Timeshare scammers target Lake Stevens woman

LAKE STEVENS, Wash. -- A Lake Stevens woman says she was scammed out of nearly $5,000 by people claiming they could sell her timeshare in Mexico, and now she's warning others to be on high alert.

Billie Kester bought a timeshare nearly 12 years ago at the Fiesta Americana Vacation Club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

"It was just something we had and could do things and go places," she said.

But Kester's husband died recently, so she doesn't travel as much as she used to. When her phone rang about a potential buyer for the timeshare, it piqued her interest.

"So I went with them and it sounded all legitimate and everything was on the up-and-up," she said. "They did an appraisal on it and they came with a better appraisal."

The company, claiming to be based in California, put Kester in touch with a title company.

"The guy I was talking to seemed very sincere. He used to live up here so he said and worked at Boeing," she said.

The told her she needed to wire $5,000 for closing costs and a Mexican tax on properties. In the end, Kester was supposed to get more than $19,000, but she says she never saw a penny.

"Financially, they've really done me bad. $5,000 is a lot of money right now, and I was hoping to have more coming back from the sale of this," Kester said.

Fraud investigators say Kester's case is a classic example of a timeshare resell scam. Just last summer, the Federal Trade Commission and Florida's Attorney General sued a business for cold calling a timeshare owner with promises to rent or sell the property. Like Kester, the timeshare owner in Florida was never paid.

Authorities say there are two big red flags that timeshare owners should watch out for: unsolicited phone calls and requests to wire money. The scammers also tend to use the names of legitimate companies to make themselves look legitimate.

"Shame on them for doing this to people who can't afford it," Kester said. "Anybody, even if they can afford it, it's a horrible thing they're so greedy."

The Washington Attorney General's Office says timeshare scamming is an ongoing problem here and in several other states.