FBI: Cartels Are Targeting Americans With Timeshare Scams

(NewsSpace.com) – Approximately 10 million US households own a timeshare as of 2024. They give people a chance to have vacation ownership—a place to get away to the same resorts or family of resorts. The upkeep of the property is split among the timeshare owners, who get a dedicated amount of time to visit each year. However, there’s a real threat when it comes to the properties of drug cartels.

Mexican drug cartels have long found a way to get money from victims, whether through selling drugs, coercion, or now fleecing timeshare property owners. Cartel members use a script to call the owners and try to convince them to sell their properties. Typically, they aim for seniors who are trying to sell off their assets later in life to leave something behind for their families. According to reports, they have been known to bribe resort officials for guest lists.

The cartel members pretend to be interested in buying the property and use high-pressure sales tactics to convince the timeshare owners that they have to pay fees before it can be sold for listing advertisement or to clear government fines. The victims are then persuaded to wire money, which can reach into the hundreds of thousands, to Mexico. Then, the cartel members are never heard from again. Not only does the timeshare owner still have the property, but now they’re out significant sums of money, too.

There’s another element to the crime, too. In some instances, the scammers create fake documents and impersonate people from “trustworthy institutions” to scare people into compliance. The money the cartel scores from these scams goes right into its operations. According to some reports, they’ve managed to fleece more than $300 million from seniors alone in the past decade.

The American Resort Development Association is aware of the recent scams and has taken steps to educate timeshare owners across the country. Other experts say to be alert and never pay upfront fees, which is a sign of a scam, or sign over a power-of-attorney form.

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