The Dangers of Upfront Fees in Timeshare Resales
A few weeks ago, three more timeshare resale fraudsters were sentenced for their role in a multimillion dollar timeshare scam.
The three defendants: Jeffrey Sawyer, 53, of Mullica Hill, New Jersey; Vincent Giordano, 31, of Atlantic County, New Jersey; and Aimee Allen, 30, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; each plead guilty to one county of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
The recent sentencing originated from a scam in which timeshare owners would pay upfront fees for phony services to cancel, purchase, or upgrade their timeshares on the secondary market. Vincent Giordano and Aimee Allen posed as employees of a company called “Vacation Ownership Group,” also known as “VO Group LL.C.,” with offices in Mays Landing and Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Jeffrey Sawyer posed as a satisfied customer who would attract and persuade potential consumers to send upfront fees to the company. 10 other arrests were made in conjunction with this scheme.
Giordano was sentenced to four months in prison, four months of home confinement, 200 hours of community service, and three years of supervised released. Allen was sentenced to three years of probation, eight months of home confinement, 50 hours of community service, and ordered to pay over $197,000 in restitution. Sawyer was sentenced to one year in prison and three years of supervised release.
Justice may have been served for these three fraudsters, but many remain uncaught and actively seeking new schemes. With so many scams circling around the secondary timeshare market, how are consumers supposed to protect themselves?
A few years back, an anonymous Florida woman wrote an article for Redweek Magazine examining her time working for a timeshare resale scam company. As an unemployed single mother, the woman answered an ad for a sales job in a Florida newspaper. Only later, when she was well on her way to making over $156,000 a year with an additional 30% commission on every timeshare resale “sold,” did she realize that she was a part of an elaborate scam. As her inner battle between morality and making ends meet waged, the woman finally confronted her employers about their fraudulent services, leading to her ultimate firing from the timeshare resale company. As she stated in her piece, “I needed to be fired to clear my conscience.”
Now, over ten years later, this story is a lesson to avoid blindly paying upfront fees to timeshare resale companies. The aftermarket fraud rate for timeshare resales is up to 82%. Although there are legitimate brokers and timeshare resalers out there, this number signifies the likelihood of falling victim to secondary market fraudsters. As the woman wrote in her article, “The place is still scamming to this day and they are still raking in the cash from unsuspecting timeshare [owners] young and old alike.” As she apologizes for her role and participation in the scheme, she advocates, “I just want you all to be aware of the fact that you should NOT pay an UNFRONT FEE to anyone ever.”
Scam artists rely on upfront fees to make their profits. Legitimate firms and agencies that are in the business of protecting you and your assets typically do not request up-front fees. These firms collect legitimate fees only after the sale is concluded or as a deduction from the sale price when it occurs.
The only way for consumers to protect themselves is to avoid upfront fees at all cost. As we have written about in the past, many timeshares are difficult to resell because the associated fees can be so high that they hold negative value. That being said, if someone guarantees to sell your timeshare for an upfront price, be especially cautious. Do your own research — make sure that any company you deal with is legitimate and will work on your behalf and in your best interests. If you cannot sell your timeshare, consider alternative options such as timeshare divestment or timeshare cancellation, that can be performed safely without any upfront fees.
If you need help getting out of a timeshare, contact The Abrams Firm at (360) 918–8196 for a free consultation. Our low flat-rate fees are 100% contingent upon the successful legal divestment of your timeshare to end ownership and all associated financial obligations. We charge NO UPFRONT FEES to CANCEL A TIMESHARE. We are Consumer Protection Attorneys — that is who we are and how we fight for consumer justice — and for timeshare owners, we ensure your protection by NEVER charging ANY upfront fees.
- Bebe B., Associate, The Abrams Firm