Beware of inheritance scams: Popovic-Montag

June 4, 2019 Suzana Popovic-Montag advocatedaily 0 Comments
Estates & Wills & Trusts

Beware of inheritance scams: Popovic-Montag

By Kirsten McMahon, Managing Editor


Suzana Popovic-Montag

Although a law firm may conduct a search to find a missing heir, potential beneficiaries are never required to send money or banking information, says Toronto trusts and estates lawyer Suzana Popovic-Montag.

“No matter how legitimate a lawyer’s correspondence or website may appear, you should not send money in order to collect an inheritance or unclaimed bank account,” says Popovic-Montag, managing partner of Hull & Hull LLP. “If you have been duped by this type of estates fraud, you should contact your local authorities.”

She tells that while the inheritance fraud scheme is nothing new, scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated with how they execute these crimes. She points to a recent inheritance racket in the United States where people received a fax on letterhead from a lawyer with “Hull & Hull Solicitors.”

The letter states that there is an unclaimed amount of US$9.8 million and the potential beneficiary — who shares the same last name and nationality as the deceased — just has to complete some paperwork and file documents to substantiate the claim. The letter lists a dupe email address and website address and lists Hull & Hull’s Toronto address.

“They set up a fraudulent website that has our firm’s lawyer on it, and cut and pasted information from our website,” Popovic-Montag says. “It took more than a month to get that site pulled down from the domain server and the scammers just put up another fraudulent site for ‘Hulls & Hulls Solicitors.’ It’s been very difficult dealing with this because of jurisdictional issues and other complexities, not to mention the reputational hit.”

She says the lawyer’s name they used has experience in international estates and deals with foreign beneficiaries, so this is well targeted.

“In Canada, I think people would know of our firm and suspect this was a hoax, but to people in the United States, it looks legitimate. We have reported this to LawPRO and the Law Society of Ontario, but there’s nothing much we can do.

“We feel terrible for anyone who has been duped and urge them to contact their local police department,” Popovic-Montag adds.

To read more about common estate scams, click here.

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