NORTH CANTON, Ohio — A trip to Walt Disney World can easily cost families thousands of dollars.
One North Canton, Ohio, woman hoping to save some cash on the trip says she quickly learned some things are too good to be true, and now she said she's out nearly $5,000.
Corey Doyle said she, her husband, and friends were ready for a vacation after two years of the pandemic. Doyle, a wedding photographer, decided to head down to Disney World in November.
“It made more sense financially to rent a room that had two bedrooms instead of each of us renting separate rooms,” said Doyle.
Doyle said they all decided to rent Disney Vacation Club, or DVC for short, points.
This is how it works: Members of the club buy into a timeshare for a certain amount of points so they can book stays at Disney resorts. If they can't take a vacation, some rent them to non-members and book a reservation in the renter’s name rather than let the points go to waste.
Doyle said back in February she made a post in a DVC Facebook group looking for someone to rent points from.
“The lady who replied wanted $21 a point, which is a little on the high side, and then [another seller] wanted $17 a point, which is still common, but on the lower side,” said Doyle.
Doyle said she went with the cheaper option from a man we are not identifying and said she did her due diligence checking his track record in the group and calling other renters who did business with him.
"I looked them both up on the Facebook group, and she didn't have anything, but he had a bunch of posts where he had rented out a few nights a day and there was a couple of people who had said like, 'Hey, does anybody have references?' And people had replied and said, 'Oh yeah, I stayed with him and he was great,'" said Doyle. “He sent me other people saying like, 'Oh, these people have stayed with me in that same group. You're welcome to check in with them.' So I checked in with four people who had either stayed with him or had upcoming stays with him. And everybody wrote back and said, ‘Oh, no, yeah, he's great.'"
So she went forward with the transaction even after seeing some red flags.
Doyle runs a blog called ‘Stop Stealing Photos’ where she exposes photographers who steal others’ work and post it as their own. Doyle posted screenshots of the conversation she says she had with the seller on her blog. In them, he said he has issues with his PayPal and prefers payment through Apple Pay or Crypto.com. She said her bank declined multiple attempts at payment through Apple Pay, Cash App, and Zelle, flagging them as fraud. But eventually, she paid the entire $4,726 in $500 increments through Apple Pay.
Doyle said the seller told her once everything was paid in full, he'd send over a reservation number, but Doyle said that never happened.
"I'm new to this whole thing. So I didn't know that it doesn't cost someone who has DVC points, as their timeshare owner, it doesn't cost them anything to make this reservation. But in my mind, I was thinking, 'Oh no, he's already invested something. I need to make sure I get him paid quickly,'" said Doyle. "And then I find out after everything's settled that if you do this, you need to make sure that you get the reservation in your name and linked on your My Disney Experience app before paying because it doesn't cost them anything. They can make a reservation and cancel a reservation as many times as they want. It doesn't penalize them."
Then, she said she got a message from one of those references she had spoken to.
“That Friday, I get a message from one of the people I had sent a reference to. And she wrote back and said, ‘Hey, I don't know how you ended up booking with [the seller], but if you did, you need to start trying to do what you can do to get your money back because nobody has valid reservations,’” said Doyle.
Doyle said since then, she’s found two dozen people accusing the seller of false transactions–giving them fake reservation numbers or not sending one at all. Some even showed up at Disney's resort in Hawaii to find out no rooms had been booked.
She said she demanded a refund, but the seller gave her the runaround.
“I called my bank and they said, ‘You have to have a police report.’ So I made a police report and I told him, like, ‘Look I made a police report.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, well, then,’ you know, then he just pretty much just stopped talking to me,” said Doyle.
Now, she may never get her money back.
“If you're paying any way besides credit card, it can be incredibly difficult to get your money back,” said Ericka Dilworth, director of operations at the Cleveland Better Business Bureau.
Dilworth said apps that connect to a bank account like Zelle, Venmo, and Apple Pay are best used with friends and not strangers–and credit cards have more protections.
"When you use your credit card, there is actually a process through which you can dispute a charge. And so if you use your credit card and you've not gotten service or whatever came was something different than what you ordered, you can file a dispute with your credit card company and they will determine what has happened. And if you haven't gotten to use the timeshare or if you ordered a hoodie and it didn't arrive, that credit card company is going to do their homework, they're going to look at what happened," said Dilworth. "And in all cases, they actually get your money back right away while the dispute is kind of working through its process, and then at the end, they decide if the business can't come forward and say, 'This is why we believe that this person's not due their money back,' then the consumer will get to keep their money."
Doyle has rebooked her trip for real this time, using a third-party broker, at the same resort for $6,100.
She doesn't think she'll get her money back from the would-be Facebook seller, but she's hoping others learn from her mistake.
“Like, I'm probably not getting my money back, but at least hopefully I'll stop anybody else from giving him more money, hopefully,” said Doyle.
This article was written by Jade Jarvis for WEWS in Cleveland.