Singapore man loses $1.4 million in inheritance scam
It is the largest sum lost in this way since the beginning of last year
He received a fax from a British law firm claiming he was entitled to receive an inheritance of $12.7 million from a late distant relative with the same surname.
But the senior manager of a company never received the money. Instead, he lost $1.4 million in two months.
The police told The New Paper yesterday that this was the highest amount swindled in an inheritance scam since the beginning of last year.
Steve (not his real name) had thought that it was a good opportunity to inherit the sum for future business investments.
In an interview arranged by the police yesterday, the 54-year-old told the media it was greed which lured him into the scammer's trap.
"It was easy money, and I didn't have to put in much effort to claim such a large sum," he said.
"I wanted the money to invest further but got conned instead."
Steve and the scammer communicated through e-mail and telephone almost daily in June and July this year.
He said: "The documents and letters looked professionally done. I felt something was fishy initially but over time, it all seemed real.
"It was as if I was hypnotised by the scammer."
SUSPICIONS AND THREATS
On June 3, Steve received a fax from a supposed British attorney, Edward Rae, from Hardcourt Partners in London.
He was promised an inheritance of $12.7 million from one of their clients who had died in an accident in Canada nine years ago.
The fax stated: "Since his death, no one has come forward for the claim and our effort to locate his relatives had been proven unsuccessful."
Subsequently, Steve was told to make a small transfer of about $4,000, presumably for administrative fees and taxes.
The sum gradually increased till it reached about $200,000 a transaction.
Steve had reached out to family members and close friends to borrow half a million dollars to pay the fees.
Suspicions were raised when he realised the payments were made to several accounts in Hong Kong instead of a British account. The scammer also had different overseas phone numbers.
When Steve wanted to lodge a police report, he was threatened with legal action.
In addition, the scammer pressured Steve with tight deadlines to make the payments, saying his funds would not be released otherwise.
Steve finally reported the case to the police on July 30.
He said: "I am a manager handling so many staff, yet this happened to me.
"It turned out to be a nightmare."
He also told the media yesterday that his money has not been recovered.
Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist in private practice, told TNP that whether one falls for such scams is not related to one's intellect.
He said: "Most of the time, it is simply greed that victims are tempted by. Scammers use techniques like incremental steps and being extremely nice to lure victims."
The police said that between January and June this year, there were 14 cases of inheritance scams.