Timeshare resale scams tend to work like clockwork, popping up in droves at a few points during the year to dupe desperate consumers out of thousands of dollars at a time.
We’ve broken down the steps of this pernicious – and all-too-common – scheme before; today, our attention was piqued by a news report from Orlando’s WESH 2, which claims that one man is now facing fraud charges in connection to such a scam.
According to WESH 2, Mark David Richmond, 45, “has been charged with defrauding people out of several hundred thousand dollars;” specifically, “state agents allege [Richmond] duped people into giving him money, to sell their timeshares,” according to the WESH 2 report.
According to the WESH 2 report – citing investigators with the Florida Department of Agriculture (division of consumer services) – Richmond’s “timeshare resale fraud scheme” caused at least 68 individual victims to suffer losses of more than $258,000.
How did the alleged scam work? As a report from Orlando Rising explains, Richmond – operating under the names of “Ultimate Financing, Ultimate Finance, Continental Resorts, Resorts Unlimited and Ultifin” – is accused of:
“defrauding victims by requiring them to pay broker fees, closing costs and other fees up front to facilitate a timeshare sale.
Once he got money out of a timeshare owner, investigators say he wouldn’t go through with the sale and would stop communicating with the duped clients.”
In all, this is an important reminder for consumers to be extremely wary of an individual or organization that reaches out with a promise to sell their timeshare quickly and for a profit; in our experience with the secondary market for timeshares, it is far more common for the seller to pay the buyer to take over their interest, rather than the other way around.
With a tightly controlled and already over-saturated market, it is not at all likely that an alleged third party resale company will already have buyers lined up and ready to make a deal; in fact, it is not uncommon to see timeshare interests listed on sites like eBay for as little as a dollar, without any bids to show for it!
Instead, consumers would be better off remembering the advice of Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who told Orlando Rising:
“Anytime consumers receive a telemarketing call, they can help protect themselves by checking with our department to make sure the business is licensed and in good standing.”
The Department of Agriculture also provided a few practical tips to help Rising readers avoid becoming enmeshed in a variety of telemarketing-based scams:
Before any purchase is made, research whether the telemarketer or telemarketing salesperson is registered with FDACS and if any complaints have been filed against them. This can be done by visiting FreshFromFlorida.com’s Business/Complaint Lookup or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352).
Do not give out bank account, credit card or personal information (date of birth, mother’s maiden name, Social Security number, etc.) over the telephone, unless it is to a known and trusted source.
Request written information by mail about the organization itself, as well as the product, service, investment or charity.”
This story is a welcome reminder about the many potential dangers of the secondary market for timeshare resales; before committing to any timeshare exit strategy, it is vital that consumers do their research on the business with local and federal consumer protection agencies and remember that if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
For more on this story – including a video – we encourage you to check out the full WESH 2 report, available 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.