Scammers promising to buy timeshare then cons him out of $24K.

It cannot be argued scamming concerning timeshares disposal and resales has migrated into or feature in the secondary markets.

An experienced estate agent spoke of a sophisticated scam and the trap that ensnared him. To aid others he has explained his story to save others from being lured into paying thousands of dollars to sell or pass on timeshare contracts or allocations of points.

Darren Kittleson worked as an estate agent for 30 years and claims to have been duped out of more than $24,000 by con artists who offered to buy his week at ‘Garza Blanca Resort in Puerta Vallarta’, Mexico.

The scammers appeared to know the exact dates of his reservation, used a real Arizona business name and brokers, and sent realistic-looking bank statements. When every call was made to him the number called from seemed to come from the right area code and everything Mr Kittleson investigated seemed to check out.

After being scammed the experience made him feel "stupid” as he was a business man. “They were so sophisticated in how they did it” he explained, and I just don't want it to happen to anyone else."

Kittleson got a call last year from someone purporting to represent ‘Westwood Realty’ in Phoenix with an offer to buy the holday days he had booked.

He looked up the company, found it was licensed in Arizona, then located its office building on Google Maps which was at its listed address, checked out the state real-estate license of the broker who claimed to be part of the sale and as she had no complaints going back to the 1980s all looked rosy.

What Kittleson didn't know was that the scammers were squatting on the reputations of others and impersonating a legitimate company and broker for the purpose of duping those they targeted. Investigators with the Arizona Department of Real Estate later determined that ‘Westwood Realty’ and the broker were not involved with the scam. The listed address was for a different tenant.

Mr Kittleson said, "I thought I was doing everything I need to in order to verify, verify, verify,". He even set a Google news alert for ‘Westwood Realty’ so if something came up, he would see it.

The offer Kittleson received was 60 to 70 percent higher than what he had paid for the timeshare, so he really didn't think twice about that price.

He signed a letter of intent and got a call from an escrow company in Colorado Springs that said it was working with a Mexican bank to deposit the funds from the sale, again Kittleson found the names of the companies were real. All of a sudden,  he then got an email with a bank statement that looks like any bank statement here in the U.S. showing the funds have been deposited.

When he called the bank phone number on the statement, a real person answered in Spanish with the bank name.

After waiting a few weeks without receiving a check, Kittleson inquired and was told he needed to get a tax identification number in Mexico for the sale to go through. He could wire a payment to an attorney in Mexico City to take care of it. He then went online and looked at the Mexican consulate website, and it had this form they needed. A document with a formal-looking government stamp arrived with what it claimed was his new tax ID.

Kittleson was advised that he needed to pay taxes and the buyer would reimburse him.

He was nervous, however as this is the first time, I've done a property transfer in Mexico, and knew about all the tax you have to pay he sent the money asked for. Weeks went by and he was told he needed to pay an additional tax to the state of Jalisco. On this occasion Kittleson offered to fly to Jalisco to pay the amount however It's not like the U.S they stated. Having so much invested and as they did send him a bank statement, he was still unaware of the pending financial peril. He was further told that he needed to buy an insurance bond for the bank to release the funds to protect the bank from possible cross-border fraud. He offered to fly to Mexico to withdraw the funds, but the scammers told Kittleson the bank wouldn't do that without the bond.

"They had an answer to everything I asked about," he said.

By then it was ten months into the ordeal. Representatives told Kittleson he needed to buy a bond for another bank.

At that point, he thought 'I'm done and believed I just got scammed. lossing $24,000.

Kittleson filed complaints with the FBI, Better Business Bureau, and Arizona Attorney General's Office. He later learned that while he was being scammed, other victims had complained, and the Department of Real Estate had filed a cease-and-desist order against the claimed names of the scammers.

Kittleson said he doubts anyone will be caught since the scammers most likely are out of the country.

Consumer complaints related to the sale of timeshare interests in Mexico are increasing, according to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it is a timeshare scam.

 

Rebekah L. Sanders 

Arizona Republic

Published on the 25th of Feb 2019