Timeshares are still popular with holidaymakers, offering them a more cost-effective way of going on holiday abroad every year without the hassle of finding somewhere to stay.
The timeshare industry has worked hard to progress from the stigma of timeshare scams, particularly those associated with the 1970s and 1980s. However, whilst it is better, there are still plenty of timeshare scams going on. So, what are the warning signs to be aware of that a timeshare is a scam?
What is a timeshare scam?
Timeshares can be structured in different ways. Buyers can purchase a timeshare in weeks, which gives them access to the property or resort for a number of specific or floating weeks each year. Alternatively, they can be bought using points which are used as ‘currency’ for booking holidays. The higher the number of points, the more choice and availability there is for the holidaymaker.
There are plenty of legitimate timeshares available and many timeshare owners are very happy with their arrangements. However, timeshares are open to fraud and people can lose out on their agreed time at their property. There are also sales practices that are decidedly suspect, such as being charged annual maintenance fees, being left with a timeshare that can’t be sold on or back to the timeshare company, as well as being tricked into paying upfront fees to negotiate a sale.
Other timeshare selling scams can be fake listings for accommodation, as well as fake sales and reviews. Today’s timeshare scammers are getting cleverer and it’s becoming harder to spot the scams.
Warning signs the timeshare is a scam
The timeshare agent, seller or broker may appear genuine, and in a lot of cases, they are. But in some cases, no matter how convincing they are with legal jargon, or how impressive their branding and website may be, there are some easy-to-spot, tell-tale signs that it may be a timeshare scam.
- Being promised a guaranteed financial return for little or no risk
- Ignores or is dismissive of requests for proof, statistics or evidence
- The investment is not registered with the industry’s regulatory body
- Being told, when asked, that the investment or investment strategy is ‘too complex to understand, a ‘secret’ or being dismissed entirely
- Evading questions on the exact purchase price
- Official paperwork and documentation not available to the timeshare investor
- Being told that taking money out of the scheme is difficult, or impossible
- The ‘hard sell’ – there are a variety of tactics, like being enticed with free food and drink, even accommodation, to pressurise you into signing contracts you may not understand or have been given the time to read thoroughly.
If you are at all suspicious, there are steps you can take to ensure you are protected legally:
- Make sure you read all the documentation, paperwork and contracts thoroughly, including the fine print
- Ensure you have a clear understanding, as well as written documentation, of your financial responsibility, total costs including fees, maintenance and assessments, selling options if you want out of the timeshare, as well as your legal rights and obligations pertaining to the country in which the timeshare is located
- Always know what your options are if you want to back out of the sale, such as your ‘right of refusal’ or ‘right of rescission’ period for the timeshare contract. Although typically 3-10 days, it may vary
- If you do cancel the timeshare contract, always send a letter of cancellation by recorded or registered post, and get a return receipt/signature when it is delivered (where possible).
At Sarah Waddington Solicitors, we specialise in helping people with their timeshares, from providing advice and guidance to resolving timeshare scam issues.