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A long-lost relative left you money? Beware of inheritance scams

A man from the Wichita area received an e-mail this week saying he could claim an inheritance from a long-lost relative who passed away in another country.

This inheritance scam often works by asking the consumer to send money in order to receive the inheritance, according to the Sedgwick County Consumer Protection Division.

Sharon Werner from the division said the man who was contacted recognized the name of the relative but didn’t know where the relative lived or whether the relative had passed away.

The scammers didn’t immediately ask for money, she said, but she’s certain they would eventually ask the individual to pay taxes or fees to set up the trust.

”Why would someone you’re estranged from, that you don’t know where they live, leave you any money?” she said.

In total, the Consumer Protection Division received 58 scam reports this week. Here’s a list of scams going around the Wichita area from Aug. 13 to Aug. 19 and the number of people who filed complaints about them:

IRS scams (16): A scammer calls and claims the individual owes the IRS money. One Wichita resident said he received one of these calls from a Virginia phone number, 804-210-4017. Advice: IRS typically does not contact consumers by telephone.

Lottery scams (3): The scammer claims you won a sum of money but instructs you to pay a fee, buy something or deposit a portion of the money back. All three consumers were contacted via postal mail this week. Advice: Don’t pay money to receive money.

Past debt scams (3): The scammer poses as a debt collector. Two consumers were contacted by phone and one by postal mail. Advice: Call the lender or debt collector directly using the number listed on your bill.

Inheritance scam (1): A scammer claims the individual can collect an inheritance from a long-lost relative who passed away. Advice: Get in touch with family directly to verify the death and relationship.

Medicare fraud scam (1): A scammer calls claiming to be from Medicare and says the individual can avoid arrest for fraud by sending money. Advice: Government agencies don’t typically threaten for money by phone.

Government grant scam (1): A scammer called a consumer and claimed the individual could receive a “tax-free grant.” Advice: Don’t pay money to receive money, especially if you didn’t initiate the interaction.

If you think you might be the victim of a scam, call the Consumer Protection Division at 316-660-3653.

Reach Gabriella Dunn at 316-268-6400 or gdunn@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @gabriella_dunn.

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