It’s totally understandable. You’re fed up with rising timeshare fees and rigid schedules (can’t blame you there!), and you want out. You’re worried you’re never going to get out from under your timeshare contract. But that frustration and fear can cloud your judgement and make you a target for a scammer.
Scammers prey on people hungry to sell their timeshares. And with 85% of timeshare owners reporting that they regret their purchase, there’s no shortage of people for scam artists to attack.1 Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.
Timeshare Resale Scams and Tactics
Watch out for timeshare resale scams and slimy tactics designed to rob you of your money and peace of mind. If you run into any of these tricks, you need to walk away ASAP.
Sites like Craigslist and eBay are littered with timeshares for sale. Some for as little as $1. (That alone should be a sign that timeshare contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, literally!)
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And these resale sites become a great place for scammers to pick out their next target. If you’re using any kind of online resale site, never list any personal or identifying information there that a scammer can snatch. They can use your name, phone number or email address to contact you, pose as a potential buyer or reseller, and scam you out of hundreds or thousands of dollars.If someone is contacting you out of the blue or outside of a site’s messaging platform, stop right there.
Asking for Payment Up Front
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. First, some smooth-talking scam artist wins your confidence by promising a great deal or a big payout. Then, once they’ve got your attention focused on finally being rid of your heavy timeshare burden, they mention they’re just going to need a little something up front to get the deal going. Nothing crazy, they say. Just money for taxes and fees. And before you know it, you’re handing over a fistful of cash or a stack of gift cards, and they’re gone like the wind.
Think about it like this. When you buy a house, do you pay the real estate agent before or after the deal closes? After, right? Same thing with a timeshare. If someone is asking for money up front, especially non-traceable funds like cash or gift cards, it’s buh-bye!
Here’s another classic scam artist tactic: urgency. That’s right. Good scammers make you think you only have a limited time to act before the deal is gone. They’ll say things like, “You need to act fast” or “This is a limited-time offer!”
Look, if there’s one thing that’s certain in life (besides death and taxes), it’s that unloading a timeshare is not a fast-moving process. If someone tells you your time to act is running out, that’s the perfect time to tell them you’re hanging up.
As sleazy as the timeshare business is, it’s still a business. Most states require people who sell real estate to have a license to do so. If you’re talking to someone about selling your timeshare and they aren’t licensed, this is your sign to walk away. Not sure if they’re licensed or want to double check? Many states have a license look-up tool you can use for free.
Sounds Too Good to Be True
This one is simple. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. While purchasing a timeshare takes almost no time at all, getting out of one is almost always a giant pain in the neck. If someone claims they can get you an amazing deal or promises to get you out of your contract lightning fast, that’s your cue to go.
If you thought getting scammed once stung, just imagine if it happened twice. Think of this trick as the double scam. Here’s how it works.
Scammer #1 swindles you out of funds by telling you they’ve got an interested seller for you or they’ve got a shiny, limited-time only offer. All you need to do is pay them a fee and they’ll connect you to the interested seller or get you hooked up with the sweet deal. You pay the “fee,” and then they’re gone like a freight train.
Then—and here’s the worst part—Scammer #1 passes you off like a relay baton to Scammer #2. That person contacts you posing as a consumer protection agency, the government or even a lawyer, alerting you that you’ve been scammed. They tell you that they’re there to help you recover your funds or include you in a class action lawsuit. All you need to do is—you guessed it—pay them an up-front fee.
No government or consumer protection agency is going to call you and demand money before they help you.
Timeshare scammers are pros. It’s their job to manipulate, trick and confuse people. If you get mixed up with one, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your local and state consumer protection agencies (like the Better Business Bureau) as soon as you can. They may be able to provide some kind of recovery assistance.
If you gave the scammers money through a debit or credit card, contact your bank or credit card company immediately and cancel your cards. You might have some built-in fraud protection that could come in handy and save you from being out whatever money you turned over to the scammer. And by canceling your cards, you’ll protect yourself from other forms of fraud if scammers try to do anything else with your personal information.
Getting Rid of Your Timeshare Safely
Just think what it would be like to not pay all those crazy annual fees and maintenance fees. Or what it would be like to vacation anywhere you want, anytime you want. A timeshare can’t give you that kind of freedom. But getting out is going to take time and patience.
Do Your Research
Gather all your timeshare-related documents, then start looking at your options. You might be able to sell your timeshare or ask the resort to take it back. But you’re not going to want to navigate this all on your own. These companies are ready to give you the hard sell to keep you locked in. You want a team on your side.
Work With a Reputable Company
If you’re done with your timeshare, look to a reputable company to walk you through the timeshare exit process. It can be a maze, so don’t go it alone! But don’t just go with anybody. Some of these timeshare exit companies are as scammy as the scammers. Proceed with caution. Ask questions. And don’t be afraid to walk away if you’re getting a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.