Wisconsin Better Business Bureau
Press Release

BBB Study Shows Consumers Losing Thousands to Springfield, Missouri Area Timeshare Exit Businesses

 

By - Jun 6th, 2019 07:30 am

Milwaukee, Wis. – Hundreds of timeshare owners – from at least 46 states – have lost thousands of dollars each to timeshare exit businesses that set up operations in recent years in and around Springfield, Missouri. That is a key finding of a four-month investigation of the controversial industry by Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern & Southwest Missouri and Southern Illinois (BBB).

The study, entitled “Timeshare Exit Trap: A Better Business Bureau Study on How Southwest Missouri’s Notorious Timeshare Relief Operators Victimized Hundreds of Timeshare Owners Across the U.S.” reports BBB has logged more than 350 consumer complaints against ten of the most active Springfield-area timeshare exit businesses between January 1, 2017 and March 1, 2019. Clients of those businesses said that they paid out more than $2.2 million for timeshare relief work that was either never done nor completed.

Two of these businesses are headed by Brian Scroggs and account for more than $670,000 in reported losses. One couple, in their 80’s, told BBB they have received nothing after paying one of Scroggs’ companies $18,000 on promises that the business would get then out of their timeshare.

“We live on Social Security and a pension, and we can’t do this,” the wife told BBB, referring to monthly credit card payments of $400 she and her husband are making to pay off the debt.“Unfortunately, BBB has been hearing about the victimization of timeshare owners by unscrupulous timeshare exit operators for years,” says Jim Temmer, CEO/president of the BBB Serving Wisconsin. “BBB urges timeshare owners to exercise extreme skepticism when approached by an unsolicited timeshare exit company. These scammers are ruthless.”

The study highlights several cases in which timeshare owners paid exit businesses anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000 after the businesses assured them they could get them out of their timeshare contracts. Several consumers said the exit companies turned their cases over to law firms or others that also failed to help them.

The report comes just eleven months after a July 2018 BBB report on the Missouri timeshare and vacation industry as a whole. That study reported questionable marketing and sales practices by some representatives of the timeshare industry, and noted that many timeshare owners were turning to timeshare companies to negotiate their contract cancellations.

Complaints about the Springfield-area timeshare exit businesses have come from across the U.S. Some consumers say they were given written guarantees but have received no satisfaction years after paying the exit companies.

The report concludes that seniors and timeshare owners on fixed incomes “are falling victim to timeshare exit companies at an alarming rate. Many of these companies either do not have the expertise or the ethics to follow through with promises to extricate their clients from the often burdensome lifetime timeshare contracts.”

Report recommendations:

  • For consumers wanting to get out of a timeshare contract, BBB advises they first reach out to the timeshare operators who own or manage their timeshare to see if the business offers a deed-back or exit program. If such a program is not available consider consulting with an attorney for advice.
  • While BBB generally discourages hiring a third party to negotiate timeshare relief, consumers who go that route should be very careful in selecting and negotiating timeshare exit contracts.
  • If a consumer decides to contract with a third party for timeshare relief, beware of making upfront payments for the work. Ask if they will put the money in an escrow account until the exit company makes good on its promises.
  • BBB warns that written guarantees from timeshare exit companies may not offer the protection consumers expect because of procedural requirements included in the contract.
  • BBB suggests that consumers be wary of offers to trade out their timeshares for vacation clubs or points programs with low-cost travel services.
  • BBB encourages the timeshare sales and management industry to educate consumers that timeshare purchases are real estate transactions, and, as such, buyers of timeshares are committed to their purchase via maintenance fees until the owners can sell the timeshare to another buyer.
  • BBB urges local law enforcement officials, attorney generals’ offices across the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department to investigate and pursue timeshare exit companies that participate in fraudulent activities.
  • BBB urges federal authorities to look at whether timeshare exit companies should be treated similarly to businesses claiming to specialize in credit and student debt relief. Under federal law, student debt relief businesses must negotiate, settle or reduce at least one debt before collecting any fees for their services.

 

What to do if you believe you have been a victim of a timeshare exit company:

  • Complain to the company directly.
  • File a complaint with BBB.
  • File a complaint with the FTC online or by calling 877-FTC-HELP.
  • Contact the attorney general’s office of the state where you live, and the attorney general’s office in the state where the business is located.
  • File a complaint with your local U.S. Postal Inspection Service office online.
  • If a consumer decides to contract with a third party for timeshare relief, beware of making upfront payments for the work. Ask if they will put the money in an escrow account until the exit company makes good on its promises.
  • BBB warns that written guarantees from timeshare exit companies may not offer the protection consumers expect because of procedural requirements included in the contract.
  • BBB suggests that consumers be wary of offers to trade out their timeshares for vacation clubs or points programs with low-cost travel services.
  • BBB encourages the timeshare sales and management industry to educate consumers that timeshare purchases are real estate transactions, and, as such, buyers of timeshares are committed to their purchase via maintenance fees until the owners can sell the timeshare to another buyer.
  • BBB urges local law enforcement officials, attorney generals’ offices across the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department to investigate and pursue timeshare exit companies that participate in fraudulent activities.
  • BBB urges federal authorities to look at whether timeshare exit companies should be treated similarly to businesses claiming to specialize in credit and student debt relief. Under federal law, student debt relief businesses must negotiate, settle or reduce at least one debt before collecting any fees for their services.

 

What to do if you believe you have been a victim of a timeshare exit company:

  • Complain to the company directly.
  • File a complaint with BBB.
  • File a complaint with the FTC online or by calling 877-FTC-HELP.
  • Contact the attorney general’s office in the state where the business is located.

 

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on TwitterFacebook and YouTube.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2018, people turned to BBB more than 173 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.4 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.

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