Fraudsters Steal £8m in Just Six Months From Timeshare Victims
Timeshares were the big, new thing a couple of decades ago, but now more and more people want rid of them. So, when offered the chance over the phone to end their contract early, or even claim some money back, many people jump at it. But this is a fraud. Many of these companies demand an upfront fee and then disappear, leaving their victims thousands of pounds down and still stuck with their timeshare.
Make sure you aren’t one of these thousands of victims and read the following article below. We dictate how the fraudsters work, who they target and how you can avoid being a victim. Follow our helpful advice at the end to determine who is credible and who want to scam you of your money, so you can seek out legal companies that can indeed help you with your timeshare.
How are People Being Scammed Out of Their Money?
People who have previously found themselves being tied into a timeshare, or those who used to love their villa but not want out, can often find themselves receiving cold calls. These companies either tell them are owed compensation or can help them get out of their contract, both of which require an upfront fee. Those desperate for their freedom from their timeshare or money they wrongly believe they are entitled to then find themselves losing thousands of pounds to a company they shouldn’t have trusted.
Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre, stated that 1,155 reports of cases like the above had been made to them between January and July 2018. These victims lost a total combined amount of £7,893,028.
Director of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said, “a shocking amount of timeshare recovery fraud losses have been reported since January, which is why we are urging people to be extremely cautious. Fraudsters are luring people in with attractive offers of compensation or an early exit on a holiday property, only to stop all contact once the victim has paid an advance fee.”
These victims, all across the UK, are aged between 50 and 81. Often, they entered these timeshares when they were younger, and timeshares were first becoming popular. Now, however, as costs have grown and fees seem forever increasing, they desire to leave their contract. However, many contracts can be open-ended or last for 50 years, making it extremely hard for people to exit it them without professional help. So, when people come calling with lies about getting them out of paying hundreds and thousands of pounds a year for a holiday home they don’t want, they jump on the offer.
The fraudsters offer them the opportunity over the phone, email or letter to reclaim back some money or exit their contract early. But, to do this, they want an up-front fee for the money they are owed to be released, or for them to begin work on your contract. These fees ranged from £2,500 to £9,000 as well as additional charges being requested to cover maintenance or legal cover.
Victims often trust these companies because they have personal details taken from their timeshare investment. This gives them, what the police call, “false credibility as a reputable organisation”. But, as most people do with cold callers asking about “an accident we’ve heard you had a work” or “on the road”, these victims should have just put the phone down and walked away.
Check online for Timeshare Scams
In one case, a woman called Jennifer Conway was able to get her money back from a fraudster company despite initially falling for their claims. Conway has a Marbella timeshare that she has never visited but pays £200 for per year. She was targeted by one of these fraud firms, Greenges SL, who claimed they could help her reclaim money she had previously paid a resale company in an attempt to rid herself of the timeshare property.
Conway, a 75-year-old from London, said “the company called me out of the blue and said it could get my money back on a no-win, no-fee basis but then asked for £1,200 for ‘transaction services’. The person I was speaking to seemed very convincing, so I paid that amount by credit card over the phone.”
However, luckily for Conway, her daughter decided to look into Greenges SL and found them to be on a blacklist. With this information, Conway’s daughter immediately contacted the company as insisted they refund her mother’s money as per its seven-day cooling-off period, which they did.
Had Conway looked into the company calling her before she sent them money, this could have all been avoided. If people receive cold calls from ‘timeshare legal companies’ they either need to ignore them and do some of their own investigating on this blacklist or try and search for reputable companies themselves if they want help with their contract.
This can be made easy by ceasing contact with companies who ask for an upfront fee as it is illegal for timeshare companies to ask for an upfront fee. Therefore, anyone who does, over the phone or through a letter, can be declared fraudulent and unlawful.
Advice for Timeshare Owners
Check that any company contacting you is genuine before continuing communication with them. Carefully check their websites, postal addresses and phone numbers provided to see if they are genuine. Also, companies that do cold call, are more likely to be a fraud, so make sure you ask them how they contacted you and how they know you have been a victim to a timeshare or want to exit your contract. A City of London Police spokesperson said that this is an essential tip because “any report of fraud is protected by law and can’t be shared with anyone else outside of law enforcement agencies”.
If you want help exiting your contract, or claiming against a timeshare company you fell victim to, you should seek out a specialist timeshare solicitors. A simple search can lead to different companies which you should research into and investigate before making contact. Companies that have full website set-ups, postal addresses and offices are much more reliable than cold callers.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA (which represents British travel agents) said, “travel-related fraud is always distressing for the victim, but this particular fraud is one of the worst due to the repeat nature of the crime, and the very high amounts of money that are lost…we would advise people to be extremely wary of any company cold calling you out of the blue to talk about your timeshare and asking for payment”. This emphasises the importance of seeking out a regulated legal firm rather than relying on the ‘facts’ told to you over the phone.
Timeshare fraud can leave people thousands of pounds out of pocket each year, so the chance to claim back some of that money or exit their contract earlier can lead people to believe the lies cold callers tell them. Be smart and ignore the callers and seek out a legal firm that can work with you – without illegal upfront fees – to find a way out of your contract or claim against the companies that sold you the timeshares. Contact us today if you are interested in learning more about the timeshare legal help we can offer you.