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Watch Out For Timeshare, Retirement Home Scams

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today announced a huge crackdown of the type of travel and timeshare resale scams I wrote about in December, when they showed up for the first time in the Top 10 Consumer Complaints report by the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators. (That survey lumped these schemes together with grievances about retirement communities and assisted-living facilities under the heading of “Real Estate,” which came in at No. 9.)
In today’s dragnet, the FTC — along with law enforcement agencies in 28 states and 10 countries — announced 191 actions to stop fraudulent operations hawking timeshare property resale services and travel prizes. More than 184 individuals face criminal prosecution.
Victims, many of them elderly or in financial distress, were defrauded out of more than $14 million, according to Wilfredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
“Con artists take advantage of timeshare owners who have been in tough financial straits and are desperate to sell their timeshares,” Charles A. Harwood, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said at a Miami press conference. “They persuade owners to pay fat up-front fees by saying they have someone ready to buy the property, but that’s a lie.”
Timeshare gripes were the fastest-growing category of complaints last year, according to consumer protection investigators around the country. And, as Next Avenue explained in “Shaky Finances of Continuing Care Retirement Communities,” the financial health of some retirement communities has raised cause for concern.

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