Timeshare Scams

Over the years, I have owned 8 different timeshare weeks, and I can say it was a great way for me and my family to vacation.  I owned Carlsbad Inn, Tamarack, Lawrence Welk, Kahana Falls in Maui, and Plantation Village in the Cayman Islands.  I traded my timeshares for great vacations at Harborside Atlantis,  Manhatten Club in New York,  Vistanna Disney World, Kauai, Key West, Saint Martin, Aruba, Bonaire, and many other great places.  When I sold these timeshares, I sold them myself, and I seldom lost any money.

  1. There was one thing in common with all these timeshares…I bought them “cheap” on the resale market.  If you bought your timeshare from a timeshare developer, you are probably in trouble.  Don’t get desparate, avoid being ripped off.  Most timeshare scams involve a promise of a quick sale of the seller’s timeshare interest in exchange for an upfront fee. However, after the fee is collected, little or nothing is done to sell your timeshare interest. But, as is the case with most scams, there are variations of timeshare resale fraud as well. The following are three of the most common fraudulent practices, according to DRE officials:
    1. Unlicensed and illegitimate timeshare reseller fraudsters pose as legitimate and licensed real estate brokers, thereby providing a false sense of security, and then demand the payment of monies up front in connection with the purported resales. However, no services of any kind are actually provided.
    2. Scammers falsely tell timeshare owners that the “agent” has found a “ready and willing” buyer for their timeshares. The scammer asks for listing or “paperwork fee” to effect the transaction, but once the fee is collected, the seller never hears from the company again.
    3. Fraudsters pose as timeshare buyers and use such advertising slogans as “Will Buy Your Timeshare for Cash”, “Timeshares Wanted”, or something similar, to lure timeshare owners. The scammers then ask the owners for “a small amount” of money up front to process the paperwork for the transfer. Once those monies are paid, the owners never hear from the scammers again.

The following practical advice can help consumers from falling victim to a timeshare scam:

  • The request for an upfront or advance fee is a red flag. You should contact DRE before agreeing to pay an advance fee to determine the lawfulness of the fee.
  • Only licensed real estate brokers may list and sell “timeshares for resale”. Check the license status on the DRE’s website to determine if the company or broker is properly licensed.
  • Request a copy of the reseller agent’s written contract that you will be required to sign and a written disclosure of all fees and costs, and you are wise to never pay for services or assistance in advance of the performance of services.
  •  Check out the company or persons with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Check them out through a Google, Facebook, or related search on the Internet. Often consumers who have been scammed will post their experiences, insights, and warnings long before any criminal, civil or administrative action has been brought against the scammers.
  • If you have been a victim of a timeshare scam, file a complaint with the Department of Real Estate.

Several places that I have gone to sell my timeshares are “Timesharing Today” magazine, TUG (Timeshare User Group at Tug2.net)  and the website “Redweek.com.”   If you wonder what your time share is worth on the resale market, these sources are also a good place to look.

I think the timeshare marketplace has changed over the years and there is no longer a need to own a timeshare.  You can go to Redweek.com and rent a timeshare for about the same price as the timeshare owners are paying for just their maintenance fees.  Don’t pay what they are asking, but negoitate.  Renting a timeshare this way is fun, cheaper, and you don’t have any ownership responsibility.

If you would like any type of real estate advice, contact Gary Harmon, your San Diego North County Realtor.