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Ashcroft warns Missourians of timeshare scam

  

Jefferson City, Mo. — Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s securities division is warning Missourians about a recent increase in fraudulent schemes targeting owners of timeshare properties in Mexico.

These scams involve individuals claiming to be representatives of a brokerage firm, travel agency, title company or escrow agent making contact with timeshare owners over the phone. The fraudsters may promise to pay a significant sum of money for the timeshare or claim the owner is entitled to valuable shares of stock in connection with the property. The scammers will sometimes use very official looking documents, including contracts and title paperwork.

Fraudsters have various methods of making timeshare schemes appear legitimate. For example, some fraudsters design websites that mimic those of real companies but contain false information.

In some situations timeshare owners are told they must pay a tax or fee to obtain the promised payments. On at least one occasion, a fraudster instructed an elderly person to liquidate assets in their IRA and send any proceeds to the caller.

These fraudsters can be persistent. In cases where victims become suspicious and stop sending money, perpetrators may contact victims posing as representatives of the Mexican government or a financial institution and demand an advance fee or tax in a ruse that claims to help victims recover their money.

“With the advance of technology and the availability of personal information online, fraudsters prey upon the good nature of citizens through sophisticated schemes to steal and deceive,” said Ashcroft. “If you receive an unsolicited call, take the time to investigate before turning over any of your hard-earned money.”

If you receive a solicitation or suspect a family member or loved one is being contacted for this kind of activity, call the toll-free investor production hotline at 800-721-7996, or go online to www.missouriprotectsinvestors.com to file a complaint.  The Missouri Attorney General’s consumer fraud hotline at 800-392-8222 may be able to help as well.