Scam victims get bitten twice

Case issues alert on firms that target consumers hit by timeshare rackets

Case's Mr Seah Seng Choon advises caution if a company offers help in a timeshare case
Case's Mr Seah Seng Choon advises caution if a company offers help in a timeshare case. BH FILE PHOTO

It seems that unscrupulous firms are out in force trying to make a quick buck from previous victims of timeshare scams.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) put out an alert on three such companies yesterday. They are: AJ Chartered, Interval Resorts Network and Asian Travel Club (ATC).

AJ Chartered, which charged consumers between $1,500 and $80,000 to help them recover what they forked out for previous timeshare deals purchased, has had 31 complaints made against it from May 1, 2013 to April 10 this year. A business profile search found the company to have issued capital of $1.

Case received 30 complaints against Interval Resorts Network and 22 complaints against ATC between April 2013 and April this year. ATC was found to have paid-up capital of $3, and Interval Resorts Network, issued capital of $50,002, as of April 23.

This is the second such alert in as many weeks. The consumer watchdog put up an alert for another such firm, Nax Capital, on July 23. From January last year to July this year, Case received 21 complaints against it. Nax Capital had issued capital of $350,000 as of June 8.

The complaints follow a similar pattern. The firms come in as a middleman and offer to take over the consumers' timeshare membership contracts, handle the messy legal negotiations and reclaim their investments for them.

In return, they ask for fees of thousands of dollars and press the victims to invest in other instruments. After forking out the money, the timeshare investors are still stuck with the memberships.

"These timeshare companies share their database of customers, so they cold-call only those that they know have been scammed before," said Case's executive director Seah Seng Choon.

"Some of these new firms may have even been set up by the same directors of the defunct timeshare firms which sold them the packages in the first place."

Timeshare packages sold by errant firms offer buyers memberships that entitle them to discounts on airfares and bookings .

However, buyers find out later that such discounts are non-existent and they are unable to get a refund on membership fees, which can be as high as $20,000.

In the alert, Case said that consumers should be careful especially when dealing with a lowly capitalised company as most are private limited entities.

This means that, typically, company liability is limited to only its paid-up capital amount.

Said Mr Seah: "As far as we are concerned, Case has not heard of any successful timeshare membership recovery case.

"So consumers should really be careful if they receive a call from a company offering to help them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'Scam victims get bitten twice'. Subscribe