Silver Star Real Estate Group vanishes with consumer funds
Consumers contact BBB and law enforcement about Corpus Christi timeshare reseller
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - May 31, 2012 — Better Business Bureau is issuing a warning about Silver Star Real Estate Group. Since March, BBB received several complaints about this company from across the United States and Canada. Consumers have alleged Silver Star took money to sell their timeshares and then company representatives stopped answering phone calls or returning messages.
Those complaints raised suspicions, and BBB’s investigation brought up even more questions about the company’s business practices.
Mail sent to the company’s address on Ayers Street in Corpus Christi came back undeliverable. According to the property owner, that is because the suite does not exist. He said he has had to explain to multiple callers that there is no suite 320 in his building.
BBB attempted to contact Silver Star Real Estate Group multiple times about the complaints, but the phone number is disconnected and the website has been shut down.
Kay Craig and her husband, of Carlinville, Ill., filed a complaint with BBB alleging Silver Star Real Estate Group disappeared with more than $2,000 of their money.
They were looking to sell their timeshare in Mexico. While they were still in the beginning of the process, they received a call from a woman in Utah claiming to represent Silver Star Real Estate Group.
The woman on the phone claimed that Silver Star already had a buyer lined up. Craig said that call prompted her to do a little research on the company.
“I called the company and just pretended like I was somebody new. I looked on the website; it was a great website, had great pictures, great documentation,” she said.
According to the Craigs, when a second Silver Star employee contacted them, the representative asked them to wire $2,392 to put the property into escrow. He then directed them to a website that showed where their money was and asked for some paperwork, including the bill of sale and the timeshare contract. Craig said they followed his instructions.
It was not until the company contacted them again, asking for more money, that Craig suspected something was wrong.
“Then we get a call and they said now we have to pay this tax to the Mexican government,” she said. “That’s when red flags started coming up.”
She refused to pay, and the representatives she had been in contact with stopped answering her calls.
“We tried to call the guy back and tell him (we were not going to pay the tax),” she said. “He would not answer the phone, and we called the gal in Utah and she would not answer the phone. It was over.”
She filed a complaint with BBB, and contacted law enforcement in Texas and Utah.
Last year, the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on companies using similar tactics to scam consumers out of money. In those cases, companies called the victims and claimed to have buyers lined up, and then asked for thousands of dollars to cover taxes, fees and other charges. Once the victims paid, the representatives disappeared.
Craig said she is also working with law enforcement officials from Utah to find the people who disappeared with her money, but has not had much success. Now, she said, she realizes how easy it is to fall victim.
“It looked so legit,” she said, about the company’s tactics. “They’re good. They are really good.”
When buying or selling a timeshare, BBB offers the following tips:
· Beware of upfront fees. Though there may be closing costs or other fees associated with purchasing a timeshare, be wary of any company that pressures you to pay any such fees upfront or before reviewing any contracts.
· Read the fine print. Especially when selling a timeshare, make sure to read the contract carefully. Find out if the company is actually selling your timeshare or simply charging you to advertise the listing.
· Start with trust. Visit www.bbb.org to check out the BBB Business Review for a company before paying any money.
· Never wire cash. Credit cards offer a certain amount of fraud protection that you cannot get if you use a wire service. Walk away from any deal that requires you to pay cash or wire money, especially to locations in other countries.
· Get it in writing. Ask the representative for all information in writing, including all fees, timing and ways the seller plans to advertise the unit.
· Check the license. Ask for licensing information for the seller’s agents, and check that information with the Real Estate Commission. Only deal with licensed brokers and ask for references.
· If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of any seller who promises a big selling price or quick turnaround. High-pressure tactics are always a red flag.
· Know where to turn. Before selling your timeshare, read the FTC’s advice on selling a timeshare and report any scams to BBB or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.
About Better Business Bureau:
BBB's mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. BBB accomplishes this mission by creating a community of trustworthy businesses, setting standards for marketplace trust, encouraging and supporting best practices, celebrating marketplace role models and denouncing substandard marketplace behavior.
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Contact BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin at (512) 445-4748.