It has become too common of a scenario. In a country with rampant criminal activity, a husband or grown child goes out to run an errand and never returns. According to Mexico’s Natural Human Rights Commission, as many as 25,000 people are missing throughout Mexico – people who have simply vanished.
Families report these disappeared people to the Commission of Missing Persons, but rarely are investigations conducted by the state. In most cases, families are left to make inquiries on their own – usually with no leads to pursue.
To help these families, many Mexican states have recently enacted laws shortening the time required to obtain a death certificate – from seven years to just one year. Previously, a “Declaration of Absence” could be requested after two years and, five years later, one could apply for a “Presumption of Death.”
Now most states in the Mexican Republic no longer require the Declaration of Absence and allow the issuance of a Presumption of Death after just one year. This has led to an increase in the number of missing person claims. By all indications, we will continue to see rapid growth in the number of claims coming from Mexico.
Not only does this new law greatly increase the potential for questionable claims, it also opens the door to problems in the handling of missing persons involving life insurance claims. Our agency is seeing an influx of disappearance cases. In many instances, they involve people with connections to well-known gangs who are potentially well-connected and, with the assistance of attorneys and bribes, can expedite the issuance of an official death certificate.
As a result of these changes, the opportunity for fraudulent claims from Mexico is greater than ever. We offer the following recommendations to prevent being victimized by staged-disappearance cases:
1. The top recommendation for the most cost-effective strategy to prevent this type of potential fraud is to conduct a comprehensive inspection report with a company that has the resources to research court records and Mexican social media sites. In most cases where we have seen fraud, a solid inspection report would have avoided the claim.
2. Investigate the claim as soon as you receive notice of disappearance – that is when you still have good, fresh leads to pursue.
3. Ensure your investigator fully understands the legal requirements for issuing a Presumption of Death. In many cases, attorneys attempt to take shortcuts to obtain the documentation without meeting the legal requirements – often successfully.
4. Be certain the investigator understands the landscape and logistics of the alleged disappearance. This usually means a local investigator will have an edge in developing important leads in this most precarious and dangerous environment.
5. By far, the most important ingredient in defeating fraudulent disappearances in Mexico is to partner with an agency that specializes in these types of cases and has the local contacts and deeper understanding of local laws.
With offices in Mexico City and Bogota, Colombia, Diligence International Group has a team of experienced legal investigators that understand the nuances of the local environment in order to defend these challenging and questionable claims.
Richard J. Marquez
Managing Director, DIG

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