Protect your financial windfall: 5 crucial tips to keep scammers at bay

A financial windfall—whether through an unexpected inheritance, a winning lottery ticket, a stock windfall, or an unearthed treasure—often comes with an exhilarating wave of joy and excitement. Suddenly, a world of opportunities and possibilities seems to unfold right before your eyes.

However, along with this sudden wealth comes an increased risk of falling prey to frauds and financial missteps. You may be left wondering what, if anything, can you do to protect yourself and your newfound wealth from scams?

The five critical tips for keeping your financial windfall safe are 1) Keep the news of your wealth private 2) Seek advice from the pros 3) Develop a financial plan 4) Educate yourself about finances and scams and 5) Take your time—don’t rush into financial decisions you might regret later.

In this article, you’ll discover valuable insights and practical advice to help safeguard your windfall wealth from the lurking threats of scams and frauds. Whether you’ve recently come into money or you’re planning for the future, understanding these simple tips can make the difference between preserving your wealth and losing it to scammers.

Understanding the target on your back

First, it’s essential to recognize that a sudden financial windfall can put a target on your back. Scammers often target individuals who’ve recently come into a large amount of money, as they may not have the experience or knowledge to properly manage their newfound wealth.

We’ve all heard stories about lottery winners who lost it all or the long-lost “relatives” who suddenly show up after an inheritance. Scammers and fraudsters are clever, using sophisticated tactics and playing on emotions to dupe their victims.

Tip #1: Keep it private

Our first tip may seem counterintuitive—especially when you’re bursting to share your good news—but it’s critical to keep your financial windfall as private as possible.

Announcing your recent fortune can attract unwanted attention. This attention could come from potential scammers, along with distant relatives, friends, or acquaintances who may suddenly remember you in their hour of need.

So, avoid posting about your windfall wealth on social media or discussing it in public places where you could be overheard.

Unfortunately, in some cases, such as winning the lottery, it may be impossible to keep the news private. That’s because some state lotteries require the full name of winners to be made public.

California, for example, is a state that does not allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. The California Lottery says that public disclosure laws require them to make public the full name of lottery winners, the location where the winning ticket was sold, and the amount of the winnings.

However, some states may allow you to claim your winnings in the name of a trust, thus helping you to remain anonymous. Before claiming your winnings, it’s important you understand the rules of what personal information will be made public and if there is any option to maintain your anonymity.   

Tip #2: Seek professional advice

Once the initial excitement subsides, your next step should be to seek professional advice.

A trustworthy team, including a financial advisor, lawyer, and accountant, can guide you through the complexities of managing a significant amount of money. They can help protect your wealth, optimize your tax position, and assist with estate planning. They can provide a much-needed sounding board for you to ask advice when you’re approached by someone who might be trying to defraud you.

But be diligent in selecting these professionals—check their qualifications, ask for referrals, and ensure they have a sound reputation. Remember, it’s your money and your future, so choose wisely.

Tip #3: Develop a financial plan

Having a well-thought-out financial plan is another crucial step in protecting your wealth. With the help of your financial advisor, you should create a plan that outlines your financial goals and how you will achieve them.

This plan will become your roadmap, guiding your investment decisions and helping you avoid scammy, too-good-to-be-true investment opportunities.

It will also serve as a reality check, reminding you that even though you have more money now, it still isn’t unlimited.

Tip #4: Educate yourself

Even with professionals guiding you, it’s essential that you have a basic understanding of finances and the types of scams that are prevalent. Education is one of the most potent tools you can wield against scammers.

Many resources, from books to online courses and seminars, can help you understand personal finance, investing, and fraud prevention. By learning the common types of scams (such as Ponzi schemes, advance-fee fraud, phishing, and fake charities), you can be better prepared to identify and avoid them.

Here are some resources to help:

1. Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC offers a wealth of information on consumer protection and regularly updates data on the latest scams.

2. Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): The Internet Crime Complaint Center provides information about Internet-related criminal activity. The IC3 also allows anyone who believes they’ve been the victim of an Internet crime the ability to file a complaint.

3. Better Business Bureau (BBB): The BBB’s Scam Tracker provides information on recent scams reported in your area and allows you to report suspected scams.

4. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA): FINRA has a variety of resources to help consumers protect themselves from investment fraud.

5. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides educational resources about different types of fraud and tips for prevention.

6. AARP Fraud Watch Network: AARP’s Fraud Watch Network is a good resource for everyone, not just seniors, offering information on the latest scams and what to do if you’ve become a victim.

7. Online Courses: Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer online courses in financial literacy, which include modules on scam and fraud prevention.

Remember, knowledge is power—by staying informed, you increase your chances of spotting a scam before becoming a victim.

Tip #5: Take your time

Our final tip is simple, yet crucial: Take your time. Resist the temptation to make rash decisions or significant changes right away.

It’s okay to take a step back, breathe, and give yourself the space to adjust to your new financial status. Rushing into investments or big-ticket purchases without thoroughly researching them or understanding the financial implications can make you an easy target for scams.

Enjoy your newfound wealth—wisely and securely

Coming into windfall wealth can be a life-changing event, opening up possibilities that you may have only dreamed of. But this excitement should also be tempered with caution. Falling prey to scams can quickly turn your dream come true into a nightmare.

Remember, it’s essential to maintain privacy about your recent prosperity. Seek professional advice to navigate the complexities of your new financial status. Develop a solid financial plan to guide your decisions and protect your money. Invest in your financial education to recognize and avoid scams. And, above all, give yourself time to adjust and make wise decisions.

Although these tips might seem daunting, they’re manageable steps that you can take to ensure your prosperity is a blessing that lasts. After all, it’s not just about having money—it’s about preserving it and using it to create a secure and fulfilling future.

Your unexpected fortune is an opportunity for you to shape the life you’ve always wanted. It’s a chance to invest in your dreams, support causes you care about, and leave a legacy for future generations. But remember, the key to enjoying this privilege lies in vigilance and smart management.

Enjoy your money but do it wisely and securely. Stay informed, take your time, and make decisions that align with your long-term goals. With these steps, you can safeguard your wealth, avoid scams, and make the most of your financial windfall.

Elizabeth Blessing

Elizabeth Blessing is the founder of Windfall Wealth Report. She has over 10 years of experience as a freelance personal finance writer. Her clients have included Investopedia, Investing Daily, The Lazy Trader, and Leeb Financial.

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