Smith County man falls victim to time-share scam; warns others - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Smith County man falls victim to time-share scam; warns others

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SMITH COUNTY (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - An 83-year-old Smith County man fell victim to a time share scam, paying $6,000 to shady companies who offered him twice the amount he would have taken for his vacation spot in Mexico.

Jack Durrett, of Emerald Bay, owns Climatic Care in Tyler and has had a time share in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for about 10 years. He said he had about $20,000 invested in it and even though he hadn't used it in several years, he was still paying about $2,000 a year for maintenance.

Durrett said he was willing to take $10,000 for the time share and wanted to sell it, but he had not put it on the market yet when he received a cold call from a potential buyer that sounded too good to be true. They were offering $30,000 when he would have taken $10,000, he said.

Durrett said a real estate group in Sacramento, Calif. was offering to buy the time share, and a title company based in Philadelphia claimed to have the money in escrow. But before he would be paid for the sale of the time share, Durrett was asked to pay $3,000 in closing costs. After he sent the money, he was told there was a new law in Mexico, and the country required a percentage of the price a time share was sold for, before the title could be transferred. Durrett wired another $3,000 to Mexico, he said, adding that he was told once he paid all of the fees he would get the check for the sale sent to him by FedEx.

"I'm still waiting," he said.

Durrett said the process started in October and since he wired the $6,000 to Mexico, he had not heard from the companies. He has not been able to contact them, he said, adding that when he calls the numbers he hears a message that the line has been disconnected or that they are busy with other customers. If someone answers, they tell him they have never heard of the person he is asking for, he said.

Durrett said the scammers had good answers to all of his questions, and he was fine with paying the fees because he was getting more money for his time share.

Durrett went to the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas today to see if any of the companies he had been dealing with were legitimate and to get other people aware of what he is going through.

"This is not an uncommon scam," Mechele Mills, president and chief executive officer of the BBB, said, adding that a legitimate company trying to sell a person's property would not ask for fees before the property is sold.

She said Durrett never met the people he was dealing with, everything happened over the phone or internet, and he wired everything out of the country – all red flags.

"Scam artists, they play on your emotions. They don't play on your common sense," she said.
"Sometimes our logic gets pushed aside when our emotions get involved."

She said Durrett did a lot of things right, such as asking for things in writing. Ms. Mills said she was looking through his contracts and researched the Philadelphia title company, which had an F rating and a website that was "smoke and mirrors."

"A lot of this can be prevented if you do your homework or call (the BBB) ahead of time," she said.

The BBB in Tyler can be reached at 903-581-5704 or www.bbb.org.

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