February 1, 2013
For immediate release
Kansas City, MO - The Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City is issuing a warning to prospective timeshare sellers. Elite Escrow, Inc., listed in Leawood, KS, has ensnared at least two people in an elaborate scam, costing them thousands. The so-called escrow company is fraudulently using the Real Estate Broker’s number of a broker with no knowledge of, or association with, Elite Escrow.
The scam begins when potential victims are contacted by A.E.M. Real Estate, who claim to have a business location in Chicago. Like other timeshare scams, A.E.M. tells potential victims that a buyer is lined up for their timeshares and only need an advance closing cost to seal the deal. The closing cost is supposedly sent to a third party escrow company; in this case, Elite Escrow, Inc. Once the victim’s money is forwarded to Elite Escrow, the company ceases contact.
Elite Escrow, Inc. was a legitimate business in the Kansas City area before ceasing operation in 2009. The company was reincorporated by a woman claiming to be Mildred J. Frederick, who has no affiliation with the original company owner. A.E.M. Real Estate was also a legitimate Chicago business in the past. The company is using innocent businesses and brokers to project a false air of legitimacy.
The Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City has uncovered dozens of timeshare resale scams in recent years. Even though these scams are using more complicated facades, timeshare owners can follow a few tips that will help them avoid resale scams.
The BBB offers the following advice to timeshare owners who are looking for help in selling their timeshare:
- Use a Business You can Trust – Make sure the timeshare reseller you use is a BBB Accredited Business or, at the very least, has a good rating with BBB. You can check out a business’s BBB Reliability Report at bbb.org.
- Confirm Licensing Requirements – Some timeshare resellers will use fake addresses or PO boxes in order to mislead timeshare owners. Confirm the location of the company and the state in which they do business. Ask if the company's salespeople are licensed to sell real estate where your timeshare is located. If so, verify this with the state licensing board. In light of the recent developments with identity theft, obtain the contact information of the company’s broker from the State Real Estate Commission and contact him or her directly.
- Get the Facts on the Figures – Find out if the business charges a commission. Do they handle the entire closing and provide escrow services? Do they charge an up-front listing or advertising fee? What does it cover and is it refundable?
- Be Wary of Upfront Fees – Many complainants to the BBB were burned by companies charging an advance "appraisal" fee for services or were told that they just had to pay closing costs and the timeshare would be taken off their hands. Consider opting for a company that offers to sell for a fee only after the timeshare is sold.
- Don’t Fall for the Hard Sell or an Offer that Sounds Too Good to Be True – Don’t agree to anything over the phone but instead ask the salesperson to send you written materials; take the time to think it over and don’t be pressured. Unscrupulous timeshare resellers may claim that your property is in demand and they can sell it immediately; unfortunately, these promises are often empty.
If you think you’ve been the victim of timeshare resale fraud, contact your local Better Business Bureau or Attorney General’s office.
For more information, questions or comments, contact:
Manager of Information and Media Services
Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City
816-421-7800 x 107