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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, in this article which replaces the one scheduled, which we pulled once again at the last minute due to a very good response from the timeshare company, Irene Parker explains how US timeshare owners can file a complaint.

In Europe, Spain leads the way in protecting consumers of timeshare, we do understand that in the US, each state is responsible for their own laws, there seem to be no federal laws which govern the sale of timeshare. Europe has tried to unify how timeshare is sold, the unfortunate thing is that in many states the industry (with their large corporate law firms) have held sway.

Spain, which was one of the main areas where timeshare resorts were being developed, has suffered from the bad press associated with the industry. People being hijacked on the street while on holiday, bundled into taxis to endure hours of hard sell by unscrupulous sales agents. Although the blame must be on the sales and marketing companies,who paid only on results, commission only. Many start out okay, but the pressure to produce is enormous and an agent can be forced out by being given poor quality “ups” if they don’t produce.

The European Union developed a series of timeshare directives which each member state had to enact into domestic law, many have watered them down, Spain on the other hand decided that they needed to be strengthened and enacted Law 42/98.

This law came into force in January 1999, since then it has been strengthened by Law 4/12 along with the many Supreme Court rulings.

This now gives consumers more protection, no deposits within a 14 day cooling off period, no contract longer than 50 years, no points or floating weeks systems, with many other safeguards.

There are other laws which protect the consumer which are being used in the many cases coming before the courts, these include the civil consumer laws, mercantile law and by no means least, criminal law.

The way consumers are enticed to attend presentations has also been looked into, OPC’s are now regulated and licensed, unlike before. Infringements of the regulations can result in very severe penalties.

Timeshare in Europe has a very bad reputation because of the past, the original concept cannot be faulted, it is the greed around the sales that is to blame. We know this to be true due to the closing of many sales decks, with many of the sales agents now working for the “bogus” law firms and claims companies that are springing up on an almost daily basis.

Inside Timeshare is doing what it can to warn consumers of these companies, but as soon as we identify one there is another to replace it. Litigious Abogados is a great case in point, changing names every few months but the “scam” is the same.

It is only through the help of our readers that many of them are identified, as owners / members working together we will be able to protect the timeshare community.Now for this weeks Letter from America.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint (May 2018 revision)

Start with the Attorneys General Office

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

May 18, 2018

By Irene Parker

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. Rosa Parks

Inside Timeshare received 425 US timeshare complaints as of May 16, 2018 (238 was the number of complaints reported as of our last revision 12/15/17). An escalation in the criminal nature of member allegations, especially those voiced by 45 active duty and retired military and law enforcement, led us to the FBI (9 members of the military/law enforcement reported allegations of timeshare fraud as of 12/15). Some fear they could lose their Security Clearances due to a foreclosure on their record. Active duty military feel this is a threat to our national security as just about anyone can get hired to sell timeshare points.

Members need to be especially vigilant about “Get you out of your timeshare” firms because many are scams. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ (TAG) has a scam research team formed by members who have themselves been scammed. Contact Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups listed below if you are contacted by someone you don’t know offering to help you get out of a timeshare.

This US Department of Justice timeshare scam report details the extent of the problem. Based on 425 complaints, our advocates feel the front of the timeshare sale contains a comparable level of criminal activity.  

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

Timeshare developers created the criminal cottage industry of transfer and exit scams by overreliance on the oral representation clause, iron clad developer based contracts, the lack of an adequate secondary market, and ingrained deception run amuck, according to reported complaints. The vast majority of our readers are highly professional, educated citizens with credit scores around 800 who have rarely been late paying a bill. Identical complaints, directed against the same sales agent, sometimes in cooperation with a manager or vice president, can establish a pattern of complaints.

It is one thing to say I am a sinner, but let someone else say that about me and then I feel it – I am up in arms. If I am falsely accused I may suffer, whereas if correction be found on even a small reality – something in me having deserved it – then often that hurts more. We must be happy that our faults are known as they are. Mother Teresa

With no way out if the timeshare company refuses to even acknowledge the deception, hiring a lawyer or foreclosure were the only options until real consumer advocates formed Timeshare Advocacy Group™ – bridging the gap between the developer and the member harmed. At times it felt like turning the Titanic, but closing gaps on social issues never comes easy and some causes take longer than a lifetime. Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus at great peril to her safety, but Rosa reached a decision that enough was enough and action was needed. It was a small action, but one that led to great changes. Educator and activist Parker Palmer explains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK0dXNK94BM

Almost all members have reported their timeshare company responded to their allegations of deceit with, “Sorry, you signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” This knee jerk dismissal is backed up by some Attorneys General, via their timeshare divisions, responding the same. Unscrupulous timeshare sales agents realize this of course, so the hamster wheel of recycled inventory never ceases beginning with “It’s not a sales presentation.” If there is still truth in advertising, change needs to begin there.   

According to the FBI and to lawyers consulted, it is not legal to hide behind fine print, but it takes volumes of complaints to raise a regulator’s eyebrow. The Federal Trade Commission released its summary report of 2017 complaints listing travel, vacation, and timeshare as one of the most costly frauds at $1,710, although complaints we have received from members range from $25,000 to $400,000 or more. We wish members were only losing $1,710.   

Travel, vacation, and timeshare frauds were the most costly with people losing a median amount of $1,710. The FTC also broke out fraud losses for members of the military and found their median fraud loss to be 44 percent higher than the general population.

https://www.jacksonsun.com/story/opinion/columnists/2018/04/06/ftc-releases-2017-complaint-statistics/493425002/

According to the FBI,

White-collar crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence. The motivation behind these crimes is financial—to obtain or avoid losing money, property, or services or to secure a personal or business advantage. These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three).

Mortgage fraud is a subcategory of financial institution fraud known as “fraud for profit”:

Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

The FBI has advised our members, if the allegation involves credit card fraud, the member should also file a complaint with the Secret Service.

https://ask.metafilter.com/81136/Should-I-call-the-Secret-Service-over-credit-card-fraud

The two most common complaints reported:

  • The agent said I could easily sell my points
  • They said I could pay maintenance fees by charging purchases to a credit card, neglecting to add only about 1% of each purchase is credited to maintenance fees. Some fell for bogus maintenance fee relief programs. Already struggling, they buy more points.

How Advocacy Works

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is organized into seven teams:

  1. Team 1 is our Reporting Team. Once the timeshare member has related their concern or grievance, the member submits their written complaint to the timeshare company. If ignored or the member receives a negative response, the complaint is forward to one of six advocates assigned to a specific regulatory or law enforcement agency. For example, Sheilah Brust is our go to person for the FBI and the Secret Service. http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-4/
  2. Team 2 is our Legislative Team. Members on this team reach out to sympathetic lawmakers to advocate for better disclosure. It would be nice to know that the timeshare you just bought for $100,000 had little or no secondary market the moment you signed the contract. TAG has received an alarming number of complaints from seniors 75 to 85 who have signed timeshare contracts for $100,000 or more. Not one of the 425 members reaching out to Inside Timeshare realized their timeshare in all likelihood could not be sold, even when costing as much as a house.
  3. Team 3 is our Military Team. We encourage anyone who has resolved their timeshare complaint as a result of our efforts to make a donation to Whistleblowers of America. WOA is a non-profit that seeks justice for active duty and veteran members of the military and government workers. WOA has supported our efforts by helping to distribute our articles. Our timeshare fraud report was presented as part of a Joint Committee on Veterans Affairs March 14, 2018.  https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/
  4.  Team 4 is our foreclosure support group. Facing cruel and relentless debt collection calls can be an overwhelming experience for anyone who has rarely been late on a bill, but for those who have recently lost a spouse the experience is devastating. Some members of this team have been through this and are determined to stay involved to fight Elder Fraud especially.
  5. Team 5 is our Scam Research team. This team consists of members who themselves have been scammed. There is a very dark side to this illegal industry. We are careful in our approach.
  6. Team 6 is our Media Team. Given state regulators backing up the timeshare company by responding, “You should not have relied on verbal representation” or “You have no proof” the Court of Public Opinion and Outcry is the only court open in some states.
  7. Team 7 is our Technology team.  We have a support staff of volunteers to assist those without access to a computer due to age, illness or disability. This team also provides YouTube production support.

Contact Inside Timeshare or email Irene Parker at [email protected] or call 270-303-7572 EST if you are interested in becoming a volunteer. Feel free to call any day of the week from 1:00 to 5:00 PM EST. It’s best to schedule a call. All calls and emails are returned within 24/48 hours.

Now it’s time to begin filling out the form. Before you begin, raise your right hand.

Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? It is important to present your information factually and without opinion or inflammatory language.

Our advocates are not attorneys and we do not provide legal advice. We have researched regulatory agencies and are here to direct consumers to the appropriate regulatory and law enforcement agencies listed below. We have also developed media relationships and will continue to work with broadcast and print media to alert the general public as to what questions to ask before buying a timeshare. Life events can change your life in an instant or a day. If your timeshare provides no secondary market, it can make a member feel a hostage to their vacation plan. It’s a good idea to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out whether your timeshare has a secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

Name (s) and age of member

Phone Number

State of Residence

Member Number

For each contract in dispute:

Where Purchased and Date of Purchase

Number of Points Purchased

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Current Loan Balance

Loan Number

Current Maintenance Fees

Name of Credit Card if one was used

What do you want? Do you seek Refund or Relinquishment?

Why? Is it due to Deception, Health, Age or Financial Burden?

If your investment is $40,000 or less and you owned and used your timeshare for ten years or more consider relinquishment. There can be no loan outstanding and maintenance fees need to be current.

Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded as will a request based on not being able to afford the timeshare. You can’t go to your home mortgage lender and say you can’t afford it. The difference is you can sell your home. Your complaint should be filed with the FBI only if there are credible and serious allegations of deceit and bait and switch. If you feel you were deceived, list the reasons why.   

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

It is better to state your narrative as a narrative referring back to the contracts and figures at the top of your complaint. 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.

After you complete your complaint, email it to the appropriate resort department or to TAG if you need help with your complaint. Expect to be denied. Typically your resort reviewer will restate your concerns, produce your initials and signatures, point out the oral representation clause and inform you, “If something was important to you, you should have asked for it to be put in the contract.” File a rebuttal if you disagree with their response.

Depending on the seriousness of your complaint, your advocate may forward your complaint to the firm’s public relations office or firm and to ARDA, the timeshare industries PAC, for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics. ARDA’s Code of Ethics can be found on ARDA’s website.

We do not recommend owners make the voluntary opt in or opt out ARDA ROC contribution on your maintenance fee invoice. It is the opinion of our advocates that although ARDA lobbies for the industry and for timeshare members, when the issue at stake is one that is at odds with members, members lose because they have no voice. We also forward your complaint to the Association of Vacation Owners. AVO has been tracking our complaints for research purposes. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-3/

Mark your email to the resort urgent if you are in financial distress. It is best to file a complaint before the debt collectors are hounding. The member will report back to us if the issue is resolved. Due to the required non-disclosure or mutual release form, terms and conditions will not be discussed.

The FBI complaint website is called IC3.gov which stands for Internet Crime. This is a bit confusing. IC is the name of the portal. That doesn’t mean it has to be an internet crime. We think they should have a white collar crime option to avoid this confusion. Click IC3 as your choice when filing. https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Serious allegations of fraud should be reported orally by calling the FBI field office’s public access line available 24/7 (see Sheilah’s article). Sometimes your local field office will pay closer attention than say Las Vegas, where losing money is a tourist attraction. You can find your nearest field office from this website.

https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices

The next step is to file a complaint first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed your contract and where you live. It can take a month or more to hear back from an AG but once your complaint has been accepted, debt collectors are not allowed to call. You can find any Attorney General by searching the state name and Attorney General.

If there was an unauthorized credit card charge or account opened or you feel you were deceived into signing off on a loan, you should file with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option (even if no mortgage) and select the bank that financed your loan or issued a credit card. This is the organization that helped Wells Fargo victims. The CFPB lost power after the roll back of the Dodd Frank act March 2018. The Dodd Frank act was enacted after the abuses caused by subprime lending. The CFPB is still considered a regulator. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/

You should file a complaint with the state Real Estate Division in the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against a sales agent. Your advocate can help you find the agent’s ID number. Timeshare sales agents are real estate licensed in most states.

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The company’s BBB rating can be misleading in that the BBB only rates how efficiently a company responds to complaints. Sometimes the BBB allows you to log in and file a rebuttal.  

Most important, consider reaching out to local or national media. Reporters look for content and are surprisingly easy to reach. Write an article about your experience. The more people who come forward, the more the public is made aware of timeshare black holes before engaging in a timeshare sales presentation.

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

  • The FBI at IC3.gov portal if you feel you were deceived by a bait and switch. For allegations of a serious nature also contact an FBI field office to file an oral tip. Have your facts and figures ready.
  • Attorneys General where you signed your contract. Most AG complaints can be filed online.
  • The Real Estate Division of the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against the agent.  
  • The media – the court of public opinion is often the only court available. Inside Timeshare, published in Spain, publishes timeshare articles online focusing primarily on the need for reform and oversight.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option selecting the bank involved. Timeshare has dodged this regulatory bullet because most members don’t even know the identity of the lender as the timeshare company often services the loan. Timeshare companies are not an option from the CFPB’s drop-down menu.
  • The Federal Trade Commission
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Lawmakers – The problem is the timeshare buyer typically does not buy in their state of residence which is why lawmakers don’t seem to take timeshare seriously. Still, any effort to contact lawmakers is encouraged.

If this sounds like work, it is, but you can file with some, all, or none of the agencies. We have a team of advocates who can answer questions and help guide you through the process. We feel “Action and Advocacy” is the way to change questionable timeshare business practices.  

If you are granted a positive outcome, you may not say or write anything disparaging about the resort, but there is no harm in staying involved by referring timeshare members who need help to Inside Timeshare or to one of the self-help groups listed below we know are not industry influenced.   

Who We Are and Why We Do This

Timeshare members contacting us are often struggling with maintenance fees and high interest rate loans. Venting on complaint sites has no effect whatsoever but an organized campaign to track complaints and report criminal activity has already born fruit in the form of Attorneys General settlements and a greater awareness.

If all else fails, we will refer to an attorney if the member can afford one. If you are forced into foreclosure, but have an otherwise unblemished credit report, you can write to the credit reporting agencies in an effort to explain why you were deceived and why you were not able to resolve your dispute.

I worked three years as a CASA supervisor, writing and editing court reports for Family Court on behalf of foster children. I find two commonalities between children of abuse, neglect or dependency and deceptive timeshare sales.

  1. The abnormal becomes the normal. After receiving 425 complaints, I fear deception is endorsed and encouraged by some timeshare companies. Of course not all sales agents are dishonest. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney Vacation Club because of their scarcity of complaints.
  2. Victims are silenced and isolated via non-disclosure agreements and arbitration. Buyers should opt out of arbitration immediately after signing a contract.   

There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. My husband and I owned three timeshares for 25 years with no problems or complaints. After we attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation in 2015, I began researching the industry, writing articles and assisting timeshare victims. My solo effort has grown to a network of 44 Advocates. We are not compensated. We are volunteers. We hope there will come a day our advocacy group is not needed.

Self-help groups seek to provide 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/

http://tug2.net/

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

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

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

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

May 18, 2018 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy GroupTM

 

That’s it for this week, the weekend once again beckons so join us again next week for more news and information on the world of timeshare.

Latest news just in from the Court of First Instance Number 3 Abona Tenerife.

The judge in a case against Diamond Resorts Tenerife Sales SL, has declared the clients contract null and void. The infringments are the points system which has been made illegal, the contract in perpetuity, when the law stipulates that it should be for a maximum of 50 years and the taking of deposits within the cooling of period, which is also illegal even by a third party.

The client will now receive a total of £44,790 which includes double the deposit illegally taken, the court also awarded legal interest.

The laws in Spain have been put into place and strengthened by the Supreme Court to protect consumers, they are having a profound affect on the industry, which for too long believed it was untouchable.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with our very own Irene Parker, this week Irene explains the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook and what it stands for. Since its inception it has been growing its membership base on a daily basis, it is also becoming an influential force in US timeshare. But first a quick look at some news in Europe.

The UK news has been dominated recently by the death of a former Russian double agent and links to the murder of another Russian Businessman, but what has this to do with timeshare I hear you ask?

Well, according to the Daily Express and a story they published on Friday 23 March, police are also re-examining the murder of John “Goldfinger” Palmer, who many of you will remember from the Brinks Mat bullion robbery, but most of all for his timeshare empire in Tenerife.

John Palmer was found dead at his Essex home in June 2015, but it was not until around a week later they discovered he had been shot. According to the Express police are looking into his international associates, especially his connection with money laundering for a former associate of the Russian President. So the story of John Palmer continues, see link below for the Express story.

https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/936107/Russians-kill-John-Palmer-British-gangster-linked-Boris-Berezovsky-death-re-examined#

Once again Inside Timeshare warns readers of the fake law firms and claims companies that keep springing up. As always the call tells the owner their timeshare resort / company has been taken to court or are about to be taken to court, that there is a significant amount of money being held and just waiting to be paid out to them.

The next step is to have this money released, there is usually a tax that has to be paid to the court, or even that you need to get a Spanish NIE number, which they can get for you, obviously for a fee. Most of the time the money has to be paid by bank transfer to an account of a named individual. Don’t pay it!

If you are paying “tax” or costs for a service, you would not be paying into the account of a named person, would it not be the tax office, court or a named company?

Remember, once you have paid by bank transfer, the money will have disappeared and you will never get it back. Now for this weeks article from Irene.

What is the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook About?

advocate 1

We seek to provide Diamond Resort 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/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

By Irene Parker

March 27, 2018

A Comment on gun violence in America

There were a lot of voices being heard throughout America this past weekend, teens voicing their feelings about gun violence. Whether you are for or against their position, one can’t help but admire their courage, determination and persistence.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/march-for-our-lives-huge-crowds-gather-for-rally-against-gun-violence-in-nations-capital/2018/03/24/4121b100-2f7d-11e8-b0b0-f706877db618_story.html?utm_term=.6143e61d44d4

You can succumb to being a victim or you can use your experience to foster a greater good. Charles Thomas and I have listened to 366 US timeshare members express their anger since we began counting late 2016. We have received 101 US Diamond member complaints since January 1. Many of the families are outraged alleging they were sold by sales agents employing deceitful bait and switch tactics. Many members have been helped, but only after endless rebuttals, regulatory and law enforcement filings, and media outreach. Still, any timeshare company can just say no, knowing there is little timeshare regulation or enforcement.    

Inside Timeshare supports families through the 180 day foreclosure process. The vast majority of those going through this painful process are responsible citizens who have rarely been late paying a bill. The timeshare contract is perpetual, there is virtually no secondary market. There are DRI Facebooks that have some exchange of Diamond points from member to member. Families in foreclosure:

Deneice Vargas: http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-21/

Amanda and George Jones: http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Scotty Black: http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-36/

Greg Jennings: http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-15/

Roy Simmons: http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-13/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_nca6lMA4U&feature=youtu.be

Ramond Mori: http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-42/

Josh Parker: http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-41/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezkJ7GlJN4U&feature=youtu.be

There are several others facing foreclosure who have not published an article. Three of the above are concerned about losing their Military/Law Enforcement Security Clearance. Four are disabled veterans, two 90% to 100% disabled.

Diamond Resorts has been responding to member complaints. About 100 of the 345 DRI complaints have been resolved through relinquishment, loan cancellation, refund or foreclosure. http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-37/

One advocacy silver lining is that members foreclosed do not have to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Like America’s teens raising their voices demanding change, foreclosed members can remain outfront and vocal advocates.

What the Diamond Resort Owners Advocacy Facebook is not:

The Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook is not a complaint site. If members join only to express displeasure, they are better served by posting on Trustpilot or Tripadvisor. While venting may make a person feel better, ranting on a complaint site will do nothing to change what we feel are predatory and criminal business practices, as defined by the FBI. Sheilah Brust wrote this article about her experience reporting her complaint to the FBI. Sheilah can now advise others. Sheila has not signed a non-disclosure agreement. http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-14/

There has been no response from ARDA challenging their Code of Ethics. Timeshare members need to research what the “Voluntary ARDA ROC “donation” is doing on their maintenance fee invoice.

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-roc-donation-in-maintenance-bill

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

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

Timeshare Advocacy Group was launched by a small group of advocates that has grown to a solid group of 44 advocates concerned about the volume of timeshare complaints found on the internet directed against Wyndham, Bluegreen, Diamond Resorts, Vacation Village and a few others. The only timeshare that seems to have almost no complaints is Disney Vacation Club. TAG feels timeshare members should have a safe place to get straight answers about their timeshare concerns and be provided with assistance when regulatory and law enforcement fillings are called for.  

Book worm

We hope lessons learned by consumers who purchased a timeshare product they did not understand will reach the general public so  prospective timeshare buyers know what questions to ask before buying or upgrading a timeshare.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-16/

Our Advocates are here for support. The only reasons for removing a member from our Diamond Resorts Advocacy Facebook are:

  1. A member will be removed if they are insulting or disrespectful to another member.
  2. If a transfer, listing agent, or “get you out of your timeshare guaranteed” company solicits a member, they will be immediately removed. Karen Krokosh wrote this article about her experience with Sell My Timeshare Now and is now researching member complaints of this nature. http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-5/

Members need to be aware that there have been reports of timeshare members being charged thousands of dollars for a guaranteed exit, only to learn the exit company considers foreclosure a guarantee. No one should sign up with anyone demanding upfront money, even an attorney, without checking with us because we have learned there are some lawyers with questionable business practices.

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

We support our members from their first Facebook post through resolution. This is our complaint form: http://insidetimeshare.com/file-timeshare-complaint-revised/

Inside Timeshare is part and parcel of the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook. Timeshare Advocacy Group™  was formed hoping timeshare members will look beyond just their own timeshare company concerns. We feel there are some deceitful and predatory timeshare business practices so ingrained; they are endorsed and encouraged from the top levels of the management down to the person who responds with, “Sorry you signed a contract.” Checking with the FBI we have learned many of the complaints reported to Inside Timeshare meet the FBI’s definition of White Collar Crime – deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch. See Sheilah’s article for more information about the FBI.

Other self-help Timeshare Support Groups, in our opinion, not industry influenced,

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

We don’t mind if industry insiders or Diamond employees join our Facebook as long as they are respectful. In fact, we encourage this hoping they will confront the serious problems we have uncovered. It would be great if we could all just get along. I have always said, “Half a problem goes away when confronted.”

happy kids

Thank you Irene and also a big thank you to all the volunteers who give up their time to help others, between us we are changing the face of timeshare.

If you have any comments or questions about this or any other article published, or just need information about any company that has contacted you or you are thinking of doing business with, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome once again to Friday’s Letter from America, this week is Earth to ARDA, it is an open letter to Mr. Clements, Mr. Nusbaum and Mr. Roth, it is jointly written article by Eron Grant and Irene Parker. Inside Timeshare can also report that the US team have had three resolutions this week. Diamond  is Listening. So well done all the US volunteers.

justice2

This week has been a rather busy one for the courts in Spain, with three sentences from the Courts of First Instance, two from the High Courts and ruling number 90 from the Spanish Supreme Court.

Anfi have had three judgements against them this week two at the Court of First Instance and one at the High Court. In the first two, Court Number 3 at Maspalomas, GC found for the clients, declaring their contract with Anfi null and void. This case was highlighted in the Tuesday Slot with Irene on 6 March.

The second case, held at Court Number 4, again in Maspalomas, another Anfi member had their contract declared null and void. Ordering the return of over £15,000 plus legal interest.

In the High Court Number 5 in Las Palmas, the judge again declared an Anfi contract null and void, with the return of over £14,000 plus appeal legal fees and interest.

In the same court another timeshare company Airtours has had one of their contracts declared null and void, with the judge ordering the return of over 12,000€ plus legal interest.

At the Court of First Instance Number 4 in Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol, Club la Costa has been ordered to return over £19,000 including legal fees and legal interest. The contract was also declared null and void.

In the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid, another historic ruling, bringing the total number made by the Highest Court to a whopping 90!

This was against the Tenerife operation Silverpoint, again the contract was declared null and void with the return of over £10,000 plus legal fees and interest. There will be full article on this and another Supreme Court ruling next week, so keep an eye on these pages.

All these case have been brought on behalf of the clients by the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, no doubt the clients and the lawyers will be celebrating this weekend.

cla-brochure

In other news, we had an enquiry into another company contacting Club Class members, this call was from a Madeline Swann of Gateway Services, apparently based in Telford. In the call she is telling the client that there is a payment due from the banks for being mis-sold his Club Class membership. All he needs to do is pay a certain amount by bank transfer to a Santander account to have the money released.

Haven’t we heard this one before?

On searching for this supposed company nothing came up, no company house records, nothing. So if you get a call from this Madeline Swann or anyone else saying they are from Gateway Service, do let us know. Remember, there will not be any money waiting for you from the banks or the courts.

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

Protest photo

This photo was posted on a Diamond sponsored member Facebook page, but removed. If you see these members at a resort near you, please send them to:

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

Earth to ARDA: WE GIVE – ARDA ROC – A MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. BLUEGREEN DOES TOO

TO: Robert Clements, Lobbyist and General Counsel, Regulatory Affairs,

Howard Nusbaum, ARDA CEO,

Peter Roth, media contact

From: American Resort Development Association‘s Code of Ethics:

According to ARDA’s website – “Vacation Ownership is one of the most highly regulated vacation products in today’s consumer marketplace.”

Inside Timeshare will be following Platinum Diamond members Roy and Lillian Simmons as they make their way through Vacation Ownership’s highly regulated industry. Mr. and Mrs. Simmons are worried about losing their home, up-sold at age 69 and 70 to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. They are one of 23 Diamond Platinum members alleging they were fraudulently up-sold into financial disaster. Roy and Lillian Simmons first submitted their demands to Diamond’s Consumer Advocacy Department on January 8. Tuesday’s article describes what happened:

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-13/

Next, they filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau the end of February. The BBB closed their complaint in two days because a Diamond Hospitality agent from the Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department responded, “They signed a contract.” As Mr. Simmons describes on the YouTube, they were told Diamond shares were going to go up and split and they could make $3,000 to $4,000 a week renting Hawaii points because Hawaii points are so valuable. Mrs. Simmons is too devastated to have taken part in the YouTube production. Fortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Simmons have a daughter. On March 6, their daughter Angela filed a complaint with the FBI at IC3.gov against three Diamond sales agents, one in Hawaii and two in Orlando. She also filed a complaint with the FTC. Today she will refile a complaint with the BBB again asking, “What?”

You can file a complaint with the weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but since companies like Diamond and Bluegreen service the timeshare loan, members don’t even know the name of the lender unless the borrower has a lower credit score. Quorum Credit Union handles the lower score people. You have to select a lender from the CFPB drop-down menu. Timeshare companies are not an option.

Onward with complaints, they will file with the Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota and Nevada Attorneys General. The Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014. Then there’s the state real estate division in Florida and Hawaii against Diamond’s Hawaii sales agent John Jessup and Florida sales agent Rafael Carerra.

If Diamond won’t help them, it’s possible the Simmons will lose not only their vacation points, but also their home, according to their daughter Angela. Angela said the $2,700 a month Diamond loan is a significant portion of their retirement income. It’s doubtful any of the filings will have an effect. Angela is surprised all of this is like a ten hour a week part time job.

Like Kevin and Brenda Hopkins, the Simmons are supported by Whistleblowers of America, an organization dedicated to seeking justice for military and government workers.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Kevin and Brenda Hopkins describe their extraordinary sales pitch:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-39/

Some Peasants Revolt

By Eron Grant and Irene Parker

Friday March 9, 2018

meeting in office

Mr. Clements, Mr. Nusbaum and Mr. Roth,

We are educated professionals, two among thousands demanding accountability, transparency and respect. Two of 44 Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates who have listened to 326 Diamond members allege predatory sales tactics that has caused financial disaster for hundreds of families, the possible loss of Military Security Clearances, ruined vacations, ruined honeymoons, damaged credit reports, members alleging they were over promised and oversold on availability, the ability to sell points, pay maintenance fees with programs that do not exist, the ability to rent points and the ability to lower interest rates, as in the case of Active Duty Navy members Amanda and George Jones. http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Lawmakers are beginning to listen, a few Attorneys Generals are listening (not Florida or Nevada), regulators are listening, and the FBI is listening. ARDA is not listening.     

Sure, there are 9 million happy timeshare owners who own and enjoy their timeshare. They might not have been affected by a life crisis, only to learn their timeshare has no secondary market, or been sold or up-sold by a deceitful bait and switch. By your own accounting, 83% of timeshare owners are happy. That leaves 1,530,000 members that are not happy. Over 900 Diamond members complained to the Arizona Attorney General’s office accusing Diamond and their sales agents of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. Complaints to our Advocacy Group have not diminished since Arizona Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance. The AOD is linked at the bottom of the press release.

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

Early complainers consisted of over 1,000 British Diamond members crying foul.

DRIP Enjin: http://drip.enjin.com/

Our Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy Facebook launched by an economics professor has over 1,000 members. It’s hard to find Disney Vacation Club complaints.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiamondResortsOwnersAdvocacy/

Here’s what happened to Mark and Eron   

YouTube produced by Doctor and Ms. Mark Grant

Our Timeshare Nightmare of a Lifetime

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FMk_45zRzk&feature=youtu.be

My husband Mark and I have kids. We are working professionals. We said we need to travel close to home. Our Diamond sales agents said, “No problem!” Grapevine, Texas Great Wolf Lodge sounded great! It was a bait and switch….

Most people don’t pull their kids out of school to take them to Great Wolf Lodge, so we searched Friday to Monday three nights:

April 6 – 9 Family Suite (6)

19,700 DRI points required @ $.22.5 maintenance fee $ = $4,432 for three nights.

As opposed to Booking.com April 6 – 9 Family Suite

 $819.97

101.67 ($33.89 per night service fee)

106.59 (13% tax)

$1,028.23 for three nights

This is not an ARDA’s Code of Ethics concern? I ask again:    

red dress

What ARDA Code of Ethics?

The ARDA Code of Ethics was designed to encourage an honest and fair competitive landscape for the vacation ownership industry, while upholding the highest forms of integrity, dignity and propriety.

Let’s review this Code. I actually read it.

Code of Ethics: Frequently Asked Questions

Question:  Why does ARDA have a Code of Ethics?

Answer:  ARDA and its members are committed to the highest standards and ethical behavior in vacation ownership. To demonstrate that commitment, all ARDA members as a condition of membership must agree to comply with the ARDA Code of Ethics. The Code consists of not only general conduct requirements, but also specific requirements for members to adhere to when transacting with consumers, standards for disclosure of information to the public, rules regarding resort management, base guidelines for resale activities, as well as administrative procedures for interpretation and enforcement of the Code.

Note from Eron and Irene: Diamond points have no resale activity. We think this is something a consumer might like to know before signing a perpetual contract.

Question:

What can be done to a (an ARDA) member whose actions are in violation of the Code?

Answer:  If a member is determined to be in violation of the Code (of Ethics), ARDA may take the following actions:

  • Privately or Publicly Admonish the Member
  • Prepare a Letter of Censure
  • Place the Member on Probation
  • Suspend the Member from ARDA Membership
  • Terminate the Member from ARDA Membership

Note from Eron: In addition to Diamond members giving ARDA ROC a million dollars a year, Diamond President Ken Siegel sits on ARDA’s Board of Directors. Diamond members are billed $7 for a “voluntary opt-out” donation from members who in all likelihood cannot even tell you what ARDA ROC stands for. I know I had no clue what the letters ARDA ROC stand for.    

Question:  Who do I contact if I have questions about the Code?

Answer: After reviewing the provisions of the ARDA Ethics Code, if you have questions, please call 407-245-7601 and ask to speak to the ARDA Ethics Administrator, or e-mail [email protected].

Note from Eron: After waiting 4 months for a response from Julie Schwartz (not Lobbyist and General Counsel Robert Clements because he would not take my call), I’m not feeling optimistic about making a phone call to ARDA’s Ethics Administrator. The fact you have to email customer service is not a good sign.

Note from Advocate Irene: I have sent ARDA about 100 of our most grievous complaints from Diamond Resorts members, seniors in fear of losing their home, military members in fear of losing their Security Clearance, alleging they were victims of fraud for profit. Not a word other than through the timeshare grapevine, “She’s writing articles for people.” No I’m not. I edit articles submitted to Inside Timeshare.

Inside Timeshare has received 340 reader complaints, 78 since January 1. Our Diamond Advocacy Facebook page has over 1,000 members, Bluegreen members’ Facebook 800 (they are trying to keep their membership below 800).

Question: Does ARDA support the consumer?

In our opinion, only when the issue at stake is in line with developer’s wishes. One Advocacy Group banned ARDA from attending their meetings after a 2015 Florida bill was passed making it more difficult to get out of timeshare contracts due to nonmaterial errors.  

https://www.redweek.com/resources/ask-redweek/arda-roc-donation-in-maintenance-bill

If the wishes diverge, lobby dollars go to work:

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

Question:  What does ARDA do with the information it receives from the general public regarding the potentially unethical conduct of its members?

Note from Eron: Nothing – My non-response from Julie Schwartz, ARDA-ROC Consumer Support representative serves as an example:

Answer:  ARDA does not mediate or arbitrate individual disputes between consumers and ARDA member companies. When we receive information regarding a potential violation of the Code we forward those complaints to the company for their consideration and resolution.

Note from Eron:  Who sits on your board and gives you a million dollars a year.

It is then up to the respective parties to resolve any potential dispute. Information submitted by the public may be used by ARDA to act against members when there is a consistent pattern of business practices that are in violation of the code.

Note from Eron: What about the 900 Diamond members who complained to the Arizona Attorney General? Better Business Bureau lists over 1,000 complaints.

Don and Irene Parker’s Diamond experience:

Like Eron, we purchased points for a specific location, New York City. Our daughter lives there. Like Eron, we learned it would cost approximately $8,500 in  Diamond maintenance fee dollars to stay one week at the same hotel, same time for $950 through an online booking service. I checked year round.

Next, we attended a predatory sales presentation at Diamond’s Grand Beach in Orlando. I spent three decades in sales selling everything from pianos to stocks and bonds. I know a predatory sales agent when I meet one. Thoroughly disgusted, we went back to our room at Mystic Dunes, turned on the television, and saw the Queen of Versailles, a FOX News Property Man segment about Jackie and David Siegel, the owners of Westgate timeshare building their 90,000 square foot home. We were in the process of moving from Kentucky to Venice Florida, so it just seemed natural to write an article called “The peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles” describing wealth out of touch with reality.

http://insidetimeshare.com/peasant-venice-queen-versailles/

One true benefit of owning Diamond points has been developing relationships with other professionals, over 1,000 of us, who have bonded together like a band of brothers and sisters, to fight widespread timeshare corruption we feel is so ingrained in the timeshare industry, it is accepted and considered normal, kind of like #metoo or sexual abuse, as happened at Michigan State. Look how long that went on.

At least timeshare members are finding each other now, no longer silenced and isolated. When timeshare members need a voice, they can contact Inside Timeshare. We can help.

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/

 

If you need any information about this or any other article, company that contacts you or you have found on the internet or advertising in the press, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

It pays to do your homework and due diligence before engaging with any company, not all are what the say.

Have a great weekend and join us next week.

weekend

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Friday, so time for another Letter from America with Irene Parker, but first a look today’s major news in Europe.

El Diario a prominent Spanish daily newspaper published the following article today (see link for full story).

The article reports on the current legal actions against Anfi and tells of the 1.35 million Euros they have had to repay to consumers, in the execution of around fifty judgements. It also goes on to say that there are over 395 live cases at court with a value of over 27 million Euros, with over 100 having had decisions in favour of the consumers. Some of these are firm decisions with the sentences yet to be executed, others are awaiting confirmation.

With even the Spanish press publishing articles such this, it does make the claim by Anfi that they have not lost or the Supreme Court has got it wrong rather flimsy!

In fact on Tuesday yet another sentence was announced by the Court of First Instance against Anfi, again the clients contract was declared null and void with the judge ordering Anfi to return over £20,000 plus legal interest

(if using google. Right click on the article for a translation to English)

http://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Grupo_Anfi-condenas-negocio-timesharing_0_739477033.html

The same article has also been published in Canarias7, one of the major Canary Islands Newspapers.

https://www.canarias7.es/economia/turismo/anfi-paga-ya-1-35-millones-por-condenas-YK3590405

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

 

The 3 Rs or F of Timeshare Revisited (first published in three parts)

Timeshare Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund, Foreclosure

Magnify

By Irene Parker

February 16, 2018

There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare, but rising maintenance fees, high interest rate loans and higher interest rate developer issued credit cards can spell financial disaster, especially when an individual or family is hit with an unexpected life crisis. Not one of the more than 300 Inside Timeshare readers who have contacted us realized the perpetual nature of the timeshare contract (in the US), or that their timeshare had little or no secondary market. It is not uncommon for a family to have spent $100,000 or more on a timeshare.

There is rarely a need to pay anyone, or any firm, money to get you out of your timeshare. Special circumstances, like being in the middle of buying a house, may result in a referral to one of the law firms we know and trust, if the timeshare company refuses to help the individual or family.   

Our “How to File a Complaint” form explains a process that takes time, determination and effort, but when it works, it costs nothing. We say when, because we don’t win them all. No one does, not even lawyers. “We can guarantee you release!” boasts the exit timeshare ad. We have had reports of people paying scammers large sums of money for a guaranteed release, only to learn the guarantee came about because of foreclosure or non-payment.

Our complaint form: http://insidetimeshare.com/file-timeshare-complaint-revised/

The goal:  Convert from angry, desperate, overwhelmed and confused into empowered. Timeshare Advocacy Group™   has 44 core advocates and 10 technical support advocates to help you. All of our Advocates are unpaid.

The First R: Relinquishment

dont like

Some timeshare companies offer voluntary surrender programs, but relinquishments are not guaranteed and there cannot be an outstanding loan or delinquent maintenance fees. It is difficult to determine how many surrenders requests are granted, compared to the number of surrenders requested.

There is nothing wrong with deeding back a timeshare if you have used and enjoyed the timeshare for several years. However, if you find out just days or weeks after purchase that you bought a timeshare not matching what you were promised, walking away from even $5,000 doesn’t seem right.

Before relinquishing, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare can be listed with one of their 64 members. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

LTRBA members charge nothing up front, so they don’t waste your time or money by listing a timeshare that, in all likelihood, will never sell.

The Second R:

refund

A refund is not easy to come by, but in cases of serious and obvious fraud; a refund can be achieved.  Inside Timeshare has heard from so many members alleging fraud, we can sometimes guess the name of the repeat offender sales agent before we are told. The fact that some of the same agents are committing the same “fraud for profit” over a period of years is telling.

The complaint process begins with a petition to the resort. Anticipate a knee jerk “you signed a contract’ reaction. Next, begins the filing of regulatory and law enforcement agency complaints. This is where our advocates are ready to assist because just figuring out online forms can be daunting. Check our complaint form for the list of appropriate agencies to contact.

Eron Grant has become our resident ARDA Code of Ethics analyst. In all likelihood, timeshare members are not even aware they are collectively giving $5 million a year to ARDA ROC. ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association and ROC Resort Owners Coalition. The money comes through “voluntary” opt-in or opts-out donations. This $3 to $10 amount, which varies depending on the resort, appears on all maintenance fee invoices purchased in the U.S. if the developer is an ARDA member.

Despite our advocates and members forwarding a volume of complaints to ARDA, questioning ARDA’s Code of Ethics, there has been no response. Inside Timeshare has learned two of the worst alleged offenders each give $1 million a year to ARDA ROC, surely a disincentive to enforcement.   

Here’s Eron’s article: Why Does ARDA Have a Code of Ethics?

red dress

The intent is that all member activities subject to the Code are designed to be honest and fair, and are conducted with integrity, dignity and propriety.  http://www.arda.org/ethics/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Litigation can take years and often the amount of money at stake doesn’t justify the time and expense litigation requires. Some developers have a class action ban, forcing arbitration. There are many critics of arbitration, including 19 Attorneys General like Minnesota AG Lori Swanson, as reported by Chris Parker.  

“The right to have your dispute resolved before a jury of your peers is as American as it gets; it’s a fundamental core American democratic principle,” says Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. “To think that millions upon millions of consumers are forfeiting their fundamental right to have their day in court because of fine print in a contract….”

“Should a dispute arise, arbitration forces consumers out of the court system and into arbitration where appeals aren’t allowed, corporations historically wield a huge advantage—when not outright rigging the system—and details of misconduct are kept private,” writes Chris Parker, a reporter for City Pages

http://www.citypages.com/news/the-plot-to-kill-consumer-protection/451334393

Timeshare buyers should check immediately after signing a contract to see if they can opt out of the arbitration clause. Probably only a lawyer would think to do so.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-arbitration/

Timeshare developers know the industry is virtually unregulated and that they are protected by the oral representation clause. However, as we have stated in several previous articles, according to the FBI and attorneys we spoke with, it is not legal for a company to hide behind the fine print, providing sales agents the means to say anything they can come up with to sell points.      

The most common deceit and bait and switch complaints

  • The agent said I could sell my points.
  • The agent said my points were an investment, so easily sold, at a profit.
  • I can turn in points to pay maintenance fees but no such program exists
  • The value of airline and other travel awards is zilch. A common complaint is being told you can use a credit card to offset or pay maintenance fees in their entirety, when a member would have to charge $200,000 to pay an annual $2,000 maintenance fee.
  • The interest rate is 18%. They said I could get better financing but I can’t.

The Third R

resolved

It doesn’t happen very often, but there is the possibility the member just doesn’t know how to use the booking system. Blanket statements like “You can always book online cheaper than using timeshare points” are not accurate. My husband and I are Diamond owners. We have often booked two weeks in Sedona or Orlando for less than it would cost booking online using our points.

One amusing complaint was a buyer whose complaint was that they bought a trial program, but they were promised a lifetime membership. I explained, in the case of the timeshare company they bought into, the last thing they wanted was a lifetime membership. I encouraged them to become a Secret Shopper since they were not locked into perpetual maintenance fees.

 foreclosure  Foreclosure

This is the least pleasant outcome, but foreclosure is not the end of the world. Timeshare Advocacy Group has a foreclosure support group, with members offering each other tips on how to withstand the grueling up to 180 days or more of collection calls. Calls are relentless and members have reported many violations of debt collection consumer protection laws.  

We’re working on a document for those who experience foreclosure to provide to credit rating agencies or lenders, detailing the patterns of complaints listed on Better Business Bureau reports, Attorneys General Settlements, and Assurances of Discontinuance and lawsuits. There will be a hit to your credit score of course, but if you feel you are a victim of fraudulent timeshare sales practices, provide the rating agencies or your lenders with the reason why you refused to pay off a timeshare loan or credit card. Lenders are human. Many will take this into consideration.

I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group some questions about the foreclosure process for an article we published previously. Mike’s answers are worth repeating. Some common questions:

Will the timeshare company try to ruin my credit for non- payment of maintenance fees loans or both?

Mike Finn: Generally no credit reporting on maintenance fees, yes they do on “mortgage” payments. Most timeshare property owner associations, which are separate non-profit entities, do not report non-payment of maintenance fees largely because they don’t maintain subscriber contracts with the credit reporting agencies. However, once referred to collection, those agencies do maintain subscriber relationships and that’s where the issue becomes relevant.

Can or will members be taken to court for non-payment of maintenance fees loans or both?

Mike: Can yes, will, maybe not so much

Do they place liens for non-payment of loans?

Mike: Yes in the sense that they do pursue foreclosures, yes for maintenance fees as well.

Do they place the lien just on the timeshare? In other words, does the lien apply just to the timeshare, or does the lien apply to a member’s primary residence as well?

Mike: The word ‘lien’ can be utilized in more than one way. In the timeshare world it typically means the security interest filed against the timeshare itself by virtue of nonpayment of maintenance fees. Only the timeshare interest itself is impacted by that kind of lien, not the owner’s property beyond the timeshare. A mortgage lien on the timeshare caused by non-payment of the initial purchase price can, under certain circumstances, become a judgment which could be satisfied by going after the defaulting party’s personal assets. This very rarely happens, but it has happened, so we can never, say never.

Is it advisable to just stop paying fees without the aid of an attorney?

Mike: It really does depend on your ability to endure collection calls, letters threats, and a foreclosure on your credit report is quite damning, it will make refinancing or new residential purchases an issue for about 5 years. Rarely will they sue for deficiency balance.

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/can-a-timeshare-hurt-my-credit-score

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/english/learning-center/page-12

Remember, “I can’t afford it,” is not a valid reason to cancel a loan for a timeshare any more than it is a reason to be able to cancel your home mortgage loan. You can’t go to your home mortgage lender and ask them to cancel your home mortgage because, “I can’t afford it.”

Our Advocates, bringing experience and expertise from all walks of life, are here to evaluate and work together to help you put your timeshare in the rear view mirror, if that is your goal.

Our mission

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/

Let’s keep working together to improve the industry.

fix prob

That’s it for another week, remember if you require any information about any article published or any company that contacts you, Contact Inside Timeshare and we will get the information for you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

weekend cat

More Nightmares on Timeshare Street

Today’s article is rather disturbing, it highlights how members of the armed services and veterans are being targeted by unscrupulous sales agents. For people who put their lives on the line, this behaviour is particularly obnoxious.

Timeshare Wars

Samuel Melendez, our Advocacy group thanks you for your service to our country

troops

By Irene Parker

Diamond and ARDA seek to destroy me. I know that sounds melodramatic, but sources tell me it’s true.  I’m confident this will happen sooner rather than later. The industry and ARDA’s answer to our advocacy efforts is to behead the messengers rather than examine the business practices of top selling agents. I’m told one executive even commented, “They are victimizing the uneducated,” in regard to Timeshare Advocacy Group™ and our efforts.

Please read the American Resort Development Association’s (ARDA) Code of Ethics and Eron Grant’s article about the code before reading the following ten reader reports about their allegations of deceit.

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

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Diamond Resorts and Bluegreen each give $1 million a year in the form of voluntary “opt out” donations to the timeshare lobby, a PAC, called ARDA ROC. Members are told it is a nonprofit that helps timeshare members. It is doubtful many members even know what the letters ARDA ROC stand for. Marriott’s contribution is an “opt in” donation. It took several calls to have my $7 removed from my account. When I called in November, I was told it was a delinquency. Having researched timeshare for over two years, I was able to determine the $7 was moved from one account to another. I suspect it was to have me forget about it as it mushed into the 2018 invoice.    

In a span of ten days, Inside Timeshare has been contacted by seven active duty and retired military, describing how they say they were defrauded by predatory timeshare sales agents from four companies.  A 100 page summary of 249 complaints against timeshare sales agents and companies is available upon request by regulatory authorities. Of the 249 complaints, 233 are against Diamond Resorts.  I am a Diamond member. I did not choose to do business with Diamond. We were acquired in the ILX Arizona acquisition. If I were instead a Bluegreen member, 233 out of 249 complaints would be against Bluegreen. Bluegreen members have their own Advocacy group supporting members who want out of their Dream Vacation that can become a Nightmare when a life crisis occurs.  

troops2

Today we thank Samuel Melendez who spent 21 years in the army training soldiers, working with colleges, teaching chemical, biological and nuclear defense. When a military family is forced into foreclosure because they were lied to about being able to sell back points or finance at a lower rate, they don’t just lose their money. This can jeopardize their security clearance and their job.  Amanda Jones, featured in Tuesday’s article, has suggested individual base commanders be informed in the hope they will ban service members from attending timeshare presentations and events. “The Diamond sales agent that sold us points said he was a Marine. If he is not, that’s stolen valor. Base commanders need to be aware of the predatory nature of timeshare sales. My husband George and I, Navy computer technicians, feel we were victimized.”   

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

If seven members of the military, describing how they say they were defrauded were not enough in a week, Gay and Ed Brewer called me yesterday. My husband and I owned a bioavailability pharmaceutical research laboratory, but I have heard more grave medical conditions in the last two years assisting timeshare members, than I did in ten years as president of our company.   

Gay Brewer, 74 and Ed Brewer, 77

First, here is Diamond’s Rebuttal to my article written for Jim Cramer’s TheStreet about Apollo’s acquisition of Diamond dated June 30, 2016.

It is also incorrect to state that Diamond Resorts is “not interested” in liquidity in the resale market for timeshares because the company profits from “reclaiming” vacation ownership interests that are defaulted on by the customer. To the contrary, Diamond Resorts understands that customers experience life events that change the circumstances from when they originally purchased vacation ownership interests. That is why the company not only permits resales, but we also recently announced a new “Transitions Program” to launch soon, and will allow those in good standing to relinquish their points to the company in a simple, safe and respectful manner.

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13624491/1/is-apollo-returning-to-its-junk-roots-with-its-acquisition-of-diamond-resorts.html#2

The snag is “in good standing” because almost all timeshare members contacting Inside Timeshare say they were pressured into high interest rate loans. All timeshare companies can and do cancel loans. I’ve come to learn it is a matter of who wears down whom first.

According to Gay Brewer,

Ed’s heart stopped beating three times this past year. He has had a prior heart attack. He has had a Pacemaker defibrillator implanted which has fired three times. He cannot fly on an airplane or be exposed to high altitudes. He is monitored 24/7 by a Holter monitor. We had to evacuate our California home due to the Liberty fire. At present we are receiving 12 collection calls a day (six each) from Diamond’s collection agents.

Deneice Vargas, another Diamond member in foreclosure (her husband Louis is diagnosed with Bell’s palsy), told me “When DRI Consumer Advocates are not busy advocating for members by researching and providing the member’s initials on the fine print, in response to “the sales agent said”, they make collection calls.” The oral representation clause may make this legal robbery, but Social Media is eventually going to catch up. Several attorneys have told me the oral representation does not allow timeshare companies to get away with sale agents who lie, but there is virtually no enforcement. State enforcement is spotty at best.

The Brewers were Monarch owners. Like so many, they were told they had to give up their deeded week. This was not true. Four or five contracts later, after the last up-sell at Diamond’s Polo Towers Resort, they decided they regretted buying points due to disappointment in availability. While I find good value in Arizona and Orlando using points, limited availability is a major complaint voiced by Diamond and Bluegreen members. The Brewers have written to DRI Consumer Advocacy:

Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy

We are asking our loans be cancelled due to medical and financial hardship. We were told we would not be able to use our Monarch week unless we bought DRI points and that our Monarch week was worthless. We were never told of the option to deed back the week to DRI. Due to the burden of medical bills, we have not made payments since July and will not be able to make future payments.

We contacted Exit Timeshare as they guarantee timeshare release but they said they would charge us $28,000. I contacted Irene Parker. She told us to contact Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy instead. She said DRI Advocates have helped many in our situation. We were not aware there was a DRI Advocacy program.

Please contact us as soon as possible. It was never our intention not to meet this obligation, despite the fact that there was never adequate availability when we tried to book and we were never told of the option to deed back our Monarch week. We have learned that on TUG Timeshare Users Group, DRI is accepting more than 95% of requests, if in good standing.  

Thank you for your consideration.

Gay Brewer

army

Samuel Melendez Response to DRI Advocate Ben from Irene Parker

Mr. Melendez, DRI Complaint #207/233, is the eighth Platinum member to contact Inside Timeshare alleging financial institution fraud, deceit and bait and switch by DRI agent Rick Casper. The depth of corruption and the degree of criminality is now over my head, based on Karen Varten’s and Samuel and Delores Melendez report preceded by 231 others. Mr. Melendez and Ms. Varten have both reported a negative outcome.  

The Melendez family Edward Jones financial planner contacted me, so I am responding on the family’s behalf. I retired from Edward Jones Hawaii. Their EDJ financial planner had researched timeshare a little and found a law firm offering legal assistance for well over $10,000. He asked me if he should refer the family to this lawyer. I have nothing against the firm he mentioned, but I told the EDJ broker to hold off because I have referred seven other Rick Casper Platinum up-sells to Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy and they have helped all of them. They reported a positive outcome, albeit one needed the assistance of the Arizona Attorney General. What did Mr. Melendez receive from their Diamond Consumer Advocate as a response? Basically, they received a reminder of the oral representation clause, and their initials on the fine print, despite seven other identical Rick Casper complaints from members who received positive outcomes.

I spent a good two hours on the phone Monday with the FBI. My new neighbor is a federal prosecutor on sabbatical from California. I asked him for advice, but he only knows about murders. After speaking with the FBI (for the fourth time), and a few lawyers, I am convinced the oral representation clause does not hold water when used to hide behind. The FBI explained what it’s going to take, so we are filing complaints first on the FBI website IC3.gov and then orally, on the FBI tip hotline, found on the FBI website. Rick Casper is not the only DRI sales agent pitching bogus resale and maintenance fee programs that don’t exist. We have recently received complaint about a Las Vegas sales agent by the name of Adam Mendenhall offering point upgrades that would allow paying maintenance fees at $.30 per point. This program does not exist. DRI sales agents that make $1 to $2 million a year in commission tend to get more attention.  

One of our core advocates is a Tampa detective. She has advised us to file with the Nevada Real Estate Division. She was duped by Bluegreen. Like the detective, Scotty Black, DRI Complaint #164, works in law enforcement and has a MS in Criminal Justice. At least I have some help.

George and Amanda Jones, DRI Complaint #211, a married couple living in Virginia, are Navy computer technicians. Scotty, George and Amanda cannot afford their timeshare because of being told it would be easy to get their timeshare refinanced at a lower rate because the DRI sales agents told them there are many companies that specialize in refinancing timeshares, among other allegations. Forced into foreclosure, they could lose their security clearance and their job.  

Last week I was contacted by seven members of the armed forces, active duty and retired, four DRI complaints. Only the Air Force is not represented. Karen Varten, DRI Complaint #219, a Platinum up-sell, was contacted by DRI Marketing San Diego, hosted by Florida DRI sales agents in Virginia. Karen owned 57,000 points. She was told if she bought 25,000 additional points (totaling  82,000), if purchased today, she would have double points so 165,000 points to cover all maintenance fees and still have points left to travel. What was the response to her complaint? She was provided her initials on the contract.   

Preying on the young and old is bad enough, but Mr. Melendez taught our young men and women in the army how to defend themselves against biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. He sent a lot of those young people to war, and some of them did not return, protecting (alleged) predators like Rick Casper and, as the reports below offer compelling and compounding evidence, Diamond Resorts as well. Circumstantial evidence is still evidence.

Mr. Melendez has filed complaints with the FBI and the BBB. In the unlikely event DRI will help this family, please contact him by Wednesday, before we publish this article. There would be nothing that would make me happier than to end the year with a happy outcome for someone who spent 21 years teaching soldiers how to be protected from biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, instead of forcing this family to fork over – more than $10,000 the family will need to pay an attorney to get them out of this mess if DRI does not help them. After the last Rick Casper up-sell, their monthly payment has escalated from $431 a month to $2200. They told me they told Mr. Casper they were worried about passing this burden on to their heirs.  

All of the Platinum members listed below liked DRI, but now tell me they think this is the most crooked company in existence. I feel a little like Martin Luther, thinking the Catholic Church would appreciate his exposing corruption in the Catholic Church.  ARDA has had the same reaction as the Pope did then. A copy of all reports is sent to ARDA’s General Council and CEO in the hoping they will read their Code of Ethic.  

Irene Parker

Seven other Rick Casper Platinum up-sells totaling $819,000 including Mr. Melendez $133,000.

1 CL $75,000

During our meeting we were told about all the new changes that had been discussed at the Dinner that would allow us to sell our points. My husband has Cancer so all that was going through his mind was trying to make a choice that would help me later on if the Chemo doesn’t work and when Rick Casper convinced him this was the answer that’s all my husband heard. When we were in that office he was Stage 4. He has Colo-rectal Cancer that has spread to his Liver and Lungs. Our Las Vegas trip was something we wanted to do before my husband started his treatment.

I don’t understand how the DRI finance team could even approve us for a $75,000 loan for Timeshare Points when we had been turned down from two different companies while trying to refinance our house just this past year. Both requests were for under $100,000.

2 Nancy Callahan, age 69 $142,000

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-nightmare-timeshare-street/

3 KK, age 61 $117,000

We have a picture of Rick and pitch

Questionnaire sheet last two questions: Had you attended dinner? What is your exit strategy? Apollo had dinners informing members Cloobeck was leaving.  Not everyone heard the presentation so Rick was talking to members Platinum about the Legacy program. He said DRI never allowed you to sell points. This will. He knows real estate people can get $5 on resale for DRI points. New members are paying $9 so if you buy at $4 it is easy to sell. He had contacts that he could set us up with. 12/29/2016

4 RB, age 66 $75,000

Mr. Casper said on at least four occasions I was eligible for a Pool Party Upgrade that would provide an exit strategy. He said the program was about to expire so I needed to write a sentence that said I wanted to do this and he would get the purchase approved. I never received a copy of the sentence. The purpose of the purchase, according to Mr. Casper, was to make my existing points more valuable. Mr. Casper went on to explain that this exit strategy would allow me to monitor and sell the points. He mentioned that he is a family man and does not want to pass his points and maintenance fees on to his kids.

5 JH, age 56 $132,000

“The main benefit that he presented was the ability to convert points directly into cash at $0.30 per point. If at any time during the year we had leftover points we could be reimbursed for those points in cash.  All we had to do was contact Dan Percy and he would process the transaction and put the money on our reloadable Visa card.”

I continued to ask questions about each benefit so that I would be certain.  I worded questions differently to see if I would get the same answer.  I threw out this scenario; “If at the end of the year I have 30,000 points still sitting in my account, you’re telling me that I can get reimbursed cash for these points at $0.30 per point.”  His response; “Absolutely – You contact Dan Percy and he will load $9,000 onto the Visa card.” We purchased 40,000 points to get us to the level of “Super Platinum”.

6 AC, age 68 $55,000

http://insidetimeshare.com/wednesday-article-america/

We purchased an additional 20,000 points on July 16, 2016 for $55,200 from Richard Casper, at Cancun Resort, Las Vegas. The reason we purchased these points is because Rick told us if we went from Gold, to Platinum status, he could sell the points if we needed to. In addition, he told us we could substantially reduce our maintenance fees by submitting receipts to him for goods and services. We have never seen a tangible way to reduce our current $8,685 maintenance fees.  

We contacted Richard Casper by email on April 7, 2017 because we need to sell the 20,000 points. We received an autoreply stating to contact VP Dan Percy. We talked with Dan Percy on April 14, 2017. He stated that Diamond Resorts sales personnel don’t assist people who need to sell points and are not allowed to provide any company names that buy and sell timeshare.

In addition, during our sales presentation with Richard Casper July, 2016 we asked about combining our eight contracts. He advised that any free and clear points sold on the resale market will have the same benefits except loyalty level as long as no more than 20,000 points to one individual and it would be better not to combine the points. He stated that many Gold owners would be happy to buy 20,000 points at the lower price to become Platinum owners.  

7 JM, age 61 $90,000

Rick Casper was introduced to me as a Platinum specialist. Mr. Casper said I made a big mistake buying Hawaii points and a bigger mistake transferring the 20,000 points I bought in Daytona, due to a class action lawsuit against DRI members causing exorbitant increases in maintenance fees because of storm related beach erosion.  

Mr. Casper said I had to transfer back to US Collection and if I owned 100,000 points I would be unofficially known as a double platinum member and I would be able to sell any unused points in November and December each year back to Diamond at 30 cents per point, as DRI could sell those points annually to other members. Mr. Casper said this was closely regulated by the authorities. Mr. Casper said by selling these point back to DRI at 30 cents per points I could pay some or all of my maintenance fees for that year and any years to follow. Mr. Casper said this would allow my children not to have to pay maintenance fees.  

“You are really passing your children a bill.  We have a new program if you reach me in November to let me know what you did not use. Diamond will buy them back at $.30 for that year only to, ‘put them back in the kitty’. We need the points because we can sell them to other people who need them.” He illustrated the money we would be paid on a piece of paper.  “What are you waiting for? This is a no brainer,” he said. Mr. Casper convinced me to return to the US Collection the 20,000 points I had transferred in Hawaii 2015 due to beach erosion. I purchased an additional 30,000 points. I now owned 115,000 points.

In November 2016 I called Rick Casper to inform him I had 80,000 points I wished to cash in so that I would receive $24,000 (at 30 cents per point) as Mr. Casper illustrated during our sales presentation.  However, he denied any knowledge of any such arrangement. I explained I had a guest with me at the time, S L, who heard everything he said.  .

Mr. Casper said the reason for the 30 cent per point program was due to the sale of Diamond to Apollo. Mr. Casper said Mr. Cloobeck wanted to do something for members who owned over 100,000 points to show his appreciation so he included the 30 cent per point program in the terms of the Apollo buyout.  SL and I clearly remember this conversation

My current loan payment at the time of the presentation was $1,650 per month. Mr. Casper multiplied that by 12 totaling $19,800 in payments annually plus $14,000 per annum in maintenance fees or $33,880 for annual maintenance fees and loan payments combined. He divided this figure by 12 resulting in $2,816 per month. In the 50,000 additional points Mr. Casper offered, he stated it would only cost an additional $400 per month or $4,800 per year. If I sold back the additional 50,000 points at 30 cents per point I would receive a check back for $15,000.

As stated previously, when I contacted Rick Casper to sell back 80,000 points, he acted as if he did not know what I was talking about. I own a truck leasing business and S is a secondary school teacher. In no way did we misunderstand the figures above.  

There was undue pressure to open a Barclaycard. I explained that I did not need an additional credit card. Rick Casper insisted I open a Barclaycard. I feel the Barclaycard is part of the strategy used to play out what I consider to be a con. 

I then spoke with Dan Percy and then Seth Johnson. I thought Mr. Johnson and I were close to a resolution when he suddenly stopped responding to me.   

At a meeting in Palm Springs, CA between Christmas and New Year’s 2016, we met with someone who seemed to be an ombudsman about the poor accommodation we had been assigned. During the course of our meeting I mentioned Rick Casper. She closed her book and said, “This meeting is over.”  I asked several times why and she finally said Rick Casper was under investigation.

I want to return to the 50,500 points I originally owned prior to the deceitful sales. I was not unhappy with Diamond until the deception started.

8 The first Monarch complaint I read in 2015 back in the day when I thought the Cancun Resort was in Cancun.

Burns

Former DRI CEO David Palmer’s friend from ADW Capital, recommended Diamond’s stock because there is no secondary market. This is a mock interview I published after reading the above complaint, shortly before I received an executive perk agreement leaked to us about how Diamond founder and former CEO Stephen Cloobeck was allowed, as a perk, 50 hours use of the most expensive aircraft in the DRI fleet with the flight crew, for non-business use. Last time we checked, Mr. Cloobeck is running for Nevada Governor, lauded for donating $400,000 to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/new-across-atlantic/

Leon Black, founder of Apollo Global Management, is worth $6.5 billion, according to Bloomberg. David Palmer earned $19 million in two years, a small portion of the wealth generated for his family during his tenure as DRI CEO.  As a former stockbroker and financial planner, I have nothing against generating great wealth, but not like this.

Diamond’s response to the six military who say they were defrauded: Free tickets for military members for their next event.

https://www.insidethegate.com/2017/12/military-first-responders-to-receive-complimentary-tickets-to-third-annual-diamond-resorts-invitational/

 

How to File a Timeshare Complaint: Revised

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

Revised December 15, 2017

Start with the FBI if a victim of a “bait and switch”

fbilogo

By Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare has received 238 US timeshare complaints (135 since our last complaint form revision 9/17). An escalation in the criminal nature of allegations, especially, voiced by nine active duty and retired military, led us to the FBI. If your timeshare experience has met the FBI’s definition of white collar crime, financial institution fraud, the FBI’s appropriate guidelines are described below. I followed their recommendations after speaking with two FBI intake workers and two FBI agents over the past year. According to the FBI website,

White-collar crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence. The motivation behind these crimes is financial—to obtain or avoid losing money, property, or services or to secure a personal or business advantage.

These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three).

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-advocacy/

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime

Mortgage fraud (which is the option timeshare buyers fall under) is a subcategory of financial institution fraud known as “fraud for profit”:

Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

“The 3Rs or F of Timeshare” allowing the beleaguered timeshare member to put a bad decision in the rear view mirror are:

  • Resolution
  • Relinquishment
  • Refund
  • Foreclosure

http://insidetimeshare.com/part-ii-three-rs-timeshare/

The most common complaint:

  • The agent said I could sell my points

The backend of timeshare fraud has been widely reported, but there has been little attention paid to the front end. This US Department of Justice timeshare scam report details the extent of the fraudulent resale industry. Many of our Advocates feel the front of the timeshare sale contains a comparable level of criminal activity, based on 223 of our 238 complainants alleging they were victimized in a way that meets the FBI definition of financial institution fraud.  

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

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

Name (s) and age of member

Phone Number

State of Residence

Member Number

For each contract or for the contract in dispute:

Where Purchased and Date of Purchase

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Current Loan Balance

Loan Number

Current Maintenance Fees

Name of Credit Card (if one was used)

What do you want? Do you seek Refund or Relinquishment?

Why? Is it due to Deception, Health, Age or Financial Burden?

If your investment is $40,000 or less and you owned and used your timeshare for ten years or more consider relinquishment.

Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded, as will a request based on not being able to afford the timeshare. The FBI complaint should be filed only if there are credible allegations of deceit and bait and switch.

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

It is better to state your narrative as a narrative referring back to the contracts and figures at the top of your complaint. 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.

The most common allegation is bait and switch. If you feel you were deceived, list the reasons why.

How Advocacy Works

Email Inside Timeshare your complaint if you would like to talk with someone about your concerns. Before you begin, raise your right hand. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? It is important to present your information factually and without opinion or inflammatory language.

Consider becoming a volunteer report writer if you have reporting experience.

If you have questions about this form, email Irene Parker

[email protected]

Cell – 270-303-7572 EST Feel free to call any day of the week from 1:00 to 5:00 PM EST or email to schedule a call. All calls and emails are returned within 24/48 hours. If you do not receive a response to your email, please call.   

Our advocates are not attorneys and we do not provide legal advice. We have researched regulatory agencies and are here to direct consumers to the appropriate regulatory and law enforcement agencies listed below. We have also developed media relationships and will continue to work with broadcast and print media to alert the general public as to what questions to ask before buying a timeshare. Life events, such as a hurricane, can change your life in an instant or a day. If your timeshare provides no secondary market, it can make a member feel hostage to their vacation plan. Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out whether your timeshare has a secondary market.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

After you complete your complaint, email it to the appropriate resort department. Expect to be denied. Typically your resort reviewer will restate your concerns, produce your initials and signatures, point out the oral representation clause or inform you, “If something was important to you, you should have asked for it to be put in the contract.”  They may conduct an investigation and report back that the sales agent(s) denied your claims. File a rebuttal if you disagree.

Depending on the nature of your complaint, especially complaints directed against an agent with multiple complaints on file, an Advocate may file your complaint on your behalf with the firm’s public relations office and ARDA, the timeshare lobby, for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics. ARDA’s Code of Ethics can be found on ARDA’s website. We do not recommend owners make the voluntary opt in or opt out ARDA ROC contribution on your maintenance fee invoice for ARDA ROC (Resort Owners Coalition). ARDA is basically a PAC that lobbies for the industry when the issue is one that is at odds with members. We will also inform NTOA (National Timeshare Owners Association) and the bank that financed your loan or issued a credit card through the Consumer Protection Bureau online complaint form. By having the Advocate file on your behalf, we can track complaints, documenting patterns of criminal behavior.

Mark your email to the resort urgent if you are in financial distress. It is best to file a complaint before the debt collectors are hounding. It may take up to 30 days to hear back from the resort. If you feel you were a victim of deceit and bait and switch, give the resort a week to respond before filing regulatory complaints.

The member will report back to us with a positive or negative outcome. Due to the required non-disclosure or mutual release form, terms and conditions will not be discussed. Just report a positive outcome or resolution.

Once the resort denies your claim begin filing complaints with regulatory and law enforcement agencies beginning with the FBI if you feel you meet the definition of white-collar crime. There are three ways to report to the FBI. We recommend calling the nearest field office after filing with IC3.gov. Filing online will help you organize your thoughts.

https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

You can find the nearest field office from this website.

https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices

The FBI assigns Financial Institution Fraud the highest priority.

The next step is to file a complaint with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed your contract, where you live and where your resort is domiciled. It can take a month or more to hear back from an AG, but once your complaint has been accepted, debt collectors are not allowed to call. You can find any Attorney General by searching the state name and Attorney General.

If there was an unauthorized credit card charge or you feel you were deceived into signing off on a loan, you should file with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option (even if no mortgage) and select the bank that financed your loan or issued a credit card. One common complaint is that the buyer was told they could get a lower interest rate from a bank or credit union. File with the CFPB only if there is a loan outstanding or a credit card was used.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/

You should file a complaint with the state Real Estate Division in the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against a sales agent. The Advocate can help you if you don’t know the agent ID number. Timeshare sales agents are real estate licensed in most states.

File with the Better Business Bureau, although the company’s BBB rating can be misleading in that the BBB only rates how efficiently a company responds to complaints.

Most importantly, consider reaching out to local or national media. Reporters look for content and are surprisingly easy to reach. Write an article about your experience. The more people who come forward, the more the public is made aware of pitfalls before engaging in a timeshare sales presentation.

Our “Chicken Soup for Timeshare’s Soul” Inside Timeshare article is linked at the end of this article explaining what to expect or not expect when you file with a regulatory or law enforcement agency.

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

  • The FBI at IC3.gov portal, if you feel you were deceived by a bait and switch, and then contact your nearest FBI field office to file an oral tip.
  • Attorneys General where you signed, where you live and where the resort is domiciled. Most AG complaints can be filed online.
  • The Real Estate Division of the state where the agent is licensed, if your complaint is against the agent. “Right-to- use” membership programs are not defined as real estate, but the agent is typically a licensed real estate agent.
  • ARDA if you feel ARDA’s code of ethics has been violated.
  • The media – the court of public opinion is often the only court available. Inside Timeshare, published in Spain, publishes timeshare articles online focusing primarily on the need for reform and oversight.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the mortgage option, selecting the bank that issued the travel credit card or financed your loan.
  • The Federal Trade Commission – due to lack of secondary market
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Lawmakers – The problem is the timeshare buyer typically does not buy in their state of residence, which is why lawmakers don’t seem to take timeshare seriously. Still, any effort to contact lawmakers is encouraged.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is, but you can file with some, all, or none of the agencies. We feel “Action and Advocacy” is the way to change questionable timeshare business practices. Change requires volumes of complaints.

What to expect from regulatory agencies

http://insidetimeshare.com/chicken-soup-timeshares-soul/

If you are granted a positive outcome, you may not say or write anything disparaging about the resort, but there is no harm in staying involved by referring timeshare members to Inside Timeshare.

Who We Are and Why We Do This

The timeshare industry is wealthy and powerful, able to influence politicians and Attorneys General. Timeshare owners typically are struggling with maintenance fees, unorganized and alone. Venting on complaint sites has no effect whatsoever.

There are a number of timeshare members and non-timeshare member advocates working behind the scenes to assist in the complaint process. If all else fails, we will refer an attorney if the member can afford one. If you are forced into foreclosure, but have an otherwise unblemished credit report, you can write to the credit reporting agencies in an effort to explain why you were deceived and why you were not able to resolve your dispute.

After retiring from Edward Jones working as an Investment Representative, I worked three years as a CASA supervisor, writing and editing court reports for Family Court on behalf of foster children. I find two commonalities between children of abuse, neglect or dependency, and deceptive timeshare sales.

  1. The abnormal becomes the normal. After hearing 238 complaints, we fear deception is endorsed and encouraged by some timeshare companies. I have interviewed twelve current and former timeshare sales agents and managers. I’m told making false claims is called “pitching heat” or “No Heat, No Eat”. Of course not all sales agents are dishonest. We hear primarily from buyers seeking assistance when victimized by unscrupulous agents. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney because of their scarcity of complaints.
  2. Victims are silenced and isolated via non-disclosure agreements and arbitration. Encourage those considering the purchase of a timeshare to opt out of arbitration. This must be done normally within thirty days of signing the contract. Non-disclosure is appropriate in the case of a settlement, but when a family receives nothing after an alleged bait and switch, after spending $5,000 to $500,000 or more on a vacation plan, not allowing the victim to say anything disparaging about the company seems harsh. We receive many calls about this clause.  

There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. My husband and I owned three timeshares for 25 years with no problems or complaints. After we attended a pathetically aggressive sales presentation in 2015, I began researching the industry, writing articles and assisting timeshare victims. I am not compensated by anyone. Our Advocacy group is composed of volunteers. We hope there will come a day our Advocacy Group is not needed.

Self-help groups seek to provide 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/

http://tug2.net/

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

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

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

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

get involved

December 15, 2017 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy Group™

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker: Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, in this article Irene Parker looks at the Marriott Vacation Club and the law suit for racketeering.

First some recent news fro the Supreme Court in Madrid which came in this morning, this is the 73rd ruling by Spain’s Highest Court.

Another Silverpoint contract has been declared null and void with the British clients set to receive over £37,000 plus legal fees and interest.

No details are yet available, but as with other cases the main infringement is likely to be a contract over 50 years. The one important factor is that these contract contravene the Spanish Timeshare law 42/98.

Now for Irene’s article.

marrioot symbol

The Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Lawsuit – an Update

Timeshare Wars – Members vs Developers and ARDA Part II

evolution

November 28, 2017

By Irene Parker

Part I – The Manhattan Club and the possible dismantling of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-parker/

Part I describes how New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club timeshare members after a battle that lasted almost three years. ARDA, the American Resort Development Association, seemed to be on the side of the TMC developers. In today’s article we look at ARDA’s involvement in the Marriott Racketeering lawsuit filed May 2016. Timeshare members should research ARDA ROC before making their voluntary donation which appears as an “opt in” or “opt out” donation on their maintenance fee invoice.

In the Marriott racketeering lawsuit, attorneys for the plaintiffs, Anthony and Beth Lennen, challenged Marriott’s points based system. Once again ARDA’s lobbyists are at the forefront.

“This was bigger than a lawsuit,” Hunter says. A negative ruling “could have a consequence of being devastating, conceivably, to the industry.” Florida Trend

I can imagine slave traders and slave owners making the same argument ARDA lobbyist Gary Hunter makes in opposition to the challenge to the points based timeshare product.The legal structure of the points based timeshare product is complex. It seems the points based programs are not products that should be associated with real estate. It would be as if a country club charged me closing costs for joining their right to use program. Bluegreen seems to employ a similar model. As usual, I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group if he agrees with me.

“Several developers are using a similar trust based hybrid product like Marriott’s. I think Bluegreen may have initiated it originally, but don’t hold me to that. Yes, the products are very similar. I felt Bluegreen was intentionally hurting their defaulted owners with their credit reporting as ‘foreclosures’, when I knew this was incorrect for the same reason as the allegations in the Marriott lawsuit, namely that the interest the ‘owner’ ends up with is personalty, not real estate. You cannot accurately call a personalty repossession a ‘foreclosure’ as there’s no legal procedure to ‘foreclose’ on personalty, according to UCC codes. My efforts to get Bluegreen to change were ignored; hence our litigation which resulted in at least 11,000 individuals getting foreclosures redacted from their credit reports. However, in our preparation, at the last minute, we researched the Florida timeshare act and realized Florida had anticipated our move! The statute was modified to define the Bluegreen timeshare plan as “real estate”. It was like legislating a duck into a goose,” Mike explained

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/timeshare-vs-vacation-home

Is timeshare deemed real estate when it comes to charging buyers fees associated with actual real estate, but not real estate in matters having any control over the property? Is this a case of having your cake and eating it too?

I asked timeshare member and economics professor Michael Nuwer to review the amended Marriott lawsuit complaint filed October 25, 2017 by the plaintiffs’ law firm, Newman Ferrara LLP. The complaint suggests suspicious legislative maneuvering intended to circumvent the lawsuit. The amended complaint addresses the Marriott-forced law changes in 2013 and 2017. The recent (2017) amendment to the Florida Timeshare Act purports to exclude pre-existing weekly owners as “interest holders” and pre-existing Condo Declarations as “encumbrances” with regard to sales of multisite timeshare plans that use pre-existing timeshare estates. According to the complaint,

“It allows massive profit-making – including administrative fees, closing costs, recording fees, transfer taxes, maintenance, assessments, and title insurance premiums.” Amended Marriott complaint 6:16-cv-00855-CEM-TBS

“As far as I know, none of the trust fund based timeshare systems “convey real property interest,” said Michael. “Ownership is a “beneficial interest” in the trust fund, although a recent ruling in Canada found the Diamond Resort Embarc members don’t even have that.”

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-canada/

“If Florida law requires a real property conveyance, then I think there could be a problem,” Michael added.

Michael Kosor, a Wyndham owner and timeshare advocate, circulated a similar argument at the last two Nevada legislative sessions, proposing greater disclosure, but again ARDA’s lawyers fought against the members. The legislation proposed would have allowed better disclosure as to the lack of or limited secondary market and the fact that timeshare today has nothing to do with real estate. Timeshare agents typically inform buyers during their presentations that they are real estate agents, further enhancing a false security that the buyer is protected by real estate rules and regulations.  Even the name reflects the change. Fixed week timeshare buyers were “owners”. Points based buyers are “members.”

I have been researching timeshare since attending an astonishingly deceptive sales presentation July 2015. Like peeling an onion, I discovered at timeshare’s core, the points based system provides a recipe for deceit. As the Lennen complaint describes, point programs began in 2008 when timeshare developers did not know what to do with aging, foreclosed or repurchased inventory.

Inside Timeshare has received 216 US timeshare complaints from our readers, the majority concerning points. Not one of the 216 members understood, at the time of purchase, the difficulty selling their timeshare. Of the 216 complaints, 201 allege deceit and bait and switch on the front end of the sale. Of the 216 complaints, only two came from a Marriott member. It saddens me to see Marriott singled out when the entire industry may be guilty of selling a product that is more smoke and mirrors than reality.

The Marriott racketeering lawsuit was first reported by Paul Brinkmann May 2016 at the Orlando Sentinel

Case No. 6:16-cv-855-Orl-41TBS

According to the suit, Marriott (NYSE: VAC) timeshare customers pay fees associated with owning real estate — such as closing costs and recording fees — but don’t actually own any real estate. Despite not actually being real estate owners, the lawsuit says, buyers are still paying closing costs, recording fees, title policy premiums and real estate taxes.

Marriott has argued, in its motion to dismiss the case, that “plaintiffs have misread the statutes that they assert have been violated” and “the allegations are without merit and the MVC Plan fully complies with applicable law.”

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-rico-20160524-story.html

Except it seemingly did not fully comply with applicable law, so ARDA lobbyists and industry executives forged ahead to initiate legislative changes that would change the definition of “beneficial interest” so that Marriott would comply.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-comptroller-marriott-rico-20170113-story.html

The following excerpts are from a November 23, 2017 Florida Trend article. The full article is linked below. In bold is my emphasis.

“Engineering the Law” Politico

However, Marriott began fighting the suit on another front. The company turned to the Florida Legislature, acting through the American Resort Development Association, the trade group that represents the timeshare industry. At the time, ARDA’s chairman was Steve Weisz, Marriott Vacations’ president and CEO.

In both provisions, the lobbyist, Gary Hunter, of Hopping, Green & Sams in Tallahassee, included extra sentences saying the changes were meant as “a clarification of existing law” — an effort to ensure Marriott could use them as a retroactive defense in the Lennen lawsuit.

ARDA sent more than talking points and issue briefs. A few days after Hunter sent in the additions to the bill, the organization gave $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and another $25,000 to a committee controlled by Senate Republican leaders. In April — on the same day that both the House and Senate scheduled the legislation for floor votes — ARDA gave another $10,000 to the state Republican Party. (ARDA, which represents a heavily regulated industry and works on legislation every year, is a reliable source of money for the state GOP, which controls all levers of state government. The organization gives more than $100,000 to the party and its affiliates every year.)

The legislation passed both chambers in late April, and Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law a month later. After the legislation passed, ARDA gave another $50,000 to the fund controlled by Republican Senate leaders.

Two weeks to the day after the bill became law, Marriott went back in court in Orlando, alerting Judge Mendoza to the new Florida law whose provisions “go to the very heart” of the case. “These clarifications of existing law … decimate much of the complaint,” Marriott’s attorneys wrote.

A spokesman for Marriott declined to comment on either the lawsuit or the legislation. But Hunter, the lobbyist for the American Resort Development Association who worked the bill, says the goal of the legislation isn’t just to help Marriott defend itself. It is, he says, meant to protect the entire timeshare industry from similar attacks in the future, should a judge, who is unlikely to be familiar with the history and intricacies of timeshare law, interpret state statutes in a way that no one in the industry ever intended.

http://www.floridatrend.com/article/23307/engineering-the-law-marriotts-class-action-timeshare-battle

Florida Republican Representative Mike La Rosa, Oceola County was one of the lawmakers behind the amendment along with Republican Senator Travis Hutson, St. Johns County. Representative La Rosa is a member of ALEC. Senator Nan Orrock of Georgia has described ALEC as a “corporate bill mill.”

https://www.alec.org/person/mike-la-rosa/

After the legislative amendment was made, Mr. Brinkmann at the Orlando Sentinel once again picked up the thread:

A third-party observer, Ben Wilcox of the nonprofit government watchdog group Integrity Florida, said the timeshare law changes are suspect.

“It has the appearance of unethical influence, the appearance anyway,” Wilcox said. “The question would be, does it represent misuse of office or conflict of interest? Is it meant only to benefit those corporations and change the rules of the game?”

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-legislation-20170719-story.html

Legal Dept
It’s not unusual for Florida to spearhead legislation that ultimately gets rolled out nationwide. Like the 2017 Florida amendment, in 2015 Florida passed a bill that alarmed advocacy groups. Advocacy groups felt the 2015 bill made it more difficult to be released from timeshare contracts. This new amended 2017 bill is also expected to be rolled out nationwide. ARDA lobbyist Gary Hunter is instructing Senator Hutson to remove language from the proposed 2017 Amendment that provided that the law applied only to Florida properties. He called the language “non-substantive” clearly intending to broaden the reach of the amendment to cover properties from single-site timeshare plans outside of Florida (which make up the bulk of MVC Trust properties).

Timeshare, in my opinion, is virtually an unregulated industry. There is no federal enforcement, and some Attorneys General may be influenced by lobby dollars. Florida is a timeshare Mecca with billions of tourist dollars flowing into the state. As mentioned in Part I, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints from April 2012 to April 2014.   

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/us/lobbyists-bearing-gifts-pursue-attorneys-general.html

How will it end? I fear big money will get its way at the expense of middle class timeshare buyers, even it means labeling a duck a goose.

Marriott Inside Timeshare July 2017

http://insidetimeshare.com/starting-the-week/

Contact Inside Timeshare or a member sponsored self-help group if you have a timeshare concern or a story to share.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and all who helped with this article, especially Mike Finn of Finn Law Group for his legal views, this will certainly be of interest not just to those across the Great Lake, but also those owners in Europe.

If you have any questions or comments on this article or any other timeshare matter, please contact Inside Timeshare and we will do our best to help.

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Richard Cordray

Timeshare Developers and ARDA vs the Timeshare Consumer

donkey

ALEC – What’s a Corporate Bill Mill?

Part I – The Manhattan Club

Part II – Marriott and Florida legislation Tuesday, November 28

By Irene Parker

November 21

Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an agency that overreached or a necessary protection for consumers?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Director Richard Cordray recently announced his resignation. Timeshare members not familiar with the CFPB may remember 3.4 million Wells Fargo customers receiving restitution from unauthorized credit card accounts being opened that allowed Wells Fargo representatives to meet incentive targets. CFPB conducted that investigation.

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/15/richard-cordray-resigns-consumer-financial-protection-bureau-24493/

Timeshare today seems as polarized as Democrats vs the GOP. Given the corporate driven political climate in Washington DC, it is unlikely Cordray’s replacement will bolster the agency’s power or recourse for timeshare consumers.

Timeshare members have not benefitted from the CFPB like the Wells Fargo victims. The opening of an unauthorized credit card is annoying, but probably not financially devastating. The majority of our 209 Inside Timeshare readers, reaching out to us for advice, are often financially devastated by their decision to purchase a timeshare or continuing to own one. The perpetual contract, accompanied by rising maintenance fees and little or no secondary market can spell disaster, especially if sold by deceit.

Still, timeshare members appreciate the CFPB’s interest in hearing timeshare complaints. The CFPB did initiate a Westgate timeshare investigation that lasted two years, only to be dropped after the 2016 presidential election. Call me suspicious, but seeing Westgate owner David Siegel pictured left of Mr. Trump on the stump during the campaign, while the Trump organization simultaneously launched a timeshare in Scotland, seems beyond coincidental.

Trump1

Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s name was mentioned in the Politico article linked above as a possible Cordray replacement. Given Florida’s current legislative and timeshare enforcement climate, timeshare members have little to cheer should a former or current Florida elected official be named director. In our opinion, Ms. Bondi has done little to address deceit on the front end of the timeshare sale. As Inside Timeshare previously reported, the Florida Timeshare Division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints received from April 2014 to April 2016.

In contrast, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman achieved a $6.5 million settlement for The Manhattan Club members, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich $800,000 for Diamond Resort members, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III $3 million for Festiva members, and other smaller settlements by Colorado, Wisconsin and Missouri Attorneys General.

Despite AG settlements that seem mere financial speed bumps in the life of a timeshare corporation, timeshare members are hopeful our grassroots efforts to educate lawmakers will someday bear fruit.

The Manhattan Club investigation was one member vs developer battle over lack of availability and other concerns that led to the $6.5 million settlement. TMC owners were banned from the timeshare industry as part of the agreement. While the settlement was hailed as a significant accomplishment, Douglas Wasser, an attorney involved with the investigation is not so sure:

The $6.5 million was set aside for the benefit of “hundreds of purchasers” as a restitution fund.  But The Manhattan Club has upwards of 14,700 unit owners.  So, the pool of Manhattan Club owners entitled to a purchase refund may be a very small one.

The forced divestiture by the current sponsor of control over the Manhattan Club could be a lift for the entire community. Given the lack of confidence in the current reservation system and the many complaints that the reservation system was heavily tilted to benefit the sponsor, this seems like a significant positive to the Manhattan Club community.  It may restore confidence, perhaps drive up market value of the units and allow those who want to leave to do so, and bring in new and willing participants.   

Will it be uplifting for all timeshare members?

Inside Timeshare and other advocates expect little improvement given the polarity that exists between member advocacy groups and ARDA, the American Resort Development Association. I have personally forwarded close to 100 complaints to ARDA, prepared by members alleging timeshare sales agents violated ARDA’s Code of Ethics, which have been ignored.

The two resorts which seem to have the highest volume of complaints each give ARDA ROC, the supposed owner’s arm of ARDA, $1million dollars a year through “voluntary” opt out donations. It took until November to have my $7 removed. When I contacted my resort to have the donation removed, it was instead moved to another account and reported as a delinquency on that account. When members ask what ARDA ROC is, members are told it is a nonprofit that helps members. However, ARDA seemed to be on the side of TMC developers.

mclub

The picture above shows two ARDA attorneys observing a TMC meeting and taking notes. The notes may have later turned into an amicus brief written by a high ranking executive member and attorney for ARDA attempting to defend TMC.  In the brief, Robb Webb described the company’s practices as “routine industry transactions” and, according to one source, drafted some TMC original documents.

Our readers would agree false promises and shady sales tactics are often routine industry practices or transactions, but members are alarmed ARDA defended such practices. In the settlement, the Manhattan Club defendants acknowledged that they misled buyers about availability and the ability to sell back the timeshare.

“The owners of the Manhattan Club lured thousands of timeshare buyers with false promises and shady sales tactics that violated New York law,” Schneiderman said.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-65-million-settlement-midtown-manhattan-timeshare-scammed

What’s a corporate bill mill and does such an entity play a role in timeshare?

On Friday in Part II we will examine how politics played a role in the Marriott racketeering case, as lawyers involved with the case suspect. It’s been reported backdoor politics contributed to a bill signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott that, in effect, rendered the Marriott case non-meritorious.

Unsure of the allegations, I researched lobby efforts and their influence on legislation and the possibility of timeshare participating in an ALEC type endeavor. Georgia Senator Nan Orrock described ALEC as “a corporate bill mill.” ALEC stands for American Legislative Exchange Council.

According to Senator Orrock, ALEC is an organization that gets money from lobbyists and gives the money to legislatures and it is considered charity. Three lawmakers, mentioned in this video, received $22,000 in “scholarships” from ALEC, considered an educational charity. The YouTube is disturbing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNA0-GBuunc

The timeshare PAC ARDA also has a charitable educational organization called AIF ARDA International Fund. I don’t know enough about AIF to parallel it to ARDA, but the legislative action in the Marriott case seems similar.

http://www.arda.org/foundation/

Open Secrets list ARDA’s contributions to political candidates:  

https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00358663

So where do we go from here and why can’t we all just get along? Has greed so permeated timeshare and American politics that a working relationship between timeshare members and developers or between the rich and the not rich, is as unlikely as Bernie Sanders and President Trump coming to terms over health care?

a

Fortunately, the court of public opinion is still open as long as the first amendment stands while timeshare members keep coming forward filing regulatory complaints and reaching out to the media if they feel they have been harmed. Someday, somewhere, someone will listen. Until then, we build our case brick by brick.

If you or someone you know needs help with a timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or a self-help advocacy Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene, as usual you explain things in a way that is easily understood, we look forward to Part II next week.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we decided to run with this particular article following the news from Europe on Monday that Diamond was closing its sales offices in Europe. Obviously this will have a great impact on the many employees, who are now out of work and will need to find jobs in an ever decreasing sales industry.

As usual before we go on with our article, this week has not been a very good one for Silverpoint in Tenerife, with another loss at the High Court and also at the Supreme Court.

The judge at the High Court Number 2, found serious breaches of the timeshare laws, declaring the client’s contract null and void and ordering the return of over £49,000 plus legal interest.

At the Supreme Court in Madrid, the judges upheld previous rulings and declared another Silverpoint contract null and void. This particular client will now receive over 28,000€ plus all legal fees and legal interest. Another happy ex Silverpoint owner.

As usual these were clients of the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. So this does go to show that in spite of what many timeshare companies are claiming, such as the article published on Wednesday about Anfi attacking CLA, this law firm is doing what it says.

CLA Logo

Now on with Friday’s Letter.

Inside Timeshare leapt at the chance to publish details of CLARITY, Diamond Resort’s program to promote accountability, transparency and respect for the Customer. The program was introduced after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued an Assurance of Discontinuance accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. The Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of Diamond complaints. One source informed us the office received 400 complaints leading up to the investigation and 500 more complaints after the press release.

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

Diamond Resorts also provided a Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department to assist members from day one if they have concerns about their timeshare.

Inside Timeshare continues to receive complaints from members almost daily, with common complaints:

Purchase more points as that will be the only way to sell points. (Diamond’s secondary market restrictions make Diamond points almost impossible to sell.)

Purchase more points because that will provide you with the ability to pay maintenance fees by tendering excess points at 30 cents per point. (No such program exists as this is an adulteration of a 30/30 program designed for other purposes.)

Agents working for the same company selling against each other from the Hawaii Collection to the US Collections telling the member they made a mistake purchasing the collection they purchased, depending on which side of the Pacific the member is on.

Inside Timeshare has forwarded members complaints to Diamond’s PR firm and to ARDA. Both have ignored the complaints, but it is unlikely ARDA will enforce their Code of Ethics against a corporate member that gives ARDA a million dollars a year from Diamond members who unwittingly are billed $7 as an “opt-out” voluntary donation on their maintenance fee invoice. It is doubtful the average timeshare members understands even what the initials ARDA ROC stand for.

After reading complaint after complaint from our Nightmare on Timeshare series, I am certain our EU Diamond agents did not stoop to such tactics. Did this contribute to sales targets not being met?  Inside Timeshare has received 187 reader complaints, of which 178 are from Diamond Resort members.

Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never returned Marsha’s call. One of Diamond’s Advocacy “hospitality” agents left one message but never returned her calls. CEO Michael Flaskey ignored Marsha Young.

A representative from Barclay’s Bank did contact Marsha Young. Although they cannot help, as Barclays does not physically open credit card applications, Marsha appreciated the respect she was given by at least being acknowledged.

You be the judge of Marsha’s story.

How Buying a Timeshare can be Financially Devastating

Luke

Introduction by Irene Parker

Since our first Inside Timeshare US member story was published October 2016, we have received 186 member complaints, of which 171 allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, meeting the FBI definition of White Collar Crime. Of the 186 complaints, 177 are from Diamond Resorts members. We don’t dispute there are many timeshare members who use and enjoy their timeshare points, but many have not yet been made aware of the lack of or limited secondary market. The majority of complaints allege they were told to buy more points because only at the next loyalty level could they sell points or be able to offset maintenance fees. Neither program exists. These members are stuck with a product they paid thousands of dollars for, felt were sold by deceit, incur maintenance fees and can’t sell. Their network of friends and family want nothing to do with timeshare. Sales centers should take note as Social Media no longer keeps members silenced and isolated. Diamond Resorts did not respond to our request for comment.

November 10

By Marsha Young

The vacation memories my husband and I shared together at Embassy Suites and Sunterra in Hawaii on the island of Maui are my most treasured, but our memories so precious have been destroyed. Maybe not the memories, but the timeshare we knew and loved has turned into a financial trap.

My husband passed away in 2011. I still travel some with friends and family and I enjoyed the flexibility of the point program until I succumbed to high pressure sales. In the past, when explaining the struggles of raising a family, or other reasons why we could not upgrade, agents would not push us when my husband and I said no, so I was not prepared for what happened. In an effort to warn others to seek counsel before you sign a perpetual contract after a six hour sales session, with rising maintenance fees, and no secondary market, I share my story.  

My problems began at the Diamond Resorts sales center at Williamsburg Virginia May 2017. I told the hospitality agent about how I had been deceived previously by a Hawaii sales agent. She told me she understood and explained that is why sales were stopped at the Williamsburg center for a while until a new program called CLARITY was put in place. My Williamsburg sales agents were Richard Rodgers and Mark Schilling. I told them I did not want to spend any more money as the maintenance fees were going up so much for the Hawaii Collection. They told me I should transfer my Hawaii points to the US Collection because maintenance fees would be less. The cost was never discussed. I thought there would be no charge. I saved the paper they used showing points transferring over to the US Collection. They also encouraged me to open a Barclay credit card because it accumulated points rather than miles, but neglected to tell me the card would be charged $7,100 for a down payment. I had sent an email to both Richard and Mark telling them I did not want to spend more money. The sales presentation lasted six hours. I was exhausted. When I got home and went to my DRI account. I was shocked at the new $34,000 mortgage. The maintenance fees did not go down.

I did not know where to turn so I called a friend who is an investment advisor. He called Mark Schilling. Mr. Schilling’s response was, “She signed the contract. The QA session was videoed.” Recorded QA Sessions are part of the new CLARITY program. The sales presentation is what needs to be taped because that is when sales agents make promises not kept.

Richard Rodgers told me $400 a month would be the maintenance fee but it is the mortgage payment, so I owe maintenance fees on top of the mortgage payment. I was also told I could still book Hawaii, but in July 2017 I went to a meeting in Hawaii and was told I should not have transferred to the US Collection, because I would not be able to get back into Hawaii. They also said the value of the Hawaii Collection was more valuable and had the highest availability. Jessica Ocegueda was the sales agent. She said I had traded down and if I want to go to Hawaii on US Collection points in all likelihood “it’s not going to happen.” I have learned from other members you still can book in Hawaii with US points. I was convinced to transfer all my US Collection points to Hawaii Collection.

After six hours, there is insufficient time or energy to review an inch high stack of documents. Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never responded to my complaint, but they did send the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Barclays Bank my initials for the charge on a document.

  • Of the $138,000 approximate purchase price, $66,915 was taken back as credit for the US points and the balance financed was approximately $70,000
  • The down payment charged to my personal credit card was $8,529
  • A Barclaycard was charged $7,100
  • The monthly payment is $917.58
  • Estimated maintenance fee is $7,418

sad

At age 71, I watched my credit score plummet from the 800s to the 700s. I am a widow living on a teacher’s pension. I learned from reading Inside Timeshare articles and joining an Advocacy Facebook page, many have been told if they purchased more timeshare points, maintenance fees would go down. While the maintenance fee per point may decline a cent or two, the maintenance fee invoice does not decline. It’s easy for the resort defending their position to say, “You were confused,” but the volume of complaints found on the internet speak of sleight of hand, in my opinion.   

Not knowing where to turn I had contacted Irene Parker. Irene told me about the new CLARITY program Diamond Resorts implemented after the Arizona Attorney General issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, accusing DRI of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. She also said Diamond Resorts now provides an advocacy department for those who have concerns about their purchase. CLARITY is supposed to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. I received none and was ignored by DRI Advocacy. It feels like the customer is always wrong.       

The actions of these agents have taken away my financial security. I feel trapped. It is not as easy or as enjoyable to travel without my husband. I can still travel with friends and would have been able to remain a Diamond customer had I not succumbed to an upgrade for reasons that were not necessary or true.  

I should have learned from the first bad experience I had in Hawaii. In Hawaii, I had been charged $2,995 for a program called the Sampler. I was refunded for that purchase because I did not know a credit card had been charged then until I returned home. Diamond said the agent, Mr. Frank Rippe, had been fired. They also said he had been the top selling agent of that particular product.

It is my hope timeshare members will continue to reach out to other members. It is a sad day when vacation timeshare plan buyers need a support group and a media outreach plan to warn other potential buyers.

act now

We seek to provide Diamond Resort 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://www.facebook.com/groups/180578055325962/

As we read many stories such as this it no longer comes as any surprise, what does seem to be a recurring theme is the age group of the people that contact us. They also all have the same story, credit scores being destroyed, after years of no defaults.

One thing that did make me chuckle in Marsha’s story is Diamonds comment on the the sacking of the sales agent, “he had been the top selling agent of that product”, well that is not surprising if he was being that devious!

Once again Inside Timeshare thanks all those who provide us with the information and contribute their stories, if you would like to contribute contact Inside Timeshare. If you just require any information about your membership or about any company that contacts you or even thinking of doing business with, but don’t know where to start, contact us and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good weekend and join us next week.

weekend

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome back to Friday’s Letter from America, last week we did change it to Australia to welcome our Aussie contributor Justin Morgan with his first article, which happened to coincide with Irene Parker’s first anniversary. Today we hear from our first Bluegreen owner, who also happens to be a detective in law enforcement, so this proves that all are vulnerable to the smooth talking sales staff.

Irene reported just as we were about to publishing today’s article, that four Diamond Members have been able to resolve their vacation issues this past week. Members tell us they appreciate having a human instead of a department to talk to. Previously members complained of continually having to start over with seemingly endless departments.

We hope other timeshare developers follow suit as timeshare complaints are widespread.

Now we have a look at what is happening in the European world of timeshare.

The National Police in Spain have busted a major scam being run from the Costa del Sol, they raided several premises and homes in the Velez Malaga – Torre del Mar area. Around 40 were detained, they included a husband and wife, son and daughter-in-law, along with it is reported two lawyers. The detained are mainly British, who have run several businesses in the area over a number of years, these targeted mainly British timeshare owners.

Police raid

The scams involved timeshare resales, holiday packages and discount clubs, this has over the years netted millions of pounds, with the police recovering around 100,000€ in cash, expensive watches, jewels and several high end cars.

It is believed the companies, which are well known by Inside Timeshare and other similar sites, are, Halfmoon Holdings, Excalibur Sales & Marketing, Blue Chip and Rosedale Marketing. The only problem is, when one of these raids takes place and they are put out of business, there are many others ready and waiting to fill the gap. No doubt, we will see a series of companies offering to help victims get their money back, for an upfront fee obviously. So readers beware!

Follow the links to read the stories in the UK tabloids.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3952419/dozens-arrested-over-timeshare-scam-that-saw-500-brits-conned-out-of-life-savings-in-multi-million-pound-costa-del-sol-racket/?utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SprnklrSUNOrganic&UTMX=Editorial%3ATheSun%3ATwImageandlink%3AStatement%3ANews

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/costa-del-sol-cops-uncover-10745713

On the legal front, it looks like those lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance have been busy this week, with several announcements of cases won.

We started the week with a judgement from Tenerife against Resort Properties / Silverpoint followed on Tuesday with news that the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas GC, awarding a client who purchased at Anfi, over 59,000€ with their contract being declared null & void. Once again the court ruled that the contract was longer than the stipulated period of 50 years.

On Wednesday, the Court of First Instance in Arona Tenerife, again found against Resort Properties / Silverpoint, in this case the judge ruled the contract was missing information which is required by law, the period again was longer than the 50 years allowed, plus deposits were taken within the 14 day cooling off period.

The British client will now receive over £14,000 plus legal interest and has had their contract declared null and void.

On Thursday there were two announcements the first from Tenerife, the Chayofa Golf & Tennis Academy, was ruled against by the Court of First Instance, the contracts signed under the company United Sales 1997 Ltd were declared null & void. Again the infringements were the perpetuity contract and the illegal taking of deposits, the client will now receive over £9,000 plus legal interest.

Malaga Court

The second was from the High Court in Malaga, Club la Costa was found guilty with the contract being declared null & void. One of the main aspects of this case is the company is a UK registered Limited one, Club La Costa Leisure Ltd, which was probably an attempt to bypass Spanish law. As we have seen in the past, some companies have used this along with the clause that “this agreement and contract is subject to UK law and the jurisdiction of UK courts”, but it is evident now that this does not wash, if the timeshare was sold and the contract was signed on Spanish territory, then clearly Spanish law will apply.

Now on with our US Article.

A Bluegreen Member Responds to Timeshare Advocacy Group™

A detective shares her Bluegreen Timeshare experience

Complaint queue

By Irene Parker

Friday July 7, 2017

Typically our Inside Timeshare readers don’t contact us to report positive timeshare experiences so our email inbox often looks like the cartoon above. Today we hear from a Bluegreen member who found promises made did not meet what was purchased. Not as familiar with Bluegreen we checked internet sites and determined Bluegreen is a company that could use a customer satisfaction evaluation.  

Bluegreen members can join a member sponsored discussion Facebook consisting of 770 Bluegreen members. More and more timeshare members are launching sites where members can advise other members.

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

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is an umbrella organization consisting of volunteers stretching from the EU to the US and beyond including contributors from the Philippines and Australia. A few complaints have little or no effect, but a volume of complaints, especially directed against individual sales agents, can paint a pattern of deception.

A complaint process has evolved over the past year. Working through resort representatives, volunteer Advocates assist other members as we work through the “3 Rs or F of Timeshare” – Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund or Foreclosure.

Here is our advice for those not knowing where to turn:   

  • Prepare a written complaint and request for resolution. Submit to the resort.
  • If the resort denies the request, file first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed a contract, where you live, and where the timeshare is domiciled. Some Attorneys General are influenced by lobby dollars, so don’t be discouraged if your complaint is denied. There is still merit filing “for the record” because the Attorney General’s lack of concern can be quantified and reported. Some states refer you to a different department.
  • File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent (ID #) if you feel the sales agent is at fault.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission because every state has incorporated some part of the FTC Consumer Fraud Act into their respective state consumer protection act.
  • Report your grievance to ARDA http://www.arda.org/ethics/ – this organization is the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA ROC does not resolve individual member disputes, but they do have a code of ethics that should be enforced. When the needs of the member and the developer diverge, lobby dollars go to the side of the developer, so think twice about the “voluntary” opt in or opt out donation to an organization that may not always serve your best interest. I have not been able to get the $7 donation removed from my account.   
  • The FBI definition of White Collar Crime – Financial Institution Fraud – is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. File a complaint with IC3.gov if this is the case. IC stands for Internet Crime, but your complaint does not have to involve the internet. That’s just the FBI portal for complaints. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime
  • File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, although this agency has been vastly diminished due to the rollback of the Dodd Frank Act. According to a banker I spoke with recently, they are still the regulators. Given the CFPB’s diminished capacity, file with this agency only if a credit card played a part or there is a loan outstanding.
  • Reach out to local and national media. This is by far the most important and effective tool. Typically, timeshare buyers don’t buy a timeshare in their state of residence, so state lawmakers have expressed little interest and can also be influenced by lobby efforts. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/taking-names-scott-maxwell/os-gov-rick-scott-signs-bad-timeshare-law-20150617
  • Become an Advocate for change by assisting other members with the process outlined above. Encourage others to stop venting and act. This is one example of a military family that was able to resolve their dispute through Timeshare Advocacy Group™ http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/ and a hat’s off this 4th of July week to all those who serve in the military.
  • Last on the list is the Better Business Bureau. The BBB does not resolve complaints. They merely report how efficiently a company responds to complaints so ratings can be misleading.

None of the above agencies will act on behalf of a specific individual, but a volume of complaints can prompt an investigation. Tennessee, Colorado, New York and Arizona are four states where Attorneys General have opened timeshare investigations       

law enforcement

Our Bluegreen member complainant works in law enforcement. Lela Renea is a detective appalled that, even though she works in law enforcement, alleges she became the prey.   

Lela purchased 6000 Bluegreen points in Las Vegas March 2015 for $8,200. Lela alleges she was a victim of deceit and bait and switch for the following reasons:

  1. Lela was told if she purchased more points her maintenance fees would stay the same. The maintenance fees have increased from $560 a year in 2015 to about $700 a year for 2017.
  2. Lela was told she would receive a free cruise, but after all the fees and charges it cost as much as if she had booked it herself.
  3. Lela was told the Barclaycard had a low interest rate of 5% when in actuality it was 25%.
  4. Lela was not told she was entitled to 4000 bonus points. The points expired before she was aware of them.
  5. Lela was promised availability she says does not exist.
  6. Lela was showed a Presidential Suite that was said to be comparable to all Bluegreen accommodations.
  7. Lela was not aware she had purchased so few points it was almost impossible to find adequate availability.

Lela has sent Bluegreen a demand letter requesting a refund. She will be filing complaints with regulatory and law enforcement agencies if her demands are not met. Lela will become an Advocate.

Lela’s friend and co-buyer contacted Pinnacle Vacation to do a transfer but Lela is worried Pinnacle may be a scam.

https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/bluegreen-vacation-club-c4809.html

lawsuit

The following lawsuit was filed against Bluegreen but was dismissed October 2016. It voices many of Lela’s complaints. Again, the problem is the oral representation clause that timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group has frequently described as “a license to lie”.

The BlueGreen Vacations Timeshare Sales Tactics Class Action Lawsuit is Kyle Miles, et al. v. BlueGreen Vacations Unlimited Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-00937, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The plaintiffs are represented by Todd M. Friedman and Adrian R. Bacon of Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman PC.

BlueGreen Vacations Unlimited Inc. has been hit with a class action lawsuit that accuses the timeshare company of using “hard sell” tactics and misinformation to convince consumers to enter into timeshare contracts.

During the timeshare presentation, the plaintiffs were reportedly informed that, if they were not satisfied with the timeshare contracts BlueGreen was selling, BlueGreen would buy back the contracts.

According to the timeshare class action lawsuit, BlueGreen also misled the presentation attendees by representing that the timeshare contract’s maintenance fees would not increase, when in reality, the maintenance fees increase on an annual basis.

However, the plaintiffs allege that the terms that were actually contained in the timeshare contract are different than the terms promised during the timeshare presentation.

They also claim that they were pressured to open two BlueGreen credit cards and to put the entire $5,000 down payment on the cards.

advo

Our local Florida news station today reported vacation rentals, as opposed to hotel bookings, have increased from 50% in 2014 to 70% in 2016. Our readers continually express disappointment and dismay over what they describe as an escalation in deception and overly aggressive timeshare selling. These are mostly members who were happy with their timeshare until deception set in. We want timeshare to be a healthy and robust industry. If the developers and lobby organizations don’t heed the damage being done by sales agents “pitching heat”, one wonders how the industry can survive in the millennial’s world.

Inside Timeshare thanks Lela for coming forward. We look forward to a new collaborator as a lot of what we do requires the skills of a detective. It did not take long to explain the basis of an IC3.gov complaint to Lela.

So there we have it, another week over in the timeshare world, with some good news for many and the start of a judicial nightmare for others. Inside Timeshare thanks all those who sent in the information which helps to form our articles, again thanks to Irene for editing the US contributions, together we are making a difference.

weekend

 

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