Fraud is a word that is seldom used to describe the loss of money following a cold call, email or other means, most tend to use the word “scam”, but it is fraud and it is on the rise according to the Daily Mail; https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-10955337/RUTH-SUNDERLAND-time-declare-war-callous-scammers.html.
Most timeshare owners will probably agree considering the number of “new” companies emerging offering various “timeshare” related services, they are all saying the same thing, the number of cold calls is increasing.
These “scams by cold call” are nothing new as any timeshare owner will tell you, originally with the resale scams, paying to list your timeshare for sale with unbelievable prices, well owners were told they would go up in value. The crooks made huge amounts of money, the most infamous was Toni Muldoon who ran many timeshare resale scams from the Costa del Sol. He was eventually jailed in the UK for an “Escort Agency” scam.
When the resale market scam was on its last legs it morphed into “discount holiday clubs”. These were pitched as replacing your timeshare with a club membership. This would be maintenance-free and they would take over your timeshare. There were even added scams such as the “Cash Back” offer, another complete con.
Most “victims” of this particular “scam” took advantage of a “cold call” offering a “bonus week” at a timeshare resort for just £99 (usually Spain). You did have to attend a presentation while there, but timeshare owners are used to that.
As the lid on these types of clubs began to be lifted, another new service was being offered, again centred in Spain mainly around the Costa del Sol. These were the first bogus law firms and “Abogados” (lawyers), one of the most well-known was Ramirez and Ramirez. One of his “law firms” would offer a claim against “illegal selling” of the club, that they were taking them to court, well you all know the ending because this is still going on, scamming those scammed in the first place.
Since Ramirez & Ramirez, these “scammers” have become more sophisticated, even down to excellent forgeries of court documents. Some are also using the names and websites of genuine law firms, just in case you go online to check.
These were all operated out of Spain, but eventually UK registered versions of these companies emerged, mainly because timeshare owners were getting very wary of dealing with non-UK companies. Many are still operating today.
So what happens when you realise you have been “scammed”?
Hopefully, if you paid by credit card, you may be protected and get your money back. The problem is you paid a “third party” so you are not covered. The police are usually the next port of call, you will more than likely be directed to “Action Fraud”, the dedicated online fraud portal. Get your crime number and forget about it. Trading Standards are another avenue, chances are just like with the police it will not go anywhere.
The cases that have made it to court tend to be “headliners”, a good example is the Monster Group case. For those who have been “scammed” by Spanish-based companies, nothing is going to be done, it wasn’t when the UK was part of the EU, so do you honestly think it will happen with Brexit?
Now we have placed timeshare into the context of the article by Ruth Sunderland, Group Business Editor at the Daily Mail, we will see the reasons behind it all.
The article begins with “There is one innovative, fast-growing industry in which the UK is the undisputed leader”, then went on to say “It’s just a shame the multi-billion-pound-a-year activity happens to be fraud”.
Apparently, the UK is a centre of excellence for fraud, according to their investigations, and are asking the same question as the rest of us, WHY?
It seems that it is the system that is to blame, not one single authority exists that is charged with investigating and fighting fraud. It seems there are more than 20 different police forces, governmental organisations and others involved. This says Ruth “is a recipe for confusion and buck-passing”.
AIT couldn’t agree more, we are seeing this with the FCA and FOS over fraudulent timeshare loans, mention fraud and they run away, it’s not in their remit. The article goes on about how dysfunctional the system is also stating The Serious Fraud Office is littered with “botched” cases. Not very reassuring.
We have probably all heard the excuse about funding, how they have little for a huge task, so this means the average person who is being “scammed” for a few thousand is nothing in the bigger scheme of things. It may not be, but to the average person that “small” amount could be the difference between paying their bills or not. To the elderly who tend to be in the majority of those “scammed” by timeshare, it may just be their life savings.
It is not just these small frauds which are being ignored, the biggest has to be the “investment” frauds by Silverpoint, funded by loan agreements brokered by their own sales staff. Yet these are not being recognised by the authorities and the loan provider is getting away scot-free from any responsibility or liability.
The article by Ruth Sunderland is well worth reading, it goes into more depth including the various social media and telecoms companies, another outlet for fraudulent activity. AIT has noticed the use of Ads on media such as Facebook for timeshare services, many of these are linked to the “scammers”, yet these outlets just let them get on with it. The telephone numbers they call from for use via the internet, who has provided them and what identification has been provided, your answer will probably be the same as ours.
This Friday we bring you “How Vacation Village Drives Owners to Exit Companies” by Karen in Virginia, currently being edited by our very own Irene Parker. It is another in our series of the “timeshare trap”, the inability to get out and being driven into the hands of potential “scammers”. Funny that is what today’s article is about, anyway, join us on Friday for another US “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”.