Uncovering Time Share Scam: Beware !! Don’t Fall Victim

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  • Post published:January 29, 2024
  • Post category:Reviews

Timeshares allow families to enjoy quality vacation accommodations year after year. However, timeshares have also become synonymous with high pressure sales tactics and outright scams.

This guide will uncover the most common timeshare scams, analyze real consumer complaints, and provide advice on how to avoid getting ripped off.

Let’s dive right in.

What is a Timeshare scam?

A timeshare provides the right to use a vacation property for a specified period of time each year. They come in two main forms:

Deeded Timeshare: Legal ownership of a specific unit for a fixed week every year. Can be sold, rented or passed on.

Points-Based: Allows flexibility to book different resorts and seasons. Points expire yearly unless banked or used.

On average, buyers pay $15,000+ upfront and $1,000 in yearly maintenance fees. While timeshares used to be a bad financial investment, newer points systems offer increased flexibility.

Timeshares are sold via high pressure in-person presentations. While presentations offer perks like free accommodation, they use devious psychological tactics to produce sales.

This combination of high pressure sales and significant upfront costs sets the scene for timeshare scammers.

Background of Time Share Scams

High pressure timeshare presentations are infamous for making lofty promises that fail to transpire. Here are some of the most common lies and scams to watch out for.

It’s a Good Investment

Timeshares do not appreciate in value – most lose 70-80% the moment you sign. Unlike property, timeshares lack equity that buyers can later access. Maintenance fees also gradually increase over time.

Presenters emphasize timeshares as an heirloom to pass onto family. In reality, kids rarely want to inherit the financial liability.

While buying resale saves money upfront, timeshares remain a poor financial investment. Their value lies in securing holiday accommodation at today’s prices.

“He made it sound like an investment opportunity that we could sell in the future for a profit. In the 10 years since our purchase, I’ve found absolutely no one interested in buying it.”

– Sarah D, BBB Review

Timeshares Are Easy to Resell

Presenters make it seem like reselling a timeshare will be simple. But owners face a saturated resale market with little demand from buyers. Up to 80% of timeshare owners regret their decision – especially once they try to resell.

Most eventually realize they’ve signed up to pay increasing fees for life. Transferring ownership to friends or family is also difficult as next generations balk at the obligations.

“We purchased a timeshare 6 years ago and have been unable to use it, give it away or sell it.”

– Sandra R, RealScam.com

Special Offers or Deals

Presentations frequently promote special discounts, deals or packages exclusively available for attendees.

In reality, these offers are widely promoted across marketing channels, not just during presentations. Timeshares stay aggressively priced to generate sales.

Spots may also be limited or unavailable during popular seasons. Unique resort activities come at additional cost. And in points programs, better units require substantially more points to redeem.

“We took a tour and purchased an every other year package based on a ski week option the sales rep offered. When we went to book our ski trip, it wasn’t available.”

– Barb M, ConsumerAffairs

By seeing through sales presentation scams, you can avoid feeling pressured into an unwise purchase.

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Transfer or Upgrade Scams

Current timeshare owners frequently become targets for high pressure upgrade or transfer scams.

As an owner, you may receive unsolicited calls offering incentives to:

  • Attend a new presentation
  • Upgrade to access better resorts
  • Transfer your deed to reduce maintenance fees

While enticing at first, these cold calls use manipulative tricks to conceal ulterior motives. Here’s why you should be skeptical:

It Comes Out of The Blue

Unexpected calls involving big financial decisions require caution – especially if you’re asked to act quickly.

Verifying legitimacy means contacting your resort via official channels before sharing any information or attending new presentations.

If a caller asks for upfront fees or down payments without providing documentation, treat it as an immediate red flag.

They Pretend to Represent Your Resort

Scammers will often pretend affiliation with your resort or timeshare company to build false trust and security.

But timeshares do not authorize other companies to make sales calls or collect fees on their behalf.

Verifying credentials by calling your resort can instantly reveal whether a solicitor is legitimate.

You’re Promised Lower Fees

Scammers bank on the promise of eliminated maintenance fees to entice financially stretched owners.

By transferring your deed to an unofficial third party, fees temporarily stop as a new name takes over.

But hidden contract clauses let the third party eventually transfer your deed again – leaving you liable for missed back payments and fee increases.

This trick saddles victims with higher overall fees plus damaged credit scores once they default.

“They stopped paying my monthly mortgage payments and maintenance fees. This has now damaged my credit”

– Sam W, BBB Report

Avoid timeshare transfer scams by verifying cold callers and offers directly with your resort before taking action.

Timeshare Reselling Scams

Owners struggling to exit timeshares become easy targets for shady resale scams. These scams have similar red flags:

They Promise Guaranteed Buyers

Scammers cold call owners claiming to have guaranteed buyers already lined up. All the owner must do is pay a listing fee.

But convenient buyers rarely exist for unpopular timeslots or resorts. And any company guaranteeing sales should raise suspicion.

After paying listing fees, desperate owners never hear from the company again.

Buyers Need Funds “Verified” First

Alternatively, scammers may claim they found a buyer contingent on verifying the owner has funds to transfer deeds.

This requires sending an upfront wire transfer costing hundreds or thousands of dollars. But afterwards, communications mysteriously dry up without any sale occurring.

Reselling scams bank on false hope and fabricated urgency to secure payments. But no legitimate reseller charges upfront fees before finding buyers.

Timeshare Cancellation Scams

Cancellation scams take advantage of desperate owners still paying for unused timeshare liabilities.

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They make grand promises about getting an owner released from contracts completely. But cancellation involves legally complex processes that most third parties cannot unravel.

Here are some telltale tactics cancellation scammers deploy:

Demanding Upfront Fees

Like reselling scams, cancellation scams pressure owners to pay upfront without any guarantees. Fees ranging from $500 to over $10,000 must be paid before any “services” get provided.

But issues arise once owners transfer funds:

  • Support lines become unavailable
  • Progress updates stop arriving
  • Resorts deny claims contracts can be cancelled

Without proper legal authority, cancellation companies cannot simply void binding contracts on your behalf.

Stop Paying Maintenance Fees

Dodgy cancellation services often instruct owners to stop paying timeshare dues and fees temporarily.

But breaching contracts via missed payments only backfires through:

  • Late fees accumulating
  • Credit damage from defaults
  • Accelerated loan repayments becoming due
  • Potential debt collection and legal action

Reputable exit assistance works directly with resorts during a transition process. But stopping legally owed payments sends an owner’s situation into a tailspin.

Unrealistic Expectations

Some cancellation services downplay details of what voiding a timeshare contract involves. Owners realize too late that signed contracts cannot simply vanish as promised.

Exit options legally available depend on:

  • Applicable state law
  • Resort cancellation policies
  • Saleability of owned week/points
  • Willingness to take a financial loss

Without setting clear expectations, cancellation scammers mislead owners already struggling to offload unwanted burdens.

Secret Shopper Scam

Secret shopping scams target timeshare owners by promising effortless shopper gigs and cash incentives. But it turns into a Trojan horse sneaking in hidden fees and financial burdens.

Owners receive checks from third parties asking them to visit local resale offices posing as potential buyers. They can then pocket several hundred dollars after submitting their “shopping report”. Checks even clear initially to secure trust in the gig’s legitimacy.

But weeks later, the checks bounce and banks deduct funds from the shopper’s account. Any money withdrawn gets clawed back once checks are fraudulent.

The third parties are fake companies that specialize in bank fraud. They use the secret shopper premise to secure personal details for cashing bad checks. And by the time owners realize checks are fake, they become liable for the losses.

How to Spot Timeshare Scams

Avoiding timeshare pitfalls means detecting scams before they produce damage.

Here are five telltale tactics shared by timeshare scammers:

1. Cold Calls Out Of The Blue

Unexpected calls or robotexts involving money should raise alarms – especially regarding complex ownership rights.

Verifying legitimacy outside the call itself is crucial. Do not hand over personal information or make payments without confidence in who you deal with.

2. Requests Sensitive Information

Scammers leverage vacations dreams or relief from fees to secure financial information used in fraud.

Closely guard details like credit cards, wire services, bank accounts or government IDs. Slow down if anyone pressures immediate sensitive disclosures.

3. Emotional Sales Pressure

Scammers weaponize anxiety over depleted retirement savings or inherited burdens from parents to cloud judgements. Combat this by walking away temporarily rather than making rushed big-money decisions based on sales emotions.

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If walking out means losing a special offer, know that timeshare discounts always reappear later.

4. Verbal Promises Without Written Backing

Revisit empty claims or bold guarantees made verbally once paperwork gets signed. If promises around discounted fees, flexible bookings or exit programs lack clear stipulation in writing, consider them meaningless fiction.

5. Upfront Fees…For Anything

Resell services charging upfront listing fees before securing buyers should wave a bright red flag.

Exit teams promising contract termination or deed transfers for thousands upfront also signal scams. And timeshare transfers to third parties allowing temporary fee elimination often pass debts back to original owners later.

If any stranger wants large amounts of money without clear deliverables, walk away. Fast.

How to Report Timeshare Scams

If you suspect a timeshare scam whether during a presentation, via cold call or through a resale listing service, reporting it protects fellow consumers.

Submit detailed complaints to these bodies covering various scam types:

✅ State Attorney General’s Office: Handles in-state consumer complaints and may prosecute local scammers. Locate state AG contacts here.

✅ Federal Trade Commission: Investigates and prosecutes unfair business practices including timeshare scams. File reports online or call 1 (877) 382-4357.

✅ American Resort Development Association: Industry association with a Code of Ethics for vacation property developers. Submit scam issues online.

✅ Better Business Bureau: Reports scams and predatory business practices. Submit information here.

How to Safely Exit a Timeshare

Reacting rashly allows scammers to thrive on financially risky exit promises. But safer options exist for offloading timeshare stakes.

Start by calling your resort’s membership relations or owner services team. Developers now assist buyers struggling with medical or financial hardships. Support varies but may include:

  • Waiving outstanding loan balances
  • Eliminating maintenance fees temporarily
  • Offering surrender or deedback programs
  • Connecting owners with resale associations

When listing for resale, reputable brokers like Fidelity Resales or RedWeek provide free guidance.

Resale does mandate accepting large losses compared to original purchase prices. But legitimacy assurances reduce fraud risks compared with dismissal companies touting oversimplified exit solutions.

Waiting patiently for sales to materialize beats resorting to cancellation scams promising legally dubious quick fixes.

The Bottom Line on Timeshare Scams

High pressure sales have plagued timeshare accommodations for decades. But awareness of common tactics preserves your peace of mind and vacation budget.

By focusing on realistic expectations before purchasing, verifying communications from cold callers, and reporting any scams encountered, timeshare benefits can outweigh potential burdens.

Your dream vacation lies on the horizon. Now go grab it without reservation using your timeshare rewards free from worry and regret. The scammers can take a permanent holiday.

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