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June 11, 2018

Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Timeshare Fraud

Welcome to Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week, building a digital defense against timeshare fraud.

Summer is upon us! The days are getting longer and many people are well on their way to preparing for their vacations—the more luxurious the better! Owning a timeshare can make it easy to plan for repeat vacations in the same resort, with less hassle for booking.

But for some, the trouble comes when you try to sell your piece of paradise. Maybe you can’t afford the maintenance fees any longer—or you received it as part of an inheritance and just want to unload it. Either way, it can be difficult to find someone to take that timeshare off your hands, and if you do—be warned. If someone offers a quick easy sale—particularly one where the offer is double or triple the going rate—the risk is high.

Fraudsters know that the thought of cash-in-hand will make this a tough sale to turn down and will do just about anything to make the deal, including tricking you into thinking they are legitimate businesses with fancy-sounding names.

Here are a few red flags to watch for when seeking out buyers for your timeshare. Bear in mind, some or all may apply:

  1. The caller (or e-mailer) claims that there’s an up-front fee that you must pay to start the process.
  2. The caller is unwilling to meet in person
  3. There is no physical address in the U.S., or there is a fake address given that leads to an empty field or abandoned building
  4. Scammers keep coming back—asking for fee after fee, amounting to thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars

Unfortunately, senior citizens are the ones oftentimes victimized by timeshare frauds. Here are some steps that you and your family can take to avoid timeshare frauds:

  • Do at least an online search on the business that contacted you. Look for an “About Us” page with contact information, names and locations of the purported business. Is this business rated on Better Business Bureau? Are there complaints from other customers online? Use your favorite search engine and find out.
  • Try searching the street address. If the address is fraudulent or outside the U.S., stop all communication and report it.
  • Listen to the claims that the salesperson is making. No one can guarantee a quick sale.
  • Are there any up-front fees to cover closing costs, maintenance fees, or other services? Legitimate fees are typically paid after a sale or out of the proceeds—not up front.

If you own a timeshare—or have friends and family who do—make sure you build a digital defense to ensure a safe timeshare sale. The bad guys are good at what they do, but these pointers might help you from becoming their next victim.

If you have been victimized by this type of scam or any other online scam, you can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.