When we hear the words vacation ownership, we think of happy families sharing memories together year after year. The biggest names in hospitality have been in the timeshare industry for decades, recognizing the opportunity to provide their guests with family friendly accommodations and long term vacation benefits. Think about this: if timeshare was a scam, would companies like Disney, Marriott, Hilton and Wyndham ever want to be associated with it? Would they risk their reputations on it? When we think of those brands, we picture images of magic… comfort… quality… they are names we all know and trust. These companies each have thousands of employees working tirelessly every single day to ensure their guests and owners are well taken care of. They all sell their own versions of timeshare ownership or vacation club membership. They have developed members-only benefits programs, offering discounts and savings on more than just accommodations, a real value easily justifying the purchase price for those that take advantage of it. It is up to each member to decide if ownership is right for them, and to plan their vacations to get the most out of everything these brands have to offer. Value is in the eye of the beholder. There is nothing deceiving about what they stand for or the product they present you with.
While timeshare itself is not a scam, the timeshare industry does seem to attract fraudsters that want to spoil its image. We have been in business for over 20 years as a trusted timeshare resale service provider, and have heard our fair share of horror stories from clients falling victim to fraud. For most people, it can be tough navigating the resale market -how do you tell the legitimate timeshare resale companies from the scam artists? How do you know who can really help you exit your timeshare, cancel your timeshare or sell your timeshare? It can be especially confusing when the media and pop culture take individual cases of fraud and paint a picture of the entire industry. We have put together a little guide on the types of timeshare scams out there, how to spot timeshare fraud and most importantly, how to know who to trust to help you buy and sell your timeshare.
The timeshare industry has come a long way since the days of high pressure sales tactics and misleading statements from timeshare developers. Vacation ownership clubs and resort developers want a positive reputation and satisfied customers, seeing the long term value in making their members happy. Image is everything and these developers strive to represent value, trust and luxury. Even the resale market has seen legislature passed to regulate what companies can and can’t say to consumers. While these regulations do keep consumers protected and the industry honest, there are always going to be “bad apples” out there.
How can you tell the difference between timeshare fraud and legitimate companies?
Let’s start by exploring the most common types of timeshare fraud. We will go over the timeshare resale scams Timeshares Only has both personally encountered and those we have heard about directly from the victims who found us after it was too late.
For over 20 years we have been providing legitimate assistance to timeshare owners who have been conned when they only want to sell a timeshare property that has become a burden. Our owner, Bert Blicher, has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) for his works to impose legislature that protects timeshare consumers. His passion for bringing stability and honesty to the resale market has been instilled across our team and is one of the main reasons why developers refer their owners to us when they want to sell their timeshare.
One of the best places to start when you are researching for how to sell your timeshare is by asking your resort or HOA. Even if you are behind on your payments, they would rather help you find a legitimate resale service than become a victim of one of these types of timeshare frauds. Keep reading to find out what to watch out for and how to report timeshare scams if you should encounter any.
Timeshare Fraud No. 1: “Your buyer is waiting” but we need funds to close first!
Timeshare resale scammers prey on owners that are desperate to sell their timeshare. One of the most popular schemes out there is an “out of the blue” call from a company claiming that they have a buyer for your timeshare. While you are still spinning from excitement, they might ask for personal information, and even worse they commonly ask for an up-front payment to be paid for the sale to close. These fees might be referred to as transfer fees, taxes, international transaction fees or any number of other completely fictitious explanations. You might even be so excited about the idea of never paying another annual maintenance fee that you don’t see the red flags here. First of all, a legitimate timeshare resale agency will NEVER reach out to you unsolicited. Unless you have given permission for them to contact you, this is illegal. Additionally, the transfer fees and commissions are typically paid for by the buyer, not the owners selling their timeshares! When you sell your timeshare, you will usually receive 100% of the proceeds. Sometimes there are exceptions here, like if you are behind on your dues and they are paid from the closing monies or the buyer has negotiated terms ahead of time with you to pay some of the closing fees because you have already used up this year’s points, just to name some examples. These are terms you would have agreed to during negotiations, not unanticipated expenses demanded from you to close!
Timeshare Fraud No. 2: Claiming to work for legitimate companies
In this day and age, scammers are becoming more and more tech savvy, even being able to manipulate the phone number that shows up on your caller ID! Our own Timeshares Only consumers have even been contacted this way, by a representative claiming to be an employee of Timeshares Only. These con artists do their research and represent themselves as employees of established and credible timeshare resale companies. They call the owners of properties listed for sale and make the claims described above – saying they have a buyer interested and that they require funds up front to close. We have even had reports of use of an email address ending in @timesharesonly3.com. Proceed with caution! NEVER pay up front closing costs or “luxury taxes”. As a general rule of thumb, never give out personal information like your credit card number, social security number or bank account number when someone calls you unsolicited. Do your research – make sure the company is legitimate and this person actually works there… then you call them! If anyone contacts you claiming to be with Timeshares Only, we urge you to contact us directly at 1-800-610-2734.
Timeshare Fraud No. 3: Exit your timeshare”, “mortgage cancellation” & “cancel your timeshare” guarantees
These companies are popping up everywhere lately! They are backed by celebrities who have probably never even owned a timeshare and make promises to “get you out” “cancel your mortgage” or “exit your timeshare” with a 100% money back guarantee. First of all, timeshare ownership is typically a deeded ownership of real property, executed in the form of a signed contract or purchase agreement (like when you buy a house), that is recorded with the county, with a deed in your name. You most likely had a “right of rescission” period when you first purchased your timeshare (usually around 10 days depending on state laws). Unless there was fraud, if you did not “cancel” or “exit” during that period, the purchase was valid even if you might have changed your mind. Have you ever heard of someone changing their mind on the home they have been living in for years and cancelling their ownership?! Crazy, right? These exit companies play on the emotions of regret, financial hardships and changes in life’s circumstances to convince unsuspecting owners that there is no resale market (not true at all) and then get them to part with THOUSANDS of dollars! The 100% money back guarantee is protected with the real truth in the fine print, which usually states something along the lines that they will have fulfilled their end of the deal when they get you an exit, even if you do not accept the terms of the exit agreement from your resort. That’s pretty vague!
As if that isn’t manipulative enough, consumers have been told that during this “exit process” they can stop paying their timeshare mortgage and maintenance fees. YOU SHOULD NEVER TAKE THAT ADVICE! Your credit is the one on the line here, not theirs. Unless you receive a satisfaction letter and hear directly from your resort or HOA that your debt is fulfilled, you should never stop paying on your timeshare. The last thing you want is the accumulation of late fees, collections, hits to your credit, or worse, foreclosure.
It is these exit companies that paint the picture of a dismal resale market and scare timeshare owners into not trusting legitimate companies that are here to help. KNOW YOUR OPTIONS. There is no reason you should be shelling out thousands of dollars of your hard earned money when you can hire a reputable company to market your timeshare for sale or rent and even put cash back in your pocket to cover maintenance fees while you are waiting for your timeshare to sell. Find out more about TO GO, our exclusive cash back program below:
Timeshare Fraud No. 4: Viking Ships: Don’t fall for the “timeshare rescue” pitch
Not to be confused with the cool looking vessels used to transport goods during the Viking Age, we are referring to viking ship shell companies; formed without any assets in them, whose sole purposes are to intimidate and defraud. Let me explain. Viking ship is an industry term for a shell company formed solely to transfer timeshare ownership to. These “relief companies” usually start out by putting an ad on the radio claiming to make you an offer for your timeshare. When you show up to a hotel or meeting room, they use scare tactics and made up statistics to tell owners that their timeshares are a burden to their families and that they are worthless (which is extremely unlikely). Now you have a problem that you weren’t even aware of! Then they swoop in and save the day, telling you they are there to help take it off your hands and all you have to do is sign your timeshare over (or even worse, pay a fee for their “services”). Most of these con artists take your money and never transfer the timeshare out of your name, resulting in collections and additional expenses to clean up those maintenance dues you stopped paying! By the time you realize it, they are long gone, like a thief in the night, leaving YOU with the penalties, late fees and in some cases foreclosure.
Let’s assume they actually did take the timeshare out of your name (you remember what happens when you assume?). Let’s say they do transfer the deed into their company name. When the maintenance fees come due, they have no intention of doing anything about them! There are no assets in the company so it cannot be sued. It’s usually an LLC so no real person can be sued and even if you can track down a responsible party to prosecute, they are long gone! This type of fraud is responsible for upwards of $8 million in unpaid maintenance fees in the industry, spilling over on to other owners and raising expenses for everyone.
Who can I trust to help me sell my timeshare?
With all of these scams out there, the first reputable source you can trust is your developer. These companies are usually large, publicly traded entities with laws they must follow and shareholders to answer to. They care about their brand, image and reputation. They have taken the time to thoroughly vet industry partners prior to ever forming a relationship or referring their owners to a third party. If you are not interested in owning your timeshare anymore, ask your developer or HOA where you should start. Some companies even have their own in-house programs, like Wyndham Cares, which offers multiple FREE options for Wyndham owners who no longer want or use their timeshare. If you are wanting to sell your timeshare, you will soon find that there is a little more to it than just signing on the dotted line like when you initially purchased it. Don’t let this stress you out – there are experienced people out there that can help!
Timeshares Only is one of the most trusted resale service providers in the industry, having established relationships with developers, investors, buyers and sellers for over 20 years. We have already been vetted by the top developers in the industry and passed with flying colors! Call us today 1-800-610-2734 and let one of our experts help you find the best solution for your timeshare.
There are also additional resources for timeshare owners through the American Resort Development Association (ARDA). This organization was established as a governing authority to regulate developers and protect consumers. ARDA has done this by establishing a strict code-of-ethics all members are required to abide by. Learn more about ARDA here. Our owner, Bert Blicher, is the former Chairman of ARDA, making it his life’s mission to promote a timeshare resale marketplace filled with integrity and honesty. This is just one more reason we feel we are the best company to help you sell your timeshare.
Finally, if you feel that you have been a part of a scam, contact your local authorities to file a report, reach out to the state attorney general, and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. ARDA encourages timeshare owners: be careful to thoroughly research any company before doing business with them or paying any upfront closing costs.
- How do I research reputable timeshare resale companies?
The first place we recommend you start is your developer. Ask them for a referral or even better, ask them if they have any programs that can help you. Next, visit the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) website. Their strict code of ethics weeds out the bad apples, leaving consumers with a source for research on who to trust and tools to sell your timeshare with confidence. Research is your best friend here – make sure you read reviews and start the search with a trusted authority.
- Do I need a timeshare resale broker?
When a buyer is interested in purchasing your timeshare property, it is your choice whether to accept, reject, or negotiate the offer. If you’re feeling brave, you can even choose to handle the sale on your own, although most owners prefer not to. We recommend letting a licensed broker facilitate the timeshare resale transaction, handling contracts, deed transfers, and working with reputable title companies to secure monies in escrow for everyone’s protection. We have done our research so you don’t have to, establishing relationships with the most trusted timeshare brokers in the industry. If you have any questions throughout this process, Timeshares Only has the best customer service in the timeshare resale market. Our experts are available by phone to assist you at any step in the process. Find out more about the steps to selling your timeshare here.
- Are timeshares worth it?
We hear this question all the time! Timeshare ownership over the past couple of decades has moved in the direction of points-based membership, where your deeded interest converts into vacation points you can use within a network of resorts, hotels and more. Being part of a vacation ownership club can provide you with loads of savings on vacation and travel over your lifetime! It comes down to a matter of personal preference and travel style. Vacation ownership offers both tangible and intangible benefits. There are so many clubs out there, some even going a step further by offering benefits like discounted flights, cruises, car rental, theme park passes and more. Timeshare ownership can be an exciting thing for your entire family. At Timeshares Only, we can help you buy, sell or even rent a timeshare while saving as much as 80% by buying resale! Looking for timeshare financing? We have you covered. Check out our current listings of affordable timeshare properties here or call us at 1-800-610-2734 and let one of our experienced consultants help you find an affordable timeshare property that is right for you.