According to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau’s latest figures, fraud crimes have gone up for the fifth year in a row in England and Wales.
The bureau reports a rise of four per cent in fraud offences to over 653,000 for the year ended in June with more than half of crimes taking place online.
Plymouth consultant solicitor Tony Pearce agrees that there are more incidents of fraud, including around wills and probate, the area he specialises in.
Tony, who works for Plymouth law firm Curtis Whiteford Crocker says there are a whole plethora of reasons why there are an increasing number of disputes over wills and offences of fraud.
“We live in a time when people’s expectations are high,” he says. “There’s a pressure caused when people over 50 have acquired wealth in the form of property, money and shares and there are people under 35 who can’t get on the housing ladder.
“There are expectations and promises made along the lines of ‘when I’m dead you’ll get this’. Then granny dies and they discover there was a different will in the final months of her life. Disputes need to be settled before they get to court. I recently worked on the case of two brothers arguing over dad’s estate. They were facing legal costs of £50,000 on both sides if they didn’t settle.
“Today there are more disputes over money and property after someone has died and I’ve noticed that fraudulent wills have become more frequent. Over the last three years I’ve come across two wills that were forged and, in the last 12 months, the courts have begun taking them more seriously.”
And it’s not just disputes over wills. With people living longer there are issues with care of the elderly.
“A lot of my work is trust work,” says Tony. “Here one of the problems is people setting up sham trusts to avoid paying granny’s care fees. It’s always the old people who seem to get fleeced. With internet banking transfers it makes fraud easier. A young person offers to look after someone financial interests and the fraud is easily committed, all done from the security of someone’s laptop. It’s endemic and presents a massive problem.”