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Florida Cracks Down on Timeshare Fraud

Almost 200 Cases Filed in Timeshare Fraud Crackdown in Florida

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Florida is one of the most popular states for vacationers and retirees – teal ocean waters and almost year-round warmth make the state a very attractive place to live. Unfortunately, the state’s popularity also makes it a huge target for timeshare fraud.

Timeshare houses and condos allow vacationers to “own” a piece of property with several other owners. While you split the cost, you also split your time in the home throughout the year. It is a very attractive option for people who want to spend part of their year in a particular location, but do not want to pay the entire mortgage on a property they are not in full-time.

However, the popularity of such deals makes the timeshare market attractive to scammers.

Florida state and federal officials say that they have filed 191 civil and criminal cases against timeshare fraud over the past two years. Scams in the business have drastically increased, and scammers are more likely to have violent or drug-related backgrounds.

Reportedly, timeshare fraud started to become more popular in 2009 – just after the economy collapsed – with 2011 being the peak year. In 2012, timeshare fraud percentages dropped slightly.

Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi say that the state of Florida has sued 9 timeshare companies based in the stat this year alone, and have requested restraining orders against 6 of them.

“We cannot allow our elderly and vulnerable real property owners to continue to be the target of fraud schemes,” Ferrer said in a statement. These victims “looked to sell their units to help make ends meet or pay other bills. Instead, they were defrauded out of more than $14 million in total.”

Although Florida is a large target for timeshare fraud, the state is not alone when it comes to timeshare scammers. In 28 states, 83 civil cases have been filed, and 184 people face criminal charges in federal court for timeshare fraud schemes.

One of the most common types of timeshare fraud comes in the form of timeshare reselling. In a tough economic climate, it becomes much harder to sell property, and scammers have used that to prey on timeshare owners’ fears. They set up “boiler rooms” for phone sales representatives, who call potential victims claiming that they can quickly resell the victim’s timeshare, but only for an up-front deposit of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars. Then, nothing is done about the property.

Timeshare fraud “involves telemarketing companies that market their advertising services to timeshare owners interested in selling or renting their timeshare interests,” Florida officials said. “Many of these companies charge exorbitant fees and perform few services.”

“The majority of the folks who have been doing this are from Florida and are victimizing people from outside states,” Ferrer said. He also noted that timeshare fraudsters are more and more likely to have a criminal history. “The white collar nature of these scams seem to be a thing of the past,” he said.

Florida Tries to Protect Citizens and Tourists from Timeshare Fraud

Timeshare fraud is so common and detrimental in Flordia that in 2012, the Florida State Legislature passed the Timeshare Resale Accountability Act. The act requires timeshare resellers to provide customers with very specific disclosures before providing services, and also bars timeshare resellers from taking upfront fees. In the year following the legislation, the number of complaints about timeshare fraud fell 57%.

Florida also offered victims of timeshare fraud a specific hotline to call and report companies and phone numbers. Through that hotline, complaints about timeshare fraud tripled between 2010 and 2011, when more than 6,000 people called with a complaint.

“Our message to timeshare owners is simple: Never pay for a promise, get everything in writing first, and pay only after your unit is sold,” said Charles Harwood, acting director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Our message to timeshare scammers is simple, too: Law enforcement agencies at every level of government are working together to put an end to this problem.”

The Strom Law Firm Can Help Victims of Timeshare Fraud

Based in Columbia, SC, the attorneys at the Strom Law Firm have a thorough understanding of both state and federal criminal law. We have prosecuted criminals involved in social security fraud, identity theft, illegal gambling, and other crimes. If you lost money to a timeshare fraud scheme, you do not have to suffer in silence. Contact the Strom Law Firm today for a free consultation. 803.252.4800

About Pete Strom

Defending criminal charges including drug crimes, DUI, CDV, mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, computer crimes, money laundering, and juvenile crimes, Pete also handles Federal and State investigations. Representing individuals in Civil Matters including Class Actions, Personal Injury, Qui Tam Actions, Defective Products, Nursing Home Neglect, and Professional Licensing Defense cases. Joseph Preston “Pete” Strom, Jr., the managing partner at Strom Law Firm, L.L.C., has been fighting for justice since 1984.

Comments

  1. There are lots of timeshare complaints, and the industry has been negatively criticized because of the big number of scams that have been committed in the last years. Some timeshare companies are accused of using fraudulent tactics to sell holiday ownerships, while others affirm that the units are overpriced. Nevertheless, the biggest complaint about timeshares is that they are almost impossible to sell, and the resale value is incredibly low.

  2. Not all time shares are bad, actually, a time share can be a good purchase for someone who does enjoy revisiting the same destination each year. However, vacation properties are not for most people, being that they only seem to work for people with very specific vacation desires. Time shares are not for people who like to enjoy trying a new vacation spot each year, nor for people who like to travel spontaneously, or families who do not use to stay at expensive resorts.

  3. Timeshares need to be looked up as a purchase and not an investment. Regardless of how timeshares are presented, they don´t perform as well as a house or stock investment. If you look around the resale market for timeshares on websites like EBay, Redweek, or TUGBBS will find that you can buy a timeshare for far less money than what the first owner purchased it for.

  4. Think about this; If timeshares were good enough, Why would any resort give you a tour and a free breakfast to get you to attend their sales presentation?

  5. The truth is that the cost of owning a timeshare doesn’t just stop by paying the total purchase price. There are other timeshare fees that must be taken into consideration. By the time you pay the maintenance fees on your timeshare, plus the other fees and expenses, you’ll realize that you’ve paid as much, if not more, that the total cost to stay it a good and nice hotel.

  6. Timeshare industry is known for being very susceptible to scams; however, timeshare properties are still a successful business for most resorts. In these times of rough economy, it is important to take care of our money, and timeshares are not in the way to achieve the financial security that we are all looking for.

  7. The majority of timeshare scam victims are honest, genuine people who believe that their timeshare salesmen have the same code of ethics as far as accomplishing their verbal promises when they decide to purchase the timeshare. Over time, they realize that the verbal promises are typically untrue, and the timeshare salespeople do not have the same definition of honesty as they expected.

  8. Buying a timeshare under the impresion you will save money on the long run on travel expenses such as airfare or cruises equals to being a victim of timeshare fraud. Timeshares will barely provide you a small discount on accomodations and that´s it. Timeshares will not provide you, in most cases, any discounts on your vacation expenses.

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