CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (BBB) -- What may seem like an unexpected windfall of cash could be the beginning of a series of events that could leave consumers out of thousands of dollars.
Consumers from across the U.S. have contacted Better Business Bureau about unsolicited offers they received for timeshare holdings they own in Mexico. The offers often are for well over the value of the timeshare, making them enticing to the consumer. Instead of getting rich, the consumer can get caught up in an elaborate scam that has the possibility of hurting them financially.
How does the ruse work? The consumer will be contacted by phone or email with an offer for their timeshare. The fraudsters will send the consumer a contract for them to sign in an attempt to make it appear like a legitimate transaction.
From there, the consumer may be asked to send money for closing costs. If money is sent, the consumer likely will be asked to send more money for various things like legal fees or government taxes. The fraudsters will keep the consumer on the hook as long as they can before letting go.
A St. Louis man filed a report to BBB Scam Tracker in December 2019 detailing how he was victimized for more than $11,000. The man told BBB the scammers first had him pay more than $3,400 to pay off the balance of a mortgage he had on the timeshare. After that, he was told he needed to pay a Mexico capital gains tax of nearly $8,000. The man said he was then asked to pay bank fees of nearly $50,000. It was at that point he stopped sending money.
“When someone calls you unsolicited and offers you a deal that sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB St. Louis president and CEO. “If you want to pursue one of these types of offers, you really have to do your research to make sure it is legitimate.”
How can you protect yourself from a timeshare scam?
· Doing thorough research may help save you a headache. If you are directed to a company website, see how long it has been in operation by searching web domain registries. If a company purports to have been in business for years, but its website is only months old, that might be a red flag.
· Ask where the company is located and where it is headquartered. Look up the address and use Google Maps to take a look at where it is located. If the business is located in an office building, reach out to the property owner and ask if the business is an actual tenant.
· Be wary of anyone claiming they have a buyer for your timeshare or who promises to rent your time, especially if they ask for an upfront fee.
· Make sure to get a signed contract that details what is done, a timetable of events and an explanation of what happens if the business or the consumer doesn’t comply with the agreement.
· Look up the business and see if it has a BBB Business Profile or by calling 888-996-3887.