The Crucial Problem of Inheritance Frauds – How To Secure Your Will
The inheriting process is always complicated and exhausting. While mourning the gone relative, heirs have to face endless bureaucratic work and waste lots of time and nerves dealing with the last will. At such moments they are more than ever subject to the soulless deeds of fraudsters, who by all means try to get as much profit as possible illegally. In this article, we will talk more about different kinds of inheritance frauds and share with you how to secure your last will.
According to Australian inheritance scam statistics, only in Australia in January 2020, there were 226 cases of inheritance fraud reported with a total amount of $256 470 lost. Most of the cases were dealt through email or text messages (53 and 129 accordingly), mail letters are on the third place (28) and in-person contacts on the fourth place (4 reports). Nevertheless, the in-person delivery method brought scammers more than $130 000, which takes half of the total amount.
source: ScamWatch AU
We all heard stories about a son of father’s cousin of the departed (or any other indirect relation to the deceased, it does not matter for scammers which undercover they choose) suddenly knocking on the door at the same second a will letter or an inheritance agreement is revealed. In most cases, they have evidence of being in a blood relationship with a distant relative, as well as a new, “real” copy of the will. Indeed, they purport to receive a particular part of the inheritance in any equivalent: money, property, valuable assets, etc. Sounds like a familiar movie plot twist, doesn’t it?
However, nowadays, inheritance thefts come up with new, less known strategies they use to fool random people. They no longer try to break into your private territory, but reach you by a phone call, email, or a simple text message and introduce themselves as representatives of a legal law firm. The plan is simple – to announce that the future victim of fraud has been claimed as an heir of a great inheritance, and to offer their help in order to receive it as soon as possible.
If in the first case such scammers bet on the vulnerable condition of soon-to-be robbed, in the other situation, they believe that the unexpected chance to get much money will cloud the eyes of recipients of such emails with happiness and make them less suspicious. Sometimes, it does work, though.
A case of inheritance fraud in Singapore
Summer 2019, a Singaporean man lost almost $1.5 million in inheritance scam.
On June 3, he received a fax letter from a UK law firm based in London. The letter claimed that he was granted the right to receive $12.7 million inheritance. One of the clients of the law company died in an accident nine years ago, and they did not succeed in contacting any of his relatives till now. Finally, after all this time, they found this man with the same surname and reached him immediately.
“Since his death, no one has come forward for the claim, and our effort to locate his relatives had been proven unsuccessful.” was written in the fax letter.
Blinded by the idea of getting a large sum of money, a 54 years old senior manager of a company was ready to pay for additional expenses regarding documents’ preparation and made transactions that eventually reached about $200,000 per one. The papers looked real and professional, and the firm had been in touch with him via emails and phone calls for almost two months, so he did not expect it to be a scam. Only after the victim realized that he transferred his money to different bank accounts located not in London, but Hong Kong, he reported the case to a police officer.
Unfortunately, there was no chance for him to get his money back.
According to Dr. Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist in private practice, any person can become the next target of thieves no matter what level of intellect, the IQ number, or level of education he or she has.
Man lost RM 30K in an online inheritance scam
Back in 2010, a Malaysian citizen gave away MYR 30,000 to the internet scammer pretending to be his long-distance online friend.
The trap was prepared several months in advance. A man found an online friend from the UK and stayed in touch with him for many months. The British mate even visited him in Malaysia and continued talking through emails and calls even after he went back home. Then, abruptly, the forum friend announced his beloved mother’s death and her testament, according to which her son’s Malaysian friend also receives part of the inheritance as she had grown fond of him after several calls and email letters.
The amount a man supposed to get was estimated to be $5.4 million. He only had to pay for some custom fees due to the fact that the inherited money was stuck at the Customs Department. As soon as the payment was confirmed, the online friend disappeared and stopped answering his emails. The phone number was also suddenly disconnected and out of service.
When the Malaysian man visited the authorities with all the “documents” attached, the Customs deport claimed that all of them were fake.
In 2010, the Customs Department used to receive up to 100 inheritance fraud cases every month where victims would visit the deport with fake documents looking for their “inheritance money.” It is almost impossible to track such online forgers because they tend to continually move around, preventing the risks of being caught.
How to secure your will and protect your family from being fooled
“I want To Make Sure What I’ve Said Is What I’ve Said” – Breece D’J Pancake
Not many young people consider writing a will as an important milestone in life, at least before they reach 50 years old. Nevertheless, it is never too soon or too late to take care of it. But to make sure that your family will be satisfied with the accurate results, it is wise to come up with several strategies to protect your legacy.
- Find a family lawyer
There once was a jokey and truthful statement: in your life, you have to find your family doctor, personal financial adviser, and your family lawyer. Definitely, if you are concerned about the authenticity of your will statement, you should make sure that the legal representative who helps you with organizing the documents related to this matter is trustworthy and has an idea about the general condition of your family. It will also help your relatives in the future, as they will be confident about getting back to the person who they already know.
Family lawyers not only give legal advice when needed; they are also responsible for taking legal actions on your behalf. It does not include inheritance fraud cases only. A family lawyer is knowledgeable enough to support divorce cases, child custody, guardianships, etc. Moreover, when you have been working with a legal assistant for years, this faithful partner can provide you with essential moral and emotional support much needed in most of the situations related to law. So, if you can afford to hire a long-term family lawyer, it would be the wisest decision appreciated during the next decades.
- Consider writing it by hand
It does not actually matter which way you prefer to keep your will. If scammers want to fake it, they will find a way to do it. However, your family surely remembers your handwriting style, so if they see an entirely written officially declared document with the familiar calligraphy, they will place more confidence in it.
Try to avoid mixing different styles of collecting your scripts, for example, do not write one page by hand and print another with a computer text. It does look suspicious even if the document is 100% original. If you prefer more modern ways, follow your liking, but don’t forget to sign it and assure all changes with a lawyer.
- Trust your witnesses
Make sure and double-check that you carefully choose your witnesses – those who testify the moment of signing the will document. It is highly recommended to find at least two of them. Consider not allowing any of your heirs to witness, as they are the most interested people in this situation. Some courts do not even recognize your relatives to be witnesses, so the process of choosing them may become difficult. This is the moment where a family lawyer can be useful – do not hesitate to ask them for the advice!
- Look for modern security solutions
More and more sectors dealing with documents start using advanced technologies in order to secure essential information and evade the possibility of fraud. Blockchain technology has shown itself as one of the greatest and the most effective ways of digitally protecting your data in real life.
Immutability is one of the most important benefits of this method. The concept of hashing the information and collecting it in blocks does not allow scammers to get access to it and change the core. Cryptographically tied blocks provide a record immune from tampering.
Moreover, it is easy to make the document accessible to the public, so your relatives will be able to see your will even after you calmly pass in your bed. Before doing that, you should make sure that you want to do so, as the information once put on the blockchain will stay there forever without the possibility of being erased or changed.
If you choose to protect your last will by applying technological solutions, do not forget to announce it to your lawyer and your family. In this case, they will know in advance that the only real copy of your inheritance statement is already secured, and other documents or forms are fake.
Nowadays, the majority of people using the Internet on a daily basis already know about such scams and ignore fishy messages and calls. However, it is still important to educate your family, especially the elderly generation, about these cases and protect them from being robbed. Keep an eye on your security, do not share your personal email and a phone number on questionable websites, avoid inheritance frauds, and stay safe.
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