In 2004, during their vacation in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico “Carlos” and “Maria” purchased a $58,000 timeshare at Club Regina. It was bought over Maria’s objections. “I earn the money, I will make the decisions” her macho husband stated.
Carlos has made many horrible decisions over the 30+ years he’s been one of our clients, never once visiting the office before doing something avoidable which got him into hot water.
The timeshare allowed them one week’s occupancy of a two bedroom condo every year, with a yearly maintenance fee of $1400.
So, in past 17 years, how many times do you think they used their time share? “Only once.” their CPA informed us. Immediately coming to mind was the oft-heard statement, “There’s no fool like an old fool.” It applies well to 80 year-old Carlos, as you’ll see.
We have a buyer for your timeshare!
This past June Carlos received a phone call from one “Matthew J. Simon,” explaining that he was a real estate broker and CEO of New York Based Capital Real Estate Solutions, LLC, and they had a buyer for the timeshare. “You paid $58,000 but it will sell for $61,000, less a $3800 commission, so you will break-even. Sound like a deal?”
It was music to our client’s ears. Without consulting us or his CPA, he asked for the sale documents to be sent to him immediately. Via Federal Express they arrived the next day, the couple signed and returned them, eagerly awaiting proceeds of sale.
They had taken the bait.
You need a sales permit and must pay Mexican tax
Two days later, “Mr. Simon called, stating that sellers of Mexican time shares are required to have a permit which costs $4250 but when the transaction closes, the buyer will reimburse us, so I wired the money.” Again, this was done without consulting his CPA or our office.
Carlos was consistent in his behavior at age 80 as he was 30 years ago when we first met him.
A week later, “Mr. Simon again phoned, and stated that a new law had just gone into effect in Baja California requiring the seller to pay a 16 percent Tax--$9800--which needed to be sent at once.” This time, Carlos came to the office and we had the most interesting chat on a speakerphone with our “Mr. Simon,” and was legally recorded.
Within seconds it was obvious that Carlos was the victim of a Mexican Time Share Resale Scam.
Alerts put out by State Attorneys General over several years
Over the past several years, Attorney General Offices of many states have issued warnings about Mexican Time Share resale fraud which typically begins just the way it did with Carlos. Victims receive a call out of the blue from “a real estate broker” claiming to have a buyer for their Mexican timeshare. The California Department of Real Estate has issued several warning, which we paraphrase:
“Timeshare owners must be vigilant, be aware of and look for revealing signs of fraud. The most significant is a request for the wiring of money in connection with timeshare resales, rentals or other services. Once funds are wired, there is virtually no chance of recovering the money as the scammer usually disappears.
“A number of the scammers have engaged in identity theft, representing themselves as having real estate licenses. The criminals will use an actual real estate broker’s name and license number in an attempt to legitimize the transaction. If and when the timeshare owner victim calls the broker’s number, which has been provided via email, phone call, postal mail, or on the website that has been created to complete the fraud, the voice of the supposed broker is actually the voice of the scammer.”
As we learned, that was exactly what happened here, our “Mr. Simon” was not the real Matthew J. Simon.
“They stole my company’s name and my name!”
We Googled Matthew J. Simon, New York, found the real Matthew J. Simon, and called a different phone number than the one Carlos had been given. He is a New York attorney and partner in the highly respected Romer Debbas law firm.
“You are the third lawyer this week to call me with the same story. If you Google the company’s name, you’ll find a beautiful website. But I’ve got nothing to do with any of this, as they stole my identity and that of my real estate company which had been inactive for quite some time.
“I have a meeting scheduled with law enforcement,” he told us. We’ll be sending him a copy of our chat with his evil twin.
And Carlos? He promised not to wire the $9800, but I’m not holding my breath.