October 7, 2016 — Many InsideTheGate.com (ITG) readers, about 95,000 of ‘em just last month, likely know that in our #1 organically ranked (by Google) timeshare blog – The GateHouse – our Gatekeeper has been keeping tabs and reporting on several scammers operating out of ‘off-shore’ locations who’ve gotten their hands on timeshare owners/members lists (names). The info these thieves have includes what they own, where, the amount paid, when they bought, their annual maintenance fees, etc. and the scammers are heisting millions of greenbacks each month from these unsuspecting owners/members.
So Here’s The Scoop: When most of those TS owners/members think they have been or are being ripped-off and do some online diligence (aka: search) they find The GateHouse section and contact ITG for help. They also ask our Gatekeeper “How did these scammers get all our info?” It’s a great question so we did a little snooping around and came up with the usual suspects such as public records, etc.
But then, while we were investigating, ITG was contacted by a source using an alias who offered us some serious money if we had or could get a list of owners/members who have bought anywhere in N. America during the past decade or two.
We obviously declined the offer & we’re still trying to track down the person(s) behind the fictitious name & request – and I’ll report the details as they become available in a future column.
There was also a time about a year ago when another entity wanted, in that instance, owners/members names that belonged to one specific developer. I wrote a piece on that and within hours of that column being published I was contacted by an attorney for that developer requesting additional information about the source seeking the data.
To get to my point, it finally dawned on me that it is likely that some of these very slick, smooth scammers might, in some instances, be getting the developers’ lists directly from someone working for the developer (somewhere, anywhere) who can easily download and steal the data and then sell the info to the scammers for some serious cash. And we’re not talking chump change Amigos!
If anyone thinks that is farfetched allow me to remind them of things like ‘corporate espionage’ or WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and better yet Edward Snowden who at one time while sitting at his desk, in front of a computer, downloaded all and/or most of the info he had access to; and the rest is history.
And on the less technical side, some sales rooms even in the States are so careless that all it takes is a daily or weekly raid of their dumpsters to come up with the gold.
That said – the real question every developer and their Exec staff need to ask themselves is rather simple. In the criminal world what is the value of all their owners/members names (and other info) to a crook and what would these scammers be willing to bribe pay someone working with a developer to pinch the data for them?
As it turns out, like marketing and selling slices of paradise in the Land of Time part of the answer rests in the STATS and I can pretty much guesstimate a realistic dollar value for the information that goes something like this.
First, I’m of the belief that if 50% of all timeshare owners/members were contacted and had or thought they had the opportunity to unload their timeshare for what they paid and/or more they’d do so rather quickly – which is exactly the ‘service’ the criminals offer all the TS owners/members they are contacting daily.
Secondly, as we all know there are developers with (e.g.) 10-20,000 owners/members and those files are most likely conveniently stored in a computer system; and then there are the mega developers with several hundred thousands of names, per developer, being stored ‘somewhere’ as well.
So, as an example, assuming my 50% guestimate is correct then for every 1,000 names and the corresponding data these scammers can get their hands on, 1/2 of those owners/members would eagerly sell if offered what they perceive to be a convincing opportunity.
Therefore, if the con artists believe that 500 of every 1,000 names are a viable ‘mark’ and if they ultimately sell/close (e.g.) 25% (125 owners/members) of those 500 and if their average scam is $5,000 per victim then those 1,000 names have a gross value to any of these robbers of around $625,000 (USD).
Do check my math but I’m pretty darn sure my numbers are correct. And now imagine the value to these thieves if, using my example, they could get their grubby little hands on a developer’s list with (e.g.) 10,000 – 75,000 or more owners/members info.
The value would be YUUUGE; I can tell you that!
At the end of the day many of the owners/members we speak with each week here at ITG believe that is exactly what has and continues to happen to them because these scammers have all sorts of other info about them including, at times, their credit card numbers and other private information that would not be a matter of public-record.
So batten down the hatch, developers, because though it might just be gossip, frustration and/or your clients simply being peed off – from what we’re hearing, some of ’em are trying to put together a “class action” suit against you based on some legal angle about a “breach of trust”, or maybe it is a “liability” or “privacy” thingy.
All above my pay grade to be sure. But if these TS owners/members get together and shop around for a contingency attorney that specializes in such matters – and if the selected developer’s pockets are deep enough – which they usually are – then said lawyer might become highly motivated to represent these owners/members.
Then, “…faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive…” and in the spirit of seeking “…truth, justice and the American way…” they’ll slap the developer with an immense legal battle seeking to make the TS owners/members “whole” again via compensatory and/or punitive damages.
Oh well; NEXT!
Good Luck Out There
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