ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Real Estate Commission is warning of a time-share scam that has been targeting real estate brokers and time-share owners with solicitations made through cold calls, email or regular mail.
Making the solicitations are unlicensed business entities that claim to be a full-service property management company, real estate brokerage or title and escrow company that lists and sell time-shares. The entities say they’re from New Mexico but cite a false business address in the Albuquerque area, according to an alert from the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department.
Those who are drawn into the solicitation are “directed to forward various upfront transaction fees to an out of state or out of country, escrow company,” the alert said.
Consumers might be drawn in because the callers identify themselves by using the names and license numbers of actual New Mexico real estate brokers, “unbeknownst to those brokers,” the alert said.
Department Director Mike Unthank said his agency has received “a surge of inquiries” about these calls.
“Time-share fraud is a serious crime, which can cost consumers thousands of dollars,” he said.
In New Mexico, a real estate license is required for anyone who gets paid to sell other people’s time-shares. If you receive a call from someone who says they’re a broker with an offer on your time-share, you can check the license with the state’s Real Estate Commission at 1-800-801-7505.
A few general tips, from the commission, for those thinking about buying a time-share:
• Be wary of companies that contact you out of the blue, whether it be by phone, mail, email or text. Search online for consumer complaints.
• Use extra caution when considering a time-share outside of the U.S. If you sign a purchase contract in another country, you will not be protected by U.S. laws.
• Avoid companies that do the following: say you will be able to simply “walk away” from a time-share by transferring it to a third party or give you an unqualified guarantee that they can sell it for you; refuse to meet with you in person; ask for upfront fees before providing services; ask you to pay cash or by wire transfer or tell you don’t need to read or understand the agreement.
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Here’s another reason to be wary of returning phone calls from someone who doesn’t leave a message.
The Scam Detector website reports about the costly danger of one-ring calls in which you get a single ring from a number you don’t recognize.
The caller hangs up, but those who let curiosity get the better of them and call back may actually be dialing an overseas number. Part of the hook might be that the number looks like it comes from your area.
You might hear the following message: “You’ve reached the operator. Please hold.”
If, in fact, you’re dialing to Jamaica or somewhere else across the world, you could get hit up with “an expensive per-minute charge, as well as an international rate.”
In a nutshell, people who fall for this are paying a lot of money to talk to scammers, who will then try to bilk them out of more money.
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If a Deputy Bryce Fuller claiming to be from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department calls, gives you his badge number and then tells you to bring a $1,900 payment to Albertson’s, do this instead: Hang up.
The guy is telling local residents that they owe this amount for failing to appear for jury duty. He is even giving out a phone number that appears to be a legitimate sheriff’s department line.
“The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office will NEVER call citizens and inform them of a warrant or request any type of payments over the phone,” the office says. “Do NOT fall victim to these scams.”
Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division at 1-844-255-9210, toll-free.