Wouldn't it be nice if you came into an inheritance from a long-
lost relative or friend? It does happen, but not very often. So if
you receive a notification in the mail from an "estate locator"
saying that there is an unclaimed inheritance waiting for you,
beware. You could be the target of a slick con artist.
These unscrupulous white collar criminals also call themselves
"research specialists"--but they didn't find you by doing
research. You are one of thousands across the nation who are
targeted in mass mailings. Thousands of individuals with the same
last name receive notification that inheritance funds have been
located in their names. Many of these recipients are lured into
mailing in a fee--sometimes $30 or more--for an estate report,
which will supposedly explain where the inheritance is located and
how it can be claimed. The promoter may also offer to process your
claim for a fee.
All the individuals on the mailing list receive the same estate
information, so chances are almost zero that you are the actual
heir. In the rare instance when someone on the mailing list has
the right to claim the funds, the amount is negligible because
many accounts are so small. They may actually be worth less than
the fee you must pay to the promoter.
You can protect yourself by checking other sources before sending
funds in response to an "estate locator" solicitation. Checking
with relatives about recent deaths in the family is one approach.
In addition, you can check with the local Better Business Bureau,
the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, or State Attorney General's
office to see if there have been any investigations into the
activities of the person or firm making the solicitation.
Remember, legitimate law firms, executors of wills, and others who
have been named to distribute estate funds to rightful heirs
normally do not request you to pay a fee to find out about your
share of the estate. If you have been the victim of a phony estate
locator scheme, or if you have received a suspicious solicitation
in the mail stating an unclaimed inheritance awaits you, report
your experience to your local postmaster or nearest Postal
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