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Common Timeshare Exit Scams

Over the years we’ve talked with tens of thousands of timeshare owners and unfortunately, one of the most common things we hear are stories about the scams that they’ve encountered. Recently a caller to the Timeshare Scam Hotline shared a detailed account of their interaction with a series of con artist that swindled them out of thousands of dollars. She gave us permission to share the details with the hope that it would help other avoid similar scams.

I Think I am a Victim of Expert Scammers

                There are times in my life when I think I know what I am doing. I am a responsible adult who pays bills on time, never bounces checks, has raised a family, and who treats others with respect. I attend church. I am currently retired, but I was an extremely hard worker when I was employed. I think I am intelligent, but every so often I find out that I am not nearly as smart as I think. Here is a story that makes me want to curl up in a ball, hide in a closet, and never again answer the telephone.

September 3, 2021. I received a phone call from “David Chamberlin” (DC) of Asset World Investment* He told me he had a person who was buying up a block of rooms from the resort where my husband and I hold a vacation property. The person was willing to pay $32,000 (I had paid about $14,000) to buy my contract. (Hmmm, this sounded good.) However, I was told I would have to pay an upfront transfer fee of $3500 for this to take place. NO! I wasn’t interested in spending that. Hang up. 

About a day or two later I received another call from DC telling me the “Purchaser” was willing to repay the transfer fee which would raise the purchase price to $35,500.  (Well, maybe I could find the money to do this. After all, Glenn and I had purchased a used motorhome in 2020 and we weren’t really interested in using the timeshare vacation property anymore. This would be a great way to get rid of it and make a few thousand dollars profit.) Before long, I received an email with an attachment. Offer to Purchase was printed on top of an official looking paper. It described my property information, plus about 5 bullet points of details. All I needed to do was “sign”, scan the form into my computer, and return it. (I felt especially comforted by the statement: Keep in mind by signing this Authorized Offer to Purchase, you are not committing nor obligated to anything you are just expressing your desire to sell.)

Five days later, I received an email from TAM: Trust and Mortgage Commercial Properties**. Such a friendly, welcoming letter. In it I was told I would need to establish a Trust Account (with my husband and I as the final beneficiaries). TAM would secure the funds being offered for my vacation membership in an irrevocable trust account.  (The Trust Account Application was attached.)  Ok, I filled out the form with some general information: name, address, profession, phone, date of birth, email address. Yup, there it was in black and white: Amount in Trust Account: Total- $35,500. (I was already thinking of what I could do with the extra money)

A couple of weeks later, TAM sent me a paper with Bank Information for sending funds to Mexico.  I had never sent an International Bank Wire before, so I drove to the bank to find out how it would be done.  Both my husband and I needed to sign the form and email it back to TAM with a copy of the wire transfer receipt. It wasn’t at all hard to do. (I actually felt some relief when it was completed. Now all I had to do was wait for the date of closing! …or so I thought.)

Another email attachment was the Resale Contract with three pages of Terms and Conditions. I read each of the 19 items listed. Then I saw things like…

  • The Seller(s) agree(s) to pay at the time of closing, commission of 10% of the total to be received by the Sellers for the service for the resale of the property. (Another $3500??)
  • The Seller(s) agree(s) to pay a cancellation Fee of $5000 USD AW Investments LLC, in case of the Seller(s) terminating this Resale Contract before the transaction is completed. (Huh? More money? Why would I cancel, I’ve already paid.)
  • This exclusive resale agreement will be terminated after 90 days from the Seller(s) signing this Resale Contract and/or when the resale transaction is completed.
  • The Seller(s) agree(s) that interest on encumbrances, insurance, past due balances, transfer of ownership fees, taxes, maintenance fee, and / or liens shall be paid by the Seller(s) prior to the time of closing. (Huh. I already paid ownership transfer fee, there is no maintenance fee due, what taxes?

So, life went on. About 10 days later- October 25– I received another phone call telling me that I would need to pay closing costs and commission prior to closing. (We don’t do it like that in the US. We incorporate closing costs by deducting them from the proceeds during closing. Apparently, Mexico doesn’t do it that way. So, what do we owe now? $8549 !!!)

Now I’m getting upset. I had some reserve cash in a bank account from a mortgage refi my husband and I did a few months ago. I was very happy having it as a cushion for unexpected expenses. I guess this is one of those unexpected ones! Of course, I didn’t have enough to pay $8549 from that account, so I had to do some finagling. I deposited $1400 and then $800 to bring my balance up to where it would be enough. ( I had to pay this, it said so in the Resale Contract. I just had no idea it would be so much.)

October 28:  Once more I drive to the bank. I fill out the paperwork for an International Wire transfer and with the help of some nice employee at the bank it’s done in about ½ hour. Now I can sign & scan this “Trust Notification Letter” and send $8549 to Santander Mexico S.A. Our property closing is scheduled for October 29, 2021 or as soon thereafter as my money arrives and is added to the Trust.

I get a phone call on or about November 2 that our closing documents are in the mail and to keep an eye out for them. They should arrive in the next few days. (YES!!) 

November 8 or 9-  My phone rings. I recognize the caller and I’m already to say, “The closing papers haven’t arrived yet.” When Rebecca Miller closing agent for TAM informs me that my sale has come to the attention of SAT: Servicio de Administracion Tributaria. (What is that? ) I will be receiving a letter from the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit of Mexico City that before I can close on this vacation timeshare, I must pay to the Tributary Administration Service of the Mexican Government $13,214.70 under the concept of 30 % Sale Tax generated by the sales process of a vacation membership. Because I have generated net profits from the commercial transaction corresponding to the sale of a Vacation Club membership. (Wait just a darn minute. That’s almost more than I paid for the stupid thing to begin with! Where am I supposed to get that much more money to shell out?)

November 12–  The letter arrives from Humberto Lopez Arroyo, Central Office, Mexico City. Ministry of Finance and Public Credit Tributary Administration Service.*** I speak on the phone to Matthew Davidson of Asset World Investment (505-207-7566 X708). He tells me the Mexican government wants to get its piece of the pie, so to speak. Thus, this tax MUST be paid. Remember the Resale Contract, Terms and Conditions, page 2, Term #7 ?  I throw a fit and say this is an exorbitant fee and how do they expect me to get that kind of money? I CAN’T PAY IT!

November 15- I get a call from Dominic Madrid (505-207-7566) in the legal department. He informs me that I must pay this new amount or there will be consequences.  The Mexican government wants its share of my profits. I just about cry and hang up.

November 16-  I remember that I have an IRA. It’s not worth a whole lot- maybe about $24,000. I’m finally old enough to withdraw from it without penalty. Oh hell, I contact Venerable where the account is held. I tell them to hold out 22% for the IRS, 5% for the state of Delaware, and to send me the rest. I got us into this mess, I guess it’s my responsibility to get us out. I end up receiving a bit over $17,000.  The funds are deposited in my bank account on Monday, Nov. 22.

November 23 –  I go to my local bank and have them make an international wire transfer in the amount of $13,214 . It will go out today and arrive by December 6. Hmm, it’ll take almost 2 weeks?

November 24-28  I have sent over $25,000 to Mexico in the past six weeks. It is coming up on Thanksgiving here in the US and I put all of this nonsense out of my mind. I clean house, cook, and host family for the next few days.

December 1 We get an email from Rebecca Miller with a message to call back because our deposit will not be accepted (or something like that) and please call her asap.

December 3- I print out the attachment that came with Rebecca’s email. It’s all in Spanish but looks very similar to the government form I received from Humberto Lopez Arroyo on November 12. I call Rebecca Miller and she informs me the Mexican government can’t accept the funds because my husband’s name is listed as Glenn R Struck and what’s the R for? Is it a name? (Yes, I tell her it stands for Robert). Now she tells me a cashier’s check will be sent to me returning the funds and I need to resend them with the name corrected. I say, “Fine”. When I get the money I’ll take care of it. That’s when she tells me it may take up to 6 months to get this check.                 AND…. THE RESALE CONTRACT HAS A 90 DAY CLAUSE.

6:50 PM- Friday, December 3–  I have just finished putting down everything I can recall about these past 3 months. I think I’ll call Rebecca again on Monday and see if she can get a check out to me faster…say by the end of December. If this whole transaction is legit, then I’ll be able to wrap it up. BUT, IF I REALLY AND TRULY HAVE BEEN SCAMMED THIS WHOLE TIME, I GUESS I NEED TO HIRE AN INTERNATIONAL LAWYER. 

December 28, 2021

Well, I did receive a phone call from Rebecca Miller telling me that I should probably cancel this whole Time Share/Vacation Property sale because I am not willing to send an additional $13,000 + because of the problem with the Mexican Government. She even tells me that maybe the Mexican government will think I’m trying to launder drug money by sending it to Mexico. WHAT???   THIS IS SERIOUS!!!    SOOO, now she tells me I need to send $4000 in an International Wire transfer to cancel the whole thing.  So, What did I do?  I went to my bank on Monday, December 20 and sent it.  So, with that $4000 gone out of my checking account I am now down to exactly the money I need to pay bills and no extra cushion. I am supposed to be getting back a little over $25,000 when this is all finished.  Sounds good to me. Should I hold my breath? ( Unfortunately, I now have a suspicion that this will never be over. I’ll probably get another notification that something else has gone wrong and they’ll want even more money.        NO, NO, NO… I’ve been stupid 4 times. I don’t care if they come and arrest me. I am done.)

January 4, 2022

Oh my, was I right or what? Today I got an email from “Rebecca Miller” (TAM) telling me that the cancellation of the transaction was finalized on  12/20/21 BUT… “the release paper has not been received because there are late fees that are now owed as penalty from the time the SAT document was expedited till the time the transaction was canceled. So now the Mexican office is requesting the amount of $9,956.83 in late fees. Without the release paper we cannot release the money. In order to release the paper, late fees must be covered. If I have any question, I can get in contact with my broker.  (OMG…I was right. They don’t ever, ever, intend to send my “promised” funds. There goes over $29,000 – just like a puff of smoke.  My entire retirement savings and mortgage refi cushion are gone. Why, why, why didn’t I learn sooner.) 

January 6, 2022

Yesterday I asked my husband to search the web for some information on TIMESHARE RESALE SCAMS.   What do you know, my experience sounds very familiar when I read the articles. Of course they tell me to NEVER send money by wire transfer, don’t be fooled by fancy websites or reputable corporate names or addresses, etc. etc.  This whole horrible experience reminds me of frustrations when raising children. I remember teaching them not to touch the stove because they’ll get burned. Did they listen to me?  No, not until they had burned their fingers a few times. What have I learned? Even at 71 I still have much to learn.   Next step: call the FBI, The Attorney General, Timeshare Scam Hotline, see what I can find out.

Timeshare reselling scams are also very popular currently. You can find out about how First Properties of New York tried to scam the Cannefields here

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