How to Avoid a Timeshare Resale Scam

Use your common sense.  A theme that runs through stories told by victims of timeshare resale fraud is that that, in hindsight, the deal was too good to be true.  Many of the victims have been thinking about selling their timeshare for quite some time.  Often, the initial offer to buy is higher than the market would otherwise bear, leading the victims to jump at the chance to lock in the deal.  The lure of a windfall sale leads to a willing suspension of disbelief, and in the hopes of landing that windfall victims are willing to risk good money.

Do your research, but don’t rely on it.  If contacted by a company offering to resell your timeshare, conduct background investigation on the company and the person.  If the public records do not match what you are being told, then file a report and move on.  However, even if the public records do match the deal, this does not mean that the resellers are legitimate.  In other words, if you have received a purchase offer from “Liberty Interactive Solutions” in Los Angeles, and your research does not turn up such a company, then don’t interact with them any more.  But just because you find a website for “Liberty Interactive Solutions,” this does not guarantee that they are legitimate.  Some of the scammers are assuming the identities of existing companies.  Others are apparently spending some time and effort to create a false online identity to make it look like they are legitimate.  Check when the domain name was registered, and from where.  Check the IP address in the email headers for any email you are receiving: if the person claims to be in the United States but the originating IP address is not, there is a problem.  Check the Internet archive to see if prior versions of the company’s website are consistent with what they claim to be.

Don’t pay up-front fees.  With very few exceptions, up front fees are a sign that you are being scammed.  Those exceptions to the rule are small, fixed-sum payments for advertising your timeshare in a legitimate publication.  “Small” means less than $100.  It does not matter what they call the upfront fees: appraisal fees, market analysis fees, marketing fees, advertising fees, or listing fees.  Being asked to front money for the sale of your timeshare is a near guarantee that you are being scammed.

Save everything.  If you received an in-person sales pitch, take a picture of every person you interact with.  Save voicemails.  If it is legal in your state, record all phone calls.  Save all of your email interaction with them and copies of any documents you receive or send.

Don’t wire money to Mexico.  Wire transfers cannot be reversed once the receiving bank has acknowledged receipt of the instructions.  The money is gone.  Did you have to wire money to a bank in Mexico to buy your timeshare?  If not, why would you have to wire money to Mexico to sell it?  If you are absolutely certain that the money you are paying is legitimate, use a credit card.  You are far more likely to succeed in reversing a charge in the event of fraud if you used a credit card rather than a wire transfer.

Don’t throw good money after bad.  Once you have paid something, anything, to obtain something else, you will be naturally inclined to keep putting more money in the pursuit of your goal.  Psychologists call this “escalation of commitment”, “irrational escalation”, “irrational escalation of commitment” or “commitment bias”.  It is a phenomenon where, even as you are faced with increasing evidence that your prior payments were wasted, you are willing to continue throwing ever larger sums in the hopes of salvaging a deal that will never come to fruition.

If you’ve been scammed, check out some suggestions here.

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