Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, today we have a look at how to spot a possible scam, what to look for and the warning signs to be aware of. Over the past months, there have been numerous new “fake” law firms, claims and exits companies appearing, with Inside Timeshare issuing many warnings. Unfortunately, many timeshare owners have been taken in by them only to find they have been scammed after they have paid.
One of the first points that you should consider is the initial cold call, although cold calling is not illegal, you should be very cautious about who they are and how they have your details. What information are they holding, do they know what and where you own, do they also know about any previous contact with “fraudulent” companies? These are usually telltale signs that the data they hold may have been obtained illegally, either it has been stolen from the timeshare resort or has been passed on by other fraudulent entities, usually the same people behind the new company.
During the call it is up to you to do the questioning, what is their full company name, where are they registered, do they have a company registration number and can this be verified. This point does not guarantee they are legitimate, anyone can register a company for very little outlay, just because they are registered does not mean they are not scammers.
What is the company address, is it a permanent office or one of the virtual offices often used to register short term companies. How long has the company been registered, does this correspond with what you are told, such as they have been operating for say 5 years, yet the company was only registered 1 year ago!
Does the company name appear on any searches, or does it show many companies with the same or similar name?
Many of the new cold callers are using names of genuine law firms or variations of them, even down to a similarly named website. A good example of this point is one article published last week on the law firm Cabrera Ayala Abogados, where a genuine lawyer’s details are being used. Even down to the address being very similar. The other example is of a Spanish Registered Lawyer and UK Registered Barrister, Jeremy Scudamore, both of these can be seen on the links below.
What is their website, is it a new one or one that has been operating for a number of years, When was it registered and for how long? Is the registrant hidden by a privacy protection service, hiding the people behind it? Again another point to give concern.
What telephone numbers are they using, have they appeared on sites such as Who Called Me, and what comments have been made?
Are they landlines, mobile or VOIP used mainly on internet telephone systems from third-party providers?
Does their email address go to the website or is it a free email service such as Gmail, Yahoo or ones that we have seen regularly with our friends the Litigious Abogados Family from Tenerife, such as consultant.com or europe.com?
Any email that is not directly attached to their website is usually a very good sign of a scam operation.
On the website itself, does the website show any company details, such as company registration numbers, Solicitors Regulation Authority registration, for Spain are they registered with their local Colegio de Abogados?
If they are processing claims they may also need to be registered and regulated under claims management with the Financial Conduct Authority. This does depend on the type of claims management they are undertaking. Do they have an FCA registration number?
Even if this number appears on the website, it does not mean they are registered, especially if they are a new company. They may have applied and only have “temporary” approval, permanent approval is not given straight away, there is a period where the FCA will be investigating them before they finally approve full authority, this can take at least one year.
On the website, is the information shown correct, how is it written, does it look like it has been cut and pasted from another “legitimate” website?
How is it written, is it full of spelling and grammatical errors, are they trying to use legal terms to make it look like a genuine law firm?
What services are they offering, is it a fully legal claim which will for Spanish purchased timeshares need to go through the Spanish legal system with a genuine and registered Spanish lawyer?
Or, are they offering a relinquishment first (for a fee) and a “compensation” claim on a no win no fee basis?
How do they expect you to make a payment?
Do they have Credit Card facilities, if so who is the payment made to, is it the company that is carrying out the work or a third party?
If this is the case you may not be covered by Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1974 under the third party payment rules. As an example, you pay company A, the work is supposedly carried out by company B, which does not do the job, you have no claim against either party. Third-Party Rule.
Another point to consider is the use of third party payment companies using your credit card, these are money transfer agencies such as PayPal and Transferwise. Using your card to pay using these methods also invalidates your rights under Section 75.
If you are requested to make a payment by bank transfer, who is the payment being made to, is it a company account or to a named private individual?
Lastly, have they sent you any documents, do they look genuine?
Many of these fake documents including court rulings have been published on Inside Timeshare over the years, some are exceptionally good, especially if you have no experience of any legal documentation. There will always be telltale signs, the most common for court documents is the “case number”, these can be checked and verified, with our experience we can tell them to be fake at a glance. You unfortunately may not be so lucky.
Example of a Fake court document sent out by the Litigious Abogados Family.
These are just the basic rules to be safe when dealing with either cold callers or any company you may have found on the internet. If you require any help in verifying these companies, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.
REMEMBER, DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST BEFORE PAYING ANY COMPANY!