by Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA
Q: My dad has been trying to get rid of a timeshare he purchased years ago. He recently got a call from someone claiming to have a buyer. He authorized a credit card payment of $5,000 to complete the sale. After that, nothing ever happened and when we call, it is always a recording. Can you offer any advice on what we should do next?
A: The “Phony Timeshare Reseller” is a growing scam across many states. According to the North Carolina Attorney General, victims receive a call from a person who claims to have a buyer for your timeshare. The caller may even guarantee that the sale will go through. After the scammers obtain authorization to access your funds, they will send a contract.
In the fine print of this contract, it will say that the timeshare will be advertised for sale. You should never agree to pay a fee upfront to sell a timeshare. They are not guaranteeing that there is a buyer or that any action beyond “advertising” will occur. It is still a good idea to go by the old rule of thumb that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Timeshare marketers typically use high-pressure tactics and target older adults. The purchaser does not realize that the purchase is probably not going to gain value. Timeshares can be difficult to fully utilize and result in years of expensive maintenance and membership dues.
So, what can you do if you are being held hostage to a timeshare you no longer use or want?
First, talk to an attorney and have the contract reviewed. Perhaps there is a buy-out or cancellation clause. While this option may cost you money, it may be your only way out.
Over the long-term, the cancellation will save you money in continued fees, maintenance and upkeep. The wording in the contract may also allow you to sell it or give it away. Make sure you know if the developer has the first right of refusal on the property as well. Ask if there are any specific clauses to address, such as failing health, age or financial hardship.
If you use a company to help you, do your homework. Make sure you utilize a licensed and insured title company. Following the correct steps is important, and the details matter. Trying to sell your timeshare can be risky, and there are many scammers waiting to target you.
Another option is to ask if there is a deedback to the resort or developer. The unit would have to be paid for in full in this case. There may be a transfer fee, but in this case, it should only be paid to the resort, not a third party claiming to manage the sale.
It is not realistic to think you can sell your timeshare for a profit, but giving it away may be an option. Some charitable organizations will take timeshares on, but you have to make sure they are taking over all payments and fees. You also have to have an attorney involved to ensure the transaction is done correctly.
If you feel you or your spouse has been the victim of a scam or you just want more information on how to protect yourself from common scams, contact the North Carolina Attorney General’s office. They have a great deal of information on scams, fraud and tips to protect yourself. Call 877-566-7226 or visit www.ncdoj.gov.
Natt, an Aging Life Care ProfessionalTM, certified senior advisor and CEO of Aging Outreach Services, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.