You have received a letter informing you of a large sum of money that could come your way: a business opportunity, a request for assistance in a financial transaction, or perhaps even an inheritance.

Is it a scam?

Did the offer come out of the blue from a total stranger?
Don't take offence at this, but 'Why you?' No-one with a big financial deal in the offing is going to contact a stranger on the internet. I wouldn't. You wouldn't. They wouldn't. If the offer is for lots, possibly millions, of dollars and you don't know the person making the offer...

...then it is a scam.

What if the offer is for an inheritance?
Ask a few questions:
Do you know the person who supposedly left you this money?
Do you know them well?
Do other people in your family know them?
Can you verify their death?
Do you know of a reason for them to leave you this money?
Can you contact another source to confirm death & will?
Was the original approach addressed to you by name, or just "Dear Sir"?
How did they find you?

If the offer is for an inheritance from someone you have never heard of and your mother never told you about...

...then it is a scam.

Did the offer come by email or fax?
More importantly, did it come addressed to the 'contractor', 'beneficiary', 'director' etc? Any legitimate offer would come to your mail address, would come from a legitimate company, would be addressed to you by name. If the offer did not know your name and postal address...

...then it is a scam.

Did the offer come with a contact email address that is from a public email provider?
I don't care what the excuse, the Director of the Reserve Bank of Nigeria will not be using a Hotmail account. Mind you, the scammers are getting more clever and you are likely to get email addresses from @accountant.com or @lawyer.com. If the contact email is from a public email provider...

...then it is a scam.

Did the offer ask you to 'reconfirm' your details?
If they are fishing for information...

...then it is a scam.

Is it going to cost you money up front?
I am not talking phone calls and bus fares here. Normal business procedure is to adjust any financial settlement for costs incurred in the transaction. If it is going to cost you a sizeable chunk of money and it cannot be offset againt the money on offer...

...then it is a scam.

Is it legal? Are you being asked to assist in a crime?
Think carefully about the offer presented to you. Are you supposed to pretend to be someone you are not, to collect an inheritance or an unclaimed bank balance? Are you supposed to bill someone for something that you did not do in order to claim money that you never earned? Does it involve someone being over invoiced to create a 'fund'? If it seems to be based on an illegal operation...

...then it is a scam.

I am sorry for being the bearer of such bad news, of squashing your dreams of spending the rest of your days checking your portfolio while cruising the Whitsundays but there seems to be no exception to that old addage: if it sounds too good to be true, it is.