A retired couple from the US have forked out $150,000 on a luxury timeshare they could not afford. The couple had little to no intention of purchasing another timeshare. However, during their Caribbean Cruise last year, a salesperson for a large well known resort approached them and convinced them to buy a $150,000 timeshare which came with a staggering $19,000 in annual maintenance fees.

In order to fund the purchase they borrowed money against their retirement home. Once they returned home from their cruise they tried to cancel the contract, but the resort refused to honour the statutory cool-off period. They had owned timeshares in the past, and enjoyed holidays all over the world, but found that this new timeshare was completely unaffordable. In addition to this, the sales rep for the resort would not let them keep any documentation and did not explain the high maintenance fees they would be obliged to pay annually.

The resort continued to send letters to the elderly couple, demanding fees be paid. Eventually, they employed the services of a lawyer in their home state, who told the resort they were committing elder abuse. Elder Abuse is a serious offence in the U.S, and relates to a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. The resort finally agreed to terminate the contract, the whole ordeal lasted nearly a year and proved incredibly stressful for the elderly couple.

The Federal Trade Commission offers the following advice to consumers thinking of purchasing a timeshare in the U.S:

Before you buy a timeshare or enter into an agreement with a termination company calculate the total cost including mortgage payments and expenses. Take travel costs into consideration, annual maintenance fees and taxes, closing costs, broker commissions and finance charges. Maintenance fees can rise at rates that equal or exceed inflation, so ask whether your plan has a fee cap. You must pay fees and taxes, regardless of whether you use the unit.

To help evaluate the purchase, compare these costs with the cost of renting similar accommodations with similar amenities in the same location for the same time period. If you find that buying a timeshare or vacation plan makes sense, comparison shopping is your next step.

The Better Business Bureau are offering the following advice to U.S. timeshare owners:

Be wary of unsolicited offers: If an opportunity just falls in your lap, or your inbox, and appears too good to be true, it probably is.

Be suspicious of transactions that involve additional fees: Scammers will often tempt you with a great offer and request additional fees to further the transaction. Never share bank account numbers or other personally identifying information with someone you’ve never met.

Don’t be pressured to act immediately: Scammers typically try to make you think something scarce or a limited time offer. They want to push you into action before you have time to think or to discuss it with a family member, friend or financial advisor. High-pressure sales tactics are also used by some legitimate businesses, but it’s never a good idea to make an important decision quickly.

Do your research: Review businesses, complaints and reviews from other consumers. Look on the secondary market for properties being resold.

Protect yourself from timeshare fraud.

Always check that the details of the organisation or company contacting you, such as the website, address and phone number, are correct as the fraudsters may be posing as a legitimate organisation.

Challenge all calls, letters or emails from people or organisations you don’t know or you have never contacted before. Ask how they have obtained your details and make a note of the call.

If you have been a victim of fraud in the past, seek independent advise before engaging with any organisation that is offering to help you. Callous fraudsters will often attempt to defraud people who have already fallen victim to fraud by offering to return what the victim has already lost.

People who enter into Timeshare agreements often find it difficult to keep up with the mounting maintenance fees and simply cannot afford it any longer. They may also find that the Timeshare no longer suits their needs and simply want to end the contract. There are too many individuals who are willing to take advantage of Timeshare owners and offer fake products, along with Timeshare exit schemes. Before agreeing to any Timeshare termination or exit procedure with an individual or company, seek independent advice and fully research any company you are thinking of working with.

It is also important to remember that purchasing a Timeshare should NEVER be viewed as a financial investment. Timeshare is an investment in lifestyle, in future holidays and family time together. There is almost no resale value to a Timeshare.

The mis-selling of holiday products is, unfortunately, common practice within the holiday industry and these type of crimes often go unreported by the most vulnerable in our society and criminal convictions are few and far between.

If you have purchased a Lifestyle / Concierge Service, a Timeshare or a ‘Holiday Points’ based product from a resort or company and feel unhappy with the service, or feel you have been mis-sold this product, please get in touch with us to discuss how we may be able to help you with a possible Money Back Claim