A Louisiana consumer hoping to get out of timeshare debt feels she was only pressured into a bigger financial setback.
"I like being a timeshare owner because you can go traveling anytime, any place," explained the woman, who asked not to be identified.
At the beginning of the summer, she owned four timeshares, from the historic French Quarter, to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, to Branson, Missouri, known for its entertaining shows and concerts. Essentially, they're arrangements where several joint owners can use a property as a vacation home under a time-sharing agreement, and she says she's guaranteed a visit one to two weeks a year.
"But I haven't been able to use it because my health hasn't been good. A lot of people in our family have not been well," she explained.
She's paid off one timeshare property, but owes money on the other three, and the annual maintenance fees to care for each of the properties aren't getting any cheaper. In fact, together three of them add up to hundreds of dollars each year. So when someone called her home out of the blue, claiming his group could help her reduce those fees or even get her out of them, she was all ears.
"I just fell into their trap real well...what I had to do, I had to buy a timeshare to cover their costs. That makes no sense whatsoever," she said.
She says the group she met with promised to refer her to another group that would help her cancel her timeshare contracts.
"They were gonna contact the timeshare bosses, and say that I was misled, and this is how I was misled," she explained. But, she says she was pressured to buy another timeshare and pay several fees, adding up to more than $16,000.
"When I read the contract later I thought, I must have been out of.. absolutely out of my mind," she said.
"High pressure is something that some individuals will use to get the individual to sign a contract right away, and okay, we're gonna guarantee that we're gonna sell your timeshare, but in order to do this, you have to sign this paper, and then before she knows it, she's purchased another time share, and I don't think that's what she really wanted to do," said Cynthia Albert with the Better Business Bureau.
Besides high-pressure tactics, the BBB says beware of cold calls and fake addresses. Albert says you may also want to check to see if the business is BBB accredited, but even then, she says you need to do your research.
"The legitimate ones are there with good ratings, and then somebody else may steal their information," said Albert.
She was trying to get rid of her timeshares, or at least reduce the annual maintenance fees. Instead, this Louisiana consumer ended up spending more money on another property, a financial setback that's caused even more stress.
More tips from the BBB: don't give out your mother's maiden name or your social security number. Your identity could get stolen, and credit cards, for example, could be opened in your name. If this has happened to you, call the credit bureaus to put an alert on your account. Also, you may want to consider filing complaints with the BBB, law enforcement and the attorney general's office. If you have a consumer complaint, call the FOX 8 Defenders. We're staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397, or fill out our online complaint form at fox8live.dot com.
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