Most older people these days are more savvy than they may have been in the past. However, the fact remains that, as we age, we can become more vulnerable to those who would seek to manipulate and defraud us. Perhaps it’s a trusting nature carried over from a simpler age when things may well have been different, or perhaps it’s down to illness or reduced mobility in some way. Either way, it is our duty as the family of ageing parents, as carers, or as friends, to keep our elders safe in their retirement.
We hear many stories in the news of older people falling victim to fraud. It is an unfortunate symptom of our times that there are unscrupulous individuals and groups that target this age group in particular. One of the products used in elder fraud is, sadly, timeshare. It is important to be alert and vigilant of any signs that your elderly relatives or friends may have come under the spell of a timeshare scam.
In the first instance, our advice would be to speak to your relative about this issue. Bring it up as a general topic of conversation and let them know about the methods fraudsters use to lure their victims.
If you fear that something has happened already, it may be harder to convince your relative that they may be dealing with fraudsters. Often, these type of con artists seem both charming and professional. They may have a smart website, polite and friendly representatives, and be promising great things. There is, therefore, a chance that they may trust what they’ve been told more than your warnings. This can be frustrating and worrying, but it is important not to become angry with your relatives about the matter. You could suggest that, next time the fraudsters call, you would like to have a chat with them yourself just to set your mind at rest. This will give you the opportunity to quiz them directly, and should you smell a rat, ask them not to contact your relatives anymore.
If you think that your relative will be receptive, suggest that they should keep a record of every conversation they have with the timeshare sharks, including what was said. This will have numerous benefits. As well as allowing you to understand what’s going on, you’ll be able to ascertain how often they are being contacted, whether any money may have changed hands, and the exact nature of the fraud being committed. It will also serve as an important piece of evidence should the matter be subject to legal intervention.
It is possible that your relative may be keeping some details secret from you, particularly if they feel you are taking too much interest in their affairs. Remember that they are adult individuals who have their own minds and their own lives – as such, it is hard to accept that their children know better than they do. This can be a difficult thing to deal with, not least because it is very unlikely you will have access to your parents’ bank statements. It is, of course, a fine line between trying to help and snooping. It is therefore important to sit down with your relative and explain your position, why you are so worried, and – again – telling them about the scams that are operating.
Things may, however, have progressed beyond this point.
Timeshare cold-callers, who contact potential victims with great offers on ‘investments’ or promising to sell existing timeshares, can be incredibly persistent. There are reports of people being contacted hourly on an ongoing basis, which is an extreme example, but demonstrates the lengths some of these fraudsters will go to to wear victims down. This can be incredibly stressful for those being targeted, and you may see the signs in your relative.
You can have the caller’s number blocked from contacting your relative’s number. If, however, they are using a withheld number or several different numbers to make their calls, this will not solve the problem. In this instance, it’s vital to keep a record of every single time they call.
It’s not just cold-callers who are known for harassment. Timeshare companies themselves can be just as bad. If your relative has an existing timeshare, they will be subject to annual maintenance fees which they may not be able to afford. If they miss payments, timeshare companies can be incredibly persistent, enlisting debt collection agencies and bailiffs, bombarding the person with calls, letters and emails. This is illegal, and can have a devastating effect on the mental and physical health of the victim.
If this is happening to someone you know, it is important to contact a timeshare legal expert who will be able to offer advice and intervene where necessary, particularly where harassment laws are being broken. Equally, where timeshare is becoming a financial drain, there are legal steps to be taken to absolve your relative of their responsibility.
Taking an active role in protecting your parents, friends, and relatives from fraud is an important part of looking after them. In a world where elder abuse, in many forms, is more prevalent than ever, it’s never been more vital to be vigilant and do what you can to stand in the way of them falling victim.
Here at ABC Lawyers we would like to point out when things go wrong, always contact a legal expert specialising in timeshare to help you with advice and guidance. The laws surrounding fraud in timeshare are tighter than in the past, so there’s lots that can be done. All you need is the knowledge and assistance necessary to combat the problem.