The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions is warning consumers to verify the license of any escrow professional they are considering doing business with. You can verify a license by calling the Department of Financial Institutions at 1-877-RING DFI (746-4334) or online at www.dfi.wa.gov.
Consumers have reported being contacted by a representative of International Event Coordinators, who offers to rent their Mexican timeshare condominium at a very high price. The consumers report that the representative has very detailed information about their timeshare, and that the representative claims to need condominiums to provide large corporations with venues for events and conventions. International Event Coordinators indicates that it will charge a commission of 5% on the transaction, but only once the consumer has been paid for the timeshare rental.
Once International Event Coordinators has gotten a preliminary approval from the consumer, Resort Escrow Exchange is presented as the company that will provide the escrow services for the transaction. According to consumer reports, Resort Escrow Exchange representatives (commonly “Terry McFarland”) indicate that Resort Escrow Exchange doesn’t have to be licensed to perform escrow services because “it does business internationally.” This statement is incorrect: Washington State law requires that “any person [engaging] in business as an escrow agent by performing escrows or any functions of the escrow agent” must be licensed by the Department. RCW 18.44.021
Once Resort Escrow Exchange receives approval from the consumer to start processing the transaction, the consumer is presented with a “title search fee” of approximately $1,000, which Resort Escrow Exchange claims is required by the Mexican government. Following the consumer’s payment of this “fee”, further problems blamed on the “Mexican government” occur, requiring payment of more fees. If the consumer resists, International Event Coordinators offers to pay a portion of the fee “owed” to the “Mexican government,” or indicates that it will be split between the “seller” (the consumer) and the “buying party”, which is usually presented as a large, multi-national corporation. In some instances, consumers report sending many thousands of dollars via international bank wire or credit card draft. One consumer was able to stop an attempted credit card withdrawal for over $30,000 by alerting his credit card company in a timely manner. The money from the consumers is typically sent to a bank in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Some consumers have reported that, once they express concern about the out-of-pocket fees which they are paying, they receive an assurance from Terry McFarland that “no further fees will be charged to this account.” Resort Escrow Exchange and International Event Coordinators also assure the consumer that their final payout is just days away, but may note that the Mexican authorities are waiting for some last administrative hurdle. One consumer received a letter from Resort Escrow Exchange that had been “notarized”; this letter confirmed that the payout would be within 10 days of the “final” wire transfer date. The final payout is not received by the consumer.
At some point, the consumer becomes unable to directly contact International Event Coordinators or Resort Escrow Exchange regarding the disbursement of funds due them under the contract. DFI has received no verified reports of consumers actually receiving a payout from International Event Coordinators or Resort Escrow Exchange.
The Better Business Bureau of Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana issued a BBB Alert regarding International Event Coordinators and Resort Escrow Exchange. This alert documents the BBB’s efforts to determine the veracity of any information presented by International Event Coordinators and Resort Escrow Exchange. The BBB reports that neither business is, or ever has been, located at the address is gives as its business address. The BBB alert also discusses the mechanics of this apparent scam in great detail. Read the BBB alert regarding International Event Coordinators and Resort Escrow Exchange.
This same process has been reported by consumers as occurring with the following organizations working in tandem:
- Vacation Solutions Network and Diamond Escrow Services
- Ultimate Vacation Network and Premier Escrow Services
- Prestige Property Consultancy and Elite Escrow Management
- Elite Resort Services and Direct Escrow Transfers
If You Feel You're A Victim
If you feel you have been a victim of an escrow scam, please contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC HELP (382-4357), or online at www.ftc.gov. Because the scammers may have access to bank account information and credit card numbers, consumers who have used these companies to rent their timeshare should consider themselves victims of identity theft and take appropriate precautions. The Federal Trade Commission has information for victims of identity theft available online on their website.