What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself
In the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of cold call scams and incidences targeting timeshare owners. The past few years have been extremely difficult for most people but for a lot of people with a timeshare contract there has been an additional strain and financial burden on top of everything else.
During the height of the pandemic and for months following it, travel to many countries was restricted with border closures, red lists and lockdowns preventing timeshare owners from being able to visit or use their holiday properties. Not only have people missed out on their time away but timeshare companies continued to bill owners for maintenance fees and a large percentage of them even increased their annual charges.
The circumstances that the pandemic has created is that sadly a lot of timeshare owners who tend to be older, are understandably extremely nervous about flying or travelling, concerned for their health and the potential exposure to covid. Without being able to make use of the property they have already paid and continue to pay fees for, a lot of owners are desperate to get out of, exit, sell or be rid of their timeshares and unfortunately this desperation is making them a target for scammers.
Types of Cold Call Timeshare Scams
Fraudsters who target timeshare owners have been known to use a wide variety of tactics to convince you that what they are offering is legitimate in order to obtain payment from you in some form or another.
Some examples of these include;
Posing as a ‘timeshare realtor’ either using a genuine company name which they do not work for or using a made-up name for a fake company they have created; these con artists often claim that they have a buyer lined up ready to buy your timeshare. This offer will almost always have a short deadline on it for you to make your decision and in order to process the resale you will need to pay a fee that they will claim is for solicitors, legal fees or something similar. This of course is not genuine and your money once sent will disappear never to be seen again just like the fraudsters who scammed you.
- Class Action
One way that isn’t used as often but that many people have fallen for is the class action scam. They contact you on the phone claiming that you are eligible to join a class action against the timeshare company who you have your agreement with and say that they are handling the lawsuit. They may make false promises of legal wins, getting you out of your agreement or even claim there is a large compensatory lump sum already waiting for you, none of which will be true. They say all this to convince you to send over a payment for their upfront ‘legal fees’ which of course are not real and just a way to take your hard-earned money.
- Timeshare Exit
In some cases, if your timeshare was mis-sold to you and falls into a certain category then it could be that you could legally exit your timeshare agreement. Because of the number of cases where timeshare solicitors have been able to help owners who were mis-sold to successfully cancel, exit or get out of their timeshare contracts, there are unfortunately fraudsters who are using this to their advantage.
The typical timeshare exit scam will often involve owners being contacted by someone claiming to be from a legitimate, well-known company or using the name of one they have fraudulently created. They may ‘guarantee’ or promise to be able to exit the timeshare and claim to have a 100% success rate and make their money by charging you an ‘upfront fee’ which needs to be paid in order to proceed.
Because there has been an increase in the amount of successful compensation claims made against timeshare companies, the industry has seen a rise in customers being targeted for compensation scams. These fraudsters even go as far as to actually impersonate a solicitor or lawyer and make promises of huge pay-outs and large lump sums of ‘guaranteed’ compensation.
If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a lawyer or solicitor then make sure that you do your due diligence and verify that they are in fact who they say they are, that they are regulated by the SRA and that they represent the firm they claim to be from.
One of the reasons that these types of cold callers are able to trick and deceive their targets so well is that people have misconceived ideas about what a fraudster might say or sound like on the phone. These scammers are experts at what they do and they are very good at it, often using a number of different tactics to earn the trust of the person on the other end of the phone.
They may be extremely friendly, empathetic and genuine sounding, often lying about how they know about people being scammed and how awful it is and how they have even helped them before like they can help you.
Alternatively, they might resort to less gentle tactics, using threatening or forceful language to scare timeshare owners into believing that they owe money or have to pay a fee, bill or charge that they legally owe.
It is not uncommon for them to also know a lot of details about yourself and your timeshare but this is because timeshare companies have been known to sell on their client’s details to illicit third parties often in breach of data protection rights.
There is one key thing to remember about timeshare cold callers and that is there is no valid reason for them to call you. Legitimate timeshare solicitors and timeshare realtors will not ever have the need to cold call customers. If you get a call that makes you uncomfortable or is from a source that cannot be proven then you are under no obligation to speak to them, simply hang up the phone and block the number.