If you are a timeshare owner and happen to get a call from a telemarketer promising cash in exchange for your “bonus weeks,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich suggests hanging up.
Brnovich has filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Condosmart LLC, an Arizona-based timeshare resale and rental advertising business. The suit accuses the company of making hundreds of unsolicited telemarketing calls to consumers who owned timeshare properties all over the U.S.
According to Brnovich's records, consumers in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina may have paid Condosmart thousands of dollars for services that were not provided.
The suit claims Condosmart, which also does business as CS Marketing, CSR Financial, and Condosmart Marketing, engaged in deceptive and misleading business practices as it targeted consumers who owned timeshare properties.
Brnovich says the company's telemarketers were armed with a lot of information about the condo owners, including their name and where the property is located. He says that during sales calls, the telemarketers would routinely misrepresent that the owners had bonus, or extra, weeks that were available for sale to third parties.
For example, in some cases Brnovich says timeshare owners were told well-known Fortune 500 companies wanted to rent their extra timeshare weeks for large events like automobile races, trade shows, and sporting events.
The catch, says Brnovich, is the condo owner would be required to pony up anywhere from $995 to $1995 to market his or her “bonus” weeks.
The suit claims the company has violated the Arizona Telemarketing Solicitations Act by failing to file a verified registration before soliciting consumers and by failing to maintain a surety bond, as required by Arizona law.
In states where there tend to be a lot of timeshare properties – like Florida – state officials spend a lot of time prosecuting alleged timeshare fraud. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says her office is constantly investigating telemarketers that push their services on timeshare owners trying to get out from under their obligation, either by selling or renting their time.
Florida passed sweeping consumer protection legislation in 2011 that, among other things, prohibits a timeshare resale advertiser from providing brokerage or direct sale services, or misleading a consumer as to the advertiser’s sales success rate.
Bondi says timeshare owners should always be wary of any marketer who calls out of the blue, expressing the opinion that the consumer's property is in a “hot” area and in demand. Unless it's a South Beach property for the week between Christmas and New Years, it probably isn't.
Bond has other tips for avoiding timeshare resale scams here.