5 SCAMS SET TO TRAP ANCESTRY HUNTERS

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HOW SCAMMERS CAN TAKE YOU DOWN THE WRONG ANCESTRY PATH: INTERNET SCAMBUSTERS #742

Forget about Sherlock. Real-life detective adventures are available for anyone trying to uncover their ancestry.

And as in any good mystery plot, villains are lurking around every corner waiting to trick family historians into handing over their money for little or nothing in return.

In this week’s issue, we explain how these ancestry scams work and offer a view from one expert on how to give these crooks the slip.

Let’s get started…


5 SCAMS SET TO TRAP ANCESTRY HUNTERS


Tracing your ancestry is all the rage these days. In uncertain times or as we get older, people develop a passion for finding out about their roots and building a family tree.

Although there are many professional genealogists, most ancestry “detectives” are amateurs and their sleuthing sometimes leads them into scams.

For instance, family historians are being targeted by crooks using the well-known inheritance con trick.

Most of us would be fascinated and delighted to learn that one of our ancestors was extremely wealthy.

It’s just a short step from there to be taken in by a report that this ancestor left an unclaimed inheritance and that you could be in line to collect.

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Scammers comb ancestry research websites for names and contact details of researchers and then deliver the “good news” about the inheritance.

As usual, they tell victims they have to pay a fee and other supposed processing charges in order to collect. Victims who pay up are then strung along with excuses and requests for more money until they finally realize they’re being conned.

THE BOOK OF YOU

A second, well-practiced scam involves mailshots telling recipients their family history, and particularly the story behind their last name, has already been researched.

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They may even say the history has been published as a book titled something like “The World Book of ……” (insert your surname here!) or “History of the …… Family.”

“These ‘family surname history’ books are little more than glorified phone books,” says genealogy expert Kimberly Powell on the online research and information service About.com.

“Usually they will include some general information on tracing your family tree, a brief history of your surname (very generic and providing no insight on the history of your specific family) and a list of names taken from a variety of old phone directories.”

MORE ANCESTRY SCAMS

If you’re into family history, here are three more ancestry scams to beware of:

* Phony Experts. As we said earlier, there are many professional genealogists who can often help solve some of the challenges of tracking down your ancestors.

But there are also plenty of others who set themselves up as experts but know little more than you do about how to conduct research.

Anyone can claim to be a genealogist; there’s nothing illegal about that. But it’s fraudulent to lie about experience, credentials, and qualifications.

There are several professional organizations, such as the Association of Professional Genealogists and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists, that vouch for the skills of their members. In some cases, members may have had to undergo training and exams to vouch for their skills.

It’s down to you to check them out before hiring. To learn more about these organizations and how to verify claims of membership, see this article: What to Look For in a Genealogist You Contract With to Research Your Family Tree.

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