Skip to main content

Criminal charges for identity theft

Identity theft is using another person's identity in person, by mail, over the phone, or on the internet, with the intent to obtain information or assets.

Christopher C. Carr | Jun 28, 2018

Timeshare fraud and How to Avoid It

So You want to sell your timeshare and think you at last have a buyer So, you want to unload your timeshare in Mexico or wherever? You and everyone else who was talked into buying one during the halcyon days of timeshare sales. (Obviously this is a worldwide problem, not just concentrated in Mexico.) Fraudsters, preying on this desire, are very aggressive with the timeshare scam, typically posing as timeshare buyers or intermediaries, either here in the US or in country. They may be using such slogans as *we will buy your timeshare* in ads. They may pose as agents (even licensed real estate brokers) and indicate they have buyers ready, willing and able to buy your timeshare in real time. They may ask for a substantial up-front commission or earnest money payment or other transaction related fees by wire transfer, PayPal, certified check or money order. They will often refuse to accept credit cards as their use gives rise to traceable transactions and may result in *chargebacks*. Frequently, this is just a scam, the *buyer* steals your money as upfront fees or supposed tax payments for a sale that never takes place. However, there are some red flags that allow you to spot a fraud: * A request for upfront fees before the *buyer* or representative has done anything. This is typically how they drain your money off using fraud. Do not give in to the demand for cash or wire transfer payments*the latter is very common in any Mexican timeshare fraud. In a bona fide transaction, actual money hardly ever changes hands until the closing/settlement where such fees are allocated between buyer and seller on the settlement sheet. An escrow agent will be used to hold the money who is legally bound not to release it to the buyer except under clearly specified conditions (such as a default by the buyer or seller). Unfortunately, the scammers have figured this one out. I have seen sham escrow agents set up designed to lull sellers into a false sense of security.) Conduct due diligence! Often, legit agents have to have a special license allowing them to do this under local law or will be otherwise licensed s lawyers or notaries depending on the country involved. Check them out using google and/or the registry of professionals in the state or country. * Unrealistic Promises * The scammer may tell you the market is very active or *on fire*, they have lots of buyers lined up, and *guarantee* results within a specified time frame. Remember that a guarantee by a non-existent company or fly by night entity is worthless. * Use of a front man; *straw man* intermediary, unauthorized use of an actual name or unrevealed purchaser. Generally, the *buyer* is nonexistent. However, I have seen the use of the name of a legit company (which in fact has no clue about the transaction) as a front. * Pressuring you to act quickly, stating you do not need to understand the documents, just to *trust them* and sign. * Obvious lack of professionalism in documentation and/or contracts, such as: * use of idiomatic or broken English, * improper terminology, * possible legal transgressions, * amateurish brochures and docs, * Use of purposely complicated or meaningless language, * unwillingness to explain terms and definitions. * Unwillingne Warning Signs: What to watch out for/Hallmarks of Timeshare Fraud Protect yourself. This is a partial list of things to watch out for: * Be wary of anyone who contacts you directly and/or who uses aggressive sales tactics. * Have realistic expectations about the value of your timeshare. In most cases, the sale of a timeshare takes time and effort and will possibly only yield a fraction of your initial investment. A buyer who offers an unrealistic price given the market conditions without giving a genuine reason therefor is automatically suspect. The story has to make sense. * Know your ultimate buyer and/or broker or other intermediary*do the due diligence to find out who it is, why they want to buy, the nature of their relationship to the ultimate buyer, etc. Unfortunately, the scammers have figured this out as well and will front a real company which would indeed have an excellent reason to purchase, if only they were actually buying. For example, I recently assisted a prospective buyer where an offshore conglomerate was supposedly buying several Mexican timeshares so it would always have a place to house its traveling executives and guest. It only took a couple of phone calls to the home office to reveal the fraud. * Never pay upfront fees, especially in cash or wire transfers. The latter is very common in Mexican timeshare fraud. If there is a claim that an up front fee is due to a governmental entity, check that out by calling that entity directly to confirm the existence and amount of the fe in US currency. * Never provide personal information such as your Social Security number, credit card or bank information. * Get everything in writing, preferably in an enforceable contract. Be aware however, that if the fraudster moves on they will hide their tracks making it impossible to find them and enforce the contract or other documents in court. Also, cross border law suits add an additional layer of complexity to the mix. * get advice from a knowledgeable independent third party and be prepared to be guided by it (see below) * Don*t succumb to pressure * take your time and do the necessary due diligence * Call on the timeshare or resort company itself. Also, the company or owner*s association may know whether the buyer has had unconsummated or suspicious transactions in the past or alternately that the it is bona fide. But don*t rely on that alone. * Do adequate due diligence or better yet hire an expert to do it for you (see below) * Check to see if the agent if any is bonded and/or insured for errors and omissions. Check them out. Ask for a certificate of insurance and bonding. * If feasible visit the agents or buyer*s offices or merely offer to do so and see what reaction you get. * Check out any company that you deal with using the Better Business Bureau ( and do a supplementary online search under their name and follow the path that the research may take you on thru to the end. * Check for legal transgressions of entities and their principals with the local authorities where possible and do so here in the States with the state attorneys general. * Check complaint sites like for issues others have experienced with your buyer and/or intermediary. * Don*t be fooled because the upfront money is ostensibly for preregistration of the sale or for you to be a seller in country or for some nonexistent ad valorem ta, registration fee or duty. * Remember that the thieves are working on volume. They may only demand a small fee relative to the supposed value of the overall transaction but may be collecting a similar sum from dozens of hapless sellers. Best Practices in Selling Timeshares to Avoid Fraud A better way to sell your timeshare: If available, use a resort or timeshare association resale or buyback program. Where unavailable, advertising yourself is OK but it is best not to try and go it alone. Instead of operating in the blind, use a professional timeshare expert to back you up and to perform due diligence. Why? * They will know tricks and techniques for testing for fraud that you could not likely come up with or perform even if you could. * They will spot cues that you in your exuberance to finally unload your *white elephant* perhaps even at a profit supposedly will overlook or not even see for what it really is. * They will know the fraudulent techniques being used in the local environment. * They will be up on which if any up-front payments are legit. * They will know who is really buying timeshares. * They may well be familiar with the fraudulent people or entities or be able to spot them. * They will very likely have developed an *in* with the local constabulary and courts which can assist them in this regard. * Most importantly, through long experience they will have developed a sixth sense and will typically be able to spot a proposal that just does not pass the *smell test*. Finally, LISTEN to your expert. Remember, they have nothing to gain or lose (except perhaps their reputation) and can afford to view your *wonderful* deal with a realistic (if not jaundiced) eye. An expert may seem expensive but it is likely to be well worth the cost if they save you from an ill-advised transaction and financial loss or hopefully provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your transaction is real. Dislaimer Note: This article is meant to provide general information and not to provide legal or tax advice.

Charles Reiger Gallagher III | Apr 4, 2018

Identity Theft Quick Response Action Plan

Call the Police Contact law enforcement immediately and request that they make a report of the identity theft. Contact the police or sheriff's department in the jurisdiction where you reside. The report will be required for the banks where accounts were opened, the credit reporting agencies and other purposes. Call the Credit Reporting Agencies Call all three credit reporting agencies immediately to report that you have been a victim of identity theft. Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289. Ensure that you speak with a representative that confirms your report of identity theft. In making this report the credit reporting agency will provide you with a copy of your credit report to determine which accounts are a product of the fraud. You may be given choices by the credit reporting agency of a credit freeze, fraud alert or credit lock. It is advisable to pick a freeze as that affords you the most protection as the outset. To put a freeze on your account online, go to: Equifax: Experian: TransUnion: Get a Copy of Your Credit Report You need to get real time information on the damage to your credit. Visit Annual Credit ( and pull your current credit report to see what accounts have been opened up in your name. You will be able to obtain a copy of your credit report the same day. Report the Identity Theft to the FTC Next, go to the Federal Trade Commission's website and report the identity theft. Check your Social Security Number Finally, check to see if anyone else is using your social security number If you see fraudulent use of your social security number, then call the Social Security Administration's fraud hotline at 800-269-0271.

Craig Edward Bertschi | Feb 10, 2018

How to dispute inaccurate information on your Equifax credit report.

1. Make sure you have the most up-to-date version of your Equifax credit report. You can obtain a free copy of your Equifax credit report at This is the website that Equifax and the other national credit reporting agencies are required to maintain underfederal law. It is not a commercial site designed to sell you credit products, like many of the "free credit report" sites on the Internet. 2. Decide how you would like to initiate your dispute. There are three ways that you can dispute inaccurate information with Equifax. First, you can initiate a dispute using the online portal on the Equifax website. Here is the link: Second, you can initiate a dispute via telephone. Here is the telephone number you should call: 1- 866-349-5191. Finally, you can initiate a dispute by mail. Here is the address: Equifax, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256. 3. State your dispute clearly and politely. In your dispute notice, you will need to describe why your credit report is inaccurate. You should do so with simple, straightforward language. For example, if your credit report inaccurately states that your account has not been paid, then state that the debt was paid and the date on which it was paid. If you have documentary evidence to support your dispute, you should include it. For example, you should include the canceled check evidencing payment of the account, if you still have it. In your letter, you should always be polite. Yes, dealing with credit reporting agencies can drive you crazy. But, remember, one day your dispute letter may be read by a judge or jury. Making threats, using abusive language or profanity could harm your case. 4. Make sure you have a paper trail and keep copies of everything. My recommendation is that you make your dispute using the US mail. Be sure to keep a copy of your dispute letter and any response you receive from Equifax. You should also send your dispute letter certified mail return receipt requested. Keep the receipt for mailing and the delivery receipt, which indicates the date your letter was received by Equifax. 5. Wait for a response ... It will generally take 30 days. Under federal law, Equifax has 30 days to respond to your dispute. The 30 days begins to run on the date that Equifax receives your dispute, which is why you should always send your dispute certified mail return receipt requested, if you are going to initiate the dispute by mail. If you initiate your dispute by telephone, keep notes of your calls, when you called, who you spoke to, what you told them. 6. Making a dispute directly with the creditor who has placed inaccurate information on your Equifa Under federal law, you have a right to dispute inaccurate information on your credit report directly with the creditor who put that information on your report. So, for example, if a credit card company has placed inaccurate information on your credit report, you are entitled to dispute that inaccurate information directly with the credit card company and, the company is obliged to investigate your dispute. However, making a dispute of inaccurate information with the credit reporting agency, i.e. Equifax is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. So, if you think that ultimately you will have to file a lawsuit to get your credit report corrected, you need to make a dispute with Equifax. 7. Call a lawyer who specializes in Fair Credit Reporting Act cases. These days, lawyers are as specialized as doctors. You wouldn't ask a podiatrist to perform brain surgery. And, you shouldn't ask a lawyer who handles personal injury cases to handle your credit reporting case. Make sure you're getting an attorney who has experience handling cases under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. We handle these cases every day and have done so for years.

Bob Benjy | Jan 30, 2018

Identity Stolen & Creditors Knocking | California's Identity Theft Act to the Rescue

Your Identity Has Been Stolen and Debts Have Been Incurred Without Your Authorization The contents of this guide apply only to that subset of identity theft victims whose identities have been usurped and utilized to incur debt at their expense and without their prior knowledge, consent or authorization. It is not intended as a device or tool for true debtors to evade their lawfully incurred obligations. For those individuals that fit within the confines of the foregoing, they are not without recourse. California's Identity Theft Act (Civ. Code Sec. 1798.93) provides such victimized "debtors" with recourse against unscrupulous creditors and debt-collectors who knowingly and recklessly continue to pursue collection efforts notwithstanding having been formally put on notice. Among other things, the statute provides for the possibility of recovering "actual damages, attorney's fees, and costs, and any equitable relief that the court deems appropriate ...." (Act, Sec. (c)(5).) The Act likewise provides for the possibility of recovering "A civil penalty, in addition to any other damages, of up to thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) ...." (Act, Sec. (c)(6).) Declaratory and injunctive relief are likewise available. (Act, Sec. (c)(1)-(3)).) Of course, the burden of proof is on the ID theft victim to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he/she is indeed a victim of identity theft. The foregoing remedies can be asserted by the ID victim either at the outset (prior to getting sued by the Claimant) or by means of a cross-complaint in an action where the Claimant has sued on the debt first. What Does the Identity Theft Victim Need to Do? Generally speaking, the ID theft victim can only recover the civil penalties portion if he/she first (before suing) jumps through certain hoops to meet and confer with the Claimant concerning the bogus nature of the debt and the fact that he/she has been victimized by identity theft; that the Claimant failed to properly investigate the victim's allegations and continued to push forward with collection efforts notwithstanding being apprised of the issue. (See Act, Sec. (c)(6)(A)-(C).) Among other things, ID theft victims that intend to utilize this procedure should promptly file a formal, written police report concerning the identity theft and provide a copy of that report to the pursuing creditors and/or debtors collectors along with a detailed explanation concerning the circumstances surrounding the debt.