Deceptive Timeshare Trade Practices: Can I Sue?

Timeshares have been an extremely popular way of owning vacation real estate in the last couple of decades. Many people are happy to have a comfortable place to stay when on vacation as well as something they can consider as real estate property that can, hopefully, appreciate over the years. However, as the economy goes through its ups and downs, affording a timeshare has become more difficult, and rising maintenance fees have led many to sell their property. The sales and re-sale of timeshare property has led to the emergence of deceptive timeshare practices from many fly-by-night companies which disappear leaving many consumers down hundreds and often thousands of dollars.

Deceptive Timeshare Trade Practices

The economy is generally difficult right now for most everyone, but it is always hard on someone, somewhere. When times get difficult, things like trade timeshares seem like a convenience a person can no longer afford. What has now happened is that more and more people are trying to re-sell their timeshares. This has led to a system of fraudulent companies that contact those interested in selling their timeshares by misrepresenting themselves, offering opportunities to sell if the owner is willing to pay upfront fees.

These companies employ telemarketing services that contact owners of timeshares and claim that they have a buyer interested in purchasing their property. They get straight to the point. However, when a timeshare owner falls for this scam they quite often lose anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000. They make a great show of sending you from department to department representing their legal and financial departments, when in reality they are sitting next to each other one cubicle away.  They provide an FCC over-the-phone verification and convince you to send a certified check. Quite often they will claim that the purchase will go through in less than 120 days - just enough time for them to do this scam to many timeshare sellers before disappearing. Of course, you will never hear from the buyer. If you call the company back you will be bounced from representative to representative - and that's assuming you can get a hold of them again. They may have given you an email address as well as a physical address, but all correspondence will go unreturned. If this happens, you will have become the latest victim of a timeshare scam.

Many feel that these deceptive timeshare trade practices are not taken seriously enough. Only after large lists of scam complaints are collected to the authorities go after the scam companies. 

The best rule of thumb is, of course, if it is too good to be true, it isn't true. Consider the economy at present; there simply aren't buyers sitting out ready to buy your timeshare - sight unseen no less. All transfer transactions should be guaranteed in writing and you should always check out any company you are about to do business with through the Better Business Bureau.  Be sure the company has at least been in business for years and a good record of addressing complaints.

Better Business Bureau Guidelines

  1. Check with trustworthy sources: read review reports on companies you are considering doing business with and compare their ratings. Visit bbb.org and review the BBB accredited business timeshares.
  2. Check the state licensing board and verify that the salespeople are licensed to the business, and confirm the company's location.
  3. Ask about the expenses, everything from specific fees to queries on insurance; ask about advertising fees and other payments. Always ask if it is refundable and if there are any hidden charges.
  4. Be wary regarding fees. Negotiate the payment of fees so that they are only paid after the timeshare is sold.
  5. Don't jump into something that is too good to be true. Always confirm the legality and credibility of the company you're about to do business with.  Never rush into a decision. Devious timeshare resellers will claim that your property is in demand but only if they can sell it immediately. Don't fall for it.

Legal Options

 If you find that you've fallen prey to one of these scams, or fear that you might, your best alternative is to contact the Attorney General for the state in which you live.  They are quite familiar with this sort of deceptive trade practice.  Timeshare deceptive trade practices are violations of the consumer protection laws as well as fraud statutes, both of which are grounds for suing.  In most cases, the Attorney General - and Timeshare Recovery Agencies as well - are able to track down these criminals by following the trail left by credit card charges.  More than likely by either suing through the Attorney General's office, or by hiring a recovery agency, you will be able to get your money back.

Contact an Attorney

These violations of statutes and laws are serious issues.  If you have further questions or wish to know what other options you might have, contact an attorney.

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