You’ve probably heard about heir hunters on TV shows that trace family histories, or maybe you’ve read THE HEIR HUNTER SERIES. Heir hunters are forensic genealogists, people who research ancestry by means of standard records and more, for profit. Heir hunters track down individuals and let them know they are entitled to an inheritance in return for charging a finders fee. Sounds like a pretty cool job, right?
Not all heir hunters take their job as seriously as Michael Flint, the star of my thriller Blood Trails. Some heir hunters are more interested in lining their pockets than serving their clients or even the law.
So what should you do if you are contacted by an heir hunter?
Here’s Michael Flint’s Heir Hunter Survival Guide:
- Be aware
Be wary of emails claiming that you’re owed an inheritance. There are con artists who pretend to be estate locators or research specialists despite lacking any credentials. According to ScamHunter.org, some scammers claim to be from popular TV shows, such as Heir Hunters, in an attempt to sound credible. These types of scams often require you to provide sensitive personal information or to pay small a fee upfront.
Real heir hunters are not likely to contact you initially via email. As with all internet scams, poor grammar and spelling are signs you are being conned.
- Know your rights
Shady heir hunters take advantage of people by using the element of surprise and withholding information. They often pressure potential heirs into signing contracts with the threat that there is a short time window to collect their inheritance.
If the inheritance is rightfully yours there will rarely be pressing time constraints. Do not be pressured into paying any money upfront before taking steps 3-5.
- Do your own research
Apart from researching the heir hunter’s credibility, you should make it your mission to find out everything you can about the amount of the inheritance and who it is coming from.
If the heir hunter is vague, push for as many details as possible and then begin to research your family line, using resources such as Ancestry.com or public records.
- Seek legal advice
Do not rely on an heir hunter’s word alone no matter how impressive his or her credentials. Seek legal counsel from someone who is familiar with inheritance situations.
- Read the fine print
Whether operating as a freelancer or working for a firm, heir hunter fees vary widely. Some charge a flat rate while others charge percentages, sometimes up to 50% of the inheritance. Be sure that you are aware of all costs involved before signing an agreement.