The prospect of free money can be tantalising. It’s why scammers perpetrating ‘unexpected money’ scams prey on victims’ hopes that they may be the lucky recipient of an surprise windfall.

These scams are known as ‘advance fee schemes’. Their basic premise is for a victim to be asked to pay money in order to receive something of greater value – an inheritance they didn’t know they were entitled to, a lottery win or a reward for helping someone move money.

While there are many variations of the scam, the core premise remains the same - scammers ask for payment of a fee through an untraceable and irreversible channel e.g. a money transfer service or cryptocurrency transfer. This ensures that the scammer can’t be found and the payments can’t be reversed by the victim.


Inheritance scams

Victims are initially contacted by a fraudster claiming to be a lawyer or government official with news of an inheritance from a distant relative or wealthy benefactor.

In some variations, the scammer will say that the victim is legally entitled to claim the inheritance, while others may say that an unrelated wealthy person has died without a will but that the fortune can be claimed because the deceased and the intended victim share the same last name.

However the offer is presented, a fee will be requested to access the money. This is often presented as necessary to circumvent government restrictions or taxes in the country where the money is held. While these fees may be small to begin with, increasingly large payments are likely to be requested and there are reports of victims sending scammers hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to access an inheritance that doesn’t exist.

Nigerian scams

Nigerian scams may now frequently be the subject of jokes, but they still cost people millions of dollars each year. Often also called ‘419 scams’ due to the section of the Nigerian criminal code that outlaws their practice, they are now practiced by fraudsters from all over the world.

Similar to an inheritance scam, a Nigerian scam preys on the recipients hope that they may be able to receive a significant windfall without earning the money offered.

The scam usually begins with an email sent out of the blue telling an elaborate story about money that needs to be moved out of a country. These stories are often outlandish but are designed to be so. By sending an email that’s dismissed by all but the most gullible of recipients, the scammers focus their efforts on those most likely to fall for the fraud.


Rebate scams

Intended victims are contacted with a claim that they are entitled to a reimbursement for overpaid taxes, bank fees or similar. As with other advance fee schemes, the scammer asks that a payment is made to cover fees that must be paid before the rebate can be received. It’s important to know that no Government agency or legitimate company will request money before making a payment.

How to keep yourself safe from ‘unexpected money’ scams

  • Review all unsolicited communication with a cautious attitude. If something sounds too good to be true, it’s likely that it is.
  • If you receive a request that could be an ‘unexpected money’ scam, copy and paste some of the message into an internet search engine. Scammers frequently reuse the same language over time and it’s possible that the message has been flagged as a potential scam already.
  • Ignore anything that you think may be a scam. Engaging scammers is likely to encourage them and they are often experts at using emotional manipulation to win your trust.
  • Never transfer funds to a stranger overseas – you may not be covered by Australian law and it is unlikely that you will be able to recover it.
  • If you have any doubts about any financial opportunity you are presented with, discuss it with a trusted professional – an accountant or a financial adviser.


If you have been targeted by a scam relating to your Qudos account, visit our webpage Reporting Scams to find out who to contact.

Qudos Mutual Limited trading as Qudos Bank ABN 53 087 650 557 AFSL/Australian Credit Licence 238 305. The information in this article is of a general nature and has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on the information, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances.

We're here to help

You might also be interested in