Fraudsters and con artists prey on unsuspecting people, usually with a decent amount of money in the bank, by dangling “too good to be true” offers everything from cars and trips to luxury homes and rentals. Timeshare property is an oft-used ploy with scammers because these gorgeous vacation destinations are extremely appealing to the average American and they’re difficult to resist.
A timeshare property in Aruba, or one in Florida, or one in the Outer Banks of North Carolina may seem absolutely breathtaking on paper (and in online images), but buyer beware! There are con artists out there who make their living at scamming people out of their hard earned dollars and promise luxurious vacation getaways that are either fake or too costly to ever enjoy.
What, Exactly is a Timeshare?
The AARP website succinctly explains the concept of timeshare with the following: “The U.S. time-share industry was born in the 1970s, based on a simple innovation. Instead of selling a condo unit to a single buyer, a developer could market the unit based on time. This meant a single condo could become 52 units (or weeks) and be sold to as many as 52 owners, each paying a share of the price.”
A timeshare is a vacation property arrangement that lets you share the property cost with others in order to guarantee time for yourself at the property. However, once you’re reeled into a timeshare agreement, things usually get ugly quickly. What the timeshare developers don’t tell you is that costs like maintenance fees (and other incidental fees they may not even mention at first) may grow exponentially after the initial deal is agreed upon through a binding contract.
Many people who purchase timeshare property cannot afford the ever-increasing costs of owning the timeshare, and then they want to know how to get out of the contract. Unfortunately, the timeshare scammers use valid legal contracts to ensure you are legally financially responsible for your end of the deal no matter how ridiculously high the price gets over time.
Signs of Timeshare Fraud
You can be certain that any beautiful property or luxury vacation that can be yours completely “free” is a scam. You may get “free tickets to Disney World,” and all you have to do is speak to a timeshare representative with an awesome vacation townhome in sunny Miami. Anything free is a red flag, and anything stating that a trip is free as long as you listen to a sales pitch is surely a timeshare offer that you may want to avoid. Here are some common signs of timeshare fraud:
- Scratch off tickets and raffle tickets announcing you’ve won something is a scam. You will be charged for the “prize” once you’ve signed on to purchase a timeshare.
- If an offer is too good to be true, then it is not true. If you’re offered a lower mortgage rate for a timeshare in a high-end resort, you probably will end up paying a lot more for maintenance fees.
- If a resort calls you for a timeshare offer, it may be a scammer because timeshare buyers should be the ones calling the resorts and developers, not the other way around.
- If a resale company contacts you to sell your timeshare, it’s usually a scam because they are hoping you’re likely to fall for a second scam after your initial timeshare purchase.
Timeshare buyers almost always regret their purchase, according to experts. The reason for buyer’s remorse is almost always the same: The person purchasing the timeshare did not get what he was promised. In some cases, the timeshare is a complete fraud and the property may not even exist, but in other cases the problems are a bit subtler and may take a while to discover. Here are some tips for protecting yourself from a timeshare scam:
- Only buy a timeshare from a legitimate and reputable resort or developer that you have verified with the local Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the Attorney General’s office.
- When reselling, make sure that the resale company is legitimate; make sure the realtor you use has a valid license and is in good standing in the realty community.
- Carefully go over the contract with an attorney who understands these complex legal documents. Your attorney will be able to ensure what you’re singing on for is what was promised to you.
- Get advice from a financial advisor before signing any legal documents.
- If your gut is screaming at you that something is off, then you should walk away.
Before you agree to check out the gorgeous online property available now for an insanely low price, do your homework. Timeshare scammers now have their work cut out for them with abundance of information the Internet provides potential victims, but they will still prey on unsuspecting people who may not read reviews of the company who contacted them about purchasing a timeshare.
If you’ve been the victim of timeshare fraud or you’re trying to get out of a contract with a timeshare company, please find a timeshare attorney in your area today to schedule a consultation. Timeshare fraud cases are usually very complex, and you’ll need the guidance of an experienced attorney who’s handled these tough cases.