FBI Warns Americans of Spike in Timeshare Fraud

FBI Warns Americans of Spike in Timeshare Fraud

(LibertyInsider.org) – The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against an alleged cartel kingpin, including six of his associates and 19 companies with connections to timeshare fraud in Mexico, in April 2023. However, that wasn’t the end of the problem. On June 7, the FBI released a notice warning that the bureau had seen a spike in fraud targeting timeshare owners.

Paul Roberts, assistant special agent in charge, said the criminals seem to target older Americans. The agency says the Jalisco New Generation cartel is one of the main culprits behind the scams. However, the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have also allegedly run timeshare frauds.

Roberts said the cartels have been running timeshare frauds for over 10 years but have recently expanded their operations. He explained that lower overhead costs and perceived risks associated with getting caught compared to drug or weapons trafficking have made the scam a popular investment for those criminal gangs.

According to Roberts, the FBI is partnering with the DEA and the OFAC, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies and private sector partners.

Syndicate fraudsters undertake professional-level research on their potential victims before engaging them in a multi-level scam. First, representatives initiate contact by phone or email, suggesting that timeshare owners consider exiting from, renting out, or investing in share certificates in their property. The properties aren’t always located in Mexico, either. One recent victim owned his timeshare in Lake Tahoe.

Representatives pressure owners to pay certain fees or taxes to secure the proposed deals. They may also pressure owners to sign contracts. Then, they escalate the requests for fees until victims run out of cash or stop paying.

Second, the same fraudsters pose as law firm representatives working to help victims recover losses after a time. They’ll offer their services after explaining that the criminals worked from Mexico, requiring the victims to pay local court and legal fees to recover their losses.

Finally, fraudsters impersonate government agents from the OFAC, the Mexican government, or Interpol, claiming to investigate the victims for money laundering or terrorist activity. They demand additional money to clear their names.

Roberts pointed out, “There is nothing embarrassing about falling victim to a scam like this.” The FBI increased media coverage about the frauds, hoping to educate the public. Jason Gamel, CEO of the American Resort Development Association, also advised timeshare owners “to never engage with proactive resale offers.”

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