JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Missouri is one of 28 states taking a new stand against deceptive timeshare resellers and travel promoters.
On Thursday, the FTC announced the coordinated effort, which also includes 190 law enforcement agencies nationwide.
"Often, deceptive timeshare resellers will falsely claim to have buyers or renters in place who are ready to pay top dollar for consumers' timeshare properties, asking property owners to pay hefty up-front fees," writes Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster in a news release. "Consumers end up losing hundreds or thousands of dollars in bogus closing costs. Manyscammers promise refunds to consumers, but don't return payments.
Koster says Missouri consumers who have done business with any travel or timeshare provider that has failed to provide promised services should contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-392-8222 or file a complaint online at ago.mo.gov.
The Office of the Attorney General also offered the following tips for consumers to prevent becoming the victim of a timeshare or travel scam:
- Beware of unsolicited calls claiming to have a buyer for your timeshare, or offering to advertise your property for sale.
- Deal only with licensed real estate brokers or agents. For unsolicited offers, take steps to verify that the individual contacting you is in fact the broker or agent that the person purports to be. Be mindful that scam artists might impersonate legitimate, licensed brokers and agents.
- Interview several resale agencies before signing an agreement.
- Never pay an up-front fee.
- Check the company's history of complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General's Office before agreeing to do business with them.
- Be cautious of firms that ask you to pay before confirming reservations. Most reputable travel agents will provide confirmation before payment is expected.
- Deal with an established firm. If a business is unfamiliar, consumers should check with the Missouri Attorney General's Office or the Better Business Bureau.
- Request written information on total cost of the package and all items included. Do not sign a contract if the business won't give you specifics.
- Ask about the right to cancel, as well as cancellation insurance.
- It's most likely a scam if a firm tells you that you've "won a free vacation," but you have to pay some fees first, or if the prize company wants your credit card number.
- Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. If the salesperson is overly aggressive, reconsider.
- Do not sign a contract or any documents at the presentation. Take the paperwork and review it carefully after the pitch.
- If signing a contract at the time of the pitch, insist on taking a copy of the contract with you. Do not let the business send it later.
- Ask to talk with other owners of the timeshare as references.
- Check the company's complaint records with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General's Office.
- Always read the fine print.