FTC Bans Timeshare Reseller, Imposes $4.2 Million Fine
Under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Albert M. Wilson, owner and manager of Vacation Property Services, Inc. has been permanently banned from the timeshare resale and rental business, and from all telemarketing. The settlement order also imposes a judgment of more than $4.2 million.
The case is part of the FTC’s ongoing effort to crack down on scammers who use fraud and deception to take advantage of consumers in financial distress.
The settlement followed a court ruling that the company violated the FTC Act and Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by misrepresenting the company’s refund policy and the existence of potential buyers. The complaint also charged the defendants with calling hundreds of thousands of consumers whose phone numbers are on the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry.
Vacation Property Services, Inc. was found to have made tens of thousands of unsolicited telemarketing calls to timeshare owners falsely claiming that they already had, or could quickly find, buyers for the owners’ timeshares. Vacation Property Services demanded that clients pay a large up-front fee to facilitate the sale.
This case one again highlights the importance of choosing licensed and BBB accredited timeshare brokers to sell your vacation property.
The FTC goes on to offer the following stipulations for avoiding fraud and scams when attempting to sell your timeshare on the resale market:
- Don’t agree to anything on the phone or online until you’ve had a chance to check out the reseller. Contact the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), state Attorney General (www.naag.org), and local consumer protection agencies (www.consumeraction.gov) in the state where the reseller is located. Ask if any complaints are on file.
- Ask the salesperson for all information in writing.
- Ask if the reseller’s agents are licensed to sell real estate where your timeshare is located. If so, verify it with the state Real Estate Commission. Deal only with licensed real estate brokers and agents, and ask for references from satisfied clients.
- Ask how the reseller will advertise and promote the timeshare unit. Will you get progress reports? How often? Ask about fees and timing. It’s preferable to do business with a reseller that takes its fee after the timeshare is sold. If you must pay a fee in advance, ask about refunds. Get refund policies and promises in writing.
- Don’t assume you’ll recoup your purchase price for your timeshare, especially if you’ve owned it for less than five years and the location is less than well-known.
The Number One Mistake Timeshare Sellers Make
Selling your timeshare can be a tricky business. Unfortunately, unprepared sellers too often fall victim to timeshare scams or ineffective marketing schemes. Many sellers find themselves in difficult financial situations and, out of desperation, make rash decisions without proper research. Others simply don’t know the warning-signs. So, what’s the number one mistake timeshare sellers make, and how can you protect yourself?
Paying an upfront fee is the number one mistake timeshare sellers make. Whether a company is selling you ad-space on their “highly visible” website, or promising to close the sale for a “ready and waiting” buyer – it’s rarely worth taking the risk to pay upfront for services.
Scammers trick vulnerable sellers into cutting them checks to “close a deal” while ad-sites charge a flat fee to list your property among thousands of others – with no guarantee of sale. After all, once they’ve got your money, what’s their incentive to sell your timeshare?
So What can Timeshare Sellers Do?
Always use a licensed timeshare broker to sell your timeshare. Timeshare brokers, like other real-estate agents, don’t collect any payment until the sale is complete. Brokers work on a commission basis, meaning they’ve got true incentive to sell your timeshare. Additionally, brokers must maintain licensing to practice – ensuring a measure of reputability and transparency.
Other Timeshare Selling No-No’s
Now that you know the number one timeshare selling sin, rethink your strategy. Take the time to research carefully, and consider the following final “no-no’s” before jumping into a sale:
- Under or Overestimating your Timeshare’s Worth – Don’t know how much your timeshare is worth? Get a free market survey or contact a licensed broker to find out how much your timeshare is worth and price accordingly.
- Forgetting to Check the BBB – Not sure if a resale company is BBB Accredited? Find out what the Better Business Bureau thinks about your potential reseller, and think twice about working with a company that isn’t listed or accredited.
- Being Afraid to Ask Questions – Too many sellers don’t ask important questions – like how a broker works to sell your timeshare, or what percentage commission they’ll make off the sale. The right brokerage company will take the time to make sure you understand the whole process.
So there you have it. Don’t fall victim to the number one mistake timeshare sellers make: never pay an upfront fee to sell your timeshare. Follow these simple suggestions, and choose a licensed broker for a safe, reliable resale experience.
Great Resource: When Timeshare Resale Goes Wrong
This morning, the Tampa Bay Times ran an extensive story on timeshare fraud in the Florida timeshare resale industry. The article told the story of dozens of vulnerable, and often elderly, victims of timeshare scams, and the inability (or unwillingness) of law-enforcement officials to investigate.
Alongside the story, the Tampa Bay Times also offered this great resource – a quick slide-show that breaks down the mechanics of upfront fee timeshare resales entitled “Resale ripoff: When timeshare resale goes wrong.“
Click the link above to learn more about how timeshare scams operate. More than anything else, this story highlights why you should research your timeshare reseller carefully. Most importantly, always choose a licensed timeshare broker and never pay an upfront fee to sell your timeshare.
If you have any questions about timeshare resales, or you’re ready to sell your timeshare with a licensed broker – please don’t hesitate contact us today. Timeshare Broker Sales is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Association, and a BBB Accredited Business. We never charge an upfront fee for our services.