The concept of a timeshare certainly may seem attractive. Who wouldn’t want to have the option of having a dedicated vacation destination that they can use on a regular basis? Timeshares advertise themselves as allowing multiple individuals to split the costs of vacation real estate and be allotted windows of access (“time shares”) to the property. In reality, the industry is rife with predatory practices. From the moment one enters into a timeshare contract until they attempt to get out of a bad deal, almost nothing is straightforward.
Similar schemes include deeded timeshares, points-based timeshares, and vacation clubs. While the names differ, the basic premise is the same: the consumer is promised affordable access to a resort-like investment property that is actually extremely costly and difficult to use.
Joining a timeshare
Timeshare sales pitches are notoriously intense on the consumer. Common tactics include long delays or presentations to tire the prospective buyer, as well as claims that certain offers will only be available “today.” These predatory sales practices are designed to pressure the individual into agreeing to the timeshare impulsively. It is also common for salespersons to mislead consumers by over-exaggerating benefits, omitting certain costs, or outright lying about terms of a contract.
Exiting a timeshare
Once the purchaser realizes the hidden costs (such as recurring maintenance fees) or the inaccessibility of their timeshare, they may try to back out of the contract. Unfortunately, this is often difficult—if not impossible—to do. Timeshare companies craft their contracts in ways that make it hard to exit the deal. Some last for the lifetime of the purchaser and some contracts even pass on to the consumer’s inheritors when the timeshare purchaser passes away.
To take advantage of the complexities surrounding timeshare cancellation, an industry – timeshare exit firms — has popped up just to get individuals out of their timeshare. However, this industry itself is rife with controversy. Consumer complaints about timeshare exit companies frequently claim that such companies overcharge thousands of dollars for their services, provide assistance that the consumer could have accomplished on their own, or never fulfill their duties once they receive the money. In one instance, an individual from Illinois reported to Fraud.org that they paid $7,000 to a company that claimed it could cancel the consumer’s timeshare commitment. After paying the sum, the company abandoned the individual and never provided the promised assistance.
Reselling a timeshare
The high number of consumers seeking to sell their timeshares has flooded the market, making it extremely difficult to do so without incurring a significant financial loss. As a result, fraudsters have been preying on individuals who are stuck with a timeshare. Such scams typically begin with fraudsters promising to buy the timeshare from the consumer, who is often desperate to get out from under the financial burden of an unwanted timeshare. Victims report subsequently being hit with “banking fees,” “wire transfer fees,” “taxes,” “currency exchange fees,” and other charges, while the alleged purchaser never sends the funds and never takes the timeshare from the consumer.
In one Fraud.org complaint, a Maryland resident detailed a $45,000 loss when they attempted to use such an outfit to resell their timeshare. Like other similar cases, the scammers demanded the consumer pay previously undisclosed processing fees before they could sell their timeshare, all of which were bogus.
Whether you’re interested in purchasing a timeshare or looking to get rid of your own, keep in mind the following:
- Don’t entertain timeshare offers or other similar schemes. Avoiding these entanglements in the first place is the best way to avoid future losses.
- Never agree to a contract while under pressure. Additionally, if you do purchase a timeshare, find out what “cooling off” or cancellation terms may apply. While cooling off periods vary by locality, they typically allow you to back out of the contract within a few days of signing.
- Carefully consider all terms in writing before agreeing to any contract. Whether you’re purchasing, exiting, or reselling a timeshare, ensure that all details are available in print—especially details regarding payment requirements or conditions related to exiting the contract.
- Do your research. See what other people have said about the timeshare company you’re buying from, or the entity seeking to buy your timeshare. Be on the lookout for previous consumer complaints, litigation, or a record of misconduct.
- If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. The resale market for timeshares is very tough, with little-to-no buyers. Carefully scrutinize any offer when attempting to resell a timeshare as it is likely fraudulent.
If you or someone you know has been a fraud victim, help yourself and other by reporting it! By using Fraud.org’s secure online complaint form, your complaint will be shared with our network of consumer protection and law enforcement agency partners.