Why All Travel Clubs Are Not Created Equal, And What to Watch Out For

Aug 08, 2018

By Alex Velazquez & Rich Weidman

Why All Travel Clubs Are Not Created Equal

You’ve probably seen them located just a couple of miles away from Central Florida’s world-famous theme parks along busy thoroughfares such as International Drive in Orlando and Highway 192 in Kissimmee – roadside kiosks promoting so-called “travel clubs” that aggressively try to convince you to exit your timeshare. However, what sounds like a great deal in a travel club at first glance most often turns out, upon deeper inspection, to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing – a total scam aimed at separating you from your hard-earning money. In fact, travel club horror stories abound and reports of travel club scams have been on the rise in Central Florida over the past several years. Before you take the plunge and sign up for what you believe is a legitimate travel club, read over the following tips to know what to watch for and how to spot a fake travel club company a mile away:

1 | They Try to Figure Out What Timeshare You Own | In a typical exchange with one of these aggressive kiosk commandos pushing you to join a “travel club,” the first warning sign that something has gone awry is when they start asking overly personal questions about where you’re staying, as well as if you own a timeshare and if so, which timeshare? Rather suspiciously, they seem excessively knowledgeable about your timeshare chain in particular almost as if they’ve been coached to completely inundate you with total misinformation about the company in order to deceive you. Think of it as a sleazy version of the classic game Twenty Questions with the end goal of scamming you! Therefore, it’s always best for you to go into total skeptic mode immediately when confronted with these pugnacious salespeople bullying you for personal information about your timeshare. Don't give in to high-pressure sales interrogations and just walk away.

2 | They Always Assume the Negative | Once they know which timeshare you own, these pushy travel club pitchmen immediately begin trying to “pick at” small negative aspects of that brand and then very quickly attempt to parlay those negligible issues into grossly exaggerated negatives that would (presumably) make you want to exit your timeshare. For example, they may focus on the size of guestrooms and make a negative comment like, “Rooms are a little too small? Yeah, you should definitely have more of a choice, don’t you think? You probably wish you hadn’t bought into that, huh?” In fact, most of these high-pressure “travel club” representatives tend to be deliberately misleading and will say just about anything in their singular quest to get you to sign up for their offer. Don't fall for it. Once you know this end of the game, you don't have let hyperbole become reality - most timeshare owners love their vacation experiences and the rare issues that might occur with specific elements of vacation ownership are typically common guest service issues that can be resolved with a phone call. Bottom line, if a travel club rep at a strip mall somewhere tries to tell you that 'the sky is falling' , chances are, they're making a 'molehill into a mountain' and fabricating a problem where none really exists.

3 | They Pose as An Actual Travel Club | Another red flag is that – although they may pose as an actual travel club – these unscrupulous resale agents actually spend all their time talking about the club only as a side benefit, while the main thrust of their “pitch” is to sign them over as Power of Attorney in order for them to help you exit your timeshare. In all actuality, the travel club itself is little more than a website, usually reselling someone else’s product, which you could have found on your own at any number of legitimate websites. The bottom line is that the benefit of their product is dangerously thin (if it exists at all!) and is most likely just a bunch of empty promises that will never be fulfilled. Through their misleading sales tactics, these resale scam artists want to push you toward acting now, rather than letting you do the research necessary to make an informed decision about joining their travel club. Feel free to punch holes in their story. Ask questions like, "So other than looking at hotels on a website, which I can on ANY website, what's the real value of your travel club?" ...or... "Does your travel club offer real discounts in travel that cannot be be matched by OTA's or online travel agencies?". If they can't answer these or start stuttering like a 1950's jalopy, you know you've got them dead to rights! Do fall for the lie, wave bye-bye.

4 | They Want to (Mis)Represent You | At this stage in the travel club scam, they’ll be all about getting you to sign something that is essentially a specialized POA (or Power of Attorney) document, which will allow them to act as if they are you. Essentially, with a signed POA, they have the ability to make legal and financial decisions in your name, up to and including signing off on real estate transactions that may get you into trouble further down the line, long after that kiosk is empty and their scammy resale company has fled the state or is out of business. Among the other activities they may carry out with a signed POA are ghostwriting letters of complaint as if they are you, executing real estate contracts such as title transfers in your name and engaging in other questionable tactics, all which will have your name associated with them.

5 | They Want Your Assets | The final stage of this scammy “travel club” process is for the con artist to acquire your timeshare investment and then attempt a title transfer of that asset into what is commonly referred to these days as a “Viking Ship company” – essentially a shell company that has little or no worth and is started expressly for the purpose of transferring assets and then attempting to bankrupt them. This procedure is questionable at best, and oftentimes runs afoul of the parent company, leading to serious problems such as complex legal issues and even tax repercussions that can arouse the interest of the IRS (and no one wants that!). Don't rick your real estate assets on someone else's scammy approach to business holdings. You could get into a lot of trouble, and the unforeseen consequences (honestly) can't even be calculated,... that how complicated the world of real estate transactions can be. Steer clear of this litigious nightmare and head off to the theme parks for the day instead, knowing you've taken the high (and safe) road.

Seeking Safe and Secure Options

The best method of avoiding a timeshare resale scam is to use someone you know and can trust. That’s why Westgate Resorts has created The Legacy Program to assist owners in understanding available options for transitioning away from vacation ownership. Through The Legacy Program, Westgate provides safe and secure exit options for all qualifying accounts. For additional information regarding The Legacy Program, please email us at Legacy@wgresorts.com. If you would prefer to contact us over the phone, please call 800-351-0461, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.