Are Timeshares Scams?

Written by: Chuck McDowell Updated: Mar 08, 2024 Published: Feb 21, 2022 12 minute read

One in 10 people who have owned a timeshare has been scammed.

Timeshare scams are becoming increasingly common, with an estimated $1.5 billion lost yearly to timeshare fraud. Despite fraudulent activity becoming more well-known, timeshare companies remain a hot commodity within the travel industry. So, why do buyers consistently fall for a number of timeshare scams despite knowing it's a bad idea?

Timeshare scams can be difficult to spot, as they often involve legitimate businesses and well-trained salespeople. Timeshare companies often target seniors, who may be more vulnerable to fraud. When you step back and look at the data, you'll notice similar stories telling how someone came to own their timeshare. For example, almost everyone experiences some sort of gift offering before attending a sales presentation. Once there, they encounter highly-trained salespeople who use high-pressure sales tactics until they feel they have to agree to buy whatever is for sale.

If these vacation properties are as valuable as they allege, they should not take a deceptive approach when selling them. Let's look into what makes up a timeshare, and perhaps we will find out what you can do to avoid timeshare scams.

What Are Timeshares?

Timeshares are vacation properties sold as shared ownership. Essentially, timeshares have several different owners per unit who split up the property costs and the time spent there. On paper, it sounds like a great vacation option. That feeling will quickly fade when all the extra charges start piling up, and you find yourself with a mountain of debt and very few options to escape timeshare ownership.

Even if you are up to date on all your property payments, it can still be difficult to book your weekly vacation each year. Imagine paying thousands of dollars on a vacation property and being unable to stay there. Many timeshare owners experience common symptoms of timeshare scams: a lack of flexibility, their best interests ignored, limited access to their shared destination, and countless questions. Do you want to join them?    

How Many Americans are Timeshare Owners?

Recent studies show that 9.6 million U.S. households own one or more timeshare weeks. And that number appears to be rising. Alas, the cost of these vacation properties continues to increase as well. ARDA reports the average sales price for a timeshare to be $22,942. Considering how many Americans buy timeshares at that price, these resorts now make up a ten-billion-dollar industry.

It's also worth considering the number of owners who regret their timeshare purchase. A study from the University of Central Florida concluded that an astounding 85% of owners regretted buying a timeshare. Keep in mind that as the timeshare industry grows, so does the timeshare exit industry. And it appears for good reason, too, as more and more buyers are left feeling disappointed or even scammed.

What To Know Before Buying a Timeshare

More often than not, timeshare properties are sold to potential buyers who know very little, if anything, about what they are purchasing. The truth is if more people knew that timeshares were not the highly touted investment salespeople paraded them to be, then the timeshare industry might disappear.

So, before you make a potential lifetime commitment to any timeshare management company, here are a few things you need to consider:

  • Timeshares often are sold using questionable tactics
  • The actual cost of your timeshare is more than you think
  • The resort may not keep its promise of a lifetime of vacation dates
  • It's incredibly complicated to get out of a deeded timeshare title agreement

Why Timeshares Are Bad

Not only do timeshares start losing their value immediately, but they also come with a number of hidden fees, including maintenance fees and closing costs. These additional costs are rarely discussed during the sales process and many prospective owners do not account for these fees when making their decision.

The absolute best-case scenario as an owner is that you are reserving your vacation for future years. Again, this could be ideal if you only plan to visit the same place and at the same time every year, but even then, most owners are left unaware of the specifics of their agreement. That includes added costs to be paid every year, whether or not you've paid off the timeshare's mortgage and increasing maintenance fees. The fact that timeshares are sold as investments when, in actuality, they are money pits from which you cannot escape is one of the most significant issues that owners face.

Timeshares Are Never Paid Off

According to the American Resort Development Association, the average cost for a timeshare unit from a resort developer in 2018 was just below $21,000. So, one would think that paying off one's timeshare mortgage after many years would be a cause for celebration. Well, hold the confetti because you may be unaware of maintenance fees.

Maintenance fees often get left out of the sales presentations; if not, their impact gets drastically undersold to potential clients as minimal payments. These fees may seem reasonable initially, so many owners will just let it slide, but here's the catch:  The cost of an annual maintenance fee increases every year, and the yearly average price in 2018 was close to $900 and rising. It’s difficult to put a numerical value on the average amount of money lost to timeshares. Timeshares aren't like traditional real estate, so don't expect to be free of payment if you purchase one.

What Happens If I Stop Paying Timeshare Maintenance Fees?

With all the hidden fees that come with a timeshare, affording them can become unmanageable for many people. If that's the case for you, your first instinct may be to stop paying the maintenance fees. Well, you might not want to do that. Failing to pay your maintenance fees can result in property foreclosure, costing you your unit and a sizable drop in your credit score.

Timeshares Are Poor Investments 

High purchase prices, insurmountable maintenance costs, and limited flexibility define timeshare ownership. Timeshare properties should hold a high value as an investment should. But, just as timeshares mask themselves as real estate, they also attempt to disguise themselves as an actual investment. If you are constantly paying for something and not receiving anything in return, or what you receive is insignificant compared to the price, it's a poor investment. That is if a timeshare can be considered an investment at all.

It is standard for owners to feel regret and shame after realizing what a timeshare truly is. They often attempt to get rid of their timeshare once they recognize their mistake in purchasing it. Unfortunately, selling a timeshare on the secondary market or using it as a vacation rental, will be nearly impossible. If you buy one of these units, expect to pay a hefty amount, but do not ever expect to get anything back from it.

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Are Timeshare Presentations A Scam?

To no fault but their own, timeshare presentations have developed a reputation for being deceptive. 

Resort companies sometimes entice people to attend presentations by offering free stays at their luxurious resort or giving out lavish gifts during your vacation trip. Often, it’s the only way to get people to listen to their sales pitch. During these presentations, sales staff use controversial approaches to pressure buyers into unfavorable lifetime commitments.

Seeing through the fog of a sales pitch can be tricky. Below, we’ve outlined how you can handle these highly-pressured presentations.

How to Handle Timeshare Presentations

The common process used by the timeshare industry to scam people is mail. Folks often receive flyers or see advertisements online inviting them to attend live presentations to learn more about timeshares. Some promoters go as far as to offer free vacations and other rewards in exchange for listening to their sales pitch. The environment at these presentations often gives the false sense that you’re already on vacation. The sales staff show off photos of luxurious resorts and even provide tours of comparable units up for sale.

Sometimes, these salespeople utilize tactics to pressure individuals into purchases. For instance, they can drag out presentations to unbearable lengths by having you meet with many people, including long waiting periods. To get you to act now, they might inform you that a unit is only available on that particular day and that you will miss out on a great deal by waiting. By the time the presentation is over, they want you to be so fatigued that you'll sign anything to leave. 

Below are a few suggestions on handling deceptive timeshare presentations and how to prevent an unwanted purchase:

  • Research the company before attending a presentation: Explore their online presence for grievances from former guests. Find out what other people say about this resort developer before buying.
  • Look Out For The Warning Signs: Were you offered a free prize to attend this meeting? Do the salespeople come off as abrasive? Are you stuck waiting through a presentation longer than you want? Is this offer only valid today? If you answer yes to any of these, you are likely in danger of a scam.
  • Do not make decisions when under pressure from the sales staff: A timeshare purchase is a potential lifetime agreement that costs thousands of dollars. Take your time with this decision and never act on impulse in these presentations. 
  • Beware of potential sales tactics used against you: If the salespeople attempt to rush you into a decision, ask why the deal is only available today. These companies set their rates, so there’s no reason for the value to change within a day. Timeshare brokers pressuring consumers should be a sign of caution. 
  • Inquire about the “right of rescission:” Also known as the cooling-off period – the brief time following a significant purchase that allows you to cancel, even after signing. State laws dictate this cancellation period, but with timeshares, it’s never more than a couple of weeks. When rescinding, send a cancellation letter to the original seller by certified mail and ask for a receipt. 
  • Examine the paperwork independently on your time: After the presentation, take the sales documents home and study them yourself or with a trusted associate before agreeing to purchase. All promises made by the sales staff must be made in writing to be held up. Rushing into a decision without reviewing the purchase agreement could result in getting misled into something unwanted.

How to Get Out of a Timeshare

Whether it takes one year or twenty years of vacation ownership, most timeshare owners eventually realize they have a bad deal. From the annual maintenance fees to the fact that it's a lifetime agreement, there are several reasons to ask, "How do I get out of a timeshare?" 

Well, the answer to that can be tricky. Depending on how much time has passed since your purchase date, getting out of the deal can be difficult. But it's not as bad as paying the mortgage and maintenance costs for a lifetime. First, remember there’s a rescission period directly after buying the timeshare, during which you can freely cancel the purchase. All you may have to do is write a timeshare cancellation letter to your resort developers.

Now, are you ready for the catch? Unfortunately, you usually only have five to fifteen days after the initial purchase to write and submit this letter. So, let's say you attended one of the mandatory sales presentations at the resort on one of the first few days of your vacation and purchased a timeshare. When your vacation is over, and you return home, you will most likely be out of the rescission period and stuck with the timeshare.

Once this cooling-off period passes, you can expect a more troublesome experience if you want to cancel your agreement. Most timeshare sales are lifetime commitments, and the companies don’t want to lose you as a client.

Why It's Difficult to Cancel Your Timeshare

Canceling a timeshare is difficult due to miscommunication and finances. Many timeshare buyers are blatantly lied to about how easy it is to sell or rent their share of the property. Often, it’s almost impossible to do so. Timeshare companies make it very challenging to get out of their agreements and leave you with limited alternatives.

There are several financial repercussions to purchasing a timeshare. You may have paid a large down payment with your credit card or taken out a mortgage. Both affect your credit score. There's also the short term of the rescission period. Your salesperson may not have mentioned that you only had less than a week to cancel your timeshare for free. 

You were probably rushed through the signing process when purchasing, and it all seemed relatively easy. Don't expect the same treatment when trying to get out. Attempting to cancel can be a cruel course for you and your family, costing you money and time. The timeshare companies know that many of their clients will regret their purchase and attempt to exit. So, they make sure to fulfill their agreements with conditions and provisions that will make leaving very difficult.

Timeshare resorts go far out of their way to ensure the company remains financially protected if an owner ever attempts to leave. The resort company ensures it will never be obligated to the burden. Many owners feel helpless and hopeless because they can no longer afford their property costs but receive little to no help from the company to solve these issues. Perhaps the biggest downside to getting out of a timeshare is how exposed you become to potential scams.

Timeshare Resale Scams

As the number of unhappy owners has increased, the risk of timeshare resale scams has as well. Because of this and having limited regulations, the timeshare cancellation industry has seen an influx of scammers. Many claim to work in timeshare resales but are con artists. They manipulate those who desperately need help to make some quick cash. Their behavior is fraudulent and immoral. 

Timeshare resale scams call timeshare owners while assuming the identity of a reseller or real estate agent. They promise to sell the timeshare for a fair price or assert that they already have a buyer. They will then attempt to convince you to sell your property unit right then, and all you have to do is pay the upfront costs to close the deal. If you follow through, you could lose thousands of dollars and remain obligated to make future timeshare payments.

The only thing worse than a scam is getting scammed again when trying to get out of the first one! If you were scammed before, you should be aware that the chances of it happening again are high, and you need to be extra careful. Due to the extreme difficulty in canceling a timeshare and owners looking for other ways out, such as selling them, there has been an increase in instances where scammers take advantage of these people by pretending to be a timeshare resale company. 

Most owners believe that selling their timeshare is the only way out of their agreement. However, reselling is challenging and often impossible. Timeshare cancellation companies offer an alternative option to those in need. 

How to Spot Timeshare Scams

Spotting a timeshare resale scam may be difficult. Be wary of anyone who claims to be able to sell your timeshare quickly or for a profit. Avoid high-pressure sales by hanging up the phone. Don't fall for flashy websites or well-known company names or addresses. A reseller who appears to be a local company might be a fraudster in another country.

If you attempt to sell your property and post it online, you will most likely encounter scammers. Be skeptical of anyone who calls you out of the blue, saying they can immediately sell your unit. Also, it is crucial to never pay any upfront fees when speaking with an alleged timeshare resale company.

These timeshare resale scam companies prey on those already scammed before. Knowing these people are desperate and weak, as they attempt to get out of their first scam, they will go to extreme lengths to convince you they are a legitimate company. It would be best to take your own time to research properly before working further with them.

Navigating your way out of a timeshare agreement is hard. It’s vital to avoid scammers in the secondary market. Here are a few tips on how to prevent getting ripped off:

Ignore Unsolicited Contact

If it is an unsolicited phone call, email, or piece of mail regarding your property's resale, it is best to ignore it. If there are warning signs, then this is one. Credible and honest living timeshare exit companies will not be cold-calling people by saying they can sell your unit. These scammers will use similar tactics to timeshare salespeople and may attempt to incentivize you to speak with them or mislead you into believing they offer a legitimate service. Whenever you advertise your timeshare for sale online, you will encounter these scams left and right, but unfortunately, a genuine buyer will not be as easy to find.

Never Pay Upfront Fees

These scammers will push you to act fast and tell you that you must pay an upfront fee to complete the sale. Never pay upfront. There are many ways to say this, but it needs to be understood. That is an immediate red flag. When they ask you to pay anything upfront, hang up because they are not trustworthy timeshare resellers; they are only there for your money. You already lost thousands of dollars on a timeshare you want out of, so don't fall for another rip-off.

Find A Reputable Timeshare Cancellation Company Instead

When looking for a way out of your timeshare, it's essential to do thorough research. Trustworthy timeshare exit companies don’t lie about their services or charge outrageous fees.

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How To Report a Timeshare Scam

Timeshare scams are the number one complaint the Federal Trade Commission received, with more than 7,000 complaints in 2019.

If you have any information regarding a timeshare resale scam, here are the two sources to report it to:

You can help stop future fraudulent timeshare activity by reporting your experience today. 

Are Timeshares Worth It?

Timeshare salespeople regularly brag that their type of timeshare membership is a ‘great investment.’ Well, financially speaking, that’s not true. Buy one today, and it will begin to depreciate by tomorrow. Match that with the fact that the expenses continuously rise, and it’s evident that timeshares are not worth it.

The timeshare industry is full of scams and dishonest companies looking to undermine innocent people into making poor decisions. Do your research before purchasing a timeshare, and if you have already fallen into that trap, then be sure to do the proper research to find a legitimate way out.

These resort chains need many owners to fill all their units and stay afloat financially, so they will take extreme measures to secure ownership, even if it is done in a disingenuous way. Once you have fallen for the first scam, you will be susceptible to more. If you are in such a predicament, the best thing to do is find credible help within the timeshare exit industry.

If you're hiring a cancellation company, look no further than Wesley Financial Group, LLC  (WFG).* Since 2011, WFG has canceled over 30,000 timeshares and eliminated $450,000,000 of timeshare mortgage debt. Schedule a free consultation with WFG representatives today to plan your be

*Wesley Financial Group, LLC, and its affiliates, successors, or assigns are not lawyers or a law firm and do not engage in the practice of law or provide legal advice or legal representation. All information, software, services, and comments provided on this site are for informational and self-help purposes only and not intended to substitute for professional advice, legal or otherwise.

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