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Maybe you bought a timeshare at a resort a while back and have found you don’t have the time or inclination to use it or are growing tired of paying the rising annual maintenance fee.
Those are valid reasons for wanting to relinquish your timeshare, but they also make you a prime target for timeshare exit scammers, who promise to help you get out of your contractual obligation, but end up stealing your money.
While there isn’t reliable data on the prevalence of timeshare exit scams, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and others involved in helping victims of such fraud consider it a serious problem.
“I get three to four calls per week from folks that have been scammed by fraudulent timeshare exit companies,” says Andrew Connor, a Mount Pleasant, South Carolina-based attorney who often represents timeshare owners. The problem, he notes, is that once timeshare owners have given money to scammers, it’s basically impossible to get it back; criminals will often immediately transfer their ill-begotten assets overseas.
Consumer advocates and the timeshare industry itself say there’s no need to deal with these companies, because there are safe ways to exit a timeshare. Here’s how the scams work, and some tips on how to avoid them.
How timeshare exit scams work
Even if you haven’t thought about selling your timeshare, it’s not difficult for scammers to find you, by searching through real estate records, in order to convince you to do so. They also scour online platforms for ads posted by people who are trying to sell their shares.
Once they contact you, timeshare exit scammers resort to an array of unsavory tactics, according to Josh Planos, a BBB spokesperson. “The BBB has heard from consumers who were manipulated using high-pressure sales tactics, forced to sign up for credit cards to pay off balances or were held for many hours and forced to watch absurd presentations that cited inaccurate laws as a scare tactic,” he says.
Some shady companies market themselves as consultants, offering to advise people who own timeshares on how to get out of their contracts, and even offering to do some of the work on their behalf.