• Feb

    The Timeshare Scam in Mexico


    I came to Mexico 4 years ago on a one week all-inclusive holiday. The morning after we arrived, there was a short orientation that we decided to attend. One of the questions was if there were sharks in the water. That innocent question generated an explosive tirade from our guide, who started talking about the timeshare sharks, as they’re known, who prey on, and rip off, tourists who are vacationing here.

    After a long discourse on who these people are (and how to get rid of them), she ended her discourse by saying, “These, these are the real sharks of Mexico.”

    Sure enough, not long after that, we got hit up in various attempts to get us to a “presentation” with offers of free tickets to shows, events, and in many cases, gifts of cash with amounts ranging from $100-400.00 per couple. As I discovered later, many of these so-called ticket vouchers were fake. People would show up for the tours and no one would be there to greet them. Fortunately, we didn’t fall for it.

    Timeshare fraud snares many tourists from what I can see, and people get ripped off all the time. Without going into all the details, a timeshare in Mexico seems to operate under the same premise as timeshares in other countries, but the difference here is that most of what seems to be avialable is actually a place that’s been so oversold that it’s impossible to actually stay there, even if you try to book a stay later.

    Timeshare sharks will go at great lengths to get you to a presentation, usually on the premise of something FREE, but as many of us know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And it’s worse even here.

    Quite often you’ll go to the presentation in an isolated area, where it’s difficult to get back to where you came from. In addition, when you do go to the so-called “90 minute presentation,” it’s more like 4-5 hours. That’s a great way to waste valuable time on your holiday.

    At one point, it actually became comical. I was sitting with Carol at a bus stop, waiting for our ride back to Nuevo Vallata. At one point, an older man, about 60 and quite heavy, engaged me in conversation. At first I thought he was being friendly, and then it suddenly hit me that he was a shark. I waited, listenting to him while thinking, “Come on, let’s have it, give me the pitch.”

    Eventually he came out with it and I said, “No.” “Why not? he asked. “Time share.” I said. That really deflated him. “Oh well, I had to try,” he said. Meanwhile, Carol, listening to the whole exchange was killing herself laughing.

    How to Get Rid of Timeshare Sharks

    Probably the best strategy is to avoid eye contact and walk away. Don’t engage with them in any way, shape or form. Any interaction will be used to get you to a presentation. These people are ruthless, relentless and will use any come-on to get your attention.

    Some will come on all friendly and ask you if you’re lost, or if you want some free information. Others will tell you about great deals. I’ve even heard the come-on, “Shake the hand of a real Mexican.” Just keep walking, but sometimes, all the avoidance tricks simply don’t work.

    I repeatedly got harassed by a shark in Bucerias. No matter how often I’d avoid him, he would deliberately come after me. I was sick of him and just wanted to get rid of him. I finally told him I didn’t have any credit cards. He stood there for a long moment with his head bowed, thinking furiously. After awhile, he finally looked at me and said, “You don’t qualify.” I felt like punching my fists in the air and cheering. After that, he left me alone.

    On another occasion, I nearly came to blows with a woman in Bucerias who repeatedly harassed me about going to a presentation. This went on for days and I’d finally had enough and “blew my top.” I gave her royal hell for the harassment. After that, she left me alone and became polite and respecful. I didn’t enjoy getting angry, but sometimes that’s what it takes…..

    Two years ago, I warned some friends of mine about the scam in Puerto Vallarta, but my friend didn’t take my warning seriously and wound up talking to “a nice guy” who later turned out to be a shark. He also made the mistake of giving this guy their room number.

    The shark called them 5 times at 8:00am the next morning, trying to get them to a presentation. My friend finally got on the phone and told the shark to go to….. before he finally left them alone. Worse, the shark was waiting for them in the lobby.

    Of these organizations, the worst by far is “The Mayan Palace,” number one for timeshare fraud in all of Mexico. To learn more, check out Mexican TimeShare Fraud Exposed!

    The last time I was here (two years ago), the timeshare scam was extremely active in Bucerias. People were getting harrassed so badly that travel agencies in Canada and the US were warning people not to walk down the main drag (Lazaro Cardenas) in Bucerias and to take the lateral road or go into downtown by way of the beach.

    When I came back (in 2006), I nearly got caught at the airport. At that time, a new way of scamming people was where the sharks would dress in quasi uniforms that made them look like taxi drivers.

    One of them nailed me as soon as I came out of customs. One of the things that tipped me off was the price he was asking for the taxi ride to Bucerias which was outrageous (450 pesos – I could get the ride for 2-250), but what really got my attention was when he made the comment of going to my hotel via the Playa del Sol.

    Still, I had to hear it twice before I realized he was a shark and got away from him. After that, walking through the airport was like running a gauntlet. I got away from pretty much all of the sharks but wound up with a taxi ride which I felt was pretty expensive (300 pesos).

    After that experience, I realized that the best way of dealing with the problem was to head out the main door and use the overhead walkway to the other side of the highway. I did that this time and the price was 250 pesos, still high, in my opinion, but better than before.

    And that brings me to another point, when asking for a taxi ride, make sure you ask if the price includes tip. That will save you from a nasty surprise later, if the driver wants a tip on top of your fare.

    Watch Out for Fake Tours

    Another fraud, which I learned about later, was ripping off tourists for fake excursions. This would sometimes be a part of the timeshare scam, but it also operated independently where these operators seemed to operate from a genuine location.

    One other thing. Never, under any circumstances, buy tickets from a vendor selling them on the beach. That’s almost certainly a guarantee of fraud.

    Update: February 2008

    After going on a trip to the Carribean in December (2007), I’m sorry to report that the timeshare scam is alive and well in Mexico. Prior to my trip, I’d heard that the timeshare scam was on the way out. Well, you wouldn’t know it here.

    On 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, we got hit up with so many come-ons, not only of timeshare fraud, but of vendors wanting us to see their stores, that we found it was best to walk straight ahead, not make eye contact and ignore all entreaties, which was a shame because there were some stores I wanted to look at, but I got really tired of the hassles on the strip.

    Another unpleasant surprise was running into a timeshare shark who knew me from my time in Bucerias. Despite the fact that I wouldn’t give him the time of day back then, he repeatedly hit me up to see a presentation.

    An unusual thing happened when I was in Barra de Navidad, and I only noticed it when someone mentioned it – the absence of timeshare sharks. For some reason, Barra hasn’t gone through some of the explosive growth of other places. From what I can see, the place won’t support the tactics used in other cities and towns.

    One story I’d heard from the locals is about a hotel under construction. It’s largely incomplete and the owner ran out of money. One of his options was hiring the sharks to help raise the funds, but several locals feel the project is going to fall flat. Personally, I hope so.

    The timeshare scam is a huge blight on Mexico and appears to be at its most blatant in the seaside towns. I’ve run into many tourists who swore they would never return to Mexico because of the harassment, which is a shame, because there is so much beauty here.

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