New scam warning for timeshare owners

LOS ANGELES These are tough times and plenty of people are struggling just to make their home mortgage payments, so it's not surprising many /*timeshare*/ owners are hoping to cut back on their expenses by trying to sell their vacation property. But don't sell to just anyone.

Patricia Valdez and Art Heist are timeshare owners facing similar ordeals, and they both say the craziness all started with a phone call and a promise to sell their properties.

"They'd say well, we hear you got a timeshare for sale, we have a buyer for you," said Heist.

They were both asked to do the same thing: give the company the money up front.

Excited about dumping their vacation properties, and the extra expense that came along with them, Valdez and Heist paid the fees. But they never heard from the companies again and their timeshares were never sold.

"After that we never heard from them, we would call there and they would not answer the phone," said Valdez.

"They just took my money and claimed they would sell my timeshare and they haven't done anything," said Heist

The /*Better Business Bureau*/ says they were targets of one of the top scams operating in the country.

"We're talking millions upon millions of dollars that are being taken from the general public on this scam. It is a huge scam," said Marvin Galvin with the Better Business Bureau.

The agency has been flooded with complaints from thousands of timeshare owners across the country saying the same thing. They get a phone call from a company with a hard to resist offer promising "we'll sell your timeshare immediately" or "we have interested buyers" and claiming "they can close in 30 days". But the Better Business Bureau says once timeshare owners pay the fee, they never hear from the companies again.

That's what happened to Heist and Valdez. Months went by and their properties still weren't sold. Their phone calls went unanswered, their emails were not returned.

"If they're asking you for money up front then hang up the phone," said Valdez.

The Better Business Bureau says this scheme operates like many others that demand you pay in advance. Anytime that happens you should look at it as a red flag and you should probably walk away from that deal.

If you have been taken by one of these companies, the Better Business Bureau and the California Attorney General want to hear from you.

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