Across the world the global pandemic has negatively impacted almost all industries, sectors and businesses in one way or another and none more so than the travel industry. From hotels, airlines, and cruise ship operators to independent B&B owners or those that rent out their holiday home, the countless months of lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainty has taken its toll.
Amongst the hardship that many are feeling, a lot of timeshare owners have been left paying for a property they cannot visit whilst still being expected to cough up for ever increasing maintenance fees at a time where most are financially vulnerable. It’s this vulnerability caused by the pandemic that has provided an opportunity for unethical and dishonest scammers to take advantage of people that are desperate and eager for a way out.
Types Of Timeshare Scams Being Used
Here are some examples of the types of timeshare scams that are being used to try and take advantage of timeshare owners who are keen to be released from the financial burden of a timeshare they no longer want, cannot afford or due to age, medical reasons or circumstances can no longer use.
Timeshare Exit Scams
With an increase in recent years of successful cases of timeshare claims coming through as a result of the legal precedent set by the Spanish Supreme Courts, the amount of fraudulent individuals and organisations using this to their advantage has risen significantly.
- How does the scam work?
These types of scammers often claim to be from a company or organisation that ‘specialises’ in timeshares and some even impersonate timeshare exit solicitors and lawyers. They are usually extremely sympathetic, saying that they understand and want to help like they have for lots of other clients of theirs and promise to – get you out of / exit or cancel your timeshare.
- What should I look out for?
If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is so if they make any promises, guarantees or claim to be certain of success then chances are they are lying. Things such as a 100% money back guarantees, being told you can stop paying maintenance fees or them trying to scare you with certain scenarios are key things to watch out for.
Any genuine timeshare solicitor will always be extremely careful to manage a clients expectations and will be honest, transparent and realistic in terms of what could possibly be achieved in regards to your case. If you have been contacted by someone claiming to be a lawyer or solicitor, then be sure to do your due diligence and check if they are regulated by the SRA and if the individual does in fact represent the firm they claim to be from.
Timeshare Selling Scam
This scam has been widely used in recent years and unfortunately many timeshare owners already out of pocket have fallen victim, losing even more of their hard earned money and ending up worse off than before.
- What is a timeshare selling scam?
There are different approaches but for this particular scam a person will contact the timeshare owner claiming to be a timeshare resale agent or estate agent of some sort that has a buyer wanting to purchase your timeshare. They will then require a ‘small fee’ or upfront payment of some sort to be paid which will be described as a standard transaction fee / taxes / international fees / legal bill etc. Anything that requires your personal information or promises an instant sale such as this are almost certainly going to be fake and you should never, ever send money to someone you do not know are 100% who they say they are.
- What do I need to look out for?
These people are no longer just ‘one man and a phone’ but can be extremely tech savvy groups with legitimate looking websites, logos and company profiles.
There have been cases where these individuals have used the name of legitimate timeshare resale agent and contacted customers claiming to be an employee with some going as far as to have email addresses closely matching the company name.
Do your research, ask them lots of questions, don’t just be satisfied with their answers and don’t be easily fooled by a smooth talker and a fancy website.
Viking Ship Timeshare Scam
The Viking timeshare scams are very different to the others and where they typically try to deceive with fake friendliness and empathy, these take a different tactic which is one of intimidation with the sole purpose to defraud timeshare owners.
- How does this type of scam work?
This type of scam gets its name from the timeshare industry term ‘Viking ship’ which is used for shell companies that are created purely with the objective of transferring ownership to them. They usually work by casting themselves as ‘relief companies’ with ads on the radio or online claiming to be in a position to help timeshare owners by making them an offer to relieve the heavy financial burden that they will encourage with the use of made up statistics and scare tactics.
They then claim to be able to help, acting as heroes here to save the day and all you need to do is to pay their fee or sign your timeshare over to them. If you pay the fee, then they disappear along with your money and if you do sign your timeshare over then the way the shell company is set up means that nobody can be sued or held accountable and they are long gone.
- What should I watch out for?
It’s the same with all timeshare scams, if you are cold called, contacted out of the blue or what they are claiming sounds just too good to be true then it almost certainly is. Never, ever give out any personal information, send any money or sign over your property without taking your time to do in depth research and confirm that everything is legitimate.