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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

My long lost cousin scam

Jul 28, 2023 01:47PM ● By Karen Telleen-Lawton

Hopefully you know by now that the poor grammar and typos we see in email scams are a typical tip-off, and that offers sounding too good to be true typically are. Other than bogus sweepstakes though, scammers these days don’t usually spend the time and money to type and mail a good old-fashioned letter. That’s why this one, on reasonably high-quality paper with an attractive letterhead from the Bank of Singapore, caught me by surprise.

It was addressed to our son, who hasn’t lived with us for about 15 years. My husband called him to ask if he wanted us to forward it or open it. At his direction, we opened it and found out about his “cousin” Lokni. 

Lokni had apparently died with a portfolio of $11.2 million (carefully spelled out as well as printed numerically) and no known relatives. The Bank of Singapore employee (no title) has exclusive access to this money but will help our son access it. 

“As long as no one gets greedy we can have a fair and equitable share by splitting the funds evenly,” promises one Olivier Denis.

Trouble is, our family name was created by my husband and myself using a combination of my and his birth names. My birth name, in turn, was devised at the time my ancestors immigrated from Sweden, so it’s an unusual name to start with. I would bet my last $11.2 million on the fact that there are currently only three people with my surname on planet Earth.

Even with good grammar and official-looking letterhead, whoever is posing as Olivier Denis is an imposter and a scammer.

How do scammers get away with it? They win when we think they are the solution to some other problem we have. It may be helpful to list a few of the situations that may make us want to take a second look at an offer that’s too good to be true. I’ll also offer some venues to turn to for real help in that particular problem.

You dream of the surprise of an unexpected inheritance. It’s not unheard of for people to die intestate. States maintain files of unclaimed estates. There are various laws concerning when these estates revert to the state if unclaimed. You can check out The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, but don’t bank your budget on this possibility.

You just want more money. Surely you wouldn’t respond favorable to Mr. Denis if you didn’t think you could use more money. Few of us would turn down a surprise windfall, but the chances that this will happen are vanishingly small. Rather, several tried-and-true options exist to see your portfolio rise.

While you’re still earning money, you can make sure you’re maximizing your take-home pay by moving into the most lucrative job for which you qualify. Higher paying jobs typically involve more mental stress but less physical stress.

Keep working. The life expectancy for us boomers is around 80, depending on your conditions. That still leaves a lot of play time if you push your full retirement towards age 70.

Once you’re retired, you’re limited to two options. The most straightforward is to spend less money. Design a reasonable budget and stick to it.

The other is to earn more on your portfolio. A financial advisor may be able to help. This option generally involves taking on more risk, although not always. You may have a considerable portion of your portfolio in non-interest-bearing bank accounts which instead could be invested in FDIC-insured CDs or treasury bills and bonds.

You may also be susceptible to a scam if you’re lonely. Many of us reach a place in our lives where the life that has worked for us in the past either isn’t working for us now or isn’t available to us. Scammers seem to offer us friendship on some level, but friends do not make demands of us as scammers do. True friends likely won’t make you wealthy, but it is healthy and wise to make new friends and have new experiences as you age.

The safest way to begin is to start with known channels like your family, friends, neighbors, church or familiar organizations. Expand to other local organizations whose work you admire. You will meet new people with similar interests. When you turn to helping others, you will find others who admire you for your personal qualities and not for what you can give them.

Next time you get a letter or email which reminds you of Olivier Denis’ polite entreaty, recycle it before you finish the first paragraph. Moreover, if you’re currently in the middle of a situation such as this, swallow your pride and get some help from a family member, a financial advisor, or your banker. The sooner the better. 

That letter about a big inheritance from a long-lost relative? It's a scam

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