Imagine you receive a letter in the mail or a phone call informing you that you have received a valuable inheritance from someone who recently passed away and who was a distant relation of yours. In popular culture, it is known as the long-lost uncle. When it happens in real life, someone administering the estate will contact heirs and let them know. This can come as a very welcome surprise for the heirs. This is a rare occurrence and yet has become an increasingly common scam as the Gazette Extra reported in "Police warn of IRS, inheritance scams."
The scam is not a sophisticated one. It usually consists of someone receiving a letter in the mail informing them of an inheritance, but with a catch. To make sure the person receiving the letter is the appropriate heir, the “heir” is required to provide some personal details and send cash back to help facilitate the process.
This should raise alarm bells, but people are often taken in by the scam. They not only lose the cash they sent, but they are often then the victims of identity theft because they have given the scammers personal information.
An attorney should never ask you for money up front to tell you about any inheritance that you might receive. If you have any questions about whether an inheritance might be legitimate, you can contact the surrogate court directly.