Timeshare owner scammed out of $15,000

More than 1,400 others fall victim to the same scheme

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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If you are thinking about selling a timeshare, be on the lookout for scam artists trying to convince you to sell through them.

"The best thing to do is if you hear timeshare, run the other way," warned Esther Bilicki.

She is speaking from experience.  She lost more than $15,000 in a timeshare scam.

"They wanted to help us sell the timeshare, so we didn't have to worry about anything. They would take care of everything," said Bilicki.

The company was named National Timeshare Resales.

"They made a lot of misrepresentations in convincing the people they would get their time share sold for them," explained US Postal Inspector Derick Thieme. "They would just need to pay upfront fee ranging from $500 to $2500."

The company lured people in by claiming they already had a seller on the line.

"Convince them they had a buyer for their timeshare and this was an imminent sale type deal… and they could help them get rid of the timeshare so they wouldn't be responsible for the fees and maintenance costs," explained Thieme.

Bilicki admits the tactic worked on her.

"We just needed to get rid of it," she said. "We just wanted it out of our way."

But no sale was ever made.

"I learned everyone is not as honest as what you think they should be," said Bilicki.

She was just one of many victims. Postal Inspectors say there were more than 1,400 in one case alone and $2 million in losses.

"They were desperate, maybe more trusting people and more susceptible to these high pressure sales tactics and it was real disturbing to see these vulnerable people being taken advantage of by these groups," explained Thieme.

Bilicki's advice: "Don't do it.  Don't send any money.  Just wait for them to sell it and then they can take the money out of that."

Advice from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on protecting yourself from timeshare resale fraud:

The Attorney General's Office protects timeshare owners by investigating the business practices of telemarketing companies that market their advertising services to timeshare owners interested in selling or renting their timeshare interests. Many of these companies charge exorbitant fees and perform very few services.

Under Florida law, these companies are called "Resale Service Providers" and are required to provide a written disclosure of the fees and costs relating to advertising, listing, or sale of a timeshare interest, as well as other disclosures. Consumers also should request a contract in writing prior to providing any payment information.

Attorney General Bondi joined Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner and Representative Eric Eisnaugle during the 2011 legislative session to unveil a legislative initiative that further protects consumers from timeshare resale fraud, a top complaint received by the Attorney General's Office.

The Timeshare Resale Accountability Act includes the following provisions:

  • A timeshare resale advertiser may not misrepresent a pre-existing interest in the owner's timeshare.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser may not mislead a customer as to the success rate of the advertiser's sales.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser may not provide brokerage or direct sale services.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser must honor a cancellation request made within 7 days following a signed agreement.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser must provide a full refund by a timeshare owner within 20 days of a valid cancellation request.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser must not collect any payment or engage in any resale advertising activities until the timeshare owner delivers a signed written agreement for the services.
  • A timeshare resale advertiser must also provide a full disclosure statement printed in bold type, with no smaller than a 12-point font, and printed immediately preceding the space provided for the timeshare owner's signature.
  • A timeshare advertising agreement must be put in writing.
  • A company who violates these provisions has committed a violation of the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act with a penalty not to exceed $15,000 per violation.

Consumers who are considering conducting business with a timeshare reseller or recovery company should research the company by searching MyFloridaLegal.com for any investigations into that company and/or through the Attorney General's fraud hotline, toll-free in Florida 1-866-9-NO-SCAM or outside Florida (850) 414-3990.

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