Advance fee scammers have been stealing money and personal information from gullible users the world over for donkey’s years. In fact, such scams predate the Internet by decades. In times past, advance fee scam messages were distributed via letters and – later – fax.
Nowadays, although some still occasionally arrive by mail, most are distributed via email, SMS, or social media private messages.
A tactic long favoured by advance fee scammers is to roll out the tried and true “next of kin” cover story. In fact, I recall receiving one of these next of kin scams via surface mail decades ago, long before I’d ever touched a computer.
Given the prevalence of this scammer tactic, I thought it timely to again explore how these next of kin scams work and provide a new example.
Initial Message Offers Millions of Dollars for Posing as Next of Kin
You receive a message claiming to be from a “bank manager”, “attorney”, “accountant”, secretary”, or other “official” staff member. The message tells a rather convoluted tale about millions of dollars left in an abandoned bank account and explains how you can get a goodly share of this loot by pretending to be the next of kin of the bank account’s deceased owner.
The scammer will claim that your last name is the same as that of the dead millionaire, so standing in as next of kin should be no problem. He or she will explain that all attempts to find a benefactor have been fruitless and the funds will be released to the government or bank if they are not claimed soon.
The scammer will assure you that the “deal” is perfectly legal and above board and will offer to arrange all of the necessary paperwork to allow the million dollar fund to be transferred to your account.
But, of course, there is no deceased millionaire, no abandoned bank account and no million dollar fund. These are parts of a fictional story designed to trick you into sending your money and personal information to the scammer.
Scammers Will Trick you Into Sending Money And Information
If you reply to the initial scam message, you will soon be asked to send money to cover various – entirely imaginary – fees and charges that are supposedly required to allow the “deal” to proceed. The scammer will claim that these fees must be paid in advance because they cannot be taken out of the fund itself.
Requests for further fees will continue until you run out of money or finally realise that you are being conned. At the end of the scam, the criminal will simply disappear with your money.
During the course of the scam, you may have been tricked into providing a great deal of your personal and financial information. The criminals or his or her associates may use this information to steal your identity.
Many Variations of These Scams
There are countless variations of these next of kin scams. There are also many other advance fee scams that use different cover stories to achieve the same result.
If you receive one of these scam emails, do not reply. Just hit the “delete” button.
A typical ‘next of kin’ scam email:
My Names are Jessica [surname removed]. I am the Administrative manager at a vault financial & security Institution here in Barcelona. I am contacting you based on a financial opportunity I discovered here in my Bank. It’s about an abandoned sum of $6.7M Us Dollars (Six million, Seven Hundred Thousand United State Dollars) in our save deposit vault, that belongs to one of our foreign customers, a citizen of your country that share the same surname with you, who died along with his entire family on the 11th march 2006 in a ghastly car accident in Porto Portugal.
The banking policy can only allow the release of such funds to a benefactor through an application as next of kin to the deceased. After his death, the bank has been expecting a possible beneficiary, but no luck, this institution has exploited all its ethical possibilities in other to contact his possible relatives or inheritors, but to no success since nobody has come over for the claim of the funds for the past 10 years. I have made my own research with the help of a private investigator, it is my knowledge that this man has been living in Barcelona for the past 22 years and has never returned back home. I also learnt that his wife and 13 year old daughter died along with him during the car accident. I am 100% sure that no one is aware of the existence of these funds.
However, because of the international financial crises, a lot of reform has been made within the Spanish financial system, this includes the new law on succession of claims which indicates a duration in which such inheritance could be tolerated. The Bank of Spain has mandated our institution to release the funds to the inheritor. Failure to respond to this ultimatum would legally allow the Bank of Spain to confiscate the funds as unclaimed funds (Which of course would go straight to the Government’s pocket). It is therefore upon this entire discovery that I have decided to contact you. I want you to know that I am a senior member of this office. As an insider, I am equipped with all classified secret information regarding the release of these funds. I would dedicate to make sure that I feed you with all possible documentation and information required for the approval and release of these funds.
Upon your acceptance to cooperate, I agree that 40% of this money will be for you, 60% for me. For time difference and confidential reasons, I strongly advice that you should get back to me via my private email address at (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your contact details immediately you acknowledge the receipt of this mail, so that I would be able to inform you on how this could be concluded. In conclusion, it’s my concern to demand your ultimate honesty, co-operation and confidentiality to enable us conclude this transaction.
I fully assure you that this process would be executed under a legitimate arrangement that would legally protect you from any breach of law.
Miss.Jessica V. [surname removed]