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Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

Now for this weeks article.

Timeshare Fraud and Whistleblower Retaliation

By Irene Parker

August 10 2018

Whistleblower definition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two timeshare members are working on their own articles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Related articles:

How to File a Timeshare Complaint  

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

The St. Louis Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report

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

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

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

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we publish another Veterans “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, with the introduction by Irene Parker. As with many of the other articles published on Inside Timeshare this is a story from the Veterans own personal experience, these stories have become all too familiar with us at Inside Timeshare, not just from Veterans but also serving members of the armed forces and law enforcement. But first some other news.

It looks like Diamond Resort International have yet another legal action filed against them, this was filed by Labaton Sucharow LLP, on 23 July 2018, on behalf of their clients Local 705 International Brotherhood of Teamsters Pension Fund, under the Securities Exchange Act 1934.

Once again this is a Class Action lawsuit, which others who may be affected being invited to join, further details can be obtained from: www.labaton.com. (See link below).

https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/07/25/1542302/0/en/Labaton-Sucharow-LLP-Files-Securities-Class-Action-Lawsuit-on-Behalf-of-Diamond-Resorts-International-Inc-Investors.html

There is another new name has come up on the radar, Martinez Notarias with lady called Victoria Holmes contacting consumers who had dealings in the past with our old friends Ramirez and Ramirez. She claims that they can recover along with compensation what the consumer paid, now the worrying aspect is she knows exactly how much was paid, which only leads us to conclude that she is either working with Ramirez or has managed to get hold of all his old records. We actually believe that she is working with Ramirez.

She sends out to those interested Non Spanish residents tax exemption form, which is downloaded from the internet, once the form is completed it then has to be faxed not posted back. There is no website but there is an email [email protected] which is just a normal Gmail free account,  the telephone numbers being used are:

(+34) 603208693 Spanish mobile

Fax: 070 1197 2107 The code 070 is a personal number.

Personal numbers allow a person or businesses to give out a single phone number, then redirect their incoming calls to different locations as and when they choose. 070 numbers can also be used as temporary numbers. For example, somebody selling a car through classified adverts could set up an 070 number to receive enquiries then disable the number after the car has been sold, rather than publishing their real home or mobile number. So this is not a very good sign!

Another new “fake” Procurador has also been flagged, CARLOS RIHOM IGRAIM, with the website:

http://procuradores-igraim.com

The website was only registered on 25 June 2018 so is only just over a month old, yet according to the website they have been established since 1973 and have over 40 years experience. The email they use is [email protected] which again is not linked to the website but is another free email provider such as gmail or yahoo.

The address they give  Calle Yamun 23, Edif. Ifuami, Oficina 328D, Santa Cruz, 38009, Tenerife, when checking this address on google maps, guess what, nothing comes up!

It appears that this “Procurador” is also part of the Legalidades Abogados setup, (Litigious Abogados family). Remember unless you have instigated any legal action, any call to tell you that your timeshare company is about to be taken to court and you will be in for substantial compensation, it is all a lie, they are after your money and that is all.

Now for this weeks article.

Timeshares Affecting the Lives of our Veterans

Another Veteran Family

A Tahiti Village Timeshare Experience

July 31, 2017

Introduction by Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare reached out to Tahiti Village. I talked to a Tahiti reservation agent. He was very nice, explained Consolidated was bankrupt, and that we would need to contact Soleil Management as to their response to this article submitted by a Tahiti owner, who wishes to remain anonymous. The Tahiti agent took my information and said he would forward to Soleil.  We did not hear back.

By a Discouraged Tahiti Village Member

Inside Timeshare can forward comments to this Tahiti member requesting anonymity.

Nevada and the businesses and agencies operating within it have no intention to do anything about timeshare fraud, so I hope the court of public opinion will be more effective. Please Share my article on your Facebooks to let people know about timeshare business practices and to seek answers to questions you should ask before signing any timeshare contract. If you don’t, you may find yourself stuck in a timeshare trap as we are.

I am writing this article to let people know about our Tahiti Village timeshare experience. I hope to warn other people to ask the right questions, so they don’t find themselves saddled with a timeshare they can’t get rid of. We made our last payment December 2017. I last heard from Tahiti Village in April. We have always had good credit, but now, as seniors, we face foreclosure.

I retired from a ATT & T, so I understand customer service. Our experience with Tahiti customer service has been disappointing. When I wrote good comment cards, Tahiti would respond, but when I submitted our concerns, Tahiti ignored those comments.  

When searching the internet, I found this email address from a member seeking other members who wish to pursue a class action lawsuit against Tahiti Village:  [email protected]

https://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/tahiti-village-scam/las-vegas-nevada-89119/tahiti-village-scam-shannon-deceptive-sales-lies-and-misrepresentation-of-facts-l-1432118

Tahiti Village has a Better Business Rating of A+ despite two of two negative reviews.

https://www.bbb.org/southern-nevada/business-reviews/resort/tahiti-village-vacation-club-in-las-vegas-nv-77371/reviews-and-complaints?section=reviews&reviewtype=negative

We have been Tahiti Village timeshare members since 2008. We enjoyed our Tahiti experience for several years until 2015 when we were steamrolled into purchasing an upgrade. By 2012, things had changed. Once when we checked in, we discovered our unit was nasty, the carpets were worn, the couches ripped. One year there was a bad smell in the master room. They just sprayed deodorizer, which did not help. The next year the microwave did not work. As we were checking out they brought the microwave. This is what our maintenance fees are supposed to cover.

Pressure to upgrade ensued. After one presentation, we felt like we had been held hostage after a four hour sales. We ended up upgrading from a fixed to a floating week with RCI. Since then, many things have happened that have turned what was a bearable irritation into an unbearable nightmare. In addition to seeing the fees rise, we now realize we were pressured into purchasing a timeshare product that we never really wanted in the first place. It is a timeshare product not worthy of what we are paying.

My husband, a Navy veteran, served his country for 20 years. Our Armed Forces Vacation Club benefits far exceed this timeshare. We paid Tahiti our hard-earned money for a product that has never lived up to its billing and has been a source of much stress.

As we explored ways of getting rid of our timeshare, it became apparent that many things we were told were not true, including

  1.    The timeshare is an investment that would appreciate in value,
  2.    We would be entitled to tax breaks,
  3.    We could rent the timeshare to pay maintenance fees,
  4.    The timeshare would be easy to resell, assisted by Tahiti.

So, after 10 years of paying for a timeshare that we were told would appreciate in value, could be rented and could be sold for a profit, we are left disappointed and angry. You can sell a house, even with a mortgage, but it seems there is no way out of a timeshare trap.

At times I stayed at Tahiti without my husband. If he was not with me I was treated markedly poorer. I felt that this is because they would always try to upgrade us if we were staying there together. When my husband was not with me, the customer service was worse, and the rooms were of a lesser quality. If we had a problem, even when staying together, reception would tell us they would look into our concern without ever doing so. One time,I asked for a first floor room because my daughter was on crutches and we ended up with the furthest room on the fifth floor. It seemed the only time we were treated with respect was when they wanted more money. This has been a source of irritation through the years, but not enough to warrant action.

When I wrote directly to Tahiti Village Resort asking to be released from this timeshare, I received no reply. I wrote to Soleil Management. They told me that they were not responsible for any misrepresentations that may have happened at the presentations because they were carried out by Tahiti Village Resort and they were merely the managing agent. Tahiti Village Vacation Club also said they were not responsible for any wrongdoing.

I wrote to ASNY, who claimed to be the developer and seller of the resort, as well as the managing agent for Tahiti Village Vacation Club. They said they were not responsible for any complaints about the quality of our stay and we should contact Soleil Management. They then proceeded to give me the usual spiel about how I signed the contract and they were innocent of any wrongdoing perpetrated by the sales staff. They also said that because we had been customers for 10 years, we had no case so would no longer correspond with us. (Inside Timeshare comment: Where have we heard this before?)

According to Ripoff Report, Tahiti is also known as Consolidated Resorts but have learned Consolidated filed for bankruptcy protection:

https://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/tahiti-village-consolidated-resorts-soleil-llc/las-vegas-california-89145/tahiti-village-consolidated-resorts-soleil-llc-tahiti-village-soleil-management-awsuit-479999

Why is the length of time we owned the timeshare be relevant if we always believed our timeshare was an investment that could be sold if need be? It wasn’t until we wanted to get rid of the timeshare did we learn we had been lied to. If you are in a dead-end relationship and your partner decides to go one step further and punch you in the face after 10 years, should you have no recourse?

So far, we have filed a complaint with the BBB and had our complaint dismissed before any real dialog took place. The Nevada AG referred us to the Real Estate Division. We filed with the Real Estate Division, who said they could not help.

In my opinion, Nevada, and the businesses and agencies operating within it, have no intention to do anything about this so I’m hoping the court of public opinion will be more effective. Please share my article on Facebook to let people know about our Tahiti Village experience and to warn potential buyers to do their homework before buying any timeshare.

Comments from Irene

The public, especially the military, need to be aware that a decision to sign a timeshare contract means signing a contract in perpetuity, often with no secondary market. Maintenance fees have a tendency to increase, so the timeshare can easily become cost prohibitive, even when there is no loan outstanding. Attorneys General investigations and settlements are appreciated, but seem to be only financial speed bumps in the life of a timeshare company. There has been no federal enforcement.

When a timeshare has little to no secondary market, even if you spend $100,000 or more, there is a good chance you might not be able to sell it or even give it back. Scams abound, promising to get you out of your timeshare or your money back. A few of these companies are legitimate, but several readers have reported they did not receive their money back, even when the timeshare returned to the developer due to foreclosure.    

Inside Timeshare has received timeshare complaints from 63 active duty and retired military and law enforcement personnel. Some of the active duty members are concerned about losing their security clearance due to timeshare foreclosure.   

Whistleblowers of America is an organization dedicated to seeking justice for veterans and Active Duty military. WoA presented a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ report to a Joint Committee on Veterans Affairs March 14, 2018. We hope lawmakers will wake up and do something about this. If a timeshare member is helped by our efforts, we encourage a donation to Whistleblowers of America.

www.whistleblowersofamerica.org @whistleP2P

601 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, D,C.

Statement of

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C

Executive Director

Whistleblowers of America

Before the

Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

March 14, 2018

Fraud and Scams Against Veterans:

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

Thank you to our Veteran for their story, they also wished to remain anonymous, also thanks to Irene for the hard work you put in to edit and write the introductions for many of these articles. In Friday’s Letter from America we will be publishing the Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report, which also has some very interesting recommendations to the industry.

If you have any questions, comments or even would like to have your experiences shared with others, then contact Inside Timeshare using our contact page.

Have you been cold called by a company offering any service from resale, claims or relinquishment, or even found one on the internet and want to know if they are genuine, then use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.

Remember doing you due diligence and homework will save you your hard earned cash.

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now on with our letter from America.

What is a Defamatory Statement?  

When to File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

Irene Parker

July 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The response from the company to the article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on Defamation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defamation Per Se  

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

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

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

Emily Doskow, attorney

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

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

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

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

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

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

Related article: Timeshare Advocacy Group™

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

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

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

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene, today we welcome yet another new contributor Mike Yelton, edited as always by our very own Irene Parker. This article will also be of interest to our readers in Europe, as many have been victims of similar tactics, so we are asking our readers, both members and hopefully developers, to weigh in on the discussion questions posted throughout Mr. Yelton’s article.  

The deception that prompts the presentation, as happened to Mike and Joyce Yelton,  is often the reason why the ultimate end is the timeshare exit company when the developer will not address these issues.  

If the developer would clean up the sales process, the back end of the timeshare exit problem would go away, or at least be reduced. Until the developer owns up to their being a part of the problem, the angry and desperate timeshare owner is here to stay..

Is Freewheeling Credit Card Lending Here Again!?

The Over Reliance on Credit Card Lending

Our Stormy Point Village, Summerwinds Experience

By Mike Yelton, Army and Air Force Vietnam Veteran

May 22, 2018  

Introduction by Irene Parker

Was this Elder Fraud?  

Was this Credit Card Fraud?

Was this an Unfair and Deceptive trade practice?

Was Summerwinds resolution to the Yelton’s offer fair?

Inside Timeshare has been receiving an increase in complaints about timeshare credit cards opened onsite and credit card charges made without authorization. This is exactly what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau worked so hard to put a halt to when Wells Fargo agents opened credit card accounts without the cardholder’s knowledge. Undeterred, Wells Fargo moved on to a $1 billion penalty announced April 20, 2018. This penalty was levied due in part to interest rate-lock promises. Mike and Joyce Yelton’s timeshare upgrade experience is somewhat similar, although they were promised a rate lowering.   

Another Wells Fargo Settlement

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Bureau) announced a settlement with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in a coordinated action with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). As described in the consent order, the Bureau found that Wells Fargo violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) in the way it administered a mandatory insurance program related to its auto loans. The Bureau also found that Wells Fargo violated the CFPA in how it charged certain borrowers for mortgage interest rate-lock extensions. Under the terms of the consent orders, Wells Fargo will remediate harmed consumers and undertake certain activities related to its risk management and compliance management. The Bureau assessed a $1 billion penalty against the bank and credited the $500 million penalty collected by the OCC toward the satisfaction of its fine.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/bureau-consumer-financial-protection-announces-settlement-wells-fargo-auto-loan-administration-and-mortgage-practices/

Here’s what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Yelton. I have interspersed discussion questions hoping our readers will offer their input in our comment section. We encourage responses from the industry in addition to reader responses. We hope meaningful dialogue will help bridge the gap between the angry timeshare member and the timeshare provider.         

By Mike Yelton

My wife Joyce and I, both 79 years of age, bought a Stormy Point Village timeshare in Branson, Missouri in 2015 and upgraded in 2016. We enjoyed our stays there and had no major complaints until December 2017 when we attended what they said was a ‘mandatory update meeting’. We were told that if we did not attend we would lose our benefits. At that meeting we feel we were deceived and lied to. We may be older, but we are not stupid.

Discussion Question 1

Do you think it is fair for a timeshare member, who has made a prior purchase of a deeded week, be required to attend an update, threatened with the risk of losing their benefits if they did not attend? The Yelton’s would not have become angry owners had they not attended the meeting and we would not be writing this article.    

At this mandatory update, the salespeople presented what they described as a “change in need” or an exchange in benefits. We were led to believe it was not an upgrade. They said they could lower the interest on our loan if we opened a new lower interest rate credit card.

Discussion Question 2 & 3

Do you think this was more an attempt to open credit card accounts and sell an upgrade, rather than actually addressing the customer’s needs?

Was the “change in need” enough of a reason to tell the Yelton’s they would lose their benefits if they did not attend?

Due to our health we cannot travel far from home. We don’t live far from Branson. We were told if we wanted to limit our use to just Branson, two weeks could be broken down into four parts. We signed the papers, but later we found out we had purchased an upgrade which we did not want or could afford.

We felt we had become a victim of the unauthorized opening of credit card accounts and unauthorized charges made. We were not aware the cards had been opened or that an amount had been charged. We didn’t know the cards had been opened until not one, but two Bank of America credit cards showed up in the mail! We had agreed to one card being opened because they said it would be at a lower interest. It was never mentioned the card was being opened for the purpose of buying an upgrade. The cards have been canceled as Bank of America agreed they were opened without our knowledge.

Discussion Question 4

Was it deceptive to tell the Yelton’s the card was being opened to lower their interest rate if charges were made to make a purchase? What could have been done so that the Yelton’s would have been aware the card was being charged to purchase a timeshare product? From members young and old, we are hearing about credit cards opened and charged, and even loans taken out when the member was not aware. It seems the first thing a sales agent does is to run the card to determine the credit limit and then back into the maximum point purchase.  

To our utter dismay we learned that the sales agent charged $7,000 on a card opened in my name and $4,000 on a card opened in Joyce’s name! The salesperson told us we could charge up to $11,000 on the card but he NEVER said he was actually charging that amount of money or that he was opening two cards. He just charged it without even asking! We both were there. He told us we would get a check in the mail, which we should sign and send in, in an envelope that would be included with the check. We have no idea what the check was about, but no check ever arrived.

Discussion Question 5

Should the sales agent have explained to the Yelton’s why they would receive a check in the mail? This question was asked to encourage timeshare buyers to challenge vague statements like this. For example, Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from members purchasing additional points because they say they were told “You can pay your maintenance fees by charging purchases on the new credit card.” The problem is – the consumer typically does not ask the next question: What is the actual value? If 1% is credited, a family would have to charge $100,000 in one year to pay a $1,000 maintenance fee bill.    

We expected Summerwind to cancel the deceptive upgrade. We sent a letter of complaint to Summerwinds which they ignored. We then filed a complaint with the BBB which did get a response. Summerwinds asked us to take down the complaint so we could discuss the issue without a third party. They offered us a cancellation on the upgrade but not a full cancellation of our timeshare, which would have required the prior outstanding loan be cancelled.   

Discussion Question 6

Do you think the offer Summerwinds proposed was fair?

We will allow the cancellation of the last upgrade.

The debt prior to this purchase is still your responsibility.

We will start the first year of use for 2019 on the new contract. We will give you one free week in a 2 bedroom unit for use in 2018.

We will refund the amounts placed on the cards and any payments made to the lender since the time of your upgrade.

They never apologized for opening the second card or charging the credit cards without our knowledge. We had some good times at Summerwinds, but because of this experience, we have lost all faith in Summerwinds. We dread checking in.

Discussion Question 7

Should Summerwinds have apologized for the mistakes? Lawyers will be quick to respond….but not so fast. Hug your Haters author Jay Baer, obtained this answer from attorney and litigator Michael Laskey of Davis and Gilbert law firm in New York City.    

“In some corners of the business universe, anyone interacting with customers is prohibited from saying (or typing) an apology, because it is believed – by particularly Draconian attorneys – that it could weaken the company’s position in a legal proceeding.” “In the world of Charles Dickens, ‘If that’s the law, then the law is an ass,’”

Mr. Laskey emphasized that of course companies should be careful about what they say, but the answer is not to ever say “I’m sorry.” p 125

http://insidetimeshare.com/?s=hug+your+haters

So there you have it. Mr. Yelton has produced lots of food for thought. This is the YouTube Mr. and Mrs. Yelton produced. https://youtu.be/a1XCF479oa8

We hope you will express your thoughts on our comment section.

Summerwinds Resorts Services, LLC has a BBB rating of F

https://www.bbb.org/stlouis/business-reviews/timeshare-companies/summerwinds-resort-services-llc-in-branson-mo-29040/reviews-and-complaints

Inside Timeshare has received complaints from all branches of the military as well as law enforcement. We have reached out to Whistleblowers of America, a nonprofit that seeks justice for veterans, Active Duty military and government workers. We encourage those who have been assisted by our efforts to make a donation to this worthy organization. https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

I have never served my country, but I am honored to serve those who have by providing the means to let their voices be heard. Thank you to Mike for joining Inside Timeshare as a contributor and for your service to our country.

Additional self-help groups that can aid in your due diligence:

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/

In Europe we have not yet seen this use of credit cards, but we are familiar with finance being arranged by the sales staff, the main provider of theses loan agreements is Barclays Partner Finance. We have many readers who have informed us that they told the sales staff they could not afford the timeshare as they were only on pensions.

Yet after many hours of high pressure sales tactics they eventually agreed to finance being provided, the unfortunate thing is the usual due diligence checks such as income versus outgoings reports have never been done. Eventually this has ended in severe financial hardship.

It has also been the case that many of these loans have been brokered by unauthorised and unlicensed staff and companies. Yet the banking industry still allows these agreements to take place, putting yet more people in financial crisis.

If you have any comments or questions on this or any article published, Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.

 

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.

Friday’s Letter from America

Today’s Letter from America by Irene Parker replaces the one that was originally scheduled, that article has been pulled as the company it revolved around has made a settlement in favour of the client. This is a result of the article being sent to the company for comment before publication, we just wish this happens more often.

A Disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street

Three more Seniors Driven into Timeshare Foreclosure

ILG’s stock rose about 5 percent on the news of the deal, while Marriott Vacations — paying $14.75 in cash and 0.165 of its own shares for each ILG share — slid 9.2 percent.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ilg-m-a-marriott-vaca/marriott-vacations-buys-ilg-in-47-billion-timeshare-merger-idUSKBN1I10ZX

Apollo Global Management (NYSE:APO) plans to take Diamond Resorts public, according to The Wall Street Journal

Sources indicate that Apollo is seeking a valuation of close to $4B for Diamond Resorts

https://seekingalpha.com/news/3347179-diamond-resorts-files-confidentially-ipo

May 11, 2018

Meanwhile, Introduction by Irene Parker

Inside Timeshare advocates on behalf of Active Duty military in danger of losing their Security Clearance due to timeshare foreclosure. Currently there are five battling this worry, including three members of the Navy, one Homeland Security agent, a defense worker, and a military paralegal. Veterans, from the ages of 28 to 83, including a double Purple Heart recipient, have reported allegations of timeshare fraud on the front of the sale, and difficulty selling timeshares they no longer want or can afford. Several of our veterans are combat disabled.             

Phyllis, Shirley and Marcy would like to share their timeshare experience to warn other seniors. All allege they were a victim of Elder Fraud. Shirley paid one of those “Get out of your timeshare” companies money to get out of her timeshare contract, only to be foreclosed. No one needs to pay anyone to be foreclosed. Now she is being taken to court by Barclays because her purchase was charged to a Barclay credit card. Marcy was called by another “Timeshare Exit” company. The caller said he was an attorney and told her the timeshare company would take her house and her Social Security benefits if she did not pay him $2900.   

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau helped Wells Fargo victims when Wells Fargo agents opened bogus accounts. With the roll back of the Dodd Frank act, enacted to reduce mortgage lending abuses evident during the subprime mortgage debacle, happy freewheeling lending days may be here again for timeshare developers. Sources tell us there are few if any CFPB investigations.

Many of the complaints we have received are from timeshare buyers who tell us they had no idea credit cards had been issued and were told charging purchases to their Barclaycard would pay for their maintenance fees. Typically, around 1% of amounts charged can be credited to maintenance fees. Others were not even aware they had purchased a timeshare until they returned home.

Perpetual timeshare contracts, some with little to no secondary market, are signed via a tablet, technology foreign to some senior buyers. Seniors may be less comfortable with electronic tablets used to sign timeshare documents, but even those comfortable with tablet technology have reported it is more difficult to review documents on a tablet. Sales agents demand the buyer buy the same day the offer is presented with little time to review documents. Most report exhausting sales sessions that are aggressive and often last several hours.     

Inside Timeshare has received 421 timeshare complaints from our readers. Given we have received so many stories resembling Phyllis, Shirley and Marcy stories, Timeshare Advocacy Group is embarking on a nationwide media campaign to warn the public not to buy a timeshare without talking to their financial advisor, an attorney, or a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

As a former stockbroker, I have nothing against great wealth. I wish we all had the foresight to grow old with Bill Gates and his stock price, but enormous profits gleaned by predatory timeshare sales and lending, coupled with timeshare exit scams has devastated the lives of hundreds of families, according to our readers, who did not understanding the nature of the developer based timeshare contract. Better Business Bureau reports, AG investigations, DOJ reports, and lawsuits galore support the argument that dream vacations can easily turn into a nightmare. As always, we know there are timeshare sales agents trying to sell honestly and many who are happy with their timeshare.  

Having followed timeshare stocks for three years now, my investing comfort level is with Disney Vacation Club. I have never described myself as a socially conscious investor, but having listened to 421 horror stories, my money is on Disney. Not one Disney member has ever contacted Inside Timeshare and the law firms I have surveyed tell me they have never had a Disney timeshare member seek legal assistance. Disney is a starter stock you can give to your kids and grandkids without regret. The following chart shows respectable profits can be gleaned from investing in Disney.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/03/if-you-put-1000-in-disney-10-years-ago-heres-what-youd-have-now.html

Now on to Phyllis, Shirley and Marcy, three Inside Timeshare readers who contacted us this past week horrified at what is happening to them. I had trouble keeping them straight because they were all making the same comments:

I’m having panic anxiety attacks!

I can’t even read this because I’m having palpitations!

I’m so scared! I don’t know what to do!

Phyllis C, age 67, a California resident, was a Diamond Monarch owner

Phyllis works for a prison. She teaches residents how to sew uniforms for CalFire firefighters. Phyllis was the head pattern maker for OP, a brand I remember well.

By Phyllis

I was asked to attend a breakfast to talk about upgrades on a timeshare I owned. I was told it would last 55 minutes, but I was there for seven hours. Four highly pressured sales people took turns on me, bouncing me into three different rooms. They said my children would be responsible for the timeshare bankruptcy if I didn’t give up my Riviera Beach Club week and buy the new vacation points. They told me I would be personally responsible for my portion of the $32 million dollar Monarch timeshare company bankruptcy debt.

I told them over and over I didn’t want it and that I already owned the timeshare. They said I had to buy into the new program even though I had owned my timeshare forever. They said that I could never get out of it because my timeshare went bankrupt and I had to invest with Diamond Resorts or they would go after my children for payment. I had a panic stress disorder attack. After several hours, I was tired and hungry. In order to get out of there I signed. I am a senior citizen five feet tall. Sales agent Raymond Coppin was a six foot tall man, standing over me stating he was a child of GOD and that he could help me. He said to me “I am a friend. I can tell you what to do only after you sign a contract.” Victoria Borghetto, Hassan Younes, and Steven Ginsberg took turns telling me I had to buy Diamond points. They said using the BARCLAYS BANK CREDIT CARD for shopping would make my points go up and my maintenance fees go down.

I signed a contract to buy 3,300 Diamond points which they charged to a Barclaycard. I never received the card. I never used the card. I had a trial date May 8, 2018 to pay their lawyers in the amount of $3446.04. I have asked and been granted a 60 day continuance hoping I can find someone to help me. Diamond sent a letter stating the timeshare went into foreclosure and I am out of the contract. Since the timeshare and Barclays are together, shouldn’t I be out of paying the bank as well? Diamond already foreclosed on the timeshare I had used and enjoyed for so many years. I paid a timeshare exit company $1,600, but they must have nothing to do with Barclays?

I need help. Could someone give me advice? Can I get someone to go with me and represent me? I am afraid and stressed. Please e-mail me on what I can so as soon as possible. Thank You.

By Shirley K Minnesota, age 74

Club Wyndham

We will not be paying the Barclay card amounts due. We believe we are a victim of Elder fraud. This Tennessee news report interviewing the couple pictured in this television news report is exactly what happened to us. Wyndham opened a Paypal credit line without our knowledge. Furthermore, we feel we were scammed into opening two Barclay cards to purchase 84,000 Wyndham points for $14,879 on April 27, 2017. Mr. Ryan and Ms. Lapping told us the Wyndham points would not cost anything if we charged things to the Barclay credit card.

https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/consumer-alert/couple-goes-to-wyndham-timeshare-meeting-unknowingly-gets-15k-line-of-credit

Branson sales agents:

Gerald Ryan was highly aggressive

Samantha Lapping

I have filed a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General, the FBI at IC3.gov and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I will be filing a complaint with the FTC and our Minnesota Attorney General.  

We did not know that the Barclay cards had been opened until we returned home. They had run our credit on our personal cards and came back saying, “You have great credit!” They must have opened the cards based on that information.

When I felt we had been scammed, I called and cancelled the Barclay cards shortly after the April 27, 2017 purchase. I thought that was the end of it, but on May 2, 2018 I received correspondence from Pinnacle that said I owe Barclay’s $14,879!  We are getting calls from Pinnacle.

https://www.bbb.org/minnesota/business-reviews/financial-services/pinnacle-credit-services-llc-in-minneapolis-mn-23002292/reviews-and-complaints

I didn’t even know what we bought. They had said if we charged things using the Barclay credit card, then it would all be free because we would not have to pay anything. They said we would pay for the Wyndham points by using the credit card. We were there from morning until about 2:46 PM in the afternoon. I am 74 years old and my husband Ellsworth is 77. Ellsworth is hard of hearing.

The following charges we were not aware of were charged to us.

$5,500 was put on a Barclaycard in Shirley’s name

$9,379 was put on a Barclaycard in Elswsorth’s name

$7,349 Promotional purchase

$2,000 Promotional purchase

$30 Promotional purchase

We were shocked when we received a “Welcome to Pay Pal credit and thank you for an account” on April 27.

I have always paid my bills until this nightmare. I have sciatic nerve problems and I don’t know what to do. I am not sleeping and don’t know where to turn. I am working just to make money to try to end this. There was no time to read anything. I believe this is Elder Abuse and Elder Fraud.

Marcy S, age 70, a California resident, widowed

I owned a deeded week at Ka’anapali Beach Resort

I was contacted by a man who identified himself as Louis Stravricos who said he was an attorney with US Consumer Attorneys Group in San Diego.  His telephone number is 855-627-0795. He said he was calling about my Diamond timeshare. He was aware that I was a Diamond owner and that I owned at Ka’anapali Resort. He sent me a copy of their contract and said I needed to pay him $2900 to get out of the Diamond contract.  He told me Diamond was going to take my house and my children would be responsible for paying all Diamond debts and that they would even attach my wages.  He said Diamond would also take my Social Security payments and my retirement.

I have not paid my Diamond maintenance fees for about three years. I wanted to deed it back to Diamond but they would not take it back. I tried to sell it but no one wanted it. I have Fibromyalgia so it is very difficult for me to travel.

This man that called was horrible. It was very scary. Would you please contact Diamond for me because I do not know what I should do? (We did and Diamond responded) I did not know if he was telling me the truth.

Irene told me that now Diamond has a program called Transitions, a voluntary surrender program. If I was current on my maintenance fees, I would in all likelihood be accepted for Transitions. I heard nothing from Diamond until I recently received a letter that said I was past due on $9,000 in maintenance fees. I cannot pay that.

Four other complaints were reported to Inside Timeshare directed against the same timeshare sales agent and in one complaint, the same vice president of sales mentioned in Marcy’s complaint:  

Complaint #1

The agent stated that we could take any points we did not use and apply them towards our maintenance fees.  He then spoke of the opportunity to earn an additional $2,700 towards our maintenance fees by using the Barclay Credit Card.  What he failed to advise was that we would have to charge $270,000 annually to earn $2,700 towards our maintenance fees!

Complaint #2

We were Monarch owners. We were told unless we bought more points our heirs would be responsible for maintenance fees.

Complaint #3

The presenter said we were not full members and we should have received a letter to go to full membership. I told them we never received a letter. He then offered a deal that would only be good right then.  He informed us that what we had was worth nothing now and we would have to upgrade to be able to use any benefits because of the bankruptcy.

Complaint #4

We were told at the Capistrano Beach Resort we would not be able to use our Monarch week unless we bought points and that our Monarch week was worthless. We were not told of the option to deed back the week.

Other seniors foreclosed:

Deneice and Louis Vargas – in the foreclosure process

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

Seniors Romeo and Lily Dalisay

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-9/

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Thank you to Irene and our contributors for their story, it makes you wonder how these overpaid company executives can actually sleep at night, I think we all know the answer to that, no conscience, pure greed and a greater love of money than their fellow man!

Unfortunately it all starts with those lower down the food chain, the sales agents, obviously looking to become one of the big boys with their own office!

Well that’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend begins, have a good one.

Friday’s Letter from America

Once again welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker interviews yet another military veteran family about their experience with Diamond. Joshua and Nichole Parker are just another couple in a long line that have reached out to Inside Timeshare in the past few months, we do not expect them to be the last.

First we have a quick look at Europe, we begin with a warning about a company cold calling Diamond owners in the UK.

cold call

One of our regular readers who is a member of one of the Diamond facebook pages, received a call from a company claiming to be called Scottish Heritage. It seems that the caller knew our reader is a member with Diamond Resorts, the offer was for a stay at a choice of hotels in Scotland for 5 nights for the knockdown price of £99.

This sounds like the old “flybuy” offers that we have warned about in the past, cheap stays along with the obligation to attend a presentation usually to purchase either a timeshare or holiday club package.

When we searched for any company called Scottish heritage we drew a blank other than the official Scottish organisations, which we very much doubt would be making these type of calls.

The number used for the call is:

01244470152

Which is a Chester number, when we did a check on this number it did show some rather interesting results, on Who Called Me,

https://who-called.co.uk/Number/01244470152

there were many entries about this number, including the name Scottish Heritage. It also belongs to a website called

http://loyaltyweeks.com/

In their About section they go on to say:

“As a guest of Loyalty Breaks, you would receive heavily discounted accommodation in a selection of leading hotels and resorts around the world that would otherwise cost a considerable amount of money.  All that is required from the guest is that during their stay, they take a morning or afternoon of their time to learn about the benefits of the resort in a relaxed environment, and donate valuable feedback to improve customer care and satisfaction.

The developers will heavily subsidies the accommodation for up to 7 nights, with the intention on enlightening their visitors on the benefits and perks of their exclusive residences in some of the most sought after destinations around the world.”

Which does confirm what we expected, discounted breaks with a presentation. Unfortunately we can find no company registration for either Loyalty Weeks or Loyalty Breaks, and the website does not give a name of who is behind it, although it was only registered on 29 July 2017, so it is only around 8 months old.

The question now is who is behind it and how did they get the information, especially as they knew they were Diamond owners. Could it be that some unscrupulous sales staff who knew that they were going to be laid off, got hold of the members data either selling it on or starting their own little enterprise?

It has also been a busy week with sentences from the Supreme Court in Madrid being issued against Silverpoint, Palm Oasis and Puerto Calma, a good week for the lawyers and their clients.

Now on with this weeks Letter.

A Veteran’s Family Bought Diamond Points

Dismissed by Diamond Hospitality Consumer Advocates because,

“You signed a contract”  

An Interview with Joshua and Nichole Parker

vets

By Irene Parker

March 16, 2018

Joshua “Josh” and Nichole Parker attended a timeshare sales presentation that lasted from 8AM in the morning until 8PM at night at Diamond Resorts Mystic Dunes resort in Orlando on November 8, 2017 after attending a Diamond’s Event of a Lifetime. “Why didn’t you just leave?” the critics ask. Joshua explains why on his YouTube. They purchased 4,000 Diamond timeshare points. Joshua and Nichole say they were told their points would go up in value. Now, expecting twins, they do not have enough points for a family of five to vacation and have learned, not only did their timeshare points not increase in value – there is virtually no secondary market for Diamond timeshare points. Josh’s YouTube

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

Josh suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Josh is the second 90% disabled, PTSD diagnosed, Iraqi veteran Inside Timeshare has assisted this year. The other veteran and his wife had been subjected to a five hour predatory and fraudulent timeshare hard sell. They recorded an hour of their ordeal which has been turned over to law enforcement. After listening to the recording, I can firmly say there was no alleged about it. Their timeshare dispute was quickly resolved after a copy of their YouTube interview was sent to the timeshare company. Others who allege fraud, but did not record their alleged fraudulent timeshare sale, face an uphill battle of repeated denials and dismissals. Timeshare companies often respond, “You signed a contract.”

The FBI disagrees with this reasoning, and has advised timeshare members to file complaints with the FBI at IC3.gov and orally through the FBI field office nearest to where the timeshare contract was signed, if their allegations meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime, “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.” The FBI agent Josh spoke with advised Josh to also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (option other – timeshare sales).

Post-traumatic stress disorder

The tragic events that took place at the Veteran Home in Yountville, California, Friday, March 9, a formerly safe place for Veterans suffering from the effects of PTSD, reminds us that the effects of war or a traumatic event can live long after the event or the battlefield. It’s not an easy topic, but one timeshare companies and timeshare sales agents should be aware of, if they care.

My interview with Josh and Nichole

Irene: Josh, tell us about your military service.

Josh: I joined the army in 2005, partly for the health benefits, and because joining the army was what I always wanted to do. I became a military police officer. In Iraqi I was part of a Police Transition Team. We taught Iraqi police how to be police because they lacked training. I was part of Operation Iron Maiden in 2006 when an attempt was made to catch Ayman-al-Zawahiri. We knew there were weapon caches and hostiles. We performed an outer cordon searching for hostiles. We were out there three days. I hurt my lower back from a fall while on this mission. The weight I was carrying made the injury worse. It is considered a combat injury because it was in reaction to incoming rounds.

Irene: You suffer from PTSD. Explain how that has affected your life.

Josh: The experience of combat changes the way you think from that time forward. During those three days, at one point I came to the realization that I was going to die. That moment changed me for the rest of my life. I have a high priority for security. Most people get up in the morning and think about what they are going to do that day, food, work, entertainment and security. For me it is food and security. The first thing I ask myself when I wake up in the morning is if what I am going to do today is safe.        

Irene: I too suffer from PTSD, so interested in the subject from a personal perspective. I followed the role model of John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted channeling my anger and grief into advocacy. Mr. Walsh lost his six year old son Adam, a victim of a homicide. I revisited the topic again and found this symptom:

You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal.

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/symptoms_of_ptsd.asp

It’s hard enough for anyone to endure an eight hour hard sell timeshare presentation, but PTSD, combined with a high risk pregnancy carrying twins, obviously made your experience even worse.

Josh: Nichole has had several miscarriages, and has gone through eight years of fertility treatments. So expecting twins, we are in a constant state of worry. In addition, they forced us to leave our crying 4 year old in the kids club because they could not proceed with the sales presentation with her there. Our daughter was born with a genetic disorder called Klippel-Feil syndrome, a bone disorder that also affects her heart and kidneys. She also has many food allergies. It was unfair to leave a child in the play area for hours, told by our sales person Tiffany that she would only be there two hours.

Nichole: They don’t really feed the children. They only offer snacks and our daughter Vanessa could not have some of what they offered. Had I not have almost passed out from low blood sugar due to my pregnancy, they would of expected us to leave our child there thru lunchtime.

Josh: We didn’t leave because they would not return our credit card and driver’s license, even to leave for lunch, telling us to just drive to the restaurant on property. The reality is, you ask and they say yes, I’m going to get it from so and so. Then 10 minutes later someone else arrives and they start over saying, “I let him know and he’s going to bring them.”  There is a constant push off to delay getting the IDs and credit card. It’s relentless.

It was like being tortured, being held hostage, and they did the same to our child. When the sales people were talking, they refused to let us check on our kids saying, “If there was a problem someone would come get you.  Meanwhile, you hear kids screaming.”

Irene: As mentioned earlier, those with PTSD are jittery and on the lookout for danger. You are prone to be angry or irritable.

Josh: Yes, and around 5 PM I went out to the car to get something. I have handicap parking, but the handicap parking had been blocked off with cones. I rolled my ankle stepping between the cone and the cement block.

Nichole: This was why we did not get the papers signed until 8 PM. We reported the incident at the front desk. They called security to file an incident report. While waiting for security, Robert, the sales manager and Omar, the sales center manager, continued to pressure us to buy points even though Josh was in visible pain, with ice on his ankle.

Josh: We kept saying we could not afford the points, even though I was visually in pain. My ankle was starting to swell right before we signed the documents. We were not even on the sales floor. They kept saying, sign this and this, including the Barclaycard that we did not want in the first place.

Irene: So, after all this, why did you buy?

Nichole: The same children’s hospital I know that my four year daughter old goes to, to see maternal fetal medicine they said we could stay by. So they really got us when they were saying we would be able to be closer to the hospital. But the fact remains, at the time of purchase, even if this is an option, we can’t afford this timeshare and were told it was an investment and could be easily sold.

Irene: When are the Parker twins due?

Nichole: July 18 is 40 weeks but twins are full term at 37 so June.

Irene: I love babies! We would love to visit after they arrive.

Irene: Back to timeshare – Some have asked why you did not just call 911 when they refused to return your driver’s licenses and credit cards.

Josh: The biggest thing was to get it over with. We knew we could not afford it but they kept saying it was an investment and it was good for our children, and they said if we purchase it now we would be assured our children could always take vacations. As an investment, we thought we would not lose money on it. I didn’t count, but I am sure I said 100 times, “I can’t afford this.”

The next up-sell attempt at Polo Towers:

Josh: Next, we were told we had to attend a new member orientation. We had told our sales agent Robert we did not want to attend any more presentations. Robert said we would not have to. When we went to Diamond Polo Towers November 2017 we were told we had to attend a new member orientation to learn how to use the tablet and how to navigate the Diamond website. My wife lost her mind. They called Robert and their demand to attend was dropped.

Irene: When did you realize the hopelessness of your situation?

Josh: We started to question the legitimacy of what we had experienced December 2017.  We know 4,000 points are not enough points to travel with a family of five. We will be struggling with the double expense of two newborns instead of one. The answer for us is not to buy more timeshare points, only to get deeper in debt.  We would have never bought Diamond points if we thought we were obligated to pay maintenance fees for the rest of our lives for a timeshare that could not be sold.   

Nichole: We are stressed beyond endurance over what Diamond Resorts has done to our family.

Josh: We have filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There has been no response. We have filed a complaint with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. We did receive an email today with further instructions.

We filed a Better Business Bureau complaint. There has been no response. We will file a complaint with the Nevada Attorney General. We intended to file a complaint against our sales agent Tiffany with the Florida Real Estate Division, but when I called Diamond, they would not tell me her last name. We do have the names of Robert Gonzales, Director of Sales and Mario Hernandez, the highest person there.

I have joined a group of 34 members of active duty and retired military/law enforcement claiming they were defrauded by timeshare sales agents, seemingly targeting the military. We have reached out to Whistleblowers of America, an organization that seeks justice for military and government workers, active duty and retired.  

We contacted Irene Parker at Inside Timeshare because we were going to sign up with Primo Management Group and had a conference call scheduled for February 15. Below are the documents PMG provided, including a Diamond release from Eric and Angela Wood, as a testimonial and an illustration of our Diamond liability projected out 40 years.  Irene told us to cancel the conference call and not sign up with PMG. She advised us to contact Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy. She said she felt confident DRI Advocates would be able to help us. She explained the Diamond program CLARITY about transparency, accountability and respect for the customer.

The history of our vacation nightmare:

Sampler purchased 20,000 points for $4000 Parkway International Celebration Area 7/2017

4000 annual points were purchased at Mystic Dune November 8, 2017 Event of a Lifetime. We were told our Sampler points and money paid would be credited towards the purchase of annual points but it wasn’t.

Purchase price $15,133

Amount financed $12,636

Sales agent Tiffany

Robert Gonzales, Director of Sales

Mario Hernandez was the highest person there

Javier was QA

We were told the new thing is that all your points are worth money.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t afford it because the points are worth money. We were told points can be converted to dollars to pay maintenance fees because fees will go up 10% every year and the inflation on the fees won’t match our fixed income.

The Timeshare Exit Company we contacted to get us out of this nightmare:

PMG (Primo Management Group, Inc.) quoted us $3,000 to $6,000 to get us out of our Diamond timeshare.

Thank you for considering PMG, the country’s most respected timeshare relief agency, for assistance in completely cancelling your timeshare obligation.

We have a 100% success rate.  Your deed cancellation is backed by our 100% guarantee and we guarantee to protect your credit throughout the entire process.

Our program includes:

  • Timeshare Contract Cancellation
  • Immediate Cancellation of Payments
  • Cancellation of Maintenance Fees
  • Mortgage Balance Cancellation
  • Protection from Harassment
  • Credit Protection/Correction

 Subject: *PMG Consultation Email

Your Financial Obligation to Diamond

ILLUSTRATION WAS PROVIDED SHOWING A 40 YEAR PROJECTION OF $95,710 BEGINNING WITH OUR $243 MORTGAGE PAYMENT

Please feel free to ask your Consumer Advocate any and all questions you may have.  Best wishes and again, thank you.

Grand Lodge_Michael & Barbara Wagner.pdf

Holiday Inn-Orange Lk_Vanessa Pena

Summer Bay_Shovan Anwar & Aniva Zaman.pdf

Wyndham_Tiwuanda Howard.pdf

Diamond_Eric & Angela Wood.pdf

Best Regards,

Ken Crawford

Sr. Consumer Advocate

Irene: What a mess! Will timeshare companies that do not allow a secondary market ever realize they are causing the problem? Never pay anyone or any company money upfront to get you out of your timeshare. If you are contacted by such a company contact one of the groups listed here.  

These are US self-help, member supported groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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/

thanks vets

Thank you Joshua and Nichole for sharing your story, also thanks to Irene all the volunteers for all the hard work they are doing to help those such as the veterans and the elderly.

If you have any questions, comments or need advice on any article published, contact Inside Timeshare from our contact page, please state if you are US or European based.

That’s it for this week, it’s Friday and the weekend is calling, have a good one and join us again on Monday.
friday dog

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene, this weeks article has been submitted by Sheilah Brust and her complaint to the FBI regarding her dealings with Diamond sales agents. Inside Timeshare has passed on many complaints to the US team, who are also helping people to file similar complaints.

Now for our usual look at some of the European news.

Another contract has been declared null and void by the Supreme Court in Madrid, this time against Palm Oasis / Tasolan. According to the judgement the contract was once again in breach of the timeshare law in regards to the contract being for an indefinite period, or for more than the stipulated period and the taking of deposits within the cooling off period.

The UK couple (pictured below) have been awarded over £12,000 plus the legal fees and legal interest. The case was brought by the lawyers Miguel Rodriguez Ceballos and Eva Maria Gutiérrez, both from Canarian Legal Alliance.

CLA Clients

PDF for the Supreme Court Sentence

Palm Oasis Tasolan Supreme Court Sentence 114-2016

It has also just been announced that CLA have received Supreme Court ruling number 95, this was against the Tenerife based company Silverpoint.

The court again declared the contract null and void and has awarded £99,504 to the client, the court increased the amount by an incredible £26,652 in way of a fine against Silverpoint for taking an illegal deposit at the point of sale during the cooling off period. The client will also received back the legal fees and legal interest.

So far there is no news on the sentencing of Dominic O’Reilly or Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, they pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates last year, with the magistrates referring the case to Birmingham Crown Court for sentencing. The delay may just be due to waiting for reports from the probation service which is a normal procedure, especially if a custodial sentence is possibly involved. When we find out we will let you know.

There is also still no news of the investigation of the South West Police ROCU investigation into some of the Mark Rowe companies, this is likely to be a long drawn out investigation which will be covering these companies activities over a number of year. Obviously there will be many consumers with complaints and all these will need to be interviewed. So don’t expect a speedy conclusion.

Now on with our FBI article from Sheilah edited by Irene Parker.

FBI Talking Points – “Just the Facts, Ma’am,” Joe Friday

By Sheilah Brust

March 13, 2018

For timeshare members too young to remember, “Just the Facts, Ma’am”

dragnet

The show (Dragnet) was the result of an extraordinarily close collaboration between (Jack) Webb (Sgt. Joe Friday) and LAPD Chief William H. Parker, who had quickly built a reputation for eliminating corruption. (Timeline June 20, 2017)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3Xh4f8lOjU&list=PL_72IjwCotIQgQAe2WPvR2mPwEPVl-1FB

It was hard to believe I was on hold, waiting to talk to an FBI agent about my vacation plan. I am so disappointed at having to resort to this, but what we were told was not true. We have owned this timeshare since before it was acquired by Diamond Resorts. We had traded in our deeded timeshare into non-deeded Diamond vacation points and had accumulated 50,000 points, enough to become Platinum Diamond members. We had hoped to leave something nice for our children and grandchildren. After experiencing what I believe to be fraudulent bait and switch tactics, we don’t have enough money to travel. Like so many other complaints, we were told if we purchased additional points, we would not have to pay maintenance fees.  My husband and I had to get part time jobs to pay for the fees. I used to work for the New York State Governor’s office of Employee Relations, so I knew to start filing regulatory complaints, which is so time consuming it’s like having two part time jobs!

50,000 points I owned prior to the presentation

15,000 additional points in dispute

65,000 x 2 (double points) = 130,000

Our annual maintenance fee on 50,000 DRI points is $8,631. The additional 65,000 points redeemed at $.10 a point would have paid for $6,500 of the $8,631. It’s a great program. Too bad it doesn’t exit.

There is no such program allowing double points, but “Hospitality” agents at Diamond Resorts “Consumer” Advocacy department are trained to be detectives themselves, searching through the member’s contract to be able to email you back your initials on the fine print, in essence saying, it doesn’t matter what a sales agent says. All that matters is you signed a contract.      

According to lawyers our advocacy group has talked to, it is not legal to hide behind fine print, encouraging sales agents to lie. I found this online:

In case after case, scandal after scandal, American federal law enforcement officials have clearly shown by their indictments and prosecutions that there is no confusion in their minds—lying is a crime. Businesspersons need to clearly understand those rules and what prosecutors define as lying.

Graziadio Business Review

https://gbr.pepperdine.edu/2010/08/businesspersons-beware-lying-is-a-crime/

The reason timeshare agents get away with it is because there is virtually no enforcement. Timeshare buyers usually buy timeshares in states other than the state they live in (usually a state that sells lots of timeshares and brings in lots of tourist dollars), so when you file a complaint, the elected officials of the state, in which you are not a resident, may not take you seriously.

The weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau doesn’t even allow you to select a timeshare company from their menu when filing and the timeshare borrower usually doesn’t even know the name of the actual lender. The timeshare company services the loan, so we picked Barclays from the menu, but when you talk to Barclays they usually say, according to our Facebook members, That’s too bad but we didn’t directly sell you the points or commit the alleged crime.”

So, here we are asking the FBI for help. This is what I learned reporting an online white-collar crime complaint through IC3.gov and orally through the FBI field office nearest to where we bought our timeshare. Any timeshare member who feels they have been victimized by “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, and bait and switch” of a serious nature, like ours, needs to file a complaint with the following law enforcement agencies in addition to filing regulatory complaints:

  • The FBI at IC3.gov online using the FBI’s Complaint Referral Form,
  • The FBI orally through the FBI field office nearest where you signed your contract.
  • When you call, select the prompt for “Submit a Tip” then #3, White Collar Crime. Have your facts ready and contract handy. It’s a good idea to write your facts down so that you have good facts in front of you. Even the thought of calling the FBI is a little intimidating, but the agent I spoke to was a nice man who seemed very interested in what I had to say.
  • The Federal Trade Commission – find the “Timeshare Sales” option. https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/GettingStarted#crnt
  • The Secret Service – FBI agent #1234 I spoke with (I don’t want to use his real number) said we should also file with the Secret Service if it involved credit card fraud. We’re looking into that. www.secretservice.gov

In our case, we were not told two Diamond Barclay credit cards were going to be opened. We were not even aware of the amount of the down payment. The down payment was $26,000! We would have for sure used a credit card that would have earned us reward points. I was infuriated when our DRI salesman Brad Leslie came back and said “Barclay loves you guys! They gave you $26,000 credit!” We thought the form we filled out was to check our credit for the down payment. We already had two Barclaycards, one issued by Diamond and other personal. Now we have four Barclaycards!! We did not dispute it because Brad said he would transfer it to our existing Diamond loan. That never happened.  

Don’t be afraid to talk to the FBI. The agent I spoke with did not rush me. We spoke for over an hour. https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/

Some of the things they will want to know include:

  • When you purchased your timeshare?
  • Where you purchased your timeshare?
  • Who sold you the timeshare?
  • What did you purchase?
  • How much did it cost?
  • Why do you feel it was 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/mortgage-fraud

I have read so many sad stories on our advocacy Facebook page. It tears me up inside to think a company that was good until about 3 years ago can do this to people. It’s gotten worse in the last few years. I guess I always want to believe in the best in people, but after this – $60,000 later, that is hard to do. We have asked Diamond to give us our money back for the last purchase that we believe meets the definition of fraud for profit. It takes a day to buy a timeshare, but weeks, days and sometimes years to get out of one.

Whatever you do, don’t pay anyone you don’t know money upfront to get you out of your timeshare. Check with our advocacy group before retaining an attorney or a “get you out of your timeshare” exit company.

With no secondary market, consumers are completely at the mercy of the timeshare company, but I hope we can turn this around and make the public and Diamond aware that some of their sales agents exhibit questionable business practices.

Diamond, make this a good company again!

There may be other timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by the same sales agent. If so, you can give the name and phone number of that member to the FBI agent so they can look up the other member’s complaint, linking your complaint to theirs. It’s a sophisticated system.   

Timeshare members nationwide want to thank the FBI for their efforts. Without them, we would have no federal enforcement – only members helping members.

tree

These are timeshare advocacy groups Inside Timeshare believes are pro-consumer, non-industry influenced, seeking 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/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Thank you Sheilah for your contribution, we are sure it will give others the confidence to undertake this task themselves.

As always, if you have any questions or comments on any article published or are just wanting information on any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Remember doing your homework and checks before engaging with any company will save you in the end.

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: End of Year Review

Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.

Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.

Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.

Another firm that was the subject of our attentions was Keys Concierge, another credits based lifestyle company. It turned out that the director was one Franz Marcus Deutsch, an old associate of Mark Cushway of Silverpoint. In fact this new company was the latest product which would be peddled by Silverpoint, soon to change their name to Signallia Marketing Distribution SA.

While we are on the subject of Silverpoint, It was announced in April that Silverpoint were withdrawing their membership to the RDO, (Resorts Development Organisation) and would no longer be selling timeshare. Hence the product Keys Concierge, which does not appear to fall into the realms of timeshare laws.

This was a great blow to the RDO, as Mark Cushway was not only a director, but Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?

tribunal supremo

Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.

Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.

February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s “Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.

Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the AnfiTauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.

This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.

Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.

Another story we have been following is that of Los Claveles in Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.

There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.

In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.

This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.

This same month also saw a very big shake up in timeshare, TATOC, (The Association of Timeshare Owners Committees). This was run by one Harry Taylor, who was very much a mouthpiece for the industry rather than those who his organisation purported to represent.

image1 (1)
Howard C. Nusbaum, ARDA President and Chief Executive Officer Handing the cheque to Harry Taylor for $30,000 Published May 2017

After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!

There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.

But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.

On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.

There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.

CLA Logo

Now for the year from a US perspective.

What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what

I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016

2018

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

By Irene Parker

December 29, 2017

Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.  

Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.  

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

Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.

We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.

April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.

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

This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.

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

I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.

Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates

Timeshare Lawsuits 2017

By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016

2017

Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:

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

The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:

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

Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and  solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.

Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?

conference

 Westgate Update 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegel was seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.  

trump

Here is King David’s house

https://www.bizjournals.com/orlando/news/2017/03/09/the-queen-of-versailles-jackie-siegel-i-may-want-a.html

But back in 2016

“Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016

https://www.buzzfeed.com/matthewzeitlin/financial-regulators-are-looking-into-americas-largest-times?utm_term=.pbyQ8MPbx#.pmA2BeVyM

Colorado Attorney General

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman is investigating Highlands Resort, Sedona Pines and twelve other defendants for deceptive trade practices.

http://insidetimeshare.com/another-us-attorney-general-exposes-deceptive-tactics/

Wyndham $20 Million

Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.   

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/business/my-soul-feels-taller-a-whistle-blowers-20-million-vindication.html?_r=0

Hyatt

Candace Czarny and two other former Hyatt timeshare agents would like to see the industry improved. They are in year five of a class action alleging deceptive practice.  

http://insidetimeshare.com/whistleblowers-expose-timeshare-sales-tactics/

The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneiderman managed to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.  

Back in 2016  

Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.

“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point.  The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed.  But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016

http://www.reuters.com/article/manhattan-club-ruling-idUSL1N18U0DL

 Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.  

“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.” Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.  

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-marriott-timeshare-racketeering-20161013-story.html

Diamond Resorts Update: A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.  

A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/348667-diamond-resorts-class-action-high-pressure-timeshare-sales-deceptive/

Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

holI don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,

People are listening!

Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:

⦁ A legitimate secondary market

⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling

⦁ Less predatory lending

Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.

Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.