Legal Scams - Fake Wills Scams - Did Someone Die and Leave you Money? No, But The Scammer Wants Yours!
Some of the scammers are trying a new tack, now that most people are on to the lottery scams. They'll send you an email claiming that someone dies and had mentioned you in their will.
Of course, if this were true, you would be able to contact a law firm that would have a business phone, a physical office with a receptionist. You'd expect an answering machine or service, as well. They ought to be able to provide you with the name, address and phone number of the court where the Will will be adjudicated. The court would be able to verify that a will is scheduled for probate, and the name of the deceased, possibly also the names of any beneficiaries and so one.
Most jurisdictions in developed countries also require that a notice about the will be placed in a newspaper. You can ask the scammer for the name of the paper and date that the notice was published. There is usually also a waiting period (often 6 months)
Read on to see an example scam Will email and what happened when we called the phone number in it!
First, from the would-be victim, we received this email:
He attached this email from the scammer:
Let's examine the email.
First, the contact information. the scammer says to email him at email@example.com So we type in the domain portion (adding www.) in our browser, to look at www.probateoffice.cjs-net.co.uk. Surprise, surprise, there is no website there (see the screenshot below); it doesn't exist.
Next, Let's call the "lawyer"
We phone the so-called lawyer at 12:30 AM GMT... which means, we should get an answering machine - we don't know any lawyers who answer their telephones at 12:30 am on a Sunday night. But, again surprise, a man answers:
CFR: Yes, to whom am I speaking?
Scammer: Who are you? You called here. (speaking with a thick foreign accent; possibly Asian or African)
CFR: Yes, But this is supposed to be a business number. Don't businesses answer by stating the name of the business.
Scammer: (long pause) Who do you want to speak to?
CFR: Steven Marks.
CFR: That's interesting. My client received an email from you saying that he is named in a will as a beneficiary. Can you tell me the phone number and address of the court where the will will be probated?
Scammer: You received the email?
CFR: My client did. I represent him in this investigations. He received an email saying that it would be probated in York Probate Court and I wanted the phone and address to contact the court.
Scammer: Oh, that's Yorkshire Court. I can email it to you tomorrow.
CFR: No need. I'll ask the police to collect it from you. I will be contacting them in the morning about this fraud and passing on your phone number to them so that they can come around and talk to you about wills fraud and posing as an attorney. Both ought to have still sentences, so you can look forward to enjoying prison food for a while... unless you get deported instead.
Obviously, a scam. We even asked for the wrong name (Steve Marks, instead of "Robinson Mark Freeman of the law firm of Stephen Mark & Associates") but amazingly it was "Steve Mark" who answered the phone. Next time we will make a a named mixing the names in the email, like "Stephen Freeman" and see if that person is available!
We will advise the would-be victim to contact his local police and provide them all the information, including the scammer's phone number and our transcript. It's seems pretty obvious that the scammer is impersonating a lawyer and committing various forms of fraud, all crimes.
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