Browse Category

End of Week

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today’s article by Irene Parker looks at “whistleblowers”, Irene attended a Whistleblowers Summit in Washington DC and for Irene it was a real eye opener.

As for timeshare matters in Europe, it is very quiet, although one new cold calling company has been reported on the Mindtimeshare website. They are called Services Juridico Reservations and are based in Marrakech, they appear to be contacting mainly Dutch owners at the present with the usual tale of a “guaranteed buyer” for their timeshare.

The offer is a substantial cash amount, although the timeshare owner does not have to travel to Marrakesh, everything can be done by telephone or email. There is no upfront fee, but there will be a large amount to pay for “TAX” for the sale to go through.

The telephone number is +212 609 158 457 with a standard gmail email address: [email protected] which is not linked to any website. They give the address as Boulevard Mohamed VI Plazza D4, 40000 Marrakech, Morroc.

We just wonder how long it will be before other nationalities in Europe are contacted by this dubious outfit.

Now for this weeks article.

Timeshare Fraud and Whistleblower Retaliation

By Irene Parker

August 10 2018

Whistleblower definition:

A whistleblower is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public. The information of alleged wrongdoing can be classified in many ways: violation of company policy/rules, law, regulation, or threat to public interest/national security, as well as fraud, and corruption.

Those who become whistleblowers can choose to bring information or allegations to surface either internally or externally. Internally, a whistleblower can bring her accusations to the attention of other people within the accused organization. Externally, a whistleblower can bring allegations to light by contacting a third party outside of an accused organization such as the media, government, law enforcement, or those who are concerned. Whistleblowers, however, take the risk of facing stiff reprisal and retaliation from those who are accused or alleged of wrongdoing.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower

I had the privilege of attending the Whistleblowers Summit held July 30 – August 1 in Washington DC. A frequent comment Charles Thomas and I hear from timeshare members, after describing how they were defrauded by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents is, “It helps to know I am not alone.” That’s how I felt meeting and listening to fellow whistleblowers.

https://www.opednews.com/articles/Whistleblowing-Works–12-by-Marta-Steele-Civil-Advocacy_Civil-Liberties_Civil-Rights_Civil-Rights-Violations-180801-756.html

One remarkable whistleblower at the Whistleblowers Summit was Aaron Westrick, Ph.D. Dr. Westrick, former Director for Research and Marketing at Second Chance Body, received a Pillar Award for exposing defective bulletproof vests. One police officer died and another injured when the vests did not hold up. Dr. Westrick explained how he had been fired from his company for exposing corruption and how he endured a 14 year legal battle as a result of his truth telling.

https://www.whistleblowersblog.org/2018/08/articles/whistleblower-news/bullet-proof-vest-whistleblower-aaron-westrick-receives-pillar-award/

When it was suggested I attend the Whistleblowers Summit, I thought I was attending on behalf of 68 members of law enforcement and military, veterans and active duty, who reached out to Inside Timeshare describing how they had been defrauded by timeshare sales agents. Veteran Administration whistleblowers were well represented. However, in the last few weeks, I have learned that I am a target of retaliation as a result of my attempts to expose fraud.    

Inside Timeshare has heard from 528 timeshare members angry beyond words. I believe highly educated, professional timeshare members alleging fraud over the timeshare sales agents they accuse. There are too many patterns of identical complaints and too many repeat offenders to be ignored. We have been contacted by senior after senior, up-sold into foreclosure. The foreclosure process is demeaning and demoralizing. For the young, unwittingly signing a perpetual contract with no secondary market, the credit downgrade is long lasting.

Two timeshare members are working on their own articles.

One member attended a timeshare presentation in Las Vegas. According to the member, he told the sales agent his wife purchased a deeded timeshare week 18 years ago and he had hated the timeshare for 18 years. He explained that he had never attended a timeshare presentation until this presentation, which he attended only to learn how to exit. The sales agent told him that in order to be eligible for the voluntary surrender program he would need to convert his deed to points. This was blatantly false. Many deeded timeshare members have surrendered their deed. The sales agent sold the member $12,000 worth of points for no reason. Worse, the timeshare company requires a six month waiting period before applying for a surrender, to capture 2019 maintenance fees.

Past articles have mentioned timeshare customer service representatives responding to members, “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” After we published this response, the line was changed to, “It sounds like a he said, she said,” as this member was told.

The other timeshare member was also up-sold by a Las Vegas timeshare agent. Six months ago a disabled veteran recorded a blatantly fraudulent up-sell. The recording was so obviously fraudulent you would have assumed the agent would be fired. Not so. Inside Timeshare received a complaint this week from a timeshare member reporting they had been defrauded by this same timeshare sales agent and that the sales agent told the member he was assigned to the highest loyalty level members. Two sales agents with this distinction had been fired, but only after years of complaints.

Wells Fargo made national headlines when they admitted allowing their representatives to open bogus accounts. It’s annoying to have an unauthorized credit card opened, but timeshare members report being defrauded out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Complaints involving $100,000 to $200,000 are not uncommon.

In the case of Wells Fargo, at least victims could file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Timeshare buyers could not effectively file a CFPB complaint because the timeshare company services the loan. The filer has to select a lender from the CFPB drop down menu and a timeshare company is not a choice.

It doesn’t matter what you are blowing the whistle on. I learned at the Whistleblowers Summit you can expect retaliation. In the case of Wells Fargo whistleblower Jessie Guiltron:

Jessie Guitron began working for Wells Fargo in 2008. Soon after, though, she realized they all faced a company-mandated quota to sign up new accounts. Some of her colleagues, she noticed, were promising to open free accounts for clients but signing them up for premium accounts which came with hefty fees. Customers were overdrawn, and their credit ruined.

“I kept complaining and complaining, and nothing ever gets done,” Guitron says. “I was doing what my conscience was telling me to do. It’s fraud. That’s what it is.”

Trying to stop that fraud put a target on her back. She was fired in 2010, she says, without warning. Unable to find a new job and believing she had been blackballed, Guitron filed a lawsuit claiming Wells Fargo fired her for speaking out against the fraudulent practices she witnessed.

But then, two years later, her claims against Wells Fargo were dismissed.

“I was deflated,” Guitron says. “I was like, ‘OK, I’m done.'”

In 2016, the world around her changed when the government accused Wells Fargo Bank of opening numerous accounts without their clients’ consent.  

https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/whistleblower-wells-fargo-fraud-could-have-been-stopped/

Like Bernie Madoff, unscrupulous timeshare sales agents and unscrupulous timeshare companies don’t care who they hurt. It is our hope that someday, some regulator will listen and respond. All timeshare complaints filed by our readers with the Nevada and Florida Attorneys General offices have been dismissed with, “You have no proof” or “You should not have relied on verbal representations.” In effect, there is no timeshare regulation in those states, at least not for the 528 members reporting back to us. Echoing the timeshare company’s “You have no proof,” provides a green light for fraud.

Like other whistleblowers, I have no regrets and would do nothing different. I would rather be attacked than ignored to shed light on so many responsible families financially devastated by decades of predatory, aggressive and fraudulent timeshare sales. Of course there are honest timeshare sales agents and happy timeshare members. Of course not all sales agents are dishonest, but researching Attorneys General investigations, lawsuits and complaints, Charles and I are not alone in our desire to take back our vacations. If only the developers and their law firms would take off the blinders. Charles and I know truth is our best defense.

If you have a question or concern about a timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or an advocacy group.

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/

Related articles:

How to File a Timeshare Complaint  

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-teusday-slot-with-irene/

The St. Louis Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

Thank you Irene, I know that you found the Whistleblowers Summit very intriguing and made many new contacts there. It is through people like those mentioned here that the truth is made public, without them large corporations and governments would get away with murder. Keep up the good work.

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, time for the beach, pool and BBQ’s, have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today we publish an article from a new contributor, Meryl Stefan, with the introduction from our very own Irene Parker, but first a quick look at Europe.

Another warning is being issued on a fraudulent resale company which has just come to our attention, Mundo Tours Viajes SAC, with the address, Calle Serrano 78, 28006 Madrid – Spain, Tel: +34603108836 a Spanish mobile,  fax +34 917693079, a Madrid number. The email address is [email protected], which is an email  address provider just like gmail or yahoo and is not linked to any company website. None of the registration numbers show up on any Spanish registry and are false, Licencia S.A. 253797/ES , Registro mercantil 679-369-GOY-98.

There is a genuine Mundo Tours SAC, but this is registered in Lima Peru and is a genuine tour company, it has nothing to do with this operation in Spain. The paperwork sent to the client even has the logo of the genuine company at the top, including the company name as it appears on the genuine website. Again we see a fraudulent operation using the name of a genuine company to give some credibility when you do a search on the internet, this is a ploy that has been used for many years.

Click to see a PDF of the letter.

mundo_tours  

According to our information they tell the timeshare owner they have a buyer for the timeshare, this buyer has offered a substantial amount 27,000€ and is a guaranteed sale even naming the buyer! The only thing is to get the sale underway and sort out all the legal paperwork and transfer, a large sum of money is required. In the case of our reader, this amounted to 2,900€, which needed to be paid upfront!

Remember, as far as resales are concerned, there is no resale market, timeshares do not sell for the fantastic amounts these companies tell you, there are no “guaranteed” buyers. Just look on ebay, people can’t even give them away, even if they are fixed weeks and cheap on management fees!

We have also had a few emails from readers who have been asking the question on The Timeshare Association, another website trying to fool owners that they are genuine and concerned about owners. They have all asked the same question and it is the logo that has confused them, “we thought the Timeshare Association was part of TATOC, and they no longer exist, is this Timeshare Association the same as the logo is very very similar to the original?”

Simple answer is NO they are not the original, they have hijacked the name and the logo, again this little enterprise has none other that David Cox from TESS behind it. How do we know David Cox is behind it, they tell you on the website, plus just read the news, it is unmistakably Cox’s writing, full of grammatical errors, sentences that don’t make any sense and his usual diatribe against all and sundry.

The one problem is that the names that are the front for this website are the ones in the firing line when it comes to those being slated take the matter to court. They are the ones who are the “company” and therefore will be the ones held accountable. Do they actually realise what they have let themselves be drawn into?

We let you the reader decide on that one, now on with our letter from America.

Americano Beach Resort – post Hurricanes Matthew and Irma

What does the Future Hold?

By Meryl Stefan

Introduction by Irene Parker

July 27, 2018

Inside Timeshare published our first Americano Beach Resort article June 19. Since then we have heard from several Americano owners wondering what their vacation future holds. Obviously, no developer benefits by keeping a resort closed unnecessarily. The issues at stake are complex for both sides.

ARC has a public website that provides construction updates. According to the website, work is progressing. The installation of new windows is underway. One major area of concern to owners is the possibility of additional special assessments. According to ARC FAQs, no additional special assessments are planned, but that uncertainty remains, especially for seniors on a fixed income.    

http://www.americanobeach.com/irma-update-center.html

From our prior article:

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. http://www.insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-9/

By Meryl Stefan

We have been an Americano owner for 22 Years. One of our primary concerns is the special assessment of $1,834 levied because of hurricane damage and the possibility of future assessments. We can accept that increase might have been necessary, but on top of possible additional special assessments, it’s too much for many seniors like us living on a fixed income.  

Hurricanes can’t be predicted, but I feel that by now ARC should have been able to determine how much money will be needed and how much owners will be required to pay. If this was a one time assessment of $1834, we would understand that there could be a shortfall in insurance. The ambiguity of possible unknown assessments has forced us to walk away because of not knowing the extent of the liability. In addition to the special assessment, we paid our 2018 maintenance fee, booked a week for June 2018, but then learned the reservation had been cancelled.  

We originally paid $6,500 for a floating summer week. Maintenance fees in 2016 were $899. In 2017 they increased to $1,086. We never had a problem paying annual maintenance fees. We had always been able to book any week as long as it was 60 days in advance. I always paid my maintenance fees in January and then booked our week.

I am 65 years old, and my husband John is 75. We just don’t know what to do. We have always been responsible citizens. This is painful for us, and I know it is for many others as well. We had two other timeshares which we gave away to friends and family. We wanted to keep Americano so that we could vacation there every year with our family.

We attended one ARC meeting June 2017, after hurricane Matthew, but before Irma, after ARC acquired Americano. They tried to get us to buy into a different plan, which required more money. We declined. ARC agents wanted us to upgrade. They showed us many pictures, but the plans did not seem practical. We did not like the remodel proposed.

Comments from members,

We have heard nothing as far as an opening date other than possibly January 2019.  One member reported that he had heard it could be a couple of years before it might open. New windows are being installed but nothing has been done on the inside as far as anyone knows.

Since June 1, there have been 72 units deeded back to the Association. Some who have deeded back are under non-disclosure agreements so cannot reveal the circumstances.  Some claimed hardship, some are individuals who may have completed special warranty deeds and have submitted them to the court for filing.

The Freedom 365 plan (described below) has been purchased by some members, but other members have reported that they will not pay special assessments; although some have paid, hoping it will open.  

Many Americano owners are senior citizens now. The majority just want out of their obligation.  Some have hired attorneys but members should do due diligence before retaining any lawyer or timeshare exit company, as scams abound.

ARC has offered owners at all their resorts the opportunity to get out of the perpetual deeded timeshare by deeding the property over to ARC via the new Freedom 365 plan.

http://perspectivemagazine.com/060320175942/arc-delivers-membership-adaptability-with-freedom-365

https://www.insidethegate.com/2017/03/arc-delivers-membership-adaptability-with-freedom-365/

One owner reported that ARC Freedom 365 requires a purchase price ranging from $12,995 to $21,995. Another owner reported being quoted $5,000. For some seniors on a fixed income, spending more money is not a viable option. One member expressed reservations about Freedom 365, because she said she would need to book one year in advance. A member provided this description.

The Freedom 365 Platform gives you unlimited weeks of travel in timeshare accommodations for $299, any size, any season, anywhere. Additionally the ARC Platform gives you access to inventory not available through RCI or II at great rates!

Our future retirees love the fact that they will have travel dreams fulfilled in their retirement with our RENEWABLE CURRENCY (Savings Dollars)! A currency that not only allows them to get GUARANTEED best rates on hotels and cruises but restaurants, and thousands of everyday products and services!!

Additionally we offer the opportunity for you to discover Europe without paying for your accommodations through our Heritage Program!

Let’s take a look at your options. Do nothing, keep your unit, and in ten years you will pay over $12,000 (without inflation or assessments) and get 1 week of vacation every year. You will have an expensive week of vacation, a liability that will continue to get more expensive and difficult to opt out of.

Trade in your unit and replace them with the Freedom 365 platform and a Deed to a 2 bedroom at Magic Tree, our ARC resort in Orlando if you are interested in continuing to own a deed or have RCI points (the maintenance fee is $600 per year but is given back to you in Savings Dollars to use for future travel or to purchase products and services 365 Days a year)

Trade in your unit, have no deeded liability and use the unlimited weeks through Freedom 365 for $299 for all of your travel needs. Additionally you will enjoy $2000 savings dollars per year to travel to hotels, take cruises, purchase products, entertainment and even restaurant cards using your renewable currency.

ARC worked in cooperation with RCI Club 365 on ARC’s Freedom 365 plan:

The benefits of Club 365 are wide-ranging, with multiple uses for affiliates in North America. Club 365 can be seamlessly integrated into virtually any sales process, and can be utilized to best suit business needs by serving as:

  • A low-cost, value-added benefit to enhance core product offerings
  • An enhanced purchase incentive to increase closing rates
  • A strong non-buyer program to increase revenue and build the pipeline of future prospects

https://rciaffiliates.com/north-america/en-us/rci-news/rci-launches-club-365-to-deliver-year-round-benefits/

From the FAQs found on the ARC website

In addition, ARC sponsors a travel & leisure discount program called Freedom 365 which affords its members steep discounts on cruises, hotel & resort stays and consumer products. ARC Freedom 365 is not a deeded product, and the Member may remain so for as long as they like or may cancel their membership at any time.

From Irene

Americano members are seeking answers they hope will be forthcoming. Posting answers to questions on the ARC website helped me understand the situation better. It looks like there is a long way to go, but progress is in the works. Owners hope to be able to vacation with families and friends as they have in the past.  

If you or anyone you know has a timeshare story to share, or needs help with a timeshare issue, contact Inside Timeshare or one of the following self-help members sponsored Facebooks and websites. Remember not to pay anyone to get you out of your timeshare without checking with Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups below. Meryl paid two exit companies $395 each to get out of her timeshare, to no avail.

This Better Business Bureau report, released July 24, 2018, is the subject of next Friday’s Inside Timeshare:

In this report, we look at all aspects of the timeshare process — from buying an initial property to attempts by businesses to sell consumers on vacation club memberships to consumer endeavors to divest themselves of their timeshare investments. BBB advises consumers to use extreme caution when considering the purchase of a timeshare or vacation club offering.

https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/18149-dont-fall-for-deception-pressure-and-traps-disguised-as-vacations-a-better-business-bureau-study-of-the-missouri-timeshare-vacation-club-industry?bbbid=0734

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/

Thank you Meryl and Irene, a very informative article, we just hope that some kind of resolution is forthcoming. Next week in our Tuesday Slot we highlight another Veterans “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, this contributor has requested anonymity which we have agreed. We welcome our readers to submit their stories, we will always respect their wishes if they wish not to be named.

Well here we are again the end of another week, Friday and the weekend beckons, whatever you are doing, having a BBQ or just relaxing down at the beach or pool, have a great weekend and join us next week.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker looks at Whistleblowers of America and their report to the Veterans Affairs Committee. As we have reported in previous articles, we have received many complaints from veterans who have had very bad experiences with timeshare sales agents. These practices are unexceptable and need to be stopped, but that can only come from the top of the timeshare companies, if they have the will to do it!

Now for some news from the Spanish courts, more legal history has been made at the Supreme Court in Madrid, Silverpoint has had another 2 judgements made against them, bringing the total of rulings from Spain’s Highest Court to to 126!

The tally this week is:

2 Supreme Court against Silverpoint;

3 more Court of First Instance against Anfi del Mar;

3 Provisional executions of sentence against Anfi del Mar, (this has secured over 93,000€ for clients with Anfi depositing the funds at the court of San Bartelomé de Tirajana);

2 High Court victories against Diamond Resorts International.

In the Diamond sentences, the clients have been awarded their full purchase price plus double deposit for a total of 19,504€ and 30,000€ respectively. These and the contracts for the clients above have all been declared null and void.

In total the 7 sentences amount to over 370,000€ another expensive week for the timeshare industry in Spain. All these cases have been brought on behalf of clients from all over Europe by none other than those intrepid lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance.

As we near the end of July, we only have one more week where the courts are working, August is the annual close down, so we will see no new cases being heard until September.

Now on with our Letter from America.

Whistleblower Retaliation against Government Workers, Employees, Timeshare Members and Timeshare Sales Agents

62 out of 500 timeshare complaints we have received are from veteran and active duty members of the military and law enforcement

A Whistleblower Summit in Washington D.C. July 30 – 31

http://whistleblowersummit.com/

By Irene Parker

July 20, 2018

There are several federal and state laws in place to protect government and corporate employee whistleblowers from retaliation, but whistleblowing is never easy and can take a personal toll. A whistleblower friend of mine suggested I attend the Whistleblower Summit linked above, because of threats and accusations our advocates, Charles and I have received over the past two years. I have heard the following false statements made about Inside Timeshare and our advocates through the timeshare grapevine:

  • That our articles are based on false information. Many articles are submitted by our readers, which I edit, or the content provided by our readers.
  • Our advocates are compensated financially for assisting members,
  • Our advocates are practicing law,
  • Our advocates are compensated for soliciting business for lawyers,
  • We’re targeting certain timeshare sales agents (we call repeat offenders)

Articles written by timeshare members describing their timeshare experiences are revealing and important. One of the Whistleblower Summit presentations I am looking forward to attending is titled,

Unleashing the Power of – YOUR – Story

Moderated by Gloria Minott, Public Affairs Director WPFW

“Story is what defines us and set us apart. It’s what allows us to connect with each other. Story is powerful. Story is grossly misunderstood. A good story has conflict, but ultimately resolved. A story is messy and full of confusion, but there is meaning and completeness to it. Stories have natural momentum to them, fueling our passion to find out more from the teller. Stories are laden with bait and intrigue, with suspense and tension. Stories are provocative.” Jeff Goins

Whistleblowers of America is a nonprofit organization assisting whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation after having identified harm to individuals or the public. Founder Jackie Garrick will moderate a panel discussion at the upcoming Whistleblower Summit that will address resilience after retaliation

“My numbers are going up with new reports every day,” says Jackie Garrick, founder of Whistleblowers of America (WoA). Garrick created WoA earlier this year after discovering firsthand how difficult the process of reporting wrongdoing can be, and the personal toll it can take on the people blowing the whistle. By offering up the help and insight of former government insiders and whistleblowers like herself, Garrick is hoping to not only encourage more people to come forward, but also to simply support them once they do so.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/04/10/va-whistleblowers-under-threat-seek-help-from-outside.html

So far the only information available on timeshare whistleblowers concerns a lawsuit in which a jury awarded former Wyndham timeshare sales agent Trish Williams $20 million.  

She is also a rarity: a whistle-blower who has succeeded in bringing to light abuses at a powerful corporation that wanted to keep them hidden.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html

Despite several relatively recent Attorneys General investigations and settlements, lawsuits galore, and a flood of internet complaints, the timeshare industry continues to place blame on their customers and on advocacy groups. In other words, the industry believes Inside Timeshare either invented 500 timeshare complaints or that the 500 members would be happy timeshare members had they not read Inside Timeshare articles or joined one of several members sponsored advocacy Facebooks and websites. Almost all of the 500 members are highly educated, professional, high credit score citizens. At least they had a high credit score until they were sold or upsold into timeshare insolvency.

It doesn’t matter how many millions love their timeshare. What matters is that the majority of the 500 families have alleged they were fraudulently sold a timeshare product. All but a handful received an automatic “You signed a contract” dismissal from the timeshare company.

Whistleblower advice for corporations and agencies from Findlaw.com:

How (Corporations) can Avoid Whistleblower Claims

Here are a few steps that you (a corporation) can take to reduce the risk that your company will be subject to such a lawsuit. In parenthesis are my observations as they apply to timeshare:

  • Don’t retaliate — Try to remember not to treat employees (timeshare members) that have complained about your company any differently than those who have not.
  • Have a complaint policy in place and be sure to use it — It is a good idea to have a complaint policy in place, even if it is not required by law. Train and educate your employees in using the system. Once you have your complaint policy in place be sure to abide by it. (According to member reports, the timeshare complaint policy has been to provide the complaining member with their initials on fine print and dismiss them with, “You signed a contract” or “We’re not responsible for what our sales agents say.”)
  • Investigate all credible complaints — If you receive an internal complaint about alleged wrongdoing, be sure to investigate it, so long as it is credible. If you find that the complaint was truthful, take the steps needed to remedy the situation.(The timeshare member has often reported that they were told they were wrong and the timeshare sales agent judged truthful)
  • Be careful in disciplining whistleblowers for other misconduct — If you have a whistleblower in your company that needs to be disciplined for other conduct you must be very careful. Get evidence to support your claim that you are disciplining for reasons other than the whistleblowing and make sure the employee knows the reason he or she is being disciplined.

 

https://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/employment-law-and-human-resources/whistleblower-retaliation-could-land-you-in-trouble.html

Following the above advice would eliminate the need for timeshare advocacy groups and whistleblowers.

United in Speaking Truth to Power

www.whistleblowersofamerica.org @whistleP2P

601 Pennsylvania Ave, South Tower, Suite 900 Washington, DC 20004

Jackie presented testimony to the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs March 14, 2018. She included Timeshare Advocacy Group’s veteran timeshare fraud report in her statement. Several of the 62 veteran timeshare members we have assisted struggle with disabilities and PTSD as described in the report. Jackie believes that retaliation can cause PTSD.     

  • The veteran population has very complex needs due to unique exposures/injury during military complicated by having two plus significant medical problems in one patient.
  • Veterans experience Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Brain Disorder (PTSD). According to the CDC, about 40,000 Americans die by suicide each year making it the 10th   leading cause of death. (Several of the veterans we have helped struggle with PTSD and TBI, one is a decorated Marine, and another a Marine who earned two Purple Hearts.)
  • Agent Orange exposure – For example, eye cancers are a continuous issue. (Two of our disabled veteran timeshare members are disabled from Agent Orange exposure)
  • Gulf War Illness – Illness haunts Gulf War veterans. (One of the timeshare members served in the Gulf War and is on 25 meds)
  • Camp LeJeune: Due to water contamination at the Marine Corps Base, Camp LeJeune, increased reports of cancer in veterans and their families have been documented over the last several decades related to the solvents in water.
  • Burn Pit Exposure: Those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11 were exposed to a concoction of burning substances on military installations that has caused them to raise health concerns from cancers to respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. (One of the members we assisted was diagnosed with blood cancer having lived next to a burn pit in Basra)

Statement of

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C

Executive Director

Whistleblowers of America

Before the

Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

March 14, 2018

Fraud and Scams Against Veterans:

Although WoA recognizes that it is not inherent within the VA mission to protect veterans from fraud and scams that could cost them their benefits, it suggests that it could be assistive in educating veterans against these unscrupulous tactics. For example, WoA has had multiple complaints from veterans related to timeshare deceit and bait and switch tactics, which are defined by the FBI as fraud for profit.  Often elderly veterans are mentioned as being targeted by the Timeshare Advocacy Group, TM which fights for active duty and retired military who fear losing their security clearance, career, homes or other assets.  Foreclosures and financial distress because of these misrepresented investments are happening every day to elderly disabled veterans and their families. In the past, VA has cooperated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over mortgage and other loan scams that caused financial hardships for veterans.  Home loans and timeshare loans are identical as both are reported as foreclosures. WoA asks that Congress consider a role for the VBA Employment and Economic Initiative (EEI) could play in cooperation with CFPB to educate and protect veterans from unscrupulous financial predators and fraudulent practices.

Jacqueline Garrick is a former Army social work officer who has worked in the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense as well as for the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  She is a subject matter expert in mental health and program evaluation. She is an advocate for disabled veterans and the use of peer support to improve resilience in traumatized populations.  She founded Whistleblowers of America in 2017 based on her experience reporting attempted fraud with DoD Suicide prevention funds.

We thank Jackie and Whistleblowers for their support. It is our hope that through public awareness and knowledge, the consumer will be better able to make an informed decision as to whether a timeshare, especially one financed at 17%, is a good idea for the family.

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

That’s it for this week, Friday is upon us and the weekend beckons, on Monday we will be publishing the court cases against Diamond and how Spanish law is protecting consumers, we will be comparing this with what is happening across the Great Lake with our US cousins.

Inside Timeshare would like to thank all contributors to these articles and also to those who supply the evidence and information on the “fake” companies that are trying to rip you off. It is your valuable information which goes to help and save others from these unscrupulous charlatans.

Remember to check, check and check again, doing your homework will save you your hard earned cash. If you are unsure how to check, then use our contact page, we will be happy to point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week at Inside Timeshare.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today Irene Parker asks a very important question, What is a Defamatory Statement? This is in fact a very appropriate article considering Irene and Inside Timeshare have been accused of making them in respect of some of our readers “experience” stories. Inside Timeshare asks this question, how can a statement be defamatory if it is someone sharing an experience they have had with a particular company?

We started the week with an article highlighting two new companies that are what can only be described as dubious, the first was Davies & Howell Associates Ltd, with a registered address in London. They claim to have over 40 years of timeshare experience and can extricate owners from their timeshare, along with gaining them compensation.

The other is Ashton Group, apparently based in Nottingham, they have been cold calling timeshare owners with the same type of story. They apparently have a legal representative going by the name of Sir Drummond McFadzean!

So far no company record or website has been found about them, which is never a good sign.

On Tuesday, Irene published the 2nd quarter report from the The Timeshare Advocacy Group™, considering it is only halfway through the year, the number of pleas for help is huge. Thank you to all the advocates who work so hard to help these readers.

Another dubious setup was reported on Wednesday, this concerns a company called Positive Outcome – Contractual Specialists, with the names Lance Steer and Joanne Johnson. It turns out from information received that Lance Steer is in fact one Lance Oakley, a former Diamond sales agent who also worked for EZE Group. Again they claim to be able to get you out of your contract and claim compensation.

Now on with our letter from America.

What is a Defamatory Statement?  

When to File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

Irene Parker

July 13, 2018

The above cartoon was not selected to play partisan politics. It was selected because it is thought provoking. Clearly the elephant is a Democrat and is feeling defamed. Does that mean he or she was defamed? For EU readers who may not be familiar with our political symbols, the Republican Party portrays the elephant as their mascot.  

Inside Timeshare always considers defamation. Our stance is that truth is not defamatory. The reports received from 496 timeshare members describe deceptive and unfair trade practices. A pattern of complaints creates compelling and compounding evidence, even without hard evidence like a recorded conversation. If timeshare companies and some state regulators are over relying on the oral representation clause, the public needs to be aware that they should not believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. Are our readers’ allegations defamatory?   

Definition of defamation in law (from Webster’s Dictionary)

The act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person

Following is an excerpt from a New York Times article. I have edited out the names because we are exploring the topic of defamation, not singling out any one timeshare company. Are the following statements defamatory?

New York Times economics specialist devoted a long article…. One timeshare owner told the journalist: “The Company is much more ambitious, aggressive and downright nasty in their sales presentations compared to other companies. This Company just has an amazing reputation of being tough on people.”

A 77-year-old California woman said a 5-hour hard sell left her “shaking.” The Company gave her a voided receipt for a $4,840 charge on her credit card: “The representatives had been so certain that she would agree to the offer that they had charged her card for the down payment – even though she had not given approval,” the Times reported.

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints and published many articles submitted by timeshare members who say they were not aware a credit card had been opened or that they had been charged for the purchase of a timeshare product.

Unlike Wells Fargo victims, the timeshare buyer complaining of the unauthorized opening of a credit card, or unauthorized charges, often could not file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB has lost influence since the roll-back of the Dodd Frank Act, but even before the agency’s demise, timeshare buyers could not easily file a CFPB complaint because the timeshare company serviced the loan. A lender must be selected from a dropdown menu. Timeshare companies are not an option. When the member selected the bank that issued the credit card, the bank would respond that they did not actually sell the timeshare points or fill out the application for a credit card. End of story.  

The response from the company to the article:

The CEO said he had “belligerently zero tolerance” for any of his sales representatives who “goes off script.”  

In my opinion, some companies could care less if their sales agent “goes off script” unless the buyer happens to work for the media or holds a smoking guy, like a recording of a fraudulent transaction. Two of our readers who worked for the media resolved their dispute in one day. According to FBI agents our readers have contacted, or attorneys I checked with, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” is in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission’s Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act.

In order to determine whether an act or practice is “unfair,” the FDIC will consider whether the practice “causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which cannot be reasonably avoided by consumers themselves and are not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.” (5)

To correct deceptive trade practices, the FDIC will take action against representations, omissions, or practices that are likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances, and are likely to cause such consumers harm. The FDIC will focus on material misrepresentations or omissions, that is, those that affect choices made by consumers because such misrepresentations are most likely to cause consumers financial harm. 6

https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/compliance/manual/7/vii-1.1.pdf

Almost all members reporting are highly professional, educated people, alleging they were a victim of unfair and deceptive trade practices. All but a handful were angry, desperate, overwhelmed, and confused until empowered with straight answers about how to report and rectify their timeshare nightmare. A few were just tired of aggressive attempts to sell them more points. They just wanted out.  

More on Defamation

http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/what-defamatory-statement

A defamatory statement is a false statement of fact that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, causes him to be shunned, or injures him in his business or trade. Statements that are merely offensive are not defamatory (e.g., a statement that Bill smells badly would not be sufficient (and would likely be an opinion anyway)). Courts generally examine the full context of a statement’s publication when making this determination.

In rare cases, a plaintiff can be “libel-proof”, meaning he or she has a reputation so tarnished that it couldn’t be brought any lower, even by the publication of false statements of fact.

Defamatory statements that disparage a company’s goods or services are called trade libel. Trade libel protects property rights, not reputations. While you can’t damage a company’s “reputation,” you can damage the company by disparaging its goods or services.

Because a statement must be false to be defamatory, a statement of opinion cannot form the basis of a defamation claim because it cannot be proven true or false. For example, the statement that Bill is a short-tempered jerk is clearly a statement of opinion because it cannot be proven to be true or false. Again, courts will look at the context of the statement as well as its substance to determine whether it is opinion or a factual assertion. Adding the words “in my opinion” generally will not be sufficient to transform a factual statement to a protected opinion. For example, there is no legal difference between the following two statements, both of which could be defamatory if false:

“John stole $100 from the corner store last week.”

“In my opinion, John stole $100 from the corner store last week.”

For more information on the difference between statements of fact and opinion, see the section on Opinion and Fair Comment Privileges.

Defamation Per Se  

Some statements of fact are so egregious that they will always be considered defamatory. Such statements are typically referred to as defamation “per se.” These types of statements are assumed to harm the plaintiff’s reputation, without further need to prove that harm. Statements are defamatory per se where they falsely impute to the plaintiff one or more of the following things:

  • a criminal offense;
  • a loathsome disease;
  • matter incompatible with his business, trade, profession, or office; or
  • serious sexual misconduct.

It is important to remember that truth is an absolute defense to defamation, including per se defamation. If the statement is true, it cannot be defamatory. For more information see the section on Substantial Truth.

Emily Doskow, attorney

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/defamation-law-made-simple-29718.html

  1. A defamatory statement must be false — otherwise it’s not considered damaging. Even terribly mean or disparaging things are not defamatory if the shoe fits. Most opinions don’t count as defamation because they can’t be proved to be objectively false. For instance, when a reviewer says, “That was the worst book I’ve read all year,” she’s not defaming the author, because the statement can’t be proven to be false.
  2. The statement must be “injurious.” Since the whole point of defamation law is to take care of injuries to reputation, those suing for defamation must show how their reputations were hurt by the false statement — for example, the person lost work; was shunned by neighbors, friends, or family members; or was harassed by the press. Someone who already had a terrible reputation most likely won’t collect much in a defamation suit.

Scotty Black is a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocate. The FBI definition of white-collar crime is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Scotty has an MS in Criminal Justice and works in law enforcement. A few months ago Scotty sent me the criminal code that stated that someone aware that a crime may have been committed must report the alleged crime because it is a crime not to report a crime. When timeshare members report actions that meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime, FBI agents have advised us that we should direct those members to file a complaint with the FBI at IC3.gov and with the FTC.

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

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/

Related article: Timeshare Advocacy Group™

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-11/

That’s it for this week, we shall be busy watching the World Cup Finals this weekend, unfortunately England didn’t make it to this years final, that is between France and Belgium.

Have a good weekend and join us next week for more information and more stories on the world of timeshare.

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.

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.

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.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today we highlight two families who have been up-sold by Diamond, Gad and Noreen Liebmann who are staging a protest outside Diamond’s Daytona Beach Resort and Sheilah and Thomas Brust. These stories are another in the series of  “A Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, but first a quick roundup from Europe.

It has been reported that yet another “Relinquishment and Claims” company is in liquidation, Standon Mortimer Associates. This company is one in a long line that informed clients that they could lodge a “no win no fee” claim against their timeshare, the only thing was to do this they had to “relinquish” their membership first. Obviously this was a great cost.

Once the membership was canceled then they would put in a claim, usually under section 75, which as we have said before is not likely to pay out. The whole scam was to get your money for the cancellation, which in many cases was never actually done.

If you have paid this company to carry out any work regarding your timeshare and it has not been done, contact the liquidators below:

Name of Company: STANDON MORTIMER ASSOCIATES LTD

Company Number: 10437622

Nature of Business: Timeshare Relinquishment

Type of Liquidation: Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation

Registered office: C/o Kingsland Business Recovery, 14 Derby Road, Stapleford, Nottingham, NG9 7AA

Liquidator’s name and address: Tauseef Ahmed Rashid, Kingsland Business Recovery 14 Derby Road, Stapleford, Nottingham NG9 7AA

Office Holder Number: 9718.

Date of Appointment: 18 April 2018

By whom Appointed: Creditors

Further information on Silverpoint or is it Signallia Marketing has just come in, apparently a representative from Signallia is knocking on the doors of guests at Hollywood Mirage.

There are this week a couple more happy ex-timeshare owners, the first is an ex-Anfi member, who this week had over 53,000€ paid into his bank account after his recent court case where his contract was declared null and void.

This does fly in the face of the Anfi management denying that anyone is getting paid, according to Canarian Legal Alliance, Anfi have actually paid out 2 million euros.

In another case a German client who purchased his Anfi del Mar timeshare for 14,000€ had his contract declared null and void, with thcourt awarding him over 23,000€ plus legal interest. This is a result of Anfi taking a deposit within the cooling off period which is forbidden, so the court awarded double the amount taken.

Now on with our Friday letter.

A Report from Two Diamond Resort Platinum Members Up-Sold by the Same Daytona Sales Agent

Sheilah Brust warns: Keep The Pencil Pitch

Gad and Noreen Liebmann: Up-sold into financial disaster

There is no such thing as the “Ability to get (Double Usage)”

Page 2 of the Pencil Pitch is based on 15,000 points actually purchased instead of 25,000, so 65,000 points illustrated instead of the 75,000 first proposed

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

The CLARITY™ Promise handed out before sales presentations:

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 to Sheilah Brust:

On April 5, 2018, we received a call from a “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.

By Irene Parker

June 8, 2018

Gad and Noreen Liebmann were up-sold by the same Daytona Regency sales agent as Sheilah Brust. Gad and Noreen have been protesting outside the Daytona Regency by holding up signs an hour or two every day except Sunday for over three months. They will take a few months off to go up north, but plan to resume their protest in September.

In preparation for this article, I felt it was important to get a feel for what it was like to hold up a sign. As we walked to Daytona Regency from our cars, Gad and Noreen dropped off food for a homeless man. Gad told us, “One of the homeless was offered $20 to ‘get rid of them’ and on another day one of the salesmen brought some water and wanted to “thank us” for picketing. He claimed that our presence increased their sales. He also told us that we could have more effect by working as greeters at Walmart to help pay our dues.”  

My husband and I weren’t sure what to expect. We arrived about 11:00 AM, Friday June 1. We were greeted by the security guard. He could not have been nicer. He seems to serve as a sort of diplomatic liaison between Gad and Noreen and the staff at Daytona Regency. He patiently listened to me relate some of the more serious allegations timeshare members have reported to Inside Timeshare, 208 since January 1. He said he has not purchased Diamond points.          

Inside Timeshare has heard from a total of 32 Diamond Platinum members, alleging they were up-sold by deceitful sale tactics or are disappointed in their Platinum membership. Of the 32 Platinum members, 29 members reported they were told they would be able to sell points, or pay for maintenance fees, if they purchased more timeshare points; utilizing programs members say did not exist. Thirteen of the 32 Platinum members say they have resolved their dispute. Eleven were up-sold by the same Diamond sales agent.

Pictured from left: Noreen, Irene, Tyler and Don

The sign my husband Don is holding reads,

Diamond is not responsible for what our sales agents say.”

This was told to Diamond member Joshua Parker (no relation) by a Diamond VP on a call Diamond recorded. Josh says he was told points are an investment and would be easy to sell. When Josh and Nichole learned they were expecting twins and could no longer afford the timeshare, they learned there is virtually no secondary market for Diamond points. Josh is a 90% disabled Army veteran. He served in Iraqi. They are in the foreclosure process.

John Collick, a decorated 100% disabled Marine veteran, was told he needed to buy Diamond points because Diamond was acquiring his timeshare, The Colonies. This turned out not be true.

Josh and John were both told, Diamond is not responsible for what our sales agents say.” That would be okay, except Diamond hands out to consumers before a presentation their CLARITY™ promise, launched after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued the company an Assurance of Discontinuance.

Amanda and George Jones are both active duty Navy. They recently received their foreclosure letter. Both fear losing their Security Clearance. They say they were told by Diamond sales agents in Virginia and Florida their 18% loan would be easy to refinance, “Just Google it.” http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Today, June 6, 2018, another Navy couple contacted Inside Timeshare. They too could lose their security clearance as they are Navy logistics.   

Sheilah and Thomas Brust’s “Double Point Promise” complaint

Sheilah says she and her husband Thomas were promised double point usage if they upgraded by buying 15,000 additional points. Already Platinum members with 50,000 points, they had enough points to meet their travel needs.

Sheilah and Thomas met with Brad Leslie on February 4, 2017.  Mr. Leslie said there were big updates due to Apollo changes. Brad said he had just learned about the double points program in Orlando while in training. Another Florida DRI sales agent pitched a double points program to a Navy veteran. Her complaint has been resolved:

We were hosted by the Diamond Resorts East Coast Sales Team from Mystic Dunes. They said we had been invited to the workshop as a way to thank us for having been Platinum members for over five years. Mystic Dunes sales agent A M explained details of a program only available to five plus year Platinum members. A M said if I purchased an additional 25,000 DRI points, I could take advantage of a special offer and never have to pay maintenance fees. He illustrated on paper how the program worked.   

57,500 points I owned prior to the workshop

25,000

82,500 x 2 (double points) = 165,000

Back to Sheilah’s “Pencil Pitch”

Brad Leslie said that over ten years our maintenance fees would be $86,310. According to Brad, we would have 65,000 points after buying 15,000 more points but DRI would give us 65,000 more – so we would have effectively 130,000 annual points. Of the 65,000 original points, we would use 50,000 and the purchase of an additional 15,000 points would allow us the extra bonus 65,000 points. Brad said we would receive via check or reloadable debit card $8,000 from the redemption of 80,000 points at $.10 through a travel reimbursement program that could be used to pay maintenance fees. If we redeemed 80,000 from the 130,000, we would be left with 50,000 points to travel.     

I asked Brad why this program was developed. He said Diamond wanted to make sure we STAYED VACATIONED. Now it seems more likely he wanted to drive us into foreclosure to be able to start over with his next victim.  

As a result of this up-sell, 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 also have a loan with Diamond for $31,000 and the $26,000 Barclay card charges.

Brad charged on two Barclay cards $14,000 in my name and $12,000 in Thomas’ name. After he opened the cards, Brad said,Barclays loves you! You got $26,000 credit!” I was livid after I learned what happened as we were unaware the amounts had been charged. We could have used a different credit card that would have gotten us rewards points.

We saw Brad again in May 2017. Brad said the program had changed. Brad told us in February we would be sent a debit card that would be reloadable for the maintenance fee reimbursement program. Brad informed us in May that DRI was getting rid of the debit cards because there were problems. Brad had said the double points (65,000) would appear on a split screen on our dashboard. He said DRI was still working on the split screen. This program only made sense if we received the additional 65,000 points. I wrote down everything Brad said. I have an accounting background.   

This whole deal was based on having 130,000 points using points at $.10 a point for a Travel Advantage reimbursement service, but this was of very poor value and only made sense because of the extra bonus 65000 points. You can book a lot of vacations with 54,259 points that would vastly exceed a measly reimbursement check for $5,425.90.

Brad assured us he would be here for us and hoped he could restore our trust in Diamond. We had explained how we had been duped into buying 4000 more points in California so our heirs would not be saddled with Diamond points.

Diamond has refused to help Sheilah, but she is encouraged by a call from her Florida Timeshare Division reviewer supporting her claim.

Gad and Noreen’s debacle

Gad and Noreen own 96,000 Diamond points, only because they bought an additional 25,000 points to take advantage of benefits they now know they already had. Gad and Noreen are both Army veterans. Noreen served as an Army officer in the nursing corps. Gad, also an Army veteran, worked for IBM and VISA, at times stationed overseas. The Liebmanns have nine children, not counting children they fostered. According to Gad,  

For over 20 years we enjoyed using our Diamond points. We had purchased eight Diamond contracts over the years and had been happy until Daytona sales agent Brad Leslie sold us 25,000 points November 22, 2017, we allege by fraud.  Brad told us that if we purchased 25,000 additional points for $70,000 we would get additional benefits. He showed us how using these benefits, we might not have to pay more maintenance fees if we used the same amount of vacation time. What Brad Leslie neglected to tell us was that we were already eligible for these benefits. He knew this. He also claimed that we could recover the cost of the additional points after 10 years. This was also false. Brad said that we would be even on the $70,000 within ten years if we only booked through Value Getaways.

A call to Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey got a response from a lady who offered to allow us to give back some of our points, lowering the dues but not eliminating the latest purchase.  In other words, give back points we already paid for, requiring us to pay the company $70,000 after being sold points to take advantage of a program we already had. We may be older, but we’re not stupid.

We have used all of our 2018 points for redemption reimbursement and with the over $700 monthly mortgage payments, we can no longer use Diamond points for vacations. Since we can’t afford to travel because of this debacle, we thought we should warn others by holding up our signs. I feel America is in a moral crisis when CEOs feel no concern when people complain directly to them of questionable business practices. My heart is heavy since the DRI salesman Brad Leslie professed to be a Christian, as I am.

Gad and Noreen protesting outside Daytona Regency

Thank you to Gad and Noreen and Sheilah and Thomas for joining our advocacy efforts. I reached out to Diamond for comment, but they did not respond. We were hoping they could explain Sheilah’s pencil pitch.  

Many timeshare members feel there is little to no timeshare enforcement in Florida. According to several members, Florida dismisses complaints, backing up the developer by also falling back on the oral representation clause. Florida receives about $70 billion a year in tourist revenue.

From the Florida Attorney General’s Timeshare Division DBPR

Timeshare developers are required to provide full and meaningful disclosures to purchasers in the documents they are required to deliver to them including the public offering statement, sales contract, and all supplemental documents at the point of sale.  A document called “Acknowledgment of Representations” or “Purchaser’s Understanding” or a similar document provides the disclosures which each purchaser initials and signs at the time of purchase and it contains all the relevant information about the timeshare product.  A developer heavily relies on these documents to refute any claims by a purchaser regarding the alleged misrepresentations. Therefore, in light of these written documents, it is very difficult to prove the allegations raised in the complaint.  

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

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help.

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/

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, join us next week for more readers stories and their experiences in the world that we call “A Nightmare on Timeshare Street”.

We will also be publishing more information on those companies that keep springing up promising the earth and delivering nothing, so remember if you are called and are not sure if the company is genuine, do not do anything until you have done your homework, double check and check again.

If in doubt contact Inside Timeshare and we will show you where to look.

Have a great weekend.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the first Letter from America for June, this week Irene Parker follows on from Haley Saldana’s Tuesday article, but first we look at the end of the week in Europe.

Over the past few weeks we have been issuing various warnings on some very dubious claims companies and fake law firms, we have now received some new information about one called Abogados Lopez.

In the past warnings the name of the lady on the phone was Hope Brugge, well it seems that Hope has now changed to Megan Haywood.

The pitch is the same as before, checking the details of how much they paid etc, before they file the case at court, the a day or so later the great news comes in that they have won the case and the court has awarded a substantial amount. Yes you guessed it they need to be paid to release the money.

The telephone numbers being used are:

0034 951 242 867 which is a Malaga code

0034 602 654 670 which is a Spanish mobile

Another number that has been used is

0044 1291 440 500 which is a Chepstow code.

This week has also been busy with the courts, Silverpoint has been on the receiving end of yet more Supreme Court rulings, with four in one week, this makes a total of 118 against the timeshare industry as a whole.

There have also been six sentences issued in the Courts of First Instance against Anfi del Mar and Silverpoint, with the total being awarded by the courts to the clients amounting to over 409,000€ plus in most cases the return of legal fees and legal interest. The contract have also been declared null and void, leaving these client not only financially better off but timeshare free.

All these cases were brought on behalf of the clients by none other than those intrepid lawyers of Canarian Legal Alliance.

Now on with this weeks Letter from America.

Diamond Resorts International Lawsuit against Castle Law

Declarations of Two Former Castle Law Employees

The Tangled Web: Castle Law Group Entities

How money was funneled from timeshare members to Castle Law

By Irene Parker

June 1, 2018

Diamond Resorts International filed a first amended complaint for damages, injunctive and other relief against Judson Phillips, Esq., Castle Law Group, P.C. and 24 other defendants in the US District Court of the Middle District of Tennessee on February 21, 2118, in an effort to untangle Defendants’ web  of deceit and so as to end Defendants’ improper and legally inappropriate schemes, and in doing, not only vindicating its own rights, but also safeguarding the unsuspecting public and positively impacting the timeshare industry at large.

Case 3:17-cv-01124

Timeshare developers say timeshare exit companies like Castle Law are targeting timeshare members, enticing them to get out of their timeshare contracts. Some of these exit companies charge thousands of dollars upfront, but members are held in suspense for months or years, only to learn they were not released from the timeshare contract. On the other side of the dispute, timeshare members have been contacting Inside Timeshare, desperate to be released from timeshare contracts they never knew were perpetual, and had little or no secondary market.  

https://www.nashvillepost.com/business/legal/litigation/article/20972343/resort-company-sues-local-lawyer-over-timeshare-exits

This past Tuesday we published an article about Haley Saldana getting caught in the middle of a dispute between Castle Law Group and Resort Relief. Haley lost $3,495 after paying Castle Law to get her out of her Silverleaf timeshare, only to find herself foreclosed anyway. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-6/

Two former Castle Law employees, a director of business development and an attorney, relate their experiences working for Castle Law Group, PC and Castle Marketing Group, LLC in depositions filed. I reached out to both employees through Linked-In and the attorney’s law firm. They did not respond.  

Over a year ago I received an email from Carly Vaughn, former public relations manager and content writer for Castle Marketing, asking if I would be interested in writing for the Castle blog. I declined the offer.

We first published an article about developer lawsuits against Castle Law and Judson Phillips August 22, 2017.

http://insidetimeshare.com/legal-news-us-castle-law-group-pc-v-timeshare-developers/

Among the twelve causes of action in the “cease and desist” letter Castle sent to developers, are those Inside Timeshare readers, asking for help in complaints against developers, would not disagree with. From the Castle “cease and desist” letter found in public filings:

  • Improper and unethical high pressure sales tactics.
  • Gross and deliberate misrepresentations regarding benefits of ownership.
  • Gross misrepresentation regarding the ability to utilize timeshare points to cover fees associated with membership and exchanges.
  • False information regarding the ease and/or ability to resell for a profit.
  • False sense of urgency to purchase the same day.

A “cease and desist” letter demands all communication with the client, including collection attempts cease under the Fair Debt Collections Protections Act.

Declaration from an attorney who worked for Castle Law

In his declaration, the lawyer states that it became clear to him that Castle Law was not functioning within the ethical boundaries of a proper law firm. At no time was the lawyer tasked with meeting with and/or engaging clients. Rather, according to the attorney, Castle Law clients were primarily engaged through outside third-party exit timeshare companies. Only on a few occasions does the lawyer recall even speaking with a prospective client. The attorney graduated from law school in 2015 and was hired by Castle Law Group, P.C. in 2015. He worked for Castle Law until May 2017. According to the attorney’s declaration:

It was my understanding, through observations, that many prospective clients engaged the services of Castle Law without ever speaking with any attorney. Strangely, I agreed to have a rubber stamp made of my signature to be used by assistants, which made me uncomfortable.

While at Castle I was shocked to learn telephone calls were being recorded without my knowledge, whereby neither of the two parties was aware they were being recorded. I learned of this practice from Sean Austin, president of Castle Marketing, which I now know to be illegal.

I was involved in the evaluation of various cases of timeshare owners who did not have valid claims and should have been entitled to a refund of monies paid to any of the Castle entities. I reported my claims to Judson Phillips and Michael Keever. To the best of my knowledge, very few, if any, actually received a refund. (Castle Law Group and Castle Marketing were both operated by Sean Austin and Michael Keever, neither licensed to practice law)

After I left Castle, I became aware that Castle Law sent out letters to their purported clients that they never represented them. I became aware of such letters after I was forced to defend my license to practice law against four bar complaints against me. All four complaints were eventually dismissed.

DECLARATION 2

This declaration was provided by the “assistant director of affiliate relations” who later served as “director of business development” for Castle Marketing Group as an independent contractor in 2015.

The director’s role was to communicate with and manage outside affiliate companies, referred to as Third Party Exit companies (TPE) who solicited timeshare owners to cancel their timeshare contracts. According to the director:

I observed that Castle Law allowed the outside affiliates to use Castle Law Group’s engagement agreement without an attorney being present or consulted. I observed that timeshare owners were being led to believe they were paying legal fees entirely to Castle Law Group, which was not true.

Initially, Castle Law Group collected all of the funds and was engaged in the practice of sharing the fees with the TPEs. Sean Austin told me that they had created Castle Marketing Group to “act as a buffer between the clients and the law firm” and to “protect the law firm” and to “get around the issue of fee splitting.”

Later Sean Austin told me Castle Law Group was not making any money, which was “not legal,” and that funds had to be pulled out of Castle Marketing Group and transferred to Castle Law group, so that it would appear as if Castle Law Group was earning revenue as part of the transaction. The TPEs kept their portion of the amounts paid for legal services and sent the rest to Castle Marketing. Castle Marketing then transferred funds to Castle Law Group and the many other business entities operated by William Michael Keever and Sean Austin (pictured above).

I observed that attorneys at Castle Law Group rarely, if ever, met with or spoke to the timeshare owners. Sean Austin told me that the staff needed to keep the timeshare owners happy as the lawyers did not have time to confer with them.

At times a year or more went by without any action taken by Castle Law Group on behalf of the timeshare owners. I witnessed that timeshare owners who persisted with their complaints, or demands to speak with an attorney, would be placed on an “escalation sheet.” Staff members would, in some instances, contact customers to calm them down and say whatever was necessary to keep them hanging on until the deadline for their money-back guarantee had expired. My job became so stressful as a result of timeshare members and TPEs demanding answers, my health was impacted and my doctor advised me to quit my job.

The funds collected from the legal fees paid to Castle Marketing Group were funneled to other business ventures owned by Sean Austin and/or William Michael Keever. These businesses included: Castle Venture Group, Worthington Galleries, God Cloud, ExxoGear, Advisant, Kryptobit, and Instant Merchant Group, among others. Sean Austin expressed to me on more than one occasion that the payroll and budget for all these companies was dependent on my work with the TPEs and the funds generated.  

When I expressed my concern that “clients” would complain to the Tennessee Attorney General, Sean Austin stated that Castle Law Group was registered only in the name of attorney Judson Phillips, so Sean Austin, William Michael Keever and the staff, as non-lawyers, would be shielded from any liability or fault.

The Director left Castle Market Group in 2016.     

To date Inside Timeshare has received 437 requests for assistance from timeshare members who allege they were defrauded by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents. It is our hope a meaningful dialog will develop to clean up both sides of the timeshare sale.  

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups before paying anyone to get you out of a timeshare contract.

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/

So that’s it, the end of another week in the world of timeshare, a week that has seen more fake companies emerging and many cases against some of the major timeshare companies being resolved in the courts.

If you require any information or have any comments on any article published, use our contact page and send us a message.

Have you been contacted by a company with a similar story to the ones published and want to know the truth, or have you found one on the internet, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to find the information you need.

Remember to do your homework before engaging with any company, it will save you a lot of heartache in the end.

Have a great weekend and join us next week for more “Nightmares on Timeshare Street”.