Saturday, July 13, 2024

FBI issues national financial warning

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a warning over a particular type of financial crime that’s linked to Mexican cartels.

In an announcement, the agency said it has seen a rise in scams targeting timeshare owners. The primary victims are older Americans, particularly wealthy ones looking to recoup some of the money spent on their real estate investment. In the last five years, upwards of 6,000 victims have reported more than $300 million in losses to the agencies, the agency said.

“Timeshare fraudsters aim to suck their victims dry, with devastating consequences to victims’ financial futures, relationships, and physical and emotional health,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Paul Roberts, who leads FBI New York’s Complex Financial Crimes Branch, said in a blog post.

Roberts said the scams have caught the FBI’s attention because its illicit proceeds are increasingly used to fund violent cartels in Mexico.

“Timeshare fraud has low overhead costs and minimal reinvestment, needing only a rental of small space, telecom setup, and English-speaking employees with access to resort databases,” Roberts said.

“There is lower perceived risk of prosecution and extradition for timeshare fraud but easy cash flow that goes directly into the Mexican banking system and obfuscates funds to facilitate money laundering activities.”

How do timeshare scams work?

Timeshare fraudsters do their homework before they target their potential victims, going as far as creating fake documents and impersonating individuals from trustworthy institutions like banks. They then use high-pressure sales tactics and phony information, such as mimicking legitimate entities’ email addresses and forging official documents, to convince victims that offers regarding their timeshares are real.

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Initial contact is generally made by phone or email with the scammer pretending to be a U.S. or Mexican-based third-party time share broker or sales representative, the FBI said. They then urge the owner to exit their timeshare, rent out their property or invest in share certificates. Fraudsters then press victims to pay upfront fees or taxes to secure the deals.

After this phase, fraudsters generally reapproach the victims posing as lawyers trying to help them recoup the money they lost to the first scammers and asking for court or legal fees.

Scammers don’t stop there, however, and often circle back to impersonate government officials who either claim they can help recoup some of the lost money – for a fee, of course- or threaten the person claiming the initial payment was suspicious and the person is being fined or prosecuted.

No matter the stage, it’s all an effort to separate the victim from their money.

Helena Carey
Helena Carey
Helena Carey is a seasoned news author renowned for her engaging storytelling and insightful analysis. With a decade of journalism experience, she's a trusted voice in the ever-evolving news landscape.

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