Published: May 13, 2011 7:04 PM EDT
Updated: May 13, 2011 4:04 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla - Timeshare owners who are desperate to get rid of their properties are increasingly becoming targets of scammers that not only promise to get them out of their Timeshare contracts; but offer empty promises of a financial profit. In these tough economic times, cash-strapped consumers are falling prey to fast talking telemarketers with pushy sales pitches and a quick sale guarantee.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line has received calls from citizens complaining of unsolicited telephone calls from timeshare marketing companies claiming to have a buyer for their timeshare. The owner is told that up-front fees, which can range anywhere from $200 to $8,000 are needed to cover sales-related costs for processing fees and title searches. Unfortunately, some timeshare owners have not only lost thousands and thousands of dollars to scammers; but also discovered that the timeshare they thought had been sold still belonged to them, along with a bill for late maintenance fees.

With vacation and travel plans heating up, the Sheriff’s Office also warns residents to be very careful when booking Timeshare units for rent over the internet. Some ads are promising luxury get-a-ways for next to nothing. Research, research, research and remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it most likely is not true.

Here are a few tips to follow when dealing with timeshare telemarketing companies or vacation rentals:

  • If someone promises to sell your timeshare or tells you they have a buyer but need cash upfront – DON’T do it! You wouldn’t pay a realtor to sell your home before they sell it, would you?

  • Companies that cold call you are more than likely a scam. Don't do business with them as legitimate timeshare companies generally never initiate contact with you first.

  • Refuse to be pressured. Legitimate businesses do not demand that you make a snap decision. They welcome your questions and will encourage you to consult with experts and other reliable sources. Do not sign anything you do not understand.

  • Avoid sending cash, check or a money order should you decide to utilize a timeshare rental.

If you have questions about timeshare resale fraud and/or rentals check out www.bbb; www.myfloridalegal.com; www.800helpfla.com or contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line at 239-477-1242.