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EVERYWHERE IN MEXICO: NOTE: For those of you who have been dealing with people who claim to be working with AMDETUR or PROFECO related to a (phony) government fund to recompense victims of timeshare fraud, those two agencies have confirmed that they are not, repeat NOT, affiliated in any way to such a fund. The scammers are using the agencies’ names, logos, etc. without authorization. THERE IS NO SUCH FUND.
Here are a some more outfits to watch out for this week.
First I’m going to give you a warning about what appears to be a fraudulent law firm calling itself Miller & Markez. They claim to be working with the Mexican government (SHCP/SAT) to recoup money for victims of timeshare fraud in Mexico (they call it “the Mexico Recovery Fund”), but of course they want those victims to wire money to a Mexican bank to pay for various fees and taxes. As is usual, those fees and taxes are bogus and so is Miller & Markez. These guys are willing to go the extra mile in a final attempt to collect money from recalcitrant victims, though. They not only threaten, they threaten BIG:
My husband refused saying it was another scam and now they have sent us a notice that he is “Obstructing Justice.” The paper says that he could be punished for up to five years in prison. Attatched is the form they sent us. The man told my husband if he were to enter Mexico they would arrest him.
Here’s an image of the letter they sent (click on it to see it bigger). It’s scaring the crap out of some people, even when they think it’s probably part of the scam. You know, the what if syndrome…?
Here’s the thing. Miller & Markez has a website that is brand new; the domain name was registered in June 2013 and expires in June 2014. The owner is listed as Martin Orozco with an address in Guadalajara (the firm uses a Mexico City address). They use the improbable email address of “email@example.com“.
Of course this letter is totally bogus, but how are their potential victims supposed to know that? Well, they ask people like me or JustAnswer.com or RedWeek.com or various online complaint forums.
Some of them are apparently just sending the money, because the scammers are still operating after several months and they’d have moved on already if it weren’t profitable to them.
Folks, if you are dealing with this outfit or any other outfit claiming to be working with the government to reimburse you for a timeshare fraud, DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. They are all lying to you.
Some names affiliated with this outfit: Lic. Eduardo Pérez Lomelí; Lic Andrew Young;
And if they threaten you, as this letter does, tell them you’ve reported them to the FBI, your state attorney general, Interpol (it’s an international scam), and the Policía Federal Ministerial (PFM) (that’s Mexico’s FBI). And then actually do it!
Next up is a company named Strelitz & Brooks International Real Estate Group, via an email I received from a gentleman who did his own research and rightly decided not to play along. I have emphasized the most important red flags in his email so you can quickly spot them.
I got a unsolicited phone call last week from an individual claiming that he represents a high end investor to buy my weeks at Palace Resorts in Mexico. His email (with a letter of intent attached) indicates a firm called Strelitz and Brooks with a Charlotte, NC address. When I google this, I get no hits other than their own. They are not registered as a corporation in NC. I have not signed anything nor taken this beyond getting the letter. He is offering like ten times what I perceive the real value to be for 50 weeks of ownership (useless without an all inclusive fee) on behalf of this investor whom he cannot disclose. He will only tell me the investor is a large corporation in Atlanta that is buying the vacation weeks for business use (again the weeks are only usable with an all inclusive fee). They are not interested in small purchases — must be at least 50 weeks. He goes on to say that my original purchase agreement precludes me from selling to a corporation so I must sell to him as an individual, Robert Hernandez (which I am allowed to do). Of course his firm (Strelitz and Brooks) would get 2% commission from me once the funds are in my bank. As part of my own diligence, I called other companies operating at his address in Charlotte, NC. and no one has heard of Strelitz and Brooks. As you may have surmised they have a web page (nothing real fancy) with descriptions of their services. Obviously, my instinct tells me that this a scam of some sort but does not sound like any on your web page. If I were to continue, there may indeed be a request for some money to be wired somewhere, but I do not think I will pursue further.
There is not a great deal more information available about this outfit, but in addition to there being no such company registered with the state of North Carolina there is this:
- In addition to not being a registered company in North Carolina, I could find no such company registered with the North Carolina Department of Real Estate either
- The “company” claims three phone numbers: 980-213-0831, 980-213-0930 and 980-236-0418, all of which have Charlotte, NC area codes — but all of them are VoIP (Voice over IP, Internet Phone), which means they could be located anywhere. (See last week’s column about VoIP numbers)
- The domain name for their website and email was registered July 14, 2013 and expires on the same date this year. It is privacy protected so I can’t tell who registered it. The servers are located in the USA.
Is this a Mexico fraud or is it being carried out from within the USA? At this point I can’t be sure since this particular case never went further than the initial offer letter, but given the information provided above, I’d be real careful about doing business with them!
This next one
is about the liars claiming the Mexican government has set up a fund to recompense victims of timeshare fraud,
this time connected with the notorious Belair, Hotel U and Punta Vista Resorts
frauds. In this case they are saying the government has liquidated the relevant assets and is giving the victims their money back. Again, I have emphasized a few important red flags.
Got a phone call from Frank at Member Services for Punta Vista Resort head office saying they wanted to settle our liquidation of this resort that is connected with Belaire and U Hotel. His phone number is 1-800-438-1448. He then transferred me to Lic. Ernesto Garcia Guzman at phone number 1-866-978-6857. His correspondence says his company is SECRETARIA DE HACIENDA Y CREDITO PUBLICO. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org He has sent info on a Profeco letterhead as well. Friday he told us he has deposited our money – $433,000.00 into a bank and gave me an address in Zapopan and phone number is 011-52-554-169-3241 to talk to Luis Flores. I called that man and he said yes the money is there. Then talked to Ernesto and was told I would have to forward the taxes before the money could be released. I am today waiting to hear from him – he said he would send documents today.
Well, he did send documents and I have them. Aside from real bank wire forms, all of them are forged. I have posted an image of what they claim are the new tax laws affecting timeshare in Mexico. It is a total fraud, typed on forged SAT letterhead, full of mistakes and outright lies. If you receive a document that looks like that, disregard it!
- The email address used ends in a .com.mx The suffix for all government agencies in Mexico end with .gob.mx Note, that’s (dot)gob.mx, not (dash)gob.mx as many such scams use.
- If you paste http://secretariahacienda.com.mx into the address bar of your browser you will find there is no website associated with it. That domain is used strictly for emails.
- These scammers often send copies of what purports to be their official government license, with their picture on it. There are only two realistic possibilities with that; a) it’s identity theft; b) the person in the picture is being paid for its use. Either way, it is not believable
- Names associated with this group include: Ana Patricia Ponce Palacios; Ernesto Garcia Guzman; Luis Flores
- None of the phone numbers provided show up in a number search as belonging to an official government entity, including the 1 (866) 978-6857 listed for calling inside the USA. The direct line almost certainly forwards to a cell phone with a scammer at the other end. Again, see last week’s post about phone numbers. If you call those numbers you might think you’re talking to someone official, but in reality you are talking to the scammers.
There is a curiosity associated with this group, which is that in one of their emails to their proposed victim the subject line says “ATC Brokers, Inc.” This is the only reference made to ATC, so who are they and how are they connected to this scam?
I found such a company online, a timeshare resale website that lists an address in Austin, TX. Their website says “Focus is on investments of high-quality real estate investments in selected markets.” Hmmm. A timeshare resale company is saying that? A quick look showed me that there is no such company registered in the State of Texas.
Also, the domain name for their website was registered Dec. 17, 2013, expires on Dec. 17, 2014 (yep, another one-year registration), and the servers hosting the website are located in Spain.
Their Austin address resolves to a small office building and I haven’t had time yet to see if they actually have a presence there.
All in all, whether or not they’re in on this scam they don’t appear to be entirely legit as of this date.
PS: I you have been a victim of the Belair, Grand Miramar, Hotel U, etc. frauds you surely know the name Antonio Copella. If so you will want to read this post in this week’s California Timeshare News post. Heck, you’ll want to read it even if you aren’t a victim of those frauds!
What can you do on your own as further research?
- Check with the Secretary of State or other appropriate entity in the state where the company is supposedly located and perform an online corporation search to see if that company is an active registered entity in that state. (Google e.g. “Georgia corporation search” to find the website).
- Check the address given by the company to find out if that company actually has a presence there (or if the address even exists). If the address goes to an office building that includes virtual suites (such as Davinci Suites), be very cautious. You may have to call the office building to ascertain if such a company exists there.
- Go to DomainSearch.com and look to see when the website’s address (the domain name) was registered, when it expires, who the registrant is (that’s the owner of the domain name), etc. Be cautious if it is new and only registered for one year; if the registrant’s address or other information is in Mexico; if the named servers are located in Mexico; if the information is privacy protected.
That’s enough for this week. But watch this space for more to come.
IF ANY OF THE ABOVE SCENARIOS APPLIES TO YOU, BE AWARE THAT YOU ARE BEING (OR HAVE ALREADY BEEN) SCAMMED.
- Someone contacts you and tells you they have a buyer for your Mexican timeshare who is willing to pay you more than you originally paid for it OR they want to RENT it out for a lovely price. THE TRUTH: Sorry, but no one is going to purchase your timeshare for anything near what you paid.
- Someone contacts you saying some branch of the Mexican Government has set up a fund to reimburse victims of timeshare fraud in Mexico, and you’re one of the lucky ones. THE TRUTH: There is no such fund! It is a bald-faced lie, no matter how legitimate their documents look!
- AND THE BIGGEST RED FLAG: YOU ARE ASKED TO BANK WIRE FUNDS TO AN ESCROW ACCOUNT IN MEXICO (OR SOME OTHER COUNTRY) TO PAY FOR SOME SORT OF FEES AND/OR TAXES. THE TRUTH: The “escrow account” is fraudulent; the fees/taxes are fraudulent; once you wire the money you will never get it back.
NOTE that regardless of the details (names, locations, etc.) the basics of this scam are always the same
with the end result being YOU bank wiring funds to a Mexican bank in the belief that you are paying some sort of tax or fee in order to complete the sale of your timeshare
(or, more recently, to release funds from a phony baloney government
remuneration fund). DON’T FALL FOR IT! NEVER BANK WIRE FUNDS TO MEXICO OR ANY OTHER COUNTRY!
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
Email the Gatekeeper (or leave a comment below).
“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” –Alice Roosevelt Longworth
Do you have tips or rumors you’d like to share (ANONYMOUSLY)? Something you’d like us to investigate or follow up on? CONTACT: email@example.com