Unfortunately, since the pandemic began there has also been a rise in fraud. Action Fraud has reported that £4.6 million has been lost to coronavirus-related scams* since lockdown started.

One of the scams people need to watch out for is inheritance fraud. This is when you are told someone very wealthy has died and you’re in line to receive a large share of that estate.

This kind of fraud usually comes in the form of an official looking email or letter from someone purporting to be a lawyer (sometimes from overseas) telling you that someone who shares your family name has died.

Failure to identify relatives

The letter or email will claim the lawyer administering the inheritance hasn’t been able to identify any relatives and as a result the money will go to the government. The letter or email will suggest that as you share the same name as the deceased, the money can be paid to you—split between you and the lawyer to keep it out of government hands.

Usually, such letters or emails will emphasise the need for secrecy and warn you not to tell anyone about the deal and that you must act quickly.

If you respond, the scammers will ask you to pay various fees—taxes, legal fees, banking, etc.—so they can release the non-existent inheritance to you.

Continual delays

The fraud often continues. You make a payment. The scammers keep coming up with reasons why the inheritance can’t be release until you make another payment. They will also say the fees can’t be subtracted from the inheritance.

It is likely the fraudsters will ask for your bank details so that they can pay in the inheritance. But if you do this, they can then clear out your account.

One way to ensure that if you are contacted by a firm or individual claiming that you might be entitled to an inheritance is to ask or check if the firm or individual is a member of the International Association of Professional Probate Researchers (IAPPR).

Strict code of conduct

The IAPPR was set up in 2016. It provides reassurance for companies, organisations and members of the public that its probate researchers and heir hunter members are trustworthy and adhere to a strict code of conduct and ethics.

Legitimate probate research companies work to locate, trace and identify the missing or unknown heirs to an estate. In such cases, there may or may not be a valid Will, but probate research usually applies to people who have no immediate next of kin.

IAPPR member companies and individuals sign up to a strict code, including assurances that they will behave with integrity and sensitivity, and ensure that their charges and fees are made clear to the client from the start.

They also present all reports clearly and concisely and take special care when dealing with individuals who are vulnerable and who might not have the mental capacity for decisions about finances.

For peace of mind, always ask anyone who contacts you suggesting that you might be eligible for an inheritance pay out if they are members of the IAPPR.

*August 2020

Finders International is an award-winning probate research firm.  Our regulations and credentials include the IAPPR, Friends Against Scams, we are approved APSE partners and are the first probate research firm to be approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).  For a full list of our credentials, please visit our website here.  Alternatively, you can call +44(0) 20 7490 4935 or email [email protected]