In a world where the line between opportunities and pitfalls is frequently blurred, it’s understandable why so many people fall for timeshare scams. The dream-like promise of idyllic getaways and luxurious escapes is hard to resist.
But beyond this picture of paradise lies the shadowy underworld of the timeshare industry, preying upon unsuspecting consumers looking for good deals on vacations. Before they know it, these newfound timeshare owners find themselves trapped and unable to escape.
How could they have avoided this trap in the first place? By being aware of the formula that timeshare salespeople use to manipulate you into making a timeshare purchase. We’ll reveal common tactics and red flags to watch for before entering into a timeshare scam.
Offering complimentary perks, hiding information about your contract, using high-pressure sales tactics — these are all strategies used by developers to get you to buy a timeshare property. At face value, you may think you’d never fall for these tricks.
However, so many people do each year that a whole other industry of exit companies has been created to reverse the damage. We don’t want you to fall for these fraudsters‘ tricks, so here are the warning signs to help you identify if you’re walking into a timeshare scam.
It starts out innocently enough. A timeshare company will offer you complimentary hotel rooms, gift cards, and meals in exchange for a couple of hours of their time. Even if you have no interest in making a timeshare purchase, it can be hard to resist free perks. What’s an hour or two of sitting in a meeting when you can enjoy free nights at a resort or a $200 gift card?
However, what appears to be a low-stakes timeshare presentation can turn into multiple hours of high-pressure sales tactics. The idea is to not take no for an answer and keep you in the meeting until you succumb to signing a timeshare contract.
After many hours (and sometimes pitches from multiple salespeople), you may become weary and hungry. The timeshare reps know this will lower your defenses, and you may be tempted to accept the deal just so you can leave.
The best defense against this red flag is to avoid timeshare sales presentations. But if you do find yourself in one, don’t be afraid to get up and leave after you’ve fulfilled the time commitment you agreed to. If they take your ID at the start of the presentation, make sure to insist on getting it back early on. Otherwise, they may not give it back and will use it as leverage if you want to leave.
In addition to wearing you down with a long sales presentation, another red flag is when salespeople use guilt or urgency. Perhaps the rep will tell you you’ve wasted their time or that they won’t get paid if you don’t sign. Some might even go so far as to say you’re not a good parent or spouse if you don’t purchase a timeshare. This is their way of playing on your emotions to make you feel bad for saying no.
Or they might try to force you into a quick decision by creating a sense of urgency. Limited-time deals and discounts that are only available if you sign today can make you feel like you’re missing out on the best deal if you take time to consider your options.
These tactics can manipulate you into making a decision you don’t want to make. But being aware of them can help you defend against them and avoid falling prey to the emotional and mental sales games.
Is the salesperson only talking about the initial cost of the timeshare? The average upfront cost of vacation ownership is around $22,000. By offering the timeshare company’s available financing, they’ll make that upfront cost appear more affordable.
For example, they may try to encourage you to get a 120-month loan at 17.99%, which are the most common terms, to cover the $22,000 timeshare. The salesperson will tell you that with this loan you’ll only be paying $396 per month. But when you really look at the numbers, you’ll see you’d be spending $25,551.90 in interest over those 10 years, which is more than the original $22,000 price tag. In total, you’d be paying over $47,000.
However, the true costs of a timeshare don’t end there. You’ll be subject to annual maintenance fees, which will increase every year, as well as special assessment fees.
If these fees aren’t mentioned in the sales presentation or if they assert that these fees are locked in and do not go up, those are red flags that they’re trying to conceal the true cost of signing the contract.
You don’t have to consult your state attorney general to know that millions of people get trapped in egregious legal entanglements because they neglect to review the contracts they sign.
The timeshare industry is no stranger to this phenomenon as they intentionally rush you into signing a timeshare contract before you have the time to know what you’re agreeing to.
Developers don’t want you to read your contract because it contains terms you would never agree to if you were made aware of them. Timeshare contracts often exceed 50 pages in length and include clauses that allow for drastic increases in maintenance fees each year or restrict you from putting your property on the resale market.
You might also be signing up for a credit card without your knowledge if you agree to the contract before reading the fine print. This credit card might just show up at your home three weeks after signing the contract with the down payment already charged to it.
As with any contract, don’t sign before you’ve had a chance to review it carefully — even if the developer promises to send you a copy after it’s signed. Because by the time it gets to you, it’ll probably be after your cancellation period has already ended. If a timeshare company doesn’t want to give you the time you need to consider your purchase, it may be because they’re trying to hide things from you.
Timeshare companies benefit when you’re unaware of the cancellation process. In every timeshare contract, developers are required to discuss the rescission period for a timeshare purchase.
This is the amount of time you are given to cancel your purchase, usually ranging from three to 15 days. A rescission means you have a money-back guarantee. You’ll be reimbursed for any amount you’ve already paid and won’t be held responsible for closing costs or annual maintenance fees.
However, many timeshare salespeople will avoid telling you about the cancellation clause that’s listed in your timeshare contract in hopes that it will be too late to cancel by the time you discover it. They might also falsely claim that you have a longer cancellation period than what’s specified in your contract.
If you did sign a contract and regret it soon after, be sure to follow the rescission instructions exactly, and keep records of all the steps you took on what days. You can also reach out to Centerstone Group for advice on how to execute the rescission. Timeshare companies that aren’t forthright about the rescission may try to use loopholes (like instructions that weren’t exactly followed) to deny your cancellation.
Part of the rescission process will likely require you to write and send a cancellation letter. You may want to mail it certified so you have a record of when it was sent and received, and email it as well, so there are multiple ways to track that the cancellation was requested within the legal timeframe allowed.
There are several reasons why people fall prey to timeshare scams. Perhaps they were lured by free perks, believing these to be in exchange for a brief, innocuous sales pitch. Or maybe they felt pressured to sign a contract for timeshare ownership before they had a chance to read it.
The best defense against these scams is to know they exist so you can see past the tricks and tactics. But what if you’ve already fallen victim?
Navigating the complexities of timeshares can be a daunting task, and it can feel impossible to escape. However, with the assistance of the experts at Centerstone Group, this endeavor can feel much more manageable.
Our timeshare exit team has more than three decades’ worth of experience in the timeshare industry and a thorough knowledge of how to resolve timeshare contracts and navigate the rescission process. If you’ve been entangled in a timeshare scam, our A+ and 4.8-out-of-5 rating through the Better Business Bureau should tell you that you can trust us to help you out.
Contact us today for a free consultation.