As we’ve mentioned before, the summer travel season here in Florida has a tendency to draw out scams and deceptive business practices.
As an interesting editorial in Tennessee’s Jackson Sun explains:
“The Florida Attorney General recently shut down six travel companies that made deceptive claims about vacation club memberships. The AG said consumers paid thousands of dollars for discounts on hotels, cruises, and other travel deals, but later found they could get as good or better pricing on free travel booking websites.”
It’s a pattern that consumer advocates see all too often, particularly in the travel industry: A consumer receives an offer that’s too good to pass up – but, despite what the sales pitch may say, that’s not the whole story.
The Jackson Sun goes on to describe another gut-wrenching, entirely too-common vacation scam, in which a consumer is told they are only able to secure a deal if they send money or provide sensitive personal information to a third party, sight unseen:
“A Michigan mother found a vacation rental home in Florida online and wired $1,500 to reserve it. When the family got to Florida, they found out the listing was fraudulent, the property was not for rent, and the property manager had turned away five other families who fell for the scam.”
We see a similar ruse affect consumers looking to exit the vacation industry, in the form of the “timeshare resale scam.” In this pernicious scam, victims are lured in with the promise of buyers eager to snatch up their unwanted timeshare. In order to make the sale, all they need to do is transfer a finder’s fee or provide personal information. In reality, of course, no such buyers ever actually existed – and by now, the scammer has probably spent the consumer’s money, deleted their virtual footsteps, and moved on to a new victim.
So what’s a consumer to do to stay safe this summer?
Courtesy of the Jackson Sun, here are some important tips from the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs:
- Research before accepting free or discounted offers. If a stranger calls and offers you a free or discounted vacation package, don’t offer personal information or payment until you’ve checked out the company. The salesperson’s refusal to answer questions or give you time to consider the offer should be a red flag.
- Verify before you pay. Check with the [consumer protection agencies for your state] to see if any complaints have been filed against the company. Check with the [Better Business Bureau].
- Read the fine print. Before signing any contract, read all the terms, conditions, policies and financial obligations. Consider having a lawyer review a contract for the lease or purchase of a timeshare.
- Never wire money to strangers. Avoid anyone who only accepts payment via wire transfer or some other irregular form of payment. Always use a secure method such as a credit card or legitimate online payment option.
- Confirm your vacation package. If you purchased the package through a third party, call the cruise line, resort, airline, hotel, and other providers to confirm the arrangements. That includes the prices, dates and accommodations.
- When you return, reconcile all receipts and statements. Report any unauthorized charges immediately.
We encourage you to read the rest of the editorial, which was penned by president and chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South Randy Hutchinson – here, at the Jackson Sun.
Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 50 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.