“Don’t underestimate the other guy’s greed,” was the famous quote from Scarface, the classic 80s gangster movie. It holds true today in the world of email and phone text scams, says the Timeshare Association. Worse still, the scammers are targeting those who are least able to navigate the internet safely, the over 65s who have spent most of their lives sorting bills and problems out using paperwork, not online apps and forms.
“Timeshare fraud and scams are costing some of the most vulnerable members of our society literally thousands,” says Dan Keating of the Timeshare Consumer Association. “Many current and former timeshare owners are now pensioners, the very sector who can least afford to lose money, especially as a result of fraud,” Mr Keating states.
How the fraud is perpetrated
Keating went on to explain that victims are cold called using data that may have been obtained illegally.
“Often the victims targeted are ex owners of failed holiday clubs. The caller has all the information about their past ownership and explains that a court case has taken place, normally in Spain, and the court has awarded a substantial sum to the victim as recompense for their previous losses. There follows a request for money for spurious reasons such as court fees or local taxes, these need paying before the award can be released. This is where collectively all the relatively small sums asked for add up to thousands,”said Keating.
No court case, no money
The Timeshare Consumer Association (TCA) is inundated with calls where victims have already paid the fraudsters; Keating says this is what really hurts, as an organisation we carry out substantial research to find and expose these fraudsters but despite our efforts many pay up before checking with us, one call and we could have saved them from losing money.
We need to emphasise that there has’t been and neither will be any court cases in Spain or anywhere else for that matter in relation to these failed clubs so there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In this regard the scam works on the natural feeling people have that a past injustice needs to be compensated; PPI, slavery reparations, diesel car claims etc. – it all taps into human nature and the feeling that a wrong must be put right.
Catching the scammers
“This is where the problem starts,” explains Keating. “Most scam companies operate from abroad,” he says, “most from Spain and usually Tenerife. Sure many of them have supposed UK addresses but when we check, these are more often than not accommodation addresses, frequently with more than 500 companies listed at the same address.
Lessons For the Insurance Sector
The big problem for insurance brands is that scammers may be using your logo or creating a fake website, in order to fool people that your brand is paying out compensation for mis-selling Illness plans, Covid19 BI claims and so on. Scammers are always looking for that same opportunity; a test case result somewhere in the world, and then an award of cash. These details are then twisted into a fairy story with a pot of “free” gold at the end of the rainbow for the punter.
Most insurers are familiar with the text scam offering compo for your car accident, but in inflationary times, it is worth monitoring social media channels for similar rackets offering compo for cancelled events like hotel wedding receptions, holidays, orphan Life/With Profits policy assets or Estate claims.