The U.S. Embassy in Mexico has issued a notice warning American citizens of timeshare and real estate scams in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean.
U.S. officials are urging travelers to exercise caution when considering the purchase of real estate in Mexico due to the prevalence of scams affecting the market.
Purchasing property in Mexico can be a worthwhile investment, but only if done right. Here’s the latest on the U.S. warning and what it means for travelers.
What Are Timeshare Investments?
Timeshare refers to the shared ownership of a vacation home – often a resort or condo-type apartment – in which owners are allowed to spend a certain amount of time each year. While in some cases they may be a smart investment choice, more often than not, they are costly and prone to scams.
Timeshare investments are extremely common in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean; after all, they are some of the world’s most popular resort locations, especially among American travelers.
And with a booming real estate market, timeshare companies are becoming increasingly prevalent.
As of 2022, the Mexican Caribbean state of Quintana Roo is the most popular region for timeshare schemes, with over 640 firms offering different investment packages.
Why Is The U.S. Warning Travelers?
In a recent travel notice, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico urges Americans to be cautious when investing in timeshare arrangements and real estate purchases.
Cancun visitors have become accustomed to timeshare sales agents that are stationed at the city’s international airport.
Employing high-pressure sales tactics and other deceptive means, they attempt to lure potential buyers into signing a contract with sub-optimal conditions.
Even though the Mexican real estate market is tightly regulated on paper, in practice, travelers are likely to encounter scams that might end up costing them more than they bargained for.
Some of the most common forms of fraud include the payment of advance fees and taxes that aren’t legally required. In some cases, travelers may be prompted to pay for a timeshare arrangement that turns out to be entirely fictitious.
Follow These Tips When Investing In Cancun Real Estate
Noting a general rise in scams and other frauds, U.S. officials recommend that potential buyers seek the advice of an attorney, preferably a Mexico-based law office that is familiar with the ins and outs of local law and regulations.
The same goes for other real estate purchases, which often involve a long process of negotiation.
Avoid talking to timeshare sales representatives at Cancun International Airport. While they may come across as real professionals, they employ unethical sales tactics that take advantage of the fact that most travelers are stressed after a long flight.
Instead, contact a reputable sales office with English-speaking customer service and a proven track record.
Timeshare salespersons may use government agency names when pressuring potential buyers.
The U.S. Embassy notes that many agents falsely claim to represent the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) in an attempt to claim extra funds or taxes.
If you find yourself in the predicament of having purchased a false timeshare, report it to the FBI. The United States has stepped up efforts to protect citizens that have become victims of timeshare scams, and while unlikely, it is possible to recover investments. Travelers can file an online report online on the FBI’s Internt Crime Complaint Center.
Although officials in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean are working to eliminate timeshare scams, the legislative process is slow and fragmented.
The Office of the Federal Prosecutor for the Consumer is responsible for overseeing the quality and lawfulness of the Mexican real estate market.
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