Just before the publication of Part 3 in our series of articles on Military Predatory Timeshare Lending, we received notification of a scam which appears to be originating in Mexico. We did intend to post a warning on Friday, but there was not enough time for research. Today we publish what we have found, hopefully, it will help to prevent a vulnerable person from being duped. We also highlight a rather dubious company from the UK, and from what has already been reported it is very cheeky indeed.
Our reader, who happens to be a Hilton Grand Vacation Club member, received an email with an offer, supposedly from Hilton La Pacifica, considering that Hilton does have interests there it seems plausible. However, from the email, our reader was immediately put on guard, below is the email in full.
From: “Please take 2 minutes to read this important information.” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Hilton Grand Vacations
Date: July 2022 at PM CDT
Dear Hilton Grand Vacations Member:
In these uncertain times we want you to be able to do something with your vacation time that is not being used because of COVID-19, your account shows that you have 15 bonus weeks that you have not used and are about to expire, we understand that at this point it would be almost impossible to even think about vacationing, that is why we have an excellent option, you can rent the weeks through us and get $2,400 dollars for each week, there is a $965 dollar usage fee that has to be paid in advanced for every week you decide to rent. We have a large group of people coming and that is why and how we can guarantee the rental.
If you feel the need to verify this information, please call HILTON LA PACIFICA headquarters at, 1 833 8432 123 and ask for your bonus weeks.
– Member can only rent once per year, as many weeks as you want but only once per year.
– Rental is 100% guaranteed.
– Please reply to this email with your contact information and the best time to call you.
NOTE: THE USAGE FEE HAS TO BE PAID IN ADVANCED, WE DO NOT DEDUCT IT.
Member Services Manager
Hilton Grand Vacations
Carr. Transpeninsular Km 19.5, Tourist Corridor,
23400 Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S.
México Toll Free: 1-877-876-2785
The email is all about “renting out” unused “bonus weeks” 15 of them to be exact, unfortunately, they are about to expire, meaning you will lose them. But they have a great solution, rent the weeks through them, after all, they do say they have a “large number” of people coming, which is how they can “Guarantee” the rental at $2,400 per week.
Fantastic, but they do want $965 for a “Usage Fee”, per week listed for rental, paid in advance. Alarm bells are going off all over the place now.
So let’s get on with the nitty-gritty stuff, The email is sent from @hiltongrandpacifica.com, they give no website, but using the email address without the @ symbol we found the following:
Which takes you to this page
So no website but being used for emails, a very big trigger for more alarm bells.
The first telephone number they give you is 1 833 8432 123 and is supposedly for Hilton La Pacifica Headquarters, somehow we don’t think so. It is actually a virtual number which can be purchased and used anywhere in the world. When searching the number, the 833 code turns out to be a favourite among scammers, there are plenty of warnings about various scams.
The last number they give 1-877-876-2785 is also a virtual number so we didn’t bother going into detail, one false or dubious number is enough. Just out of interest they are also used as Toll-Free Numbers.
The only genuine piece of information that we can see is the address, but who is likely to send anything by post?
The conclusion of AIT is that this is an out-and-out scam, the most telling part is that we have found nothing on any website, social media page or group, any official notification from Hilton warning members of this.
As we published on Friday, our friends at the TCA also published an article which warns UK timeshare owners of another player in the “Cold Calling Claims and Exits” field. Their findings are comprehensive, although the company is registered, it does seem to have a history of filing accounts as a “Dormant Company” going back to the first accounts for 2010. The company was registered in 2009. That is a long time to be a “Dormant Company”
Moving on to the website, https://sonatatrading.co.uk/ it was only registered on 17 June 2022, only just over a month ago. That is suspect, to say the least, although they do not mention the word timeshare, there is a reference to it on “Why choose us” as you scroll down the page, they state “saved our clients thousands of pounds in annual service charges and the continued burden of perpetuity clauses.” If that isn’t timeshare, what is?
The most interesting point the TCA found which points directly to them being nothing more than a scam is the photographs and testimonies. TCA has certainly done some checking as they are all fakes just like this one below.
As you can see the person at the top is “Marcus the Client” but is in fact Tomás Andreu, so once again we see the scammers using genuine pictures of people stolen from either websites or profiles and using them to convince you to part with money. Quite ironic really, here he is warning about sensitive data and safety, yet his simple image has been stolen for nefarious means.
The Company Name, calling as Sonata Administration Services, website and Company Registered as Sonata Trading Ltd, Company number 07008250.
As for the “Company Address” 3b Abbotsford Avenue, London, England, N15 3BP, This is it below, doesn’t look like the headquarters for a reputable firm!
For the full story please follow the link to the TCA article.
These both show the care all consumers should take when being contacted by cold calls, unsolicited emails, text messages or other means, that all may not be as it seems. The scammers will use any means to convince you they are genuine, they count on the fact you are unlikely to make any thorough checks. Even if you do check with company registrations, you are very unlikely to look at their past filing history, they are registered and that is it. You are also unlikely to go through the lengths of checking photos of staff and clients, leaving you open to believing what you are told.
Cold calling is not illegal, there are regulations which govern it, genuine call centres will abide by the current legislation, the problem is telling the genuine from the scam. If you are unsure about how to make any checks, please use our contact page with the company name, telephone number, email address and website and we will get back to you. Better safe than sorry.
We hope you all had a wonderful weekend, it was much too hot and the air thick with dust, so Baby Dog didn’t get out during the day. But he was practising for his new role as Undercover Consumer Watchdog, not quite sure he has got the hang of it yet.