Mexican Cartels Fleece U.S. Seniors at Alarming Rates

( – New investigations by the FBI found that an increasing number of Americans, particularly seniors, are falling for online scams run by Mexican cartels.

According to the FBI, the Sinaloa Cartel (of El Chapo fame), the Gulf Cartel, and the Jalisco Cartel are all involved in online scams. Investigators are especially concerned about timeshare fraud, which seems to be a preferred method by the cartels, who typically target older Americans.

Over the last five years, Mexican cartels have scammed American seniors out of more than $300 million from timeshare fraud. Timeshares are properties with a divided form of ownership in which owners share and take turns using the property, usually a vacation home. Units and blocks of time in a timeshare can be sold by lease, a “right to use” contract, or partial ownership of the property.

New York FBI Assistant Special Agent Paul Roberts, who heads the Complex Financial Crimes Branch, commented on the situation in an official FBI statement about the rise of cartel involvement in timeshare fraud. He said the culprits “aim to suck their victims dry” and have had “devastating consequences” on the financial futures of their victims, as well as their relationships and their “physical and emotional health.” Roberts added that it was “critical” for the FBI to “take the lead” in addressing the growing threat to seniors “as the cartels further cement their control” of the area.

According to Roberts, the cartels research their victims extensively before targeting them by using “high-pressure sales tactics” from call centers and online “fraud strategies,” including document forgery and creating fake emails to mimic legitimate entities in order to fool their victims. Such fraud usually goes unreported, and Roberts urged those who fall victim to it not to be embarrassed and to come forward. He said the worst thing victims of fraud can do “is suffer in silence out of shame or fear of judgment.”

Roberts warned seniors to look out for certain signs, such as requests to pay fees upfront or for sensitive documents like a power-of-attorney form and claims to work for the government.

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