Better Business Bureau | Greater Maryland advises consumers to be cautious of companies that want to buy or sell timeshares. Since December, BBB has received several complaints for a timeshare company in Towson using the name Timeshare Financial Marketing Group.
"Our complainants were welcoming to the offer of quick sale by an alleged Md. business that called from out of the blue to sell their timeshare," said Angie Barnett, president/ CEO of BBB | Greater Maryland. "Before jumping on a deal presented by an unknown solicitor, you need to research the company. You should also evaluate the process against accepted business practices and that includes the caveat not to pay money upfront."
According to complaints filed with BBB, Timeshare Financial Marketing Group cheated time share owners from Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania out of amounts ranging from $500 to nearly $3,700 for alleged closing costs, luxury taxes, maintenance fees, administrative fees, or other expenses. A BBB investigation revealed the reported Baltimore County, Md. timeshare company does not actually exist.
Complaints allege that the deception started with a phone call offer to help sell a timeshare. One individual contacted BBB on December 19 to report he sent $3,687.60 via Green Dot MoneyPak to Timeshare Financial Marketing Group in hopes of unloading his timeshare. According to the complaint, Timeshare Financial Marketing Group gave the seller a promise of a refund once the timeshare was "sold." However, upon receiving the MoneyPak, Timeshare Financial Marketing Group demanded more money. When the seller refused, the representative threatened him with legal action. Eventually, the complainant's calls went unanswered. Unfortunately, this Arizona grandfather along with two other consumers were left with no way to recoup their losses.
In 2012, there were a total of 5,158 complaints against timeshare companies across the BBB system. Complaints confirm that both buyers and sellers of timeshare properties have encountered a variety of problems with contracts, sales practices, refunds and fraud, harassment, and overly-long sales pitches.
BBB offers the following advice for selling a timeshare:
Don't Agree to Anything Over the Phone - Before making a decision take the time to think it over. Don't be pressured by salespersons. Ask the representative to send you details in writing.
Be Cautious of Upfront Fees - Never agree to or pay any fees until you have a contract and have completed your research and verification on the business.
Be Aware of the "Balloon Strategy"- Dishonest timeshare resellers may start with an outrageous fee, and then reduce it to a more appealing number, to lure the seller to pay.
Know the Process - Inexperienced timeshare sellers can be easily misled. Before doing business with a broker know the approximate value of what you own. Find out if the agent's fees and marketing practices are consistent with the practices of other agencies. To ensure the proper value of your property BBB suggests using a timeshare appraisal service. To do this for U.S. based timeshares, you'll need to research the company with the real estate commission in the state in which your timeshare property is located. The Federal Trade Commission also has helpful tips for timeshare buyers and sellers.
Check Licensing Requirements- Ask if the reseller's agents are licensed to sell real estate where your timeshare is located. This can also be verified by the state's real estate commission. Ask for and check references.
Don't Sign the Contract if the Deal Isn't What You Expected - Before signing the contract, confirm that it explains the services of the broker, the costs and when they must be paid, a specified length of time to sell the timeshare, guarantees, refunds, and who is accountable for the sale. If the deal isn't what you expected or wanted, discuss changes or find another reseller.
Make sure the Business is trustworthy - Avoid any company that fails to provide a street address and alternate contact information. A UPS or post office box is not enough. Check out bbb.org for warnings and Business Reviews verify the address with a mapping service, property manager and the licensing authority.
Remember the Too Good to be True Rule - Trust your gut if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.