The timeshare industry bears quite a bit of bad press, and not least due to the scammers, who seem to be a dime-a-dozen and are ready to swindle you out of an honest buck. Most of the fraud occurs around timeshare resales, and can appear to be anything from a legitimate business to a miracle. For elderly owners who don’t travel, or for those who can no longer afford their yearly maintenance fees, with a cold call with an offer to sell or purchase their timeshare, the fraudulent solicitation can be enticing, indeed. But when owners find themselves out $2,000 (or more) and with no legal recourse, the experience turns sour, and the whole timeshare industry is condemned.
BEWARE: There ARE scammers who will fraudulently attempt to take your money, but there are also those legitimate resellers who work hard to ensure an honest and satisfied timeshare transaction. Here are some tips on how to steer clear of the fraudsters and reclaim the experience of owning, buying, or selling vacation property as an honorable one.
Look for Licensure: Legit timeshare resellers will have real estate licenses, governed by their state of residence or practice, and managed by a state board. Ask for license numbers, and then verify their status on the state’s website, or look online here.
Pay Can Wait: Never pay anything upfront. Always wait until services are rendered. Many scammers ask for upfront fees and then run with your money. While there are costs associated with transferring timeshare resales, licensed agents will provide a detailed schedule of the anticipated fees in advance, and then ask for payment AFTER they have successfully completed the sale. Be wary of “agents” who ask for payment before providing paperwork or credentials.
Knowledge is Power: Research the company before you make any commitment. Google, Facebook, and Linked-In are good places to start, especially since other fellow customers are likely to post positive or negative experiences, but do some more digging. Try the Better Business Bureau. Read reviews on YELP. Request lists of banking and business references from the company, and verify their services with third parties. Verify, verify, verify!
Ask About Advertising: If you’re reselling a timeshare, find out where the company is promising to list it. Multiple Listing (real estate) services are accessible to the public online, and require state licensure to post, making them a safe bet, though with limited exposure. Some timeshare advertising websites are more reputable than others, but you should still be exceedingly cautious of anyone asking you to pay upfront, even for advertising.
Cross-check: Recently, scammers have been found to be posing as legitimate companies by adopting their names, so that when a customer goes online to research, they find positive reviews. Always, always, always double check. Go online and find contact information, compare that information with what the company originally provided. And if anything ever feels “fishy” or just not quite right, ask for more clarification. Get everything in writing, and consult legal help before you provide any funds or personal information.
Here is a document published by the state of California with more tips on how to avoid fraudulent timeshare resales. Read it for additional ideas, and keep our legitimate timeshare community strong and honest!