On Alert: Watch Out for Timeshare Scams
Unfortunately, the timeshare industry – like many industries in the modern age – is home to plenty of scammers. There are those out there trying to make a buck by taking advantage of others, so you must always be on the lookout. With this article, we are going to attempt to help you separate real offers from worthless scams.
It should be noted that not everything which is included in the timeshare scam conversation is really a scam. Sometimes, it is simply a company that doesn’t do a good job of delivering on its promises. Whatever the case, you will want to steer clear of anything that seems ‘shady’. As always, your own personal instincts and ‘get feeling’ can go a long way toward keeping you out of trouble. Most importantly check up on their references and remind them that if their testimonials are fake that it is a crime under Federal Trade Commission laws.
To organize this article, we are going to discuss a few different types of services that are being offered by those in and around the timeshare industry. In some cases, these services will be legitimate, and they may provide you real value. In other cases, they will be nothing but a scam.
If you’ve been approached by any of these services in the past, you may not have known what to believe. Let’s dive into this topic and break down what you need to know.
The Offer: Selling Your Timeshare
One of the most prevalent offers in this space is simply for a company to approach you about selling your timeshare. Depending on how you feel about your timeshare currently, you might be tempted by this offer. For instance, if you are having trouble finding enough time to take vacations each year, and you are getting tired of making the maintenance fee payments, you may opt to just sell and be done with it.
But is this the right way to do? Not necessarily. If someone asks you to prepay listing fees or other costs, or if they offer to buy your timeshare for more than it’s worth, there is a good chance that something is amiss. It should go without saying, but it needs to be stated anyway – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you do want to see your timeshare, start by contacting your resort directly. They will often have mechanisms in place to help owners sell. Even if they can’t help you with the sale, they may have a list of recommendations that you can trust. Marketplaces such as Timeshare Users Group (TUG), Sell My Timeshare Now, and RedWeek are all respected options.
The Offer: Get Rid of Your Timeshare
Sometimes, selling isn’t even an option. If there is no market for your timeshare, and you want out, you may simply be willing to get rid of it in any manner possible. Again, this is where ‘shady’ businesspeople may come in and try to take advantage of your situation. And again, it is best to start by simply talking to your resort. The resort may be able to take it back, or at least
may be able to outline a plan for you to move on.
If anyone asks you for money before a notarized and recorded deed is completed should be treated with skepticism. You don’t want to hand over money before the process is essentially complete, as a company operating in this space may just be trying to take advantage of owners without offering any real service.
In addition to asking your resort about taking the timeshare back, you may be able to give it to friends or family members who could use it and would be willing to take over the maintenance fees. If you decide to go in this direction, take the step of legally transferring ownership so you are formally out of the system.
The Offer: Rent Your Timeshare
Countless timeshare owners choose to rent out their timeshare as a way of recovering some of the money they have invested. This can be a strong option, but you need to proceed with caution. If someone approaches you out of the blue asking to help rent your timeshare, do your
homework and make sure they are a reputable operation.
As is usually the case, watch out for offers that sound too good to be true, or simply don’t make much sense. A common promise is that this company has a renter lined up and ready to go once you sign on. But why would that be the case? Are there no other timeshares available for
rent? That’s unlikely. Often, this is a lie just to get you to sign on the dotted line.
If you decide to rent your timeshare, it is best to start the process from the ground up. To get going, our post on How to Rent Your Timeshare is a good resource. It may be possible to just rent to people you know, greatly streamlining the process and taking away many of the potential headaches. Or, if you can’t go with that option, you could list on a site such as RedWeek, Craigslist, or even Facebook. Additionally, there is the option of taking this task off your plate by using a rental service to handle everything on your behalf.
The Offer: Mortgage or Contract Cancellation
If you have recently purchased a timeshare, you might be having second thoughts. This is perfectly normal, and it happens to various people in the aftermath of all kinds of big purchases. Unfortunately, some people out there may try to take advantage of your remorse
for their benefit. These scams pose themselves as being on your side, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The first sign that you are being scammed is when someone tells you to stop making payments on your new timeshare, whether it be mortgage payments or maintenance fees. This is just a bad idea. Whether you are remorseful or not, you agreed to make these payments, and are legally bound. Skipping out on your payments could land you in legal trouble, and you may damage your credit along the way.
So, are you stuck with your timeshare? Not necessarily. You may be able to send a certified letter to cancel your purchase if you remain within the cooling off period determined by your state. You can look here check how long you have before the purchase can no longer be reversed. Aside from using the cooling off period to your benefit, you may be able to work through an experienced lawyer to cancel the purchase if you have a legitimate claim to do so.
The Offer: Consumer Attorneys
This is a particularly nasty scam, as it piggybacks on top of a previous scam in many cases. For instance, if you have been taken advantage of by a scammer using one of the other tactics included in this article, you may then be contacted by someone claiming that they can help you recover from the previous scam. How did they know you’d been scammed in the first place? This is a huge red flag.
Most likely, this attorney will ask for money upfront to attempt to recover the money that you had lost in the previous experience. This is just asking for more trouble. If you do believe you have a legitimate claim against the previous party, find your own attorney and speak with them about the details of your case. For starters, you can go through agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, the Attorney General in your area, or the Better Business Bureau.
The Offer: Swap Your Timeshare
You may find yourself in a situation where you wish to change from one timeshare to another, and some people out there are happy to offer you such a service. As you may expect, however, those people are not always reputable. Just like any other real estate transaction, you should always work through the appropriate channels, and always deal with parties you know you can trust.
There are a couple of red flags to watch out for here. First, don’t agree to do anything over the phone. Would you finalize the purchase of a home over the phone? Of course, not – and it’s the same idea here. Also, don’t agree to break the terms of your timeshare agreement as part of the swapping process. A trustworthy business would never ask you to do so.
Once again, we come back to the same advice about swapping timeshares – start by contacting your resort directly. They are experienced with this kind of thing, and they will be able to point you in the right direction. If you are simply going to sell off your old timeshare and purchase a new one, our post on How to Sell Your Timeshare may be helpful.