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Being a Hilton Grand Vacations Club Member means you can enjoy fun vacations in premier world destinations. The downside? Timeshare owners may be targets for fraud. Known as third-party exit company schemes, the culprits often use similar tactics to persuade you to sign up and pay them lump sums of money to either sell, rent or advertise your vacation ownership interest. Merwyn O., from Las Vegas, fell victim to one of these scams and is sharing his experience to help other Club Members protect themselves.
Q: When did this begin?
A: It was September of 2019. I was driving when I got the phone call from a salesman who knew I owned a property with Hilton Grand Vacations, which took me by surprise but also made me think this must be legitimate. I was a little skeptical because I’ve had sales calls before, but I stopped the car and listened.
Q: What did the salesman say?
A: He said he represents large corporations like Expedia and Coca Cola, and if I were to invest $2,400 he could advertise my Hilton Grand Vacations property as conference space to these corporations and I’d be paid $1,600 for each rental over five years.
Q: Did this sound like a legitimate proposal?
A: I started to ask questions like “where he’d gotten my information,” “why was he calling me” and “what if no one rents it?” He was a smooth-talking guy and said the payments were guaranteed. He also kept saying, “are you going to take advantage? There wasn’t any time to wait.” I thought it seemed too good to be true. But I was in a rush and it did sound like a good deal.
Q: Did you sign up on the spot?
A: Yes. I feel so gullible now, but I got drawn in and said I’d go for it. He put me on hold, and another person came on to take my credit card details and read out the fine print, which they then mailed to me. The call ended and I felt really skeptical.
Q: What did you do next?
A: I started researching online and discovered they were based in Orlando and had only been in business since March 2019, which made me even more skeptical. The website looked so cheap. I called Hilton Grand Vacations, who said they’d look into it for me. They also confirmed my worst fears in saying they’d never heard of this company and didn’t work with them.
Q: Did you try to cancel the rental plan?
A: When the paperwork arrived in the mail I read the fine print. It said I could cancel within two weeks. I tried to on the phone and was told to do it in writing, so I emailed. The director of the company called to try and convince me to stay on board. Knowing that HGV didn’t work with them, I knew it wasn’t right and I said I wanted a refund. He said, “I’m sorry that you don’t want to continue and we’ll return your money."
Q: Did they return your money?
A: Thankfully, they did pay me back. I was so relieved it was over, but I read in forums that other people get ripped off all the time and don’t get their money back. It seems there are several companies operating in this way. They take your money, then don’t bother to fulfill their promise of renting out your space.
Q: What advice do you have to other HGV Owners?
A: If it sounds too good to be true, believe that it is! These people are trying to get you to sign up quickly before you’ve read the fine print. If I’d known it was a fraudster on the phone, I would have hung up.
When you receive unsolicited calls offering to sell, rent or advertise your timeshare this is a cause for concern. Neither Hilton Grand Vacations nor RCI will ever reach out to you to rent or sell your timeshare. Always exercise caution and hang up the phone.
If someone asks you for upfront fees, it’s likely a scam. In fact, a recent study from the Better Business Bureau — which interviewed more than 70 victims of exit company schemes — found that upfront fees were one of the most common tactics used by scammers. Florida Realtors recently reported that more than 32,000 people have been deceived by Timeshare Exit Team, the biggest player in the timeshare “exit” industry.
Do not share any personal information over the phone, but do write down the caller’s name, the company, the phone number to call back, website and offer details. Then report the incident to HGV by filling out an Incident Intake Questionnaire and sending it to [email protected].
For tips on how to identify fraudulent offers and common exit company scams, as well as steps on how to report incidents, visit the Third-Party Exit Company Fraud Alert page on the Club Member website.
Photo at top of page: Club Members need to be vigilant about potential exit company scams. Top photo by Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock
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