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Timeshare Scams and other Fairy Tales?
This article discusses one of the darker sides of timesharing, and that is the scams that litter this industry and give it a bad name!  This article will at least open your eyes in the hopes of preventing more unknowing people from being ripped off!

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Timeshare Scams and Other Fairy Tales


It's unfortunate that there are people who exist only to take advantage and prey upon others misfortune. The timeshare industry is no exception. The following narratives are examples of some of the more common and inventive "abuses" that you might encounter in the timeshare industry.

Please send any corrections, updates or additions via e-mail to tug@tug2.net
Last Update: Apr 2010


Upfront Fees Scam

By far the most prolific and widespread scam surrounding the Timeshare Industry is the "upfront fee" scam.  Before I go into details, let me just point out one tip:

NEVER PAY ANYONE ANY MONEY UPFRONT TO BUY, SELL, RENT, PAINT, LOOK AT, TALK ABOUT, OR EVEN TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR TIMESHARE!!!

It matters little what is said, or how smooth they say it, anyone asking you to pay something upfront to buy, sell or rent your timeshare, is WAY more often than not, attempting to do nothing more than get money from you, with little or no motive or ability to do anything after they receive their money up front.

It can be called an "appraisal fee", a "title search fee",  "marketing fee", "advertising fee", "prepaid closing costs", the list goes on and on...no matter what the "fee" is called...once you hear someone asking for you to pay it before they do anything, its time for you to begin walking in the other direction.  If you have a car, get in it and drive in the other direction, take a bus or a train if the previous options are unavailable, but get away as quickly as possible.

If you are attempting to sell or rent your timeshare,  You will probably be contacted by various timeshare companies wanting to "help" you sell or even "buy" your timeshare. Please be careful, many people have been burned on various appraisals schemes and hundreds if not thousands in upfront listing fees. If you have any concerns about an offer or a timeshare company, please ask our members on our TUG BBS, they can help you from falling prey to these schemes.   The scammers bulk email in the thousands to anyone selling on the internet, so chances are...you will be contacted by one or more!

The pitch is always the same with a few variations with comments like:

1. We have a buyer already, just let me get this upfront fee from you to get things started.

or

2. We just sold your exact timeshare for more than your current asking price, so list it with us and you will easily sell it for that price...we just need this one time fee to get your timeshare listed

or

3. We will GUARANTEE that we will sell your timeshare or your money back...now we just need this fee to get things started!


all of these pitches are the same, they are all targeted towards desperate owners who need to sell or rent their timeshares and have been unsuccessful in doing so in the past, and sadly...in almost all instances of above...the outcome of said transaction is now you are out hundreds if not thousands of dollars more...and have nothing to show for it.

The old adage of "if its too good to be true, it probably is" applies here without impunity!  Noone is going to be able to get you to fork over hundreds or thousands of your hard earned cash without telling you something wonderful, the fact is that noone can sell your timeshare for more than its worth, and noone can guarantee you that your timeshare will be sold.  Only those individuals who are trying to do nothing more than get that upfront fee will tell you any different.

You can find hundreds of posts on the TUGBBS forums of individuals who found TUG too late, and were taken not just once, but MULTIPLE times by these upfront fee scammers, and still own their timeshare!   If their pitch were not convincing, so many people would'nt fall for it!

Also note that many States including florida are now going after these upfront fee "boiler room" type places, as evidence in this thread here:

"Get you out of your Timeshare"  Legal Assistance Scam

Yet another increasingly popular scheme these days are companies posing as legal entities or even law firms offering to "get you out of your timeshare contract" for an upfront fee of course.  These scams just like the one above promising a "buyer" prey on the desperation of Timeshare owners who want nothing more than to be rid of their timeshare.  Sadly the only "service" you get from these organizations are letters sent/emailed/etc to the resort demanding they cancel your timeshare contract.  

There is absolutely no legal basis for cancelling a legitimate Timeshare contract you signed ( in most cases many MANY months ago).  Despite the salesman lying to you, despite you not getting one or more things you were "promised" during the sales presentation, the fact is you signed your sales agreement of your own free will, and I can assure you the resort developer has spent a ridiculous amount of money on their own actual laywers drafting up said contract.  Any "attorney" offering assistance to you in getting out of your contract is merely looking to collect an upfront fee and should be avoided at all costs.


Many of these organizations claim to have ties to state or federal law enforcement agencies (Atty Generals offices, etc etc), rest assured this is also yet another ploy to gain your trust, and ensure you will send them money with zero chance you will have any success.  

Another ploy similar to this are organizations that claim the same "legal assistance" to recover funds that you have already paid to an upfront fee scammer!  Ever wonder how they knew you were scammed in the first place?  Thats right!  The very same people that contacted you before claiming they had a buyer for your timeshare and took your $500 bucks, are now contacting you under a different name claiming they can recover that scammed money for you...wait for it...FOR ANOTHER UPFRONT FEE!

As with any and all shady dealings in the Timeshare Industry, if you follow this rule you will protect yourself from 100% of them!

NEVER PAY ANYONE ANY SIGNIFICANT MONEY UPFRONT TO DO ANYTHING WITH YOUR TIMESHARE!

The Post Card Company

Original Author: Dave McClintock CPA

TUG's Advice section includes an income tax advice article which Wonka and I wrote. Little did we know that someone would take that article, change it to distort our analysis of the tax law, and use it to promote the following "business venture":

Scenario 1:

You receive a letter in the mail in the form of an envelope, or post card with comments emblazoned on it the likes of:  "Guaranteed to rid you of your Timeshare" or "We are ready to make an offer on your timeshare right now", or even "Guaranteed solution to your timeshare problem" etc etc.  While the wording is different for all the various companies, the concept is always the same.  The letter or post card misleads the customer into believing they are going to show up and be paid for their timeshare and no longer be the owner of it upon completing the transaction.

At the designated date and time, a meeting is held in a small conference room of a hotel in a major city. Potential sellers of unwanted timeshares hear that their timeshares are worthless, will never sell on the resale market, will be passed on to their children and they will be forced to pay for the timeshare even after they have passed on, and that the only solution for them is to take the offer they are about to hear.  They are also told wild claims of extravagant Tax Deductions available to them only if they accept the offer.  At this point the owners are jumping at the chance to take this offer, its after all a dream come true as they believe they are going to:

1. Get Paid to get rid of their timeshare
2. Be free of their timeshare obligations that day
3. get an incredible tax deduction on various items they were previously unaware were allowable writeoffs.

Who wouldnt take that kind of deal?  It nearly sounds too good to be true!

The Reality:

This offer however is not an offer to buy the timeshare, but instead the offer is for the owner to PAY a hefty sum to the organization, and turn over their timeshare to them as well.  Owners are mislead into thinking that the moment they sign on the dotted line, they are no longer the owners of this timeshare and that they walk away from the meeting free and clear of their obligation (and a few thousand dollars)...and think nothing more of it.  What actually happens is that the documents the owners are signing merely provide power of attorney to said company to attempt to find a new owner for the timeshare at their discretion.  

Until that new owner is found, and a proper closing has been completed, the original owner is STILL the owner of that timeshare. 

So what happens to my timeshare when I sign over power of attorney?  

Great question!  Ever notice all of those $1 timeshares on ebay and other resale outlets?  Many of those come from organizations just like these! Despite their claims of "we dont sell timeshares", while that certainly may be true, there is nothing preventing these companies from letting someone ELSE sell it for them.  It is extremely common, and they could care less what the sale price is, they have already collected anywhere from $1500 to $7000 dollars from the owners to "rid" themselves of the timeshare in the first place, any more money is pure profit!  

Other solutions for finding a new owner include simply contacting the resort on your behalf and initiating a Timeshare Deedback, which is essentially giving the resort the interval back.  While sometimes a fee may be involved, remember they have collected a large sum of money from the owner to begin with, so they can spend a bit of money and still come out way ahead.  

An even worse reality in the current slump that exists in the timeshare resale market, is that they are UNABLE to find a new owner for your timeshare before the next years maintenance fee bill comes around.  Guess who will receive that bill, that's right...THE ORIGINAL OWNER!  Having been mislead into thinking he was leaving that meeting no longer the owner of the timeshare, imagine his dismay to discover the bill for next years fees.  Remember, just signing over Power of Attorney does NOT make that person the new owner of your timeshare.  It merely grants them the ability to sell it on your behalf (or hand it over to another resale company).  it is ONLY when a new owner is found, and the transfer of deeded ownership is complete that you are out of your financial obligation.

Some of you may be questioning these comments and opinions above, however ask yourself this.  If you truly were not able to sell your timeshare for any price (even a single dollar), why would any organization voluntarily take it from you for any amount of money?  Even if you paid them tens of thousands of dollars, if they truly took ownership of your timeshare as you are led to believe, they would now have to pay the annual maintenance fees for the rest of their lives, and eventually your payment would run out!

This is why these organizations have a list of timeshares they will, and will NOT accept under any circumstances (as if a timeshare truly couldnt be sold or disposed of, no amount of money would be enough for someone to take on a lifetime of obligation to pay the fees), and also why you have to have your timeshare paid in full, and have this years annual maintenance fees paid as well.  Thus giving them more time to find a new owner on your behalf, all while pocketing your large check.

Scenario 2:
"Mr. Smooth" contacts a number of people who have advertised their timeshare weeks for sale. "I would like to buy your T/S." He says. "In fact, I'll come to your city, we can meet at a hotel there, and I'll buy your T/S. Bring your deeds with you so that we can finalize the deal on the spot."  This invitation may come in the form of a post card in the mail, or other direct mailing, or now even via calls to your home or cell phone.  

Based on various phone calls, several potential sellers agree to meet with him. At the designated date and time, a meeting is held in a small conference room of a hotel in a major city. Potential sellers of unwanted timeshares hear that XYZ Company will buy their timeshares for fair market value. They have each been given a folder with information as to the price that will be paid. All of them are ecstatic, because it appears they can finally get rid of these unwanted timeshares.

Best of all, Mr. Smooth tells them that any loss on the sale would be tax deductible. How sure is he? "Just take a look at this article that our CPAs wrote for us. The article makes it clear that the loss is deductible." Sure enough. The article handed out makes that assertion. (The article was copied from TUG's web site and then changed to make the improper claim. It still had Wonka's and my names at the top.)

One additional detail. Mr. Smooth tells them that they can buy into a fabulous vacation club that provides discounts on hotels, car rentals, air fares, cruises, condo weeks, etc. How much? The price is so low that it can only be discussed in individual meetings.

The Individual Meetings
At this point, the group meeting adjourns. Mr. Smooth and his associates each meet separately with the people who attended. In the meeting that we here at TUG are observing today, Mr. Smooth tells an elderly lady that she can buy into the travel club for "only" $6,995. Once she buys the membership, the vacation club will buy her five T/S weeks for a total of $4,000. No more headaches or maintenance fees. Thus, she pays a net of "only" $2,995. And her tax losses on the T/S sales will pay for the cost of membership, according to Mr. Smooth.

Reality
In fact, Mr. Smooth and his associates are selling "vacation club" memberships of the type that are often given as an incentive for taking a T/S sales tour. Total value? Somewhere between $0 and a couple of hundred bucks, depending on how one uses the membership.

So the result would be that the individual pays $2,995, gives up the ownership to five T/S weeks, has an almost worthless vacation club membership, and is not entitled to the tax benefits that are promised. No thanks.

Also note that your timeshare is likely to be turned over to another company to be sold on ebay for a single dollar, or deeded back to the resort (both options you can do yourself for SIGNIFICANTLY less than the fees charged above).

The Aftermath
It turns out that the elderly lady's daughter also attended the meeting at the hotel - to protect her mother's interests. She was suspicious and didn't let her mother close the deal, although it was clear that some others did go through with the deal. Later on, the daughter did an Internet search and stumbled on to TUG and the real tax article that Wonka and I wrote. She contacted Wonka (whose e-mail address is associated with the article) and we soon got the details that I have summarized  above.

We engaged counsel in the state where this venture has its business address. In a process that has just been concluded, Mr. Smooth and his associates agreed to turn over all copies of the altered tax article and to cease any further use of the article and of Wonka's and my names in their business efforts.

Morals of the Story
There are many lessons. If it appears too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Don't ever, ever, buy (or sell) on the spot without taking time to evaluate whether you are getting a good deal. And we could add many more.... (Wonka and I haven�t learned our lesson yet. We are still writing T/S tax articles.)

Thanks
Wonka and I are deeply indebted to a wonderful woman named Gwen for making the effort to find us and share the details of her mother's experience, including a copy of the altered tax article and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of Mr. Smooth and his associates. The information she provided was essential in following up on this matter.

Dragnet (Badge 714) Disclaimer
The story you have just read is true. Some of the names and facts have been changed to protect.... (If you�re over 55, you know the rest.) 

note the state of Vermont has reached a settlement with one of these post card companies, as can be seen here in this thread:  http://tugbbs.com/forums/showthread.php?t=86284 

 


  “Send Me The Difference” Scam

This ploy attempts to get you to accept a forged or counterfeit cashier’s check for more than the amount you agreed to rent or sell your timeshare.

They then request you to send the balance of the money to the thief via untraceable methods. As it may take a week or more for your bank to discover the fraud, the thief will be counting on your honesty to send the difference balance as soon as possible.

Western Union is a favored service since there is no paper trail after the thief picks up his cash at the receiving Western Union office.

The following email exchange is just one such example of the scheme:

In a message dated 29/03/2006 00:30:11 GMT Standard Time, terry_cambell202@yahoo.com writes:

Dear Sir/Madam,


I Would like to  make enquiry about your  suite for Weekly?Village Resort  in South Wales, so  I presently run a textile and fabrics firm I inherited from My late Dad in the Holland and I want to have  company as a Representative/book keeper in South Wales . My company produces various clothing materials, Batiks, assorted fabrics and Traditional costume which I'am planing to have clients we supply  Weekly in South Wales . My worker's will come to South Wales for holiday

 

I WILL AWAIT YOUR URGENT RESPONSE.
Warmest Regards,
Terry
CEO H&L Fabrics & Textiles


Dear Terry

 

Thank you for your mail regarding the holiday unit that I have for rent.  The unit is available for one week only from 5th - 12th August 2006 and details can be seen via the hyperlink in the advert.

 

Should you wish to rent the unit for this week I will need a deposit of �200 to secure he booking and the balance of �800 (using an exchange rate of $1.75/�) should be paid by mid-May.  When paying the balance I will require a list of the names of the people who will be staying in the unit (up to six people maximum) so that I can issue the reservation certificate in the correct names.

 

Kind regards

Mrs Lis W-----


-----Original Message-----
From: Terry Cambell [mailto:terry_cambell202@yahoo.com]
Sent: 30 March 2006 12:06
To: Ms---@aol.com
Subject: Re: 08-05-2006

Hello Mrs Lis W-----,

Thanks for your mail, we our really still interested in renting the apartment on 5th - 12th August 2006 )Fine we are ready to pay �1000 for a week and we are going to rent two weeks,Please My clien in the United Kingdom that is indebted to us in the amount of 4,500 pounds,


i will want you to forward to me the the following informations below that i will need to forward to the My client indebted to me so that they can make out the payment directly to you and you will deduct ur money out and have the excess amount on the payment sent to my ticket agent via WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER ,

All charges you are to pay at the western union office when sending the excess amount of money should be deducted from my balance, And since i am renting your (Apartment ) from you at this time,I will want to really be sure that my funds will be safe in your hands ,So inorder for us to complete the renting of the (Apartment ) now,I will want you to get back to me with the following informations inorder for me to forward it to the My Client inorder for her to make out the payment in your name and send it to you with out any furtherdelay,
The following informations that i will require from you are as follows,

1] YOUR FULL NAME TO BE WRITTEN ON THE CHECK,
2] YOUR DIRECT HOUSE ADDRESS WHERE YOU WILL WANT THE PAYMENT TO BE SENT TO,
3] YOUR DIRECT CELL PHONE NUMBER THAT YOU CAN BE REACHED AT ANYTIME OF THE DAY


Upon receipt of this informations i have just requested from you,I will immediately forward it to the Company indebted to me to make out the payment in your name and send it to you immediately,I will be awaiting your response as soon as you get this mail,Do confirm this mail and get back to me as soon as possible.
Thanks 
Steve

IN SUMMARY:  DO NOT ACCEPT A CHECK FOR MORE THAN THE AMOUNT OF THE PRICE OF THE RENTAL.
(Some checks, drawn on foreign banks, will bounce weeks after you have deposited the check. If you have sent a good check back for the "overpayment", they can cash your good check and then disappear.)




I cannot stress enough how many people fall for these scams, as they are EXTREMELY convincing.  I can only hope that more people find TUG or this article before being ripped off.





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