Monday, March 14, 2011

Scams of the Week: March 14

Diamond International Escrow/Market Value Properties - This company makes unsolicited phone calls to timeshare owners and claims to have found a buyer for the timeshare. They ask the owner to place an advance fee into an escrow account through a fake third party escrow company called Diamond International Escrow.  Diamond International Escrow claims to operate at a Kansas City address.  They do not have a business license in Kansas City and they are not at the location they claimed.  They claim to have been in business since 1982, but there is no evidence of it. They claim to have 250 employees, but they certainly don't.  Unless a timeshare owner initiates a sale through a specific company, there is no reason for a timeshare resell company to find a buyer.  Timeshare resell companies that call out of the blue and claim to have buyers "all lined up" are scams.

Tsunami Relief Scams - As with the previous Tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haitian earthquake last year, villains pour from the woodwork to steal donation money.  Be sure to verify the reliability of a charity with the Better Business Bureau before donating.  In addition, the BBB offers the following advice when donating:

-Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.
Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other Web sites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The public can go to to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

-Be cautious when giving online.
Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. In response to the tsunami disaster in 2004, there were concerns raised about many websites and new organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims.

-Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the disaster impact areas.
Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers to quickly provide assistance.  See if the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs.

-Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups.
Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations.  If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.

-Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.
Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims that 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses.  They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.    
-Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations.
In-kind drives for food and clothing—while well intentioned— may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need - unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

-Look for details when texting a donation.
Beginning with the earthquake in Haiti, it’s become common to send a text to make a donation. Make sure you understand the amount to be donated, and whether there will be any service fees charged to your account. Be sure the offer clearly identifies which charity will receive the donation, then check out the charity.

1 comment:

  1. There are so many scams out there when it comes to timeshares. I think the worst scam is timeshare relief scams. People just want to get out of their contract. I feel bad for timeshare owners.