European Consumer Claims (ECC) roundup of latest timeshare scam variations. What to watch out for and when to hang up.
A large proportion of timeshare members own something they no longer want. They are often also aware that they may have been illegally sold, and entitled to compensation.
The desperation of people to escape the commitment of an outdated, expensive holiday system makes them attractive targets for fraudsters, and their contact details sell for big money.
Genuine offers… and offers that sound genuine
“This one is tricky,” says Steven Warner, Head of Claims for ECC. “There are firms who can get members out of seemingly inescapable timeshare contracts. There are also firms who can claim compensation for owners who were sold illegally. The trouble is that most of the firms offering these services are actually thieves who only want to take your money but will never do the work.”
So how can we tell which firms can be trusted? “Luckily there are independent timeshare consumer associations out there, who are happy to give free, expert advice,” says Warner. “There is also a useful site called timesharetrust.co.uk which gives the resources people need if they want to do their own research.”
You are on a list of people due money from a court victory (that you didn’t know about)
“This one is coming up a lot recently,” says Steven Warner. “An official sounding telephone call informs the timeshare owner that they are due a lot of money because their resort was taken to court. Sadly the old expression: ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it is’ applies here.
“Nobody is ever going to chase you to give you money you never asked for (sadly). If you haven’t actively taken a case yourself, you are not getting a payout.
“The conversation will start with them knowing details about you, like your name and where you own. This might convince you that they are telling the truth. But pretty quickly the caller will ask for upfront money before they can arrange your payment. The reason varies. It could be tax, a court fee, admin charges… anything they they think sounds convincing.
“If you pay that money, you will lose it.”
You have been the victim of XYZ Scam Firm, and we can get your money back
“Again, really insidious,” says Steven. “A company calls you saying they can get back money stolen from you by previous scammers. They know the details of how much you were conned out of, and when it happened.
“In fact they are probably either the same fraudsters under a different name, or they have sold your details to yet more fraudsters.
“The same thing logic as before applies. It sounds too good to be true, so it is; and nobody is looking for you to give you money you never asked for.”
When you’re out… you’re in
“Another con that seems to rely on data of timeshare owners being illegally sold,” says Warner. “People who have paid to have their timeshare contracts relinquished are contacted by new criminals who convince the member that they are not genuinely out of their timeshare, and that they are in danger of being hit with a build-up of maintenance fees.
“Scare tactics are applied. The victim is told that they may face UK legal action and even debt enforcement. They could even lose their home…
“As before, if you are in any doubt contact a timeshare consumer association. They will show you how to check if you really are out of your membership. (You probably will be.)”
Healthy cynicism is the best defence
“The con artists will keep innovating,” warns Andrew Cooper, CEO of ECC. “However many new variations we advise people of, new scams will always appear. The thing to keep in mind is that no real organisation will mind if you take the time to investigate them.
“Never hand over money unless you have had the organisation checked out by a reputable authority. No matter how convincing the man or woman on the telephone sounds.”