When the salespeople started calling Susan Cox in 2009, they found a receptive buyer.
Cox had recently been diagnosed with bone cancer. She was in the midst of eight surgeries that removed most of her hip. The 58-year-old mother of four spent most of her days confined to her bed in her Richland, Wash., home, under the influence of strong painkillers.
Unable to work and facing rising medical bills, Cox needed to get rid of timeshares she owned in Canada, Las Vegas and Florida and the $2,000 a year she was paying in maintenance fees.
The salesmen on the phone promised they could sell the timeshares.
She gave them her credit card information. And then did it again. And again.
She spent more than $10,000, she says, but her timeshares haven't sold. She complained to the Florida Attorney General's Office about the companies she paid, but it hasn't helped her get her money back.
Cox is not alone. Nearly 25,000 similar complaints have been filed against Florida timeshare resale companies since 2008.
Cox still takes painkillers regularly. In a series of interviews with the Tampa Bay Times, her words were either clear or slurred, depending on how recently she had taken them.
"It's kind of like waiting till you're ready to go," she said of her health in August. "They said it could be a month or it could be 10 years."
Cox got good news in September. The cancer's growth had slowed. She was taken off hospice care.
She still fretted about her finances, though. Her savings are gone. Her credit cards are maxed out.
"I told her to not give any money up front," said her husband, Bill, who was at work when the salespeople called. "But she said we can't sell them if we don't do this."
One of the companies Cox said she paid was Vacation Property Resellers in Largo, which closed last year. The Florida Attorney General's Office has received more than 260 complaints against the company, most in 2010 and 2011.
Vacation Property Resellers president Debra Gibb said she didn't handle sales for the company, she just did the books. Gibb said if Cox was sick, she shouldn't have answered the phone.
"If I had cancer, I wouldn't be making real estate decisions," said Gibb, 49, of Largo.
Cox's spirits dropped recently. Her cancer has come back. The money she spent trying to sell her timeshares hasn't.
She is wary when strangers call now, and knows not to give out her credit card information. When she talks about the money she lost, and her health, she cries.
"They took advantage of me," she said. "Can you help me get my money back?"
Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected]