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Summer is here: Cuccinelli warns Virginians against travel schemes and timeshare resellers
~The attorney general is joined by DPOR, VDACS, FTC in this multi-state, multi-national law enforcement initiative~
RICHMOND (June 11, 2013) - Today, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued a warning and some tips to Virginians about avoiding deceptive travel promoters and timeshare scams. The attorney general is joined by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) in a joint multi-state, multi-national law enforcement initiative, coordinated by the Federal Trade Commission, to combat travel scams this summer season.
"With summer just around the corner, many Virginians will be traveling across the state, the country, and the world on what are intended to be relaxing vacations," said Cuccinelli. "Unfortunately, there are individuals out there who target and exploit travelers, turning what would be peaceful vacations into absolute nightmares.
"I strongly encourage Virginia consumers to watch out for travel and timeshare scams," the attorney general said. "I want Virginians to enjoy spending their hard-earned dollars on time with their families not dealing with the heartache of falling victim to one of these schemes."
While there are many legitimate businesses offering travel plans, part of vacation planning involves consumers doing some research to make sure they are dealing with reputable businesses. Below are tips and information you should know before purchasing a vacation plan:
Travel scam warning signs:
- You "won a free vacation," but you have to pay some fees up-front.
- The prize company wants your credit card number.
- They cold-call, cold-text, or email you out of the blue. They don't - or can't - give you specifics until you make a personal visit to their location.
- You get pressure to sign up for great deals on future vacations.
- You get a robocall. Robocalls from companies are illegal if you haven't given a company written permission to call you; even if you haven't signed up for the national Do Not Call Registry.
Tips to avoid timeshare and travel club scams:
- Check out the company before you agree to anything. Contact the timeshare developer or owners' association yourself to ask if there are any restrictions on rentals or resales. A quick Internet search should provide contact information and confirm if a particular property in fact exists.. Timeshare businesses (and soon, timeshare resellers) fall under the Virginia Real Estate Timeshare Act and should be registered with DPOR. Travel clubs -- organizations that arrange travel services for their members for an advanced fee or annual charge -- should be registered with VDACS and are subject to the Virginia Travel Club Act. Both state laws provide consumers with avenues to pursue private legal actions and recover damages in civil court. To determine if a travel club is registered, contact VDACS's Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs at (804) 786-1343.
- Typically, deceptive timeshare resellers claim to have ready buyers or renters who will pay top dollar to buy consumers' timeshare properties, and they will trick consumers into dishing out hefty up-front fees. The resellers falsely claim that they can rent or sell consumers' properties for a certain amount, although no buyers or renters are in place. Consumers ultimately end up losing hundreds or thousands of dollars in bogus closing costs and unsold properties. Many of these scammers also promise refunds to consumers, but most consumers never get their money back.
- State licenses or other qualifications are not required for many timeshare transactions. You may want to ask if you are dealing with a real estate professional.
- Get all terms in writing before you agree to anything, and make sure you understand them.
- If you consider purchasing a timeshare, do it for personal use and enjoyment, not for investment purposes. There is no guarantee you will be able to resell later for a certain price or on particular terms.
- Consider doing business only with someone who gets paid after the timeshare is sold.
- Be aware the law gives you a limited timeframe to change your mind and cancel a timeshare sales contract. Review your documents thoroughly before and after you sign.
For additional information about timeshares, contact DPOR at (804) 367-2941 or visit www.dpor.virginia.gov.
For additional information or to file a complaint about a travel club, contact VDACS at (804) 786-1343 or visitwww.vdacs.virginia.gov/consumer.
You may also contact the Office of the Attorney General's consumer protection hotline, either at (804) 786-2042 or (800)-552-9963 or visit www.ag.virginia.gov, then click on Consumer Protection.