A Green Valley woman lost more than $16,000 to scammers in August despite doing research to make sure she wouldn't become a victim.
The woman told Pima County Sheriff's deputies she'd been contacted by a company called McKenzie and Associates informing her they were buying timeshares at a resort where she owned one and asked if she was interested in selling. The representative said the victim's condo was worth $160,000, according to a Pima County Sheriff's Department report.
The victim was told she needed to pay off the condo before she could sell it to the St. Louis, Missouri-based McKenzie and Associates, but before she sent the money through an escrow in Florida, she looked up the company using the business license number they gave her, the report stated.
The woman found the license was legitimate and no complaints had been filed about the company with the Better Business Bureau. She then signed an exclusive sales agreement with the company. At their direction, she also wired $16,325 to a bank in Mexico, although she was originally told the escrow company was in Florida.
The victim became suspicious when she was advised she needed to wire $35,000 in taxes. At that point, she called the timeshare group she'd bought her timeshare from 13 years ago and was advised more than 2,000 people had been defrauded by the escrow company.
Investigators assured the woman they would pass along their information to authorities in Florida and Missouri. However, she was also told that McKenzie and Associates and the Florida escrow company might not even exist, especially since she'd been asked to wire the money to Mexico. If it does exist, it had nothing to do with the case.
PCSD Lt. Derek Ogden said people need to be suspicious when they are contacted by companies or agencies seeking information or promoting deals that sound great.
"One of the biggest red flags is when people ask for money or information over the phone, because legitimate companies or agencies will not do that," Ogden said.
In this case, the woman did the right thing by hesitating and doing research; unfortunately, it wasn't enough, Ogden said.
"It sounds like whoever was defrauding her was using that business name," Ogden said.. "They seem pretty sophisticated in the sense that they did their research and they dropped that name. They knew no BBB stuff was /going to pop up."
If anyone is approached by another party and asked for money or personal information, they can call the sheriff's department to see if any similar-sounding calls have been linked to scammers, Ogden said.