It is easy for those "in the know" to suggest caution when dealing with these scam companies, but it is often hard to work out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. As laws change so do the tactics these companies use to try and catch you out. But being forewarned is forearmed, so thanks to the Timeshare Consumer Guide here are some examples of "typical" scams which have been used in the past. Chances are that a lot of these may have changed slightly, but it will give you a good flavour of what to look out for when being approached by unknown parties.
The Phantom BuyerPerhaps the most infamous of the timeshare scams, this one is fairly easy to spot and therefore avoid. A respectable-sounding salesman working for a respectable-sounding company calls you out of the blue saying that they have a buyer for your timeshare waiting to sign the papers. There is a catch of course; the company say they need £500 or more upfront to pay for the paperwork. Once you pay up weeks pass and you don't hear of them again. So you ask around about the company and decide to research the company on the internet, turns like they either don't exist or are known scammers.
"We are the experts"In a similar vein to the phantom buyer, a company calls you up offering a quick sale of your timeshare. What is the catch here? They sound like another resales company by all accounts, but they need you to pay for the deal before it has even been done! As unbelievable as this sounds this has worked, people have offered up their details readily and have usually found someone attempting to clear their bank account weeks later.
The Long Cool DownUnder EU law potential timeshare customers have to be made aware of a 14 day "cooling off" period after completing a written timeshare agreement. During this time customers can back out of the deal without too much bother. In this timeshare scam the company seem to be having an administrative nightmare and cannot give over the paperwork because it is being "processed". So while you are waiting for this to come through the 14 days are ticking down. When it finally arrives, what a coincidence, it is 15 days after the original signing; too late to cancel the arrangements!
The double dipCases of the "double dip" are still being reported in the national press, showing that this one is still at large. The particularly malicious nature of this timeshare scam is that it targets owners who have already been hit before. Those who have already lost out to rogue sellers are receiving calls from a company who specialise in gaining compensation for those who have lost out. More often than not the compensation much more than what was lost in the first place and is thinly veiled as a nice gesture. But this new company is the original scammer back again for another pound of flesh – beware!
This is not a full list, but it at least gives you an idea of what to look out for; timeshare scams are varied and come in many different forms. Here are some key pointers to take away with you:
1. You need everything in writing.If a company are reluctant or refuse to provide the paperwork to back up a deal, it's not a good sign.
2. Cold caller asking for payment details? If this is the case never, ever give out card details before you have checked the company you are dealing with.
3. Leave cold callers cold. Limited time, once-in-a-lifetime deals which sound too good to be true usually are. If you are called by a company you have not approached or dealt with before be wary, do your own homework before agreeing to anything.
4. A business without a fixed premise is a bad sign. If a business moves frequently you have to ask yourself, "Who are they running from?" A long established trader is a much safer bet.
5. No website? No deal. A large, established website with plenty of content shows the business has been around a while, most timeshare scam companies aren't around long enough to set one up.
6. Trust your gut feeling. If the deal just doesn't seem right, or you're not sure about something they've said, do your research – better yet, do your research anyway! It is relatively easy to establish whether or not you are dealing with a reputable company but checking with industry bodies like TATOC, ARDA and RDO. They can give information about known timeshare scam companies and put you in contact with legitimate ones.