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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Sheila Brust gives us an update to her previous article “Pencil Pitch”, again edited by Irene Parker.

It would seem that Darth Vader has sent in his Imperial Stormtroopers and Inside Timeshare is under attack from the dark side, no problem, the force of the good is with us. Keep your stories coming, the truth will always prevail!

Now on with this week’s Letter from America

An Update to Sheilah Brust’s Pencil Pitch

The Florida Timeshare Division told us,

“You have no Proof” and we were not allowed a rebuttal

Why is this not proof?

July 6, 2018

Introduction by Irene Parker

Many potential timeshare buyers have watched timeshare sales agents scribble timeshare promises on a piece of paper. Buyers are not allowed to keep a copy of the “Pencil Pitch” but Sheilah Brust managed to walk out with hers.

Sheilah listened to her pencil pitch in Daytona presented by Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie. She filed a complaint with Florida’s Department of Business Practice and Regulation (DBPR) and was told the following,

As you are aware, alleged verbal misrepresentations are very difficult to prove in light of the written documents and disclosures.  In terms of evidence we rely on these documents to prove or disprove the allegations. The actions taken by other state agencies are not evidence of the alleged misrepresentations related to the sales transactions conducted in Florida.  Based on our review, it did not appear that the information provided to you by the sales agents were false and misleading. Lack of clarity could be an issue but that in itself cannot be considered a violation. We are not surely, if the sales agent had voluntarily provided the hand-written notes or you had kept them on your own.  If there are discrepancies between the notes and what was actually received in terms of points, we will address that issue.

By Sheilah Brust

My husband Thomas and I have been Diamond timeshare members since Diamond acquired our resort. Our original timeshare was purchased in 1994. Things were fine until we fell for the Pencil Pitch.   

On February, 4, 2017, we attended an update meeting at Diamond’s Daytona resort The Cove. We wanted to attend the update because Diamond had been sold to Apollo Global Management. We are Platinum Diamond members so already had more points than we needed, but wanted to hear about the changes.

Diamond sales agent Brad Leslie said that he had just returned from training in Orlando and had learned about a new program that would allow us double point usage. We patiently followed Brad’s presentation. He wrote the numbers upside down. I remarked at how he could he do that. He said practice.

We feel Diamond must not understand the Pencil Pitch or they would cancel this purchase. I have learned Diamond retained the law firm Duane Morris to write a letter implying our article was defamatory. I have submitted this article as our rebuttal. We understand the figures we were presented. We were not confused. I have an accounting background. I wrote down everything Brad Leslie said.

Here’s the pitch. We hope you post a comment expressing your interpretation.  

The actual Pencil Pitch is three pages long. Page 2 of the Pencil Pitch is based on 15,000 additional points instead of 25,000 points pictured above because we said no to 25,000 points. The numbers below reflect 65,000 points instead of 75,000.  For those not familiar with the point system, a Diamond timeshare points sells for around $4 a point.

Timeshare members incur annual maintenance fees. For Platinum members the annual maintenance fee is $.15 per point, or $8,631 for the 50,000 points we owned before the purchase of 15,000 additional points.

From the original illustration above, to offset maintenance fees, on the right side of sheet, Brad said and wrote:

  • Own 75,000 points
  • Ability to get (Double Usage) 150,000 points – 50,000 points is what would be left for travel
  • 100,000 points would be available for point redemption @ 10 per point through a Travel Reimbursement program. Brad told us to book hotels, etc., and then cancel the reservations. We would receive a reimbursement check back for $10,000. The 50,000 points tendered would not be credited back. Brad said we would be reimbursed via check in about 30 days or 72 hours if via a reloadable debit Visa card. Without the double points, this program is of no value. If we used all our 50,000 points for redemption at $.10 a point, we would receive a reimbursement check for $5,000 that would only pay $5,000 towards a $8,631 maintenance fee bill with no points left for travel.

Brad said we could use the reimbursement check to pay maintenance fees but he said he could not tell us that. He said, “It’s your money!”

Brad said we paid $8,631 in maintenance fees for 50,000 points in 2017.  Following Brad’s logic, we could eliminate $8,000 of the increased $11,252 maintenance fee (due to the purchase of 15,000 additional points), by taking advantage of this new program.

65,000 own                 $8,631 current maintenance fees before 15,000

65,000 given              2,621 maintenance fees on the new 15,000

130,000 points            $11,252 Total maintenance fees with new 15,000

50,000 if used            8,000 Less reimbursement check

80,000 left                 $3,252 Maintenance fees still owed       

x $.10 reimbursed     EXCEPT THERE WAS NO 65,000 POINTS GIVEN!

$8,000

Brad said Diamond was working on a new member page for the new program that would have a split screen and that we would be able to see our newly acquired 15,000 points in the background. He said the 65,000 points “given” (Brad’s word) would also appear on a “split screen” on our member account page.

When I asked about the maintenance fees on the new 15,000 points, Brad said, “If you don’t use them you don’t pay maintenance fees on them. They will be kept in the background. If you want to use them then you will pay maintenance fees.”

I specifically asked Brad, “So if I had all 130,000 points reimbursed, they could all be redeemed for a check? Brad said, “Yes.”

I asked Brad why this program was developed. He said Diamond wanted to make sure we STAYED VACATIONED.     

We met with Brad again in May 2017. Brad said the program had changed. Brad said Diamond was getting rid of the debit cards because there were problems. He said DRI was working on the split screen. He said now we would need to generate the reimbursement checks by participating in the Travel Reimbursement program. I was familiar with this program and had used it before. This was a benefit we already had as Platinum members, but only beneficial if we were to lose points. We feel Brad adulterated the Travel Reimbursement program, incorporating it into his February Pencil Pitch.  

Brad’s reply to our complaint submitted to the Florida DBPR was that 15,000 points in the background was for a Dream Vacation. He said I was confused! Dream vacation points were not in any background account. They were added to our account February 17, 2017 so these could not have been the points in question. Brad sent us a $2,621 check to reimburse us the maintenance fees on the newly purchased 15,000 points. If it wasn’t for the NEW 15,000 points, we never would have gotten a $2,621 reimbursement check for the maintenance fees. Diamond representative Brandi said sales agents are allowed to reimburse members for their first year’s maintenance fees. Dream Vacation points don’t have maintenance fees.

Of course Brad was selling a double point program. He wrote down 130,000 and called the 65,000 points “given” points. I had told him that this program better be right because we are retired and living on fixed incomes and that we had NO extra money if he was not telling us the truth.  His answer was that he hoped to rebuild our trust in Diamond. We had told him we had been duped previously, told we had to buy 4000 points to prevent our heirs from being stuck with Diamond points.

Diamond’s response to us was that the information as presented was confusing, but not illegal. This is the CLARITY promise Diamond launched in response to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s issuance of an Assurance of Discontinuance.  

The CLARITY Promise: With this clear, concise and consistent information, consumers can easily determine whether the Diamond Resorts hospitality experience is the right decision for them and their families.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170123005839/en/Diamond-Resorts-Launches-New-National-Customer-Service

Diamond’s Response:

On April 5, 2018, we received a call from a DRI Hospitality agent. She said our complaint had been escalated to the legal team and they found no wrongdoing. This is part of what she said to us.

I definitely agree that your confusion of that process is warranted. I have spoken to our legal team and sales team and we agree the double point explanation is definitely something that could have been misconstrued or seen as confusing by members or purchasers.

We have made changes to the way that information is given at the time of sale but we have to say the stance we take on this is: because there may have been some confusion on how you may use those points to create a savings for yourself doesn’t make the explanation illegal.

Summary

As a result of this upsell and lack of clarity, we have less time to travel because we have to work to pay for the additional points that increased maintenance fees to $11,252. We have a loan with Diamond for $31,000 and $26,000 Barclay Card balance.

Brad charged on two Barclay Cards $14,000 in my name and $12,000 in Thomas’ name. He had us fill out a credit card application to see if we qualified for the new program. He returned and said, “Barclays loves you! You got $26,000 credit!” I was livid after I learned we had been charged these amounts. We could have used a different credit card that would have gotten us rewards points.  

This whole deal was based on having 130,000 points using points at $.10 a point for a Travel Advantage reimbursement service taking advantage of 65,000 bonus points. You can book a lot of vacations with 50,000 points that would vastly exceed a measly reimbursement check for $5,000. You can stay a week for roughly 2500 to 5000 points. At an estimated 4000 points per week, about 12 weeks.       

What CLARITY?

According to the Federal Trade Commission Section 5

An act or practice is deceptive where

  • a representation, omission, or practice misleads or is likely to mislead the consumer;
  • a consumer’s interpretation of the representation, omission, or practice is considered reasonable under the circumstances; and
  • the misleading representation, omission, or practice is material.

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

From the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance:

IV Assurances

“Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

 

  1. Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  2. Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

 

 

https://www.azag.gov/press-release/attorney-general-brnovich-announces-800000-settlement-diamond-resorts

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2018/jun/17/whconsider-when-buying-time-share-vacatispot/472994/

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help with a timeshare concern or would like to share your experience.   

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you Sheila for your candid story, it just amazes us that this type of sales practice still goes on, yet the companies involved deny all responsibility for their sales agents actions. In Europe timeshare is very much on the decline, partly due to the antics in the past of unscrupulous sales reps, not all I hasten to add, I do know many who abhor the deceitful practices and are genuine in their approach to selling the product. They believe that telling the truth sells the product.

We have said this on many occasions, timeshare was and could be a good product, it may not suit everyone but sold properly and truthfully will only strengthen it and give it a future.

So we say to all timeshare companies, get your house in order, reign in your sales agents / reps, stop these types of sleazy sales presentations, take control or you will lose a product that could work.

News has just come in from Canarian Legal Alliance of this weeks court cases, on the receiving end are Anfi in Gran Canaria once known as the flagship of timeshare resorts in Europe and Silverpoint in Tenerife.

The Court of First Instance in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, has had NINE sentences passed against them this week. The clients will receive back all their money and have had their contracts declared null and void.

In Tenerife, Silverpoint, who are well known on these pages has lost another case in the Court of First Instance in Arona. Again the court ordered the return of all money and the contract declared null and void.

In total these 10 cases will cost these timeshare resorts over 325,112€ plus legal interest and in most cases the return of the client’s initial legal fees.

So the week ends with another “Black Cloud” hanging over the timeshare industry. Will they ever learn?

Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments and stories, if you would like to share these with the rest of the timeshare world, then use our contact page and get in touch.

So that is all for this week, join us on Monday for more news and views of the timeshare world, have a great, enjoyable and safe weekend.

Friday’s Letter from America

Sell My Timeshare Now Exploits Inside Timeshare’s Name

INSIDE TIMESHARE IS NOT IN BUSINESS WITH

SELL MY TIMESHARE NOW and does not endorse SMTN

Sell My Timeshare Now has plagiarized Inside Timeshare’s name by using the keyword search words INSIDE TIMESHARE RESALES AND RENTAL on this link.

http://ww2.sellmytimesharenow.com/timeshare/Inside/vacation/

29 June. UPDATE TO TODAY’S ARTICLE: Today’s article was published because SMTN ignored, until today, our request  to remove Insides Timeshare from their headline and internet search words, “Inside Timeshares Resales and Rentals” 
Just today we notice Inside Timeshares has been removed, but we keep this article posted to remind timeshare members to check  with a licensed timeshare resale broker before paying anyone upfront money to list your timeshare. They can get you an accurate assessment as to whether your timeshare has any secondary market value. They charge nothing upfront to list a timeshare.   

We had previously pulled two timeshare members’ articles after Sell My Timeshare Now (SMTN) refunded the members their money. Both members owned a timeshare widely reported as having no secondary market. There are few, if any, licensed timeshare resale brokers that will even accept a listing for the timeshare these members owned.  SMTN charged the families $1500 to $1700 to list their timeshare points, only to see the listing stagnate over the next year.

Reviewing a report from a few months ago, submitted by a timeshare member who had been solicited by SMTN, I noticed a quote the member provided from SMTN agent Richard Salzenstein. The member said Mr. Salzenstein agreed that her timeshare had no secondary market, but declined to answer why SMTN continues to accept listings for this company.         

Timeshare members solicited by SMTN threatened to file regulatory complaints accusing SMTN of offering real estate advice without being a licensed real estate agent, because both members said SMTN assured them they had listed at a good price. After checking with a timeshare insider, I was advised that this could be considered acting as a real estate agent without being licensed. SMTN agents are not licensed real estate agents. When the timeshare members threatened to file complaints, SMTN refunded their money.

As a courtesy, when a timeshare member approaches us about an article, we send a draft of the article to the company, hoping the company can resolve the dispute. Inside Timeshare would always rather see a member helped than publish an article. If the key words are not taken down, Inside Timeshare will direct readers to the New Hampshire and Florida Attorney General’s Office where SMTN is domiciled or operates as well as state real estate licensing commissions.    

Sell My Timeshare Now is not a scam, because there are timeshares with resale value. The company can make plenty of money listing timeshares points of companies like Hilton, Marriott, Disney, Starwood and Hyatt that do have some secondary market value.

SMTN is not Ebay or Craig’s List. SMTN advertises that they are knowledgeable of the timeshare industry and are a resource for timeshare members. By accepting listings for timeshares known to have virtually no secondary market, SMTN is harming beleaguered timeshare members already financially stressed.

June 29, 2018

By Irene Parker

If any timeshare members wishes to sell a timeshare they should check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They charge nothing upfront. We have often referred timeshare members to LTRBA.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

This is the member’s report from the article we previously pulled:

I responded to a Sell My Timeshare Now (SMTN) solicitation. I had been trying to get rid of my timeshare points for years. I wasting $1600 by listing with SMTN, I was relieved to find a member sponsored Facebook page where I learned the company had launched a voluntary surrender program. We applied for the program and were accepted. We were able to avoid the painful collection calls that come after the member stops paying maintenance fees. 

Nikki Salvador of We Buy and Sell Timeshares recommended SMTN.

My SMTN listing agent explained that the upfront money charged is not a commission. In addition to the listing fee of $1,600, Maria quoted $800 to $1200 estimated for attorney fees should the points sell. I listed the points for around $14,000. Any knowledgeable member of this company knows this is a ridiculous listing price for my points, given the number of members on Facebooks and websites seeking to give away this company’s points.

Maria assured me demand for my points is high. I started inquiring about inactivity since we had not heard anything. Maria said, “People are looking at it. The price is good.” By advising a price, and advising me our price is good, I learned Maria was acting as a real estate agent without being licensed. I dropped the price to $12,500. Nothing happened. The timeshare points are worthless.   

SMTN still retains their Better Business Bureau rating of D.

https://www.bbb.org/concord/business-reviews/timeshare-resale-and-rental-marketing/sell-my-timeshare-now-in-portsmouth-nh-92008632

SMTN has been sold twice since 2010. Scott Roberts is the owner of Vacation Innovations and SMTN is a wholly owned subsidiary of V.I.

Accepting upfront money to sell a timeshare is illegal in some states like Florida, but it seems companies can work around the law by calling it an ad or subscription fee, or a market analysis.

After receiving our first SMTN complaint, I called SMTN and talked to Mike. The first question I asked Mike is, “Can I rent my points through SMTN?” Mike said renting my points is no problem. When I informed him this company does not allow the renting of points through a third party site like SMTN, Mike said he would have someone from legal call me. I did not hear back. I offered to email Mike the rule from the member handbook.

According to Better Business Bureau files,

Sell My Timeshare Now, LLC

This company has a pattern of complaints that centers around the company’s advertising claims. Complainants allege they are guaranteed a time frame in which their timeshare will sell. Many consumers allege the company makes a promise that their timeshare will sell quickly. The company responds to the complaints and reiterates the company policy which reads the company does not guarantee when a timeshare will sell.

On March 23, 2016 BBB reviewed the complaints on file and determined the pattern described above has not been eliminated. BBB sent a letter to the company requesting cooperation in responding to and eliminating the pattern of complaints.

On December 5, 2017 representatives of SMTN met with the BBB to update us on improvements they are making to their organization. They have taken steps toward improving customer service by hiring a new Customer Service Manager. They have put in place an “audit group” that will contact consumers on the day they sign the contract with SMTN and then again 90 days out as a way to ensure customer satisfaction. It is anticipated that by proactively working with their customers, the number of complaints will be reduced substantially. BBB will work closely with SMTN to follow their progress and to continue to address any complaints that may come in.

Consumers are, once again, requested to contact SMTN prior to filing a complaint with BBB at 1-877-815-4227. This Business Is Not BBB Accredited

Customer Review Rating:

35%

62%

[12] Positive Reviews

[1] Neutral Reviews

[21] Negative Reviews

[34] Total Customer Reviews

[107] Total Customer Complaints

Composite Score:

Sell My Timeshare Now, LLC has received 1.93 out of 5 stars based on 34 Customer Reviews and a BBB Rating of D.

This content is provided by the business and may contain advertising. BBB does not review or endorse this content.

https://www.bbb.org/concord/business-reviews/timeshare-resale-and-rental-marketing/sell-my-timeshare-now-in-portsmouth-nh-92008632/Alerts-and-Actions

According to a post found on RedWeek, published on the internet, SMTN does seem to charge a considerable upfront fee. A member had asked whether they should buy timeshare points through SMTN.  

Good question. Here is the straight scoop:

Sometimes you will find a timeshare of interest on the SMTN site which may be available at a price acceptable to you. HOWEVER, you will have NO say or ANY choice regarding the “closing” entity. Closing costs through SMTN are quite excessive — multiple times the cost of customary and usual closing costs. You have no option to conduct a SMTN transaction “in person”, but that is the case in most any resale timeshare transaction, so SMTN is not unique in that regard. It would frankly be both highly unusual and entirely unnecessary to conduct a resale timeshare transaction “in person”. Objective, third party “closers” who have no association with either buyer or seller (not an available option via SMTN, unfortunately) look out for the interests of BOTH buyer and seller, holding all funds in escrow until closing if necessary. This obviously eliminates any need for any travel or physical presence by either the buyer or the seller just to “close” on a resale transaction.

With SMTN, you essentially have to determine ALL of the collective costs as a buyer and then ask yourself if that bottom line figure is acceptable to YOU to acquire that particular timeshare listing, despite the exorbitant closing costs. Far more often than not, the answer will be NO, but there are (relatively rare) exceptions. In all fairness, in the performance of your due diligence you really have to look at the big picture and ask yourself if the TOTAL expenditure involved justifies acquisition of that particular timeshare for YOU. You obviously first need to accurately determine the bottom line total figure before you can possibly make that fully informed evaluation and personal decision.

SMTN of course has nothing whatsoever to do with maintenance fees, regardless of the resort involved. Maintenance fees are determined only by individual resorts — and they are engraved in stone. That said, I would certainly want to verify the accuracy of any figures SMTN indicates as maintenance fees. This is very easily done by contacting the resort directly for confirmation of any figures claimed by SMTN in their listings.

Last edit by ken1193 on Nov 28, 2017 05:27 AM.

https://www.redweek.com/forums/messages?thread_id=14010;page=last

ken1193

1 month ago

Timeshare members seeking to sell their timeshare need to do their homework.

This is a Department of Justice report about timeshare transfer violations:

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+fraud&op=Search&affiliate=justice

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these member sponsored U.S. timeshare groups if you need help with a timeshare. It can save you money.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

If you have had any experience of this or any similar company and want to share it, then use our contact page and get in touch, Inside Timeshare welcomes your stories.

On the subject of the warning issued about some of the fake law firms and claims companies, Inside Timeshare has been informed by Canarian Legal Alliance that the fake law firm Abogados Lopez have had a denuncia made against them with the Guardia Civil and at the Courts.

This means that the callers Hope Brugge, Megan Heywood and Paul Tyler if those are their true names are now under investigation. Readers who have informed Inside Timeshare of being contacted have also made reports to the UK authorities using the Action Fraud website.

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and it is the start of another weekend, have fun and join us next week for more news and views on the murky world of timeshare.

Victoria Services Legal SL

Back in April Inside Timeshare reported on a new cold calling company called Ross & Harper SL, CIF B9391915 with the address C/ Centro Comercial Los Jarales – Local 1, Suite  29651 – (Mijas) – Málaga. They were calling timeshare owners and claiming the court had awarded them substantial sums of money.

At that time we also identified another company at that address, with the question could this be the next cold calling claims company?

Victoria Services Legal SL

CIF  B93597839

Email: [email protected]

This is a free email address service.

Telephone: UK  +44 203 582 7586; and Malaga +34 951 221 253

C.C. Los Jarales

Well it certainly turns out we were right, Inside Timeshare received an email from one very grateful person who decided to do a little research on this company after he received a call from a Mr Nigel Watkins, who claimed he was an employee of the Bank of Spain. Mr Watkins has a great deal of knowledge about all the dealings our reader has had in the past 6 to 10 years with various holiday club memberships. Again as we have asked before, where did they get this kind of information?

The story goes like this, the Bank of Spain had done a sweep to prosecute all the scam companies and holiday clubs, during this investigation the Bank of Spain had uncovered not only records of money due but also substantial amounts deposited in accounts owed to those cheated. Wonderful news, especially for our reader, there was over £25,000 just sitting at the Bank of Spain waiting to be claimed by him!

He was then passed to Ann Sharke (rather an appropriate name don’t you think), who explained the various methods he could claim this lovely loot, which he would receive precisely on 24 July! (Wow). These followed exactly those published in the original article, (see link at the bottom).

The first three methods were difficult, time consuming and expensive, but not to worry, luckily Ms. Sharke could find a Spanish lawyer who worked for the Bank of Spain, who could do all the work for around 8,000€ with an immediate payment of around 2,500€.

How very convenient, Ms. Sharke just happened to find Sr. Jose Manuel Rodriguez of Victoria Services Legal SL, (hang on, I thought she said he worked for the Bank of Spain). According to the agreement, apparently sent by the Bank of Spaincomunicacionbancodeesp[email protected] (not an official email address for Bank of Spain, it should be XXXX@bde.es)it contained all that had been explained to our reader. Although the last two paragraphs left a lot to be desired, these paragraphs did actually allow for Sr. Rodriguez to cancel the contract with impunity after payment.

The bank details which the client would need to transfer the money are:

Santander Bank.  IBAN ES86-0049-5792-1725-1606-3191.  Swift/Bic BSCHESMM. Central Commercial, Valdepinos, 29649 Calahonde, Mijas, Malaga

Well thanks to this reader deciding to do some research and having found the original article which described everything he had been told, they didn’t get his money. This really does go to highlight the point that we are always making:

IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT PROBABLY ISN’T.

Never believe what you are told on the phone, never pay any money on the promise of the Courts, Bank of Spain, Tax Authorities or any other body is holding a huge amounts of money just waiting for you to claim it. There is always a catch, you either need to pay a lawyer to do the work for you, there is Tax to pay, a Procurator to pay or even bank fees to make the transfer.

THERE IS NO MONEY WAITING FOR YOU

THEY ONLY WANT TO GET HOLD OF YOURS

So the moral of this little tale is do your due diligence, do your homework and do your research. If you are in any doubt and need help in getting the information then use our contact page and ask Inside Timeshare, that is what we are here for.

http://insidetimeshare.com/start-the-week-another-warning/

Midweek Report

Yesterday it was brought to the attention of Inside Timeshare that a company based in the US called Sell My Timeshare Now is using the Inside Timeshare name in keywords for internet search. The wording is Inside Timeshare Resales and Rentals, this we believe is to give the impression that Inside Timeshare is associated or endorsing this company.

They have been informed that we are not happy by this use of our name and have been asked to remove it, so far they have not responded. Along with any legal action that may be required Inside Timeshare will publish articles about this company to keep this in the news and to warn all our readers that Inside Timeshare is not associated with or endorses Sell My Timeshare Now.

We have also been in contact with an elderly lady from the UK, she wanted to tell her story of how she has been the victim of many scams regarding her timeshare and about the latest attempt to illicit money from her.

It all began years ago when she and her late husband purchased a timeshare with Club la Costa, over the years they upgraded and eventually succumbed to the sales pitch to “invest” in two weeks fractional ownership. This cost around £90,000 which she was not actually aware of as her late husband dealt with all the finances and the timeshares.

Over the years they had paid out to “scam” resale companies to try and offload the burden of the maintenance fees, they were also taken in by “fake” claims companies.

It was not until her husband’s passing that she actually became aware of how much they had spent. She then had to take control of all the affairs and settle the fractional ownership issue. In order to organise her husband’s estate and list all assets, she contacted Club la Costa for a valuation of the two weeks of fractional. What shock she was about to receive.

She was under the belief that each week of fractional was worth around £45,000 each, CLC sent her a valuation worth only £11,000 for both weeks.

Eventually she had to hand them back for no return, so all that had been “invested” was now gone.

Then the latest “scam” appeared.

She received a phone call supposedly from the Malaga Courts telling her she had won a case against Club la Costa, she had been awarded a huge amount of money well over £100,000.

Obviously she was not taken in by this call, but the disturbing fact is the caller had very precise knowledge of all transactions and purchases over the years with Club la Costa. This was even right down to the dates of purchase.

So one has to ask, where the hell did that kind of information come from?

We are all very well aware that client information is often stolen by employees, especially when they know that they are going to lose their jobs. This data is worth a great deal to the “scam” companies that are always being setup and obviously to the person selling it. Quite often these companies are also being opened by those  very same ex-employees.

This ladies story really does go to show how vulnerable people are, especially the elderly who more often than not are the main victims, after all the timeshare owning community is mainly this age group.

If you are contacted by any company and have been told they are either from the courts or have been appointed by the courts, do not believe them. Do not pay out any money, especially by bank transfer, use our contact page and let us know. It is your information that will help others.

On the subject of “fake” law firms, we have again been asked to warn readers about the activities of Hope Brugge, Megan Heywood and Paul Tyler or Taylor, supposedly calling from Abogados Lopez (Gran Canaria & Marbella).

The story is they have taken over the clients case which is about to be heard in the courts, they need to clarify some details before attending the hearing. Then very soon after another call is received and the client has been awarded a huge amount, this is backed up by an email with forged court documents and a forged notary letter.

The address given on the letter is:

Calle Teniente C Castillo Olivares 12, 35011, Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Checking this address it is an apartment block.

Telephone numbers being used are:

0034 951 242 867 (Malaga code)

0034 602 654 670 (Mobile)

0034 604 261 988‬ (Mobile)

0044 1291 440 500 (UK Chepstow code)

Email: [email protected]

The website www.javierlopezabogados.com

Was registered on 22 March 2018, it is privacy protected so the owner is hidden. The website itself has nothing on it, just the one page with the words Javier Lopez Abogados / Lawyers and a lot of swirling lines.

Again this is a scam, do not be taken in by them, if you do have a case pending and you receive a call from them, contact your own lawyers for confirmation and inform them of any details you have been able to get.

These articles just go to show how doing your homework is so important, don’t believe what you are told even if it does sound plausible, check, check and double check.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Today’s Tuesday Slot is from Chantal Desjardins with the introduction and editing by Irene Parker, looks at the recent elections at Embarc (Club Intrawest) HOA board of directors. As you will see from this article it does not appear to be very fair. This is something we have seen in various elections at timeshare resorts in Europe over the years, so it is nothing new. In fact back in 2016 Inside Timeshare published the following article “Manipulation of votes by resorts and resort owners”. (see link below)

http://insidetimeshare.com/manipulation-votes-resorts-resort-owners/

Now for Chantals article.

Embarc (Intrawest) Diamond Resorts 2018 Election of Directors

Five times more members voting for me than closest rival –

Gives me a third place finish!

James Orr (incumbent) 421

Robert Reyes                    361

Chantal Desjardines       2293

And the winner is…..!     James Orr and Robert Reyes?

By Chantal Desjardins

June 26, 2018

Introduction by Irene Parker

Diamond Embarc members (formerly Intrawest) had the deck stacked against them in the recent Embarc HOA board elections, due to weighted votes in favor of the developer.  Diamond didn’t set it up that way though – Intrawest did in 1994 when they set up Club Intrawest incorporated in Delaware. Weighted voting provides a stranglehold on the club’s management & governance despite retaining less than 4% of the points.

If you check master declaration and bylaws for timeshares, often the cards are stacked in favor of the corporations retaining control of their boards through weighted voting on declarant points, all while pretending the individual members can influence an election by casting their “vote” in board elections.

When Intrawest researched timeshare governance and operating structure dating back to the early 90s, their governance structure was modeled after Disney Vacation Club, including the weighted votes for the declarant. Many points-based timeshares, especially large corporate ones, operate with very similar rules. Many members don’t realize this. Many pay no attention or don’t care. The member sponsored Club Intrawest Facebook has over 4,000 members. Voter turnout and support for Chantal was extraordinary as the numbers show, but she finished third.

This is legal – yes, but fair, ethical and moral – no, in the opinion of many timeshare members.

Chantal Desjardins’ comments about the election

www.citheownersgroup.org/2018results

Five times more members voting for me than closest rival gives me a third place finish!

How is that fair, you may ask? Well, it isn’t! This election was once again only “window-dressing” on the part of Diamond Resorts to make it appear that members have a say in the running of their clubs.

Nonetheless, Club Intrawest Owners Group members – THANK YOU!

Although I did not get a position on the Embarc Board in this election, the result, given the unfairness of the “weighted” votes, is excellent! Thank you for voting as a block, for not splitting your votes! Because of this, it is readily evident to anyone looking at the results that the candidate who obtained by far and away the most member votes, came in third.

Over 5 times more members voted for me than for the closest “incumbent”, James Orr. Over 6 times more members voted for me than for the second “incumbent” Robert Reyes. Over 3 times more members voted for me than for both incumbents together. In fact, 25% more members voted for me than all 7 other candidates added together.

And yet – James Orr and Robert Reyes are once again Embarc board members for another 3 years!

Although it is said nowhere in the run-up to the election, the declarant, the entity that “holds” DRI points as a member, has 15 times the voting power per point than that of individual members. They are very careful not to state this fact in the emails sent concerning the election – both before AND after. They are very careful to make it appear that members, who have the vast majority of the points, will have a chance to get their candidate onto the board. This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of Embarc membership. Even as they vote, are engaged, most members don’t understand that when the Declarant (DRI) votes, our member votes are made virtually worthless.

When one breaks down the numbers given in the pre-election emails as well as the results, the chart of the “count/weight” looks like this:     ​

Once we all understand how this all “works”, it becomes evident and imperative that members must join forces to oblige DRI to give us what is our due – the number of board members that correspond to our points owned.

We need to increase our voting power so that it is at least half that of the Declarant (DRI).

Why do we only need half + 1?

Because when the board has elections for incumbent positions, we can cast all our votes (2 positions = double the votes) for 1 person, while they must put half of their total entitlement on each.

How do we do this?

  • By each of us doing our part by recruiting members into our group each time we go to a club
  • By pushing back against the unfair governance of our clubs by email, FB posts and raising awareness of the issues
  • By voting as a block each time we are called upon to vote
  • By demanding that elections information be posted on the Embarc member site, on the Embarc member Facebook pages, at the Clubs! DRI suppresses votes by only sending the information by email or nondescript postcard. It is a proven fact that emails from organisations have an “open rate” of less than 30% on average. Using only emails (and the undistinguished postal card) to announce elections, effectively allows DRI to suppress the vote while claiming to have done their duty.
  • By joining the new not-for-profit Embarc Owners Association when it is launched and consolidating our power.
  • By growing our numbers in the coming years, we can beat DRI at the election polls – and once we’ve done it the first time, we can do it again the following year – meaning that we CAN have 3 members on the Embarc board representing member interests. ​

What is the cost involved? Almost nothing! With a tangible result that doesn’t involve court costs and years of litigation!

That’s why I’m not disappointed in this year’s election results

I’m thrilled with our member engagement.

We WILL overcome – time and determination will allow us to achieve our goals.

Thank you all!

Chantal

Embarc election results are posted at the end of the article.

An update on Diamond’s Flamingo Beach Resort elections in St. Maarten

Diamond owns 72% of all the weeks at the Flamingo Resort and only one seat from the outside (that is not a Diamond employee) is elected each year. So the incumbent endorsed by the board won easily. There was discussion about adding a second seat and the board took this under consideration for future discussion.

Deeded owner Greg Guisti ran for the Flamingo Beach Resort board election held April 19, 2018 in St. Maarten. To paraphrase Greg’s explanation as to why a board should consist of member representations, “Timeshare members and owners have an expectation of what a good timeshare should be. Members are entitled to good communication and feedback, and that communication should include the voice of an actual owner or member.”

With the internet flooded with complaints directed against some timeshare companies, more than ever timeshare members need a more member friendly board to serve as a pipeline for communication.

Embarc 2018 Election Results

Thank you Chantal and Irene, it does make you wonder how the voting works, to get that number of votes and only come in third!

Had that been an election for government there would have been a very loud cry of “FIX” from the press and media. So the question is what happened?

I guess we can only read into it what we want because somehow I don’t think we are going to get any straight answers from the industry.

If you have any comments or questions on this subject or have had a similar experience either in the US or Europe, then use our contact page and let us know. Inside Timeshare is committed to informing all timeshare owners and vacation club members of what is actually going on, it may not please the developers or the industry, but who actually cares if they get upset!

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Friday and time for another Letter from America with Irene Parker, this week is part 1 with part 2 due shortly. Now, in Europe it has been a little quiet on the courts front this week, although there have been many cases before the courts, no sentences have been announced, so nothing there to report.

Inside Timeshare has been receiving many more enquiries regarding RSB Legal and Taylor Marshall Associates, these have all been very similar. They have all paid substantial amounts of money to have their timeshare contracts cancelled, none of this has been done. They are all receiving demands for unpaid maintenance and many are now in around two years of arrears.

It is obvious that these contracts have not been cancelled, despite what RSB Legal and Taylor Marshall are saying. All those who have contacted us have told us the same thing, their resorts have insisted that they do not deal with third parties to cancel contracts, only direct with the member.

Club la Costa has also been explaining this to members, they even informed RSB Legal and Taylor Marshall that they would not deal with them. But obviously they just carried on regardless and taking huge amounts from members knowing full well they would not get the contracts cancelled.

Another company which Inside Timeshare reported on in May, has come up yet again, Donaldson Bruce Associates, as we stated in the original article there is no record of them at Company House in the UK or in Spain. The website is registered under a privacy company and there is no address given just a contact page and a Sheffield telephone number 0114 303 0678.

This time the caller who stated to our reader that Diamond Resorts is closing its European Portfolio and will only be operating in America, well that is news to us and all the Diamond members who own in Europe! Having spoken with Diamond Resorts today about this company, they are now looking into the matter, they also confirmed that they will only deal with members direct regarding surrender of membership and not with any of these types of companies.

This is obviously a scare tactic on the part of Donaldson Bruce agents, to get people to sign up for a claim. Diamond Europe I believe, would inform their members if anything like this were to happen, after all it is in their interest to do so.

We do know that Diamond did close their sales offices and many staff had to be laid off, obviously many of these have set up these “claims” companies and may be using the data “stolen” from Diamond to contact their old clients. On the point of the sales office closures, this was done for economic reasons, Diamond have franchised out the sales side so they are no longer responsible for the marketing costs or wages of the sales staff.

http://insidetimeshare.com/thursday-news-slot-a-new-cold-calling-claims-company/

So now on with our Letter from America.

Part I – Did You Get the Letter?

Part II – I got some letters

By Irene Parker

Most members begin their report: They said I should have gotten a letter…

June 22, 2018

There is no question there are millions of timeshare members happy with their timeshare. However, many existing members may be unaware their timeshare has little to no secondary market until a life event makes the timeshare unaffordable, or useless, because of the inability to travel. Deeding it back to the timeshare company without receiving any monetary value back may be acceptable when you have used the timeshare for many years, but what about the buyer who purchases a timeshare and then learns, sometimes just weeks after purchase, they were a victim of fraud? Most of the 466 families reaching out to Inside Timeshare allege they were baited and switched. Many with 800 credit scores now brace for foreclosure.

We need to equip the existing timeshare member, as well as the first time buyer, with the tools needed to make an informed decision. We feel the timeshare consumer should be made aware that there may be little to no secondary market for the timeshare they purchased. It would be helpful to know that the points you paid $60,000 for should only be listed for $4,500, in the case of one timeshare company that has even this much of a secondary market. A member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association can estimate what your timeshare may be worth. LTRBA members will not even accept a listing for the points I purchased feeling my timeshare points have no secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Do not pay anyone upfront money to get you out of your timeshare without checking with us or one of the self-help groups listed below. There are many scams created by this flawed points based product.    

Existing timeshare members almost always begin their complaint like this:

Sales agent: “Did you get the letter?”

Timeshare owner: “What letter?”

Sales agent: “You should have  gotten a letter.”

Timeshare owner: “I didn’t get a letter.”

There was no letter and the reason the sales agents said this was to disturb the existing member. This is a common sales technic. As a financial planner, I disturbed my prospects with, “Do you know if you have saved enough to generate 70% of your current income in retirement?” The difference was my prospects needed to fear this, but in complaint after complaint, the fear factor was used to coerce a timeshare member to give up their deeded timeshare and convert to points, or lose everything. Another fear factor is, “If you don’t buy points (if they are not holding a deed), you won’t be at the level needed to pay maintenance fees with points (or sell points if that is the member’s concern). No timeshare member is required to give up their deed, unless all owners are required to do so because the timeshare is being terminated.

 Many members are astonished at the level of deceit they say they experienced. One former timeshare sales agent told me her manager told her to order the CIA Manual on Human Manipulation. When I looked up human manipulation I found several of the  20 most common manipulation techniques used, have been used on timeshare buyers. The actions of these bad apples makes it hard on sales agents that do sell the product honestly. For some companies, I’m not sure if the honest or dishonest agent is considered the rogue.

  20 of the most common manipulation techniques (my comments to the techniques I picked out as applicable to timeshare are italicized)

The Patriotic Vanguard http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/20-most-common-manipulation-techniques-used-by-human-predators

  1. Lying

Predators are constantly lying about practically everything in their life. They do this to wrong-foot their victim and confuse them. Lying is one of the manipulation techniques psychopaths typically use because they have no qualms about it.

Complaints always begin, “The sales agent said” and the member’s complaint is almost always dismissed with, “We are not responsible for what our sales agent says” or “You signed a contract” unless the member is holding a smoking gun (like the recording of a fraudulent sales presentation or a sophisticated spreadsheet they managed to get a picture of or smuggle out). One complainant even said her sales agent told her when she contacted him, “It doesn’t matter what I said. The only thing that matters is what you signed.” This dismissal is backed up by some Attorney General Timeshare Division reviewers, responding, “You have no proof” or, “You should not have relied on verbal representation.”

Okay fine. Our mission is to alert the public not to believe a word a timeshare sales agent says.

  1. Not telling the whole story

This is different to lying as a predator will often keep a key part of the story to themselves in order to put their victim at a disadvantage.

Oh Boy! We could write a novel about this tactic. “You can pay all your maintenance fees by charging to a credit card.” This may work for a timeshare sales agent earning $600,000 a year charging $270,000 to a credit card to pay a $2,700 maintenance fee, but for the average timeshare buyer, a 1% credit is a far cry from paying all the maintenance fees. “And you can use your points for airfares!” When I attempted this it would have cost $2,300 in maintenance fee dollars to book one domestic round-trip ticket. One former timeshare sales agent told me he was forced out for explaining the actual value. He had 30 years in the business before joining this particular timeshare company.

  1. Love-bombing and devaluation

Narcissists typically use love bombing as a manipulation tactic, they will go on a charm offensive and get you hooked into thinking this is the best relationship ever, then they’ll drop you like a ton of bricks without explanation.

This from Phyllis, being encouraged to give up her timeshare deed:

I am a senior citizen 5 feet tall women and he is a 6 feet tall man standing over me stating he was a child of GOD and he can help me then said to me “I am a friend I can tell you the best thing to do only if I signed”. He added the BANK CREDIT CARD. I was misled to only use the card for shopping that my points would go up and maintenance fees would go down. I never received the card. I never used the card. Now I have a trial date May 8, 2018 to pay their lawyers in the amount of $3446.04. They sent a letter stating the timeshare went into foreclosure and I am out of the contract. Since the timeshare and the bank are together I should be out of paying the bank as well? I need help. Could someone give me advice? Can I get someone to go with me and represent me? I am afraid and stressed. Please – email me on what I can so as soon as possible. Thank You.

The credit card company kindly granted Phyllis a 60 day extension to July. She is representing herself.

  1. Denial

Often the simplest way a predator will manipulate a person is by denying the thing they are accused of ever happening.

The timeshare company party line response has been, “After a thorough investigation, the sales agent said he didn’t say that. Here are your initials on the fine print. You signed a contract. Kind regards.”

  1. Spinning the truth

How many times have politicians twisted the facts to suit themselves? This spinning of the truth is often used to disguise bad behaviour by predators such as sociopaths.

This is one of our most recent complaints:

After we said no to L, Mr. Richard C told us we should buy points to save money on airfare since we have to fly so often to India to care for my mother undergoing chemotherapy. Richard said we could use our points to pay for plane tickets to India to help reduce expenses. L gave a long lecture on how immigrants (referring to me) should behave in the United States and should invest in programs like this to save money on travel.  They said I could fly four times to India instead of two. We have learned this was all a lie.

  1. Minimising

Where a predator will try and play down their actions as not important or damaging and shift the blame onto the victim for overreacting.

“You were confused” is a frequent response.

  1. Targets the victim

When a manipulator accuses the victim of wrongdoing, they are making the victim defend themselves whilst the predator is able to mask their own manipulation techniques. The focus is on the victim, not the accuser.

See #4

  1. Positive reinforcement

This includes buying expensive presents, praising them, giving money, constantly apologizing for their behaviour, excessive charm and paying lots of attention.

In timeshare these are all the free tickets, restaurant coupons and giveaways.

  1. Moves the goal posts

You might think you know where you stand with a person, but if they are constantly moving the goal posts in order to confuse you, then it’s likely you’re dealing with a predator.

These seniors lost their entire savings, $13,000, and were foreclosed. They were sold a minimal number of points that they could have vacationed with, but then up-sold into foreclosure, told they would lose everything if they did not buy more points. The husband diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the wife hard of hearing. The company used the recording of the QA against them telling the grown son, and “We recorded the QA. They were very engaged.” In a PR Release the company had stated the recording of the QA was an enhanced Quality Assurance. Members are not allowed to record the sales session.

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-8/

  1. Diversion

Diverting the conversation away from the perpetrator’s act and moving the conversation onto a different topic is a typical way predators manipulate their victims.

When I told a scam my timeshare company does not allow renting points and I can send them the rule, they smoothly asked, “So how much are you paying in maintenance fees?” as they moved on to a travel reimbursement pitch.  

  1. Guilt tripping

Someone who manipulates can guilt trip their victim by saying that they don’t care about them or that they are selfish or their life is easy. It all helps to keep that person confused and anxious.

Guilt tripping in timeshare often lays a guilt trip on the parents that they are not providing adequate vacation time for the kids.

  1. Playing the innocent card

A true manipulator will feign utmost shock and confusion at being accused of any wrongdoing. Their surprise is so convincing that the victim may question their own judgement.

One member reported they were told, “Those sales agents at that sales center are good guys.”  This was a sales center we received over 50 complaints against, eleven against one particular agent.

  1. Over-the-top aggression

Manipulators often use rage and aggression to shock their victim into submission. The anger is also a tool to shut down any further conversation on the topic as the victim is scared but focused now on controlling the anger, not the original topic.

See what happened to Phyllis in Point 4. We are flooded with complaints about timeshare sales presentations that last for hours with members being browbeat by rotating aggressors until they were diminished down to mush. I’m not making this up. If I had not heard 466 stories, I would not be this confident.

  1. Isolation

It is far easier to keep a person under control if they are isolated from family members and friends who could shed some light and truth on the situation.

This is accomplished by NDAs and arbitration.  I refused to sign one after I was offered our money back, which is why I am still standing. The developer describes arbitration something like, “litigating from the comfort of your own home.” The timeshare company hires the litigator for $400 to $500 an hour.  

  1. Feigns love and empathy

Predators such as psychopaths and sociopaths do not know how to love someone other than themselves, and cannot feel empathy, but they can pretend to in order to inveigle others into their lives.

See what happened to Phyllis in Point 4.

If you watch out for the above manipulation techniques, you can keep yourself out of a predator’s clutches.

… For reading, responding and for helping others.

Contact Inside Timeshare or these self-help groups if you need help or have a question you need answered.

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

FTC Report on Fraud

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/03/ftc-releases-annual-summary-complaints-reported-consumers

Thank you Irene, we look forward to the second installment, join us again next week for more “Nightmares on Timeshare Street” and remember to do your homework, check, check and check again, there are many out there who just want to take your hard earned cash.

If you need any help in identifying any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet and want to check if they are genuine, then use our contact page and get in touch.

Have a good weekend.

Timeshare Resale: Lisa Ann Schreier Open Letter to Developers

We all know that the resale market for timeshare is almost non-existent, you only have to look on ebay to see that many people can’t even give them away, even when they offer to pay the transfer fees. Those that have prices are either very low and have no offers or bids, the ones with highly inflated prices are what the owner thinks they are worth and hope they will get.

It has also spawned one of the biggest frauds in timeshare, the resale company, many owners have been victims of these over the years. In Europe the EU Timeshare Directives forbids these companies to take a fee for listing the timeshare, but they still do. Quite often they will claim that it is not a listing fee, but a marketing fee to give you your own webpage to create your very own personalised advert. Charges of around 1,000€ are not uncommon, once it has been paid, that is probably the last you will ever hear from them.

The most common scam in Europe is the call to tell you that they have a buyer already lined up, but to get this sale underway a “bond” needs to be paid, which is refundable once the sale has taken place. This particular scam was also used by the “Discount Holiday Clubs” such as Club Class and Designer Way Vacation Club, who would tell the owner that they have a corporate buyer wanting their timeshare. They would then attend a meeting either in the UK or have to travel to Spain.

At this meeting the classic “bait and switch” would take place, they would take your timeshare off your hands leaving you maintenance free, but you would need to pay around 10,000€ to join their discount club. In many instances, three years down the line the unfortunate timeshare owner found that they still owned their timeshare and were now in arrears.

This situation is actually the fault of the industry itself, mainly thanks to the false promises that they would “buy back” the timeshare when the owner no longer required it. Another factor is the perpetuity contract, which many owners found impossible to get out of leaving them and their families burdened with ever increasing maintenance fees.

This is Lisa Ann Schreier‘s Open Letter to Developers published on 18 June 2018 on her Timeshare Crusader Blogspot:

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/2018/06/an-open-letter-to-timeshare-developers.html

An Open Letter to Timeshare Developers

Dear Timeshare Developers:

I’d appreciate an honest answer from any of you.

Why do you not buy back your own product when it’s being sold for $1,000, $100 or $1.00 on the secondary market when you can turn around and sell it the very next day or week for whatever grossly inflated price you do each and everyday to unsuspecting consumers?

It’s not like we’re talking about a product that deprecated due to rust or even the fact that it’s outdated. You maintain the product with the owners money and you determine the usage rules.

ARDA just reported that the average price of a timeshare was $22,180.

In under a minute, I was able to find these listings on a reputable resale site:

Marriott’s Desert Springs $4,295

Orange Lake North Village $3,000

Sheraton Broadway Plantation $500

Summer Bay Orlando $0 (not a typo)

It seems to me that you guys could turn a nifty profit by snapping these up and selling them for $22,180 or whatever your salespeople try to get.

But you don’t. Why is that?  Are you trying to give the impression that these timeshares aren’t worth anything?  Because that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Thank you Lisa for allowing Inside Timeshare to publish your letter in Europe, (even though this will be read worldwide). Inside Timeshare has had the pleasure of working with Lisa, albeit over cyberspace, Lisa is a long time advocate of the timeshare owner and we hope that we continue to work together.

If you have any comment or question about this article, or any other published, then use our contact page and send it in. Inside Timeshare welcomes your input.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker looks at “Special Assessments”, in this case the Americano Beach Resort, this extra charge is something that we are familiar with on Inside Timeshare.

Over the years many owners / members have been handed these “extra bills” for various reasons, we even saw this with Diversified Resorts a couple of years back. That was because they had a huge tax bill owing, even those members that did not own with them at the time the tax should have been paid were given a bill. If they did not pay it within 30 days their membership would be suspended, blackmail or what!

Now for today’s article.

Americano Beach Resort

A Timeshare Resort in Dispute Hoping for a Dialog

By Irene Parker

June 19, 2018

Americano owners have been the recipient of a ‘special assessments’ to repair the Americano, which according to ABR/ARC is to the tune of around $15 MILLION!  

Hurricane season just launched, so as we brace for what is predicted to be a robust hurricane season, we look back to damage from which some resorts have still not recovered. When disaster strikes, dialog is important to restore not just the building, but the relationship between members and the developer. At the end of the article, I’ve included Tom Tubbs’ article about special assessments. Tom is with Island Consulting Realty and has 33 years industry experience. Tom is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.  

Americano Beach Resort, a/k/a The Suites at Americano Beach, now managed by ARC Resorts, LLC, has been shut down since a few days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September 2017. The reconstruction of the Americano Beach Resort is a complicated timeshare issue, and one that will take a series of articles to understand, given the complexity of the problems and the concerns of those who have owned at this timeshare for a couple of decades. Six Americano timeshare members have reached out to Inside Timeshare, expressing their frustration.  

As reported in Perspective Magazine, the plan before hurricane Matthew hit:    

In February (2016), ARC Resorts (ARC) acquired the rights to The Americano Beach Lodge Resort Condominium Association Inc. to uniformly redevelop and manage the 198 timeshare units located in Daytona Beach, Florida. Their objective is to redevelop and revitalize the property without burdening the timeshare unit owners with special assessments.

At The Suites at Americano Beach, the (hurricane Matthew) storm surge overwhelmed the Beachside Tiki Bar and the surrounding maintenance area beneath the pool deck. A large portion of the Sea Wall was washed away. The CAT 3 Wind forced significant water intrusion in the units, and compromised the window systems. The wind also compromised all the roofing systems. The resort ran on partial power for several days, which affected several major systems, such as the elevators and the cooling tower.

http://perspectivemagazine.com/081220165656/arc-resorts-daytona-property-rebounds-after-hurricane-matthew

Prior to the natural disaster however, ARC assessed the newly attained property in a thorough Insurance Review. They were able to upgrade the insurance coverage while lowering annual premiums. One feature in the upgrade was Business Interruption as a line item of additional hazard insurance coverage. This due diligence established security for ARC as an investor and shielded timeshare owners from excessive assessments.

https://www.insidethegate.com/2016/12/arc-resorts-daytona-property-rebounds-after-hurricane-matthew/

I reached out to R. Scott MacGregor, ARC President, and a 30-year resort industry veteran with executive experience in project planning, development, marketing, management, and finance. Scott understands the frustration long time owners feel.  

Like many resorts in the US, the Association had chronically underfunded reserves to keep assessments down, and had allowed a majority of the intervals to fall into default. Most boards of volunteer owners just aren’t prepared to deal with those issues, especially when a 60-year-old building requires the level of re-investment that the Americano does.

Americano members are asking for answers they feel have not been forthcoming in informational updates and meetings. Below are the questions Americano members would like answered. Scott MacGregor’s comments and answers to questions are in italics.

ARC had already agreed to post answers to many of the same questions that were presented at the May board meeting on the website, and we will do that and include some of the other questions provided below. Official information will be posted on the Association website only.  

Questions owners posed. Scott MacGregor’s answers are in italics.   

How much damage was claimed from Matthew?

How much has the insurance paid on these claims?

How was the money spent?

Owners state that there are lawsuits against insurers of the Americano.  What is the basis of these suits? I can’t comment publicly on the ongoing insurance litigation, only to say the basis for the lawsuits, for which the Association is the plaintiff, are over differences on the amounts claimed and the amounts paid by the insurers. Inaccurate comments about the litigation or the resort will be detrimental to the Association.

What work has been done on the Americano to date?

Why has it taken so long to get the Americano back open for business?

How much damage has been claimed from Irma?

How many special assessments are Owners expected to receive and what amounts?

The remodeling plan exceeds costs of $15 million.  It was stated that ARC anticipates gathering $10 million from investors.  What is the time frame for that?

Is it reasonable to expect owners to supplement $5 million, especially since it was stated 60% of owners are no longer paying annual maintenance fees?

If 60% of owners are no longer paying regular maintenance fees, how can the remaining 40% supplement the 60% who are not paying? If the 60% is accurate, it will be too costly for anyone to continue as an owner.

What do you estimate the building will be worth after all the renovations are complete?  Property records show the building valued at approximately $14.5 million now. The building was appraised and insured for $22 million, with additional coverage for contents, etc. (One of the members thought Volusia County had the building valued at or near $15 million.)

What kind of ‘exit’ plan do you have for owners who can no longer afford or wish to be part of the timeshare program, particularly long-time owners who are now senior citizens on fixed incomes?

Who owns ARC?

If the damage is more than 60%, should the building be declared totaled?

What compensation has been offered to owners who have not only been unable to use their weeks, or bank the weeks for exchange, but have paid maintenance and/or assessment fees for several years with nothing to show for it?  

Irene’s answer: Whether it is a timeshare condo or your personal residence, if a hurricane destroys property to the extent you can’t inhabit the property, it’s never easy. Property taxes and other expenses continue and alternative living arrangements need to be made. The real question the owners are asking – Is the reason the resort is still not open valid? It may be. The developer has every reason to see a closed resort open. If your home is 60% destroyed, it would be hard to find a buyer and more difficult to walk away from.     

Unrelated to the hurricane damage, owners claim that ARC has made significant changes to the way owners have always been able to book/use their timeshare weeks. Some say they have had their weeks changed from prime to non-prime; some have lost the weeks they had always booked for races and Bike Week; some were told they had to buy into a more expensive points system; some were told they had to change from Interval to RCI for exchanges, etc. We will reach out to these owners in a future article.

As was discussed at the May board meeting we can amend the Declaration to change the definition of a week from beginning on a Saturday only to being what suits the owner better. Race Week owners could stay Monday to Monday, for example, so they could enjoy the pre-race activities and stay over the night after the race without having to rent additional time. Bike week owners might prefer to come Sunday to Sunday, and be assured they could come for that event regardless of when the City scheduled it.

Owners reaching out to Inside Timeshare feel they may have been scammed, particularly as some owners paid thousands (as recently as 2017) to buy into a points system as they were told they had to in order to be able to continue to use their timeshare. No owner should have to give up a deed. Before doing so, the deed holder needs to make sure if the reasons a sales agent gives for giving up a deed (at any timeshare) is warranted.

At an Americano Board meeting May 21, 2018 a member reported:

Owners say they received a survey PRIOR to an owners’ meeting in March 2018, giving owners a chance to vote for:

(a) Continuing the timeshare program as is,

(b) Reducing the timeshare program to a few floors while redesigning and selling the rest as private condos, or

(c) Terminating the timeshare program altogether.  

From what owners say they were told at the meeting, over 60% voted to terminate the timeshare program.

Chris Crawford is an Americano owner and admin of a member sponsored Facebook page consisting of 200 owners. Chris did not attend the meeting, but feels the vote was hearsay. He said members who did attend reported no actual numbers were presented. Owners say they are frantic as they believe that they will lose their timeshare that they have put thousands into, many well over 20 years, and get nothing back.

Many want to deed their timeshare back to Americano. According to members, resellers will not even talk to owners about trying to sell as they are saying there is a lawsuit pending, but owners say they are receiving no information about a lawsuit (unrelated to the insurance litigation).  

Chris says complaints have been filed with various State of Florida agencies, certified letters sent to Americano Board of Directors and ARC requesting specific documents as proof of damages claimed, but owners say they have received no responses from Americano or the state agencies.

Scott MacGregor said there have been updates and information posted to members reporting the status.   

I hope the members of the member sponsored Americano Facebook group will heed the advice given to them by the State regulators and timeshare attorney Finn of Finn Law Group:  present evidence of malfeasance to the State Regulators or to a court of competent jurisdiction to be adjudicated, and/or present a plan for consideration by the Association which is better than the one ARC has presented.  

Our plan is pretty simple: we have been consistent from our engagement with the Americano that it will take about $15mm of capital to restore the facility to a current and compliant property after suffering years of under-investment in the reserves required to update all of the common elements when they reached the end of their useful lives. Initially, we intended to do that by generating $40 – 50 million in sales over 5 to 7 years and attributing about 25% of the sales volume (which is standard “product cost” in many US timeshare developments) toward that reconstruction.  Unfortunately, August of 2017 was the first month we attained break-even sales volume at the resort, only to have it shut down by Irma in early September. So, now our plan is to raise through ARC debt or equity $10 – 12mm as rapidly as possible to renovate the entire facility; to reduce the timeshare program to the number of units needed to support the remaining timeshare owners, and modify the use plan to make it more flexible for those owners.

Financially, the costs of ownership should decrease as the significant bad debt burden the owners have increasingly borne over the past 10 – 15 years would be eliminated, and the facility would be significantly upgraded, thereby eliminating the historic underfunded reserve problem the resort has had for the same time.  A facility of that size should have roughly $6 – 8 million in reserves. In the years prior to our involvement, its reserve balance as reported in its audits was closer to $500 – 600 k, less than a tenth of what was required. This is a common problem with too many timeshare resorts, done to keep the maintenance fees artificially low.  2016 was the first year in many that the Association had more than a million dollars in its reserve at year-end. I’ll also point out that 2017 will have been the first year the Association ever (as far as I can tell from past tax returns) the Association received net rental proceeds from the Developer, netting more than $120,000 through the first 8 months of the year.  The remaining units will be restructured as whole-ownership vacation rental units or held for rental, hopefully generating a return of and on the capital ARC is seeking to raise for its reconstruction.

It is the intent to raise capital externally, and not to require any additional assessments of the owners.  Were the remaining owners (including ARC which owns and pays assessments on approximately 1,450 intervals) to be assessed the amount necessary to complete the renovations, because more than 60% of them have stopped paying assessments over the years, the additional bill to each owner would have easily exceeded $5,000 per interval, which is not tenable.  The capital needed to be raises for a project like this isn’t easy; the units are small and don’t have external balconies, so the margins on redevelopment are slim. The funding will come from private investors; most likely those with a present stake in the Daytona market, from some of the specialized US timeshare lenders, or perhaps from a smaller Private Equity firm.  It’s what I spend most of my time working on.

Scott answer my questions highlighted in red: Since Inside Timeshare is published in Spain, we are interested in a statement made that ARC has ties to the EU. What are those connections?

When we started putting ARC together in 2015, one of the aspects we sought was ties to European (and South American) companies that we could leverage to send owners on trips abroad, especially to countries of their heritage.  Silverpoint and RCI Europe both expressed an interest in helping to do that, though we have no formal or financial ties to either. We do have a contact with the Holiday Plus discounted European hotel program, to which our ARC Freedom 365 members have access through the “Heritage” program on our website.  We will do an occasional “inventory swap” with Silverpoint, as we do with dozens of other companies. This helps us to place owners in locations they may not be able to get through direct exchange programs like RCI or II. Also, much of the programing staff for our technology partner TimeshareSoft International is based in Bulgaria.  We may also try to market some of the Americano condominiums in the EU and Asian markets through established broker networks in those regions, though we have not yet entered into any agreements to do so. There are no contractual or financial ties between ARC and Silverpoint. If there were, we’d leverage their destinations for marketing purposes on our websites.

Are hedge funds involved in the raising of funds?  

Hedge funds tend to make large, long-term investments in companies and real estate projects, but something as small (from their perspective) as ARC and the Americano redevelopment are not in their wheelhouse. We will raise the development capital from individual investors as noted above, and or from US specialty lenders in the timeshare space, and possibly from smaller Private Equity or VC firms. Due to the risk profile and complexity of the Americano, it will most likely be individual investors with interests in Daytona or other Florida beach markets and/or the US timeshare lenders.

My view is the solution is not to try to take the whole industry down, but to work on making parts of it better with community-based approaches to supporting the stronger, more sustainable resorts and helping those that are failing to do so in a controlled manner preserving as much value as possible and avoiding complete collapse of the Associations. I gave a similar presentation to the Timeshare Board Members Association in Orlando in May.

I don’t think anyone wants to take the whole industry down, but given several lawsuits and Attorneys General settlements, we believe timeshare could improve, especially in the sales and marketing department. Inside Timeshare has heard from 473 angry timeshare members and owners to date. We hope constructive dialog can improve customer relationships. If President Trump and Kim Jong-un can sit down and have a friendly chat, we should too.

Chris said the Canadian Teacher Association originally owned the Americano, developed as a place for teachers to vacation. According to Chris, the single largest shareholder (the old owner) sold it to ARC.  

Proprietors behind Americano are ARC American Resort Collection

http://www.arcresorts.com/about-arc/

Special Assessment: What Is It? Why Is It?

Tom Tubbs

Island Consulting Realty

It can happen. You open the mail from your timeshare resort and here’s a letter of explanation of why they are asking you to send them more money. First you have to understand what it is and is not. A special assessment is just that, special. Normally your maintenance fee is covering everything; upkeep of the unit and common area, housekeeping, taxes, utilities, insurance and also reserves. Let’s look at reserves. That’s the part that they collect and set aside for when the big things happen that we all know about; repave the roads and parking lot, new roofs, etc. It’s also called a sinking fund. But sometimes things occur that no one could have planned on and there’s no money in the budget to handle it.

Think of it this way. Every few years you paint your home (reserves). You know it’s coming. You clean the house regularly (housekeeping). You pay your taxes and insurance. But one day you’re outside and notice a crack in your foundation. You didn’t plan on it and didn’t budget for it but guess what, it’s there! You have to pay to get it fixed. That’s the same sort of thing that can happen with any homeowner’s association whether it’s your own neighborhood or vacation condo you own. Same with a timeshare. If it’s something that could not have been predicted, it simply has to be taken care of. The alternative is not making the repair and having the quality of the resort go downhill. That’s worse.

But here’s what you do have to watch out for. If it should ever happen to you, you need to know the real reason for the assessment. Was it something like described above and simply could not have been predicted? If so that’s understandable. BUT, what if they tell you it’s for “refurbishment” or something similar. That’s a red flag and it needs to be looked at. Since any competent management company or homeowner’s association knows that refurbishment is an ongoing expense, it’s normally a part of the reserves. Most resorts refurbish their units about every 5 years or so. It’s planned for.

   So if your letter states the special assessment is for refurbishing, you have to ask yourself, “What happened to the money I’ve been paying them all these years in maintenance fees?” Where is it? Is the Board of the homeowner’s association incompetent or maybe something worse? This is YOUR money they’re working with and they’re supposed to be able to handle it and account for it. If they’re not competent, it’s time to replace the Board of Directors of the homeowner’s association. And if there’s suspicion of theft, it’s time for a lawyer to get involved with a forensic accountant to go over the books.

So if it does happen, how much money should you be paying out? Well obviously that depends on what the problem is. But, again, this is where the beauty of timeshares come into play where you have a lot of people chipping in so no one in particular is going to get really hurt. Look at it this way. Let’s say you have a resort with 200 units. 200 units times 52 weeks per unit is 10,400 owners for the entire resort. If everyone were hit with a $200 special assessment, that’s over $2,000,000 coming in. It would have to be one unreal problem to cost that much money. So if you ever do get hit with an assessment, do a little quick math and make sure it looks like it adds up.

Thank you Irene, it really makes you wonder what the annual maintenance charges are actually used for?

That’s it for today, the next article will not be published now until Thursday, Inside Timeshare is travelling.

Fridays Letter from America

Welcome to our Friday’s Letter from America, Irene Parker continues our theme of “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, with this latest article about the treatment of “Seniors” by the timeshare industry. This article edited by Irene is from another new contributor Jang Park.

But first the latest breaking news from Europe.

Legal history has once again been made in Spain, the Supreme Court has issued another two judgements, numbers 121 & 122. These cases again involved the Tenerife timeshare operator Silverpoint, who has figured in a huge number of cases in the past year. They are also losing on an almost daily basis in the lower courts in Tenerife, this is a result of years of malpractice in the sales of their timeshare product which has seen hundreds of consumers lose thousands of Euros each. (See yesterday’s article, Silverpoint in the Courts: Criminal Action Vs Civil Action).

This weeks court figures are what can only be described as impressive, along with the two Supreme Court results there has also been the following:

In the Courts of First Instance in Maspalomas, Anfi del Mar has had EIGHT rulings made against them.

Silverpoint have also figured in the lower courts.

In the Courts of First Instance in Arona, Tenerife, Silverpoint has lost FIVE cases.

They have also lost in TWO cases in the High Court in Santa Cruz, Tenerife.

Diamond Resorts Europe Ltd have also lost TWO cases:

In the High Court number 3 of Santa Cruz, Tenerife, this court upheld the previous sentence from the Court of First Instance in Granadilla de Abona, which Diamond appealed.

In the Court of First Instance in Granadilla de Abona, Tenerife the client has been awarded over 24,000€, which also includes double the deposit illegally taken within the cooling off period. This particular case is interesting in that the company named is Sunterra Tenerife Sales SL, but under Spanish law Diamond are liable as they took over Sunterra members when buying out Sunterra years ago.

(See PDF files of the court sentences below).

Diamond 1st Instance

Diamond High Court

As usual all the contracts have also been declared null and void, leaving all clients timeshare free.

In all that is an incredible NINETEEN victories, totaling a massive 851,215.00€. This can only be described as a very expensive week for timeshare in the Canary Islands.

These cases were brought on behalf of these clients by the Gran Canarian law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. This does prove that despite what the industry is trying to tell people, these cases are genuine and the timeshare industry is losing.

Below is a video from a Spanish news program aired in December 2017 by TVE, which is the major state owned television station in Spain. It explains the Anfi appeal at the Supreme Court against a High Court ruling which they lost on the illegal taking of deposits. The Supreme Court rejected the Anfi argument that it did not take the deposits as these were paid to a third party. The Supreme Court rejected this appeal as the law clearly states that no money is to be taken within the cooling off period, even by a third party. (Law 42/98 Article 11 & Law 4/12 Article 13).

The video is in Spanish and is subtitled in English, it also has a short interview with Eva Gutierrez a lawyer from Canarian Legal Alliance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of9a5iX3Mmg

In other news, last month the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation) announced that it was working with the Alliance of International Property Owners, to replace the discredited and defunct owners association TATOC.

This association is to be totally independent of the timeshare industry, it does represent those who own outright their properties abroad, so let us hope they will be more effective in protecting timeshare owners and helping to change the industry for the better.

Now for our Letter from America.

Another Senior Couple, Age 82, Driven into Timeshare Foreclosure

By Jang Park

June 15, 2018  

I am 82 years old, a California resident and a Korean American since 1978. I worked for a steamship company as an owner representative.

I submitted my complaint to my timeshare company March 31, 2018. I received a refusal from the company yesterday, June 13, 2018. I have asked Inside Timeshare to help me prepare an article to warn other seniors. I was a deeded owner for almost 20 years.We were happy with our timeshare.

We were willing to remain a timeshare member with this company if our last contract for 5,000 points, for which we paid $20,000, would be cancelled. We strongly feel these points were sold by deception.  Now we have to seek the help of an attorney or foreclose, but will work through Inside Timeshare to make sure we talk to the right people. We understand there are a lot of scams that offer to get you out of your timeshare but don’t. I will be filing the following complaints assisted by advocates. I have been told there is no charge to me for this assistance.

First: California Real Estate Division against the California sales agent  

Assisted by my CA Advocate

Second: Better Business Bureau – Assisted by my NV Advocate

FBI, resubmitted due to now six complaints against this sales agent

Federal Trade Commission

AARPhttp://AARP

I have learned through the advocacy group we are the sixth member to complain against this same California timeshare sales agent. I am #6.

Complaint #1  

RB, a veteran “We upgraded in California ONLY because this sales agent said our heirs would not be liable for maintenance fees if we gave up our deed. The sales agent said he used to be a financial advisor. We bought 15,000 points for no other reason. We now know that the survivor benefit already existed. We lost $13,000.

RB worked as a contract specialist for Consolidated Edison. “I know, but when you buy cars and houses all your life, you don’t expect the real estate agent sitting across from you to be a bold faced liar,” he remarked.  

The agent said he would have to look at our contract, but our heirs would likely be responsible for the timeshare. I told him I would be willing to hire an attorney to fight that. He indicated it would be futile to do so as my timeshare company has top notch attorneys and we would not be able to win the case. He then said if we upgraded by buying 15,000 more points, we could avoid those issues. He also said the contract would be an annually renewable contract that we could walk away from at some future time.  

We were led to believe we could pay all our maintenance fees by opening their credit card and charging purchases. We later learned we would receive only $50 credit for qualified purchased for every $5,000.

Compliant #2 Ages 70 and 68 (resolved)

JM, Disabled Vietnam Veteran

First points purchased June 27, 2012

10,000 additional points purchased for $12,500

15,000 additional points purchased for $13,903

Number of points per contract:  30,000

Original Loan Amount: $49,900 @ 12.2441%

We feel we were deceived by the sales staff.  We had been deeded owners since 2001.

On 1/13/2017, we were asked to purchase a trial package. This sales agent advised us that our additional 15,000 points combined with our original 15,000 points would be worth $9,000.  He stated that the value of our points could be applied to pay our maintenance fees. We learned only some members can pay maintenance fees with points at only $.04 per point. He stated that we could take any points we did not use and apply them towards our maintenance fees. He then spoke of the opportunity to earn an additional $2,700 towards our maintenance fees by using the Barclay Credit Card. We learned we would have to charge over $270,000 annually to earn $2,700 towards our maintenance fees.

The sales agent said that with the few points we owned we would be stuck with the contract as well as our heirs, but said if we upgraded, our heirs would be released. He said there would be a letter in our packet stating this. There was no letter.

We were told that the bank would contact us with an interest rate change to 6% from the contracted amount of 12.2441%. That did not happen.

In a phone call they said they had no reason to cancel our contract and that we never mentioned being told that we could sell our points to pay for maintenance fees.

The 6/26/17 written response from the company not marked confidential.

You were in fact properly advised on the fee structure of your ownership per your contract. The findings also went on to confirm through the use of Barclays and the use of Member benefits you can reduce or apply redemption gained back by your choice to your maintenance cost. They found an area of miscommunication regarding your heirs being liable. The information conveyed (but in contradiction to the sales agent) explained that no one is bound to ownership. The on-going correspondence referenced has been forwarded and we have now provided you with a summary of those correspondences in the details aforementioned. Please feel free again to let any of us or myself of course know any other questions you might have.

Complaint #3 GB

7000 points purchased August 2016

Purchase price: $22,975.20

I told this CA sales agent I wanted to sell our timeshare points online to pay for the maintenance fees and loan payment.  He said it wasn’t allowed but he would privately show me how to do this and gave me his cell number. I called numerous times and he never answered. He told us when we upgraded we would have access to multi-million dollar homes. He said we could rent those for a week @ $10.000 and he would show me how when I called his cell.

Complaint #4 AP

1500 points purchased for $6,975 at an October 2016

The presenter said we were not full members and we should have received a letter to go to full membership. We never received a letter.  He then gave us an option of a deal that would only be good right then but we would have to buy 1500 more points to become full members. He made this seem like a huge deal because upper management would not want to give us this deal but they were working with us so that we would be happy.  He informed us that what we had was worth nothing now and we would have to upgrade to be able to use any benefits.

#5 DT, over 85 years old

40,000 points purchased December 2017 for $116,400

Amount financed: $93,870

Maintenance fees $13,000

At the December meeting we were told we could pay all our maintenance fees turning in points. When we contacted the company we were told that we could only pay $2,000 of the maintenance fees turning in 50,000 points.

We were told we could give it up and walk away if we purchased more points.

I am complaint #6 against this same sales agent

I purchased 5000 points for $20,000. The California sales agent told me I could pay maintenance fees by redeeming points at $.20 per point through the 20/20 program. I confirmed this more than five times with his agreeing when I said there should be some $250 left over after paying our new maintenance fees of about $2,800 with his writing down on the working paper, which he refused to give me after the presentation when I asked.

He said if we get their sponsored Visa Card, they will put $1,000 cash to our credit card account as an Honored Member. When we said we will have two cards, each for me and wife, he said $500.00 of cash will be credited to each account. It was not so important benefit compared with above no. 1, but was found a lie.

The sales agent said we can exit from Timeshare Ownership at any time without any obligation, which his manager confirmed true.

In 2015 we gave up our deeded timeshare. We were told there is no cap on maintenance fees for people who hold a deed. This was not true. We were told there is a 5% cap on maintenance fees increases for points if we gave up our deed. This is not true. We purchased 10,000 points. The sales agent said we could sell the points if we needed to. He gave me the name of a company that could sell the timeshare if we needed to.

The agent said it is almost impossible to sell a deeded timeshare, but timeshare points can be sold easily for about $15,000. He checked with IPhone and gave the following companies to me:

  • Steve Likins – Hilton Head & timeshare sales, 843-816-1900
  • Jimmy ; 706-839-7798
  • Timeshare Resale USA.com; 407 345 9333

We tried to sell our timeshare, and attended about five times, timeshare exit companies’ presentation, but we found all of them asked some fees to get exit.

Thank you to Mr. Park and to all members hoping the public gets the Buyer Beware and do your homework message.

Self-help groups for timeshare members.

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Thank you Jang for your story, it is one we have become so familiar with over the past year or so, ever since we highlighted our first seniors article, we have been receiving a constant stream of similar complaints.

As we have said before, the industry is destroying itself by allowing their employees to lie and cheat, then take no responsibility for those actions. We keep hearing from all quarters, “ We are not responsible for what our sales agent say”. That is the weakest get out imaginable, they are your employees, they are selling your product, they represent your company. It is about time you as an industry took responsibility and changed for the better.

Timeshare could be a good product, the complaints are around the sales not the resorts, accommodation or the resort staff, in this area it looks like the vast majority are happy owners / members.

We are not against business, but we are against business purely for greed, which is what the timeshare industry has turned into.

If you have any comments or questions about any subject in this article or any others published, then use the contact page and get in touch. If you are from the US you will be passed to our team coordinated by Irene. For those in Europe then you will be contacted directly from Inside Timeshare.

As usual we warn you to be vigilant when dealing with any company that contacts you or one that you have found on the internet, do your homework, check, check and check again. If you are unsure how to check, or you are not sure if what you are seeing is true, then contact Inside Timeshare, we are here to help and guide.

That’s it for this week, Friday is here, happy hour is calling, so have a good weekend and join us for more news from the world of timeshare next week.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot, in this article by Irene Parker looks at the Seniors vs Crime project, but first another warning to our UK and European readers.

We have recently been reporting about the activities of a bogus law firm called Abogados Lopez, apparently working out of Malaga, well they are still at it.

They contact clients who have cases running against their timeshare resorts, the information they have seems to be fairly accurate, they ask for confirmation of details and explain that this is so they can put the case before the court within the next day or so.

A few days later a Hope Brugge or Megan Haywood calls with the wonderful news that the case has been won and that the court has awarded a substantial amount, but a fee to release the funds from the court is required. Depending on the amount awarded it is around £1000 to be paid by bank Transfer to the lawyer.

Two names have been reported for the account holder, Kingsley Ehigiator in Malaga and Isidro Palm Perez in Barcelona.

We have also now been informed that a second call from a Paul Tyler or Taylor, this time he needs a payment of 7% of the awarded amount to pay the fees for the bank transfer.

Again this is a scam and this is not a bona fide law firm, somehow they have stolen sensitive data and are using it to defraud timeshare owners.

Now for today’s article.

The Florida Attorney General’s Seniors vs Crime Project

Can the “Senior Sleuths” help timeshare fraud victims?

Perhaps even more important than the raw numbers is the psychological and emotional impact of crime on our older citizen.

By Irene Parker

June 12, 2018

The Florida Attorney General’s Seniors vs Crime Senior Sleuths act as “eyes and ears” of the Attorney General’s Office and local law enforcement by reporting on scams, high pressure sales techniques, false or misleading advertisement, or other deceptive or illegal activity. There is similarity in cases the Senior Sleuths have pursued and the 459 timeshare complaints Inside Timeshare has received.   

The senior timeshare buyers described below fell victim to “Defend against scams” points: #2 #3 #4 and #5. Following their case, we compare two Senior Sleuth cases and show how the crimes described are similar to timeshare crime. The FBI defines white-collar crime as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.”     

Reader complaint #452 was submitted by their son Eric. We have not identified the family or the company to allow the company time to respond to the complaint.

My parents are both 78 years old. My father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My mother is hard of hearing. Points were purchased in Florida at a hotel presentation and at a later date in Virginia. They were pressured for six hours in Florida, told the price was time sensitive. They signed electronically, despite having no computer skills.

In Virginia they dealt with seven sales agents who kept them for seven hours. My parents told the agents they had limited savings and could not afford the second purchase.  My mother said she started to cry. The sales agent said they had not purchased enough points the first time so they would lose everything if they did not buy more points and that the price per point would increase if they did not buy that day. My parents have never used the points. They cannot travel because this has caused their health to deteriorate. The $27,000 they spent represents all their savings. The first purchase of $13,000 has been paid in full. The balance is a loan.

We will be filing a complaint with the Florida Attorney General and the Virginia Attorney General, although I’ve learned through Social Media they will in all likelihood dismiss the complaint for lack of proof.  

The reason this meets the definition of fraud is because the couple did purchase enough points to be able to stay a week at a resort. They might have trouble booking Hawaii or the California coast, but there are many locations they could have stayed at with the number of points first purchased. In addition, they could bank their points into the next year and have double the points, easily covering a week’s stay. The complaint of being told the member did not buy enough points is a common ploy. “I can’t believe they sold you so few points! You can’t stay anywhere with only THAT many points!”

There would have been no trouble going back the next day, buying at the same price as the day before. This would at least have given Eric’s parents time to talk it over with Eric or with a financial advisor.  

Based on reports from members filing timeshare complaints, in all likelihood the company will respond, “We are not responsible for what our sales agent say,” falling back on the oral representation clause. Given the company’s response and the Florida Timeshare Division and Virginia Timeshare Division’s likely response, “You have no proof,” as our readers have reported back to us, timeshare sales agents are thereby encouraged to misrepresent. In effect, there is no timeshare regulatory enforcement in some states.

Senior Sleuths

“The Attorney General’s strong support for the Project, and dedication to helping consumers, ensures that those who fall victim to unethical business practices or frauds will have someone and somewhere to turn for help.”

This has not come to fruition for our readers complaining to the Florida and Virginia Timeshare Divisions. Maybe Senior Sleuths can help. Give them a try if you bought in Florida or live in Florida.

Once again we are left with public awareness as our only consumer protection.

From the Florida Bar Journal

“The Commission will find deception if there is a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances, to the consumer’s detriment.”

The Third DCA confirmed that the standard requires proof of probable, not possible, deception; that the potential deception must be of consumers acting reasonably in the circumstances, not just any consumers; and that the deception must be likely to cause injury to a reasonable relying consumer.

https://www.floridabar.org/news/tfb-journal/?durl=/DIVCOM%2FJN%2FJNJournal01%2Ensf%2F76d28aa8f2ee03e185256aa9005d8d9a%2F1f23234b2401bb9885256af50015dc33

The family is asking the second purchase be rescinded. The Senior Sleuths resolved similar complaints described below.

The History of the Seniors vs Crime Project

Taken from the Seniors vs Crime website:

In 1989 the Florida Legislature ordered the Attorney General to form a task force to report on crime and the elderly. The Task force on Crimes and the Elderly, formed and chaired by Attorney General Bob Butterworth, held a number of public meetings around the state. Mr. Vern Thornton served on the Task Force as a consultant with the AARP Criminal Justice Services. The Task Force found that seniors were being targeted for scams, were being subjected to high-pressure tactics by salespersons, and were being deceived by false advertising at an alarming frequency. Perhaps even more important than the raw numbers is the psychological and emotional impact of crime on our older citizen.

Vern Thornton presented the Attorney General with a crime prevention program, to be run by volunteers and focused on Florida’s growing senior population. The program was to be called the Seniors vs. Crime Project. Volunteers, now called Senior Sleuths at the suggestion of the Attorney General, became more active in assisting law enforcement.

Examples of work performed by Senior Sleuths range from checking on scanner prices at supermarkets and counting pills when picking up prescription medications to performing undercover stings that captured salespeople utilizing high pressure sales techniques and engaging in false and deceptive practices.

What started as a fairly small organization, primarily on the (Florida) East Coast, has now grown statewide with over 2,000 Senior Sleuths. While methods used by the Project may change over the years the goal will remain the same – prevent victimization and provide a way for seniors to contribute to the safety of all Floridians.

Cases similar to timeshare handled by Senior Sleuths

An Auto Dealership Complaint

They told the salesman they wanted payments not to exceed $250 per month. When they returned they learned the monthly payment was $587 per month. The dealership agreed to take the automobile back and refund monies paid.  

This is a common timeshare complaint. Members report they are told they will be paying one loan amount but the actual loan amount turns out to be much higher. Also, many are told their maintenance fees will go down if they buy more points, but maintenance fees end up being higher.

A Going on Vacation Complaint

A St. Augustine couple signed up for a vacation membership with a travel agency that cost $2500. The couple could not access the website that promised them vacation discounts. Through no fault of their own, they were not able to access the website for five days. Once they finally gained access, they realized they could have arranged vacations on their own for a lower price than that offered by the membership website. The travel agent initially cited that the time to rescind the contracts had lapsed as presented on the website. Ultimately the couple was reimbursed the $2500.

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from readers who describe how the company and/or the sales agent were able to dodge the rescission period by not allowing access to the booking site until after the rescission period had passed or saying bogus programs to sell points or pay maintenance fees would not be available until after the first of the year.    

Seniors vs Crime online complaint form (a description of how the program works is below) https://sites.google.com/a/svcproject.com/intakecenter/onlinecomplaint

How the Seniors vs Crime project works:

Victim must make the request. The services of the Seniors Vs Crime Project must be requested by the victim in the complaint. The Project cannot respond to suggestions that a third party has a problem and should be contacted. Victims may be assisted in filing their complaint by family, friends or Power of Attorneys but the victim must sign the Request for Assistance form before assistance can be rendered.

Two Options for Assistance.  When requesting assistance from the Senior Sleuths at a Project Office, a person has two options. The person may only be looking for coaching “assistance” through a situation. Seniors Sleuths can advise the senior on how to handle a particular matter and not get involved with anyone except the senior. The victim is not required to sign anything to receive this type of assistance. It’s just one senior talking with/advising another senior.

A second option is for a Senior Sleuth to intervene and represent the complainant. In these instances the Senior Sleuth will thoroughly research the complaint and attempt to mitigate the case with all parties involved. Many people, initially only seek advice, then after some discussion they quickly realize the situation is more complex, so they ask for a Senior Sleuth to assist in resolving the situation. This second option does require written authorization from the victim.

Civil Disputes involve many Civil Actions. All of the civil proceedings are expensive and arduous, and out of the financial and emotional reach of most seniors. While many civil lawsuits against scams are successful, to make matters worse, the proceedings expose a senior who has been scammed to public display for being naive or foolish, which is effectively making the victim a victim again. And making the victim a third time victim, most often when a senior “plaintiff” wins a civil case the efforts to collect the court award involve another long civil process. The Seniors Vs Crime Project’s Senior Sleuths do everything possible to reach a settlement for a senior without cost and without public or family embarrassment.

If you are involved in a civil situation and you request the Seniors Vs Crime Project’s assistance, the Senior Sleuths assigned to your case will do everything possible to reach a settlement without cost to you and without public or family embarrassment. Senior Sleuths are successful in a high percentage of cases. http://www.seniorsvscrime.com/history

Timeshare self-help groups:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/465692163568779/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1639958046252175/

Related articles: Unauthorized credit card charges and

Timeshare Advocacy Group’s complaint form

https://www.thebalance.com/what-to-do-about-unauthorized-credit-card-charges-960260

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-5/

Inside Timeshare is pleased that the Attorney General’s Office is taking this matter very seriously, when you consider the number of complaints that we are receiving with the number going up on an almost daily basis, this is certainly a matter that needs to be dealt with.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other article published, use our contact page to get in touch. If you require any help or advice about any company that contacts you or you have found on the internet, then Inside Timeshare is here to help.

We would also like to inform our Danish (& Scandinavian) readers of a new website which Inside Timeshare is collaborating with:

https://www.timesharehjelpen.com

We will be sharing our information and reporting on each others articles. We wish this new site all the best.

Remember do your homework and keep your money safe.