Maybe you’ve been unable to use your timeshare due to changes in your lifestyle, and you’re looking to turn it over to someone who can put your week to use. Maybe you’re unable to keep up with maintenance fees and other costs, and you want to be out from under the financial burden. Maybe you’re a completely satisfied timeshare customer who gets a call out of thin air one day.
Whatever the case, the temptation to pay a third party company to sell, rent out, or otherwise get you out of your timeshare can be a powerful one. Well, plenty of individuals are well aware of how enticing timeshare relief can be, leading to the continued popularity of the timeshare resale scam.
This common scam dupes consumers out of thousands of dollars every single year – but it can be avoided, if you know what to look out for. Here are four major warning signs that you may be in the midst of a timeshare scam:
You’re Contacted Out of the Blue
Whether you’re looking to somehow get rid of your timeshare interest or not, be very wary of any relief, redemption, rental, or resale company that approaches you with an offer about your timeshare without you contacting them first; cold calls, emails, or unsolicited letters can all be sure signs of a scam.
Be particularly cautious if the offer being made seems a little too good to be true – as it probably is! Remember that resort developers have consciously suppressed the timeshare aftermarket, allowing for conditions in which “used” timeshare interests have very little value on the secondary market. Many owners will offer their timeshare on eBay for as little as a few dollars, and many more actually offer to cover closing costs or transfer fees themselves.
In a market where the seller often has to pay the buyer, it is highly unlikely that a company has a slew of interested parties lined up, competing for the chance to buy or rent your timeshare for top dollar. Any promise to the contrary should be a major warning sign that something is off.
The Information Available on the Company Is Inconsistent
Not too long ago, we brought our regular readers’ attention to the story of an alleged timeshare resale company that claimed to be based out of the 23rd floor of an office building in Peoria, Illinois. This is all well and good – until you realize that the building located at their stated address is only nine stories tall!
When it comes to spending your money to exit or sell a timeshare, leave no stone unturned. Do the research it takes to be an informed consumer, take all information you hear from a sales representative with a hefty pinch of salt, and be wary of any inconsistencies or redundancies in the alleged company’s available information. For instance, does the company claim to be based out of one place, while asking you to wire money to another? Do they claim to have satisfied customers, yet you can’t find any testimonials or reviews online?
These little details can quickly add up into a big – and troubling – picture. If you have any questions or concerns about a business offering to help you with any part of your timeshare journey, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local BBB, as well as the consumer protection agencies and officials in the state where the business claims to be located.
Consulting with one of these consumer protection watchdogs could be what it takes to stop a scammer in his tracks – before he gets the chance to dupe anyone else.
You’re Being Asked to Wire Money or Send Cash
As the FTC once said in an article on timeshares and the scams that fester around them: “Never pay for a promise.”
If you’re asked to pay a lot of money upfront to cover nebulous costs like “taxes” or “transfer fees,” you could be in contact with a timeshare scammer looking to turn a profit off of your eagerness to be rid of your obligation.
In particular, consumer protection experts advise would-be timeshare resellers to watch out for three big red flags before paying for timeshare resale or rental services upfront, urging wariness if:
1.) You’re being told to send money abroad
2.) You’re spending a sum that seems too big – perhaps even more than the initial purchase price you paid for your timeshare interest
3.) You’re being told to send money by cash, wire, or direct deposit, all of which make recovering or cancelling your payments all but impossible
All of these are worrisome signs that your payments are not going to a legitimate organization, but, instead, to someone who will simply pocket your cash and move on to the next mark – leaving you with less in your bank accounts to cover the same timeshare payments and fees you may well have been trying to leave behind in the first place.
You’re Quickly Contacted by Another Group Offering Help
Consumer protection advocates have recently begun to note that scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated. One way that fraudsters are increasing the chances of making a buck is by “double dipping.” If you’ve lost money in a timeshare scam, you may be approached by another organization offering their services to help you recover the money lost in the first scam.
Or, if you managed to avoid getting caught in the trap the first time around, you may hear from a company offering to help you check your credit, bolster your financial security, or somehow insure you against scammers – all for an upfront fee, of course.
In short, it’s important to remember that the prevailing wisdom when it comes to all aspects of the timeshare marketplace is caveat emptor – or “buyer beware!” Before you get taken in by a scam, look out for the warning signs that an offer is too good to be true, and don’t hesitate to reach out to the consumer protection experts near you. And remember, too, that there are alternatives to the many perils and pitfalls of the timeshare resale market.
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.