Posts filed under 'Avoiding Timeshare Scams'
Back in 2009, a new type of scam popped up on the timeshare resale scene: The owner receives a call out of the blue from a stranger claiming their timeshare “is already sold” and then asks for several thousand dollars to complete the transaction. Of course, there is no buyer and the scammers disappear along with the money. I imagine that, when this hustle was still fairly fresh, it might have been believable to some owners desperate to sell after the recession.
On this blog, we warned timeshare owners of this “already sold” scam back in February of 2010. Elsewhere, throughout both the timeshare industry and mainstream media, similar warnings were issued around the same time. Yet, despite countless warnings – not to mention the obviously dubious story – timeshare owners continue to fall for this stupid trick. It’s almost enough to give you sympathy for the devil.
Okay, so maybe not sympathy exactly… But I have to state the obvious here: If you are willing to wire $3,000 to Mexico because someone called you on the phone with a catchy story, you are going to get just what you deserve. I have to wonder how someone that dumb would come into possession of $3,000 to begin with? My guess would be inheritance or personal injury settlement.
Last year, my 88 year old Grandfather received a call from Mexico: The caller told him that his grandson (he only has one, so he assumed they meant me) had been injured, arrested in Mexico, and needed $1,500 for bail ASAP. This call clearly put him into a panic, and my Grandfather was willing to pay to save me from a terrible Mexican prison – but he is not a complete idiot. After telling the caller that he’d need time to get the money together and needed to arrange a call-back, he hung up the phone and called my home number. My wife answered and assured him that I was at work here in Atlanta, not in a Mexican prison. My Grandfather kept his emotions in check – and kept his money. (Despite being particularly vulnerable due to early-stage Alzheimer’s.)
Yet, when timeshare owners wire money to someone they don’t know because they believe a fairly tale about their timeshare being sold, it’s the legitimate timeshare resale industry that gets the blame: More onerous regulations are passed and imposed upon law-abiding companies, more articles are written about “timeshare scams” that draw no distinction between the real and fake timeshare resale industry, and more consumers simply detest all timeshare resale companies because of being “burned.”
I say enough already! If someone gets tricked into wiring their money to a timeshare scam it is not my fault, it is not my company’s fault, and it is not the fault of the timeshare industry at large. If you have paid thousands of dollars because you thought your timeshare was already sold, you my friend have poor judgement at best – at worst, you are an idiot and your money probably ought to be in someone Else’s hands anyway.
This may sound harsh, it certainly is not politically-correct, but it’s true. We should not regulate every single aspect of our great country because of the stupid few, or we’ll just get more of this:
August 15th, 2013
During the last week, timeshare resale related stories have appeared in the news twice – which is actually a lot for a niche industry! Additionally, both stories relate to previous posts here at Helptimeshare.com:
Back in May, I pointed out the threat posed to timeshare owners by timeshare recovery companies. Yesterday this issue was highlighted in an article by Diane Lade of the Sun Sentinel. In it, she states that the “Florida Attorney General has received more than 600 complaints in the past 12 months” regarding recovery companies. While it’s great to see these fraudulent entities receiving some attention from the media and regulators, I have to wonder how many thousands of timeshare owners have been victimized in the four months since I originally reported on the problem. Lade goes on to point out that some timeshare resale companies have “closed down but then reopened as a timeshare recovery business” – an astute observation echoing my post describing a recovery company as “a failed timeshare resale company.”
According to Lade, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services regulators are hard-at-work investigating “about 20 timeshare recovery businesses.” Hopefully, these efforts will protect timeshare owners from being conned out of their hard-earned money. …and Kudos to Lade and the Sun Sentinel for calling attention to this phenomenon!
On September 3rd, an article by Jon Burnstein (also of the Sun Sentinel), provided some follow-up information on the ongoing timeshare fraud saga of Timeshare Mega Media. In what the FTC has called a “naked fraud,” Timeshare Mega Media contacted timeshare owners claiming “we have a buyer for your timeshare.” According to Burnstein, the operation collected an “estimated $5 million in less than a year,” before closing their doors in May 2010. Not to sound like a broken record, but HelpTimeshare.com reported on the “It’s Already Sold” scam back in February of 2010. Apparently, our warning went unheeded by some 10,000+ consumers in Florida alone… More to the point of why I consider this a ‘bad’ story, Burnstein repeatedly refers to Timeshare Mega Media as a “timeshare resale company.” He goes on to refer to the timeshare resale industry as “fraud-riddled,” and states that “many of the unscrupulous resale companies operate the same way.” I suggest that, for anyone in the media, using this sort of language is, at best, irresponsible: Timeshare Mega Media was clearly anything but a timeshare resale company. According to Burnstein’s own article the company was no more than a criminal front, operated not by timeshare industry professionals but by felons and associates of major crime families.
Please, call them “fake” timeshare resale companies or something, but a distinction needs to be drawn by the media between criminals and timeshare resale companies. There is nothing to suggest Timeshare Mega Media, or its affiliates, had any connection whatsoever to the actual timeshare resale industry. No one in the press refers to the Swiss Watch Industry as “fraud-riddled,” though fake Rolex watches are still a-dime-a-dozen throughout the U.S.
September 7th, 2011
Timeshare recovery companies pose a new threat to timeshare owners; undermining resale values, and negatively affecting public trust in the secondary timeshare market.
Timeshare resales are still relatively new; after all, timeshare itself has only been in America for around 30 years. Added to that, there was no affordable way to mass-market anything prior to the advent of the Internet, or more specifically before Google defined the modern search engine. For all intents and purposes then, the secondary market for timeshares is about 10 years old. As with any emerging market, timeshare resale has faced obstacles and impediments, along with some spectacular successes. Owners that decide to sell find themselves faced with conflicting information, an abundance of uncertainty, and, yes, some scams to be avoided.
While most objective observers will admit that timeshare scams are the exception, rather than the rule, they exist, and many an unsuspecting owner has been led astray by silver-tongued fraudsters. Thankfully, the timeshare resale market is evolving and growing. Legitimate and committed companies are making a difference every day. That said, owners still have to be careful… Many have paid fees to have their timeshares advertised or marketed, but are still waiting for a buyer. During this time is when I think owners are most vulnerable, and this is the very vulnerability that timeshare recovery companies exploit.
Just what is a timeshare recovery company? Typically a failed timeshare resale company with some sort of loose association with a law firm. These recovery (or timeshare advocacy) companies cold-call timeshare owners offering to ‘recover’ funds paid to a timeshare resale company. The catch is that their services require the owner to pay yet another upfront fee. If that sounds fishy to you, then you’re not alone. In a recent case involving a timeshare recovery company that came before the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, the Judge included the following in his report:
The Court views Plaintiff’s description of its business with some skepticism. The intended customer base includes individuals who previously made disappointing purchases of time share units (often as the result of sophisticated sales techniques) and who thereafter availed themselves of high priced resale services that failed to deliver as promised. Such individuals must be seen a vulnerable population. Plaintiff’s business includes inducing these individuals to purchase yet additional services with respect to their time shares.
Beyond the dubious nature of timeshare recovery companies, the strategies these firms encourage owners to use in order to pursue a refund often constitute criminal behavior! Owners are given form letters, and told to sign and mail them to the timeshare resale company in question. These letters regularly violate state and federal extortion laws, contain slanderous statements, and constitute defamation; making the timeshare owner themselves criminally liable, and subject to prosecution.
There are free and legal ways for owners to address grievances with resale companies. By getting involved with timeshare recovery companies, owners have nothing to gain and potentially everything to lose… Consider yourself warned.
May 26th, 2011