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Don’t Get Scammed Trying to Get Out of Your Timeshare!

If you want to get out of your timeshare, watch out for timeshare exit scams!

Timeshares can be a really great opportunity for some people. If you find one that fits with your vacation habits and doesn’t break the bank, some appreciate the convenience of having an automatic vacation space that they don’t have to worry about maintaining when they’re not using it. But there are also plenty of reasons why someone who bought a timeshare might not want to have it anymore. The timeshare they have may not fit changes in your family, habits, or available time. Or the maintenance fees may become burdensome. But if you want to get out of your timeshare, there are plenty of scammers out there ready to take advantage. They promise that they’ll get you out of your contract, but all they’ll really do is steal your money with a timeshare exit scam.

How Timeshares Work

A timeshare is an arrangement where you purchase the rights to use a particular resort or vacation home, or multiple, at some point throughout the year. It’s similar to a vacation rental, but with more certainty. Unlike buying your own vacation home, you don’t have to pay the full cost because you share it with other people. But that means how much time you can spend there is restricted. How that time is arranged varies. Some give you an assigned time, such as the second week of August. Some give you a certain amount of time, but vary when you can use it – for example, you may get two weeks to spend there, but which two weeks you get varies every year. And some are points-based, where you get a certain amount of “points” you can “spend” to book time there.

You don’t have the same rights to a timeshare as you would if you owned a vacation home (for example, you can’t just show up whenever you want). And that makes getting out of a timeshare a bit more complicated than if you wanted to get rid of a vacation home. The laws that apply are the ones in the state where the timeshare is located, not where you live, which can get confusing if you live far away. And unlike houses, timeshares aren’t an investment. Their value is in the vacation destination, not the timeshare itself. That makes them often difficult to sell. And buying a timeshare puts you under a contract, and these contracts can be difficult to break or get out of. These are just some of the reasons why getting out of a timeshare can feel impossible on your own.

How Timeshare Exit Scams Work

Timeshare exit scams are more common than many people think, and they steal millions every year. But that doesn’t mean they’re complicated or sophisticated. In fact, most timeshare exit scams follow the same simple framework. If you know what the scammers are trying to do, it’s easier to spot when it’s happening to you.

Step One: They Get You On the Phone

Before they are able to scam you, the scammers first have to get you interested. Some scam companies try to bait you into calling them with advertisements online and on social media. The ads sound great – they may guarantee they can get you out of your contract, or promise that they’ll sell your timeshare to someone else within just a few months. If you actually take time to think about the ads, they will probably start to sound too good to be true. And that’s always suspicious.

The other tactic timeshare exit scams use to reach you is cold calling. The rep who gets you on the phone will know all sorts of things you wouldn’t expect. They know when you bought your timeshare. They know where it is. And they may even know details about your mortgage, your financial situation, or your maintenance fees. Where did they get this information? Sifting through public records. Some of them hire people just to scroll through real estate records and online posts looking for people who own timeshares or who have said something online about wanting to get rid of one. Then they’ll call you and offer their “services.”

Scammers want to get you on the phone. They’re professional persuaders, and they can be more persuasive when you can hear their voice. So whether they called you or manipulated you into calling them, eventually they will get you on the phone. It’s important to remember that legitimate timeshare exit companies don’t need to go looking for business. They have plenty of people looking for their services already. Only scams need to call you to try to get business.

Step Two: They Make a Sales Pitch

Once they get you on the phone, the scammer makes their sales pitch. They use a variety of pitches to appeal to you, most of which are based on lies. Some claim they can sell your timeshare to someone else. They may say the market is hot, your timeshare will sell in months, their company has lots of buyers ready to purchase, or that you’ll get big returns on the sale. All of these are lies.

Scammers may also claim they can get your contract canceled. Contract cancellation is possible. However, no legitimate company would say they can do it without taking a thorough look at your contract. They may also offer you other options, such as donating your timeshare to a charity or selling it to a dummy LLC. Often they present it as a “trick” that the timeshare companies don’t want you to know. These kind of tricks would be legally-dubious if they worked. But they just don’t work.

Still other scammers will try to scare you or make you feel guilty. They may throw a ton of numbers and statistics at you to make you feel overwhelmed or intimidated. At best, the numbers are inaccurate; at worst, they’re outright lies. Or they may tell you that your kids will be forced to inherit your timeshare if you don’t get rid of it right now, which isn’t true.

Finally, they may make promises. They can definitely sell your timeshare. They will absolutely get you out of your contract. This one weird trick is guaranteed to work. But legitimate companies know there are a lot of factors. They can tell you likely results, but they know better to make promises. Only timeshare exit scams will give you guarantees.

Step Three: They Ask for a Fee

You’ve listened to their sales pitch and decided you like what this timeshare exit scam has to say, or you’ve bowed to their high-pressure sales tactics. Either way, you’re on the hook. Now there’s just one more step to get started – you have to pay an upfront fee.

This in itself is not necessarily a red flag. Legitimate companies helping you get out of your timeshare also charge fees. The work they do costs money, and even if they’re selling your timeshare and will get a cut of the profits, it’s a long process. They’ll still require something up front.

But with timeshare exit scams, the fees are often thousands or tens of thousands of dollars more expensive than a legitimate company’s fees. They’ll promise it’s necessary for all the great work they’ll do on your case. If you ask them what they’ll be doing, though, their descriptions of their “work” will be vague and nonspecific. They want you to focus on the important part – as soon as you pay, they’ll get to work, and you’ll be free of your timeshare in no time.

Step Four: Profit (for the Scammer)

You give them the money and follow their instructions. At that point, some scammers just disappear with your initial fee. You’ll never hear from them again. If you try to follow up, you’ll never reach them, or the email address or phone number will no longer work.

Other scammers draw out the timeshare exit scam. They may send you periodic, completely false updates that make it feel like you’re always close to getting out but never quite there. They may offer “upgrades” or “additional services” for better, faster results – with an additional fee, of course – and apply high-pressure tactics to encourage you to do it. Or they may ask for additional fees to finalize matters that never seem to get finalized.

Some may even tell you to stop paying your maintenance fees to the timeshare company and pay it to them instead. Then not only do they get to steal that money, you’re defaulting on your contract. In addition to losing money, it could hurt your credit score or even get you sued.

Whatever their tactic, for those scammers who don’t just disappear with your initial fee, there will always be more things you need to pay for. They will keep asking for money until you realize it’s a scam.

Warning Signs of a Timeshare Exit Scam

There are legitimate companies out there that are designed to help you get out of your timeshare. But unfortunately, there are also a lot of timeshare exit scams. The scams are frequently easier to find than the legitimate companies. So if you want to get out of your timeshare, do your own research and watch for these warning signs. It could keep you from losing thousands to a scammer.

A Bad Reputation

A good place to start when looking at timeshare exit companies is your own online research. Check their listing on the Better Business Bureau’s website. Do they even have a BBB listing? Do they have a lot of complaints? What were the complaints about? Do they look like they’ve been resolved?

You can also check reviews on other websites, such as Yelp and Google. How are they rated? What are people saying about them? Are there a lot of customers calling them a scam? Look for trends. If multiple people have had the same issue, chances are good you’ll have that issue too.

Finally, you can Google the company’s name and the word “scam.” Has anyone online reported that this company is suspicious or a scam? Do other people tell stories about being scammed by them? Just because there are no reports doesn’t mean they’re definitely not a scam. But online research is a great way to do some initial vetting.

Unsolicited Calls or Messages

Any calls, emails, or messages that come out of the blue should be suspicious. Especially beware if they know information like when you bought your timeshare, where it is, or personal information like your address. It means that they likely got your information from data warehouses or real estate records, which is a scammer tactic.

If you listed your timeshare for sale online, you should be especially alert for unsolicited calls or messages. When the scammers spot your listing, they know you have a timeshare and you want to get rid of it. You’re a potential victim. They’ll do their best to target you. And no matter what they say, they don’t want to help you – they just want your money.

Scammers want you to think they’re experts. They often claim to give you legal guidance, even though they’re not lawyers or familiar with the law. Be skeptical of legal advice from any company offering to help get you out of your timeshare – especially if that advice seems too good to be true or like a drastic measure. If they’re telling you to stop paying your mortgage, annual fees, or other financial commitments, that’s a terrible idea.

If legal decisions are involved in the matter, you need a lawyer. A good timeshare exit team will tell you when you need a lawyer and advise you what risks are involved with any course of action. But a scam will claim to be able to give you legal council, not explain the risks, or say there aren’t any risks involved. If they do that, don’t work with them.

Excessive Fees Up Front

It’s not unreasonable for a timeshare exit company to ask for a small fee up front. Getting you out of a timeshare is an expensive process, after all, and they need to pay their bills. But the amount shouldn’t be extreme. If they want tens of thousands of dollars up front, be suspicious.

Especially be suspicious if they’re not transparent about what that fee will be doing. A good company will be able to tell you specific and concrete details about what that money will get you. They’ll be transparent about what they’re doing for you. If they’re vague or evasive, you’re probably paying for nothing. A good company will also offer financing or escrow options to reduce your up-front costs. They’ll also be able to provide evidence that your money is going towards concrete actions to get your out of your timeshare. If they can’t or won’t do that, it’s probably a timeshare exit scam.

Not Communicating

If you’re hiring a legitimate company, they should let you know what’s going on the entire way. They should be transparent about their process and what they’re doing. A good company will give you updates, even if they’re not positive or there’s not much happening, and be responsive when you reach out to them.

If they keep you in the dark, aren’t responsive when you reach out, or try to avoid telling you things, they’re probably trying to hide something. They could be trying to hide that they’re a timeshare exit scam. Or they could just be trying to hide unethical practices or the fact that they’re not doing anything. Nothing about the process is confidential, and they’re not legally required to avoid telling you about anything. If they try to do it, that’s not a company you want to work with.

Guarantees and Promises

The timeshare market is overcrowded. There are vastly more people who want to get out of their timeshares than there are people who want to buy a timeshare. Legitimate timeshare exit companies know this. And they also know that buying a timeshare involves a legal contract, which can be difficult to break. While they do their best, they know they can’t definitely guarantee any particular result.

Timeshare exit scams, on the other hand, have no problem making promises. They will guarantee success and promise you anything it sounds like you want to get you to buy into their scam. They know they don’t have to actually deliver anything. All they need to do is convince you enough that you pay, and guarantees are great at convincing people. Anyone who guarantees or promises you any particular result is a scammer trying to get you hooked.

How to Exit Your Timeshare Without Being Scammed

There are ways to get out of a timeshare without getting involved in a scam. If you want to get out of your timeshare without losing a bunch of money to a timeshare exit scam, consider one of these legal, legitimate methods.

Talk to the Developer or Management Company

If you want to get out of your timeshare, your first stop should be talking to your developer or your management company. If you don’t know who that is, the American Resort Development Association has an online tool to help you identify them. Every developer has a contingency plan for people who want to get out, but each plan is different.

When you call, ask for the person who handles “deed-backs” or “surrenders.” These are programs where you return the property to the company, and almost all developers have some type of program for this. The qualifications vary, but if you meet them it can be the easiest way to get out of your timeshare.

Some developers will only take a property back if you pay a fee, which is sometime large. If you’re already struggling with maintenance fees, that can feel like bad news. But knowing your options will help you come up with a plan.

Sell Your Timeshare

You generally have the option to sell your stake in a timeshare on the resale market. To learn more about this option, contact a Realtor who is licensed to sell in the state where your timeshare is located. They will be able to give you more details.

Don’t expect to make a profit on your timeshare sale. As we’ve already talked about, a timeshare’s value is as a vacation destination, not an investment, and the timeshare market is crowded. Most timeshares aren’t worth much. It will probably end up selling for less than what you paid for it – but at least you’ll be free of it.

Hire a Legitimate Timeshare Exit Company

Remember when we said legitimate timeshare exit companies exist? You have the option to hire one if you want. They often end up being fairly expensive, but if you’re really struggling, a good company could be a worthwhile option.

With any company you think about working with, do your research first. Watch for any sign of a timeshare exit scam, and don’t work with any company your gut says feels suspicious. Do your research about the company before you give them any money.

Check online, but also ask them. Ask what their fees are, how they promote your listing if they’re helping you sell, and what kind of progress updates you’ll get. Make sure they’re active and taking concrete steps towards helping you. Get everything in writing, and to be extra safe, consider getting a lawyer who specializes in contract law to look over everything.

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