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Scam Alert

New Twists on Old Time-Share Cons

Crooks contact previous victims promising to get their money back

Watch out for new twists in long-standing time-share scams that target owners who are desperate to unload unwanted units.

One new tactic: Promise help to people who’ve already been hit.

Sign up for the AARP Money Newsletter.

Time-share owners already swindled of upfront fees on the promise of a quick sale are being contacted by so-called fraud recovery specialists who promise they can recoup the money. The Internet Crime Complaint Center reports cases “where people involved with the recovery company also have a connection to the resale company, raising the possibility that time-share owners are being scammed twice by the same people.”

For several hundred dollars upfront, the so-called fraud recovery firms may deliver nothing more than forms or instructions on how to file complaints with government watchdog agencies — they’ll do no actual legwork on your behalf. And such complaints can be filed for free by contacting the Federal Trade Commission or your state attorney general offices.

In another variation, scammers don’t promise to sell units, but to rent them out, sometimes claiming to already have clients who are interested.

The so-called rental companies may demand advance payment for placement, management or maintenance services. If the time-share is located in another country, they sometimes tack on additional fees supposedly required in that country.

These new schemes may be cropping up because the heat is on concerning the old scams of promising a time-share sale, then taking fees and heading for the hills. There’s been widespread publicity about these cons, and federal and state officials have already shut down a number of unscrupulous resellers.

Florida, meanwhile, has enacted the country’s first law aimed at time-share fraud — about a third of all U.S. time-share units are located in that state. The measure goes into effect in July.

Next: Avoid complaints when selling a time-share. »

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