Typical complaints state that the owner of a timeshare has been subject to an unsolicited telephone call by a bogus timeshare resale company which claims that a "definite buyer" has been found for their timeshare and that an above market offer has been made to buy it.
Consumers are first tricked into making an upfront payment of several hundred pounds, to cover so-called "administration costs" or "land registry charges" but then the "definite buyer" falls through.
The consumer is subsequently asked to attend a meeting with another buyer, often referred to as a "corporate buyer", to discuss their offer. Often these meetings take place abroad, most commonly in a Spanish resort or other holiday destination where the consumer is made to sit through a high pressure sales presentation often lasting several hours.
They will be offered membership of a bogus holiday club in exchange for their timeshare plus an additional payment of several thousand pounds.
The OFT is warning timeshare owners to be cautious if they receive an unsolicited approach by a company claiming to be able to sell their timeshare who:
Requests an up-front fee such as an administration fee, VAT, land registry charge or insurance cover;
Offers an unrealistic purchase price – often higher than the original purchase price;
Says they have a confirmed buyer waiting or a "corporate buyer";
Pressures you into making a decision on the spot;
Asks you to go abroad to complete a sale.
Genuine avenues for timeshare resale do exist but the OFT advises owners to always take advice first, do some research on the company making the offer and to check out the truthfulness of any promises made before making a decision.
The OFT is asking any UK consumers who have lost money to timeshare resale scammers to make contact and provide it with written information and documentation.
The OFT is appealing for information from consumers who, having signed up, attended a holiday club presentation in Spain and having purchased holiday club membership found the services on offer in terms of range, price and quality of holidays not as promised by the salesmen.
The OFT cannot intervene in an individual case or get consumers’ money back for them, but the evidence provided could strengthen any enforcement action to be taken by the Spanish authorities and ensure that those who mislead consumers are prevented from doing so in the future.
Mike Haley, OFT Director of Consumer Protection, said: "As the public has become more aware of the dangers of bogus holiday clubs and the tricks used, so the scammers have changed their tactics. Increasingly timeshare owners are being targeted with the bait of a fictitious timeshare resale used as a means of hooking consumers into buying a bogus holiday club membership."
Elisabetta Sciallis, from the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) which provides free and confidential information and advice for the resolution of consumer cross-border disputes said: "This issue is a major threat to consumers and we encourage consumers to support the OFT initiative. The UK ECC has seen an increase in the number of complaints related to timeshare resale operators. Overall 40% of the cases dealt with by the UK ECC involve timeshare resale, Holiday Club and similar products."
Any consumers with a complaint about timeshare resale scammers or bogus holiday club operators should write to the OFT at: ScamBusters, Bogus Holiday Club Project, OFT, Fleetbank House, 2-6 Salisbury Square, London EC4Y 8JX.
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