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Letter promises big payday

AHOSKIE – If Robert Ayers were alive today, he would be among the first to warn his family and friends about a potential scam. He never held anyone in high regard that attempted to bilk a person out of their hard-earned money, and would let you know that in very clear terms.

Ayers, who was a ceramic tile “master” and part-time drag car owner and racer, died in November of 2016. Now, 17 months later, comes the chance for him to strike it rich….but alas, it’s a scam.

Earlier this week, Robert’s wife, Gwen, shared a March 13 letter she received by mail, one claiming that her late husband stood to gain over nine million dollars from a deceased relative.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened the letter….$9.2 million is a lot of money; but then I thought about Robert’s words when he was alive: ‘If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is’,” Gwen Ayers said.

“The reason I’m sharing this letter with you (R-C News-Herald) is because I don’t want to see someone get a letter like this and fall victim to a scam, especially one of our elderly people who lives on a fixed income,” she continued. “They’ll see all those dollar signs and their judgment becomes clouded. The next thing you know their bank accounts will be wiped out after falling for the scam.”

The letter Mrs. Ayers provided came from a person identified as Mr. Jean Drapeaw, who claimed to be an account manager with TD Canada Trust Bank in Ontario.

“I retrieved your contact address in my search for the next of kin to a deceased customer of our bank, Mr. Geo Ayers, a citizen of your country who lived and died in London from cardiac arrest in the year 2008,” the letter stated. “Unfortunately, this customer died intestate (a legal term meaning a person has passed away without leaving a will), leaving his bank account with an open beneficiary status.

“All efforts made by our bank to locate his relatives have been unsuccessful, so I decided to write to you as I have monitored this account in the bank for almost 10 years now and no one has come forth with any claim,” the letter continued. “I would like to present to you to our bank as his next of kin to claim this dormant account worth $9.2 million.”

“For one thing, Robert did not have any relatives by the name of Geo; and, secondly, this guy (letter writer) wants to present my husband as the legal next-of-kin without any proof that they are related….who does such a thing,” Gwen Ayers asked puzzlingly.

The letter details the next steps, saying, “You will apply to the bank as an extended relative while I work from the inside to make sure all needed information and evidences are provided to you to back up your claim.”

“What that sounds like is someone is going to provide false information, making my late husband appear to be a legitimate family member,” Mrs. Ayers noted.

Two other puzzling statements followed in the letter: “Since he (Geo Ayers) is from your country and you both share the same last name, it {is} easy for you to become his official next of kin.”

The other questionable statement in the letter was what put Mrs. Ayers over the top: “Once the funds are released to you, it will be shared between the two of us.”

“Really…..what kind of banking official wants half of what they claim to be yours,” she insisted.

The end of the letter asked Robert Ayers to contact Mr. Drapeaw through his personal email.

“That was another red flag,” Gwen Ayers pointed out. “If he’s really working at that bank, why not instruct the person you’re corresponding with to contact them through a work email address. Plus, the letter I received didn’t appear to be on professional stationary, like you would typically see from a bank.”

An online search revealed there is a TD Canada Trust Bank, a legitimate business with branches in Canada and the United States. That search also produced several news articles from throughout the U.S. concerning others that had been written regarding the same inheritance scenario. The differences were the name of the banking officer, the name of the deceased, and the dollar amount of the inheritance (always $10 million and under).

Those stories prompted those receiving such letters to report them to the Federal Trade Commission and their local law enforcement agency.

A spokesperson with TD Canada Trust Bank confirmed the letters were a scam.

“I’ll report this; like I said earlier I don’t want anyone to be caught up in a scam like this,” Mrs. Ayers concluded.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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