Tennessee is cautioning consumers about deceptive travel promoters and timeshare resellers as part of a joint multi-state, multi-national law enforcement initiative, coordinated by the Federal Trade Commission, Attorney General Bob Cooper announced today.
Attorney General Cooper and Gary Cordell, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs (a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance), are urging consumers to beware in light of complaints of deceptive conduct by some timeshare and vacation club companies. Among the allegations are that some are using misleading sales tactics to induce consumers into purchasing timeshare or vacation club programs that have high maintenance fees, poor travel date and destination selection, and hidden costs. Other abuses consumers complain about include cancellation issues, difficulty contacting customer service, and misleading or deceptive high pressure sales presentations.
Complaints have cropped up of another deceptive practice involving promoters tricking consumers into purchasing deeply discounted or “free” vacation packages supposedly worth thousands of dollars. More often than not, consumers receive nothing of value or are required to attend lengthy, high-pressure timeshare sales presentations.
“At this time of the year when timeshare owners realize they may not be able to take a vacation at their designated ownership time, it’s especially important to do your homework when dealing with someone who claims to be able to quickly sell or rent your vacation spot,” Attorney General Cooper said. “In that same vein, last minute vacation planners should beware of those companies hawking so-called ‘free” or deeply discounted vacations, which are likely anything but what they expect.”
Many consumers who are unhappy with their timeshares and are unable to cancel may try and sell their timeshares. Tennessee consumers have complained of timeshare and vacation club resellers who claim they can get top dollar prices to buy or rent timeshare property or vacation club points. Most consumer complaints stem from those companies asking for upfront fees after falsely claiming they have renters or buyers at the ready.
“Unfortunately, many consumers ultimately end up losing hundreds or thousands of dollars in bogus closing costs and unsold properties or points packages,” DCA Director Cordell added. “Many of these scammers also promise refunds to consumers, but most consumers never get their money back.”
Today’s announcement coincides with the announcement of 83 civil actions by the FTC and more than 27 states; more than 74 state, local and federal criminal actions; and 24 international actions brought by eight countries. To protect against these types of frauds, AG Cooper and Director Cordell offered some tips to avoid becoming a victim.
Some Signs It’s a Travel Scam:
- You “won a free vacation,” but you have to pay some fees first.
- The prize company wants your credit card number.
- They cold-call, cold-text, or email you out of the blue. Before you do business with any company you don’t know, call the local consumer protection agencies in the company’s home state to check on complaints; then, search online for consumer complaints.
- They don’t — or can’t —give you specifics.
- You get pressure to sign up for a travel club for great deals on future vacations.
- You get a robocall about it. Robocalls from companies are illegal if you haven’t given a company written permission to call you; even if you haven’t signed up for the national Do Not Call Registry.
Tips to Avoid a Timeshare Resale Scam:
- Check out the company before you agree to anything. See if the Attorney General and local consumer protection agencies in the company’s home state have complaints, then search online for complaints.
- Deal only with licensed real estate brokers or agents.
- Get all terms in writing before you agree to anything.
- Consider doing business only with someone who gets paid after the timeshare is sold.
- Be alert to a repeat scam.