Seniors, Scams & Timeshare: World Wide Problem?

All of our stories revolve around getting out of a timeshare, or a timeshare sold deceptively. Many have lost thousands of dollars, pounds or euros, resulting from the promise of a speedy “exit”, “court claim” or “consumer act claim” routinely made by the cold callers. As we have said before, some exit companies may be genuine, most are not. It is a recognised marketing tool subject to many regulations which should be observed by the marketers. These cover such things as the validity of leads, observing “don’t call” protocols, but this is another subject in itself.

This article has been sparked by a conversation with our friend regarding ongoing work on her case, she sent me a link and a very important question; “Read your article, it’s all over the world, yet why can’t we open up the can of worms?”

My initial answer was; “quite simply, it’s big money.”.

A short answer I know, but it did get me thinking, AIT publishes many articles from both sides of the “Great Lake”, the similarities in each and every case is very striking indeed. Firstly, all now tend to be seniors, originally purchasing many years ago, some just before retirement some after. The similarities for their purchase are also evident, “investment” of one form or another, be it for rental and/or resale. “Investment” has been implied in the pitch.

Another feature is the finance that tends to go hand in hand with these big “investments” and the problems surrounding them. We have published so many stories about this subject, from the UK and Europe to North America. Brick walls when dealing with them on problems due to the timeshare, we need not go on.

So we know where all this started, the initial purchase, this was the first step to years of being scammed in one way or another, more so than if they hadn’t become involved with timeshare. The sales pitches which hooked you are minor compared with the ones that follow, all with one thing in mind, your money.

In Europe timeshare was being sold implying you were purchasing property, EU Directives made this practice illegal, it is a holiday product with rights of usage to certain properties, not ownership in property or real estate. In the US we know it is classified as real estate, sales agents apparently must be licensed, this does vary from state to state.

This implication of purchasing “real” property started the upsurge in resale companies, many of which were outright scams. You paid them money “upfront” to sell your timeshare within the period of the contract, usually, 12 months, with a money-back “guarantee” if they don’t sell. How many have fallen for that one?

Eventually, in Europe the resale market began to crumble, this was replaced with the “Discount Holiday Clubs”. These would trade in your timeshare for membership to this club, the websites showed the very same resorts as you may have used, but at a fraction of the maintenance fees. They were also maintenance-free, the annual subscription was around £75 to £100, to leave you just stopped paying, or so they said.

Many were caught by this model, it was pretty clever for its time, but again it disappeared with many arrested and some jailed. This was soon replaced with the “relinquishment (exit) & claims” companies.

A huge surge in these came after the first Supreme Court rulings on timeshare in Spain, which opened the door for legitimate law firms to represent clients against their resorts for illegal contracts. But it also opened the floodgates of the fakes.

We have seen this sector grow with “fake” law firms becoming more sophisticated in their “scam”. Documents to the untrained eye appear to be genuine, even the website given looks very promising with all the right information. Sometimes the website is actually a genuine law firm that doesn’t know their name is being used, that was the subject for our first article.

This particular type of scam is also taking hold in the US, for those who purchased in Mexico, that is like the Brits buying in Spanish territory. Foreigners on holiday getting hijacked to sales presentations and succumbing to the sales patter.

What has caused all of this fraud on the periphery of timeshare?

Again a very simple answer, the industry that sold it in the first place.

From the very start of the sales presentation, your money was the target, at first, these sales presentations were on the whole conducted professionally, but over the years the rot set in. Responsibility for the sale of their own product was set aside, the slogan “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say”, became the norm. This problem is not just in the US & Europe, but all over the world, everywhere timeshare is sold, we have heard the same stories from South Africa, Australia and beyond.

Usually, it is not until the next “Update”, actually read “sales”, or the member tries to do something that was promised that the problems begin to surface. The solution, “upgrade”, according to the “agent” you got the wrong package for your needs. So it goes on until you decide to get out, then the real problems begin.

By this time consumers have already begun receiving many cold calls about sales, quite often they have a “buyer” ready and waiting, tempting now they want to get rid of it. After all, the “sales pitch” did give a strong impression that it was property and would go up in value. The first of many losses to come.

For many, this has been going on for years, every attempt to “exit” has resulted in failure and usually with financial loss. Even the members who went through their resort’s “exit” channels were expected to pay huge sums for the “privilege” of an exit.

This industry generates huge sums in revenue not just for itself but also the financial institutions who provide the loans/mortgages for the purchases, remembering these were probably brokered by the same salespeople. They also tend to be rather high on interest, more revenue.

Then there are all those on the periphery which we have already mentioned, with many of the scammers originating in the sales side of the industry. They either set up these companies or they work for them, all trained in the art of deception by their previous employers, targeting in many cases the very same “clients” they originally sold to. Wonder where the leads came from, again that is another story.

The above is only the timeshare itself, then we have the “regulatory” bodies, usually non-governmental, that charge for any accreditations, licenses or authorisations for the companies to practice. They also offer membership packages. This is especially so with the finance industry in the UK, an area we have already covered in previous articles. These are the bodies that your complaints end up with and we all know which side their decision will favour.

We now move to the newest players in this money-making game, the Tech Giants and Social Platforms.

We see “sponsored” ads pop up all the time, all targeting you because of what you search and look at, your “algorithm” is set and is about to scam you. The number of ads we see that are out and out scams and they are not just for timeshare, is horrendous.

AIT receives emails and notifications offering “boost your post” and “sponsor an ad”, these do cost, but to a scammer, this is chicken feed for the exposure they can get, What checks are made to ensure if legitimate or not?

As for the platform providers, well they are worldwide so imagine the amount of revenue they generate in this area.

In the UK there is a call to “Regulate” this sector and make these providers equally liable for any losses made by consumers. Maybe this will force the platforms to act, I doubt it.

So to answer the question still leaves us with the simple answer, It’s Big Money.

The answer to who is ultimately responsible for the spiral of deceit associated with timeshare, The Industry itself.

These two answers give us the answer to our original question; “The can of worms is open but it is so deep you will never see the bottom”, and the title question, a World Wide Problem? “Yes it is”.

The link sent is just one of the links our reader sends to me on a regular basis, there is no doubt about it, she is a campaigner. It is reading our articles and doing her own research following links published and finding her own, which has opened her eyes to an issue she sees is worldwide. The brick walls she has had to break down and is still doing so have been erected by the industry (developers) and those tasked with regulation.

There are many points on which we have not gone into detail, as Irene pointed out, this seems to be an amalgamation of articles, well, yes it is, but the points raised will make you start thinking differently about the whole thing and many points do also deserve to have their own piece, I can already see future articles from Irene.

That is all for today, on a lighter note, we hope you had a good weekend, Baby Dog did a lot of running around so is in a lazy mood and refuses to go out.

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