Take the steps necessary to avoid being scammed.

Since its inception, the timeshare industry has long been criticized for its high-pressure sales tactics and somewhat shady modus operandi. But increases in regulation and the spread of information on the internet have forced these companies to be a little more honest. In fact, the last timeshare-owned property I stayed at was actually very well-maintained, accommodating, and enjoyable. So, in this case, they did deliver. Could the timeshare sham of old finally be a thing of the past?

Not so fast. The new scam isn't the timeshare companies themselves, although many financial experts would agree that they're a bad investment, but rather crooks looking to cash in on those who already own them.

Here's how it works:

Let's say you decided to buy into the timeshare and you've been enjoying it for a few years. Then, your financial situation changes – you lose your job, a family member gets sick, or maybe you just don't want to pay the maintenance fees associated with the timeshare – what do you do? Sell it, and here's where the scam comes in.

Scammers will cold call owners until they find someone who is interested in selling, then they claim they've already got buyers lined up and in order to go through with it all, they need an upfront transaction fee. 

These fees often range from $1,000 to $3,000, and the requested forms of payment are typically wire, money order, and cashier's check. The more sophisticated operations will even have very professional-looking websites that correspond to the scammer's pitch.

With that said, here's what you need to do to protect yourself:

  1. Be extremely skeptical of anyone who says they've got a buyer lined up for your timeshare. 
  2. Never pay upfront fees for anything. Generally, that's worked into the price or settled after the transaction. 
  3. Get everything in writing, and if you can, have it reviewed by your attorney.
  4. Do as much research as you can. Look for a physical address of the company, and check with the local consumer protection agency to see if they're legitimate. 
  5. Finally, check with the timeshare company to get the exact details on resale restrictions or if they recommend any resellers. 

What are your thoughts? Do you have any words of warning? Let us know in the comments section!