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Q553: I have received an email/letter/call from someone telling me that: (1) I am going to inherit some money (2) I have won a lottery (3) I can make money if I use my bank account to transfer some funds (4) a dating agency friend (who I haven't met) wants urgent funds for hospital bills/to come live in the UK/other desperate reason - what should I do?

This is almost certainly a scam and you should delete/ignore it without evidence to the contrary. There are different versions of scams and you must remember- if something seems too good to be true, it usually is! Below are some examples of the methods scammers may use:

  • 'Phishing' is the term used for a scam that attempts to get access to your bank details, and if successful the account will probably be emptied. In the case of a dating agency it is preying on people who are lonely and want friendship. For any similar scenario, if you are asked for and give money (and it is a scam), you can be pretty certain you will never see your money again.
  • You are a long lost relative of a recently deceased person, you have been chosen to inherit a large amount of money from a person who does not have any living relatives.
  • Lottery scams may ask you to pay out in order to receive your winnings. No real lottery company would ask you to pay a fee before being able to claim your prize nor are large amounts of money handed out randomly! If you receive an email you need to check the authenticity; if it is not genuine, do not respond.
  • Your computer has been hacked and you need to pay a 'ransom' in bitcoin. Further information on, and examples of this can be found in related information.
  • You may receive a letter purporting to be from the police confirming the authenticity of a letter regarding a lottery win. The police do not authenticate commercial organisations!

To protect yourself from scammers, below are some tips you need to be aware of:

    • If you were a long lost relative it is unlikely that the executors would make contact with you via email.
    • Is the phone number a mobile? A mobile call using a UK number can be made from anywhere in the world.
    • Solicitors and executors of wills do not just hand over large sums of money without very thorough checks.
    • Payment for the execution of a will comes out of the dead person's estate not from the people likely to receive a bequest.

It is better to thoroughly check out the situation rather than pay out a large sum of money on the basis of an email/phone call (to or from a mobile) etc., or perhaps long friendly conversations with a supposed romantic friend (that you never get to meet). Remember:

  • NEVER give out your personal details, bank account details or send any money to anyone who sends you such an email (called or written a letter) unless you have checked and are certain it is genuine. Many people have been defrauded out of a lot of money.
  • No matter how official it sounds check it out using a totally independent source or just leave well alone.
  • These people prey on the likelihood that you will be greedy (or think you have found friendship perhaps) and aren't going to look at the request in a common sense way.
  • They may lie about being based in the UK as this may make the scams seem more respectable. UK mobiles will start with 07, +44 7 or 0044 7. Normal landlines start 01 or 02.
  • The addresses used are fake or reputable names of companies but with the wrong number.

The police have designed a website, 'Action Fraud', that offers support specifically in relation to fraud and financially motivated crime. For a link to their website and for further details on protecting yourself from scams, please see related information.

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