Timeshare sales becoming a scam danger zone

Timeshare fraud draws attorneys general attentionTimeshare sales. For many that evokes thoughts of high-pressure sales tactics in an industry that has been plagued at various times with a deservedly poor reputation. Timeshare complaints from Ohio consumers alone nearly doubled from 2008 to 2009 to 80 and complaints so far in 2010 are on a pace to surpass that, prompting that state's attorney general to issue a warning about the growing problem of timeshare sales scams.

While the industry has worked hard to clean up its image -- and big names in the hospitality industry such as Hilton and Marriott are major players -- a growing scam has once again shined light on the darker side.

As with any scam, desperate people make great targets and when the number of people who are desperate become larger, the temptation for crooks grows yet more. With the economy still struggling and people looking to unload their timeshares, opportunistic crooks have set their sites on those who haven't been able to sell.

The way this scam typically works is the sellers make payments to supposed agents -- often $1,000 or more -- with the promise of finding a buyer for the timeshare. The agents don't get a buyer, but pocket the cash.

"We know that the tough economy has made it difficult for share owners to resell, so they are turning to outside agencies to act as a broker," Attorney General Richard Cordray said in a statement. "They are paying sometimes thousands of dollars in upfront fees to companies that promise to sell, but then do not."

Still more companies are playing the old game of hardcore sales, often leaving consumers reeling over promises unfulfilled.
Pennsylvania consumers in June got refunds from a Florida-based timeshare company after the attorney general stepped in over expensive vacations they had been lured into but then were not able to take.

The Federal Trade Commission advises timeshare owners to be skeptical of anyone who says they can resell your timeshare. They offer tips for reselling timeshares and avoiding scams in the process:
  • Don't make an agreement over the phone until you've checked with a state attorney general's office or Better Business Bureau about the reseller
  • Receive all information about the resale in writing
  • Confirm that the reseller's license covers the location of your timeshare
  • Get details about how the reseller plans to promote and advertise your timeshare
  • Devise a system for monitoring the reseller progress
To make sure you're receiving an appropriate price for your timeshare, consider hiring an appraisal company with a current license in the state of the service.
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