The golden days of summer are here at last, which means that people across the country have their minds set on just one thing: Taking the perfect vacation.
The summer months are the hottest time of year for Americans to pack up and hit the road; unfortunately, this swell of activity also makes the summer travel season a prime time for scammers, who are eager to make a quick buck on the backs of consumers eager to find a deal.
Whether you’re trying to book a flight, reserve a vacation rental, or make a deal over a timeshare, it’s important that you stay vigilant and keep an eye out for potential scams, as a recent report from Raleigh’s ABC 11 Eyewitness News reminds us.
As ABC 11’s Jonah Kaplan notes: “Every year the BBB receives 13,000 complaints about vacation scams, costing each consumer roughly $1,000.”
Of particular note, consumers who are looking to rent out a timeshare for a week – or who find themselves attempting to resell, cancel, or rent out their own timeshare interest – should always exercise caution. Timeshare-based scams are pernicious and all-too prevalent, as we’ve discussed in some depth on this blog before.
As Kaplan notes, the BBB of Eastern North Carolina has singled out timeshares as a potential hot spot for scam artists this season, largely due to reports of one particularly worrisome timeshare business, Resort Network Services LLC, which claims to be based out of Raleigh but has solicited consumers all across the country.
As the ABC 11 report explains:
“According to [a BBB spokesperson], the company offers consumers a chance to buy or sell timeshares — but not before they are asked to wire money up front for “closing costs.”
“I don’t understand it, but they were very professional people,” scam victim Don Hartman of Austin, Texas, told ABC11. “They were writing contracts that sound very professional. They know what they’re doing.”
Hartman consulted with the BBB, which tried to contact the company, but mail was sent back and all calls, messages and faxes went unanswered. The I-Team checked with the Secretary of State’s office; Resort Network Services was a real company – from 2002-2009.
“I wanted to make sure I was protected,” Hartman said. “It just didn’t feel right to me.””
Scams that look and feel like this are all too common, and some enterprising con artists are able to fleece consumers out of thousands of dollars every single year; in our experience, even some consumer protection experts have fallen victim to the timeshare trap.
When it comes to avoiding these scams, it’s important that consumers do their due diligence, recognize the warning signs of a bad deal, and know how to contact the BBB and other consumer protection agencies in their area.
In particular, remember the old adage that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. As the BBB advises in the ABC 11 story:
“Know the estimated value of the timeshare before bringing it to be sold. If the deal the business offers sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
“To me this ought to send a red flag up,” agrees our own Michael Finn. “The key factor is the sum of money these companies offer to sell the interests for, often at least as much if not way more than the original purchase price paid by the victims.”
As we’ve noted before on this blog, timeshare interests are notoriously difficult to resell, and many go on eBay for pennies, with sellers offering to cover all closing or transfer costs. Given this lack of value – and the fact that a points-based or right-to-use timeshare is not a real estate investment that appreciates – any company promising to help you turn a profit on a timeshare should be treated with some skepticism.
For more on summer travel and vacation scams, including more sound advice from the BBB, we encourage you to check out the rest of the ABC 11 news report here.
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.