Timeshares are still a popular option for holidaymakers and offer a cheaper way to go abroad to warmer climates every year, particularly if they are happy to go to the same location. Although the timeshare industry has moved away from the high prevalence of timeshare scams associated with the 1970s and 1980s, there are still plenty of timeshare scams out there.
The difference is that it’s no longer focused on tricking people into buying a share of a property that doesn’t exist. The latest tactic is to target timeshare owners who want to exit the payment of annual maintenance fees on their timeshare property.
What Is A Timeshare?
A timeshare is a share in a property abroad, a holiday destination, such as Spain, where you are in effect buying a week or two weeks of the year – usually the same weeks every year – when the property is ‘yours’ to use. It allows people to ‘own’ holiday homes for a set period of time at a fraction of the cost because it is shared with multiple owners.
There are many legitimate timeshares and happy owners. However, the practice is open to timeshare scams, leaving people without their agreed time at their property and out of pocket.
Common Timeshare Scams
There are several common timeshare scams that you should be aware of before you get involved in a timeshare.
Buying A Timeshare
Companies that sell timeshares will often hold an all-day event and promise a free lunch, free gift and even a free overnight stay in a hotel if you attend. However, before you agree to go, always research the company first. You may feel pressurised into making a decision whilst you are at the event. Never sign any documents without taking them away and reading through all the small print. It’s always worth asking a solicitor to check the contract on your behalf.
Selling On A Timeshare
If you’ve made the decision to sell your timeshare, there are timeshare companies that promise to sell your property share quickly for an upfront fee. Often, when that fee has been paid, the company disappears or claims that they were unable to find a buyer. You may find that you could be asked for further fees to try and sell the timeshare again. However, there are legitimate timeshare resale companies. First, check the relevant laws in the country (state) where the timeshare property is located. When you speak to a re-selling company, find out as much as you can about them and arrange to meet them in person before you discuss or sign any documents. Online reviews are always a good place to start. Always have the documents checked by a solicitor to ensure they are legitimate.
Becoming a very common occurrence is charging timeshare owners annual maintenance fees for their timeshare property. You may also be contacted by telephone for a timeshare that you have left, told you are still timeshare owners and are liable for back maintenance fees. This is not the case at all; so, never pay any monies over the telephone.
Another form of fraud is making claims that you, as a previous timeshare owner, have been awarded a sum of money as a result of a legal court case involving the timeshare property. You may be required to pay fees to transfer the money to you, but the situation is usually that there was no court case and there is no sum of money. So, never pay any ‘fees’ to anyone.
As with any timeshare scam, prevention is the better cure. It’s always advisable to do as much research at you can before you agree to anything or sign any documents. If you’re not sure about a timeshare, ask an experienced solicitor to review any documents and make recommendations.