St. Louis, MO (June 8, 2010) – A company that markets itself as a leader in the timeshare resale business and boasts relationships with some of the world’s most prestigious corporations, also claims a strange address in downtown St. Louis – the long-vacant and padlocked LaSalle Building at 509 Olive Street.
The company, Property Experts Marketing, appears to be among a group of bogus businesses that promise to sell vacation timeshares in return for advance fees, but then do nothing.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that Property Experts Marketing and similar enterprises are set up solely to steal money from unsuspecting consumers. Many use fabricated, or “ghost” addresses to make them appear more legitimate.
A Texas truck driver told the BBB recently that he paid Property Experts Marketing $6,300 to market and sell a portion of his timeshare. Despite repeated promises, the company has yet to sell the timeshare.
Michelle Corey, president and CEO of the BBB, said unscrupulous businesses can take thousands of dollars from timeshare owners before they realize they have been duped.
“These are slick, sophisticated operators who go to great lengths to make themselves look legitimate to potential timeshare sellers,” Corey said. “In this case, they went as far as faking an address in the heart of downtown St. Louis. The only problem is that they chose a deserted office building with no electricity and no running water.”
Even after a BBB investigator told a representative of Property Experts Marketing that he had visited the locked and deserted office building earlier that day, the representative insisted that the company had a suite on the seventh floor of the building. The man said he was speaking from a phone inside the Olive Street office. Asked if he would be willing to meet a BBB representative at the building, the man replied, “well, actually I am leaving right now.”
The timeshare owner from Converse, Texas, said he was solicited by phone several weeks ago by a man representing himself as an agent with Property Experts Marketing. The agent told him that he could sell a portion of his timeshare for $27,000. All the company asked, the agent said, was that the owner pay an upfront maintenance fee of $3,870 and a Mexican government “excess profits” tax of $2,430. Both would be refunded when the timeshare sold, the agent said. The agent said the tax was necessary because the timeshare originally was purchased in Mexico.
The owner said the company told him that the sale had been delayed and he now believes his $6,300 is lost.
“We are hard working people,” the timeshare owner said. “My wife is a registered nurse; I am a truck driver.” He said that the couple’s 5-year-old son died of brain cancer several years ago and “from that moment, I decided that if I found somebody who needed help, I would try to help them.” While he doubts if he will ever be able to recover his money, “I don’t want anybody else hurt.”
The company’s website, propertyexpertsmarketing.com, says it was founded in 2001 “with the simple yet complicated commitment to really sell timeshare properties for owners in the secondary market.” The site features idyllic photographs of aquamarine water and emerald golf courses. The site says the company’s clients include two major pharmaceutical companies, a well-known fragrance company and a TV network. The address, 501 Olive, Suite 701, is listed on the website and in several documents faxed to the Texas man.
The company representative, who identified himself as John Orozco, said a copy of the Texas man’s BBB complaint was turned over to his company’s legal department. The representative said he would have someone from that department contact the BBB to clear up any misunderstanding. There was no further response from the business.
Earlier this year, the BBB spotlighted Resorts Condo Management, Creative Vacation Solutions,Platinum Property Exchange and Premier Timeshare Solutions for taking thousands in upfront fees from timeshare owners, but failing to complete the promised sales, despite guarantees.
A man from Lincoln, Nebraska, told the BBB he paid Premier Timeshare Solutions $7,710 to sell his timeshares, but the company did not make the sale and did not refund his money.
One of the most notorious recent timeshare scams involved a company calling itself Ultimate Vacation Network. That company listed an address on the seventh floor of an office building in Troy, Mich. But a representative of the company that manages the building says Ultimate Vacation Network has never had offices there. She also said that the building has only five floors.
The Detroit BBB received numerous complaints from timeshare owners between October 2009 and May 2010 saying they had lost money in the scam. A New Jersey man said he paid the company more than $45,000 in fees, but received nothing.
The BBB offers the following advice for timeshare owners looking for help in selling their timeshares:
- Make sure you are dealing with a legitimate business with a physical address before entering into any agreement with a timeshare sales company. If no address is available, ask for one. If the company provides an address, make sure you confirm that the business is, in fact, located at that site.
- Beware of any timeshare sales firm that asks for any upfront fees or taxes before agreeing to sell your timeshare.
- Ask for references and contact them to make sure they were satisfied with the company’s work.
- Check out a company’s Reliability Report with the BBB by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300. Ask how long a company has been in business. There may be limited information on companies that have operated for only a brief time.
The BBB is a non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free business Reliability Reports, charity wise-giving reports, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.