What timeshare resale scams I should be aware of?
Transfer or repurchase solicitations are solicitations to consumers to transfer ownership of their timeshares and thus
- you of maintenance fees, taxes and other costs. While there are legitimate companies who fulfill their promises, some solicitations can mislead you and may imply that the company will offer to pay you for your timeshare when you actually get nothing in return and are required to pay several thousand dollars to give up your ownership.
Endorsements / Affiliation Scams. Be wary of a company that falsely uses the name of a legitimate timeshare company to misrepresent an affiliation with that company. For example, one company falsely cited ARDA as a reference. The company said ARDA was its agent "to disburse refunds collected by a state attorney general to assist consumers who were victims of fraudulent resale practices." Totally bogus. Another used the initials of a popular exchange company in their name. Other companies may display logos of well-known companies, implying a business relationship when there is none.
The practice of 'reloading' is when an individual or company contacts you after you have already been victimized by an unethical resale company. They claim that they can recoup the upfront fee you lost in the original scam. But, the call may actually be from the same company that conducted the first scam, only reorganized under a new name! Or, the call may be from a disgruntled former employee of the original company who uses your contact information to run a new scam.
Bogus rental offers. Be skeptical of solicitations that claim the company can rent your vacation weeks or your extra/bonus weeks, but require an up-front fee. They will often tell you that they can rent your timeshare for a large amount during, for example, a special event in the city where your timeshare is located. And they'll likely ask you for a fee in advance of the rental, even though standard practice for rentals is for a commission to be paid when you, the owner, receive your portion of the rental income.
How do I know if solicitations from companies offering to help me sell my timeshare are legitimate?
Use caution with an unknown person or company who contacts you by phone, mail or email about helping to sell your timeshare.
If you receive an offer from a resale company by telephone, email or otherwise, resist any pressure to make an immediate decision.
Be wary of companies offering gimmicks, such as money-back guarantees or threats or scare tactics in order to get money from you.
Be skeptical of anyone who contacts you out of the blue offering you what may sound like an irresistible deal to sell your timeshare or tells you they have a buyer for your timeshare but wants money from you right away. This is one of the most common pitches and usually, the "buyer" never materializes.
Ask questions and research information regarding the company's background, history of resale or rental success and who at the company, if anyone, will handle the closing and at what cost.
Ask if the company holds a real estate brokers license in its home state. Check with the state real estate licensing agency or www.arello.com to verify the information.
Understand that, despite what some salespeople may tell you, there are no guarantees that your timeshare interest can be resold or rented at a particular price or within a certain period of time. Resale of property is not an overnight process. If you have listed your timeshare with a resale advertiser (rather than a licensed broker or sales person), any buyer or renter inquiries will usually come directly to you.
Don't pay up front for a title search or comparative analysis/appraisal. You don't need it, and it's another way for companies to collect advance fees or to appear more legitimate.
Always resist paying by money order, cashier's check or bank transfer. If a company is not legitimate, your money will probably be gone forever.
If I have a problem with a company, who should I contact?
If you have a problem, report it to the proper agencies:
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) (www.bbb.org/us/). The website provides company complaint history and BBB ratings from A+ to F.
The attorney general (http://www.naag.org/current-attorneys-general.php) in the state you live or where the company is located.
The state consumer agency (http://www.consumeraction.gov/state.shtml) in the state you live or where the company is located.
A company told me they can take my timeshare if I pay a fee. Is this legitimate?
Companies offering this process are often referred to as
transfer, relief, rescue or timeshare repurposing companies.
Transfer companies solicit owners to transfer ownership of your
timeshare and, thus, "unburden" you of maintenance fees, taxes
and other costs. These solicitations can cause problems for you
(and your resort) if the company fails to perform as promised.
Some solicitations imply that the company will pay you for your
timeshare when, in fact, you get nothing and are asked to pay
them up to several thousand dollars to transfer your ownership.
Although some transfer companies legally transfer your
ownership after charging you fees (ranging from $2,000 to $5,000
or more), others keep your money and do nothing. If the company
does not keep its promises, you will still own your timeshare
and possibly owe overdue maintenance fees and taxes in addition
to the high fee you already paid to the transfer company!
Plus, some of the less than legitimate companies may
transfer your timeshare to shell corporations which are then
later bankrupted or dissolved, leaving your resort owners'
association with non-existent owners and unpaid assessments and
taxes. Obviously, this is quite harmful to the association that
doesn't have the revenue it needs to operate and to the other
owners at the resort who have to pay higher maintenance fees to
cover the loss of revenue from these non-paying transfers.
Be sure you have exhausted all other inexpensive or free methods of renting, selling or giving away your timeshare before using even a reliable transfer company. The fees for such transfers are generally more expensive than other alternatives. Read more about timeshare exit scams here.
Some companies give pretty scary legal or tax advice. Should I believe it?
Do not accept accounting, tax, legal or other "professional" advice from a transfer company or anyone else without the proper credentials. Instead, check with your own legal or financial advisors. For example, if a company claims to guarantee eligibility for tax deductions after receiving a large fee - use caution and walk away.
Be sure you have exhausted other inexpensive or free methods of renting, selling or giving away your timeshare before using a multi-thousand dollar alternative.
If you find a company you are convinced can meet your needs, how should you pay them?
If any company asks you to pay them (in advance of your
getting a contract or any services) via certified or electronic
check, money order, gift card or by bank transfer (the
equivalent of handing them cash), you may have little or no
chance to recover your money if there is a problem. Once you
transmit the money, it's gone. Often times, it is the
illegitimate companies that urge you to transmit money to them
immediately by these methods - and then you never hear from them
Here is where you may be better off to pay by
credit card due to the protections afforded consumers under the
federal Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA). The law applies to
credit card disputes about "billing errors," including charges
for goods and services that weren't delivered as agreed. This is
often the case when dealing with fraudulent companies: they make
promises to you that are never fulfilled. Just remember to
investigate the company you plan to do business with first in
However, the FCBA imposes a time limit on
disputing an improper charge on your credit card. You must
notify your credit card company in writing within 60 days after
the first bill containing the erroneous charge was mailed to
you. Complete details on how - and when - to proceed are described
in a helpful pamphlet called FTC Facts for Consumers: Fair
Can ARDA-ROC or ARDA help me?
ARDA is the Washington DC-based trade association
representing the timeshare (also referred to as vacation
ownership) and resort development industry including nearly
1,000 corporate members, plus more than one million timeshare
owner members in ARDA-ROC.
Neither ARDA-ROC nor ARDA
provide information about complaints they receive. ARDA-ROC and
ARDA do not mediate, arbitrate or otherwise resolve individual
disputes between a consumer and an ARDA member or non-member
business. They don't buy or sell timeshares OR recommend
companies with whom you should do business. Neither can tell you
if a company is "legitimate."
To see if a company is a
current member of ARDA (some claim to be or use the ARDA logo
without authorization), visit ARDA's Membership Directory
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. ARDA does not have
any regulatory authority, although they do require member
companies to agree to abide by their Code of Ethics
(http://www.arda.org/ethics/). Failure to do so may result in
expulsion of the company from membership.
additional helpful suggestions that can be downloaded:
Resale Advisory 1 ARDA focuses on the types of timeshare
resellers with four steps to guide consumers through the
process: utilizing existing resources, understanding timeshare
resale companies, choosing the best option, and following basic
Resale Advisory 2 ARDA provides tools to evaluate resale companies with a list of tips.
Resale Advisory 3
ARDA learned of a new scheme involving timeshare resales that
not only preys upon consumers but falsely cites ARDA as a
reference. ARDA does not contract with, become involved with,
authorize, or endorse any company's resales activities.
Resale Advisory 4 ARDA advises consumers of the most recent
Resale Advisory 5 ARDA has become
aware of a deceptive solicitation practice, commonly referred to
as transfer or repurchase solicitations, being used by some
unethical transfer companies aimed at timeshare owners.
Is the timeshare resale market regulated by state or federal laws?
While regulation of the timeshare industry has been in
existence for over 30 years, specific regulation of the
secondary market is still in its infancy. The current economic
environment has led to a rise in disreputable resale companies
trying to profit from vulnerable timeshare owners and the resale
process has become confusing to many consumers. ARDA recently
unveiled model legislation for the secondary resale market as
part of an effort to standardize and legitimize timeshare
resellers and the resale process. The Model Resales Act calls
for specific guidelines related to resellers including standards
for sales and marketing practices, disclosures to consumers and
more stringent penalties for bad business practices.
ARDA-ROC and ARDA are committed to working with the industry,
reputable resellers, lawmakers and law enforcement officials on
issues pertaining to the secondary market. For a more detailed
discussion of laws governing timeshare resales, go to Consumer
Protections in Timeshare Resales