Reuters news agency posted an article on March 31, 2011, saying a telemarketing operation that preyed on timeshare owners desperate to dump their properties was shut down after the Federal Trade Commission won a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court in Tampa, Florida.
The government alleged that tens of thousands of unsolicited calls were placed by St. Petersburg-based Vacation Property Services, Inc. and two related companies since 2006. Saying they had buyers ready to make a deal, the property owners were asked to send payments of $200 to $8,000.
Telemarketers even offer phony congratulations to the victims, the government said in court filings. When the fees were questioned, they were told they were to cover sales-related costs including a title search and processing fees.
After the payments were made, the FTC said, it became clear there were no buyers lined up. When the timeshare owners complained and asked for refunds, they were ignored or rejected. This led consumers to lodge hundreds of complaints against the telemarketing companies.
The FTC also charged the company with making hundreds of thousands of telemarketing calls between November 2009 and November 2010 to people registered on the national Do Not Call list, a violation of federal law.
In addition to Vacation Property Sellers, Timeshare Experts, Higher Level Marketing, (dba Vacation Property Services) as well as principals Albert M. Wilson, David S. Taylor and Frank M. Perry, Jr. were named in the court order. Between 2007 and 2008 Wilson and the same companies were named in a series of complaints and subsequent settlements with the Florida Attorney General, in which the businesses agreed to stop the practices the FTC cited.
Up-front fee resale scams have proliferated in recent years as the timeshare resales market collapsed during the economic downturn. The FTC shut down a similar operation, Timeshare Mega Media, in the fall of 2010, that was operating from a Fort Lauderdale-area boiler room.
“In a time of high unemployment and reduced access to credit, these twin promises can be alluring to consumers caught in difficult economic straits,” the FTC said in a statement.
The investigation into Vacation Property Services involved the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Florida Attorney General’s office, the Florida Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services, and St. Petersburg police. Read the Reuters article in its entirety.