Consumer group FACT helping Floridians avoid ‘timeshare nightmares’

Mischief Timeshare Nightmare
Aggressive timeshare marketers are looking for marks. Don’t be one.

On the eve of Labor Day weekend as consumers emerge from pandemic isolation, they are likely to encounter “voracious marketing tactics” from timeshare companies, warns a Florida consumer advocacy group.

The Florida Alliance for Consumers and Taxpayers (FACT) on Thursday launched an educational effort, “Timeshare Nightmare,” to alert consumers to the risks of high-pressure sales tactics and predatory contracts.

A new survey shows that 137 million Americans are planning to travel for Labor Day despite COVID-19 concerns. That puts them squarely in the sights of aggressive timeshare marketers.

FACT unveiled a Timeshare Nightmare website as part of the campaign, providing consumer protection information and inviting victims of timeshare scams to share their stories in hopes of preventing others from being trapped in bad deals. The pro-consumer group will also be sharing consumer timeshare horror stories on social media.

“After a year and a half of consumers staying home, timeshare marketers are starving for business, so consumers are likely to encounter voracious marketing tactics,” said Lee Hinkle, Director of FACT. “Consumers need to know what they are getting into before they sign on the bottom line, and they should never commit before taking time to cool off after a red hot sales presentation.”

Hinkle said that while some timeshare operators conduct their business appropriately, others entice customers with promises of affordable vacations and easy resale options, and then apply unrelenting pressure to close the deal before the customer can walk out the door to think about it.

The timeshare industry began in Florida, with an estimated 370-plus timeshare properties — almost three times as many as any other state and 31% of all timeshares in the nation. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can clearly be seen in an industry report that says that in 2020, timeshare sales totaled about $4.9 billion, just 47% of pre-pandemic sales the previous year — but one of the largest timeshare operators reported in July that its “vacation ownership” revenues had increased by a staggering 152% in the second quarter of 2021 compared with the same period from last year.

“So many timeshare pitches sell the dream of owning your little slice of paradise, but far too often these dreams turn into timeshare nightmares as fees and assessments increase and owners discover they can’t escape the contracts they were pressured into signing,” said Hinkle. “It’s easy to see how a timeshare can be made to sound like a great opportunity for hardworking men and women, but too many Floridians find themselves trapped in bad deals with no escape.”

As part of its public awareness campaign, FACT will use social media, a website, and media outreach to share testimonials from victims of timeshare scams and high-pressure sales tactics. FACT will also work with other independent organizations whose members are often targeted by the timeshare industry.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


2 comments

  • Irene Parker

    September 7, 2021 at 7:48 pm

    I have heard from four Diamond Resorts timeshare buyers who ultimately had to file for bankruptcy because of predatory and deceptive sales: #1) Leo Gomez called me with 30 days left to live due to pancreatic cancer as a result of exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Leo earned two Purple Hearts, 100% disabled. The same Diamond Resorts sales agent we have on a recording defrauding a 90% disabled Iraq veteran, age 26, two years earlier. The agent knew Leo had cancer when he falsely told him he had to convert to points. #2) A 90% disabled Vietnam veteran filed for bankruptcy and #3) a retired Navy veteran had to file for bankruptcy after a Diamond sales agent up-sold him to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments which he had to charge to credit cards and #4) A member lost in Diamond arbitration. The arbitrator ordered him to pay $50,000 in loan settlement and $60,000 in Diamond’s attorneys’ fees. Thank you for your efforts. Based on reports from over 2,000 timeshare members and owners, many experience devastating financial loss.

  • Irene Parker

    September 7, 2021 at 8:08 pm

    Also, as reported by Victoria Butler from the Florida AG, at a FL legislative workshop I attended in March of 2019, over a 2 1/2 year period, the Florida AG acted on 42 complaints (mostly about resales) out of over 4,000 timeshare complaints received over a 2 1/2 year period. The majority of the complaints were about the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors, according to Ms. Butler. We receive multiple complaints against the same Florida agents. The Florida timeshare division DBPR explained that they are not a consumer protection agency, they cannot mediate a dispute, and they cannot force a timeshare company to cancel a contract, so reaching out to the Florida Attorney General if of no help whatsoever. Their knee-jerk response is “verbal representations are difficult to prove.” It’s still important to file for the record. The FTC lists timeshare sales at #7 on their Top Ten Scam list and Resale at #10.

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