Hundreds of timeshare owners – from at least 46 states – have lost thousands of dollars each to timeshare exit businesses that set up operations in recent years in and around Springfield, Missouri.
That is a key finding of a four-month BBB investigation of the controversial industry. The study, titled “Timeshare Exit Trap” reports BBB has logged more than 350 consumer complaints against 10 active timeshare exit businesses between Jan. 1, 2017 and March 1, 2019. Clients of those businesses said they paid out more than $2.2 million for timeshare relief work that was either never done or never completed.
One couple, in their 80s, told BBB they have received nothing after paying $18,000 on promises that the business would get them out of their timeshare. “We live on Social Security and a pension, and we can’t do this,” the wife told BBB, referring to monthly credit card payments of $400 she and her husband are making to pay off the debt.
The study highlights several cases in which timeshare owners paid exit businesses anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000 after the businesses assured them they could get them out of their timeshare contracts. Several consumers said the exit companies turned their cases over to law firms or others that also failed to help them.
Complaints about timeshare exit businesses come from across the U.S. Many consumers say they were given written guarantees but have received no satisfaction years after paying the exit companies.
The report concludes that seniors and timeshare owners on fixed incomes “are falling victim to timeshare exit companies at an alarming rate. Many of these companies either do not have the expertise or the ethics to follow through with promises to extricate their clients from the often-burdensome lifetime timeshare contracts.”
For consumers wanting to get out of a timeshare contract, BBB advises they first reach out to the timeshare operators who own or manage their timeshare to see if the business offers a deed-back or exit program. If such a program is not available, consider consulting with an attorney for advice.
While BBB generally discourages hiring a third party to negotiate timeshare relief, consumers who go that route should be very careful in selecting and negotiating timeshare exit contracts.
If a consumer decides to contract with a third party for timeshare relief, beware of making upfront payments for the work. Ask if they will put the money in an escrow account until the exit company makes good on its promises.
BBB warns that written guarantees from timeshare exit companies may not offer the protection consumers expect because of procedural requirements included in the contract.
BBB suggests that consumers be wary of offers to trade out their timeshares for vacation clubs or points programs with low-cost travel services.
BBB encourages the timeshare sales and management industry to educate consumers that timeshare purchases are real estate transactions, and, as such, buyers of timeshares are committed to their purchase via maintenance fees until the owners can sell the timeshare to another buyer.
BBB urges local law enforcement officials, attorney generals’ offices across the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to investigate and pursue timeshare exit companies that participate in fraudulent activities.
What to do if you believe you have been a victim of a timeshare exit company:
Complain to the company directly.
File a complaint with BBB.org.
File a complaint with the FTC online or by calling 877-FTC-HELP.
Contact the attorney general’s office of the state where you live, and the attorney general’s office in the state where the business is located.
File a complaint with your local U.S. Postal Inspection Service office online.