It would be great to receive a letter in the mail or a phone call informing you that you have received a valuable inheritance from someone who recently passed away and who was a distant relation of yours that you did not know about. This does happen.
In popular culture, it is known as the long-lost uncle. When it happens in real life, someone administering the estate will contact heirs and let them know. This always comes as a very welcome surprise for the heirs. However, this rare occurrence is also the subject of a very common scam that might be increasing, as the Gazette Extra reported in "Police warn of IRS, inheritance scams."
The scam is not a sophisticated one. It usually consists of someone receiving a letter in the mail informing them of an inheritance, but with a catch. To make sure the person receiving the letter is the appropriate heir, the “heir” is required to provide some personal details and send cash back to help facilitate the process.
This should raise alarm bells, but people want so badly for the inheritance to be legitimate, that they are often taken in by the scam. They not only lose the cash they sent, but they are often then the victims of identity theft. How? It is because they have given the scammers too many personal details.
A real estate attorney might someday contact you about an inheritance. That attorney will never ask you for money up front to tell you about any inheritance that you might receive. If you have any questions about whether an inheritance might be legitimate, you can contact the court directly.
Reference: Gazette Extra (April 19, 2018) "Police warn of IRS, inheritance scams."