Abuse Of Our Reputable Name
Borrowing the reputable name of Our Company is exactly what these fraudsters are doing. They target owners of timeshares, claiming to be a division of Chicago Title Company. Read on to find out how one savvy seller outsmarted the fraudsters and, as a result, did not fall for their scam.
An owner of a timeshare interest located in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico was contacted by a woman named Sandi Robles, a junior sales agent for Regency Resort Services, Inc. Robles told the owner she was working with a corporation looking to purchase several timeshares in Puerto Vallarta. They intended on hosting corporate retreats and using them as incentives for their employees. Robles claimed to need several units and asked the owner if he was interested in selling his timeshare. He was. Robles told him she would prepare a contract and send it to him.
The next day Robles sent him a sales contract which specified the funds from the sale would be held in escrow. Per the contract, no fees were to be paid up front. At closing, the net proceeds would be wired to the seller's bank account. The offer price was acceptable, so the seller signed the contract and sent it back to Robles.
A few days later, a woman named Jordan Parker called the seller informing him she had been retained by Regency Resort Services to act as the settlement agent on the sale of the timeshare. When the seller asked her what company she was with, she replied Chicago Title.
Parker explained the process by which the transfer would take place and informed the seller he needed to wire $2,250 to pay for the title search. Knowing his contract said no fees would have to be paid up front, the seller asked Parker why she was requesting he pre–pay for this service. She told him he would be reimbursed at closing, but the buyers were requiring the search as they needed to confirm he owned the timeshare membership. Parker told him she would
e–mail him all of the documents needed to transfer the property, including wire instructions for the payment of the title search. As promised, four documents arrived shortly after they hung up the phone.
The first document was the Escrow Agreement which was on the letterhead of Chicago Title. It included the address and contact information of one of our offices located in Chicago. The Escrow Agreement was pre–signed by Michael Webster who held the title of settlement director at Chicago Title & Escrow. The second document was a copy of their Customer Satisfaction Guarantee Policy which said, "If, for any reason, you are not 100% completely satisfied with your transaction due to a misrepresentation or error on our part or forfeiture or Breach of Contract by the Renter/Buyer, you will be entitled to a full refund of our Service Fee as well as all Commission paid to the Rental/Resale Company you are using for this transaction." The Policy was also on Chicago Title letterhead. The third document was a letter on Chicago Title letterhead, signed by Parker, which reflected the costs and net proceeds the seller would receive from the sale. It contained the same address as shown on the Escrow Agreement, and Parker's e–mail address and phone number. The last document was the Wire Transfer Form which provided the bank and account information to wire the title search fee of $2,250. The seller immediately noticed the account was in the name of an individual, Rafael Barajas Gomez, and the receiving bank was in Mexico. The seller decided to do further research on Chicago Title & Escrow before sending any money or signing anything.
He discovered Chicago Title Company has a Timeshare Resale and Escrow Division in Escondido, Calif. He wondered if Parker worked there, but realized it didn't match up with the Chicago address and phone number shown on her letterhead. He contacted the Timeshare Division and spoke with JoAnn Lockard, the escrow operations manager. At JoAnn's request, the seller forwarded Parker's e–mail containing the documents.
JoAnn reviewed the documents and immediately noticed Parker's
e–mail address was from a Yahoo! account instead of a Chicago Title account – along with several other inconsistencies. JoAnn pointed each one out to the seller and recommended he contact our office in Chicago. The seller contacted our Chicago office and spoke with the manager, Nancy Castro, who confirmed these documents did not come from her office.
Thank goodness this seller trusted his instincts and looked further into his deal. He told Nancy, "Given the history and size of your company in Canada and the United States, I knew the name was legitimate and I would get proper direction and response to my inquiries which led me to you."
This very same day Castro was contacted by an escrow administrator in her office who received a phone call from another timeshare seller, with almost the same story. Since then, several other sellers have contacted us and all have very similar stories.
The FNF Family of Companies comprise the nation's largest provider of title insurance and escrow services – closing over one out of every three real estate transactions. We have worked hard to reach this level and earn our excellent reputation. Unfortunately, sometimes this makes us a target. The common denominators in these timeshare scams are:
- The targets are owners of a timeshare located in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
- All the sellers were contacted by Sandi Robles, junior sales agent for Regency Resort Services. Robles' story was the same every time. She indicated she had a corporate client looking to acquire several timeshares in Puerto Vallarta.
- Angel Brooks, also a junior sales agent for Regency Resort Services, regularly took the file over once the contract was delivered to the seller.
- All of the sellers were asked to wire their title search fee to Rafael Barajas Gomez.
- The Escrow Agreement was signed by Michael Webster as the settlement director for Chicago Title & Escrow. We do not have an employee by that name working for any of Our Companies.
- None of the settlement agents had a Company–issued e–mail address. Here are the names and contact information of the two fraudsters we know about:
- Carolyn Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org; her phone number is 312.428.7238
- Jordan Parker email@example.com; her phone number is 312.428.7033
Neither Davis nor Parker are employees of Chicago Title & Escrow. I repeat; these ladies are NOT employees of Our Company and are both imposters! As a result we have reported these fraudsters to the FBI, which has opened an investigation. We have sent cease and desist messages to the offenders as well. There is no way for us to determine how many other timeshare owners have been targeted. If you are contacted by someone trying to confirm the legitimacy of a transaction, please assist them or refer them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.