Considering a timeshare? Don’t you ever!
Over the past several years I’ve written about the nightmares that timeshare owners lived through, both when first purchasing — often under physical and mental duress — and then when attempting to get themselves out of their contracts.
I had never before said, “Don’t ever buy a timeshare!”
But no more. I now believe that because of the nature of timeshare contracts — and sales practices — they are the most dangerous purchase anyone can make.
I urge federal action to nullify provisions in existing contracts that keep buyers on the hook for thousands of dollars in yearly fees glued to a contract they can’t walk away from — even after years of paying for something they no longer use or are able to use.
Seemed smart at the time
Picture yourself on vacation with your family in Florida, Las Vegas or Mexico, staying in a spacious condominium-type unit in a beautiful resort.
It truly is lovely, you are all having the time of your lives, and are told, “For a one-time payment (which we can finance) of $15,000, plus modest yearly maintenance fees, you will have the right to come back, with your family, year after year.”
It would be far cheaper to pay as you go, but you don’t do the math, nor do you run this decision by your accountant or lawyer as you are convinced of how economical a decision it is.
Maybe for a few years your family uses the property, and then the kids grow up and there are no more family vacations. Or one of you gets ill and can’t travel.
But the yearly maintenance bills keep on coming, first hundreds, and then thousands of dollars out the window.
After asking to be let out of the contract, your request, “Please, just take the thing back!” is refused.
The singular, diabolical feature of timeshare contracts is that they last in perpetuity. The contract permits no way out. And unless your heirs reject the inheritance, they will also be burdened with this monstrosity!
It is the only such contract like this I have ever seen. And timeshares — because of maintenance fees — are almost impossible to sell. You will find them offered online for one dollar!
Timeshare buyer scam
It’s no wonder that people get excited when someone offers to buy their timeshare from them. But be very careful, because that proposition can be fraught with danger as well.
In 2017, Joe Corriveau of Lynchburg, Va., purchased a timeshare at the Villa del Palmar in Cancun, Mexico, for slightly over $14,000.
In early March of this year, he received a $25,000 offer from an organization calling itself Travel Pirates Mexico to buy it, and a few days later he was contacted by the Eric H. Anderson Law Group.
In reality, there was no buyer, only an appeal to greed, as “sellers” are required to wire thousands of dollars for various fees for what is a nonexistent purchaser.
“I researched the Eric H. Anderson Law Group based out of San Jose, Calif.,” Corriveau wrote me. “Their website is very professional looking, but I could not find the actual Eric H. Anderson in San Jose, Calif. I only found him in Palo Alto, Calif., but could not locate a phone number.
“I came across your article online, ‘Beware of the Mexican timeshare resale scam’ and called you.”
His research led to the discovery of a new Mexican timeshare resale scam, which became obvious when, on a conference call with him, I tried to reach attorney Eric Anderson.
We reached a nasty sounding guy who claimed to be an attorney, yet he would provide no name or other identifying information, and when learning that I am a journalist researching Mexican timeshare scams, he hung up!
My calls to the “Eric Anderson Law Group” yielded 30 minutes on hold, and a refusal to connect me with anyone. Further research showed that Anderson was supposedly working for the Baker McKenzie law firm in Palo Alto, but they had never heard of him. The California State Bar shows such an attorney, but no telephone number is listed.
Attorney names ripped off
According to Scott Morse, chief operating officer of Rockford, Ill.-based Resort Release (an A+ BBB rated company that legitimately helps to get people out of timeshares), “This scam has been refined over many years.
“They rip off the name of a real U.S. attorney, and create a fake website. The average person would have no idea how to quickly spot the scam, so I applaud your reader’s intuition for sensing that something was just not right.”
Morse discovered that the images on the firm’s website were stolen from a law firm in North Carolina. Also, the website was set up on March 3, 2019, making it just a few days old when Corriveau was called.
“These guys are the worst of the worst. Don’t respond to them, don’t call them, don’t answer them,” Morse said. “Block their number with your telephone provider. If you have provided them ANY banking information, change it immediately.”
Just say NO
If you are wondering if there is anything redeeming about timeshares, there is indeed. The big players in this industry woo potential buyers to their properties by offering a “Vacation Package,” which is usually a three-day/four-night stay at a huge discount.
The catch is a requirement to sit through their “90-minute sales presentation,” which typically feels more like 90 years!
These high-pressure sales events are conducted by some of the slickest salespeople — I was about to say con artists, but that wouldn’t be nice — you’ll ever encounter. So just pretend you are a two-year-old and only say ‘No!’ when pushed to buy. You are free to walk out of the sales room after going through the presentation, and do not hesitate to leave if the pressure becomes too much.
If couples are strong enough and can tolerate being in the company of people who will tell you anything — who will lie with a lovely, sincere smile — then go for it and enjoy an inexpensive getaway.
But if you can’t say no, feel guilty when a long, sad face almost starts to cry when you refuse to sign this grotesque real estate contract, then stay away!
I hope that the Federal Trade Commission or a U.S. senator will propose legislation that outlaws those sections of timeshare contracts that are simply unconscionable.
Beaver is an attorney and author of You and the Law. This article was written by and presents the views of the author, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. Check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.
© 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.