Timeshare owners fall foul again to fraudsters

Fraudsters are again hitting Timeshare owners, by offering to obtain compensation for a minimum fee of £500. The compensation being offered is from an earlier scam offering to sell the contracts.

The Timeshare market started to boom in the 1980s when Britons became obsessed with buying a share in a holiday apartment. Typically, the resorts were in Spain and Portugal, and it is reported that Britain and Ireland are the largest European market for timeshares, with almost 600,000 owners of timeshares in the country, a large share of the 1.5 million in Europe.

Customers were sold a property share for a period of time each year, often with a one-off payment. They then had the right to use that apartment for those weeks in a year, either for a set number of years, or permanently, the legal term is ‘in perpetuity’. Maintenance charges were paid each year, which may have increased substantially each year.

Contracts written in perpetuity are often extremely difficult to get out of, and many retired owners became liable to pay fees for properties they do not want and are not able to use. Often, these properties are handed over to other members of the family, in the event of a death.

The problem is made far worse as legal timeshare agreements are difficult to sell, and even if it is agreed that a company will repurchase the property or a new buyer is found, the owner seldom gets back what they paid for it. There are many bogus resale companies, who charge an upfront fee with the promise of finding a buyer, then vanishing with the money.

One such company, Legal Time Share Advisory Bureau, has no presence on the internet, and when challenged they say that they are a government body so would not have a website. In this scheme the victims are asked to buy vouchers worth £500 from online payment service, Ukash, for administration fees, and to telephone the claims management company with the codes from the vouchers. It is suspected that the £500 would not be seen again.

If customers suspect fraud and they contact Ukash within eight hours, there is a 50% chance that the transaction can be stopped from going through. Customers should check Ukash tips on security for safety advice.

In March, a similar scheme was reported on, when bogus energy saving devices were sold, then the same victims were offered compensation cheques which never arrived. The bogus company Asset Accountancy Services, registered as being in Colchester, has moved premises five times from November 2011, according to Companies House, and it is reported that when they were telephoned, the line was dead.

Asset Accountancy is a new name, said a spokesman from Timeshare Association (Tatoc) an association that helps with timeshare problems and re-sales. A ban on companies making charges before the sale has taken place, has now been set by the EU. The new EU directive states that pre-contractual information must be provided when purchasing a timeshare and the 14-day cooling-off period must be observed.

Although the EU directive offers greater protection to brand new buyers, there are still few options for existing owners. Some companies will cancel the ownership, usually only if the owner is over 75, they could try to sell the timeshare, or rent their weeks to another person.

The Citizens Advice Bureau advises people who wish to get rid of their timeshare to contact one of their advisers and recommends Tatoc. Advice from Tatoc warns against contacting companies directly to cancel any timeshare agreements at low cost.