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Mexican cartels infiltrating timeshare industry – FBI warns of deceptive scams targeting wealthy Americans

Preying on investments as fake deals and high-pressure tactics drain millions

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is raising the alarm on a concerning trend: Mexican cartels financing their activities through timeshare scams targeting wealthy American investors. These elaborate schemes have resulted in significant financial losses for victims, raising concerns about organized crime's increasing infiltration into seemingly legitimate businesses.

The FBI's New York Complex Financial Crimes Branch, led by Assistant Special Agent in Charge Paul Roberts, has observed a sharp increase in timeshare fraud cases. Over the past five years, more than 6,000 victims have reported losses exceeding $300 million.

Fueling cartels through deception

The FBI's Assistant Special Agent in Charge Paul Roberts, in a blog post, pointed out the devastating consequences these scams have for victims. He went on to elaborate on the financial strain, emotional toll, and potential damage to relationships that these targeted attacks can cause, underlining the far-reaching impact of such criminal activity.

Fraudsters take advantage of older Americans looking to sell their timeshares by promising to recover money from investments that may be losing value.

A critical aspect of the FBI's focus on this issue lies in the connection between timeshare fraud and the funding of Mexican cartels. Roberts explains that the low overhead costs associated with running these scams make them appealing. Minimal investment is required, typically involving a small office space, telecommunication equipment, and English-speaking employees with access to resort databases.

Additionally, the perception of low risk regarding prosecution and extradition in timeshare fraud enables cartels to funnel their illicit profits into the Mexican banking system without scrutiny. This obscures the money's origin, facilitating money laundering activities that strengthen these criminal organizations.

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How timeshare scams work

The FBI details the tactics employed by these fraudsters. They meticulously research potential victims, creating fake documents and impersonating representatives from trusted institutions like banks. High-pressure sales tactics and fabricated information, including forged documents and mimicked email addresses, are used to convince victims of the legitimacy of these "deals."

Initial contact typically occurs through phone calls or emails, with the scammer posing as a third-party timeshare broker or sales representative, often claiming to be based in the U.S. or Mexico. The scammer then encourages the victim to either sell their timeshare, rent it out, or invest in share certificates.

Victims are often coerced into paying upfront fees or taxes as an initial step to secure these fraudulent deals. Subsequently, fraudsters often reappear, posing as lawyers offering assistance in recovering the initial "losses" from the initial scam, demanding additional fees for their supposed "services."

The deception doesn't end there. Scammers may even impersonate government officials, promising to recoup lost money for a fee or threatening legal action if the victim doesn't comply. Regardless of the approach, the ultimate goal remains the same: to deprive the victim of their money through a series of deceitful tactics.

Protecting Yourself: Warning Signs of a Timeshare Scam

The FBI offers crucial information to help potential victims identify and avoid timeshare scams:

  • Upfront Fees: Be wary of anyone demanding upfront fees, taxes, or power-of-attorney forms before securing a deal.
  • Government Imposters: Government officials wouldn't contact you about a timeshare settlement or threaten legal action via phone calls. These are scams.
  • Impersonating Law Enforcement: The FBI and U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control wouldn't initiate contact through unsolicited phone calls or emails about timeshares.

Timeshare scams continue to evolve, and staying informed is critical for safeguarding your financial well-being. Here at Calle Ocho News, we strive to provide our readers with reliable information about scams and financial crimes.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive regular updates and insights on how to protect yourself from falling victim to these deceptive schemes. We also offer comprehensive advertising solutions to businesses seeking to reach a diverse and engaged audience.

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