Timeshare resale scams trick unsuspecting owners

Consumer protection investigators are sending out a new warning for people who want to sell their timeshare: Stay away from anyone who contacts you first, claiming they have a buyer.

The Federal Trade Commission just got court orders to ban 5 deceptive operators from doing any kind of timeshare resale business. Investigators say they tricked timeshare owners out of more than $30 million in bogus up-front fees by claiming to have buyers or renters for their timeshare property. Despite the latest court action however, dozens of timeshare scammers are on the phone right now with pitches designed to get your money.

Instead of strolling the warm sandy beaches of Mexico like they dreamed of, Dave and Sharon Puffert are content with the rocky, wind-swept surf of Puget Sound. The resort timeshare they purchased while on vacation two years ago is paid for, but they've never been able to use it.

"Somehow, with expenses and everything, it just didn't work out. And it's just one of those things you put money into that you thought was going to be good- and it really didn't turn out to be so good," they said.

They only recently made the final payment. Soon after, they got a phone call from a company they've never head of, claiming to have a potential buyer in Canada for their Mexico timeshare. The man even sent them a contract to sign, and said they would ultimately have to pay a transfer fee.

Unsolicited timeshare resale come-ons claim thousands of victims across the country every year. But the money you send as part of the transaction has nothing to do with selling or renting your timeshare. The money all goes to the deceptive operators who are known to change names and locations so you can't track them down.

Dave and Sharon's timeshare company says they're aware of the scams and routinely send scam alerts to their members to help them avoid being victimized. While the couple knew to investigate before signing any contract, they're concerned others might fall for convincing resale scams that take your money and leave you with the same timeshare they promised to help you sell.

If you have a timeshare you want to sell, start with the management company or homeowners association at the property where your timeshare is located. Try to find a licensed broker in your area who is knowledgeable about the timeshare industry. Another good source of information is the American Resort Development Association , the trade organization that represents the timeshare industry.