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How the pandemic affected timeshare selling scams

One reason why so many people are taken in by timeshare scammers is that they are often highly sophisticated. They may have a professional-looking website that even features employee profiles on it. You should think carefully about who these people are and whether you are protected if something goes wrong.

The pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on the travel industry, with many timeshare owners being forced to pay for properties that they have been unable to visit during this period. To make matters worse, a considerable portion of these timeshare owners are also being met with increasing maintenance fees on top. Many unscrupulous and unethical people have been taking advantage of timeshare owners’ desperation to get out of agreements for properties that have become unaffordable and unusable during the pandemic.

Many people opt for timeshares because they want regular access to an overseas property but cannot afford to purchase one outright. However, things can go wrong when a timeshare owner no longer wishes to continue the agreement, falls ill or infirm, or can no longer afford to cover the costs. The pandemic has made existing timeshare agreements too costly for many owners. Legal professionals around the world are receiving more and more enquiries from clients seeking help with exiting their timeshare agreements. It’s also increasingly common for people to contact solicitors for help after falling prey to scammers promising to help them leave their timeshares but who fail to deliver on those promises.

A growing trend of timeshare scams

Over recent years, there has been a clear increase in the number of fraudulent people and organisations taking advantage of the legal precedent set by the supreme courts in Spain. In timeshare exit scams, unregulated businesses often claim to be representing an organisation that specialises in timeshares. Some criminals have even impersonated timeshare exit specialists such as lawyers and solicitors.

They normally adopt a highly sympathetic and persuasive manner and will promise to help the victims get out of their timeshare agreements and will refer to the chances of securing compensation. They may offer their victims a 100% money guarantee and claim to be totally confident that their claim will be successful. Genuine timeshare solicitors, such as Sarah Waddington Solicitors, will be far more realistic about someone’s chances of success and will provide you with your options based on your best interests and the risks to you.

If someone does claim to be a regulated legal professional specialising in timeshare agreements and money claims, please find out if they are regulated by one of the regulatory bodies such as the SRA or the FCA. All of the regulatory bodies operate registers of regulated firms that are easily accessible. For your best protection as a consumer, make sure the firms exist and are regulated.

The registers will also list the regulated individuals working within the business. Not all employees will be registered but you will be able to see who the key people are and the fact that they and the firm are confirmed as being regulated by that regulatory body. You will also be able to see a summary of the regulatory arrangements in place to protect you and ensure that your case is handled effectively. This is the level of transparency that you should expect to receive from a business claiming to be regulated.

Sophisticated scamming techniques

In timeshare selling scams, criminals get in contact with their victims. They may tell their victims that a buyer is ready to take their timeshare off their hands and that the deal will go through as long as they pay a small fee beforehand. This fee may be referred to as a ‘standard transaction fee’ or an ‘international fee’. However, the buyer does not exist and it’s unlikely the scammer will make contact again once payment has been made.

One reason why so many people are taken in by timeshare scammers is that they are often highly sophisticated. They may have a professional-looking website that even features employee profiles on it. Some scammers have claimed to work for genuine timeshare resale agencies and used email addresses that closely resemble the ones used by the real companies. You should think carefully about who these people are and whether you have adequate knowledge about who they are and whether you are protected if something goes wrong. If the website is not particularly detailed with regard to company registration details or other information allowing you to properly trace them, you should consider whether it is safer to contact a law firm that is properly regulated to assist you.

Viking ship timeshare scams

Most timeshare scams see scammers adopt a friendly, empathetic approach, but the Viking ship timeshare scam is different. Scammers using these tactics often make offers to timeshare owners after worrying them with false statistics and scare tactics. This scam is all about getting ownership transferred over to a shell company. Once they have used their scare tactics, they will ask you to pay a fee or sign your timeshare over so you can be ‘freed’ from your ownership. What’s even more concerning is that these shell companies are structured in a way that no individual can be held accountable or have legal action taken against them.

Anyone who is cold-called by someone claiming to represent a timeshare company should exercise caution before providing any personal details or payment. Timeshare owners are discouraged from agreeing to anything before they have verified that the company is a legitimate one.

Sarah Waddington, principal solicitor, Sarah Waddington Solicitors

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