Timeshare owners plagued by scams
If you own a timeshare and haven't had any luck selling it, you're a prime target for scammers.
While timeshare reselling scams are nothing new, they're surging again, prompting warnings from attorneys general and the Better Business Bureau.
"There are almost endless variations of timeshare resale fraud," Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington said in a warning about the scams. "Timeshare owners need to be wary when thinking about retaining the services of people and companies promising to market and sell properties on their behalf."
The way the scams usually work is the timeshare owner will be approached by someone who claims they can sell the property. They might claim they have a buyer or that they can actually help sell the timeshare for a profit.
The claims can be pretty tempting to someone who has unsuccessfully tried to sell a property for years and has been paying maintenance fees.
Scammers thrive on consumers' desperation. The more frustrated you are, the easier you are as a target. Some of the scams are elaborate and are easy to believe, especially when you really want to believe that someone can actually help you get rid of the property. Scammers will use professional-looking websites and even pretend to be from legitimate real estate companies.
The big red flags
But what really sets the scams apart from any legitimate attempts to market a timeshare property is the request for money up front.
You should never advance anyone the anticipated proceeds of a sale of property. When the deal's done is when everyone gets paid.
Another huge red flag -- really huge and really red -- is that not only will they want payment up front, but they'll insist that you send it via a money transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
A desperate and vulnerable potential victim wants to believe the scammer's many promises. They might offer a guarantee or some other reassuring gesture that ends up being hollow. Once your cash is gone -- which is what happens in a money transfer -- it's gone.
Scammers don't want you to check them out, so they'll most likely apply pressure to try to get you to make a decision on the spot. Don't.
Washington's attorney general's office recommends that you "Ask companies to provide paperwork and get all promises, fees and obligations in writing." This way you can take time, think about the offer and check it out. When a potential victim steps away from the pressure of a slick, hard-selling scammer, the deception becomes more apparent.
For those who want to sell a timeshare -- or give one away -- there are options. As much as the resale market for timeshares present challenges for sellers, there are some marketplaces like My Resort Network. You could also consider transferring the property to a friend or relative who might have more use of it or approach the timeshare company to see if they would be willing to take back the property -- something that would only work if you no longer owe any money on it.
You should also check out these tips from the American Resort Development Association.
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