(WXYZ) - Seven’s on your side with a warning tonight for many vacationers. What starts as a phone call offering to help you sell your time share is leading to a financial nightmare for many.
It’s often because of financial problems that people are trying to unload their vacation home or time share property. It’s easy to see why when someone offers to help sell it, it’s easy fall for.
Patricia Valdez and Art Heist are time share owners facing similar ordeals. They both say the craziness all started with a phone call and a promise.
“They guarantee they will sell your time share for you," says Valdez.
"They'd say well, we hear you got a time share for sale, we have a buyer for you," says Heist.
Both were asked to do the same thing: pay upfront.
“They wouldn't do anything unless you gave them the money upfront," says Valdez.
"They want money up front off a credit card," Heist says.
That is a huge red flag, according to the Better Business Bureau.
“Beware big time,” says Melanie Duquesnel, who is the president of our local BBB.
But excited about dumping their vacation properties—and the extra expense that came along with them—Valedez and Heist paid the fees. Each time they say the same thing happened.
"After that we never heard from them, we would call there and they would not answer the phone," says Valdez.
"They just took my money and claimed they would sell the time share and they haven't done anything," says Heist.
The Better Business Bureau says they were targets of one of the top scams operating in the country.
“…when you talk about the total market, you’re talking millions,” says Duquesnel, who explains that the agency has been flooded with complaints from thousands of time share owners across the country.
She says she hears the same thing happening to others that happened to Heist and Valdez: they get a phone call from a company with a hard-to-resist offer promising: "We'll sell your time share immediately", "We have interested buyers," and claiming "They can close in 30 days.”
The Better Business Bureau says once time share owners pay the fee, they never hear from the companies again and their properties certainly aren’t sold. That's what happened to Heist and Valdez. Months went by their phone calls went unanswered, their emails were not returned.
"I got nothing for the money I spent," says Heist.
The BBB says others have been conned into turning over their certificate of ownership to the scammer.
“…which now the scammer can replicate and try and sell it again when really there is no ownership by the scammer,” says Duquesnel.
That leaves you without proof of ownership.
What do you do if you want to sell? The BBB recommends selling through your resort management company that oversees the property. There are independent time share brokers, but be sure to check them out first with the BBB. The BBB says the easiest and best way to sell your time share is to sell to friends and family.
As for Heist, he was able to dispute one of the charges on his credit card, but is still out a couple thousand dollars. Valdez is out $1500—an expensive lesson.
"If they're asking you for money up front then hang up the phone," Valdez says.
The Florida Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against two of the advanced-fee companies, including the one Heist used and is looking into the company Valdez paid.
If you think you’ve been taken by one of these companies, contact Michigan’s Attorney General.
For more information on how to avoid advanced fee scams and sell your timeshare check out this Better Business Bureau tip sheet: http://www.detroit.bbb.org/article/tips-for-selling-your-timeshare-19417
If you've been a victim of an advance fee timeshare scam, file complaint with the attorney general's office in the state where the company is based and with the better business bureau: http://www.bbb.org .
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