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The US has broken a massive IRS scam preying on vulnerable taxpayers and what we have learned applies to timeshare scams as well. The perpetrators posed as the IRS and immigration officials used a variety of tactics to defraud people. This enormous conspiracy used phone calls between 2012-2016 to defraud people.
“Over four years, more than 15,000 victims in the United States lost ‘hundreds of millions’ of dollars to the sophisticated scam, and more than 50,000 individuals had their personal information misused, the department said Friday. The money was routed through call centers in India back to the ringleaders in eight states.” (Source: New York Times).
First, the scammers obtained data via various sources including data brokers. They then targeted victims, seeking vulnerable populations such as immigrants and the elderly. Contractors from call centers in India called victims and attempted to get them to pay. Next they used various scare tactics including threats of “arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government. Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed on how to provide payment, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money. Once a victim provided payment, the call centers turned to a network of runners based in the United States to liquidate and launder the extorted funds as quickly as possible by purchasing reloadable cards or retrieving wire transfers.” (Source: US Department of Justice).
The US prosecuted the 24 defendants involved in this IRS scam and sentenced twenty-two of them to jail time of up to 20 years.
The timeshare industry is no stranger to phone scams. And timeshare resale scams are the most common timeshare phone scams. These scammers contact people looking to sell their timeshares and tell them they have a buyer ready for them. All the owner needs to do is pay an upfront fee. And the owner needs to act fast or risk losing the sale. Then, once the owner pays, the buyer disappears and the owner loses their money. Like the IRS scam, this scam preys on vulnerable people, like those who are already struggling with their existing timeshare. Consumer Reports recommends these steps to protect yourself:
Don’t pay upfront fees. Fees for property sales are usually paid AFTER the sale.
Don’t send money via wire transfer, cash, cashier’s check, or money order. These types of payments are hard to track and are easily lost!
Do research the company! Because there are so many scams in this industry, always check with consumer groups like the Business Consumer Alliance to see if the business is legitimate.
Do get everything in writing. And consider having a third party such as an attorney review documents before you sign or do anything!
Remember, the power is yours. So, even if you do fall for a scam similar to the IRS scam, take heart! You don’t be embarrassed. So many people, including smart people, fall for scams every day. And if it happens to you, get educated and don’t let it happen again.