A telemarketing scam that swindled timeshare owners trying to unload their properties has been temporarily shut down by a federal court.
The temporary restraining order, issued at the Federal Trade Commission's request, names Florida-based Vacation Property Services, Inc.; Vacation Property Sellers, Inc. d/b/a Timeshare Experts; Higher Level Marketing Inc. d/b/a Vacation Property Services; Albert M. Wilson; David S. Taylor and Frank M. Perry, Jr.
Since 2006, according to the FTC's complaint, Vacation Property Services and the other defendants made hundreds of thousands of unsolicited telemarketing calls to timeshare owners, lying about their ability to swiftly find buyers for their properties.The FTC accuses the telemarketers of tricking consumers into paying sizeable up-front fees with false promises that they either had buyers lined up and waiting, or that they wouldn't have any trouble finding them quickly. Regardless of which sales pitch they used, victims were convinced to hand over fees ranging from $200 to more than $8,000.
Once they were duped into paying the advance fee, it wasn't long before consumers realized they'd been had and attempted to get their money back. The scammers regularly dodged their angry calls, the FTC charges, and denied all refund requests.
The FTC's complaint accuses the defendants of violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule by lying about their refund policies and the existence of potential buyers. The complaint also alleges the defendants called hundreds of thousands of consumers whose numbers are on the FTC's Do Not Call Registry.
The FTC is seeking to permanently shut down the scam and force the defendants to refund their victims. The following organizations assisted the FTC in busting the scheme, including The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Tampa, Florida, Division; The Office of the Attorney General, Florida; the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Better Business Bureau of West Florida; and the St. Petersburg, Florida, Police Department.
This case against Vacation Property Services is the latest in a ongoing FTC crackdown against con artists taking advantage of consumers struggling to make ends meet in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Timeshare resale scams, the FTC says, typically offer victims a full return on their initial investment along with a handsome profit. They also offer consumers a tempting escape from timeshare loan payments and mandatory maintenance fees, which vary from several hundred to several thousand dollars a year.
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