Friday, July 23, 2021

Protect Yourself from New Scams and Old Ones, Too!

People around the world are losing millions of dollars a year to scammers.  Many of these scammers live in poor countries, such as India, where unemployment is high, especially for young adults.  It is easy for them to get pulled into working for "boiler rooms" where they use auto-dialers to call thousands of vulnerable people in the United States and other countries every day, attempting to convince them to send money to the scammers.  They are willing to use a wide variety of different approaches, which makes it almost impossible to list them all.  

The good news is that there are steps you can take to protect yourself before you lose money to them, and we will describe some of the best ways to stay safe from them.  The bad news is that once you have wired those funds or provided gift card numbers to the scammers, it will be almost impossible to get your money back.  Obviously, you want to learn how to protect yourself before it is too late.

Common Phone and Email Scams - Don't believe these callers!

You missed jury duty and owe a fine 

Your Social Security number was used in a crime

The police are going to arrest you if you do not pay a fine right now

Your grandchild or family member has been kidnapped and you must pay a ransom

Your family member has been arrested and needs bail money

You missed a Zoom meeting and need to click on a link to restore your account

You won a contest, and just need to send in a processing fee

Apply for a job at an unknown company

Your computer supposedly has a virus, with bold alerts lighting up your screen, and a caller, or the person sending the message to you, offers to "fix your computer" for you

A brand-name product is for sale on Facebook or another online site at a "too good to be true" price

Someone is romantically interested in you, but needs money to visit or to help a sick relative

You are entitled to a Medicare service, but you need to give out your Medicare number to get it

A person or company "accidentally" deposited money in one of your accounts, and needs you to return it.

There is a problem with your credit card and you need to click on a link to verify your information.

ALL of the above approaches are actually common scams.  Sadly, people in the United States, Canada and Europe fall for them often, and frequently send money to the scammers.  Too often, they only realize they have been scammed when it is too late.  Don't click on links in unsolicited emails.  This is the first step in avoiding these scams.

The Job Search Scam

While looking for a job on the internet, you may see ads which list wonderful sounding jobs at fabulous salaries, but they do not mention the name of the company.  PROCEED WITH CAUTION.  This may simply be an attempt to steal your identity.  

If an unknown company asks you to fill out an application, including giving them your full name, date of birth, address, Social Security number, driver's license number and similar information, DO NOT DO IT. 

You should only go directly to the website of companies you know to apply for a job, and fill in their online application.  Do not fill in an application for a job if you do not the name of the company that is asking you for your personal information.  You also need to make sure you check the URL of the company, so you are certain you are on the correct website, and not on a fake website that seems similar.  You will probably never hear from the fake company, but they will then have all the information they need to do things such as file a fake tax return form in your name, apply for unemployment insurance benefits in your name, get credit cards in your name, and commit similar crimes.  Everyone, including teenagers and senior citizens, should check on their credit reports once or twice a year to make sure their personal information is not being misused by someone else.  

A Common Scam Story

Here is a true story from someone who lives in my retirement community:

 "I got a phone call from someone who said he was my grandson, saying he was in a car accident, the airbag went off in his face, broke his nose (which is why he was hard to understand), and he had seven stitches.  He said he hit another car and the other driver is in critical condition and my grandson could be tried for manslaughter. He gave me his booking number and told me to call his 'lawyer' who would tell me what to do.  I called the 'lawyer' who told me how to wire money to get my grandson out of jail. I went to the bank with my husband and we wired $6000 to these people, and then found out it was a scam.  My grandson is fine, but it was a traumatic experience, and we lost $6000." 

Do NOT fall for any of the con artists who are trying to steal money from you.  They are very good and very convincing. They often work in teams.  They have a variety of phone numbers for you to call, so you can speak to fake lawyers, doctors, or anyone else they may need to use in order to convince you to send them money.  If someone ever tells you they are calling from a hospital or courthouse and say they need money from you, look up the phone numbers of those places yourself and place calls to confirm that your family member is actually there, and in trouble. Also, contact other members of your family for confirmation. Do your research before sending money to a stranger, even one who sounds legitimate.  

Payment Methods are the First Clue to Fraud

One indication that you are about to be the victim of fraud is when they ask you to use an unusual method of payment, they want the payment immediately, and they discourage you from contacting anyone about the money transfer. They also usually decline to accept a check or credit card as payment.  That is an immediate red flag that it is a scam. Legitimate companies accept credit cards and many also accept checks. The scammer wants to be paid in a way which cannot be traced and which cannot be cancelled.  Some of the payment methods scammers prefer are:

Retail gift cards which they can quickly redeem for other gift cards

Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies

Cash - often with instructions to wrap it in tinfoil and mail it overnight

Phone apps like Venmo, Zelle and Cash App

Wire transfers like MoneyGram or Western Union

Once the scammer has received their funds using one of the above methods, it is nearly always gone within minutes, and the victim cannot get a refund.  The scammer will frequently give the victim detailed instructions such as instructing you to tell store clerks and bank tellers that you are sending the money, wire transfer, or gift cards to a sick relative.  As soon as you are told to keep what you are doing a secret, or to lie about what is going on, it is a scam. No legitimate business would ask you to do that.

How to Protect Yourself from Scams

DO NOT answer phone calls from unknown callers. Let them go to voicemail and then listen to the message and decide if you need to respond.  

DO NOT call strangers back. If they say they are calling from your bank or a company you use, look up the number and go directly to the company.

DO NOT respond to emails or text messages which are unsolicited. Just have those types of messages go to your spam file. If you happen to open one by accident, DO NOT click on any links in the email or text.  If a legitimate company emails you, go directly to their website to verify the information.  Do not click on a link in the email.  Personally, I have received several emails supposedly from PayPal which claim my account will be closed and I need to click on this link.  However, when I go directly to PayPal, there is no problem with my account.  Be skeptical of any emails or messages which indicate a problem with any of your accounts, whether it appears to be from your bank, credit card, Amazon, or a subscription service, such as Netflix.

DELETE suspicious emails and close pop-up ads.

Whenever you do happen to answer a phone call with a stranger, ask them to send their offer to you in writing and then hang up.  However, your best option is to not answer the call, if possible.

Hang up the phone anytime you get a robocall. Ignore ALL recorded messages, unless it is simply an alert from your local government. Those should be clearly identified on your Caller ID as a RED ALERT or something similar.  Any other recorded message can usually be ignored.

Hang up on phone calls claiming to be from "police charities," Social Security, jury duty bailiffs, the IRS, cold calls from investment companies, sales people, and others whom you do not know and have not contacted first.  In particular, government agencies do not call people without contacting them first by letter.

DO NOT allow anyone to remotely access your computer or download software to your computer, unless you know you are definitely dealing with a reputable source and it is someone you contacted, not someone who unexpectedly contacted you to help you "solve" a computer problem. 

BE SUSPICIOUS of any contact you receive from anyone who is not a friend, family member, or a business or organization you expect to contact you.  You should even be suspicious of relatives who have unusual requests or who ask to be co-signers on your accounts. Do not take on responsibility for someone else's loans or debts.  Co-signing a loan makes you fully responsible if the relative fails to pay. 

EDUCATE yourself. Sign up for AARP, which publishes new information on the latest scams nearly every month.  In addition, read a helpful book such as "Scam-Proof Your Assets." (Ad) It will help you learn how to protect yourself from the latest scams and protect your financial accounts. 

Free Services to Help Protect You

If you want to make sure you are getting all your mail, sign up for the free mail notification service from the U.S. Postal service at InformedDelivery.usps.com. They will email you images of your mail every day and, if some of it is missing, you will know very quickly. It will also make it easier to trace packages and registered mail.  I love the service and used it once to trace a missing shipment of prescription medications.

When you receive unwanted calls on your cell phone, block them immediately. I used to get daily phone calls offering me a free vacation.  Each time, I blocked the number.  Eventually, they must have run out of numbers, because I have not received the calls for over a year. Keep blocking the callers until they run out of numbers or give up. 

Go to DoNotCall.gov and list your phone number.  That will stop some calls, but not all of them.

Call your service provider and see if you can get a free call screening or call-blocking option.

Paid Services to Help Protect You

Subscribe to a service like Elefend. It will automatically join your calls and alert you if the caller uses key words which are often used by scammers.  I wrote another post which will explain more about Elefend.  You will find it at:  

https://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com/2020/10/elefend-defends-against-scam-phone.html

Sign up for Identity Theft protection. Good examples are NortonLifeLock, EverSafe.com and IDSheild.com.  They will alert you if they see suspicious activity on your Social Security number, bank accounts or credit cards.

Set up notifications on your credit cards and bank accounts, so you are immediately notified of each transaction.  Make sure you recognize all the transactions on your accounts and contact the banks if you see suspicious activity.  

Check the photos of people who contact you online.  Often that potential "romantic partner" is totally fake. Recently, a woman in India filed a lawsuit against Prince Harry claiming that he promised to marry her. Someone claiming to be Prince Harry had sent her Prince Harry's photo.  Sadly, similar incidents happen all the time.  You can use reverse image search tools on sites such as images.Google.com, TinEye.com and Yandex.com.  If you see the same photo being used with multiple names, you know it is not a real person, whether you met them on a dating site, Words with Friends, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some other online site.

Find more ways to identify and protect yourself from getting entangled romantically with con artists by reading "Con Artist Dating: Your Judgment Free Guide to Preventing and Recovering from Relationship Scams." (Ad)  Many people have found the book quite helpful when being contacted online by new "friends" or romantic prospects. 

Either you or your older family members might benefit by having all financial accounts monitored for unusual transactions using services such as GuideChange.com and EverSafe.com.  They look for red flags and send you an alert if they find unusual transactions.

Check out potential caregivers before you hire them at GoodHire.com, Checkr.com or IntelliCorp.net.

Have your emails encrypted using Tutanota.com or Mailfence.com.

Most people will not use all the options listed in this article and, of course, your first line of defense is one your parents told you when you were a young child:  DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS.  Those wise words may not protect you from all scams, but they will protect you from many of them.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning for retirement, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues after retirement and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the to of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful retirement articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit: Pixabay

Friday, July 16, 2021

DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis - Lower Your Risk

One of the dangers people of any age can face is a life-threatening blood clot which starts in a deep vein and travels to the heart or brain.  The older we are, the greater our risk. When these blood clots form in a deep vein in our legs, it is called a DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis. While you may not be able to totally eliminate the risk, there are steps you can take to reduce the danger of developing a DVT.

As a result, everyone should be able to recognize the symptoms, the activities which increase your risk of developing DVTs, the ways you can lower your risk, and what to do if you suspect you have a problem.

Symptoms of a DVT

If you unexpectedly notice any worrisome symptoms, especially after engaging in one of the activities listed later in this article, contact your doctor.  According to WebMD, the symptoms of DVT are:  swelling, unexpected bruises, or a stabbing "Charley horse" pain in your arm, leg, or chest.  You may also experience throbbing pain, swelling, a painful lump, redness (with the skin turning white or blue in the areas deprived of blood), warmness in a tender area of the leg, tired legs, visible or bulging veins, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, confusion or absolutely no symptoms at all. In many cases of DVTs, the victim does not realize it is happening.  

If you do have one or more of the above symptoms, especially if they occur after any of the activities listed below, you should be concerned and talk to your doctor.  You may also want to read "100 Questions and Answers About Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism." (Ad) This book is a must-read for anyone with a history of DVTs or who is at particularly high risk.   

Possible Causes of DVT

Flying in an Airplane - Spending hours strapped into an airplane seat at a high altitude, while not moving, and drinking very little water, puts you at increased risk, even if you are otherwise healthy.

Being an Athlete - Engaging in demanding endurance events, such as running marathons, may cause you to be more prone to DVTs, especially if you become dehydrated or are injured.

Surgery - Being confined to bed after surgery, particularly surgery to your pelvis, hips, legs or abdomen, could raise your risk of DVTs.   Your doctor may prescribe a blood thinner to reduce the risk.  Be careful if you are placed on a blood thinner.  They can increase your risk of bleeding, which is dangerous if you accidentally cut yourself.

People of any age can be affected by a DVT after surgery. When I was a young mother in my 30s, another mother I knew died suddenly of a DVT the day after having minor knee surgery. Everyone should be aware of this surgical risk and watch for signs of a problem during the following few days.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn's Disease, and ulcerative colitis - If you have a bowel disease, you could have double or triple the risk of a DVT.  This is for several reasons, including that the patients are more likely to need surgery, be on bed rest, or become dehydrated. 

Low Vitamin D - A surprisingly large percentage of people do not have enough Vitamin D in their system, despite the fact that there are a number of ways to get an adequate amount.  You can meet your needs by taking a supplement, spending 30 minutes twice a week in the sun (without sunscreen), or by eating foods such as salmon, tuna, cheese and egg yolks.   If you believe you may not have enough Vitamin D in your system, get tested and discuss with your doctor how you can improve your levels of this vitamin, if needed.

Estrogen and testosterone supplements, including birth control medications - Taking hormones like estrogen or testosterone may increase your risk of DVTs.  It is important to be particularly aware of this if you also have any of the other risk factors, such as a recent surgery, low Vitamin D, or you fly frequently. 

Cancer - Some causes of DVT are simply unavoidable.  Blood clots are associated with lymphoma, leukemia, and cancers of the liver, brain, colon, lung, kidney, ovary and pancreas.  In addition, some types of chemo can cause blood clots.  Follow your doctor's orders carefully to minimize your risk, and stay as active as your doctor permits.

Being Overweight - If you have a BMI over 25, you are at added risk of a DVT.  If you are overweight and also have a secondary problem, such as using birth control, your risk could go up substantially.  

Pregnancy - Carrying a baby puts pressure on your pelvis and legs, increasing your risk of a DVT.  The risk continues for six weeks after you give birth.  The older the mother, the greater the risk.  If you are carrying twins, your risk also goes up.  Be especially attentive if you have a family history of blood clots or you have been put on bed rest. 

If YOU were a premature baby - You are at greater risk of a DVT if you were born before 37 weeks of gestation.  Doctors do not know exactly why, but your increased risk for a DVT continues throughout your lifetime.

Smoking -  This activity is known to increase your risk for blood clots.  Your risk increases substantially when combined with any of the other risk factors, such as obesity, birth control or pregnancy.

What to Do if You are At Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis

As you can see from the above list, almost everyone has at least one risk factor for DVTs.  You can have an increased risk if you are too active, and if you are not active enough.  You can be at risk when traveling, or if you sit at home and become overweight. Some things are totally out of your control, such as having cancer or having been a premature baby. Other things are within your control, such as smoking or being sedentary.  With all these factors to consider, what can you do to protect yourself, or at least lower your risk of succumbing to a DVT?

Keep moving your body, especially on flights - Get up and walk around the plane every hour or two.  I prefer to have an aisle seat so I do not disturb other passengers.  I also try to move my legs and fidget a little in my seat, to keep my blood flowing.  In order to make sure you are awake and moving, you may want to skip the alcoholic beverages and the sleeping pills before a flight.  Try pumping your feet up and down frequently during the flight, by lifting and lowering your heels.

Drink plenty of water - Both when you are flying or staying active as part of your daily routine, make sure you do not let yourself become dehydrated.

Do not sit too long - Whether you are working from home or at a desk in an office, move as much as you can.  Do little exercises with your feet and ankles.  Get up every hour and walk around.  Stretch.  Do not sit frozen in one position.  Take frequent breaks when riding in a car, too.  Pull off the road every hour or two, and just walk around for a few minutes. 

Wear compression stockings or socks - If you have a risk factor for DVTs (and almost everyone does at some time in their lives) you might consider wearing compression stockings or socks, (Ad) especially while flying or on a long drive.  They will help improve your blood flow and reduce foot swelling.  There are many different brands and styles, from knee high to thigh high.  They come with different levels of compression.  They come both closed toe and with open toes.  Try different styles until you find a pair which are comfortable and will work for you.  You can find dozens of choices of compression socks, (Ad) and pick out a pair which you think you will like.  In looking through the choices available, you will see that you can find a variety of pairs which are cute and stylish, for both men and women.  I have some which I wear whenever I fly, and believe that my legs feel better when I get off the plane.

Keep moving - The more you move, the lower your risk of a DVT.  You do not have to run a marathon (in fact, that could increase your risk).  Just take frequent walks, lift weights, or sign up for a yoga or aerobics class. Take dance lessons. Any movement will reduce the danger of developing a DVT.

Anything you can do to lower your risk will benefit you, so just try to control the things you can.  Do not smoke and do not let yourself become too sedentary.  Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your risk of a DVT.  Your physician may have specific advice based on your health and medical history. 

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.    

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical problems and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  pixabay - USA Vein Clinics

Friday, July 9, 2021

Cut Expenses and Save Money for Retirement

The vast majority of retirees worry about money.  Only a small percentage of Baby-Boomers have managed to save enough money to continue to maintain their pre-retirement lifestyle once they stop working.  Some people hope for the best, but do not know how to improve their fragile financial situation. I have even heard from people whose "retirement plan" is to never retire, because they know they cannot survive without a job.  

 However, even if you are not prepared for retirement, or you lost your savings while struggling to survive during the recent pandemic or a recession, the time may still come when you will not be able to work.  What will you do then?  This week's guest post by Dan Hall is about how to make sure you are able to survive during those final years of your life, even if you are approaching those years with very little savings. 

You may also find it helpful to also read a book such as "How to Make Your Money Last."  It could be a good way to help you formulate your own plan for the future.

Money Matters: Tips For Cash-Strapped Seniors

by Dan Hall

Money can get tight quickly when you’re retired. When you are past your career years, financial woes may be much more concerning than when you could easily earn a paycheck. Thankfully, there are ways to get past the unpleasantries of dealing with a limited income. To do so, you must evaluate your situation, understand what resources are available to you, and act on ideas which can reduce your spending. Here are a few tips.

Evaluate

If you are falling short at the end of each month, especially if you are still working, it is time to take a hard look at your budget. This is essentially a spreadsheet or piece of paper that lists out your income and expenses. Knowing how much money you have coming in and going out can help you better define your financial goals.  If you have already retired, your choices may be more limited, but you still have choices you can make.

Look through your bills to determine if you have anything which does not get paid on time each month. If so, this is a good indication that you do not have enough income to support your spending habits. Part of your budgetary evaluation should also be to determine if it is possible for you to save any extra money for an emergency.

Understand

If tracking your money and saving a portion of it is not your strong point, you may benefit from working with a financial consultant. This is a person who offers a service to help you better understand your debt, income, and budget.  You may also want to contact your credit card company to see if they can refer you to a free financial service to help you with budgeting.  They would rather help you get back on track financially than see you default on your credit cards and other bills or, worse for them, have you file bankruptcy. The financial consultant can help you determine where you can cut your expenses.  

Cutting expenses may not be enough, however, to help you balance your budget. You may also need to find additional sources of income. Depending on your income and where you live, you may be eligible for additional government financial support, such as Supplemental Security Income. Your local welfare agency, Social Security office, or senior center can help you apply for and access this financial assistance.  You may also be eligible for other government programs such as lower cost medical coverage through the Affordable Care Act, SNAP (food stamps), housing vouchers, disability income, and other types of assistance. If you are a veteran, talk to the Veteran's Administration to see what assistance they may be able to provide.

Act

Once you have a handle on your incoming and outgoing money, and done what you can to lower your expenses and increase your income, you can then make better financial decisions in the future. If you find that you still need to cut costs, there are several ways to do so without sacrificing the joys of retirement.

If you own a home, start by paying off your mortgage or refinancing it, if possible.  If you have been making payments on your home for a long time, you may no longer have a large mortgage, and paying off the remaining balance could be possible. If you have enough cash in the bank to pay your home off, you will not only save on mortgage interest, but that will be one less major monthly bill to pay.  If you cannot afford to pay off the mortgage, you may be able to refinance it at a lower interest rate and/or for a longer term.  This could make your payments more affordabl.

Another option which involves your home is moving to a smaller home in a less expensive location. If you move from a large family home to a smaller home in a less expensive area, you could save hundreds of dollars per month. 

If you rent, rather than own a home, the same idea applies.  See if you can find a smaller, less expensive place to live.

When you are ready to make a move, you may want to look into getting help from professional movers in your area. Ultimately, hiring movers may be worth the cost, because it is safer, especially for senior citizens, and they will save you time.  Even if you have limited money, you may may be able to hire a local mover. This could prevent you from injuring yourself which, in the long run, could end up costing you more than the cost of the move.

Another option, if you do not wish to relocate, is to bring in a roommate or create an intergenerational living situation.  Do you have a relative or friend who would like to help share in your living expenses?  Such an arrangement could save you a significant amount of money each month, and help you get your expenses in line with your income.  Another possibility is to rent out your garage, basement, or part of your home for storage. Then, you do not have to deal with another person, but you can earn a little extra income.

Aside from your living situation, you can also reduce your monthly spending by cutting back on the number of times you dine out each month. If you do decide to go for a meal, ask for a senior discount or go during the lunch hour for lighter portions and a cheaper tab. Instead of dining out with friends, plan to have dinner at home once each month with the people you are closest to. This pulls double duty by saving you money while allowing for socialization.

Look for other ways to save money.  Do you have the least expensive plans to cover your cell phone, internet, cable TV and similar services?  Anyone receiving government assistance may also qualify for discounts on some of these services. Do you really need a telephone land line, if you also have a cell phone?   Are there streaming services which you rarely use?  

In addition, look closely to see if there are ways you can reduce your monthly expenditures for electricity and other utilities.  Are there less expensive ways to enjoy your favorite hobbies ... public golf courses, and free art classes at local community colleges, for example?  Look for all the ways you can cut your expenses.  Challenge yourself to see how much money you can save each month.

If cutting corners is not enough, and you are not eligible for government assistance, it may be time to supplement your income with a part-time job. A few great part-time jobs for seniors include bookkeeper, school bus driver, nanny, tutor, store clerk, and cashier.

Living on a fixed income does not mean you have to sacrifice your quality of life. While you may have to juggle a few things here and there, move to a less expensive housing situation, and cut costs, you may be able to make the most of the money you have. But do take the time to budget and learn all you can about money and your financial situation. Knowledge is power, and having a grasp on your finances means you can change and adapt when needed.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post. 

If you are interested in learning more about saving money, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues as you age, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

You are reading from the blog: http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credits:  Pexels

Friday, July 2, 2021

Timeshare Exit: Getting Out of a Timeshare Contract

 Like most senior citizens, my husband and I have attended a number of timeshare high-pressure sales events over the years. These are often held at beautiful, ocean front or golf course resorts.  After a few days enjoying the resort's amenities, it is tempting to think we would love to spend many future vacations in the same place, and owning a timeshare would be the perfect way to make it affordable.  They sound good, don't they?

We never purchased a timeshare, but we have a number of friends and relatives who currently own between one and four timeshare weeks a year at a variety of vacation resorts.  To be honest, most of our friends seem to have enjoyed the benefits their timeshares offered. Basically, they have a prepaid vacation location, and they often trade the time at their timeshare for an equal number of days in other places.  Some companies even allow them to trade a week at their resort for a cruise, instead.

Unfortunately, owning a timeshare is also an ongoing expense which can become a burden as people age, especially if their income drops.  In addition, if they develop a chronic illness, their ability to travel may become more limited.  The 2020-2021 Covid-19 pandemic also made it difficult, if not impossible, for many senior citizens to use their timeshares, although they were still expected to pay their share of the fees and property taxes each month.  

Once owners decide that having a timeshare is no longer convenient or affordable, many of them have discovered that it can be extremely difficult to get out of their timeshare contract.  Timeshare exit companies advertise that they can get you out of your contract, but some of them charge between $4,500 and $10,000 to handle this for you.  Many of them have a bad reputation and should only be used as a last resort. What should you do?

How to Get Out of a Timeshare Contract

So, how can you get rid of your timeshare?  Below are a list of suggestions from AARP, in the order you should try them.

Talk to the resort. - The first thing you should do is contact the company that owns the resort and ask to speak to the person who handles "deed-backs" or "surrenders."  If they are willing to take it back, you may be able to simply return the property to them so they can resell it. If they are resistant to taking it back, make sure you write a letter, letting them know that you are no longer able to use the timeshare, or pay for you timeshare.  Be clear and firm about your situation.

If they agree to let you return the deed to them, expect to pay a fee of several hundred dollars to take back the property.  In order to surrender the property ownership, you generally cannot be behind in your dues, or still be making payments on the loan.  Beware of sales people who try to talk you into keeping your property, suggest you upgrade to a more expensive form of ownership, or ask you to make any similar new commitments.

You may want to get help figuring out what to say in your letter by reading the inexpensive book  "Write A Letter: Cancel Your Timeshare and Get a Refund! A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Cancellation Letter that Works!".  I have to emphasize that you CANNOT get your purchase price refunded on a timeshare, and I cannot guarantee that writing a letter will work at helping you get out of your contract, despite the enthusiastic title. However, following the author's letter writing advice is probably a good place to start, and the least expensive option for you to try.

Stop paying the annual timeshare fees - If you do not have a loan and you stop paying the annual fees, this could "encourage" the resort to let you surrender the property so they can resell it to someone else.  Taking the property back voluntarily is likely to cost the resort less than foreclosing on it.  They may be reluctant to take it back, so you may have to convince them that you really cannot afford to keep it.  Once again, the best way to do that is by writing them a letter and explaining the situation to them.

Stop paying the loan  - Do not choose this option until you have first approached the resort and tried to return the property to them directly. If you stop paying the loan, the lender is going to try to collect on it, your credit report will take a hit, and you are still going to own the property, so the fees will continue to pile up.  You will also still be liable for the loan, but with additional penalties and fees.  You could just end up with more problems. You should only choose this option if you really cannot continue to pay because of your financial situation, such as if you have lost your income, or if you are in the process of bankruptcy.

Before you try the next two suggestions, you may want to read the Kindle book "Getting Out of a Timeshare: A Comprehensive and Precautionary Guide."It may offer some other approaches to getting the company to allow you to surrender your deed.  

Unfortunately, although AARP made the following two suggestions in the January 2021 issue of their magazine, everyone I know personally who has tried them has been disappointed because of their lack of success.  I am presenting these ideas here simply so you are aware of them.

Resell the timeshare - If the resort simply will not allow you to surrender the deed to them, and you cannot get out of the contract easily any other way, you may try reselling it. It is important to know that you probably will not get much money for it, unless it is a timeshare with a top-tier company such as Marriott, Hilton or Disney.  However, if you still owe only a small amount of money on it, you may be able to pay off all or most of the loan with the price you get for the resale, and then you can move on with your life, free of this obligation (as long as you fully pay off anything you still owe on it).  In the January, 2021 issue of AARP Magazine, the author suggested two websites where people sometimes have success selling their preowned timeshares ... tug2.com and redweek.com.  However, a friend of mine tried selling her timeshare on these sites and discovered, much to her dismay, that she had trouble even getting someone to buy her vacation time, let alone the timeshare itself.

Use a timeshare exit company only as a last resort - These companies charge high fees, often up-front, and frequently put a lot of pressure on the seller to sign up with them. They may use hard sales tactics, such as telling you that your children will have to keep paying the fees, even after you die.  According to the Better Business Bureau, this is NOT true and they recommend that people AVOID using a timeshare exit company because they get so many complaints about them.  Not only will you be losing control of the sale, and lose your ability to enjoy the benefits of owning the timeshare, but you could be required to pay the exit company between $4500 and $10,000 to handle the transfer for you, and the resort might have been willing to do it for just a few hundred dollars.  Only use a timeshare exit company as a last resort.

Finally, give a lot of thought to the future before you decide to purchase a timeshare.  Do not let a salesman at a fun resort pressure you into buying a timeshare while you are there on vacation. Will the cost of the monthly loan payments and the annual fees really save you money on vacations, or would you be better off just putting the money into a savings account and using that savings for your annual vacation?  You could go anywhere you wanted, and not be limited to the places where a timeshare has an affiliate location.  Consider the cost and complexity of eventually getting out of the timeshare.  Do you really want to deal with that if you become seriously ill or lose your job in the future?  Think it all through, and do not let yourself be pressured.

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