BBB is warning consumers about the risks of getting involved with a timeshare escrow company called Green Leaf Escrow Services. This business first came to the attention of the BBB in May 2012. Since then, BBB has received 324 inquiries about this company and two complaints. The company’s website, www.greenleafescrowservices.com, states that it is located at 5509 Bendt Drive in Rapid City South Dakota. BBB has confirmed that the business is not at this address which is a strip mall with only one occupant, an insurance agent, and its website is not legitimate.
One complainant from California reported that she initially received a phone call from a company called First Option Property Management that claimed to be a timeshare reseller and referred her to Green Leaf Escrow Services. First Option’s website, which is also not legitimate, lists its address in Albuquerque, New Mexico. However, the Albuquerque BBB has confirmed that this business is not physically located at its stated address either. First Option told the timeshare owner that there would be no money upfront and agreed to sell all three of her properties in Mexico, and after each sale she would pay 5% of the purchase price as commission.
After signing the contract, the consumer was contacted by an “agent” who said he was with Green Leaf Escrow Services. She was told that a transfer fee was required by Mexican law and the buyer would reimburse her. The seller wired $6,700 to Mexico. Shortly after this transaction, she was notified that a second fee of $13,000 for the three properties was required for the Mexican sales tax “to close the deal.” The consumer reported, “None of these expenses were mentioned in the contract or in the conversation I had with the sales or escrow agents. When I questioned these policies, I was told that I could submit a refund request on their ‘Refund Policy Form’ which was supposedly sent to me at the beginning of the sale. Now, no one is available by phone or email to talk to me.”
Another consumer from Massachusetts was contacted by First Option Property Management, and arrangements were made for the purchase of this person’s timeshare also located in Mexico. She was referred to Green Leaf Escrow Services and told that she needed to pay the transaction fees for the sale. On two occasions the consumer wired money to a bank in Mexico totaling $6,000. The transaction’s closing was scheduled for July 13th, but it did not happen.
BBB president and CEO Jim Hegarty urges consumers “to never wire money to companies or individuals they don’t know personally. The act of requesting a wire transfer as the method of payment is a tell-tale sign of a scam. In addition, if you are contacted by phone regarding your timeshare, get all information in writing. Don’t agree to anything until you have had the chance to thoroughly check the company out with the BBB at bbb.org or call us toll-free at 800-649-6814.”
If you want to resell your timeshare and are approached by a company offering to help, consider these precautions:
1. Don’t agree to anything over the phone.
2. Don’t pay any money until you have actually read and understand the company’s contract. You can choose a company that charges a fee after the timeshare is sold.
3. If there is a discrepancy in what the contract says and what the salesperson tells you, believe the contract – not the salesperson.
4. Regardless of what the salesperson tells you, do not assume there is a buyer available for your particular property. These companies only advertise properties’ availability.
5. Check with other property owners in your development or with real estate agents serving the area where your property is located to determine if any sales have actually occurred through this method.
6. Find out where the company is located and where it does business. Verify with the state licensing board that the company is licensed to sell real estate where your timeshare is located.
7. Check with the BBB, state Attorney General and other local consumer protection agencies in the state where the company is located to find out the company’s customer experience record.