Senior manager lost $1 million in 'inheritance money' scam

In the first half of this year, 14 cases reported to the police involved false inheritance schemes.
In the first half of this year, 14 cases reported to the police involved false inheritance schemes.ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

SINGAPORE - It seemed too good a deal to let slide.

Just agree to add his name to an inheritance policy, and stand to inherit more than US$9 million (S$12.4 million).

Steve (not his real name) could not believe his luck when the offer was made to him in June this year by a United Kingdom-based "solicitor" who faxed him a letter asking for his cooperation.

There seemed to be little to lose in this "risk-free" venture so he went along with it, said Steve, a senior manager in his 50s.

Little did he expect to lose around US$1 million in the two months the "solicitor" led him on in futile attempts to get the inheritance.

Steve's case involved the highest amount cheated from a victim of an inheritance scam since 2018, the police said. In the first half of this year, 14 cases reported to the police involved false inheritance schemes.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday (Sept 17), in an interview the police arranged to highlight the prevalence of scams, Steve said he spoke to the "solicitor" almost daily, over the phone and via e-mail.

The man told Steve he had the same surname as a client who died with no known next of kin. By listing Steve as the next of kin, Steve could inherit the dead man's assets and the lawyer would take a cut of the sum.

 
 
 
 

He was assured that little effort was required on his part, Steve said. But the lawyer soon asked Steve to pay US$7,400 as "tax" for the inheritance.

"The lawyer said 'don't worry, I'll pay half', so I felt he was very sincere," Steve added.

The demand for money did not stop there, and the "lawyer" started asking for bigger sums, each time with a different excuse. At one point, Steve even transferred a sum of US$150,000 to the man.

Officers at his bank found the transactions fishy, and tried to investigate the matter, but the fraudster found out and said another company was threatening them with a lawsuit because of the investigations, said Steve.

He complied with the "lawyer's" request to send money to appease the "company".

"I was quite confident that this was not a scam, (as) he kept calling and saying 'don't worry, I'm here, I'll help you'," Steve said.

But he eventually realised the inheritance scheme was a ruse, when the "lawyer" made a mistake and sent him a form that was identical to a form he had sent Steve previously.

Steve made a police report on July 30, and stopped responding to the "lawyer".

Since then, he has been waiting to hear from the authorities on the sum lost.

But he has resigned himself to not ever getting the money back. "It'll be great if I can get the money back, but if not, what can I do? I'm at the mercy of the scammers."