In recent months, TNS has reported an increase in complaints of scams involving timeshares. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, a timeshare is a type of vacation property with multiple owners. The group of owners share the cost of the unit and they each get guaranteed time at the property in return. It sounds like a win-win, except fraudsters have been using timeshares to run scams for a long time. And with summer fast approaching, we are seeing an increase in these types of scams.
Timeshares initially came into the spotlight in the 1970s to offset the excess of condos available. Since then, various types of timeshare contracts have been created. It is typically a lifetime commitment and the owner of a timeshare will usually prepay or finance a lump sum and then pay yearly maintenance fees on top for the property. Some come with notoriously difficult contracts to pull out of, which is why you will often read about them in the news.
Our robocall protection team has recently reported scams surrounding timeshares in the run up to vacation season. They often come in the form of a text or phone call and some callers are real people while others are robocalls. But what they mostly have in common is that the fraudster is simply trying to sell a phony timeshare.
The scammer may pose as a travel agent and go to great lengths to appear trustworthy, making any criminal activity harder to detect. They will use high pressure tactics, such as claiming to have a limited time offer and that there is another buyer waiting for them, and may use real company names or give you a lot of information that sounds legitimate. Victims will likely be asked for up-front fees or a deposit to obtain their credit card number and other personal information. Once they have that, fraudsters could gain access to your bank accounts or charge your cards.
There are things you can do to avoid you or your loved ones falling victim to a timeshare scam, especially at a time when a summer getaway may seem like an attractive proposition. You should always be wary of any unsolicited calls from timeshare marketers and if you are interested in finding out more about this type of vacation property, it is best to reach out directly to a timeshare agency. Additionally, do your research to make sure who you are buying from is a legitimate company. If an agent does provide you with a contract, as always, make sure to read the fine print.
It is best practice to never engage with unknown numbers and report phone numbers being used by scammers to your carrier. If you believe you are the victim of a scam, you can report it to your local police, state attorney’s general office and the FTC.
Call-blocking apps, including those powered by TNS Call Guardian®, are also a great resource for reporting and blocking unwanted robocalls. Stay vigilant, share information about scams with others and be sure to check out our monthly Scam of the Month page updates to understand what are robocalls.
John Haraburda is Director of Product Management at TNS with specific responsibility for TNS’ Communications Market solutions.
Call Guardian is a registered trademark of Transaction Network Services, Inc.