FTC cracks down on time-share resale fraud


FTC / Federal Trade CommissionThere are companies out there that attract time-share owners eager to sell by saying they have ready buyers, demand an upfront payment, and then produce nothing. Among the media used to hook their victims are radio and television ads.

“Con artists take advantage of timeshare owners who have been in tough financial straits and are desperate to sell their timeshares,” said Charles A. Harwood, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “They persuade owners to pay fat up-front fees by saying they have someone ready to buy the property, but that’s a lie. Our message to timeshare owners is simple: never pay for a promise, get everything in writing first, and pay only after your unit is sold. Our message to timeshare resale scammers is simple, too:  law enforcement agencies at every level of government are working together to put an end to this problem.” 

In a statement, the FTC spelled out the modus operandi: “Fraudulent timeshare resellers lure consumers into paying hefty up-front fees, falsely claiming to have interested buyers ready to pay top dollar for the properties.  They claim sales are about to happen, but there are no buyers, and consumers lose hundreds or thousands of dollars.  Deceptive travel prize promoters trick consumers into paying for discounted or ‘free’ vacation packages supposedly worth thousands of dollars, but most people get nothing of value or have to attend high-pressure timeshare sales presentations.  All of these scams reach consumers via unsolicited email, mailed travel vouchers, and radio, TV and online advertising.”

In partnership with authorities in 28 states, 83 actions against scammers were initiated, and 25 others were initiated in partnership with authorities in 10 other countries.

RBR-TVBR observation: We’ve seen the FTC go after advertisers time and again, but never the venue that ran the advertising. And that’s a good thing – people in the media are not advertising cops, nor should they be expected to be.

Nevertheless, if a broadcaster has any reason to believe that an advertisement is not on the up and up, it may be wise to put it under special scrutiny as a service to the station’s audience. The last thing you want to do is expose your loyal fans to fraudulent goods and services.