A shocking case was reported recently on several timeshare consumer sites, including Inside Timeshare and the Timeshare Consumer Association, causing heated debate over one man’s painful journey in relinquishing his timeshare ownership.
David Sharp (not his real name) is far from unintelligent, having a successful background as a Fellow Chartered Accountant and even now, in his 80s still takes care of several preferred clients. “I could have retired,” smiles David, “but I like to keep my hand in. It keeps me sharp, and besides; these clients are my friends by now. I wouldn’t want to let them down.”
Sadly, David didn’t make the news over his prestigious accountancy career, but instead for having been duped into paying money to an astonishing twenty four fraudulent timeshare exit firms in a row. Mr Sharp ended up spending tens of thousands of pounds before he finally found a law firm who were true to their word and helped him escape.
“It’s such a relief to be free,” David says. “I know I spent many times more than I should have, but I had no way to know that all of these people were thieves. It was my faith in human nature that made me trust each new person I suppose. People will say I should have given up sooner, but that timeshare was a millstone around my neck. I had to be rid of it.”
The reports led some observers to question David’s intelligence or decision making, but industry experts were quick to come to his defence.
“This is in no way a reflection on David,” says Andrew Cooper, CEO of European Consumer Claims. “He is a demonstrably intelligent man and a decent human being. The real issue here is not any lack of judgement on David’s part, but the sophistication of the fraudsters.
“The majority of timeshare owners are desperate to rid themselves of the burden of unwanted memberships, and fraudulent organisations cynically prey on that despair.
“They know what to say, they know from experience what concerns and objections the potential victims are going to voice, and they have skillful strategies in place to overcome those objections. They are ten steps ahead of all but the most knowledgeable timeshare consumer.
“it’s easy to condemn David for having made the mistake so many times, but the reality is that each time the fraudsters were able to convincingly show why they were different and could be trusted.”
Timeshare contracts expert Robert Salmon agrees. He even goes a step further, suggesting consumers view Mr Sharp’s experience as a statistical glimpse into the staggering number of fraudsters preying on the misery of trapped timeshare owners
“The cold truth is that clients who find genuine firms to help them with compensation claims or timeshare exits, do so largely by accident. To anyone other than experts, the scammers and genuine firms are indistinguishable.
“The majority of victims would have given up after a lot less than twenty four of these negative experiences, but David is well off and was determined to find a legitimate firm to help him. He did so in the end, but it cost him over £35,000 in money lost to the thieves before he found a genuine company to relinquish his timeshare.
“What we should really take away from this is that out of twenty five firms, only one proved genuine. And my experience in this field leads me to believe the ratio could be even worse than that.
“Timeshare owners should verify the credentials of any firm they are considering retaining for help with timeshare exits or compensation claims. Check them out with an independent timeshare consumer organisation. There are several who are happy to give free, impartial advice on who you are thinking of dealing with, and this can save you many thousands of pounds worth of wrong decisions.”