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Posted: 6:00 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012

rip-off alert

Qualified timeshare buyers nothing more than a mirage?



By Clark Howard


The timeshare market is a broken industry that may not recover during our lifetime. That has created a lot of opportunity for crooks looking to cheat timeshare owners who are desperate to get out from beneath their obligation.  

I received a recent call on the show from someone who was on verge of what they thought was a sale of their timeshare. The excited caller had received paperwork for the closing and was required to pay a fee of several thousand dollars. In fact, the caller said, the buyer was supposedly going to pay what they originally paid plus more.

Well, I had to pour cold water on that story. Multiple media reports claim there are numerous criminal rings involved in this scam that looks legit because of the closing documents.

The Orlando Sentinel, for example, reports the latest alleged con involves a man named Harold Douglas Blue who accussed of bilking timeshare owners out of $400 to $800 each with phony closing documents.

People have gotten savvy about phony listing fees and guaranteed buyers in exchange for a fee, right? So this is a whole new angle, where the crooks say they have a buyer and send closing papers over in anticipation of receiving a fee from you.

Know this: Because of current market conditions, you will not find a buyer who will pay you serious money for your timeshare. In fact, you'll be lucky to find someone to take it off your hands for free.

In related news, there's a second scam where you're contacted by someone who says they have a tenant to put in your place during your week -- in exchange for you paying them a placement fee. This is really a penny-ante fraud. There is no renter, no lease and nothing real except the money you lose.

The reality is when you rent a property, generally if there is commission to be charged, it is deducted from the rent that is collected. You will not be paying that upfront.