By Mia Adams
Valley snowbird residents, Ron and Teddy Smidt, were first reluctant to share their story in fear of looking foolish. They then realized their story might prevent others from being scammed, losing thousands of dollars. Today they are finally out of their timeshare but with a message of warning to others.
“We bought our timeshare twenty years ago for our family to enjoy,” reflects Teddy Smidt, a retired school teacher. “But life changes, our kids are grown. With Airbnb and VRBO you can rent a condo anytime.”
Local expert and Arizona native Alexandra Olson, CEO of Give Up My Time, says her company has seen a 300 percent jump in calls and website visitors since the COVID-19 outbreak. Olson’s company has an “A” rating with BBB. Her concern is if her company is getting calls, so are scammers.
Olson knows the industry as she once sold timeshares before the emergence of Airbnb and VRBO. “Back then, timeshare was a fair exchange. But that may not be the case anymore. Many changes to the industry have led to the fact that availability isn’t what it used to be.”
In October 2019 the Smidts paid $6,000 to a company that promised to take over their timeshare. Fifteen months later, the Smidts received a maintenance fee bill confirming the timeshare was still theirs. They lost their money.
“It was an awful feeling. I don’t want another family to be lied to and lose money,” says Teddy.
Give Up My Timeshare, unlike the majority of timeshare exit companies, doesn’t ask for a deposit or payment information until after the title has transferred out of the client’s name. The entire transaction is completed in about 45 days. Clients are aware of their fee from the start.
“You wouldn’t pay a real estate agent before your house has sold, so don’t be pressured into giving money before the title has transferred,” Olson shares.
Ron Smidt, a retired sheriff’s officer, was skeptical at first. “Teddy and I kept working with their people knowing we could back out once they asked for a deposit, but that never happened,” Ron says.
Olson has some tips against being scammed.
Never give any money upfront or provide any payment info. “If they can’t wait a few weeks to get paid, you may not want to do business with them,” Olson states.
Don’t fall for the “buyer in the wings” tactic where a company calls you saying someone wants to buy your exact week. You will be offered a big sum of money but told you will first need to pay a “transaction fee.”
Be aware of bad legal counsel. Some attorneys will tell clients to just stop paying the maintenance fee as a leverage for negotiations to get out. You can’t just stop making payments without risking impact to credit and other assets.
“The ultimate question to ask of any exit company is to understand their business model. Ask yourself, is this sustainable? Are they maintaining integrity to the industry or trying to pull a scam here?,” Olsen adds. “We have a platform for maximizing these otherwise unwanted timeshares and repurposing them into vacation rentals so that the resort is not harmed by the ownership being transferred.”
To learn more about Give Up My Timeshare, visit GiveUpMyTimeshare.com.