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TheStreet Open House

Timeshare Scam Tips

By Juliette Fairley

NEW YORK ( MainStreet)--When Robert Burk received a phone call from Timeshare Mega Media in 2009 about selling his Lake Tahoe timeshare, the electronics engineer jumped at the opportunity.

"I was unemployed at the time, and they offered to resell it for $22,000," said Burke who originally purchased the $14,000 timeshare in exchange for one week in the condo every other year.

The 53-year-old gave the Florida-based company $2,450 up front to make the proposed resale deal happen.

"Timeshare Mega Media kept me going for a long time, assuring me that a sale was in the works but most calls were never returned," Burk said. "I got tired of the runaround and filed a complaint with the state of Florida."

It turns out that the resale offer was fake and Timeshare Mega Media didn't really have a buyer for Burk's Lake Tahoe timeshare.

"They did have a license issued in Florida for telemarketing, but Timeshare Mega Media was not licensed to sell property," said Burk, who has since recovered $1,900 of the money he lost.

Burk is one of the more than 13,000 written timeshare resale complaints in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) database since 2009.

"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 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."

The FTC announced 191 actions to stop fraudulent operations from the marketing of timeshare property resale services. About 83 civil actions were brought by 28 states and 25 actions brought by police in 10 other countries. As a result, more than 184 individuals face criminal prosecution by U.S. attorneys and local law enforcement.

Companies named in the lawsuits include Resort Solution Trust, Resort Property Depot, Vacation Communications Group and Timeshare Mega Media.

"These people weren't really reselling timeshares," says David Horn, assistant regional director with the FTC. "So, we've sued a bunch of them. This is a fraudulent activity that has become quite common, which is why there are so many enforcement actions."

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