A scam busted in Iowa offered to buy unwanted vacation shares from Iowans anxious to sell. Bill Brauch heads the Consumer Protection Division in the Iowa Attorney general’s office and he says a busy phone-call operation targeted victims found on a website. People trying to sell time-share memberships because they couldn’t afford or use them were contacted by callers claiming they wanted to buy — but there was a catch. The phony buyers asked for up-front money from the would-be sellers, But you had to pay them $400 when you closed, for an “appraisal,” but they took that money, never bought the time shares, and never paid anyone back. Briefly popular, the time-share idea enticed many people into investing in rights to a week or more at a vacation condo or campsite, but buyers who got locked in to the obligation often found it was less than met the eye. Brauch says people who posted their timeshares “for sale” on websites became targets of the Des Moines call center set up by the scammers, and they had a big operation. They were targeting people not only in Iowa but around the country, according to Brauch. He says that kind of calling operation’s set up to cover a wide area and from Des Moines the callers targeted other states as well as Iowa. The operator of Galveston-based Guardian Group, Texan Phillip Head, has declared bankruptcy now the calling scam’s shut down but Brauch says there’s a bright note for many of the operation’s targeted victims.Most consumers paid with credit cards, and the card companies helped them retrieve their money. Also charged in the consumer-fraud lawsuit were Scott and Kathleen McGregor of Des Moines, who authorities say operated the “phone room” in Iowa.
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