Beware of scams: Alleged inheritance of millions

Using reputable-looking letters and faxes, but also emails, SMS and WhatsApp messages, purported lawyers from abroad are trying to convince German consumers of an inheritance worth millions.

Anyone who responds will not receive a fortune, but a loss that could lead to financial ruin.

Who has not dreamed of having a rich uncle from America, or of being named by a stranger as the sole heir to a fortune worth millions?

This secret desire is also exploited by fraudsters. Time and again, consumers are contacted by supposedly reputable companies with the happy news that they have inherited millions.

Sometimes they claim to be lawyers for the deceased, sometimes they are private estate agents looking for a new heir for an abandoned property in exchange for a share of the profits.

The fraudulent letters often come from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain or France.

Sample letter: False inheritance of millions

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Alleged heirs asked to pay large sums of money in advance

The lure is a supposed inheritance worth millions, which must be claimed as soon as possible, otherwise the money goes to the state. As soon as the supposed heir agrees, they are asked to pay more and more money under various pretexts.

Starting with administrative fees of a few hundred euros, followed by taxes of several thousand euros to be paid, up to expert fees for completely absurd things like a mandatory anti-terrorism report.

As long as the consumer pays, the scammers find new reasons why the inheritance cannot be paid. The never-ending demands are often backed up with official-looking documents.

With a million-dollar inheritance on the horizon, many victims continue to pay, sometimes until they are financially unable to do so. Instead of being millionaires, they are ruined.

Scammers pretend to be real law firms

The scammers often pretend to be real law firms (e.g. Baker McKenzie Barcelona).

An internet search will then reveal that the law firm at the address given does exist, which will inspire confidence.

It is only on closer inspection that the details provided, such as telephone number or email address, do not match those on the firm's website.

Ignore letters and report scams to the police

We advise you to be extremely cautious about these supposedly lucky messages. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Letters, faxes, emails, etc. should be ignored and preferably disposed of immediately.

You should also not try to make contact out of curiosity. The perpetrators are psychologically trained. There is a risk that you will be taken in by the scam.

You should also never transfer money or give out your bank details.

If you have been scammed, do not make any further payments and inform the police.

A report can be made to any police station in Germany. In some federal states you can also do this online.

It is not necessary to file a complaint in the alleged home country of the perpetrator. Often the perpetrators only claim to live there and are actually in another country.

Take all the documents you have about the incident to the police. This includes emails, communication via messenger services, payment receipts with bank details, screenshots, IP addresses or phone numbers.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.