Don’t Be Tricked by Timeshare Resale Scams
In today’s economy, many consumers are financially squeezed and looking for help. Some consumers may be looking at selling that timeshare that they no longer can afford to visit or to pay the high mortgage, taxes or maintenance fees associated with owning the timeshare. Scammers are out there waiting to take advantage of those consumers who desperately want to sell their timeshares.
Some fraudulent operators target would-be sellers of timeshares with promises that they have a buyer ready to purchase your timeshare or assurances they can sell it. The timeshare scammer will require that you pay up front fees for services, closing costs or other fees and then disappear. The Attorney General’s Office warns Minnesotans to be on guard against such “timeshare resale” scams. Here’s how they work: You receive a phone call, e-mail, or go to a website. The company represents that it can sell your timeshare and may promise it already has someone who wants to purchase your timeshare. However, the company also requires that you pay some sort of fee up front (usually via a wire transfer) of hundreds or even thousands of dollars to pay for closing costs, services, taxes, timeshare maintenance fees or other fees. Unfortunately, once you send the money, you never see the money again, can’t contact the company and there is never a sale.
Tips to Avoid Timeshare Advance Fee Scams
- Be wary of up front fees. Legitimate fees are typically paid after the sale is done or deducted from the sale price. Beware when a company asks you to pay up front charges or fees.
- If it sounds to good to be true--it probably is. Be extremely cautious when someone is promising you a quick sale of your timeshare property. Timeshare resale scammers often promise they have a buyer who is willing to pay a great price in order to get you to send money. Don’t be tricked by empty promises. No one can promise a quick sale.
- Don’t wire money in connection with offers to sell your timeshare. Many timeshare resale scams ask consumers to wire money immediately for fees or other services. Remember, once your money is wired, it is very difficult for law enforcement officials to help you recover the funds and the company usually disappears.
- Ignore the high pressure sales over the phone and refuse to agree to anything before you research the company. Check with the state government in which the company is operating to ensure that the company is registered as a business in that state and that the company and its salespeople are actually licensed to practice real estate in the state in which they claim to operate. Do internet research to determine if the company has any complaints against it. Contact the State Attorney General (www.naag.org), and local consumer protection agencies (www.consumeraction.gov) in the state where the reseller is located. Check with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to see the company’s rating and how it has responded to complaints filed against it.
- Don’t be tricked by fancy sounding addresses or corporate titles. Scammers often use a P.O. Box or a legitimate sounding street address to give themselves credibility. They also sometimes assume the name of a legitimate company or another company’s legitimate address. Check out who you are dealing with. Oftentimes there is no actual street address for the location they list or the company at the address has nothing to do with the company contacting you. Don’t be fooled just because they have a nice sounding address or a fancy website.
- Check with your resort. Make sure you ask your resort for any restriction, fees or other limitations associated with the sale of your timeshare. See if the resort has a program to resell your timeshare or has ever worked with the reseller that is offering you its services. You may also obtain more information from the American Resort Development Association (www.arda.org) regarding how to sell a timeshare. The ARDA represents vacation ownership and resort development industries in the U.S. and overseas.
- Demand everything in writing. Ask for all the promises and agreements you need to sign in writing. Make sure that everything is in the agreement including services that will be provided, costs you must pay and when you must pay them, whether you can rent or sell the timeshare on your own while you are working with the resale company, who is responsible for completing the sale documents and finalizing the sale and how long the contract will continue. Read the documents very carefully before you sign to make sure the contract is what you want. Consider bringing the documents to an attorney for review before you enter into them.
Where should I complain?
If you are a victim of a timeshare resale scam, file a complaint with these government agencies:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
1400 Bremer Tower
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
TTY: (651) 297-7206
Minnesota Department of Commerce
Market Assurance Division
85 East Seventh Place, Suite 500
Saint Paul, MN 55101
Federal Bureau of Investigation
111 Washington Avenue South, Suite 1100
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
Toll free: 1-877-382-4357
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