Jeff was contacted one day via email by a man who called himself “Kelly Ivan.” Mr. Ivan said he was interested in buying Jeff’s Wyndham timeshare points. The offer? A cool $15,000. As the correspondence between Jeff and Mr. Ivan continued, Jeff became increasingly suspicious. Jeff was savvy enough to contact our Timeshare Scam Hotline. A scam eerily similar to this one had come across our desk several times before. Those scams involved a con artist operating under the name of Joseph Manning. Many features of the new scam were identical to the previous ones: a tempting sales price, a “private buyer,” a “trusted personal broker” (who could not be reached), and the hallmark of Jospeh Manning’s scams, an alleged hearing impairment. Let’s review the correspondence and see how this plays out.
Thank you for your reply to my inquiry regarding your vacation resort week. Please note that although I am a private buyer, I am interested in purchasing your timeshare because I am about to start a vacation rental company so I need a number of timeshare weeks to be able to commence. I am NOT a broker or a listing company. I hope we can come to an agreement on the sale at a reasonable price.Please provide information on your vacation resort week / timeshare(s) such as weeks of availability, yearly maintenance fees and if your resort can be exchanged via RCI or interval. Do you have a clear title? what is your asking price? I will wait to hear from you.
Interested in selling his timeshare, Jeff saw no harm in replying. Jeff shared the details of his timeshare ownership and eventually agreed to sell. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Ivan had offered Jeff $15,000 and to show good faith Mr. Ivan would immediately send a $1,000 deposit. Jeff only had to provide his address so Mr. Ivan could mail the deposit.
Kelly Ivan:JeffMany thanks for your patience. Just to let you know that I had to travel and will be away from home for the next 8 weeks. I do not know if I have mentioned this before but I have a disability. I was informed by the hospital which I am registered with that a new hearing aid which is supposed to be able to restore 30% of my hearing ability has just been delivered and they would like to test run it with me. This is impromptu so I had to make speedy arrangements. I tried to reach my broker but I got an auto response that he is currently not available for few days. As a result, I have been unable to determine how and where to send his fees. I have however sent him numerous email messages along with your contact information and expect him to be in touch with you as soon as he receives my messages.Because I was unable to contact Samuel Lechter to send his brokerage fees, title transfer fees and escrow fees, I visited my bank and got a certified check for $2,400 which I have also mailed out to you and will be delivered through Postal service. Upon receipt, please deposit the check, funds should be available immediately, I would need you to deduct your earnest deposit of $1,000, this is to affirm my willingness and seriousness to buy this property and fend off other offers while closing processes are arranged by my broker. Then, forward the balance $1,400 to Samuel Lechter as his fees for your timeshare closing, First American title service charges and escrow fees whenever he gets in touch with you. This is to circumvent any delays rather than wait for my return in 8 weeks. It is my assumption that Samuel will provide additional instructions on how to get the fees to him. Samuel Lechter is my personal broker and would be responsible for all the documentation and deed of transfer. Samuel will work with First American title transfer company who would be handling the closing. Note that the balance for your timeshare would be held in escrow. As soon as my broker gets in touch with you and finalizes the sale, the balance will be released to you before you transfer the title deed. Please notify me as soon as you receive contact from Samuel. Do watch out for any mails to your address and notify me as soon as you receive my check. Although I am away from home, I would still have access regularly to my email and would be in touch throughout the process. If you need to reach me quickly, you can send me a text message on 305-676-0137 Thanks for your understanding and sorry for the minor inconvenience. Please respond to this email so I am aware that you have received my message. Awaiting your feedback. Sincerely, Kelly Ivan
This correspondence is classic Joseph Manning, see here and here. The phony buyer makes it appear like he’s doing the seller a favor by sending him a check because the buyer can’t get in touch with his broker, but is eager for sale to commence. So in an impersonation of good faith, the buyer agrees to send money and only asks that seller forward “the broker” his cut. In reality, the scammer is using the seller to deposit a fraudulent check – critical to getting his illegal pay out. The excuse of hospitalization and hearing impairment is incredibly convenient because the bogus buyer can’t be reached by phone, after all, he can’t hear. This also serves as a psychological tool to garner sympathy and trust – the phony buyer is trying so hard to complete the timeshare transaction despite facing health challenges.
A proper timeshare transaction is straight forward and should be handled by a licensed and bonded escrow agency (another feature of this scam, name dropping a legitimate timeshare transfer company like First American Title). Working with professionals will ensure your timeshare sale is legal and all funds are handled by a trustworthy third-party. They will also facilitate communication between the two parties, saving you the hassle and time.
For more information about timeshares, you may contact your state’s Department of Consumer Protections.
To obtain more information on Internet schemes, visit www.LooksTooGoodToBeTrue.com.
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of this type of scam should promptly report it to the IC3’s website at www.IC3.gov. The IC3’s complaint database links complaints together to refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration.
If you get a suspicious offer on your timeshare, or you just want to be certain your timeshare transaction is legitimate, call the timeshare scam hotline at 877-316-9181. It’s quick, easy, free–and could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.