask a tax consultant for details.

  • 1
    AFAIK Inheritance tax on financial assets in the estate is normally deducted and paid by the executors, since the amount depends on the total value of the estate and they are the only people who know that value. On the other hand if you inherit a significant non-financial asset (e.g. property) and immediately sell it, there may be other taxes associated with the sale. – alephzero Jan 31 at 14:31
  • 1
    The question is also tagged "canada" and a quick google for Canadian inheritance tax rules finds me "the estate pays the taxes owed to the government, rather than the beneficiaries paying." The first part of this answer is good, but I'd lose the stuff about the taxes. – timday Jan 31 at 14:37
  • @timday I updated the answer to account for countries where inheritance is paid from the estate. – Philipp Jan 31 at 14:40
5

There is a 99% probability that this is a scam. But just for piece of mind, confirm with your parents or other family members if there is fact a long lost "uncle" who died in Canada. If they say yes, then you can make a few more calls and attempt to collect the inheritance directly, because it's also possible there is actually inheritance, but the person who contacted you is also a scammer.

4

If someone left you a large amount of money, they would not simply send you an email saying "Send me a fee and I'll send it to you." Any large sum of money would have a lot of bureaucracy attached. If they were smart, there would be a trust or some other body in place and any contact they had with you would probably be through lawyers. If they were not as smart, they would have left it in a will and you would still have lawyers contacting you, possibly with IRS or other government officials backing them up and wanting a piece of the pie in the form of taxes. They would not simply ask you to pay a fee and then wire you a bunch of money. Most governments won't let someone just hand off a "large amount of money." If there's no red tape, it's probably not official.

  • 1
    You are probably right about the e-mail, but not about the bureaucracy or lawyers. My sister (not a lawyer) worked for a company that did this. There are absolutely small companies that are told about inheritances and track down the rightful recipient in exchange for some compensation. However, I don't know how the company was paid. – piojo Jan 31 at 3:24
  • @piojo Really? Wow, I did not know that. To me it seems surprising that they don't have some kind of red tape to get through. There's absolutely nothing a recipient has to do aside from accept a check? – CMB Jan 31 at 3:53
  • I doubt it's that simple, no. But the first step would not involve a lawyer. I'm not sure if any step involves a lawyer. – piojo Jan 31 at 4:02
  • @piojo Interesting. That's good to know. Thanks for the correction. – CMB Jan 31 at 4:07
0

Sounds like the well known, classic 419 scam:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advance-fee_scam

However as one of the answers mentions, double check if there is really an inheritance and you're not being scammed on the claim by a third party.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.