St. Louis, Mo., March 8, 2018 – The Consumer Fraud Task Force is advising consumers looking to rid themselves of their timeshare responsibilities to carefully scrutinize services offering to help dispose of the timeshare.Consumers have reported paying fees upfront to businesses that promise to buy, sell or help void your timeshare contract and often within a specific timeframe. Consumers have told Better Business Bureau (BBB) and regulatory agencies that after paying thousands of dollars the process took much longer than expected or the service failed to relieve them of their timeshare obligations, and they were forced to continue to pay maintenance fees on the timeshares.Others complained about attending high-pressured and misleading sales presentations where they were convinced that they could be released from their current timeshare obligations and enter into a vacation membership club. They then found themselves stuck with two financial obligations, their timeshare and a vacation club.Consumers who have filed complaints with BBB about timeshare liquidation companies say they experienced the same type of high-pressure sales pitches they experienced when they originally purchased the timeshare. Consumers tell BBB the timeshare liquidation companies claim they can get them out of their timeshare responsibilities quickly, some telling consumers they will be free within six months, but the process takes much longer to complete or doesn’t happen at all. Consumers who use timeshare liquidation services usually are told to continue to pay their maintenance fees, but can’t utilize the timeshare while the liquidation process takes place.Timeshare resale schemes now exist because there is virtually no resale market for timeshare holdings. Properties can be found on online auction sites for pennies. If a consumer is contacted about selling their timeshare for a large amount of money, beware.Here are some recent examples of work by members of the Task Force:· In June 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it was mailing 338 checks totaling more than $319,000 to people who lost money to a Florida timeshare resale business. The FTC said the defendants lured consumers into paying “registration fees” for their services by making unsolicited telemarketing calls to timeshare owners and falsely claiming to have renters or buyers lined up for the timeshare property. In 2013, the business was banned from selling timeshare resale services and from telemarketing. The recipients will receive full refunds, averaging $945.· The FTC in December 2016 charged a Florida company believed to be operating a timeshare reselling scheme with taking at least $15 million from timeshare property owners. The FTC alleges the business charged up-front fees on promises that it would sell or rent the properties. A federal court order halted the operation and froze the defendants’ assets. The FTC seeks to permanently stop the business from operating and return money to consumers. The case is pending in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.· BBB warned consumers about two Springfield, Mo.-based businesses in the fall of 2017. Each business dealt with timeshare liquidations. Consumers reported that the businesses failed to liquidate their timeshares and the companies had little contact with the companies after signing contracts. Consumers reported losing thousands of dollars to each company.· In 2015 and 2016, travel/timeshare complaints were among the most complained about business to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office in 2015 and 2016. Before engaging a third-party company to liquidate a timeshare, consumers should contact the company from which they purchased the timeshare. Some companies offer exit programs where consumers can return the deed for little or no charge.If a consumer decides to hire a company to liquidate or resell a timeshare, consider the following tips:· Don’t be pressured into releasing a timeshare to avoid passing a financial obligation to your heirs. They may not be required to accept an inherited timeshare. In most instances, to refuse a timeshare inheritance, you can send a document called a “disclaimer of interest” along with a copy of the original owner’s death certificate to the timeshare property.· Converting from a timeshare to a vacation club sometimes will leave you with more fees and travel limitations, while promised savings often are inflated.· Before paying, make sure you have a signed contract outlining what is to be done, a timetable and an explanation of what happens if the business doesn’t comply with the agreement.· Be wary of anyone claiming that he has a buyer for your timeshare or who promises to rent your timeshare, especially if he asks for an upfront free.· Ask the company for references and contact them.· If you feel like you have been victimized in a timeshare scheme, file complaints with BBB, the state attorney general, and the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers filed more than 2,500 reports on vacation and travel scams to BBB’s ScamTracker in 2017. Consumers reported losing thousands of dollars in various schemes.Formed in October 2002, the Task Force is a coalition of local, state and federal government agencies and nonprofit business and consumer groups in Missouri and Illinois that work together to protect consumer and donor rights and guard against fraud. The group has tackled predatory payday loan offers, tax scams, timeshare reselling fraud, credit repair and foreclosure scams, bogus sweepstakes, Internet sweetheart scams, phony grant scams, home remodeling, air duct cleaning schemes and a variety of other issues. To obtain information, or to report a scam, you may contact members of the Task Force:Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern and Southwest Missouri and Southern Illinois – (888) 996-3887; www.bbb.org.Federal Trade Commission – (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357); www.ftc.gov.Illinois Attorney General – (800) 243-0618; www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov.Missouri Attorney General – (800) 392-8222; www.ago.mo.gov.U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Missouri – (314) 539-2200; www.usdoj.gov/usao/moe.U.S. Postal Inspection Service – (877) 876-2455; postalinspectors.uspis.gov.U.S. Secret Service – (314) 539-2238; www.secretservice.gov.