The Department of Consumer Protection has learned of several resale or transfer companies, such as Timeshare Free, Resorts Rescued, Transfer Smart and Transfer America, which are soliciting consumers in Connecticut. In some cases, these companies do business under several different names. Due to the variety of companies and the wide scope of resale offers, the Department is offering information and advice about the timeshare resale market and the scams that may be taking place in Connecticut.
“If you are a timeshare owner receiving unsolicited offers to sell your timeshare, or are unsure about who these companies are and what services they are offering, the Department of Consumer Protection has some guidance to offer,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said.
While most timeshare owners are happy with their timeshare purchase for a long time, there may be circumstances when an owner decides it’s time to sell -- lifestyle changes, aging family members, and even new travel interests have some owners looking to resell their timeshare.
Companies known as timeshare “resale” companies or advertisers have become popular in the timeshare market, but please don’t lose sight of the fact that selling or buying a timeshare is a real estate transaction. Just as if you were buying or selling a home, seek out and hire only qualified, knowledgeable people to guide you through the actual sale or purchase of a timeshare.
All timeshare resale companies are not equal. Some companies work very hard to promote and sell or rent timeshares. Unfortunately, there are also resale companies that use fraudulent gimmicks and do little to legitimately sell the timeshare interest. Several states are actively investigating consumer complaints about possible deceptive practices involving unscrupulous timeshare resales.
Connecticut is part of a multi-state national task force led by the state of Florida, to share information about and take action against timeshare resale companies and their illegal practices. The Department of Consumer Protection is currently conducting a multi-faceted investigation of timeshare resale companies that have allegedly been defrauding Connecticut consumers out of thousands of dollars
Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have more than tripled over the past three years and timeshare resales remain a significant and ongoing consumer protection problem. The FTC recently filed a lawsuit against a Florida timeshare resale operation, alleging that Florida-based Vacation Property Services, Inc., two related companies, and their three individual principals, made tens of thousands of unsolicited telemarketing calls to timeshare owners. The FTC alleged that the operation tricked hundreds of consumers into paying up-front fees of thousands of dollars by claiming that buyers were waiting to buy the owners' timeshare properties, or that a sale could be quickly arranged. According to the FTC, consumers ultimately learned that there were no buyers for their timeshares.
Companies that contact you may offer to buy your timeshare interest (e.g., “your week”), help you give it to charity, put your timeshare in a travel club or some other “creative” solution. Be careful! While some offers may be legitimate, be sure to check them out thoroughly beforehand. Make sure you understand who you are dealing with, what their contract says, what others who have used the services think, and most importantly, if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is.
There are even transfer companies that offer to take ownership of your timeshare – but you have to pay them to do so! Desperate owners who feel that they can no longer afford annual maintenance fees, or who are concerned about the timeshare becoming a financial burden on their families or heirs may even take this deal, paying thousands of dollars to deed—or otherwise transfer— their timeshare to these particular companies. These businesses often promise that they will cover all maintenance fees after they take title to the timeshare, until they sell it. But in some cases, the company does not, in fact, transfer the property, and their unfortunate victims soon learn that they are still responsible for the maintenance fees to the resort anyway.
Use good business sense at all times
· First, check with your timeshare resort community to ask if they offer a resales program for their owners.
· Beware of timeshare resellers or transfer companies charging high up-front fees (up to thousands of dollars) because they claim they have buyers “lined up” for your timeshare.
· Don’t give any credit card authorization, in person or over the phone, unless you have all the terms and conditions in writing. Verbal promises are meaningless. If you are using the Internet, ask them to email you the contract or keep a printed copy from the information provided on the reseller’s website.
· All these recommendations apply whether a company emails, telephones or sends you a postcard or brochure — or whether you locate a company while surfing the Web. But be especially careful if the company initiates the contact, and not you.
For more information about timeshares, contact the Department of Consumer Protection at 860-713-6150. To check for the licensure status of the company or agent online, visit the following website: https://www.elicense.ct.gov.
Links for more information:
· Department of Consumer Protection
· Federal Trade Commission
· FTC Publication: Selling a Timeshare Through a Reseller: Contract Caveats.