Investing in a vacation home can be a great idea, but for many people who don’t have deep pockets, this goal is out of reach. The concept of a timeshare is appealing, offering families the opportunity to vacation somewhere for a few weeks out of the year at just a fraction of the cost of purchasing your own property outright.
But timeshares are well known to be laden with fraud and it’s hard to find a deal that’s actually any good when you start reading the fine print. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from timeshare fraud and how to get help from a veteran consumer protection attorney if you’ve been taken advantage of by timeshare thieves.
Identifying Timeshare Scams
A timeshare is essentially a share or “slice” of time that you own at a certain property. You can buy a couple of weeks every few years, one or two specific weeks a year, or points that you can “spend” at different properties for vacations at different times during the year.
In a timeshare scam, a resort or property broker advertises deep discounts on rooms, meals, and other vacation perks in exchange for listening to a 60 to 90 minute presentation. It seems like a great deal, but the salespeople at these presentations are aggressive and put intense pressure on attendees to purchase a timeshare – especially couples.
Other indicators of scams include things like:
- The timeshare company requires payment before starting the closing process
- There are radical offers for free things, like cars, entire vacations, etc.
- There are lots of miscellaneous upfront fees
- The timeshare company misrepresents the ownership of their company or of timeshare assets
- You can’t find real contact information for the company, like their telephone number or physical address
- It’s difficult or impossible to find available dates for your vacation at the property
- You’re paying a fee just to get access to “exclusive” discounts
Is There Such A Thing As A Legitimate Timeshare?
There are legitimate timeshares that allow you to own real property – called deeded timeshares – but these aren’t very common. Timeshares that were bought years ago in places that get a lot of tourism now, like beach towns on the coast of Florida, Alabama, Virginia, and the Carolinas, are quite a valuable commodity.
But this is arguably due to the decreased supply and increased demand over time in specific locations – not as much the result of timeshares themselves being a valuable form of obtaining.
Reviewing Your Contract With A Lawyer
If you do decide to invest in a timeshare, be sure to review the contract with a qualified lawyer before you sign it. Make sure that:
- The timeshare is available during the dates you are most likely to be vacationing
- You can book at your desired location during the time you want
- All current and future costs are explained in detail
- The maintenance and cleaning policies are fully explained
- You can reschedule your vacation if something comes up like illness or a family emergency
- There’s a trial period that you can cancel the transaction during for any reason
- There’s someone for you to contact via phone if you have questions or concerns
- You’re not being rushed to make a fast decision
Remember the saying that if something seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Use your intuition and don’t be afraid to decline offers that you’re unsure of or that you don’t feel good about, whether or not you have a good reason to give.
What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed
There are several things you can do after being scammed to try to recover your money and hold the responsible party accountable, such as contacting local law enforcement and state attorney general to report theft. You should also report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 877-382-4357. And, if you purchased your timeshare online, you can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Call A Qualified Consumer Protection Lawyer Today
If you’ve been scammed by a timeshare company, an experienced New Hampshire or Massachusetts consumer protection attorney can help. Mazow | McCullough, PC are a team of leading New England tort lawyers that can assist you with reviewing timeshare contracts to make sure they’re legit and fight for your interests if you were scammed.
Contact us today to learn more about how to navigate timeshare offers and what you can do if you were the victim of a scam. Call now by dialing (978) 744-8000 or (855) 693-9084.