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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the first Letter from America of February, this week we hear another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” from the Wheat family and their experience with Wyndham, edited by our very own Irene Parker. First a little news from Europe.

Yesterday, Thursday 31 January, at Birmingham Crown Court , Dominic O’Reilly, Stephanie O’Reilly and Eze Europe Limited, appeared for sentencing. As we know they had faced many charges of unfair trading practices, misleading consumers and many more. On checking the courts website this morning, nothing has yet been posted, but Inside Timeshare has emailed the court for confirmation of sentences and we are waiting for a reply. As soon as this comes in we will be publishing on these pages.

News came in this morning regarding another case involving Diamond Resorts in Tenerife, Canarian Legal Alliance originally had a case in which the Court of First Instance found in favour of Diamond. They instantly appealed this decision to the High Court

The High Court reviewed the case and ruled that the First Instance Courts decision was flawed, they immediately overruled the first court’s ruling, as per the Supreme Court rulings. They deemed that all 5 contracts were illegal and declared them null and void, they also awarded the client 100% of the purchase price, plus double the deposit paid within the 14 day cooling off period, all legal fees and legal interest. This client will now be receiving over 25,000€ and can now enjoy a timeshare free life.

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

The ‘Take Away Timeshare Close’

By a Wyndham buyer

February 1

By the Wheat Family

Introduction by Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has heard from 671 families. Like a broken record, the member reports being told “I can’t believe that last salesperson sold you this!” You should have never bought:

 

  • So few points!
  • The wrong package!

 

Understand that this is a tried and true sales technique. I spent 30 years in sales selling in a number of industries, but can’t recall using this technique unless I felt the sales agent really did sell the buyer a wrong product. For example, as a stockbroker I would run into a young person’s 401K funded with a fixed income product. In timeshare, it’s used as a ploy. If both sides of the supposedly wrong/right product sell against each other, it means no consumer should buy the product. It’s not unusual to hear, on the same day, from two different members, Sales agent A said I should not have bought Product 1 while sales agent B said I should have bought Product 1. It’s called the Take Away Close:

The Take Away Close really takes some time to master. Though it sounds simple at first, the real secret is learning when to use it. The danger is always using the take away close and having a customer agree to purchase a lesser product when they were close to committing to a larger sale. From The Balance Careers

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/the-take-away-closing-technique-2918597

The Wheat Family Explains

The motive behind the ‘Take Away Close’ is to make the customer/prospect feel like they are missing out on something they should have been entitled to and then make them spend the money so they feel they are getting their money’s worth.

We experienced this sales ploy. I wonder how many other people fell for it too.

We bought a Discovery package (200,000 points) for $1,944 at Wyndham’s Great Smoky Lodge at the beginning of 2017. A credit card was opened and the purchase charged. When we tried to use the Discovery package for Florida in July 2017 it did not work. There were restrictions on when we could reserve. In August 2017 we tried to reserve in Myrtle Beach. We tried a third time at the beginning of 2018 for the Smoky Lodge. We were told it was full so we paid for two days ourselves. That is when another salesperson, JR Renteria, said they had 64 vacant rooms so we should have been able to reserve one. He said the problem was because of the Discovery package we purchased. Although Wyndham would not be able to reimburse us, they could give us a free week certificate (which turned out not to be free). Mr. Renteria advised us to upgrade so we would not have this lack of availability problem again.

With an upgrade we were told we would be VIP members and that the original credit card that was opened for our first purchase would be upgraded to a Gold credit card which we could use to reserve when and where we want to go, any day.  They said we could get 50% off cruises and restaurants. Other family members could make reservations in their names. Mr. Renteria said if we upgraded they would roll the original 200,000 Discovery package points over for the next year. Renteria gave us our documents after we signed the new contract, but told us to wait for the Gold Card and the Silver VIP card before we tried to book anything. This effectively dodged the contract rescission period. He told us we should receive the new cards in about a week. It took around three to four weeks before we received the VIP card. We still have not received the upgraded Gold Card. We were told we had six months to pay in full with no interest.

We bit and got bitten for $18,000.

Another strange thing was that Renteria said he wanted us to write a note saying the first reps, Carol Finch and Cyndy Vdaw, did not cover everything properly for the Discovery package. Maybe this was part of a scam, maybe Wyndham actually kept a copy. Either way, we wrote a note saying we did not understand everything on the Discovery package deal.

After the upgrade we tried to reserve a room to attend a wedding in Atlanta. Wyndham told us we would have to reserve two months in advance in order to use our points. (Renteria had said we could book on the day with our new Silver member status.) Wyndham told us that they could reserve a room for $188 on the day we needed it. The sad thing is we could book the same room for the same dates for $108 online.  You would think being a Silver member (VIP) we should have been able to get a better price than a non-member.

Renteria told us we could call him if we ever had any problems getting reservations and he would take care of it.  We tried to contact him but NEVER got a reply to any of our calls or texts.

We called Carol Finch at the Discovery timeshare when Renteria did not return our calls. I told Carol we were not happy and that nothing we were told was true. She said we should not have had to wait two months to reserve a room and Renteria should have combined the two timeshares. She said she would let him know and would call us back that afternoon. We have not heard back. That was the final straw. In this day and age of Expedia, Airbnb and Booking.com, don’t buy a timeshare. That’s my takeaway close.

But that’s not all!

To make things worse, after looking over the credit card application we found that the application had been doctored. There is an annual income noted under both of our names for $100,000 each.  However, $100,000 is what we may make combined, not individually. I have a copy of the credit card application as proof. My writing is very distinctive. I filled out the whole form, yet the only place that was left blank was filled in by someone with a much scruffier handwriting than mine and he wrote another $100,000 to double our annual income. We sent this obviously doctored form to Wyndham, but they did not even acknowledge it. They chose to focus on the parts of our complaint that they could reasonably deny because the lies were verbal and can’t be verified. Wyndham conducted an ‘investigation’ into our allegations of concealment and omission. We were informed, somewhat predictably, that their investigation had found that our allegations were baseless and the contract was properly executed and legally binding. I suppose I’ll go and ask the drunks to guard the bar for my next trick.

Other representations we feel were unfair and deceptive:

  • They did not say we were actually buying a timeshare. They called it a vacation ownership or something like that.
  • They said they would help us rent so we could earn a profit.
  • They said maintenance fees would never increase.
  • They said we could call every six months to continue our interest free rate.
  • They told us our purchase would give us more reservation rights than it actually did.

Do yourselves a favor and stay away from Wyndham. I imagine Wyndham is not alone, so the best advice is to stay away from timeshare altogether.

Thank you to the Wheat family for sharing their experience. Timeshare companies should want their buyers to feel good about their decision to buy a timeshare. Timeshare is not for everyone and we hope by sharing experiences, buyers will be better informed as to whether the timeshare product is right for their family.

Related articles:

Veteran family Wyndham buyer Kleen family article:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-38/

Veteran family Wyndham buyer Althage family article:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-37/

Self Help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you Irene for your editing efforts and a very big thank you to the Wheat family for sharing their experiences with us. These real life stories that we publish do show how the industry is in dire need of reform, especially in the tactics employed by their sales agents. As we know when high commissions are the motivation, these agent will say and do anything to get the sale.

If the industry does not do anything themselves to curb these practices, then maybe like Spain, the law needs to take control in order to protect consumers. We do know that many other countries in Europe with a large timeshare presence have been watching Spain very closely and are also now in the process of enacting similar legislation.

If you have a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” story that you would like to share then contact Inside Timeshare, it is through your own experiences that we hope we can make the industry listen and change.

Have you been contacted by any company with a story that sounds too good to be true?

Are you looking to do business with any company you have found on the internet or advertising in the press or magazines?

Do you want to know if they are genuine and will do what they say?

Are you able to find out for yourself or do you need help?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Remember doing your homework will save you not only money but also a whole lot of stress.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

Consumer Warning from Canarian Legal Alliance: Silverpoint Company Participations

A warning has been issued by Canarian Legal Alliance to all clients who have purchased the SilverpointCompany Participations” scheme, another twist has now come to light.

It would now appear that clients who purchased into this scheme, which has already resulted in many cases being taken to court, are being contacted by the very people who sold it to them in the first place.

As we know Ali Farhoud and his brother Mike Farhoud were actively selling this scheme, which involves clients paying thousands of euros, in some case upwards of 150,000€, for so-called “participations” (shares) in apartments which are registered as SL companies, along with promises of rental income and eventual sale with a return on the “investment”. (see link below)

http://insidetimeshare.com/mid-week-news/

Clients of CLA have informed them they have been contacted by the Farhoud brothers with the express offer that they will relinquish their contracts, obviously for a hefty fee. This will result in all these clients losing out on their “investments”, leaving them out of pocket by thousands of Euros. The sole purpose is once the contracts are terminated, Silverpoint is then free of the threat of being taken to court by the clients.

Mike Farhoud

 

Now the question is, how are they getting the clients information to contact them?

The answer is very simple, as we stated, if these contracts are terminated, the client then has no recourse to take the case to litigation, so what has Silverpoint to lose by supplying the client information, absolutely nothing, but all to gain, free of the threat of legal action and at the same time making more money through the termination.

At present, there are many cases already at court waiting for trial dates, with many more at CLA lawyers undergoing case preparation. The first case to reach a conclusion, which we reported on these pages in November 2018, Silverpoint and their lawyers admitted to the court that the “Company Participations” were indeed timeshare. Obviously, the whole scheme was to dupe the consumer and circumvent the strict timeshare laws. (see link below)

http://insidetimeshare.com/silverpoint-company-participations-is-timeshare/

According to Canarian Legal Alliance they have only just scraped the tip of the proverbial iceberg, there are still man many clients from all over Europe who have been drawn into this scheme. Most don’t even realise that they have purchased nothing but promises and fresh air.

CLA are once again leading the way, Anja has been researching this scheme for almost 2 years, she is their leading expert of this “product”, if you have purchased into the “Company Participations Scheme”, then for more information contact her on the following number or email address:

+34 616 243 309

[email protected]

 

Scammers Hijack Legitimate Company

Just recently Inside Timeshare has received several enquiries from readers being contacted by callers claiming to be from Haydens Solutions Limited. The calls are all very familiar, your timeshare company or a previous one you have dealt with such as for resale, has been taken to court and yes you have guessed it, there is a substantial amount of money waiting for you at the court.

The caller, explains they are calling from Haydens Solutions Limited based in Milton Keynes, they also give the company registration number, 07600481. So who is this company?

According to Company House records this company was registered on 12 April 2011 and the director is Jonathan Coakley, the registered address for the company and the director is:

27 Allington Circle, Kingsmead, Milton Keynes, England, MK4 4EE

Which according to google maps street view is a rather nice 3 story townhouse.

Now after doing some checks on Mr Coakley, we have found his profile on Linkedin, according to this he is a very respectable businessman with a very impressive resumé, so we can safely say that his company details have been hijacked to give the calling scammers credibility when any searches are made on the internet.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jon-coakley-0275a3a/?originalSubdomain=uk

One of our readers who Inside Timeshare has been working with on their ongoing dispute with their timeshare company for around 3 years, gave us some valuable information, which corroborated what other readers have told us.

This reader was told that their timeshare company was taken to court and there is over £19,000 waiting for them to collect, but to do this they would need to transfer over £1900 to the bank account of one Mr A C Haley. The account number which we have tried to check doesn’t show, this may be due to our reader who is elderly writing it down incorrectly, but the sort code 09-01-34 does check out.

The bank for this sort code is for Santander UK Ltd with the branch address:

Bridle Road Bootle, Merseyside, L30 4GB.

Our elderly reader is a little suspicious, after all they have been scammed for a lot of money in the past, they asked for some confirmation from the caller as to the details and verification of the court case. After a minute or so with the sound of shuffling papers in the background the nice lady by the name of Lucy, told her the case number, (which we know is not genuine), the name of the judge, Jose Gonzalez, along with the date the trial took place, 17 March 2016 in Valencia!

Well considering our reader has been in touch with Inside Timeshare since then we both know that she had not had a case in court. Plus the fact if they had a case going to court it would have been in one of the Malaga Courts as that is where the timeshare was purchased and is located.

Another name that has been mentioned is Jane Kayleigh, with a very similar story.

All readers were given a contact number 01908 973017, (Milton Keynes) but when this has been called by Inside Timeshare, the first time a gentleman with a Spanish accent answered, when Jane was asked for, he made out he didn’t understand. On the further 2 calls, it went straight to a recording saying all lines are busy. So just because it is a Milton Keynes code, the call appears to be transferring to Spain.

So if you do get a call from anyone claiming to be from Haydens Solutions Limited, telling you about a court case and that money is waiting for you, remember it will be a scam.

Haydens Solutions Limited is not calling timeshare owners, it has nothing to do with timeshare and is being used by criminals to defraud timeshare owners.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you do get a call, all information will be useful and will help to inform and protect others.

 

Start the Week: Information Received

Inside Timeshare has received information about another Cold Calling company Sim Legal Services, this in itself is not a problem provided that Data Protection laws are adhered to, the problem is the nature of the calls.

 

The company is owned by Jeroen Martijn Brussel, there does not seem to be a website attached and any searches bring up warnings to Dutch speaking owners on two different websites:

https://timesharealarm.com/sim-legal-services/

https://www.timesharestop.nl/sim-legal-services/

Unfortunately so far we have not had a chance to have these translated, but there do seem to be some very serious concerns about Sim Legal Services, with the mention of several other companies they appear to be linked with. JB Legal and Timeshare Reclaim Consulting.

As for JB Legal, again a search of the internet finds no website, although there are several companies with a similar name including a genuine law firm in the United States. This makes it very difficult for any potential client to do the necessary due diligence checks.

Timeshare Reclaim Consulting do have a website and are known to Inside Timeshare, although we have never had any concern or reason to mention them in any article.

The problem is with Sim Legal and what they are telling potential clients, one of our readers spoke with them and was very disturbed by what they were told. In the phone call they tell clients that they used to work for CLA, (Inside Timeshare has no knowledge of this), but since CLA are not doing what they promise, they are now working with a better company called TRC, all to give themselves a semblance of credibility.

The question is, are the management of TRC aware of the tactics of Sim Legal Services, the fact that they are making accusations against a competitor who is in the same vicinity and happens to be the leading law firm in timeshare litigation, in order to talk clients into signing up with them and then passing them to TRC?

If not, they will be now, as far as we are concerned, for any caller to make assertions about another company in order to “sign up” a client is to say the least a sign that they themselves cannot be trusted.

Also are they aware of how much Sim Legal are charging clients before sending passing them to TRC, according to the two Dutch websites Sim Legal are charging extortionate amounts.

All we can say is TRC need to be aware that firms such as Sim Legal Services will not do their business any favours, it will in the end come back to haunt them, they will be tarred with the same brush.

In another strange enquiry, we have been asked what is mindtimeshare doing now?

It appears that they have moved on from being a consumer association to something else. Our enquirer has told us that mindtimeshare is actively emailing those who have contacted them and recommending a firm for taking out litigation against clients timeshare companies. Apparently it appears that this company is TRC, mentioned above.

Just to recap, at one time, mindtimeshare was funded by the industry, the Resorts Development Organisation, this was under the tenure of the now discredited Alberto Garcia. Under his direction, mindtimeshare attacked any company which threatened the industry. He eventually got his comeuppance, and the RDO withdrew funding.

Since then Mindtimeshare has had to find its own way and began to change how it wrote their blogs, to be honest, they became more factual and evidence based, giving a more balance view. But obviously funds must have been a problem.

There is no problem with making a recommendation, but if what our reader has told us is true, making a deal to use your own client database to secure clients for one firm, does not appear to be conducive to the ideals of an independent consumer association. This subject was also a question that we posed in the article below.

http://insidetimeshare.com/alberto-garcia-steps-down-as-director-of-mindtimeshare/

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish revised instructions on how to file a complaint, this has been revised by one of our readers who was successful.

First a quick piece of news from Europe.

The Supreme Court in Madrid has issued another judgement, Spain’s highest court once again has defended the rights of timeshare consumers, in this case British, by declaring a Diamond Resorts contract null and void. As in all other judgements the court ruled that the contract was in contravention of Law 42/98, as the contract had no end date, known as perpetuity. The law clearly states that timeshare contracts may only be for a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 50 years.

The court also awarded the clients all money paid in the first three months in double, this reaffirmed the court’s stance on the illegal taking of deposits within the cooling off period. Along with over £11,000 they were also awarded back their legal fees and legal interest. (click on PDF below to see court document)

Supreme Court Diamond Ruling

This is yet another victory for timeshare consumers brought on their behalf by Canarian Legal Alliance.

Now on with this weeks Letter from America.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint (January 25, 2019 revision)

By a Timeshare Member who Followed our Complaint Process

Step 1 GATHER INFORMATION

  1. Read Your Contract and any documents given to you at the time of signing. If your contract offers a rescission and you are still within the offered period you should take the steps necessary to rescind immediately.
  2. Educate yourself! There are many resources in place that are meant to protect consumers (most of which I was completely unaware of until I had to tackle this issue). The more you know the better you will be able to stand up for yourself.

LIST OF RESOURCES AND ORGANIZATIONS TO FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH  

a: AG: Attorney General – You will want to file a complaint with the AG from the state in which you purchased your timeshare. If you can connect with other buyers in your state of residence, file a complaint with your own state Attorney General. See instructions below. Some states, like California and Nevada, require you file your complaint with the state real estate division against the sales agent.

b: ARDA-ROC: American Resort Development Association-Resort Owners Coalition

ARDA Timeshare Consumer Protections Page : Did you receive one of the three required “disclosure documents”? Is there a rescission period? When did it begin/end?

Excerpts from ARDA Code of Ethics: Read this code and make note of any parts that were violated during your purchase.  ARDA ROC does not mediate disputes, but they have a Code of Ethics that may be violated. The full code of ethics can be found here.

http://www.arda.org/ethics/

c: FTC: Federal Trade Commission-Protecting America’s Consumers There is a timeshare tab not easy to find. Follow these instructions: http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-13/

d: BBB: Better Business Bureau: This is the organization that most people are familiar with and the link to file a complaint is found right on the homepage of their site. You may need to edit your complaint to 4,000 characters, sometimes no easy task. The good thing about the BBB is that they often allow you to log in and file a rebuttal if you disagree with the company’s answer to your complaint.

e: SEC: US Securities and Exchange Commission: You will only file a complaint with the SEC if you were falsely led to believe that the purchase of a timeshare was a good investment. The sale of an investment product must be registered with the SEC.

f: FBI: Sound serious? That’s because it is serious to report a complaint to the FBI. The definition of White Collar Crime is “Deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.” File an online complaint at IC3.gov. Select Internet Crime from the three choices available. It’s confusing because your timeshare complaint doesn’t have to be about internet crime. That’s just the name of the portal.

g: Legal Action: Retaining a lawyer is something you can do after you have exhausted the above resources and still feel as though you are getting nowhere. It is a last resort option and it will cost you; make sure that the cost is worth the possible worst-case outcome. There is a compiled list of law firms that specialize in timeshare cases on one Advocacy Facebook page. Law Firms Doc You do not have to use one of these lawyers but it is recommended that you use someone who has specific experience with timeshare, and do not do business with a lawyer or a law firm you do not know. One timeshare lawyer has recently been disbarred

h: TUG: Timeshare Users Group TUG Forums: These forums are incredible for gathering information from other timeshare owners. You can search specific questions to see if anyone else has already asked and received answers.

i: Timeshare Exit Firms: BEWARE! A lot of these firms are scams. Some are not, but you can do the lion’s share of what any exit company can do. Beware especially of money back guarantees. Some companies consider foreclosure an exit. Obviously, you don’t have to pay anyone to get foreclosed. Also, it is important to note that some timeshare companies will not approve voluntary relinquishment of a timeshare if you have contracted with an exit firm.

j: Most would agree The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does not offer the consumer protections it once did, they still regulate banks. File a complaint with the CFPB if your complaint involves a credit card. Remember to dispute the credit card charge, even if the transaction extends beyond 30 days. Some companies will extend the period if you can present a compelling case for fraud.  The Secret Service also investigates credit card fraud.      

Step 2 HOW TO WRITE A COMPLAINT LETTER

    1. Create a Record of Events: The very first thing you should do is make a list of everything that you were told by timeshare representatives (i.e. salespeople, managers, receptionists, concierge services). Write down every detail that was said even if it seems insignificant; you can always weed out details that are less important later. Your memory of the event will start to warp and change over time so it is important that you write down this information as soon as possible so that every complaint you file has consistent information.
  • Organize the information:

a: Create a Timeline: Begin with when you first became involved with the company and proceed chronologically. Keep your history brief up to the point when things began to go wrong; it at this point you should be as detailed as possible.

What was your first encounter? (phone call, concierge, sales agent)

  • What resort or location did the presentation take place?
  • Date and time of presentation.
  • Names of all sales agents/managers that you dealt with (names will typically be listed somewhere on your contract)
  • How long did they tell you the meeting would last vs what was the actual duration of meeting?
  • Did they offer you food or beverages during the duration of the meeting?
  • Did they take your ID and credit card? Did you ask for these items to be returned?
  • If you feel you experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, describe your experience.
  • When did you first realize your agent misled you?
  • Was it possible to learn you were deceived during the rescission period? Sometimes an agent will say a bogus program won’t be available until after the first of the year, or wait a few months before refinancing. Banks don’t finance timeshares. Sometime over promised availability can’t be determined until allowed onto the booking site, after the rescission period has expired.  
  • What steps did you take after realizing you were misled? Did you contact the agent or the company? What was their response? List dates/times if possible. Keep all emails.
  • Did the sales person ask you to apply for any credit cards/loans or take any other extraordinary measures (refinance home, equity line of credit, etc.) in order to cover costs? Transferring to a third party lender complicates things.

b: List Relevant Complaints: Here is a list of some common complaints from timeshare owners.  Certain misleading statements are more serious than others:

  • The agent said I could easily sell my points. To find out if your timeshare has a secondary market, contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. They charge no upfront money to list a timeshare. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/
  • The agent presented maintenance fee relief programs that do not exist
  • The agent said I had to give up my deeded timeshare and buy points
  • The agent said I have to give up my deed and buy points or my heirs will be burdened
  • The agent told me this would be a good investment. At least 49% of the cost of your timeshare is attributed to marketing costs (source a major timeshare company’s annual report)
  • The agent said that I could rent out my timeshare for money when the company rules do not allowed renting
  • The agent overstated the value of travel awards to pay for airline tickets, or the use of a travel credit card to pay maintenance fees
  • The rescission period was dodged

Step 3 EMAIL AND SEND YOUR LETTER OF COMPLAINT

Below is an example of a sample layout with some ideas of information that you might want to include in your letter. Copy and paste your complaint into the body of an email (do not send as an attachment). Email or send to all interested parties, including customer service, ARDA ROC (if their Code of Ethics has been violated), the credit card company if a credit card is involved. You will send your complaint to regulatory agencies if your request is denied, so make sure you take the time to present your grievance clearly and factually. Have a friend or family member read your complaint before submitting to see if they understand the complaint.

Include the following information:

Name(s) of Member(s)

Phone Number

State of Residence

Today’s Date

Member Number

**List the following information for each contract you are disputing**

Date and Place Purchased

Number of Points Purchased

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Down Payment

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Loan Number

Current Loan Balance

Information to include in the body of the complaint:

  • What do you want? Do you seek a refund, cancellation of contract, or relinquishment?
  • Why? Is it due to Deception, Health, Age or Financial Burden?
  • This is your written timeline. Provide a chronological account of what happened during the sales process that makes you feel you experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices.
  • Consider citing the ARDA code of ethics and what articles of the code were violated.
  • Making emotional statements will most likely not help your case.
  • In conclusion, restate the main complaint and what it is you are asking for.

**Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded and so will requests based on not being able to afford the timeshare.

**If there was no deceit then request relinquishment. This is only an option if your Maintenance fees are current and you have no outstanding loan. Contact your resort for more information about voluntary surrender.  

HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

  1. File your complaint with the AG from the state in which you purchased your timeshare. In “Part 2” of the link below it explains how to find the correct AG and file a complaint. Some states, like California and Nevada, require you file a timeshare complaint with the state’s real estate division.   

Steps for filing an AG complaint

  1. Always send copies of important documents and keep originals
  2. If not filed online, mail your complaint via Priority Mail with tracking.

OTHER CONSUMER PROTECTION RESOURCES

  • Seniors should consider contacting the AARP Fraud Hotline. Weigh their advice as they are not timeshare experts, but it is important for them to be aware that a significant proportion of complainants are age 60 or older. Click HERE to visit the AARP site.
  • Remember to pay no money upfront without reaching out to other members, or a resource like like TUG Timeshare Users Group
  • Forward your complaint to the Association of Vacation Owners.          AVO Contact Us Page

Contact Inside Timeshare if you are interested in helping other members or have questions about the filing process. Our goal is to make consumers more aware of the financial pitfalls that can result if you buy a timeshare you don’t understand or was not presented truthfully. We know there are many who use and enjoy their timeshares and sales agents that sell the product honestly. Honest sales agents are also negatively affected by predatory sales and lending.    

Timeshare Accountability Group™

Well that is all for this week, remember, before engaging with any company that contacts you or you have found on the internet or through adverts in publications, do you homework and stay safe.

Have a great weekend.

Update: The John “Goldfinger” Palmer Saga

On Monday we published the news about the start of a trial at the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s National Court, which has involved around 17 years of investigation. It centers on what is believed to be one of the largest timeshare frauds in the history of timeshare.

Then the press released the news that a former associate of Palmer, Marco Yaqout was shot dead outside his home in Marbella. He was reputedly Palmer’s right hand man in the early days in Tenerife, he went on to own a string of night clubs which also included interests in the famous Linekers bars.

The original article in The Daily Star got the location wrong.

It seems that a gunman was lying in wait behind some bins and began shooting as Yaqout drove up to his home in his distinctive Bentley. Around 20 shots were fired.

Yaqout has been linked to a host of celebrities which all revolved around his night club in Puerto Banus, TIBU. These have included the cast of the TV reality show TOWIE along with Professor Green who performed at the club.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/millionaire-pal-towie-stars-shot-13888882

At present the police have made no arrests and it is unclear as to the motive, some speculate that it was part of the nightclub “wars” on the Costa del Sol, others believe that he may have been ordered to give evidence in the trial currently running in Madrid. It is believed that he had an enormous amount of information on all the activities surrounding the timeshare fraud, along with some of the unsolved murders linked to it in Tenerife. Most of the newspaper reports do not mention the Palmer link or the trial, which is not surprising as they tend to love anything with celebrities attached.

The trial heard on Tuesday that Richard Cashman, the alleged lieutenant of Palmer, denied that he led the scam network to defraud the countless tourists who were taken in by the timeshare fraud. He did admit that he arrived in Tenerife in 1993 and worked for Palmer, again denying he had anything to do with the selling of the apartments. He told the court that he was at first in charge of security, (in timeshare language that would be “clumpers”), then went on to manage bars, restaurants and servicing of rental cars.

Palmer's lieutenant denies that he led the scam network to tourists – La Provincia

As more news emerges we will publish it here.

 

 

 

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome another new contributor, known only as “Industry Observer” as he wishes to remain anonymous. The introduction is once again by our very own Irene Parker, who was very excited to have this published, as it is from someone who has watched the industry for many years even though he has never purchased. It is certainly a very welcome independent insight into the timeshare industry and sales presentations.

Firstly a little news provided by Canarian Legal Alliance, they are certainly going to be keeping the courts busy over the next month.

At present they have in various courts around Spain 75 pre-trial scheduled, the three main timeshare companies are Anfi on Gran Canaria, Silverpoint on Tenerife and Club la Costa who have resorts on mainland Spain and the Canary Islands. Pre-trials are basically a formality and a last chance for a settlement to be reached before the case goes to a full trial. At the Courts in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, 4 judges have been dealing with cases at this stage and issuing sentences without the need to go to a full trial. They have sat on so many cases now that they feel it is a waste of the courts time to set full trials. This has certainly speeded up the process for many clients.

Along with the pre-trials, the are 26 trials to he heard against the same timeshare resorts, again at various courts around Spain. We hope to bring you news of the conclusions as and when the cases are concluded and the judges issue their judgements.

One of the many complaints that Inside Timeshare receives from readers about their timeshares is the number of resorts that are advertising on the internet and the various booking websites.

This was sent to Inside Timeshare from one very angry reader, (see link below), it is for Select Marina Park, Mijas, Costa Del Sol. This is a Club la Costa Resort, which as we know is not a cheap timeshare to buy. It also uses the points system, which has been deemed illegal by the Supreme Court on many occasions, the reason is that it lacks any substance.

What that means is that you do not actually have any guarantee of booking your holiday accommodation, it is subject to availability. Yet this resort is being advertised on hotels.com for a fraction of the cost of the exorbitant maintenance fees that owners / members are required to pay annually, on top of the original extremely high purchase price. Is it any wonder that so many timeshare purchasers want out of their contracts!

https://uk.hotels.com/ho278895/?q-check-out=2019-02-24&tab=description&q-room-0-adults=2&YGF=14&q-check-in=2019-02-17&MGT=7&WOE=7&WOD=7&ZSX=0&SYE=3&q-room-0-children=0&fbclid=IwAR1grWTKZjEyb8FbVqjn5cSw_7EABpY-akPpfUEq9Z51wfQ_LSmrzDgiTVs

Now for our Tuesday article.

Why at Age 70 I Have Never Attended a Timeshare Presentation

Introduction by Irene Parker

Timeshare members are always grateful when a member who has been through the complaint or foreclosure process, thinks beyond their own Nightmare on Timeshare Street to support others. There is nothing more frustrating than groveling before timeshare customer service representatives who dismiss complaints of unfair and deceptive sales practices with, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Our deepest gratitude to the author of today’s article who has been keeping Charles and me informed of industry developments over the past two years so we can in turn pass that information on to our readers. He has never owned a timeshare.  

By an Industry Observer

January 22, 2019

I have been a timeshare industry observer since 1985. I have concluded that timeshare is not for me. I shun contracts (especially perpetual ones) and I don’t plan very well in advance. For those with disposable income and the ability to plan, timeshare may be a rewarding experience. However, I would advise looking to the resale market for the best bargains. And, I would study the industry before dipping my feet in the resort pool.

In 1985 my wife and I were at North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on our first beach vacation. Upon leaving the supermarket, I noticed a flyer underneath our car’s windshield. Similar flyers were under all the out-of-state car windshields. The flyer offered a $40 gift to preview a new resort in North Myrtle Beach. Husband and wife were required to attend. A minimum income of $30,000 was required, as well as a driver’s license and credit card. Military couples with a certain minimum grade level were also welcome. I thought, “Why do they have to pay people to go see something for sale?”  People don’t get paid to look at houses or condos, and condos were quite the rage in Myrtle Beach in 1985.

I filed this experience in the back of my mind. It would reemerge numerous times in the future. On subsequent vacations to Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, Charleston, Orlando, Branson, and of course, Las Vegas, I would become more than aware of the smiling faces of OPCs who wanted to be my friend to get me to attend a tour, open house, remodel, new resort – whatever. Each approached us at a boardwalk or a booth, often a hyped-up boy or girl who had something special to share with me for only a few minutes of my time (90 minutes). I always reacted poorly to these solicitations since #1: I was on vacation and #2: I am not a real estate guy.

Fast forward to 2012 – I was in the midst of closing a company that I had run for 24 years. The economy had been unkind to the printing industry. I had to close the doors to my tiny empire and move to an early retirement. Fortunately, I could afford to do so. In 2013, finding myself with time on my hands, I decided to study the timeshare industry which had been in the shadows of my vacations. Three of my friends owned timeshare in different systems. I had quizzed them on their experiences. One loved his relationship.  The other two had mixed feelings about whether the process was worth it.

I began to google the names of timeshare operators along with keywords – problems, complaints, regrets, and lawsuits. Come to find out, there were a lot of people who bought timeshares that either didn’t want them or felt they had been duped into buying them. As mentioned, many are satisfied with their purchase, but it appeared many families had been financially harmed by their decision to buy a timeshare.

I have spent five plus years spending an hour or two a day on sites like TUG, RedWeek, Inside Timeshare, Inside the Gate, YouTube, and complaint sites. I developed a theory as to how the timeshare companies succeed in plying their trade.

Here are my simple conclusions:

First:  It starts with a bribe. It may be money, food, gambling, discounts, shows, or trips. Prospects are offered something of value by an OPC (outside person contact) for attending a presentation.  David Siegel, Jr. of Westgate timeshare fame, has termed prospects “mooches.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_gFaO11sNY

Second:  It is seldom the promised 90 minutes. The goal is to play a game of attrition. The longer the interview, the better the chance of capitulation – the customers will buy SOMETHING even when there may be an agreed upon pact not to buy. There is a good possibility that the prospects will break down and sign just to get their gifts and get out the door.

Third:  There will be more than one presenter. First is the “greeter” who will become your friend. They need to see your driver’s license and credit card. The driver’s license is to verify the family relationship and the credit card is to run a credit check. The credit check may be an unwanted surprise. The first sales agent will extol all the virtues of membership. If there is no bite, he/she will get approval to lower the price. After the initial sales agent, comes the manager or “closer.” He/she is out to make sure a sale happens. The friendliness will have worn thin. Prices will be reviewed and maybe lowered again. The sale needs to be made. If no sale has ensues, then comes the “survey person.”  He/she will review the presentation, the offers, and reasons for not buying. He/she will try one last attempt to sell an exit package. It may be a “discovery” “trial” or “sample” package. This will allow the prospects the chance to check out the resorts in the system, but requires another presentation. Trial packages are limited in scope and availability.

Fourth:  The whole job of the sales team is to make a SALE and that sale needs to be made TODAY. They know no one comes back later to purchase a timeshare. The sales team is on commission. They don’t eat if they don’t sell.

Fifth:  Truth may take a back door to the need for a sale. There is a clause in most, if not all timeshare contracts, that says the prospect did not rely on verbal representations to make their purchase. How many of us have relied on the ethics of the salesperson sitting across from us when buying a car, boat, condo or house? In Florida timeshare sales agents are licensed sales agents but they are exempted from the ethics requirement! It’s pretty scary if you can’t rely on ethics.

The terms of the contract are in the contract – not in the words of the salesman. The salesman may say that the company will buy back your timeshare. They won’t. He/she may say that the timeshare will go up in value. It will not.  He/she may say that you can go anywhere at any time. Complaints about availability abound. Attorney Mike Finn called this verbal representation clause a “license to lie,” and the beleaguered buyer unwittingly signs voluminous documents containing this one toxic sentence timeshare companies over-rely on.

Sixth:  Most timeshare contracts are perpetual. Once the three to ten day state contract rescission period is up, the buyer may have no other option but to pay the mortgage and maintenance fees if they cannot convince the timeshare company to break the agreement. It can be sold or given away, but the marketplace is almost non-existent. A default can have dramatic consequences on one’s credit score.

Seventh:  Sales people will make sure that no hand-written notes leave the room. False promises are not in the contract. The contract is long and initialed in many places. There are three things to be especially aware of.

  1. There is often a clause that says the company can change the terms and conditions of the contract whenever they want. Why even have contracts when benefits can be changed at any time?
  2. Accommodations are subject to availability. There are many complaints about lack of availability. Actual availability often cannot be verified until the buyer has access to the booking site, conveniently after the rescission period has expired.    
  3. These days contracts are often signed electronically, meaning your initials are stored and then tapped, tapped, tapped on a cheap tablet even tech savvy buyers find hard to read.

Eighth:  Timeshare contracts have a rescission period, which varies by state. It may be three to ten days. There are creative ways sales agents and their company can dodge the rescission period. A new program to be relieved of maintenance fees (that doesn’t exist) won’t be available until after the first of the year. While on vacation, sometimes with the kids, reviewing complex contracts can be a difficult chore. Sadly, even reading the contract doesn’t always disclose some of the pitfalls, like availability.

Ninth:  Roughly 50% of the cost of a timeshare purchase is the marketing, promotion, and commission costs. Think about it. If you list your house for sale, you pay 6% or 7% commission. What would happen to your home price if you had to pay a 50% commission to buy? Add that to the false promise that your timeshare is easy sell and you have a disaster waiting to happen. Sellers are lucky to get 10% of their initial investment back, thanks to the lack of an adequate secondary market. Timeshare developers don’t even want the timeshare back. You may even have to pay the developer a fee to take the timeshare back.

Ten:  Timeshares can be purchased on the resale market for pennies on the dollar. Sites like Tug2.net, Ebay, and Redweek have real people selling real timeshares for bargain prices. You can check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare has a secondary market value. They can explain the pros and cons of buying from the secondary market compared to buying directly from a timeshare sales center. Plus LTRBA members have knowledge of all timeshares.

Don’t jump. Don’t believe you have to buy TODAY. Research the company. Research the industry. Social Media is here to stay. Chances are there is a member Facebook page out there for the timeshare you are considering, with members reporting positive and negative experiences you can evaluate. Do your timeshare math to calculate the purchase price, borrowing costs, and annual fees, not to mention special assessments. Check the resale market.

Vacation Smart!

Thank you to our Industry Observer for his observations. Here are a few member sponsored sites to check with to determine if you are jumping into your vacation dream so that you don’t end up one of our Nightmare on Timeshare Street authors:

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://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you Irene for the introduction and a very big thank you to our industry observer for this article and all your information over the past two years.

If you have any comments on this or any other article, please use our contact page, we welcome your insights.

If you need any information about any company that has contacted you, that you have found on the internet or from an advert in a publication, then again use our contact page and we will help you do your credibility checks. Remember, doing your homework is one of the most important ways of saving you from losing your hard earned cash.

 

Start the Week: Associates of John “Goldfinger” Palmer Now in Court

It has been announced that the Audiencia Nacional, or Spain’s National Court in Madrid is to hear the case against the business associates of the late John “Goldfinger” Palmer. This case has taken many years to get to this stage, but at last we may be seeing a conclusion to what has been called one of the largest frauds in Spanish timeshare history.

The trial which begins today, Monday 21 January 2019, will see the following defendants appear. Richard Cashman, who is attributed to be Palmer’s lieutenant, Keith Peter Davies, head of the organisation on Gran Canaria, Dean Lawrence Wells, the promoter of the operation, Darren John Morris, Paul John Murry, Christina Ketley, Ramonón Solano Pérez, Jorge Maximiliano Gallart, Neil Campbell and Jacoba Klazina.

The case revolves around the selling of timeshare properties between 1993 and when the organisation was dismantled in 2002 by the then Judge of the Audiencia Nacional Baltasar Garzón.

In the scam which saw hundreds of unsuspecting holiday makers losing many thousands of pounds each, was based on the overselling of timeshare properties with the promise of resales for a profit. It also morphed into a non-existent holiday club set up by the organisation.

At the time of his death at his Essex home in June 2015, Palmer was on bail from the Spanish Courts, even though he had served time in the UK for similar offences.

The Prosecutor’s Office is calling for prison sentences of 8 to 12 years, plus fines of over 2 million euros as a result of its provisional findings. These are for crimes ranging from illicit association, conspiracy, fraud and in some cases illegal possession of firearms.

Although this case has taken many years, it would appear at last that justice may be done, this is may help close a very sad chapter in the lives of the victims, whether they will ever get any of their money back is unlikely.

The Audiencia Nacional is a special and exceptional high court, its jurisdiction covers all Spanish territory, as well as international crimes which come under the jurisdiction of Spanish courts. It consists of:

  • Criminal Chamber
  • Appeals Chamber
  • Administrative Chamber
  • Social Chamber

This case is being heard in the Criminal Chamber which is competent to try serious crimes such as: terrorism, money laundering, genocide, plus many more. It also makes decisions about extradition demands from foreign countries and the execution of European Arrest warrants. They may also hear appeals against rulings from the Juzgados Centrales de lo Penal, (Central Criminal Courts. Decisions by any of these divisions may be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Links to the announcement in the Spanish press.

https://m.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Audiencia-Nacional-estafadores-Canarias-Goldfinger_0_859164155.html

https://www.laopinion.es/sociedad/2019/01/20/juzgan-red-mafioso-john-palmer/946217.html

Past articles on John Palmer, the second link includes a recording of the Roger Cook investigation.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-dirty-word-many/

http://insidetimeshare.com/press-release-from-cla-plus-a-quick-look-at-the-biggest-timeshare-fraud-in-history/

It may be some time before any news comes in about this case, but Inside Timeshare will be publishing the result when it is made public.

Start the Week

On Wednesday 2 January 2019, we published the article http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-warning-joint-claims-victories-timeshare-resort-rescue/

Since then Mr Reece Turner, who does not seem very happy about the article has been using social media and messenger to make threats against Inside Timeshare and Canarian Legal Alliance, albeit very badly written and atrocious spelling.

This only leads us to believe that what was published is absolute fact, although we do have it on very good authority that it is the absolute truth, we also know that a report has been submitted to the Police and a crime number has been issued. After all, if Mr Turner is adamant that it is all “false”, then why not use legal means to have the article removed and an apology issued, rather than resort to childish and to be honest “criminal” threats, these have been saved as screenshots for evidence.

Turner has also used links to some very old and inaccurate articles which have been used to smear Canarian Legal Alliance in the past, all of which have been or are subject to legal proceedings.

Canarian Legal Alliance is already in the process of issuing court proceedings against Reece Turner.

Canarian Legal Alliance has informed Inside Timeshare that if any client has had any dealings with either of these companies and Mr Turner, that if they feel they have been victims and paid any money, to contact Inside Timeshare. We will pass this on to CLA who have offered to represent you FREE OF CHARGE.

Reece Turner

Tomorrow our Tuesday Slot is by Irene Parker, it is titled The Informed Timeshare Buyer – What to Watch Out For. We think that you will find this very informative, so join us tomorrow.

Canarian Legal Alliance Announce End of Year Results

What a year 2018 has been for the lawyers at Canarian Legal Alliance, they have recently announced their end of year results and it is impressive to say the least.

They have ended the year with 131 Supreme Court rulings, this is unprecedented in Spanish legal history, the last 2 rulings being made against Diamond Resorts. These judgements reinforced the previous ones by Spain’s Highest Court that contracts over 50 years, floating weeks and points systems along with the taking of any payment, even by a third party within the cooling off period are in breach of Spanish Timeshare laws 42/98 and 4/12.

In another landmark ruling from the Courts of First Instance in Tenerife, Silverpoint and their lawyers admitted that their “Company Participations” were indeed timeshare. This has now opened the way for many more clients who have been sold these “participations” as “investments” to now lodge claims against Silverpoint. This will result in the contracts being declared null and void plus the return of all money paid. (See previous article)

http://insidetimeshare.com/silverpoint-company-participations-is-timeshare/

Here are some key figures for the past year:

  • 3669 clients
  • 1380 live cases in various stages at court
  • 679 court hearings in 2018
  • 516 new claims presented to the Spanish Courts
  • 327 favorable sentences for clients
  • 12.3 million Euros have been awarded (2018 only) to clients by the Spanish Courts
  • 2.8 million Euros in payouts to clients
  • 728.000 Euros in bank guaranteed funds secured for clients
  • 4.5 million Euros are currently in process of being converted into bank guarantees

As the year drew to a close and the courts recessed for the Christmas break, Canarian Legal Alliance also managed to sneak in 10 more results in favour of their clients against the following:

  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             26,400€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             55,994€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance               9,795€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             12,400€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             12,800€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             18,376€
  • Anfi                                   Court of First Instance             39,590€
  • Holiday Club                 Court of First Instance                4,500€
  • Silverpoint                     Court of First Instance                5,400€
  • Club la Costa                 Court of First Instance              29,768€

This is an incredible 214,590€ secured for these clients, with all contracts being declared null and void.

These figures speak for themselves, no other law firm in Spain has achieved anything near to this, so for those who continue to post on various forums that these are all fake, check your facts before you post. These cases can all be verified through court documents, they are in the public domain.

It is quite clear that 2019 is also going to be a record breaking year, especially now that all courts are subject to the rulings of the Supreme Court. Inside Timeshare will bring you the latest news on cases as and when they happen.

If you require any further information on this subject or would like to know if you have a legitimate and viable case, then use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Other news which has just come in involves the ongoing case against Eze Groups Dominic O’Reilly and Stephanie O’Reilly at Birmingham Crown Court.

December 21st was the final day of a Newton Hearing in the case against Stephanie O’Reilly, Mr O’Reilly was not in attendance as he had earlier pleaded guilty to 27 charges of breaches of consumer legislation and aggressive selling amongst other things.

The reason for the Newton Hearing was that Miss O’Reilly had to explain why she pleaded guilty to Fraud but not as charged. The defense argued that Eze Group had employed the services of a Legal Advisor to ensure that they were compliant with UK law and that this advice was wrong which ultimately led to the mis-selling of the product.

This argument was vigorously rejected by the prosecution, who were also able to produce documentation refuting the argument. This was accepted by the court and a date of 11 January 2019 has been set for what we believe will be sentencing. We will bring you this news as and when it happens.

If you have any comments on this or any other article, use our contact page, Inside Timeshare welcomes your comments.