Ripoff Alert #1 – Timeshare Fraud, Craigslist

The Ripoff Alert is a new series appearing once each week on Fridays. It alerts you to the latest scams and ripoffs trying to get between you and your money, and gives you information you need to stay safe.

Timeshare Fraud 

USA Today reports that law enforcement is beginning to crack down on timeshare fraud. According to the article, scam artists are demanding up to $2,000 for the promise to sell your unwanted timeshare. More people are trying to unload their timeshares because of high loan payments and maintenance fees.

What you need to know is that the timeshare market is nonexistent. Anyone who charges a fee and promises to sell your timeshare is just trying to rip you off.

There are sellers out there trying to unload their timeshares for $1, but no buyers are lining up. If you own a timeshare, the best thing you can do right now is use your week every year. Look at it as a forced vacation and a time to get away once a year.

Craigslist

I recently bought a window air conditioner on Craigslist. I emailed the seller, stopped by to look at it, paid cash, and drove off with my AC. We’ve had it installed a few days now and it keeps us quite cool. My overall experience was very positive.

This isn’t always the case though. Because it’s free to list items for sale on Craigslist, it’s also a hotbed for criminal activity. There are a few rules to follow if you’re considering buying or selling anything on Craigslist. You can find these on their main webpage under the “avoid scams & fraud” link. The biggest rule of all, which they highlight in yellow, in bold and all caps, is DEAL LOCALLY WITH FOLKS YOU CAN MEET IN PERSON – follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts on craigslist.”

It really is true. Thinking back to every transaction I’ve made on Craigslist, the best experiences I’ve had are when I’ve dealt with people I could meet in person. Always follow this simple rule when buying or selling on Craigslist.

13 thoughts on “Ripoff Alert #1 – Timeshare Fraud, Craigslist

  1. Damn those scammers. They’re always coming up with new ways to rip people off. I have to say that I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with craigslist, as long as I wasn’t trying to buy a car. I’ve bought and sold all kinds of stuff and it almost always goes fairly smoothly. Cars are another story though. Lots of people try to get rid of cars with problems via craigslist knowing that some of those people won’t insist on taking the car to a mechanic before the sale.

    • Yes they are, which is one reason I wanted to start this series. I want to warn people about ways crooks are trying to get into their wallets.

      I’m glad to hear that your experiences on Craigslist have been positive. You’re right about cars though – because of their high value relative to everything else on Craigslist they are particularly tempting targets for criminals. I’ve heard of people who have successfully purchased a car this way, but I’ve heard far more horror stories. This is one case where I would probably stay away from Craigslist.

  2. This is a bit off topic, but regarding timeshares… I remember growing up that a number of our family vacations were courtesy of my parents willingness to spend the bulk of one day listening to a timeshare pitch. They had a deal where the timeshare company would pay your hotel bill in exchange for listening to their pitch. My parents never bought a timeshare, but made out pretty well by listening to their presentations.

    • My wife and I did one of these 2 years ago. They said the presentation was going to be 90 minutes but it ended up being over 4 hours! The guy even drove us around town and gave us a tour. They paid for a two-night hotel stay and a $100 gift card. We went into it with no intention of buying one, so we felt guilty afterward. We won’t be doing it again in the future. Besides, with the industry in shambles I’m not sure they’re even doing these anymore…

  3. I remember when I first bought the 1st gen ipad. I did not want to return it back to Apple since there would be a restocking fee. I posted it on Craigslist and got SO many emails, there were a ton of scam artists in there too. They kept telling me they would paypal me the money and please ship it to them in Africa. I was like okay sure haha. So they sent me a fake paypal receipt showing that they had put $600+ in my account. I’m not stupid so I didn’t click anything but I logged into my paypal account through a separate browser and the balance was, of course, still at $0.

    I replied back with the snarkiest email and chewed them out. It was fun times indeed, but I don’t think I have the patience to do that for every single scammer out there. It’s dangerous too to meet people in person! Always bring a friend.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. That’s pretty funny that they wanted you to ship it to Africa! You were smart to be skeptical of the Paypal thing. I’m not sure how much your iPad was worth at the time, but one common clue that you’re getting ripped off is that the criminal offers more than your item is worth without even seeing it in person.

      Messing with the scamsters can be fun, but you have to watch out because you never know who you’re messing with.

      Very good point about bringing a friend. There is always strength in numbers. You should also meet in a very public place whenever possible.

  4. A year ago my husband and I were looking for him a vehicle on Craigslist. Every deal that seemed to good to be true, really was. We would email these people, they’d give us a sob story and ask us to wire money to a different state. Scam artists infuriate me!!

    • Me too, Katie! They certainly complicate things and make us more skeptical.

      Cars are one area where I’d probably steer clear from Craigslist. I have heard some success stories, but for the most part people have bad experiences. I used Autotrader.com to find my used car a couple years back and it worked well.

  5. I’ve always 100% met in person when buying and selling from kijiji or craigslist. When it comes to anything you plug in, well it’s all risk.. there’s no receipt and you buy it as is and hope the seller is telling the truth. If I’ve ever bought anything I would need to plug in I always want to see it running first. Cheers Mr.CBB

    • Yes, it’s always important to make sure an item is fully functional before buying it used. When I got the AC the guy plugged it in and let it run for a few minutes. I inspected it, asked a few questions and felt good about it. Luckily, it’s been working great since then.

      Anything you buy used you’re basically buying as-is. It’s a risk you have to take to get a lower price.

  6. I’ve looked into the Timeshare thing before, but decided against it. It’s hard to “actually” know what you’re buying. Too many rules. The thing people don’t realize about them is that although they may be for sale for $1, you get stuck with $600 to $2,000 in annual association fees. No thanks!

    (Knock on wood) I have also had nothing but positive Craig’s List experiences. But you also have to know how to play it safe and filter out the creepers.

    • Timeshares are a bad idea all around. Not only do they come with the outrageous original cost if you buy them new, but the yearly fees will eat up your wallet. You’re better off staying in a hotel or using sites like VRBO.com or HomeAway.com to look for vacation rentals.

      Glad to hear your Craigslist experiences have been good. It can be tricky to tell legitimate sellers from fraudsters, but if you deal only with people you can meet in person you’re much less likely to get ripped off.

  7. Thank you for uploading this information. We all should be aware of scams. Timeshare fraud has been around since the timeshare idea was created, but they increase during poor economy. When times are difficult, timeshare owners are stuck with properties they can´t travel to or even afford. Desperate to recoup some money to pay for bills, they can easily become victims to scams artists pretending to be their timeshare salvation who will take upfront fees -as much as five number figures in some cases- but fail to fulfill their promise.

    If you’d like to read more, i found this information on this article:

    http://www.timesharescam.com/blog/91-timeshare-scam-bad-economy/

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