I-Team: Don't let scams ruin your summer plans

Thursday, May 25, 2017
Travel troubles: don't get scammed this summer
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These tips will help you avoid being the victim of a summer vacation scam.

RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- You don't have to be a kid to be excited for summer, but adults should be careful about how that excitement affects their decision-making.

The ABC11 I-Team looked into fresh warnings about summer scams targeting families eager to book a summer getaway just days before the summer starts.

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"A lot of people feel that pressure to book that vacation home because they forgot to do that months ago," Alyssa Gutierrez, spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau, tells ABC11. "Scammers play on that."

Every year the BBB receives 13,000 complaints about vacation scams, costing each consumer roughly $1,000. The BBB serving Eastern North Carolina is pointing out two major scams in the area affecting timeshares and vacation homes.

The time share scam first surfaced a few months ago, when families from across the country asked the BBB about Resort Network Services LLC, which claimed it had an address in Raleigh.

According to Gutierrez, the company offers consumers a chance to buy or sell timeshares -- but not before they are asked to wire money up front for "closing costs."

"I don't understand it, but they were very professional people," scam victim Don Hartman of Austin, Texas, told ABC11. "They were writing contracts that sound very professional. They know what they're doing."

Hartman consulted with the BBB, which tried to contact the company, but mail was sent back and all calls, messages and faxes went unanswered. The I-Team checked with the Secretary of State's office; Resort Network Services was a real company - from 2002-2009.

"I wanted to make sure I was protected," Hartman said. "It just didn't feel right to me."

The second scam has plagued vacationers for years, but the rise of "home sharing" like Airbnb has only exacerbated the issue. According to Gutierrez, some vacation home rentals turn out to be make-believe getaways. Families have complained that they'll send in money for a deposit but then upon arrival they'll find the address is wrong or the house is occupied by someone else.

"They'll take pictures off the Internet and pose them as something real or something they have in their inventory. It's not the case. It's fake," Gutierrez said.

BBB offers the following tips to avoid these summer scams:

  • Find a Trustworthy Business. Check out bbb.org for reliable timeshare resellers. Look at the business's complaints and reviews to be sure they are trustworthy. Do your own online research for the company name and any contact names to see what other consumers are saying.
  • Look at the Fees. Avoid businesses that ask for an "appraisal" fee or closing costs upfront. Be aware of businesses that give you a large fee and then slightly decrease it to seem like a "good deal". Search for a business that will allow you to pay for the fees after the timeshare has been sold. Never wire money and be sure to ask what fees will be included in the cost and if they are refundable.
  • Do Not Be Pressured. Do not agree to anything that is presented over the phone. Before agreeing to anything, take your time to think about your decision. Ask the salesperson to send you written information. Do not be pressured by a salesperson that claims your property can be sold immediately.
  • Read the Contract Carefully. The contract should include: what services the broker provides, how much and when the costs should be paid, a length of time to sell the timeshare, and the refund and guarantee policy. Make sure the contract states who is responsible for the sale.
  • Too Good To Be True. Know the estimated value of the timeshare before bringing it to be sold. If the deal the business offers sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Report It. If you think you have been a part of a scam, report it with BBB's Scam Tracker, file a complaint with BBB, the FTC and NC's Attorney General Office.

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