Mexican Drug Cartels Expanding into Timeshare Fraud, Swindling $300 Million from Older Americans, FBI Reports

Mexican drug cartels, including the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, Gulf Cartel, and the Sinaloa Cartel, have expanded their criminal activities to include online scams, specifically timeshare fraud. The FBI reports that these cartels have collectively swindled over $300 million from predominantly older Americans over the past five years. This pivot to cybercrime represents a significant and growing threat.

Timeshare fraud involves convincing individuals to invest in shared vacation property ownership, often for long-term or lifetime periods. Fraudsters associated with these cartels target victims by creating fake documents and using high-pressure sales tactics, posing as legitimate entities. Their activities have severe financial, emotional, and physical impacts on the victims, who are often unaware they are being scammed.

The FBI has identified the Jalisco New Generation Cartel as the primary group perpetrating these frauds, although other cartels may also be involved through independent call centers.

The cartels conduct thorough research on their targets, using cyber-enabled strategies to enhance the credibility of their scams. Assistant Special Agent in Charge Paul Roberts emphasized the importance of the FBI’s role in combating this threat to protect American seniors.

Timeshare fraud often goes unreported due to victims’ embarrassment or fear of judgment. Roberts stressed that there should be no shame in falling victim to such scams and urged people to come forward. Key warning signs include being asked for upfront fees, handing over power-of-attorney forms, or dealing with supposed government officials who make threats related to timeshare settlements.

Recovering money lost to these scams is notoriously difficult, but victims are advised to contact their bank or credit card company. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends reporting such scams to their website, the state attorney general, and the Better Business Bureau. These steps can help track and address the widespread issue of timeshare fraud perpetrated by criminal organizations.

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