Buying a time-share has long been viewed as a risky proposition, fraught with high-pressure sales tactics and ripe for potential rip-offs. It also pays to be wary when someone offers to help you sell your part-time vacation property.
The typical time-share resale scam works something like this: You get a call from a supposed broker who’s seen your “for sale” ad online and claims to have a buyer lined up and ready to make a deal. The caller might even provide a name and phone number for the buyer, who confirms his or her interest.
The scammer sends over signed purchase documents that look legitimate, then asks you to provide a credit card number or make a wire transfer to cover any number of sale expenses: taxes, maintenance fees, closing costs, escrow and title services, or an upfront fee for the resale company. You may be promised a refund of some or all costs when the deal closes.
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But the deal never closes; the scammer has simply pocketed the fees, which could run into the thousands of dollars. By the time you realize you’ve been swindled, it may be too late to dispute the credit card transaction. And you’re still stuck with the time-share.
These schemes can be lucrative. According to the Department of Justice, a Mexico-based telemarketing ring busted by the FBI in October 2019 collected more than $10 million in fees by targeting people across the U.S.., Canada and South America with phony promises to facilitate time-share sales. Two participants in the scam have pleaded guilty to date and are serving 18-month prison terms.
If you own a time-share, take these precautions to avoid being preyed upon.
- Any unsolicited approach by a reseller, particularly one who promises a handsome return on the sale.
- A resale company that claims your area is hot and they’re overwhelmed with potential buyers seeking time-shares.
- A reseller promises to modify or cancel your contractual obligation with the resort with which you have a time-share. The American Resort Development Association, an industry group, advises owners to be skeptical of such claims.