Continuing with our Consumer Awareness theme we today look at how easy it is to set up a “fake” company, most of you are being “cold called” on an almost daily basis with various “services” to clear you from your timeshare. We have already shown in previous articles the ease with which Websites can be set up, giving the impression of legitimacy, even to the point of using genuine company names.
As with most things in today’s world, everything is done on the internet, a world where “fake” identities are so easy to get away with, hence tracing who is behind the website can prove rather difficult. But what about setting up a company?
Most European timeshare scams originated and were located in Spain, the “home” of timeshare, the number of registered (scam) companies identified over the years are phenomenal, yet to you the consumer they are registered and therefore must be genuine. It is not until you actually start delving into the records that suspicions are triggered, little inconsistencies which you the consumer are unlikely to even notice, after all, you only wanted to check if they are “registered”.
Then over the years, consumers began to distrust “cold callers” working for Spanish companies, so the move to register them as UK limited companies began. Trust began to be restored, they are UK registered, so they must be genuine and we must be protected, said the victims. Job done.
It is a fact that most ordinary people believe that it is both complicated and expensive to set up a UK company, but it isn’t as you are about to see.
As with most things today, you can do it all yourself, the information you will need is basic, it will be personal information on yourself and any shareholders or guarantors, and it will consist of:
- Town of Birth
- Mother’s Maiden Name
- Father’s First Name
- Telephone Number
- National Insurance Number
- Passport Number
It is very basic indeed, but we now have a genuine person to register the company, not the “brains” behind it, but a stooge, a fall guy for when things go pear-shaped.
As for the cost, for only £12, yes folks, only £12, you can have your company registered within 24 hours and this can be paid by debit or credit card. If you cannot be bothered with “all the paperwork” you can always employ the services of another company to do it for you, prices start at around £15.
As for choosing a name for your company, first, you will need to search Companies House to ensure that the name has not already been registered, but that is not a problem, a slight change here and something added there, you have a new name.
A very good example is the name of a recognised major UK pharmacy and beauty products chain seen on almost every high street, Boots UK Limited. With slight tweaking, you could register as Boots Cosmetics (UK) Limited, you can’t use it if it is already taken. Company House shows this company registered to Flat 43 Perkins House, London and the director’s registered correspondence address is in China. See Here for Company Registration.
During a conversation with a colleague at another publication on this subject, we concluded that it is all in the name, as our example below will show.
As regular readers of AIT will know, Diamond Resorts has the Transitions programme, a service that supposedly allows for timeshare ownership to be adjusted and the possibility of an exit. Not very popular with our US readers, this programme is not available to European members of Diamond, possibly because they have their own “exit” programme, but this we believe has left the door open to a possible scam of owners.
On searching the Company House Register, it was found that the company name Diamond Resorts (Transitions) Limited is available and can be set up for as little as £12.99. We also did a search for a website to go with the company, the result is www.diamondresortstransistions.com and it is available for as little as $10.99, just under £9.
The links above show the registered and dissolved companies using the name Diamond Resorts, the second is to the Whois website.
So we have the company, we have the website loaded with “stolen” logos from Diamond, the RDO, ARDA, Trustpilot, etc, including fake client testimonials and then along comes our consumer doing a check after a cold call, now convinced they are dealing with a legitimate Diamond entity. Scam complete.
This is not confined to timeshare, only last year the Financial Conduct Authority did issue a warning on the subject of “cloning”. A company called Phoenix Wealth Management Ltd found that a company had been registered as Phoenix Wealth Management. Just omitting the Limited was enough to register it as a new company name.
It is clear from these examples that Company House and the FCA along with other authorities should take serious notice of all the loopholes which allow these frauds to go on unchecked. It is a fact the Police are not able to cope with complaints or even investigate these frauds due to the huge number in operation at any given time, costing you the consumer millions of pounds
These are elaborate examples of fraud, fortunately, most of the scams involved in timeshare are quick turnaround operations, basic checks usually reveal that they are not quite what they seem.
The first basic checks are Company House records, this will reveal how long the company has been registered, in the company filing history, look out for things like “Dormant Company”, and then also check the Officers. Are the people named linked with other operations and are those genuine, how long have they been directors and is it their first appointment?
We have found recently that many of the new “dubious” entities are using unknowns as their directors and these appear to be their first appointments, a rather good indication of a possible scam operation.
Then there are the checks on the website, when it was registered, are the registrants hidden, and can the website using our Diamond Resorts (Transitions) example be verified as a genuine Diamond website. One method is the genuine website, somewhere they are bound to have a link to their “Transitions” programme, failing that you can always contact them.
These examples do show how easy it is for the fraudsters to convince you to part with your money, once you have done your checks there is a simple rule which is taken from criminal jury trials: “Reasonable Doubt” until more evidence is presented, treat them with suspicion.
Consumer Awareness of the tools and methods available to fraudsters is your only defence, don’t take their word for it, stop, think, do your own checks and then check again.
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We hope you had a great weekend, Baby Dog is a little tired and watching his favourite comedy.