A timeshare exit company along with ten of its employees were charged in a criminal complaint last month for conducting real estate services in California. The company owner and individual sales representatives each received counts of false advertising and practicing real estate without a license. Filed by the Monterey County District Attorney’s office, the complaint details stem from “cold calls” made to Monterey residents. During those calls, owners were invited to attend a meeting at a local restaurant. While at the meeting, the company representatives allegedly made several misrepresentations regarding their timeshare services to attendees. Most of the people in attendance of the event were over 70 years old, according to SFgate.com. In 2021, the Better Business Bureau pushed out numerous warnings on social media to consumers to be aware of certain types of scams. The BBB Scam Tracker report indicated that travel, vacation and timeshare were again the top scams impacting seniors age 65 and over. Below is an example of a timeshare exit road show flyer.
The Timeshare “Road Show” Returns
Thousands of flyers are being mailed out to cities and towns around the country. Just like any carnival act, the locations and dates are pre-selected in advance. To gain reservation leads, the company begins to market the exit seminars to timeshare owners in selected areas with a massive telemarketing campaign. Owners receive unsolicited calls or texts as a follow on to confirm the mailer to the timeshare owner’s home address. The telemarketer’s one and only job is to get a confirmation from the owner to attend the timeshare company’s informational seminar at a local restaurant. While these cold calls are often met with resistance, a smooth sales script filled with lots of free gifts and offers can be just the hook needed to gain an unsuspecting owners interest. Once committed, the owners are in the cross hairs of the scam.
An example of this timeshare exit flyer illustrates many of the inducements and offers including some expert advice via “insider information” with the secrets that the timeshare industry allegedly doesn’t want you to know about. It reads:
“You are cordially invited to a complimentary meal for two, where you will will have the opportunity to individually meet and learn from one of our expert consultants, who are timeshare industry veterans. Our consultants, previously employed by resorts such as “Wyndham”, “Diamond”, “Westgate”. “Bluegreen”, “Marriott” and many others, will share insider information that the resorts don’t want you to know, including how you can permanently eliminate your mandatory maintenance fees while continuing to utilize premium resorts around the globe.”
According to the expert consultants of this company, you have three choices with your current timeshare:
- Do nothing and keep paying for something you’re not using or not utilizing.
- Optimize your timeshare ownership and maximize your investment.
- Exit gracefully and painlessly from your contract, regardless of your situation.
How the timeshare trade-in/travel club scam works?
Once the timeshare owners arrive at the event, a podium presentation gets underway with a ring leader or primary speaker, followed by table top meetings with individual salespeople. Over the free meal, owners are peppered with questions about family, vacations and financial inquiries into what they pay monthly or yearly for their timeshare. When the discovery process is over, the hard sell tactics start on the owner to trade in the existing timeshare for a travel club product. The cost of the trade-in/transfer is routinely bundled into the cost of disposing of your current timeshare.
In many cases, these road shows are nothing more than former timeshare sales reps working to con you into giving them thousands of dollars in exchange for a travel product that you could likely find online for equal if not much less cost. This model of timeshare exit serves to do nothing more than to mask the costs of transferring the current timeshare to some unknown third party. Some owners ask, what really happens to their timeshare? The exit roadies never exactly share that part, except to say that it won’t be your problem anymore if you do business with them. That’s another misrepresentation and one that isn’t graceful or painless to deal with, if the company is unable to keep its contractual promise to you. What about the free “$500 shopping card?” Well, the shopping card is redeemable only for merchandise in an over priced catalog. In the end, the value provided is generally pennies on the dollar.
What To Do If You Are Solicited By a Traveling Timeshare Exit Company
If you are contacted to meet with one of these exit groups, you should report it to the BBB and to your local law enforcement agency or state real estate division. Most timeshare exit companies do not have the proper licensing or permits to conduct business in the various cities and states they temporarily operate in and it is a crime in nearly every state to sell, or transfer real estate without a real estate license. Finally, these seminars are “Today Only”, so you won’t get to read the fine print in advance or take the contract home with you to review. If you have a timeshare issue, you should always seek legal advice from an qualified attorney before making a large purchase to exit from your current ownership. To learn more about timeshare scams, follow us on Twitter @FinnLawGroup