This year, 2011, saw some very important changes to the law with the rolling out of the 2011 European Timeshare Directive.
For legitimate companies this legislation was very good news as it validated their positions as trustworthy organisations and enabled customers to buy holiday products, safe in the knowledge that they were protected by a robust set of consumer rights.
So with this new age of compliance and a fair and ethical trading environment in place, why are mainstream, legitimate organisations experiencing a wave of negative comments on Internet forums and blogs and in some cases outright attacks in the shape of anti-timeshare websites?
On the surface it might seem that the source of this negativity stems from disgruntled customers who are unhappy with the quality of their ownership or from people who have attended a promotional holiday and have had a bad experience with a rude sales person who might have misrepresented their product.
Indeed, there are some genuine instances of this type of feedback – but in the great scheme of things, where many thousands of people attend timeshare presentations every week, it is a tiny percentage who feel the need to post disgruntled comments on the internet.
But there is something far more sinister lurking behind these seemingly genuine posts and websites – a murky world of scammers and criminals whose fraudulent products and businesses rely on creating negative publicity about genuine timeshare in order to back up the deceptive sales pitches they use to sell their dubious products.
At the moment there are a few persistent scammers whose businesses rely on creating fear and confusion about mainstream timeshare companies. They are selling worthless Discount Holiday Clubs or Discount Travel Membership Clubs and are promising their victims that they will take the timeshares off their hands – sometimes by means of alleged Class Actions, even promising future cashback payments as a honey trap to convince timeshare owners to purchase these costly “Clubs”.
The whole process usually starts with a phone call – using personal data which in some cases has been obtained illegally – where the caller is either offering you Bonus Weeks or is posing as a legal representative or resale expert who is willing to take your timeshare off your hands. They will use the bogus websites and negative publicity, which they themselves have created, to convince you that your ownership is a “bad thing” and will encourage you to make a visit their offices – usually located in the Costa del Sol and the Canary Islands – in order to help you out of this “costly situation”.
They will try to add credibility to their sales pitch by explaining that you will meet with a team of legal consultants to help you get out of your timeshare. These “teams” are often the type of bogus lawyers that have been uncovered by MindTimeshare, RDO’s enforcement agency, and are just another link in the scammer’s chain of deceit. You can read about this type of scam here
Thankfully the MindTimeshare blog and twitter feed, which were launched earlier in the year, have proved very successful in the fight against timeshare fraud. The blog, set up by Alberto Garcia, a former police inspector, has attracted more and more visitors over the last few months and enquiries from members of the public have trebled as a result. Mr Garcia had this to say “We have received messages from many grateful owners who had found my blog by chance while searching on Google, as the information provided stopped them from becoming victims of crime”.
So although there are good guys out there exposing the fraudsters it can still be confusing for the general public to work out which companies are honest and genuine and which ones are just there to rip you off for your hard-earned cash. Here are some pointers to help consumers tell if a company is genuine or not:
One of the main marketing techniques of a rogue company is the telemarketing call using illegally obtained information. They will know all about your ownership details and will have built a plausible sounding sales pitch to back up their scam. In short this is an illegal marketing technique used by the fraudsters – steer well clear as these practices go against the EU Data Protection Legislation.
Whether you are purchasing a Holiday Club or a timeshare product you are entitled to a cooling-off period. Any company that does not comply with this law is illegal and should be avoided.
As the new law comes into force around Europe, deposit taking will become illegal as is the case in many EU states already, including the UK.
Bogus Legal Firms
To add insult to injury, some fraudsters are attacking their victims for a second time in the guise of false legal firms. Contact is usually made through a cold telephone call and these scammers offer a range of fictional services designed to part you from your money. Often they will make wild claims suggesting that there is a fund provided by a Local State Government – such as Spain or the Canary Islands – which will compensate victims of Holiday Club and Cashback scams. Whether they are suggesting they can get you out of your contract or help you claim compensation, one thing is for sure – it will cost you dearly. Leave well alone.
You can only buy with confidence if a company is a member of the Timeshare Association (TATOC) or the Resort Development Organisation (RDO).
For up-to-date information on rogue practices or for advice and help you can visit these websites:
What you can do
Holiday Ownership is a fantastic product and millions of families enjoy amazing travel experiences every year. The mainstream companies offer a wide range of ownership options to suit every budget and taste. However, the small percentage of fraudsters make it their business to attack the good reputation of these legitimate organisations and to scam the general public out of their money.
This situation needs to change and with your help we can begin to stamp out the illegal companies that are causing so much damage to the industry. If you have been the victim of one of these scams or have been contacted by an organisation that you believe to be suspect then please contact either:
UK Helpline: 0845 230 2430
Int. Helpline: 0044 161 237 3518