Fraudpocalypse: Chapter Three
CHAPTER THREE: TIMESHARE AND VACATION RENTAL SCAMS
Time in the air went by too slow, thought James as he and Bonhoeffer were settled into their long flight to the Pacific Island that Conner was sending them to. Bonhoeffer seemed to be well versed in fraud related matters. They spent a few hours conversing about their backgrounds, relaying life and learning experiences. She wasn’t the nut that he thought she was when he believed her to be a student. Her family was close to the theory of Fraudpocalypse and had worked with the government in the past. That same government came calling to Tess when they noticed problems. She had been working with them for the past few months, some of that being undercover in Monty’s classroom. After they had discussed their lives to their liking, the conversation changed.
“So why are we flying all the way out here to see this document?” It was something that had been on James’ mind since Conner had told him they would be traveling to the island.
“It is considered a top-secret document. The government deemed it to be so high risk, they took some legendary precautions in securing it. No pictures have been taken, no copies or additional manuscripts have been made. They won’t even keep it on the mainland; hence, a tropical island in the Pacific. And when we get to the Island, access to the vault will get interesting…you will see soon enough.”
“Those are legendary precautions,” agreed James. “So how many times have you been able to see this document? You must be an expert considering your background and family tree.”
“I’ve seen it once. When I was younger my father was trying to get traction on the idea of Fraudpocalypse. You could say this goes deep in the family. Everyone is involved in one way or another. Anyway, my father wanted the government to take notice. They eventually did, mostly just to get the document in their control. Those precautions I talked about didn’t occur until someone in the government stumbled on it and pieced together the warning signs.
“My dad brought me into his study the day before parting with the document. He told me to take a look. My German was really bad at the time; I didn’t understand much. I am very excited to see it again. Since then, I’ve been reading every book that I can get my hands on.”
“This is all so crazy,” said James. “I still don’t really believe it.”
“All the more thanks that you are here and willing to help.” James was thinking about the next line of questioning when his ears perked up. In the seat behind him was a middle-aged couple discussing their trip.
“This better be worth it Jake,” said the wife. “That eight-hour seminar and 30-page contract seemed like a lot for just a week a year.”
“Janie, think about it this way,” started the husband. “It is an investment. We own this timeshare. Like the timeshare expert said, ‘it is a really good deal’. Plus, they wouldn’t have offered the free toaster if they weren’t on the level. It’ll be great honey.” Monty knew the scheme they were talking about, having seen advertisements for it before.
“It just seems like we could have done a few really good vacations with the $10,000 we put down.” James was getting irritated hearing of the couple’s participation in the scheme. Some ‘timeshare expert’ had convinced them to sign papers and spend money to own a bit of air. How are these things still legal, he thought. Tess Bonhoeffer could see the change in him as he shifted nervously in his seat. As James was about to turn around to explain how the two had falling victim to the insidious product, Tess stopped him.
“There is nothing you can do for them,” she cautioned. “Let them be happy for the time being. They will find out soon enough.” James agreed with her but continued to bite his tongue as the two behind him discussed their decision.
“Janie, this is going to be the best vacation we have ever had. And with us owning this, it is something we can leave to the kids when we are gone. They are going to love it like we will.”
The plane landed later in the day, the hot sun greeting the two as they exited the airport. A government car had been placed in the parking garage. They got into the Jeep Wrangler and pulled up directions.
“Let’s check into the house first,” said Tess. They expected to be on the island for a few days, so the government had reserved a house close to where the vault was located. “After that, we should have some time to check out the Bonhoeffer Manuscript.”
“Can we get some food before we do that?”
They decided to pick up fast-food through a drive-thru close to the airport. Monty had a bacon cheeseburger while Tess opted for a fried chicken club. The Jeep turned right out of the restaurant, and they were on their way.
The drive to the rental house proved to be a long one. The aforementioned vault that held the Bonhoeffer manuscript was located in a discreet part of the island, on the opposite side of a mountain they had to trek up with the Jeep. The setting was beautiful, and the climate was hot. Eventually the Jeep slowed and stopped next to a dirt path.
“4597 High Island Drive,” confirmed Tess. “This is it.”
They took the dirt path, finding multiple areas where the foliage was over ground. It didn’t matter to their SUV at all, but the unkept nature was unsettling to both the driver and the passenger. About a quarter of a mile down the path they could see the house in the distance. To their dismay, upon approaching the house they noticed it to be dilapidated. The doors and windows were boarded up. Trim was nonexistent in some places. The roof seemed to be sagging in the middle and the garage was in shambles.
“I don’t understand,” said Tess. “This is the location.”
“I think I do. Can you call Conner?” She pulled out her phone, a bulky satellite phone that could connect anywhere in the world. She placed the device on speakerphone as they heard it ring.
“Conner here,” came the voice from the other end once the call was picked up.
“Conner, it is Bonhoeffer and James,” said Tess. “We just got to the rental house close to the vault. It is completely inhabitable.”
“What? Are you sure you have the right address?”
“4597 High Island Drive,” confirmed James.
“Underling!” shouted Conner. There was a pause while the junior agent walked up. “How did you book the rental house for Bonhoeffer and James?”
“Oh, I found that one online. It was a really good deal. Only catch was I had to quickly wire out the payment because someone else was looking to book it,” Monty and Tess heard in the background.
“What research did you do on the property?” questioned the senior agent. The two listening on the phone were both cringing.
“They had the picture on the posting…I had to book quickly…wait, why?”
“Because there is only an abandoned house at that location.”
“No, there must be a mistake or something.”
“It’s a rental scam,” confirmed James.
“Son, you’ve been scammed…again. That was a rental scam.” Tess and Monty could hear Underling moan in the background. “Calm down. I want you to contact the bank as soon as possible to see if they can get the money back. While you are doing that, transfer some money over to Tess as quickly as possible so they can rent something else.”
“[CRYING SOMETHING OUT],” screeched Underling.
“I’m sorry to both of you,” said Conner speaking to the two on the island next to the abandoned house. “Go on to the vault to start the research. I’ll follow up with you when this is sorted out. Once you have the money you can try to find something closer to the town. Underling! Calm down…go get a juice box or something. I don’t know how Underling is this gullible. He came from the Department of Anti-Fraud Technologies. Those DAFT people are supposed to be really smart. Take care you two; the fraud is getting unbearable over here. I just heard a report of a sweetheart scam victim who believed they got married to the scammer…”
“That happens sometimes,” interrupted James.
“I know it happens too. But have you ever heard of a romance scam marriage turning into a divorce where the scammer demands alimony?!” James was speechless.
“Fraudpocalypse,” whispered Bonhoeffer. James remained speechless. Perhaps they would find something useful in the writings of her departed ancestor.