Mr Thomas Schlesinger, a distant relative of mine and his poor wife died in 2010 on the Barcelona Motorway, writes his personal attorney, the barrister Alejandro Gomez (Esq) of Lanx & Associates, (located at 42 Arc del Teatra, Barcelona) in a letter that arrived by post last week, dated September 14.
Before his death, Mr Gomez writes, Thomas deposited $8.5m in the Spanish Finance Bank, but tragically did not make a will.
All efforts to trace Thomas’s relatives have been ‘abortive and a mystery”.
Rather than risk having the funds confiscated, “as according to Spanish Inheritance Law on article 101-102 amendment”, Mr Gomez has kindly offered to present me (L Schlesinger) as the next of kin of Thomas Schlesinger, who I am told was a “formal contractor/engineer” at mining giant BHP Billiton” to share the $8.5m with him, minus 10 per cent to go to “some charity organisations”.
Because of his personalities (of which I assume there are multiple) Barrister Gomez writes and says that I should keep the matter “secrete and confidentiality as our primary working conditions” but that I should email him at his private address, or phone or fax as soon as possible “to ensure the success of the project”.
As I pondered the words of Mr Gomez, I reflected on a double tragedy: almost three years ago I received another letter from Barrister Mateo Pinto from Madrid to inform me that another distant relative of mine ‘Albert Schlesinger’, an oil magnate who lived in Spain for 28 years died with his immediate family in an “auto car accident on the Damascus Highway in Syria in December 2004”.
Sadly, he too had not left a will (it must run in the Schlesinger family on our Spanish side: car accidents and not writing wills) leaving US$9.6 million unclaimed in a vault at the Madrid Central office.
So much death, yet so much unclaimed money…
I have now received two letters from Spain at two different home addresses (I moved house in 2013).
The only thing genuine thing about them are of course the charming Spanish stamps and postmarks on the envelopes.
The latest letter has a lovely one euro stamp depicting Felipe the Sixth, the current Spanish monarch, in a red-brown tint.
The first letter had two stamps: a 35 cent stamp depicting the back seat of a car with a teddy bear and a 50 cent stamp of a red ship of some kind.
I haven’t given them a penny and it seems hard to believe that anyone else would fall for this scam. But they do, and in droves.
According to the Australian government’s Scamwatch website, losses for the first seven months of the year from ‘inheritance scams’ – as these are known – total $4.43m from 2500 reported cases, making up roughly 10 per cent of the $45m lost to scams of one sort or another.
“Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it,” writes Delia Rickard from the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission
But surely only greed, naievety or stupidity – perhaps a combination of all three – can be driving people to divulge their personal information and lose tens of thousands of dollars to people like “Alejandro Gomez” (For an explanation of how this scam works, click here.)
While the posted letter, stamps and postmark adds an air of authenticity and the letterhead has an actual address (Arc del Teatre in Barcelona does exist) there is no firm called Lanx & Associates.
BHP Billiton, is of course a real company, but never employed a Thomas Schlesinger, who never deposited money into the Spanish Finance Bank, because no such bank exists.
As for Alejandro Gomez, no such barrister is currently practicing in Barcelona according to Google, though there is an Argentinan football player and a Columbian tennis player with the same name, so maybe the letter writer is a sports fan.
And type the name of his “law firm” Lanx & Associates into Google and you come up with consumer forums (like this one) packed with people telling identical stories about letters from lawyers in Spain.
Greetings from Germany. My new best friend Barrister Mark Torres Esq. (Spanish Lawyer and Doctor in Law) located at Calle Velázquez 53, 28001 Madrid Tel.: 00-34-692-838-947 firstname.lastname@example.org, wants to share 7.5 million euros with me, left by a person with the same surname who died in a car crash in 2004.
Anyone want to take up the offer?
I am glad I wasn’t in Spain in 2004. It seems to have been a catastrophic year for accidents!