ARLINGTON, VA. — Responding to more than 26,000 complaints nationwide about timeshare fraud, the Better Business Bureau has released some tips and advice for anyone who wants to either buy or sell a vacation ownership plan.
Before heading down this path, BBB says buyers and sellers need to keep some things in mind, including perhaps the most important: to adamantly avoid paying up-front fees.
Owners of timeshares who try to sell them have fallen victims to fake resale firms that ask for upfront fees to cover everything from processing a sale to advertising fees. A lot of these sellers have complained to local law enforcement that they never heard back from the resale firm once they’ve given their credit card information to them.
BBB notes that there may be closing costs or other fees associated with the purchase of a timeshare, but it’s a serious red flag if the resale firm begins pressuring the seller to pay any fees upfront, particularly if there are no contracts involved.
BBB also recommends doing just that, and getting an iron-clad contract – and being sure to read the fine print before signing it.
That’s the safest way, the agency notes, to be sure that a company is actually trying to sell your timeshare – or simply charging you to advertise the listing. In fact, get everything in writing by asking the salesman to spell out all fees, proposed timing, schedules for the sale, and the way the firm plans to advertise the unit to the public.
A good way to check out that company, the consumer agency suggests, is by logging on to www.bbb.org to check out the BBB Business Review for a company before any money is exchanged. The agency also recommends that sellers get information from their state or local Real Estate Commission about a company before trusting them to sell your timeshare. Only licensed brokers, BBB notes, should be given this responsibility. The Real Estate Commission can also provide references, the agency notes.
Also, the agency recommends that sellers never wire cash, and that they quickly walk away from any company that asks for a wire transfer, or that ask them to pay cash – especially from businesses in other countries.
Credit cards, the agency notes, offer a certain amount of fraud protection that a wire service can’t provide.
Most of all, BBB points out, remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true … it is! The agency suggests that sellers should be leery of any firm that promises, for example, a quick turnaround on the sale, or the ability to sell it fast even with a big, impressive-sounding selling price. What these amount to, the BBB suggests, are high pressure sales tactics that should be an obvious warning sign.
Before selling your timeshare, the BBB recommends that people read the Federal Trade Commission’s advice on selling a timeshare.
Scams can be reported to both the BBB and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as local law enforcement agencies.
The FBI has reported that con artists often contact victims by phone or email, promising to sell their timeshare quickly, often as fast as 60 to 90 days. They ask for hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover everything from closing costs to listing fees.
After the victim gets scammed, the FBI has warned, they often get contacted a second time, by someone claiming to be from a recovery company that will help them get back the money they lost to the original resale company. That money, they claim, can be recovered – for a fee.
In most instances, the FBI warns, these scam artists are associated with the original resale company, and this is all part of a prolonged effort to rob the victim.
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