North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services
To NC Senior Consumer Fraud Task Force Members
For an update on earlier Trade Practice Alerts concerning timeshare resellers who allegedly scam seniors and others, please see the following excerpt from a press announcement issued today by the Federal Trade Commission:
For Release: 10/29/2010
Psst... Hey Buddy, Wanna Sell a Timeshare?
At FTC’s Request, Court Stops Fraudsters Who Took Advantage of Consumers Trying to Resell Timeshares
At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal district court has put a stop to a deceptive telemarketing operation that allegedly scammed millions of dollars from property owners hoping to sell their timeshares. The FTC charged that the ring, operating out of South Florida, conned consumers by promising that they had buyers lined up and waiting. Only after making a hefty up-front payment did the consumers learn that there were no buyers, and that it was nearly impossible to get their money back from the defendants, many of whom have long criminal histories.
“When cash-strapped consumers are trying to sell their property, the last thing they need is to lose thousands of dollars to scam artists who promise a quick sale, but then provide no services at all,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The case is part of an ongoing FTC effort to crack down on con artists who use fraud and deception to take advantage of consumers hit hard by the recent economic downturn. Many of the defrauded consumers needed to sell their timeshares to help pay their living expenses. According to the FTC, the number of complaints related to fraudulent timeshare resales has more than tripled over the past three years, as more consumers have attempted to sell their timeshares.
In this case, the defendants allegedly defrauded consumers nationwide out of millions of dollars before being shuttered by the court. They also are well known to the South Florida Better Business Bureau (BBB) which, together with the FTC and the Florida Attorney General’s Office, has received hundreds of complaints from consumers about their conduct. The BBB has given the firm, Timeshare Mega Media and Marketing Group, an F rating, the lowest rating it can give a business.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Timeshare Mega Media, two related companies, and six individuals used a telemarketing boiler room in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. They told timeshare owners who were attempting to sell their units that a buyer was lined up and a deal had been negotiated on their behalf, but that before the sale could be completed, consumers would have to pay an up-front fee, usually $1,996, by credit card.
The FTC’s complaint charges that Timeshare Mega Media’s representatives typically claimed the fee was for sale-related costs, such as realtor fees, closing costs, title searches, or document processing. They also told consumers that this fee would be refunded at closing. In some cases, if a consumer owned an expensive timeshare, the fee could be more than $1,996, ranging up to 10 percent of the asking price. Consumers also were told that their timeshare sales would close quickly, often in as few as 30 days.
(Complete text of the announcement available at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/10/megamedia.shtm)
******End of Alert******
Date: October 29, 2010
David N. Kirkman
NC Senior Consumer
Fraud Task Force
Trade Commission Alerts