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Property Watch: Avoiding property fraud

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Recently a video produced by a global news outlet about property and fraud in Phuket went ‘viral’. The video covered serious subject matter, involving people who had been injured and who had their rights violated. However, what many people I spoke to found, was that the presentation of the video and representation of Phuket was fundamentally unfair. It is good to strike a balance when reporting on the negative aspects of a community.

TAKE PRECAUTIONS

‘It will never happen to me’ is a common active or subliminal thought that most humans carry around with them as a method of getting through life without simply freezing all actions and risks under the weight of the potential for things to go wrong.

That said, there are many precautions most of us take in our lives, with the usual exceptions to the rule manifesting themselves as prominent incidents.

After we have been burgled or seen others close to us burgled, we remember to lock doors and secure windows, and may even invest in a CCTV and alarm system.

After we have had a bag snatched or pilfered, or a mobile phone taken from the table in front of us, we may start to keep our personal possessions more safe.

Small companies which become big companies often have to reinvigorate their compliance and anti-fraud measures, exert additional care on cheque signing procedures and review the authority of accountants and auditors.

Similarly, people that think about investing in a new country that has a completely different legal system and culture than the one they are used to, should also take care by applying measures to avoid or at least mitigate the risk of being defrauded.

REDUCING RISK

1. Don’t put property you have paid for in somebody else’s name.

2. Keep title deeds safe. If they get lost, obtain replacements.

3. Take out property insurance and make sure you are the named beneficiary. Make sure the value of the property on the policy is kept up to date.

4. If your life partner has debt, bear in mind that he or she will try to pay it off, and if they own property they may take out a registered or unregistered loan using the property as collateral.

5. Remember that a building in law is different than land and therefore security and contracts should address the difference.

6. Don’t invest your entire life savings in one thing, or one property.

7. Keep some money overseas.

8. If you don’t like your lawyer, or no longer trust your lawyer, appoint a new one. Double-check the previous lawyer’s work. Don’t choose a lawyer based on fees alone. ‘You get what you pay for’ is a rule that applies in most situations, although not all.

9. Invest time in understanding the property system; the criminal legal system; the civil justice and court system. Try not to learn about those systems after the event. Understand the waters you swim in. Watch
out for the red flags.

BLAME CULTURE

A colleague questioned why I ever read the comments sections on social media, news websites and forums and why I sometimes get irritated about the extreme lack of thought and analysis in writing a ‘one-liner’ about topics that are sometimes of great importance and enormity. I have to say I can’t resist scrutinizing and being hungry for the opinion of others as a litmus test of the actively commenting parts of society.

Many express the view that we live in too litigious an environment and that we should learn to settle our differences without wasting years of our lives and others in the courts.

When that line is drawn, a point can be made, and compensation paid. However, if you find yourself a victim of fraud or a bad incident – don’t blame everyone – only blame the perpetrators; don’t blame ‘Phuket’; don’t blame every single person working for the government. Don’t blame the country you chose to live in. Try and accept some of the blame for yourself.

Desmond Hughes has been an owner and operator of his law firm in Thailand for 12 years, and is a Senior Partner at Hughes Krupica – www.hugheskrupica.com

— Desmond Hughes

 

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