CONSUMER ALERT: Attorney General Chris Carr Warns Consumers of Timeshare Resale Scams
ATLANTA, GA – Attorney General Chris Carr is warning consumers about scams in which criminals pose as representatives of vacation travel agencies, title companies or escrow agents to trick timeshare owners into paying up-front fees for timeshare resales that never happen.
Owners of timeshares located in Mexico are often targets of this scam. Here is how it typically works. The timeshare owners receive a phone call or email from someone purportedly working for a travel company. The caller tells the consumers that there is a buyer interested in purchasing their timeshare property.
While the timeshare sale is supposedly pending, the scammers tell the consumers there are fees and/or taxes connected with the sale that must be paid up-front. Consumers are instructed to wire the money to an agent, often located in another country. The fraudulent company continues to collect other fees from the sellers until either informing victims that the sale has fallen through, or until the victims say they’ve had enough and want out of the deal. The consumers then discover they are unable to recuperate their money.
To add credibility to this scam, some con artists are even committing corporate identity theft. They hijack the corporate registration information of a business at the Secretary of State’s Office by altering the names of corporate officers. If a consumer researches the business, it appears as though the fake timeshare title company or travel agency is legitimate since the business owners listed in the timeshare contracts and on the websites set up and operated by the scam companies are the same as those on file with the government. In some cases, the scammers register with their local Better Business Bureau using the same fictitious corporate officer names that were used in the fake corporate registration documents filed with the government.
The Better Business Bureau serving Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia recently announced it has received complaints alleging that a timeshare reseller calling itself “Escrow Corp of Georgia” is scamming consumers. There is a legitimate company called ESCROW CORP. OF GEORGIA, which has nothing to do with Escrow Corp of Georgia. The only difference in the company names is that the legitimate business’ name is capitalized and has a period following “CORP.”
If you are trying to sell your timeshare, keep in mind the following tips and warnings:
- Any request to wire money in connection with a timeshare resale or rental is a big sign of fraud.Once the money is wired, there is almost no chance of recovering it. Not only that, but if the reseller you are dealing with is located in the United States, there is no legitimate reason for the money to be sent to another country.
- Be suspicious of any uninvited solicitations or offers to buy or resell your timeshare, particularly those that seem “too good to be true.”If you are considering such an offer, contact your timeshare resort or timeshare developer, who may be aware of a new or ongoing scam and the legitimacy of a particular person or entity. They can also inform you of any significant restrictions on sales, transfers or rentals that you may not have been aware of.
- Avoid paying money to a reseller up-front.If possible, find 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.
- Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics; they often indicate a scam.
- Ask your resort’s developer, resort manager or owner’s association if they have a newsletter, website or bulletin board where owners can advertise their timeshare for resale.
Consumers who believe they have been victims of a timeshare resale scam should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit by calling (404) 651-8600 or going to consumer.ga.gov, and if you suspect a fraudulent filing, you can call the Secretary of State’s Office at (404) 656-2817 or email [email protected].