January 11, 2019 • By Dennis Beaver
Last week we looked at a major fraud that carried out by crooked Canadians and Americans residing in Mexico who are ripping off North American owners of Mexican timeshares who want out of their contracts.
For anyone who owns a Mexican time share and gets a call from someone in Mexico offering a great deal of money to buy it, it is almost certainly a scam: no buyer, only cons who appeal to greed.
Last week we told you about Don, the Arkansas terminally ill timeshare owner who, like so many victims, wired thousands of dollars to Mexico to complete a sale that was a complete sham. He is a highly educated business owner, and when we asked, “Why were you sending all this money for various fees and charges?” he replied:
“It was their written promise–guaranteed in writing by Wisconsin attorney Sheila G. Kolbe on her letterhead–that we would receive not $40,000 promised, but $56,000 which convinced me to continue wiring the money,” he admitted in a tone of voice that was seconds away from sobbing. “I am so embarrassed,” he said.
The “charges” were all bogus. Just like in the States, in Mexico, sellers do not pay fees. And the real Sheila G. Kolbe was the victim of identity theft, her name used as part of the con.
Don’s greed finally collided with common sense when he refused to pay an additional $1932.00 “For the cost of currency fluctuations,” as “Sheila told me in an email I had to pay, stating that if we didn’t live up to our end of the purchase agreement, I would be in breach of contract. By that time I had found your article and knew that we had been taken.”
But Don didn’t need my article to confirm that he was scammed. If he had merely Googled the phone number which appears on the so-called Sheila G. Kolbe’s letterhead–(920) 931-0176, guess what appears? Not a lawyer in Appleton, Wisconsin, but Costa Marina Timeshare, in Mexico!
When I phoned the number, there was a voice mail greeting from a friendly, Spanish accented female. Once, it was answered by a woman who clearly is Hispanic and denied any connection to Costa Marina Timeshare, but, “Sheila” was always in a meeting.
We located the real Sheila G. Kolbe who is now in Illinois. “You cannot imagine how it feels to be in this mess that I had nothing to do with,” she told me. “These scammers steal more than money. They have done real damage to my reputation.”
For my office, this was Deja Vu, as a year earlier, same type of a scam, only its New York attorney Matthew J. Simon who had a beautiful website designed for him by the award-winning team, Scammers Are Us.
We located the real Mathew J. Simon. Like the real Sheila G. Kolbe, he was in a race to save his reputation.
“It’s not my website, but sure looks impressive. I’ve been getting calls from lawyers all over the country thinking that I am involved in buying Mexican timeshares, but I’m not!” he said in an anguished tone of voice.
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 Don. Victims receive a call from a real estate broker claiming to have a buyer for their Mexican timeshare. The California Department of Real Estate has issued several warnings, which we summarize:
“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 crooks 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.”
And I would like our readers to consider one of the reasons they got taken. It was a conscience refusal to see their accountant or lawyer before taking the bait, a kind of “I know what I’m doing! I don’t need to run this by anyone.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.