‘Tis The Season – Timeshare Scam Alert

published on December 12, 2012 by

During the recent ARDA Southeast Regional meeting in Orlando, Vice President of Florida state government affairs, Jason C. Gamel , moderated a panel on consumer protection, which featured Florida government officials. Florida is the state with the highest number of consumer complaints and victims of timeshare scams in the country.

Richard Thrawl, a member of the timeshare section of the Florida Bureau of Compliance, said his office is devoted to the resale scam issue. He advised that the first rule is to educate owners over and over about transfer companies.

“It’s a major difficulty to hit the scammers when they can empty out and move to a different apartment or house in a heartbeat. They don’t care about going to jail. The greed for more money is just too strong,” Thrawl said.

Minimum Processing Fee? A typical way that timeshare scammers work, explained Thrawl, is by calling a timeshare owner to say they have a buyer and there will be no cost to them other than a $200 processing fee. In a few days, they’ll call to say there will be another $1300 fee for the condominium documents.

“Later, it’s $2000 of unpaid maintenance fees and so forth. By the time the consumer has forked over $3,500, they are easy targets for more, having ‘invested’ so much,” said Thrawl.

Talk to the Happy Buyer? The scammers will even give owners the phone number of the “prospective timeshare owner.” They tell the victim they are welcome to call and check.

“Sure enough,” says Thrawl, “when they call, a fellow-scammer pretends to be a very enthusiastic buyer. In one case, an elderly woman eventually gave as much as $87,000. That’s how good these scammers are at what they do.”

How do scammers get lists of owners? Reviewing recorded deeds at the courthouse is too much trouble. Instead, they get contracts by buying them from low-level resort employees. If they can buy a flash drive for $25,000 and make $2500 or more from each victim, it’s well worth the cost for them.

Another major source is Craig’s List where they can buy a link and download a file. These lists will even have notes if a lead has been scammed in the past, is sick, widowed, has Alzheimer’s, or is just an easy mark.

Thrawl said timeshare owners should be aware of ARDA-ROC.org, where you can sign up for fraud alerts. And most of all, never, never send money to a post office box or through Western Union.

Owners can contact Thrawl’s office before they send money. “It is hard to believe, but consumers are still sending thousands of dollars to a post office box,” he said.

Whether it’s due to the economy, or simply that these scammers are becoming wealthier and more polished, Thrawl believes this is the worst he’s ever seen.

Avoid the scammers. List your resale on RedWeek.com and follow the simple instructions on how to stay safe. 

Or, read how RedWeek® can help you sell your timeshare with its Full-Service Timeshare Resale Program.

Source: ResortTrades
Image Credit: transfersmart.org