Beware of Florida Timeshare Telemarketing Scams By Tod Aronovitz | 06/12/13 | 0 Comment

Florida tops the list of fraud cases involving deceptive telemarketing practices that target timeshare owners looking to sell.

Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer tallied 18 separate criminal cases filed against 69 defendants in the South Florida office alone, including 41 attached to Broward County telemarketer Timeshare Mega Media and Marketing Group Inc. In that case, more than 2,000 people were scammed out of $5 million. The two owners and most other defendants have pleaded guilty, and the company is no longer in business.

The aggressive high-pressure telemarketing tactics usually start with a cold phone call to a Florida timeshare owner who wants to sell. The callers claim they have a buyer but to move the transaction forward, the owner needs to send cash up front. However nothing happens, and the timeshare owner never sees the money again. Court documents in the Broward County case reported upfront fees ranging from just under $2,000 to $10,000.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), actions against these telemarketers are intensifying. The agency reported that more than 190 criminal and civil actions have been filed across the country to deter the ongoing issue, which Charles Harwood, acting director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, attributes to increased efforts by federal, state and local law enforcement. Although complaints about timeshare fraud targeting sellers tripled from 2010 to 2011, when more than 6,000 people called an FTC hotline to report their problem, only 4,600 complaints in 2012 were called in.

“Our message to timeshare owners is simple: Never pay for a promise, get everything in writing first, and pay only after your unit is sold,” Harwood said. “Our message to timeshare scammers is simple, too: Law enforcement agencies at every level of government are working together to put an end to this problem.”

The two-year timeshare fraud investigation has resulted in criminal charges against 184 people across the country. In addition, 83 civil actions have been brought by officials in 28 states and 25 actions by agencies in 10 other countries.

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