Everybody wants a getaway where they can relax comfortably every year, which is why timeshares are so popular. That’s why nearly 10 million Americans own at least one timeshare, and that number is only growing.
However, anybody interested in pursuing a timeshare has a lot to learn. You need to determine if it’s right for you and your budget, which timeshare fits your needs, and most importantly, how to avoid timeshare scams. Let’s talk about that last point!
How Common Are Timeshare Scams?
Unfortunately, scams of all types are only becoming more popular over time. Cyber attacks, phishing, and social engineering scams increase every year, and they’re becoming even more sophisticated with the rise of deep-fake technology.
Moreover, this technology allows scammers to appear as friends, coworkers, or genuine businesses. They can easily create fake replicas of company emails, similar phone numbers, and more. This can make them nearly indistinguishable from a legitimate company.
As a result, 1 in 10 Americans falls victim to a scam every year. It’s hard to believe when you think about it, but the problem is only getting worse. That’s especially true for well-off Americans.
Consequently, scammers are trying to “climb the ladder” to reach targets with more money. Some of their favorite methods include pretending to be real estate companies, IRS representatives, and, of course, timeshare companies.
Examples of Timeshare Scams
Timeshare scams can come in many forms, including fraudulent vacation promotions over email, phone calls, or text messages. Let’s talk about some examples and how to avoid them.
First, email scams are some of the most common. This is because it’s easy to fake an email, as you may not check the address. A scammer can easily fake the display name, add a catchy subject line, and write a convincing signature at the bottom.
In this case, they may send you images of a resort like many promotional emails that all of us receive. From there, it will either ask you for personal information directly, request a phone call, or direct you to a website or form that seems legitimate. Most likely, they’ll ask for sensitive data, including your payment information.
Conversely, scammers may try to sell you a “timeshare” over the phone. They may direct you to a website or ask for your email address so they can send you more information. If they ask for your payment information over the phone, we strongly recommend verifying the company, which we’ll explain how to do momentarily.
Lastly, we’d recommend ignoring unsolicited promotions via text message. This is a rare practice in the industry, making it an immediate red flag.
Another common type of scam involved third-party sellers trying to “resell” timeshares on behalf of owners or investors. These are difficult to verify, as they may operate independently.
Generally speaking, if you can’t verify that a third-party seller is legitimate, either contact the timeshare company they sell on behalf of or ignore them altogether. It’s too big of a risk to take chances with.
Moreover, this is a common scam method, as it offers easy deniability and anonymity. It’s best to err on the side of caution in these cases. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
In many cases, you’ll need an attorney to help you cancel your timeshare. However, if you receive unsolicited calls from “lawyers” asking for a retainer, make sure you ignore them.
Social engineering websites do exist where you may look for help with cancellation and, all of a sudden, you’re bombarded with phone calls and emails. While attorneys may be needed in some contexts, there are other ways to get out of a timeshare agreement.
How to Spot and Avoid Timeshare Scams
If you have an issue with your timeshare, there are always ways to get out. You can always use a timeshare cancellation program if the company gives you a hard time when trying to leave. However, once a scammer gets ahold of your cash or sensitive information, there isn’t much you can do about it.
Therefore, it’s essential that anybody searching for timeshare locations knows how to identify and protect themselves from scammers. Here’s what you need to know!
Verify the Company
First, you need to verify that the timeshare exists. Search for the name online and ask the salesperson for the address of the building for verification.
If you find something similar but without the actual name, ignore them. If you can’t find anything similar to the given name, ignore them. If you find it but it has a different address, you know what to do.
However, keep in mind that anybody can find a real timeshare company (and their information) with a quick online search. This brings us to our next important step.
Verify Contact Information
One of the most important steps for avoiding any scam is to verify the contact information of the person you speak with. If somebody is trying to sell you a timeshare, they may call you or email you. Either way, it’s critical to verify this information.
An easy way to verify a phone number is to look it up on Google first. The number may appear on the search results and display the title, or it may appear on a list of spam callers.
If that doesn’t give you any useful information, tell the person on the phone that you would like to call the timeshare company yourself before giving any more information. When they object, ask for their name or phone number extension so you can resume the call. From there, call the number on your Google search and verify that the number calling you was a legitimate number and patch you through to them.
Over email, check the email address for errors or differences. If the company is called XYZ Destinations, then you’ll want to see the email end in “xyzdestinations.com” or something similar. Look closely for any changes, including “.net” or “xyzdestination.com” (no plural), as scammers can easily find similar domains.
Moreover, if the email is something like “xy****************@gm***.com”, then you will need to verify this with the company before continuing. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Look For Inconsistencies
Are there two completely different styles of bathrooms in the “one unit” photo series? Is the address listed in the email different from the one under the sender’s signature? Did they tell you one thing about payment and then request another?
If you spot any inconsistencies, don’t let them slide. It’s easy to assume that it was an error, but with scams so prevalent in the industry, there’s no room to take chances. That’s especially true when it’s so easy to call the company yourself and verify the issue.
When in Doubt, Call It Out
Even if the most beautiful resort photos in the world tempt you, it isn’t worth the risk. If you have reason to believe that a “timeshare” promotion is a scam and you can’t verify that you spoke with a genuine representative, report the scam to the appropriate authorities and move on.
Remember, while you may not have fallen for the scam, the next person may not be as lucky. Always report suspicious behavior, even if you’re unsure. An investigation will clear good-faith actors, so don’t feel guilty about a false report!
What About “Legit” Scams?
When we say “legit scams”, we mean scams by legitimate timeshare companies. Yes, this can happen as well, and it’s more common than you may think. Did you know that 85% of timeshare owners regret their purchases?
Often, timeshare companies will try to lock you into a contract without living up to their misleading claims. Too many innocent vacationers have fallen victim to this fate, so we need to mention it.
If you’re a timeshare owner annoyed by higher-than-anticipated fees, mortgage rates, or other issues with your arrangement, then you may need legal assistance. The easiest way to get out of a program is through a timeshare transfer, which can help you get out of your contract as soon as possible.
Otherwise, the timeshare company will likely fight you in court, which could delay the process. A transfer is the easiest way for everybody, but there are other options available if you need them.
It’s a Timeshare, Not a “Money Share”
Now that you know some simple and effective ways to avoid timeshare scams, put these tips to use when shopping for your next getaway. Keep a hand on your wallet the next time someone is trying to sell you a new getaway, and look critically at what they’re offering.
Remember, even legitimate companies can scam you. If you’re unhappy with your current one and feel you’re being scammed, then it’s time to leave.
Stay up to date with our latest tips for timeshare owners, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or for help getting out of your timeshare arrangement!