Purchasing a timeshare can be exciting. It comes along with the promise of a luxurious vacation for your family every year. At first, timeshare ownership may deliver on this promise. However, many people find that over time, their timeshare becomes a burden. This may be due to changing vacation preferences, rapidly escalating annual fees which make it harder to afford your timeshare or a variety of other reasons. If your timeshare no longer meets your needs, you may be looking for a way to get rid of it once and for all.
As you most likely have discovered, it can be very challenging to get rid of a timeshare. Most of these contracts are in perpetuity, which binds you to the terms of the agreement, including all financial obligations, for the rest of your life. In many instances, resort developers will hold you to this lifelong obligation rather than allow you to give back your unwanted timeshare. This causes many unhappy owners to try and sell their timeshare.
Unfortunately, it’s also extremely difficult to sell a timeshare:
- There is a limited resale market since most people prefer to buy new timeshares.
- Timeshares typically don’t hold their value, so you’ll often be forced to sell for pennies on the dollar.
- With 85% of timeshare owners stating that they regret their purchase, the supply of used timeshares far exceeds the demand
The poor resale market creates an ideal situation for scam artists to prey on frustrated owners who are desperate to unload their unwanted property. In order to avoid being the victim of a timeshare resale scam, it’s crucial that you know what to watch out for.
Common Timeshare Resale Scam Tactics
Be on the lookout for the following timeshare resale scam tactics. If you encounter any of these, it’s likely a sign that you should avoid dealing with the company. Otherwise, you may find that the resulting scam will potentially cost you thousands of dollars.
Asking for Upfront Payment
This is the most common tactic used by timeshare resale scams. The scammer will usually make a hard-to-resist promise that catches your attention, such as:
- They will handle all the legwork for listing and selling your timeshare, guaranteeing results.
- They have a buyer already lined up.
- They guarantee you’ll make a profit when you sell your timeshare with them.
Once they have your interest, they’ll ask you for an upfront payment to cover taxes, listing fees and other expenses. Often, this upfront payment can be several thousand dollars. Once you make the payment, you’ll never hear from the seller again. They’ll have your money, and you’ll be stuck with your unwanted timeshare.
You should never agree to pay upfront fees when a third party is selling your timeshare. When you buy a house, the realtor doesn’t receive their commission until the sale is complete. The same practice should hold for the sale of a timeshare. If the seller asks for money before the transaction is finalized, it is a clear sign you’re about to be scammed.
Online market sites such as eBay and Craigslist are heavily trafficked by scammers looking for their next victim. If you list any personal information such as your name, phone number or email address in your post, you’ll make it much easier for scammers to contact you. For this reason, we recommend that you never include this information in your for-sale listing.
If you receive an unsolicited phone call or email from someone offering to help you sell your timeshare, you should be wary of working with this person. Often, it’s a warning sign that you’re being set up by a scam artist. Instead, only work with people who contact you through the online market site’s messaging platform.
Many scammers will try to create a sense of urgency in order to compel you to work with them. This is often accomplished by telling you this is a “limited-time offer” or by urging you to “act fast before the buyer decides to work with another seller.”
If you’re told that you need to pay a seller right away in order to take advantage of their services, it’s often a sign that you’re about to be scammed. You should never agree to work with a seller without checking out their credentials first.
Sometimes, a scammer will attempt to appear more legitimate by initiating services without asking for an upfront fee. In the middle of the transaction, you’ll be contacted asking to pay a fee to cover certain transactional expenses associated with the deal. You may be told this fee is covering an insurance premium, taxes, resort fees, or any other item that may sound like a real part of a timeshare sale.
Once you pay the first fee, you’ll most likely be contacted again about another fee that needs to be covered for the deal to move forward. This will often continue as long as you keep agreeing to pay the fees. By the time you realize you’ve been scammed, you may be out a considerable amount of money.
There should never be any unexpected fees arising in the middle of the transaction. This is a potential warning sign that you’re working with a scammer. If someone asks you for money unexpectedly during the deal, you should walk away.
Some scammers will engage in a two-pronged attack that gets you to pay them twice:
- In the first phase, one of the tactics discussed above will be used to get you to pay a seller who doesn’t deliver on their promise.
- Next, you’ll receive a phone call or email from a second scammer pretending to work with a government agency, consumer protection agency or law firm. This person will explain that you’ve been the victim of a timeshare resale scam and they can help you recover your lost funds.
Of course, there will be a catch to these services. In order to recoup your money, you’ll need to pay an upfront fee to the agency or law firm fighting for your rights. Once you pay this fee, you’ll most likely never hear from these people again.
Agencies and law firms specializing in consumer protection law will never charge you an upfront fee to help you. If you receive a phone call from someone offering these services for a fee, it’s a warning sign that you’re about to be scammed.
Tips to Avoid Timeshare Resale Scams
Knowing how to spot the signs of a timeshare resale scam will significantly reduce the likelihood that you’ll become a victim of these predatory tactics. However, there are also several important precautions you can take to further reduce your risk of getting scammed:
- Do your research – Make sure you thoroughly research any resale company before you sign a contract to work with them. Look up the company on the Better Business Bureau website to see if any complaints have been filed against them. Do an online search of the company to see if any other victims have posted warnings about scams associated with this company.
- Only work with a licensed seller – Many sites will require brokers to have a license in order to list and sell timeshares on the resale market. Check with the state Department of Real Estate to see if the seller has a valid license.
- Make sure all services are detailed in a written contract – Ask the seller for a written contract explicitly stating what they are expected to do as part of the services they provide, along with what is expected of you during the sales process. Never agree to work with a resale agent or pay the agent a fee based on a verbal agreement.
- Consult an attorney before signing the contract – In order to protect your rights and guard against a scam, don’t sign the contract until you’ve had it reviewed by an attorney.
- Meet with the resale agent in person – Be wary of any company that doesn’t schedule an in-person meeting with you. If they want you to complete the entire transaction over the phone and refuse to meet in person or provide you with a physical office address, it’s a sign that you’re not working with a legitimate company.
Report All Timeshare Resale Scams Immediately
If you become the victim of timeshare resale fraud, it’s important to report the incident at once. This is the best way to prevent others from experiencing similar misfortune at the hands of the scammer.
If you used your debit or credit card to pay for the fees associated with the timeshare resale scam, contact your bank or credit card company at once to report the fraud and cancel your card. This will protect you from other fraudulent actions in the event that the scammer tries to use your card information again. If your card provides some built-in fraud protection, you may also be able to recover the money you paid the scammer.
In addition to reporting the incident to your bank, you should also file a complaint with one or more of the following organizations:
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Better Business Bureau
- Your state’s Department of Real Estate (if a real estate license is involved)
- Your state Attorney General’s Office
Avoid Resale Scams by Canceling Your Timeshare
The most effective way to avoid becoming the victim of a timeshare resale scam is to pursue a different solution for getting rid of your timeshare. Instead of trying to sell your timeshare, a better approach is to cancel the contract. Since most timeshares have virtually no resale value, you’re unlikely to recoup much of the money you paid as part of the initial purchase when selling it. By canceling your timeshare, you break free of all future financial obligations without taking on the risk of becoming the victim of a resale scam.
At Resort Advisory Group, we’ve worked with hundreds of families just like you who are unhappy with their timeshare. We understand the ways in which the costs associated with timeshare ownership can be financially crippling, and we can help you safely, legally, and permanently cancel your contract. Our team of in-house attorneys will recommend a customized exit strategy to achieve your desired outcome.
You’ll benefit from our exclusive You First Approach™ which places your needs first throughout the entire process. We’ll only recommend solutions that reflect your best interests, and we’ll arm you with the educational tools necessary to make an informed decision. This includes our Straight Facts Exit Guide™ containing the insights you need to understand your options. You’ll also receive our Step-by-Step Exit Map™ explaining the how the entire exit process will work in detail.
In addition, we offer a Money-Back Exit Guarantee™ to give you peace of mind that you’re in good hands. We understand that it can be hard to know who to trust in an industry that is rampant with scam artists. That’s why we promise you’ll receive a full refund if we’re unable to safely, legally and permanently cancel your timeshare. This gives you the protection necessary to confidently move forward with the exit process.