Halton Trading Standards is warning people to watch out for letters from fraudsters claiming to be employed by overseas banks.

The scammer claims he works for the bank and puts forward an opportunity for the recipient (who has the same surname as a deceased person) to cash in on the unclaimed estate of that person.

He claims he can set up the recipient as the sole beneficiary of the deceased’s estate and that he would be willing to split the money 50/50 – the estate is normally substantial and the numbers run into millions of dollars/pounds.

Even if the proposal was real it would be illegal as the scammer would be inviting the recipient to take part in a fraud, regardless of the assurances made by him.

These type of scams rely on building trust and confidentiality between the scammer and the recipient, primarily through emails.

Once trust has been gained the scammer will attempt to gain further credibility and may even produce authentic looking fraudulent bank documents/statements.

At some point the scammer will attempt to get the recipient to part with some money, usually a small amount at first and usually via a money order/transfer.

The scammer will use different excuses/reasons why he needs the money, which might include costs for administration to start the claim, for appointing a local solicitor or to cover the verification and application costs.

Deana Perchard, of Halton Borough Council Trading Standards, said: “Once the scammer receives the first payment he will begin to ask for more money for things like expenses. The amounts requested will get bigger. Reasons will be given to explain delays.

“The sender might start to feel suspicious but often people in this situation will continue to send money in the hope that it will be the last payment and their pay-out is just around the corner. The pay-out never materialises and once the sender stops handing over money, the scammer will disappear.

“Unfortunately, at this stage the sender can be £000’s of pounds out of pocket and with the scammer usually based overseas there’s not much we at Trading Standards, or the Police, can do about it.

“Which is why it is important to be on your guard and to keep an eye out for friends/family. If you or somebody you know has been caught out by a fraud please contact one of our specialist officers, Linda or Sue on 0151 511 8785 or 0151 511 8775, who are already working with people in Halton who have lost thousands of pounds to scams. ”

This is a copy of the letter that was received by a Halton resident this week: