Blog post -
Repugnant new timeshare fraud. Previous victims being systematically retargeted by fake law firms
Fake timeshare law firms illegally pay big money for 'data' of timeshare owners (the owner's name, the club where they own, their contact details etc). The fraudsters use this data to contact members and offer to help free them from their contracts, thus escaping the burden of the hefty annual fees. These fake firms unfortunately will take the money but not do the job, leaving the luckless timeshare owners even more out of pocket than they already were.
The Timeshare Consumer Association (TCA) has received calls in the last few days from victims of a sinister new iteration of this scam. Mandy from Cambridgeshire contacted us because she was worried about an elderly neighbour of hers who had been contacted by a firm called Martin & Perez.
"My 82 year old friend Philip Isles was called by a man identifying himself as a solicitor called David Hargreaves," says Mandy. "He told Philip that he was calling because Philip had been the victim of a scam from a company years ago called Key Properties Town Advisory (KPTA), and that a recent court ruling against KPTA by one Judge Juan Miguel Hernandez meant that Philip was due a settlement of €28,000. This so called solicitor told my friend that his law firm had been retained to track Philip down and make sure he received the money he had been awarded.
"I asked Philip if this alleged solicitor, Hargreaves, had asked him for any money, and Philip had already paid £2600 to the man. That´s why I called you to check if it was a fraud or not. Philip is 82. He can´t afford to lose money like this. No pensioner can."
Sadly a brief investigation by the TCA team showed that Martin & Perez is definitely a scam outfit. They are not registered as a company in Spain, the UK or anywhere else. Their admittedly professional looking website seems to have been largely cloned from the website of another scam company Morales & Maxwell. We have been unable to find evidence of any court case regarding victims being awarded money, and anyway such a court case could not proceed without the plaintiff (Philip in this case) being aware. Lastly the only lawyer called David Hargreaves we can find with an online presence works for the State Solicitors Office in Perth, Australia. (This is not him).
Philip has unfortunately lost his money. The fraudsters insisted that he paid by bank transfer, so Philip was not protected in the way he would have been had he paid by credit card.
Daniel Keating from the TCA called the number on the Martin & Perez website, asking to speak with David Hargreaves regarding an article he was writing on the firm. A worried sounding English lady answered. When she said she would connect Daniel to "David Hargreaves' desk" the line went dead a few seconds later.
"The lady started singing loudly to herself in what sounded like a panicked manner, then told me she was going to transfer me to Hargreaves," says Daniel. "Then she cut the line. I tried calling back later that morning but again was cut off after being told I would be put through to Hargreaves, this time by a different lady, this time with a Spanish accent."
"This is part of a disturbing new pattern," continues Daniel. "The contact details and data of previous victims are being heartlessly re-used to steal even more money from them, either by the same criminals operating under a new name, or by the data being sold to a new fraud operation.
"These people's desperation is being cynically exploited.
"The victims have been signed up to a timeshare company with high pressure sales techniques, then targeted again by fake law firms who take more money for helping the member escape the unwanted contract. The fraudsters never provide this service.
"Now the victims are being targeted a third time with this new con. They are not generally rich people who can afford the loss. They are desperate, often elderly and in a position where they can´t afford the expenses of the original timeshare membership, let alone the repeated sums of money duped from them by fraudulent 'law firms.'
Daniel emphasises the importance of checking the credentials of any firm offering services regarding timeshare contracts before paying any money. "There are genuine firms out there," says Daniel, "but unfortunately many of the people contacting timeshare members are thieves.
"If you are considering retaining a firm to help you escape a timeshare contract, claim compensation, or any other action regarding the business of timeshare, please get in touch with us at the TCA before paying any money.
"We have a constantly updated whitelist of who can be trusted, and conversely a blacklist of scam operators to avoid. Any genuine organisation will be happy for you to check with us first on the contact details below."