In a scam, timeshare owners are contacted by brokers claiming that they have found a buyer for their timeshare property. The timeshare owner explains to the scammer that they are locked into the contract and are not able to sell the timeshare property. The scammer promises the owner that they have dealt with that timeshare company before and can get the owner out of the contract. The scammer tells the owner that the new buyer wants the timeshare for company purposes and a tax write-off so they are willing to pay even more money for the timeshare. The owners feels this is too good to be true, so the owner does some background checking. First, the owner checks to make sure that the scammer has a broker’s license and there is a broker with that name and office location. Next, the owner asks the broker for some references and after contacting all the references they check out perfectly. Finally, the owner asks for a written contract which the broker sends right away and the contract looks great. Unfortunately, the owner still gets scammed. Timeshare scammers have been doing this for decades. Scammers know the ins and outs of timeshares, the questions asked, what the contracts should contain, and even make sure they look like a real broker with a license. Many timeshare owners have fallen for the scam and lost a lot of money even after doing their due diligence.
Even though the owner above followed all the proper procedures they got scammed. It is important to remember these people are professional scammers and anyone who wants to sell their timeshare should seek professional help. Owners should seek a professional broker who is licensed with the state, preferably the state they live in so that they can go to the broker’s office. An owner should contact the state and verify the broker’s license. It’s not good enough to check the state’s website, sometimes these webpages are not updated for months. In the meantime, a scammer will take a retired broker’s name and information because the websites haven’t been updated, so they look legitimate. Also, having an attorney involved in this type of transaction is a must. The attorney can review the written contract, do background checks, call the timeshare company, call references, and do research that most consumers are unable to or don’t know the right questions to ask. An owner should check with American Resort Development Association website: www.arda.org. This association is a non-profit organization to assist timeshare owners and provide information not only about owning timeshares, selling timeshares, but also the frauds/scams that come from selling timeshares. The last and first thing an owner should do is contact the company that they bought the timeshare from. Find out if the timeshare company knows of the “broker” who contacted you or if there someone can purchase a timeshare and the price, most likely the timeshare company will tell you it’s a scam!
Even though you hire professionals to assist you here are some of the traps to watch for when trying to sell your timeshare:
1. Too Good To Be True – The old saying if it seems to be too good to be true then it is. If your gut is telling you NO then don’t do it. Trust your gut. These scammers are willing to tell you whatever you need to hear to close the deal. They don’t care – they are scammers it’s their job to cheat you out of your money.
2. Want Up-Front Fees – If there are any fees required up-front it probably is a scam. Normally, the fees will come out of the money the owner would receive from the purchase. If you owe money to the timeshare company you should pay those fees directly to the timeshare company and get a receipt.
3. Approach Owner Claiming They Have A Buyer – Ask yourself how did they get your name, mailing address, email, or phone number? Many times your name is added to a list that anyone can buy. Why are they contacting you? Did you put a listing on a website or is this offer clear out of the blue? Is there something special about your timeshare compared to the thousands of other timeshares that people who own at that location?
4. Isolated Vacation Spots That Are Hard For Owner To Get To – Many times the scammers will seek out timeshares that are in faraway spots like Mexico, Caribbean, or other island resorts. The scammers know that it is hard for timeshare owners to get to these spots and the owners are not using the timeshares as much as they should. These are the owners who most likely are trying to get out of their timeshare and the prefect targets.
5. Pressuring Owners – The scammers will continual harass the owners. They might say to the owners that they have a buyer now and time is of the essences. The buyer will only hold the offer open a few days because they need the tax break now or they want to use it for their company meeting coming up. Maybe the new buyer is looking at other timeshares that have better amenities.
6. Promise To Modify Or Cancel Your Contract Obligation – Scammers do not have the authority to modify or cancel your contract. Nor will any timeshare company be willing modify or cancel your contract, especially when it means that the company will be getting less money or no money at all. Timeshare companies will hold you to the contract and even try to get you to stay in it longer.
7. Second Company Offers To Help Get Money Back From the First Scam – Many times a second company will contact an owner after they have been scammed and offer to help the owner get back their money. This second company is a scammer too! They know you are gullible and take more of your money.
8. Physical Address Not PO Box – Make sure the company/broker has a physical address and not just a P.O. Box. It is very easy to open a P.O. Box and close it down before someone can even report that they have been scammed to the authorities.
9. Paying More Money Than The Owner Originally Paid – Many times the scammer will say they can get you more money then what you originally paid or even more money then what the timeshare is worth. Check with the timeshare company you bought it from, you will probably find out there are plenty of timeshare that could be purchased for the same price you paid or maybe even less, so there is no reason for a buyer to pay you more money.
If you do end up being scammed and lose money here are some step you should take:
1. Contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a complaint
2. Contact the state’s Attorney General where the broker claimed to have a license and file a complaint
3. Contact the state’s Licensing Department where the broker claimed to have a license and file a complaint
4. Contact your own state’s Attorney General Office and file a complaint.
5. Contact your local police department and file a complaint.
6. Contact the BBB and file a complaint.
7. Contact American Resort Development Association and file a report.
8. Contact the timeshare company who own the property and file a report with them.
You get the idea – file a complaint/report with all of the above offices. Unfortunately, you probably will never get your money back, but you could help the next person so that they do not lose their money too. By filing complaints/reports you will definitely assist authorities in tracking down these scammers and putting a stop to these types of crimes.
So what can you do with your timeshare if you can’t get out of your contract or sell it? A few ideas are give it to a charity; a gift to another family member or friend who can use it (make sure they really want it before you give it to them as a Christmas gift); rent it out and make some money; or lastly - pay someone else to take it (it might be cheaper in the long run). Always check the terms of your contract first and seek professional assistance. Good Luck!