SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Just as the summer travel season is about to get underway, the Better Business Bureau has released results of their study on predatory timeshare and vacation club sales and timeshare exit companies. 

“The timeshare business is a multimillion-dollar business, it does $8.1 billion in business annually and the average timeshare cost is $24,000,” Jessie Schmidt, the Vice President of the Better Business Bureau’s South Dakota Region said.

But the Better Business Bureau says the industry is fraught with bad actors.

“So you have to be very cautions, you have to do your research,” Schmidt said. “In 2020 through 2022, nationwide there were over 20,000 complaints about time share purchases, time share exits and vacation clubs.”

The BBB says the largest complaints are about the high-pressure sales tactics these companies use, along with hidden maintenance fees that grow over time. Both are red flags to not do business with that company.

“If they ever tell you that a timeshare or vacation club is an investment, that would be something to avoid,” Schmidt said.

Timeshare exit companies can be just as aggressive with more high-pressure sales and false promises that lure consumers in.

“They promise to resell your timeshare very quickly, they push you for some upfront fees and they’re often very high, and the fees are due regardless of whether they’re successful selling your timeshare or not. Often times they will mislead you as to what the true value of your timeshare is,” Schmidt said.

Scammers have also made these types of companies and consumers prime targets, often posing as an employee of a legitimate company.

“They can go online find who these sales people are and say I’m so and so from such and such company,” Schmidt said. “So it brings some legitimacy to it at first blush, but ultimately they’re really criminals looking to steal money from people.”

The Better Business Bureau says people lost more than $3.5 million as a result of time share scams over the past two years. Schmidt says the best way to avoid these scams is to never answer your phone when an unknown number calls and never respond to any mailed or emailed unsolicited offer claiming to be a timeshare or exit company.