We’d all love to have enough money to pay our debts and help people in greater need. How many of us fantasize about what we could do with a million dollars?
So, last month, when I received an incredible offer by email, from a barrister named Richard Williams, I jumped at it.
“I wish to present you with a request that would be of great benefit to the both of us. … It is my wish to name you, as an executor, the beneficiary of … my late client’s will. The event in which my client died is most unfortunate, along with his next-of-kin, same day in a plane crash. Reply me for comprehensive details.”
How intriguing; how tempting! I dashed off a reply:
“Mr. Williams, what an unfortunate circumstance! You must be so distraught about your client. How tragic that he and his next of kin should be killed in the same crash. How old were they? And from which country? And they have no living relatives? The world can be so unfair.
“Of course, I would love to learn how you decided that I would be a fitting executor — but first things first, as they say. I would be happy to help, though happy seems a poor choice of words in light of this tragic event. I am sure your client was pleased to know he had such an honourable person in charge of his estate. Please advise on how we should proceed.”
The barrister replied the next day trying to quell my anxiety, “I hope you are not apprehensive…,” he wrote.
The plan was that he and I would split his late client’s estate of £14.5 million — almost C$26 million — 60/40, so, $10.4 million for me. He explained:
“I want us to quickly take advantage of the situation because I do not share my government sentiments that the wealth of unfortunate people be bequeathed. … And all I have to do is to quickly modify the Will documents stating you as the beneficiary … and submit the necessary documents to the Bank as required for immediate transfer of the funds to your nominated bank. I have all necessary documents as the attorney and executor of the will so there is no risk involved. It is legal and there is absolutely nothing to worry about. …”
He just needed my full name, age, address, telephone number and occupation.
“Do try and uphold the confidentiality this transaction demands to ensure great success,” he implored. “This is our fortune, we shall be wealthy in the next few days.”
This classic ruse, the Inheritance Scam (with its often stilted English), has been around for ages. And even though most people can spot these offers for what they are from a mile away, it’s disturbing to know there are people vulnerable or desperate enough to grasp at such shoddy straws.
So I decided to toy with Barrister Richard Williams for a bit, figuring any time he spent corresponding with me was time not spent on an innocent victim.
I wrote with more questions:
“I am curious about your late client. He has no relatives who will take issue with me being named as beneficiary? I am curious as to how you found me and why you chose me to work with you on this. You have to admit, it’s not every day you receive such a generous offer! … Which country are you in?”
Williams poured on the reassurance:
“Please do not be apprehensive, trust me, this is a fortune that will make you and I very wealthy for the rest of our lives. … I am a man of integrity, a senior Queen's Counsel, I am a serious and sincere person, I do not believe in making insincere commitments or be involved in a business that is inimical, illegal or unreal. … Let's quickly take advantage of this rare opportunity and conclude it together quickly so that we will meet and celebrate.”
This time, he sent along his British Bar Council credentials, along with a business address in Birmingham, England, for a law firm that does not exist.
I wrote back, reiterating that in this day and age, people couldn’t be too careful. And then I dropped that magical four-letter word: “scam.”
And — poof! — he was gone.
Unfortunately, there’s plenty more where he came from. Be careful out there.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: pam_frampton