What are some regulators really concerned about for Timeshare owners during the Covid-19 Pandemic?
Leading up to National Consumer Protection Week, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) issued an advisory to consumers regarding timeshare sales issues and timeshare exit problems related to the Covid pandemic. Portions of that advisory are discussed here to better help timeshare owners avoid certain active scams being observed by regulators who oversee registration, compliance and enforcement.
A number of timeshare exit complaints appear to be specifically revolving around what the industry refers to as “resellers” consolidating the entire secondary market into one group.
WHAT KIND OF COMPANIES MAKE UP THE “RESELLER” GROUP?
- Timeshare Liquidation (Shell corp)
Trade In / Transfer
Exit / Cancel Timeshare
- Donation Relief Programs
Subscription Travel Clubs
- Resale Companies
Licensed TN Real Estate Brokerage
Due to both the nature and volume of regulatory complaints being pulled from the above group, officials are seeking to be even more clear why consumers should: “Always Use Licensed Professionals When Selling Timeshares”
Other regulators are also warning that timeshare owners are currently being heavily solicited to sell off their paid off vacation interests during the Covid crisis. These internet marketers are sometimes based in other countries like Mexico. They are essentially just out of reach of state and federal regulators. Scammers also know that there is little to no resale value for secondhand timeshares.
BEWARE OF UNSOLICITED CONTACT
Looking closer, non-licensed timeshare representatives are allegedly acquiring owner lists to Telemarket, email and even text owners with bogus offers. Large sums of money have literally been extracted from consumers via wire transfer. The false promise of fee for service against guaranteed money is a predatory tactic used to victimize their targets. Other state databases around the U.S. have similar issues with consumers reporting the use of other false and confusing guarantees along with confusing contract language contained in timeshare “reseller” contracts.
While each state has a real estate commission, not all states have a timeshare division and there are currently no multi-state licenses for timeshare resales agents. Due to the current pandemic situation and the many timeshare resorts in Tennessee, the state agency wants consumers to understand their options when it comes to all aspects of timeshare ownership. The focus during National Consumer Protection Week is to highlight areas of focus and enforcement. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself against scammers.
TIPS FOR TIMESHARE OWNERS
To avoid timeshare exit scams, remember:
- Ask for a valid driver’s license from anyone you are working with for reference. Take a photo of their ID for your records.
- If you are exploring hiring a third party to help you exit your timeshare, be sure to check their history with the Better Business Bureau to verify they have a trusted track record.
- Beware of upfront money requests. Scammers will often ask you to open credit cards in order to pay them upfront fees and charges. If this occurs, it is a red flag to consumers that they are being scammed.
- Scammers often target older Americans who are embarrassed to share with family and friends that they have been scammed. This group is particularly vulnerable as they typically have available savings accounts setup that scammers can target and tend to lead the demographic of timeshare owners and those at high risk for contracting COVID-19.
- Be sure to watch out for a high volume of documents when signing an exit agreement with a third party because scammers can use this tactic to confuse consumers on what they are agreeing to and try to make it seem like the document is legitimate.
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 unique 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.