Since the 1980’s, regulatory agencies have been trying to crack down on consumer fraud in the timeshare industry. While the increasing number of exposed scams is encouraging, the lengths people go to defraud innocent consumers is disheartening. Especially when they involve vulnerable timeshare owners. The elderly have long been a target of timeshare sales operations. A declining level of discernment makes it easier to manipulate them. Former employees of major hospitality chains have even been terminated for reporting misconduct geared towards the aging demographic. But the “chasing of the buck” doesn’t stop with travel companies. 3rd party resort relief options, like those who partake in timeshare resale fraud, are becoming a big problem.
Many scam artists enter the timeshare marketplace because they know a good amount of buyers have already been misled. They also know that some of these owners are desperate to get rid of their expensive timeshare obligations once they realize it’s not for them. After struggling with the resort, many timeshare owners assume their only option is to sell the property. Even though a vast majority of timeshares have a $0 resale value, hundreds of resale companies look to take advantage of consumer desperation. Some are legitimate, most are not.
This was the case when Daniel “Wolf” Boyer hired 20 co-conspirators to develop a resale scheme that defrauded thousands of buyers across the U.S.. After stealing user information from different online sources, Boyer and his trusty team set off to persuade unhappy buyers to sell their timeshares. From late 2010 all the way through April of 2012, the resale scam was able to steal over $3.3 million, mostly from the elderly. While the Florida man (or “Wolf”) might have thought he was brilliant, his antics didn’t go unnoticed.
After following the scam and tracking Boyer, the USPIS, FBI and the Florida DACS built a case against the fraudulent operation. With the help of the Assistant U.S. Attorney, Dan Cowhig, they were able to easily prosecute those involved. To date, twenty members of the fraudulent scheme have been charged with a guilty plea. Boyer pled guilty to conspiracy and received two counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. While some of the co-conspirators await a judges decision, 6 have been sentenced and the “Wolf” will spend 63 months in federal prison. U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan also informed Boyer that his penalty would also include three years of supervised release. He also ordered him to pay restitution of $3.37 million to victims of the fraud.
How the Fraudulent Timeshare Resale Scheme Worked.
Falling victim to a scam is never on anyone’s agenda. But on the surface, many fraudulent operations seem very real. Despite there never being any “real” buyers, Boyer and his team went above and beyond to create online business “fronts” that manipulated their targets. By using fake identities, inactive companies and leasing temporary office spaces, unhappy timeshare owners viewed them as a viable solution.
Using this approach, Boyer and his co-conspirators were able to claim they had corporate offices in cities like Las Vegas even though he remained in Orlando, Florida. In order to cover their tracks, they used a number of business names including: Beneficial Business Solutions, Holiday Advertising, First Capital Financial Services Corp, Eastern Enterprises LLC, Professional Concepts LLC, TeleTeton Corp, Redline Funding LLC, Community Funding Corp, Equity Financial Services LLC, Vacation Funding Partners LP, Property People Travel, and Great West Funding Incorporated.
They also used internet phone systems to purchase local numbers. This enhanced their credibility because it made it look like they were calling from local offices. They even went as far as researching local news and weather to manipulate timeshare owners during phone calls. The product itself was a phony website with a handful of fake testimonials, press releases and stakeholders that linked to leased buildings on Google maps.
Everything seemed so promising. This goes to show how clever criminals actually are. Once the defendants were able to legitimize their business and gain consumer trust, they’d promise to sell the timeshare property. All they required was an upfront payment for half of the resale costs. This made them seem even more trustworthy because they didn’t require full payment until the job was complete. Criminal telemarketers refer to this as “the buyer’s pitch.” Once you hand them the cash, the rest is history. When it comes to timeshare resale fraud, the misconduct can drag out for a long time. Just ask Darren Kittleson, an Arizona realtor that fell for a similar scam.
Be Careful When Pursuing Timeshare Relief Options
Fraudulent operations, like Boyer’s, typically get going when stolen information, that a specific target audience believes is confidential, becomes available. Having access to this data gives scam artists the ability to easily mislead certain audiences. If you think one of your online profiles have been breached, keep your eyes peeled for potential scams. There are plenty of “wolves” in sheep’s clothing out there.
After Boyer’s case concluded, Nicholas A. Trutanich, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada, had a few words to say on the matter. “Today’s sentence demonstrates law enforcement’s commitment to protecting vulnerable elder populations in Nevada. Elder fraud and exploitation can have a crippling effect on victims, and federal prosecutors will pursue financial fraudsters who exploit our most vulnerable for personal and financial gain.” Although timeshare resale fraud is concerning, it seems as though our country is doing everything they can to eliminate the problem.
If you’d like to learn more about how we legally terminate timeshare contracts, feel free to schedule a FREE consultation or fill out a qualification form below.
State lawmakers in Arizona recently got together to discuss the opt-out capabilities for new timeshare owners. Republican, Shawna Bolick of Phoenix was hoping for the language of HB 2639 to include a rescission (cancellation) period of 14 days. This post purchase cool off allows the buyer to decide if they want to keep the property or not; after they’ve physically visited the resort themselves.
Amanda Rusing of the Attorney General’s Office testified on the importance of giving people a chance to experience what they bought — or what they thought they bought. She went on to say people think they’re “buying the opportunity to use a beach-front villa and what they end up with is a condo where, if you hang your head out the window on a sunny day, you can kind of see the ocean.’’ While Amanda brought up some great points, State legislature decided on a 10 day rescission period in Arizona instead.
What’s important about this decision is that most timeshare purchases are perpetual (lifetime) agreements. Once the cancellation window passes, it’s nearly impossible for owners to get rid of a timeshare. “At some point, these are adults that come to a meeting of the minds and want to sign a contract,” said Republican Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee. Most agreed that if buyers are serious about the purchase, then they’ll immediately give it a second look when they get home. If they’re not, then the timeshare company isn’t necessarily to blame. Republican, Travis Grantham, who chairs the House Regulatory Affairs Committee, even mentioned having an attorney review the contracts of major purchases.
Why Rescission Periods Don’t Matter to AZ Lawmakers
While giving consumers more time to finalize their decision would have put a dent in buyer’s remorse, timeshare companies (and lawmakers with skin in the game) know the hard sale is the foundation of their business. The impulse buy is what drives the timeshare industry. With that being said, lawmakers shifted their attention to the real problem behind it all: timeshare sales tactics. The issue lies in timeshare developer’s strategy to lure prospects into presentations and aggressively pressure them to buy right then and there. Senator Ugenti-Rita brought up the simple fact that, “buyers have some responsibility to know exactly what they’re signing.” Sales teams do need to make sure prospects aren’t being led on.
She went on to say the legislation does include some additional requirements regarding timeshare contract disclosure. While she doesn’t believe an extended rescission period will fix the problem, she believes a consumer “empowered with information” can make better decisions. The only way to do this is to educate consumers and make sure full disclosure is a priority during sales presentations. According to her, the protections the State can provide are limited. While she does have a point, things didn’t add up when they decided to do away with one of the few provisions that benefitted users.
Propositions to Eliminate Timeshare Contracts Were Shut Down
Another proposition that was denied was the right to eliminate timeshare contract perpetuity after 10 years; IF the mortgage was paid in full and there were no past due penalties or fees. While resorts have long advertised the “possibility” of cancellation by qualification, it’s rare because they can always disqualify your request. Over the years, timeshare companies have gotten very clever and their termination options are extremely misleading. Resorts and certain legislature made sure this element of HB 2639 wasn’t even a consideration. It makes sense because the money is made in their ability to sell paying customers more things.
The original version of HB 2639 also asked to disclose the estimated annual (and lifetime) assessments fees as well as other costs; such as taxes, maintenance fees and utilities. The attempt was to provide buyers with clarity on the totality of the investment so they could avoid the unexpected. This portion was removed. Grantham’s reasoning was that, “It was too difficult for any timeshare developer to forecast what the fees may be.” Additional protection for sellers was also nixed during the house committee.
The Connection Between Lawmakers and the Timeshare Industry.
In the end, a lot of public light was shed on the concern behind timeshare ownership. Rusing also told Arizona lawmakers that owners become so desperate that they try to sell the property for pennies just to eliminate timeshare obligations. But nobody wants them. She believes this sense of hopelessness has established a market flooded with scam artists that claim they can cancel timeshare contracts. The attorney general went on to point out the undeniable connection between politicians and resorts. It’s pretty obvious that timeshares are the pockets of legislature.
Because of this, consumers aren’t really protected. Their exposure to scams drastically increase once they’ve signed a timeshare contract. Although we believe timeshare ownership will be considered an epidemic at some point, there’s only so much we can do. As Arizonan lawmakers continue to figure out the best way to overcome timeshare regret, all we can do is spread awareness. If interested buyers are more informed, the probability of them making a good decision is a lot higher.
Vacation owners have been voicing their concern about timeshare availability since the 1980’s. But they haven’t been able to prove what was promised to them by the sales team. Today, a number of unhappy owners are finding restitution due to the number of sales and marketing regulations that now monitor the industry. The ability to document presentations on cell phones and access public information online has also worked in the consumer’s favor. Although timeshare companies have been smirking and pointing to contractual agreements for decades, they’re finally forced to acknowledge their misconduct and relieve some of their buyer’s remorse.
In December of 2018, Westgate Resorts became the latest timeshare company to be exposed for misleading sales tactics. Apparently, their Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa in Gatlinburg, Tennessee was selling “dream mountain vacations” that didn’t exist. Buyers were promised “rest and relaxation” in the heart of the Smoky Mountains; but important details were left out of the presentation. For starters, many buyers weren’t aware that their timeshare interest was subject to a “floating use” plan.
Instead of adequately explaining the terms of their package, sales agents focused on avoiding full disclosure. They knew certain details might deter their prospects. According to the lawsuit, Westgate used “secret pockets” in their leather binders to hide pertinent information from sales attendees. Since Westgate made it extremely difficult for buyers to find legal documents that disclosed their rights, many weren’t aware of their right to cancel the timeshare purchase. Once buyers figured out their “floating use” plan didn’t provide reasonable access to the property, they realized they’d been lied to.
The Problem With Westgate’s Timeshare Sales Strategy
Attorney Mark Chalos, with the Nashville office of Lieff Cabraser, is part of the team representing victims in the class action timeshare lawsuit. He believes that Westgate’s business model is to blame. “It’s part of a very complicated, high pressure scheme, as we’ve alleged, to take money but deliver essentially nothing,” said Chalas. “So, one unit, they may sell hundreds of times, and when people call to say, ‘I’d like to use a week’, they’re not available,” Chalos relayed.
According to court documents, Westgate’s aggressive business model relies on making money “by selling shares in property units, not by customers using the weeks they have purchased in those units.” The 65-page lawsuit also claims that Westgate sales reps are “encouraged to lie to customers in high-pressure sales pitches.” There are strong incentives in place to sell as many shares as they can for one condo. Not only do sales teams benefit from timeshare sales, but the resort does too. Overbooking keeps every unit full throughout the year, maximizing the property’s revenue opportunities.
In this specific lawsuit, the timeshare company basically used their units any way they pleased. They were either clearing out certain dates for sales presentations or repeatedly selling and renting units at premium retail prices. In other words, Westgate was controlling availability at the buyer’s expense in order to line their own pockets. Availability didn’t worry them because the money was rolling in.
Since the defendants (Westgate), refused to disclose material facts about the purchase to buyers and deliver on their expectations, they were in violation of the Tennessee common law and the statutory law. So far, the lawsuit consists of six clients that claim they’ve never been able to book a vacation at the Smoky Mountain timeshare. Two of which stated they spent $30,000 and $18,000 on the nonexistent opportunity.
Helping Timeshare Owners Find Relief
Westgate isn’t the only timeshare using these tactics. Minimal disclosure coupled with high pressure sales is pretty common in the industry today. Unfortunately, many timeshare owners end up paying thousands of dollars for the property on top of multiple upgrade costs and yearly maintenance fees. If you feel as though you’ve prematurely made a purchase or would like to get out of a timeshare contract you’re unable to use, we’d love to help. Feel free to schedule a free consultation or proceed with our qualification process below.
Frank and Betty Lusk have been advocates of timeshare ownership for quite some time. After retiring as Christian missionaries, they fell in love with their ability to travel the world. They’ve used fractional ownership to travel to Florida, Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean and even Scotland. Up until last year, every one of their timeshare purchases resulted in a positive experience. To them, each contract was relatively straightforward and affordable. This allowed them to confidently pay off most of their timeshare expenses. In a recent article with AZ Central, Betty went on to say, “We’ve enjoyed the timeshares.”
How they Were Manipulated into Buying
Although they’ve learned to appreciate timeshare travel, they weren’t looking to buy anything else while on a Caribbean cruise in September of 2018. Nonetheless, they were approached by a Diamond Resorts salesman during their voyage. He presented them with an enticing offer. Instead of enjoying a private dinner date, they decided to listen to his pitch about a special reception on a private island. Frank remembers how appealing it sounded to them. “They called it a dream holiday,” he said.
The persistence of the salesman was also memorable to the Lusks. Betty noted, “He really talked us hard into getting this.” The $150K timeshare purchase with 10% down was referred to as “life insurance” by the sales rep. He told them the contract would resolve any debt they had with Diamond once they were deceased. Since the Lusks were skeptical about this assertion, the salesman repeatedly showed them documentation that seemed to support his claim. Even though they weren’t able to keep a copy for themselves, it was enough to sway them into making the purchase.
By the end of their cruise, the articulate salesman succeeded at closing them on a timeshare contract worth $150K. On top of this outrageous amount, he was also able to secretly lock them into $19,000 in yearly maintenance and assessment fees. Without being privy of the additional fees, they went ahead and completed the purchase by borrowing money against their retirement home in Phoenix, Arizona.
Intuition Told Them to Cancel the Timeshare Purchase.
As the cruise docked on their 68th wedding anniversary, Frank and Betty started to become uneasy about the purchase. Instead of celebrating their marriage, they were full of regret. Their gut told them to take advantage of their rescission period (legal window to cancel) by sending a certified letter to Diamond Resorts. In the letter they stated, “We do not want to encumber ourselves with further debt at our ages.” Shortly after their sigh of relief, the salesman called them to talk them out of their cancellation request. Surprisingly, they changed their minds.
Apparently, “We’re too trusting,” said Frank. Betty added, “We’re Christian people, I guess we’re not as worldly wise.” Unable to stand up to the salesman, the anxiety of the purchase ate at the Lusks. Eventually, they sent another letter that demanded Diamond Resorts cancel their agreement, accusing the company of elderly abuse. A settlement with the Arizona Attorney General in 2017 for false promises and sales misconduct reinforced their decision. The lawsuit included a number of timeshare owners that also felt like hardball tactics had been used to keep them under contract. In their second letter, they stated, “Keeping this contract would lead to our bankruptcy.” But similar to those involved in the previous settlement, the Lusks also experienced Diamond’s refusal to honor their right to cancel during rescission.
Charges Continued Even After Cancellation.
Even after the timeshare company confirmed the cancellation, the Lusks continued to receive bills in the mail. When they called the resort, they were told the contract was still valid. Despite a confirmation letter from Diamond, they were still being held responsible for payments. “It was a nightmare,” Frank said.
Since the Lusks had never experienced anything like this before, they weren’t sure where to turn. After researching relief options, they decided to use a timeshare cancellation company to permanently terminate the purchase. After paying $10,000 to cancel, they were finally free and clear from their obligation to pay. Frank now labels the getaway as, “the dumbest thing we ever did.” Betty, now 88, has endured insomnia and fainting spells ever since the experience. After being hospitalized several times, it’s safe to say her perception of the industry has changed.
Buying a Timeshare Can Be Extremely Risky
Cases like these happen all the time. We recently helped an elderly client escape her $140,000 timeshare contract after she took out a reverse mortgage on her home to pay for it. A few weeks ago, we also helped a retiree that wasn’t even able to use his property because of a medical condition. He and his wife paid $40,000 (through ACH) out of their personal bank account while the timeshare financed the remaining $30,000 on a Barclays credit card.
The fact of the matter is, every month, hundreds of thousands of dollars is being ripped from consumer’s hands by timeshare companies. Aside from educating consumers on the actuality of ownership, we want to help current owners get rid of timeshare contracts. If you’d like to learn more about your options, our consultants are available to talk to you for free. If you’re set on terminating your agreement, you can access our qualification form below.
Timeshare ownership can be a difficult road to navigate. Once you’ve become immersed in the purchase, misconduct typically appears from all directions. It can be quite overwhelming, especially if you’re unaware of the actual intentions behind a majority of “can’t miss” offers. Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time educating timeshare owners (or those considering the purchase) on the possibilities of resort life. No matter how many hypothetical situations we express, we’ve found that actual stories resonate best. While most people don’t want to believe they’re being duped, listening to someone else’s bad experience tends to heighten awareness.
While it can be difficult for the average consumer to point out crafty misconduct, it’s important that they understand what other timeshare owners have gone through. The fact of the matter is, not everyone has had a bad timeshare experience. At the same time, many owners are left reeling when the purchase doesn’t work out. Dissatisfaction can easily lead to further mistakes that put them in a deeper hole financially. Some decisions can be life changing and even psychologically draining. In order to help you understand how, let’s take a look at Darren Kittleson’s story.
How The Experienced Realtor Was Scammed
When it comes to timeshare scams, even people that know real estate can be easily taken advantage of. This was proven when a savvy realtor was led to believe he could make money on his timeshare property. After being robbed of more than $24,000 for trying to sell his Garza Blanca Resort property in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Darren is now speaking up about his experience. He still can’t believe he didn’t see the scam for what it was. Despite 30+ years in realty, he was fooled during a real estate transaction. Even though he repeatedly did his due diligence throughout the scam, he wasn’t able to uncover anything that worried him. If you take anything from this article, we hope it’s how good the modern day pickpockets are.
While losing that much money was tough, he views it as a learning experience. Now that he has closure, his goal is to help other timeshare owners avoid similar losses while spreading awareness on the deceptive practices of predatory resellers. In an interview with AZ Central, he touched on how he thought everything was 100% real by saying, “They were so sophisticated in how they did it.” No matter how many times he rekindles the experience, he can’t get over how “stupid” the whole thing makes him feel.
Sadly, many consumers are led to believe in timeshare solutions that don’t exist. The complexity of some of today’s scams are disturbing. The worst part is that relief-seeking timeshare owners are eagerly trying to get out of timeshare contracts when they’re bamboozled. Instead of finding resolve, they increase their loss. In Darren’s interaction with the phony reseller, everything seemed to add up perfectly. No matter his level of skepticism, the salesperson was always able to (shrewdly) reassure him that everything was going to work out in his favor. What’s sad is, he’s not alone. Fraudulent cases like this one tend to have a detailed plan throughout.
The Initial Phone Call and Supporting Misconduct
When Kittleson was first contacted by the scammers, they claimed to represent Westwood Realty in Phoenix, Arizona. They knew everything about his upcoming reservations and offered to buy the dates he booked. When he researched the company, the credibility of the Arizona business and brokerage seemed legit. At first glance, nothing stood out to him. Even their licensing was up to date. The manipulation that went into this first impression was crucial for the scam to work.
What Kittleson didn’t consider was the simple fact that the caller did not actually represent Westwood Realty. It’s hard for most people to understand how easy it is to create a fake online business presence. Moreover, most law-abiding citizens can’t even begin to think like a criminal. No matter the level of deception, the average consumer is already at a disadvantage. What “they don’t know” is normally used against them. Since the scammers knew about Darren’s travel plans, it was easy for him to assume a con wasn’t in place. His ability to easily find company information and reviews only added to his confidence. A fraudulent company wouldn’t post their information online, would they?
Scammers Know How to Eliminate Disbelief.
Despite the persuasiveness of the phony broker’s business presentation, it wasn’t the only thing that gave Darren (and other timeshare owners) peace of mind. They even went as far as providing timeshare owners with bank statements that included real company letterheads and contact information. It’s almost as if they mastered the mistakes of other scams. Even phone numbers included area codes that validated the company’s level of congruence.
Once he was able to confirm that Westwood had a local brick and mortar location and zero complaints dating back to the 80’s, Darren was hooked – for a lot of money. According to Kittleson, he thought he was doing everything he needed to “in order to verify, verify, verify,” He even went as far as setting up a Google news alert for Westwood Realty in case something went sideways.
The internet has been a huge boon to unethical companies preying on timeshare owners. What many people don’t realize is, the lifespan of these fraudsters doesn’t have to last long. Once enough money is collected, they tear everything down and wait for the dust to settle before rebuilding the scam under a different brand name. It’s a scary thing to ponder. In Kittleson’s case, the scammer didn’t even go this far. They were simply using the credibility of an actual business to manipulate the sale. Westwood was nothing more than a bystander. In the end, there was nothing to tear down.
If an Offer Seems too Good to be True, Don’t Take it.
Once the scammers established a level of trust with Kittleson and other targets, they made an aggressive proposal that was basically irrefusable. What many owners don’t realize, is the resale market for timeshares is basically non-existent. It’s hard to understand this until you experience it for yourself. While some resorts will tell you that you can always resell or rent your property (if it doesn’t work out), it doesn’t mean it’s true. Diamond Resorts actually got in a heap of trouble for selling prospects on this during presentations. Far too many fractional owners learn this reality the hard way. An unexpected, amazing resale opportunity should be the first sign that you’re involved in a scam.
Instead of continuing to shop for a reseller, Darren was absolutely thrilled with the price he was given. It was nearly 60-70% higher than what he actually paid for the property. Since the beachfront hotel in Puerto Vallarta had grown in popularity, he didn’t even think twice about the offer. “It didn’t seem far off,” he said. Not only was he talking to people whom he thought represented Westwood, he also believed in the best deal he’d received up to this point. Since he was called about his bookings, nothing really drew a red flag.
How the Scammers Continued Leading Him On..
As the complexity of scams continues to be underestimated by Americans, Darren’s experience helps us highlight how deep the deception can go. When it comes to scams that rob people of tens of thousands of dollars, a simple bait and switch wasn’t going to be enough to pull it off. Once Kittleson signed a letter of intent with what he thought to be a local broker, he received a call from an escrow company in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At this point, he was informed that a Mexican bank would be working with them to deposit his funds from the timeshare sale.
The logistics of these transactions caused some doubt to surface for the realtor – but after researching both companies, he came away relieved again. What he didn’t know was the scammers were using the same tactic they used with Westwood to proceed with the transaction. Confirmations and communication also seemed legitimate and Darren was eager to put timeshare ownership behind him.
Additional Documentation Provided Peace of Mind
“All of a sudden, I get an email with a bank statement that looks like any bank statement here in the U.S. showing the funds have been deposited,” he said. Even when he called the phone number on the statement to double check, an actual person answered in Spanish, giving him the company name and their title. From his perspective, he was so close to receiving closure.
Although the anticipation was real, a few weeks passed and he still didn’t receive a payment. Amidst frustrations, he continued to pursue the resolution when he was told by a “company rep” that he needed to get a Mexican tax identification in order for the sale to go through. This forced him to make another payment via a wire transfer to an attorney the scammers referred in Mexico city. “I went online and looked at the Mexican consulate website, and it had this form they needed. It made sense,” Kittleson said.
Scammers Appear to be “Helpful” During Manipulation
Once again, he was relieved and the process wasn’t too far from ordinary. Shortly after, a document with a formal-looking government stamp arrived in the mail. This included what he thought to be his new tax ID. When the sale and his payment still wasn’t being processed, the scammers told him he needed to pay his taxes and the buyer would reimburse him. He was concerned, but his experience in real estate trumped his doubts. “I was nervous, but I thought, ‘OK, this is the first time I’ve done a property transfer in Mexico.” He even went as far as researching Mexican taxes online. He felt good about it and wired over more money. But the stalling continued when he was told he needed to pay additional taxes in the state of Jalisco.
In order to feel good about making another payment, Kittleson initially wanted to fly down to Jalisco and make the payment himself. But he was informed that it wouldn’t be necessary. “They said, ‘It’s not like the U.S. You can come down, but nothing will happen for you,'” said Kittleson. Since he’d paid so much already (and had all the bank statements), he agreed. At this point it was almost as if he trusted the scammers and valued their opinion. This is how deep he had gotten into the scam. Money spent and documentation blinded him from the harsh reality. Because of the confidence in the deal, he didn’t even consider saving money to cancel the timeshare altogether.
Until You Abort, The Timeshare Scam Never Ends..
Although his payment for Jalisco taxes was taken care of, he was once again prompted to make another payment. This time, it was for an insurance bond so the bank could release the funds. The scammers claimed that it was necessary to protect the bank from possible “cross-border” fraud. Again, he offered to withdraw the funds in person, but was told the bank wouldn’t do anything without the bond.
“They had an answer to everything I asked about,” Darren said. It had now been 10 months since he made his first payment. When he was prompted to make another payment for another bank bond, he decided he’d had enough. Thinking back to that moment in time, Kittleson remembered, “At that point, I said, ‘I’m done.’ It was like, ‘Oh, I just got scammed.’” $24,000 was flushed down the drain and the timeshare was still his.
Aside from his desire to exit the timeshare contract, Kittleson pursued restitution by filing complaints with the BBB, the Arizona Attorney General’s office and even the FBI. Once he confirmed he was most certainly being scammed, he learned other victims had filed as well. Their complaints had already resulted in the Department of Real Estate filing a cease-and-desist order against the claimed names of the fraudsters. While the Arizona Attorney General is now helping people like Darren spread awareness, victims understand the probability of the criminals being caught isn’t likely.
The Benefit of Getting Rid of Timeshare Contracts For Good
Stories like these can immediately create a paradigm shift for timeshare owners or those pursuing vacation ownership. Many people believe stuff like this can’t happen to them. They’re blinded by the possibilities of the deal. While a timeshare property can be the centerpiece of family memories, it can also be the root of financial hardship. This is why it’s important to take the time to thoroughly research travel opportunities and make sure you’re 100% confident in large purchase decisions.
Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion and always be skeptical of timeshare solutions. Far too many are scams are present in today’s travel industry. As you can see, not everything is what it may seem. If you’re looking for a way to get rid of your timeshare agreement, we’d be more than happy to go over your options with you. We take pride in avoiding pressure sales and we always take the time to qualify every prospect for timeshare cancellation services.
It seems that one can’t turn on the news today without discovering some new scam. As the public becomes aware of the tactics, criminals seem to always be one step ahead. Because of this, the attorney general of California sent out a warning to protect consumers from being victimized by timeshare scams during their distress. In the article, Xavier Becerra discusses the initial sales process and specifically addresses the strategies used by fraudulent timeshare resale and recovery companies.
First and foremost, you have to understand that most questionable operations have to give away free stuff to persuade consumer consideration. Companies involved in timeshare scams often use large complimentary gifts in exchange for sitting for a “short educational seminar” on timeshares.
These gifts often include free hotel stays, lavish meals, or tickets to local shows. Resort sales teams know exactly how to make attendees feel indebted because of the extent of the seminar meeting. It causes consumers to believe they’d be foolish not to agree to such an amazing deal.
All of the shiny objects presented during seminars normally distract potential timeshare owners from the often large upfront costs and maintenance fees. In addition, there are rarely any stipulations in the contract regarding an unexpected increase in these fees. If you decide to sit in for one of these educational seminars, make sure the salesperson points out any promise they make in the contract.
For instance, if they state that you can sell back the property at any time for full market value, have them point out exactly where it states that. Since this is such a large purchase, do your due diligence and ask follow up questions. If at any point they cannot show you what they have stated, be on high alert. If you catch them in one lie, you have to expect there are more to come.
The Resale Market Can Be Misleading
Since timeshare scams have been frequently publicized over the past few years, consumers are beginning to look into secondary resale markets to buy a timeshare. This can be dangerous for those not thoroughly educated on ownership. Similar to a new car, a timeshare loses a lot of value after first being sold. Far too many people don’t look past the price tag to see what timeshare ownership actually entails. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
If someone is looking to get rid of their timeshare for next to nothing, then you know the financial burden of the purchase was underestimated. Why would you make the same mistake? Even after the mortgage is paid off, many are forced to sell the property simply to escape annual or quarterly fees. The ability to travel to a condo in a tropical location for less than a thousand dollars may seem like an amazing deal – but the seller’s desperation to get rid of the timeshare should be a red flag. Make sure you thoroughly understand all costs, fees, and reservation processes before taking on someone else’s remorse.
Proceed With Caution During a Timeshare Resale
As more people sell their timeshare, more fraudulent companies crop up claiming to be resellers that facilitate the process. Although there are legitimate resale platforms, don’t assume legitimacy and learn from exposed timeshare scams as well as the mistakes of others. In other words, do your homework before working with any company to find timeshare relief. Research beyond the Better Business Bureau or Yelp reviews, as many companies simply rebrand themselves to avoid their paper trail of fraud. Reviews or recommendations can be easily fabricated online and companies that seem good can easily sell you something that isn’t beneficial. This is especially true when it comes to timeshare resales.
As with any real estate transaction, make sure to have a contract that protects all parties included. Be hesitant to work with a company that mandates upfront costs, even if there is a money back guarantee. Also, be hesitant if the reseller states that they have an interested party looking for a property exactly like yours. This is a common pressure tactic used to get timeshare owners to sign up for “can’t miss” resale opportunities.
Don’t Get Victimized Twice
The last scam timeshare owners tend to run into has to do with recovery fraud. These companies promise assistance to persons that have already been scammed by the timeshare company. They target their vulnerability by promising restitution, only to re-victimize the timeshare owner shortly after the sale. When seeking out a company that helps victimized timeshare owners, make sure to completely investigate their reputation before paying any fees up front.
In the Attorney General’s warning, you can tell he was genuine in his attempt to protect consumers from timeshare scams. At the same time, he realizes there is only so much he can do. Without documented evidence of corruption, it’s nearly impossible to win a legal battle with timeshare companies that are built to protect themselves.
Avoid the Scam, Cancel if You Can…
If you’re tired of the deceit and are looking to cut your losses before things get out of hand, Vacation Ownership Consultants is only a phone call away. Since 2014, they’ve helped every single one of their clients terminate their timeshare contract and eliminate the financial burden of vacation ownership. Thousands of timeshare owners are scammed every year and it’s their goal to help them find the relief they deserve.