eTenerife has received several emails over the years complaining about the scratchcard timeshare touts or asking for help in tracking down one or other shady timeshare or holiday club company.
Perhaps the worst (though not the largest amount of money involved) was the one from the retired couple who had been conned out of £5,000 of their hard earned retirement savings and had little chance of ever seeing that money again.
The thing is that there is a flood of information about these scam artists available online but nobody thinks to go looking for it until they have been burned themselves.
So here is the deal. When you visit the Sunday market in Los Cristianos or any other place where you can be sure there is a bottleneck of tourists trying to get from point A to point B in Tenerife, you will, unless you look penniless or particularly in need of anger management counselling, be approached by a scrawny English kid offering you untold riches if you just take a moment to try your luck with a scratchcard.
Lo and behold to nobody’s surprise (except those punters that keep falling for this scheme) the scratchcard reveals that you have just won… whatever. It might be a bottle of booze, a week’s holiday or a voucher to spend in a fancy shop.
The thing is you have to agree to submit yourself to an hour long sales pitch about the joys of owning timeshare before you can make off with the booty.
Of course, the hour long sales pitch drags on for the whole afternoon or morning. You are subjected to a brain battering that is designed to leave the strongest will in the world in a state of stupefaction and before you know it, you are signing a contract under pressure which you have not fully read and do not understand the full implications of.
Stop right there and put that credit card back in your pocket!
European law offers some protection:
- when buying timeshare you have the right to a 10 day cooling off period. During this time, you can cancel the contract without penalty. (Elsewhere this cooling off period is noted as 14 days. I am using the shorter period which is noted in the OFT leaflet.)
- During this 10 days, sellers are prohibited from asking for or accepting any money from the buyers on their own behalf or anyone elses. (Some scams involve third party fees, bottom line is no money from you to anyone for 10 days.)
- Any credit card agreement to pay can be cancelled within the 10 day cooling off period.
All well and good but a browse through some of the related links below will illustrate very well that once a pre-dated credit card agreement has been signed, it is going to be an uphill struggle to get your money back – even when you are well within your rights to do so.
The Office of Fair Trade gives a detailed account of what protection you are afforded and what is legally required of a valid timeshare contract.
Timeshare, Holiday Clubs, Travel Discount Clubs
European consumer law only offers the basic rights above where the timeshare contract is for a one or two week period in the same apartment over a minimum of three years. That means should the scumbag who has you hostage in his presentation room be pressuring you to sign a timeshare contract for any period less than 36 months you are not covered by the minimum rights above.
Also not covered are Holiday Clubs, Travel Discount Clubs and the like. There may be any number of permutations but some examples are that you are not protected if:
- The holiday period is for less than one week.
- The holiday accommodation is variable – one of a number of similar types within a resorts grounds as opposed to a specific apartment.
- One of several possible locations – not always within the same resort.
The European Consumer Centre goes as far as to say, ‘Avoid All Holiday Clubs!’
Timeshare Presentations – Know Before You Go!
Having said that I have received many emails from people who have been stung by the timeshare touts, I can only sum up by providing updated list of links to information and resources concerning timeshare in Tenerife and timeshare scams in general.
EEC Timeshare Information
Forums and Websites
Timeshare and Holiday Clubs Holiday Watchdog
Timeshare Victims – Get Off the Suckers List
Horrifying as it must be to come to the realisation that the large amount of money paid out to a fraudulent timeshare company or holiday club is as good as gone the victims trials do not end there.
The unpleasant truth is that the victim is now more than likely on a ‘suckers list’ along with countless others that fell for the scheme or tactics used. These lists are sold and passed between scammers and leave the victim open to whichever nefarious scheme the crooks can next dream up to part them with their money.
You would think that the victim would be of the ‘Once bitten, twice shy’ mindset, but that would be to underestimate the oily tactics and power to convince of these experienced fraudsters. Each new scam is decked out with all the expected bells and whistles, official looking paperwork and impressive sounding names.
And so the victim already £5000 down gets bitten again, this time for a £500 deposit on a resale opportunity or for fraudulent legal counselling or as pre-tax payment to the Spanish goverment on a Reclaim payment.
If you have already lost money on a timeshare scheme please remember that you are now on a list of people open to such scams and you will be approached again.
The only channels you can trust are those supported by the Office of Fair Trading and the ECC.