The current chaos in the timeshare industry has opened the door for timeshare scam companies to prey on unsuspecting owners. These timeshare scam companies may advertise themselves as marketing companies, legal companies, and even timeshare re-sale companies, but in the end, they are all the same. Below, you will find the most prevalent timeshare scams, and what you can do to avoid them.
A representative from a timeshare scam company will contact you about a timeshare that you have recently listed for sale. The conversation will unfold as follows:
Caller: Hello, this is John Smith from XYZ Timeshare Sales, and I have a buyer who is very interested in your timeshare. Are you still interested in selling your timeshare?
Timeshare Owner: I am still interested in selling it. I have listed it for sale with a listing company, but I would like to hear your offer.
Caller: Perfect! We have a very motivated buyer who is willing to pay $24,999 for your property. All we need is 10% down to get the process started, and you will receive the rest of the money after your timeshare is sold. What credit card would you like to charge the $2,499 to today?
Keep in mind, no reputable company will ever ask you to pay for a buyer and/or a sale. Once these companies have your credit card information, you are essentially out of luck. The company has your money, you still have your timeshare, and there is nothing that you can do about it. Timeshare scam companies like these have been operating in Florida for decades, and have recently come under fire from the state’s Attorney General’s office.
Here are some timeshare companies currently under investigation
Another popular timeshare scam occurs when a donation company charges to take your property on donation but gives you a bogus tax receipt in return. This leaves you vulnerable to an IRS audit and expensive penalties.
The tax receipt is counterfeit because the donation company never deeded your timeshare to a legitimate non-profit. Donation scam companies skip this critical step, which makes your timeshare tax deductible, because the process is too expensive and labor intensive. Rather, they prefer to pay a one-time closing fee to transfer the timeshare out of your name—typically into a shell company destined for bankruptcy. If they were a legitimate donation company, they would first pay to transfer your timeshare into a registered non-profit, then pay the marketing costs to find a new buyer, and finally pay a second closing fee to transfer your timeshare from the charity to the new owner. However, this more than doubles their expenses, cuts their profits and creates huge financial risk for the charity. Instead, they put all that risk and most of the expense on unsuspecting donors like you.
There is only one question you must ask a timeshare donation company to determine if they are operating in a legitimate manner: “What is the name of the charity that will be taking ownership of the property?” Once they tell you, double check with the IRS that the charity they mentioned is a registered 501c3 nonprofit. Also, call the charity to confirm that they do indeed take timeshares on donation and issue tax receipts in return.
Just so you know, you won’t have any of those problems when you donate your timeshare to Donate for a Cause. We are a registered 501c3 charity. We are specially designed to take timeshares on donation, convert them to cash and give 100 percent of proceeds to other charities like American Cancer Society. Almost no other charity can take a timeshare on donation because they’re so hard to sell and come with annual recurring maintenance fees.
The most prevalent timeshare scam involves unscrupulous timeshare listing companies. These companies will charge you a membership fee (typically $100-$1,000) to list your timeshare for sale online. They entice you to list with them by guaranteeing that they will sell your timeshare, or by promising that they already have a buyer secured. The truth is, once you pay, these listing companies have no incentive to actually sell your property. In fact, they are motivated to not sell your property, since you will likely relist with them at least one more time when your contract expires—as most other owners do. Simply put, trusting a listing company that makes guarantees about the sale of your property is never a good idea. On the other hand, there are many honest, reliable companies with which to list your timeshare. buyandselltimeshares.com, thetimeshareworld.com, redweek.com, and tug2.com/timesharemarketplace are the best of the best. While some of these listing sites do charge a small upfront fee, they are accepted industry wide as the leaders of the timeshare listing movement.
One scam that’s especially hard to detect is when a con artist claims to be from a legitimate business. Even when you do investigate, everything seems to check out. Typically these scammers will solicit you by telephone or email, saying they either have a buyer or renter for your property or that they will market your unit for sale.
These criminals lie about where they are from, often using the names of real companies with trusted reputations. They also engage in identity theft and represent themselves as real people at those companies, say, an actual broker’s name and license number from a legitimate real estate business. Some even impersonate government agencies to falsely prove their legitimacy.
They will try to entice you to wire funds in exchange for a service such as the payment of taxes or fees, to a company or person. In just one of these scams, the California Department of Real Estate reported that timeshare owners wired amounts ranging from $3,250 to $85,000. In another recent scam, criminals impersonated Redweek, a member-supported marketplace for timeshare rental and resale. In fact, scammers have even impersonated Donate for a Cause.
If you don’t want to become a victim, never accept or respond to an uninvited email or phone call from anyone who promises they can sell or rent your timeshare, or who says they will purchase it from you. You should only work with licensed professionals that you know are legitimate because you made the first contact.