Buying a vacation home can be out of reach for many people. But what about buying a “piece” of a vacation home? That’s the idea behind timeshares – you pay a fraction of the cost for a property and have access to it for a set amount of time each year.
As the industry has grown, it has expanded to include opportunities to trade your timeshare for time in another property – meaning you can pick a different location for your vacation every year. And at the same time, the business of selling timeshares has also boomed.
There are many ethical timeshare companies but of course, every industry has its share of bad actors.
A Laredo consumer recently contacted Better Business Bureau of San Antonio to report losing over $8,000 to a group posing as a legitimate timeshare broker. The victim received a call from a Colorado-based brokerage offering to help sell his shared property. Since the property is in Mexico, a lawyer from that country was also involved in the setup. The group insisted on requesting initial funds for capital gains and other fees necessary to sell the timeshare. Documents and emails impersonated actual brokers, attorneys and even Mexican government forms. However, after questioning the legitimacy of the money requests, communication stopped and funds totaling $8,000 was lost. The victim is in contact with authorities.
No matter what form this scam takes, the calls lure the victim to transfer money to pay various “fees”, “taxes,” or even “commissions” to move money from one country to another. Because they use general wire transfers, any funds the victim sends are rarely recovered. According to the FBI, consumers lose millions of dollars annually to this scheme.
BBB offers the following advice to avoid becoming a victim of this type of scam:
Be wary of unsolicited offers. If an opportunity to sell your timeshare simply falls in your lap (or your inbox) and appears too good to be true, it probably is.
Do your research. Visit bbb.org to review legitimate timeshare resellers, complaints and reviews. Look on the secondary market for properties being resold.
Be suspicious of transactions that involve initial fees. Scammers will often tempt you with a great offer and request several rounds fees to further the transaction. Never share bank account numbers or other personal information with someone you’ve never met. Use credit cards if you must dispute charges.
Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Scammers typically try to make you think something is scarce or a limited time offer. They want to push you into action before you have time to think or to discuss it with a family member, friend, or financial advisor. High-pressure sales tactics are also used by some legitimate businesses, but it’s never a good idea to make an important decision quickly.
Consumers can report scams to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov and the FBI at fbi.gov. For International assistance, consumers can reach out the Department of Homeland Security. Consumers can also report scams to BBB.org/scamtracker.