Better Business Bureau: Watch out for 'time share relief' firms

November 28, 2013 

The meeting was in a Boise hotel. The promise was that easy time share relief was within their grasp.

They had answered a flier distributed at the Magic Valley Fair in the fall. LaVar and Terry Carson, of Kimberly, had talked for several weeks about getting away from their time share to be able to travel more.

"We finalized the deal, and they asked us for nearly $2,000 in processing and transfer fees," says Terry Carson.

When the couple began the drive back home, they had second thoughts about the transaction, and put a hold on the credit card they'd given to the salesman. Then they called the Better Business Bureau.

BBB told the Carsons, who asked their true identity not be used, to file a complaint against the company, to call the state attorney general consumer protection and to cancel credit card and financial transactions. In addition, BBB told them to watch their credit report and to look out for "easy time share relief" experts.

With the recent crackdown on time share resellers, self-proclaimed time share advocates, time share relief, or time share fee recovery firms are ready to fill the void. These newly formed businesses claim they can recover the money you paid to slick marketers who promised to sell your time share but never delivered a buyer. Do these firms really earn their fee or is it just another way to profit from unhappy time share owners?

BBB has found most "time share advocate" and recovery firms sell self-help information; often in the form of demand letters that you send to the offending time share resale company in an attempt recover your fees. While some of these advocates claim to have an attorney on stand-by, don't be fooled into believing you are receiving legal representation. While an attorney may have drafted the form letter, the company's salespeople are quick to mention that they aren't giving you legal advice.

While the advocates may claim a success rate or guaranteed results, the resale listing company probably did as well. In this case, after paying a hefty up-front fee you may be required to do most of the work yourself.

Many time share resale firms are no longer in business. While some were closed down for illegal practices, others reorganized and continue to prey on time share owners with a new name and pitch.

Claims that you may be able to recover the fees you paid are often false. While some government agencies and consumer organizations help people who have lost money, they do not charge a fee. Nor do they guarantee to get your money back, or give special preference to anyone who files a formal complaint.

If you have lost money, BBB offers these tips:

• Ask the company what service they are providing and who will be performing the work.

• Ask the company how it measures its success rate.

• If the company offers a money back guarantee, ask for a written copy. Some companies will deny a refund if you didn't follow their plan exactly.

• Beware of businesses that claim credit for closing down fraudulent companies or claim affiliation with government agencies.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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