Atlanta, GA (May 16, 2014) — The Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection is warning consumers about a timeshare resale scam in which scammers falsely claim that they are representatives of Georgia Escrow Services Inc.
Here is how the scam typically works. Consumers who own vacation timeshares in Mexico receive a phone call from someone allegedly working for a travel company. The caller tells the consumer that there is a buyer interested in purchasing the consumer’s timeshare property. The caller then explains that Georgia Escrow Services Inc. will act as the escrow agent. While the timeshare sale is supposedly pending, the company posing as Georgia Escrow Services adds previously undisclosed fees and/or taxes, which consumers pay upfront via wire transfers. Consumers are told these fees include a mandatory tax imposed by the Mexican Government. However, research reveals the Mexican government does not require this tax. In addition, the company collects other fees from the sellers until the sales eventually fall through. The consumers are then unable to recuperate their money. One consumer lost over $100,000 in this scam.
While there is a legitimate company called Georgia Escrow Services, it has nothing to do with timeshare sales or vacation travel packages, nor does it market its services to consumers. Scammers, who appear to be located outside the United States, have hijacked this business’ identity to perpetrate the fraud. By filing fraudulent documents with the Secretary of State the scammers have amended the company’s official contact information and officers to reflect the scammers’ contact information and fake identities. They have created a fake website, www.GaEscrow.com, which lists the principals’ names as the stolen identities the scammers are using. The scammers even present the consumer with fraudulent surety bonds, so consumers think they have a guarantee of getting their money back if the sale falls through. This all makes it so that a consumer investigating the company online or with the Secretary of State is led to believe that the Georgia Escrow Services they are communicating with is legitimate.
Consumers who believe they have been victims of this scam should contact the Federal Trade Commission by going to https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
If you are trying to sell your timeshare, keep in mind the following tips and warnings:
- A request to wire money in connection with a timeshare resale or rental is a big sign of fraud. Once the money is wired, there is almost no chance of recovering it.
- Be suspicious of any uninvited solicitations or offers to buy or resell your timeshare, particularly those that seem “too good to be true”. If you are considering such an offer, contact your timeshare resort or timeshare developer, who may be aware of a new or ongoing scam and the legitimacy of a particular person or entity. In addition, there may be significant restrictions on sales, transfers or rentals that you may not have been aware of.
- Avoid paying money to a reseller upfront. If possible, find a reseller that takes its fee after the timeshare is sold. If you must pay a fee in advance, ask about refunds. Get refund policies and promises in writing.
- Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics; they often indicate a scam.
- Ask your resort’s developer, resort manager or owner’s association if they have a newsletter, website or bulletin board where owners can advertise their timeshare for resale.
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