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Designer Way Vacation Club

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week we welcome another new contributor, Vanessa Hernandez, with her “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” and her dealings with Starpoint.

Vanessa’s article was scheduled for today. It just happened to follow Saturday’s horrific mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that resulted in the death of eleven worshipers.

Is it so much to ask, Starpoint, to show this family compassion? If you had bought a timeshare in Pittsburgh, believing you experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, and then experienced what Vanessa experienced, how would you feel? Has greed in the timeshare industry so run amuck to show such callousness?  

What do you think? Inside Timeshare would like to hear from you via our comment section.

But first continuing with our theme of reporting some of the latest companies that are appearing on various blogs and forums, today we give the basic details of another new enterprise.

This one is called Hutchinson Holidays, with the website

http://hutchinsonholidays.com

Registered on 20 June 2018 and due to expire on 20 June 2019, so not intended to stay around long, the registrar is not named but the website is registered in Gujarat India, not really giving much confidence there!

The address they give is one that is very familiar 22 Wenlock Road London N1 7GU, which is just a registered office service and is a Company Formation Service with the website https://www.companiesmadesimple.com

According to their blog page https://www.companiesmadesimple.com/blog/20-22-wenlock-road-registered-office/

The title question is:

“Can I use the 20-22 Wenlock Road Registered Office service if my company wasn’t formed by you?”

Their answer: “Absolutely. Our Registered Office service, which operates from our own offices at 20-22 Wenlock Road, London, N1 7GU – can be used by any England and Wales limited company, even if it wasn’t formed by us. This is provided that you pass on the necessary proof of ID and proof of address documents needed to comply with the Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations.”

Which does not really seem to ring true considering the company we are talking about here, Hutchinson Holidays, the other contact details are email: [email protected]

Telephone +44 20 3868 2489

So what are they offering, well according to the website and their homepage they appear to be another “Holiday Club” that we have seen so often in the past, think Designer Way Vacation Club and Club Class Concierge. You pay to join and presumably trade in your timeshare (or is it originally pitched as a reslae with guaranteed buyer) and bingo, none of the holidays are available and with the time left on the registration they are gone never to be seen again.

We also believe that this is the same lot that were doing the resale with guaranteed buyer scam, highlighted on another blogsite in July 2018, the logo is very similar:

Anyway more on this little “scam” as more information is found, so on with our Tuesday article with Vanessa.

Our Las Vegas Timeshare Experience on October 1, 2017

The Callousness of Starpoint

Sapphire Resorts DBA Starpoint

By Vanessa Hernandez

October 30, 2018

To be honest, I don’t remember as much as I’d like about the purchase of our Starpoint timeshare October 1 of last year. That night Rogelio and I went to the concert that flipped Vegas upside down. We hid and ran for our lives, hoping to make it out alive. Thankfully we did. We cut our trip short, so I didn’t look over the paperwork as I told myself I would. I couldn’t get out of bed or eat for a month.

I remember feeling pressured and pushed into buying the timeshare, which was why I told myself I needed to look over the paperwork as soon as I got home. The reasons I felt uncomfortable with my decision:

  • They said the timeshare was prime real estate,
  • I was not aware the credit check was being run,
  • They told me to wait 30 days before booking,
  • They promised a free trip (which never materialized).

As the days wore on, I tried to get back to my everyday life, learning how to live with the trauma I had just experienced. About a month later I received a certificate of membership. I got out my paperwork and started looking through it. That’s when I realized the misrepresentations.

I thought I was going to be done paying off the timeshare in three years. It turned out to be a seven year loan financed at 21%. The loan document had circles on it as if this had been explained, but I don’t remember the sales agent doing so. I think that part was deliberately skipped.  I suspect the sales agent circled those items after we signed the documents.

We were staying at the Excalibur. When we walked by CVS we were invited to attend a timeshare presentation at the Jockey Club, affiliated with Starpoint. We met with sales agents Brandon and Matthew. Matthew said he wasn’t supposed to help with presentations, but wanted to help out. They told us that the Cosmopolitan next door had been trying to buy the Jockey Club and that some members had already turned down offers from those wanting to buy their Jockey Club timeshare. They said that if we bought and sold the timeshare back to the Jockey Club we could make good money because the Jockey Club was prime real estate on the strip and was basically priceless. We have since learned timeshares have virtually no secondary market.

They ran my credit when they said they wouldn’t. I told them I was rebuilding my credit. They assured me they were not going to run it, but they did without my consent. I received an alert from my credit monitoring company.

They sold the timeshare as a week’s vacation for the next 45 years. We understood there would be maintenance fees, but they never mentioned the resort fees charged at every stay. The Starpoint timeshare cost $5,995.

They told me I had to call Starpoint to book 30 days before my desired travel times, which was beyond the contract rescission period. When I called, there was no availability. The 5,000 points they sold us was not enough for a week’s stay.     

They promised us a complimentary three night round trip airfare and hotel package if we signed. We never received it.

In short, I felt pressured into making the purchase. I wanted to review the contract when I got back from vacation. Unfortunately, the events that took place after I bought the timeshare meant that I did not check the contract within the cancellation period. When I did review the contract, I found discrepancies between what we understood the benefits to be, and what we actually bought.

I asked Starpoint to show some compassion in light of the trauma I experienced, especially since most of what we were told was not true. I asked to be released from the contract, but there has been hardly any communication and certainly none that addressed my concerns about the misrepresentations, or whether they would cancel the contract on compassionate grounds.

I have been back to Vegas two times since the shooting, once was to fill out paperwork. The other was for a reunion to meet with other shooting survivors.

Before the horror:

I have no desire to ever go back to Las Vegas again. I bought on October 1. the day the shooting happened, so anything about that day brings back bad memories.

I have a certificate that states I was a victim of crime. I am seeking professional help. It feels like nothing matters to Starpoint except getting my money.

I am 30 years old. I guess the only silver lining is the life lesson learned. I will never believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. The general public needs to be aware that buying a timeshare can turn into a financial disaster you are stuck with for life. What other product carries this weight?   

Starpoint’s Better Business Bureau report:

https://www.bbb.org/us/nv/las-vegas/profile/resort/starpoint-resort-group-inc-1086-66568/customer-reviews

Thank you to Vanessa for sharing her traumatic experience. Only someone who has experienced the symptoms of PTSD can understand the power of association. Even if Vanessa had been happy with her purchase, she would have had a hard time enjoying future vacations because of the negative associations brought back after experiencing that terrible day. Feeling she had experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, makes it even worse.

Like John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted, we hope Vanessa can learn to channel her trauma and grief outward to help others, like other timeshare victims.

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

On Thursday we will be reporting on another company that was brought to our attention by a regular reader, this one revolves around one of the largest scams over the past few years, the bogus claims companies. Once again this company has full details of who the client has dealt with, what they purchased, how much for, when purchased and even membership details and number.

In this case our reader is fully wise to these scams having fallen for one in the past and then finding out via Inside Timeshare, he now regularly informs us of the companies that cold call him, on this occasion he has also given us a recording of the telephone conversation. So don’t forget to join us on Thursday.

Remember, do your due diligence and check any company that contacts you or one that you have found on the internet, if you are not sure how to check or need help in clarifying their legitimacy, then use our contact page and ask Inside Timeshare, we will be happy to help.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, we publish another “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” article this week which focuses on Westgate, we welcome our new contributor who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. But first a quick look at the timeshare news from Europe.

Another Judge at the Courts of First Instance Number 2 in Maspalomas has joined other Judges in deciding on a case at the pre-trial stage rather than sending it for a full trial, that now makes Courts numbers 1, 2, 3 and four all following the same route.

Usually the pre-trial stage is used to allow a last minute out of court settlement and deciding if the case warrants a full trial. These courts have now decided that it is a waste of valuable court time to set dates and hold the full trial, the reasoning is that it is a matter of the contracts, they violate the timeshare laws and are cut and dried cases. This will be good news for many clients who are waiting to go to court as it will now speed up the process considerably.

We have heard from another reader who informed us of a company called Litigation Services SL with the company registration number B93268936, they give the address C/ CORONEL RIPOLLET, EDF SANTOS REIN S/N FUENGIROLA (this is a rather seedy street).

The director is listed as CALLE GUDEN DANIEL ERNESTO Appointment: 15/10/2014, but another very old familiar name is also listed although he was dismissed on the above date, SHARIFI DADVAR MAHMOUD REZA.

According to the caller, the courts have seized sizable amounts of money from Timelinx and DWVC (Designer Way Vacation Club) which we know are no longer in existence, Litigation Services SL will help you to claim the money you paid. Obviously they need a fee to process this. The thing is there are no funds waiting at court to be claimed, we also know that in the past this company has had links with the likes of Greenges, Fuengirola Servicios 2000 and our old friends Ramirez and Ramirez.

It would also seem that not only those who had dealings with DWVC are being targeted, but Club Class Concierge clients are being contacted. The story is that there is a court case against them in the Spanish Courts, The company is called Key Legal Claims and they will represent you in court and obtain the money you paid Club Class.

The caller is Emily Carter with the phone number 01212852941. Emily will require a release fee to get the money from the courts, as we have seen in the past this is not the case, there is no money being held by the courts for either of these “Clubs”.

Now on with our Letter from America

My Westgate Timeshare is Up in Smoke!

By a Westgate buyer

October 5, 2018

The peasant of Venice and the Queen of Versailles revisited,

Comments from Irene

The Siegel’s “Queen of Versailles” Florida home

Their lavish pad is nine times larger than other houses in the area (90,000 square feet) and has a $20 million mortgage, which is 100 times the size of the average mortgage in Central Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2310067/Construction-FINALLY-restarts-vast-Queen-Versailles-mansion-recession-hit-owners-raise-30m-needed-complete-it.html     

By a Westgate owner who wishes to remain anonymous. Contact Inside Timeshare if you would like to contact the author.  

Wealth Achieved at What Price?

Up in Smoke

I own a Westgate timeshare. I purchased the timeshare in Gatlinburg, Tennessee a while ago. In November 2016 the resort caught fire and my unit was burned to the ground. They are rebuilding, but the new units are totally different from the units being replaced.  I am being asked to pay for a unit that has not been built, and given less options for the same money. I don’t see how this can be fair, but given the way in which we have been treated, I don’t think ‘fair’ is anything Westgate cares about.

The manner in which I was induced to sign the original contract attests to this:

The timeshare would be a great investment because it is real estate,

  • I could sell it,
  • I could rent it to make my money back,
  • I could get a tax break, the same as a homeowner,
  • I could get a loan to pay off my loan because it was an investment.

Westgate sales agent Zak told us it was best to buy low because in years to come the value of the property would increase.  He provided an example of one of the original owners that purchased paying only $3000, and then showed me what the property is worth today. I now know timeshares are a liability, almost impossible to sell for even pennies on the dollar. The salesman misrepresented pretty much everything to make the sale.

Timeshares are not the same as real estate, and with little to no secondary market, not an investment. Many timeshares, including Westgate, can be bought online for $1. The market is flooded with timeshares and it is almost impossible to rent them out. Tax deductions are not allowed.

I relied on what the sales agent said. Now I am left with payments for something that is not what was described. Based on my experience, the poorly regulated timeshare product benefits only the sales agent, in the form of commissions, and the timeshare company, who apparently has amassed a fortune at our expense.  

Our timeshare sale began with deception. A mandatory update, which is not mandatory, stated it would last 30 minutes, but it was a sales presentation that lasted 4 hours. They didn’t care about my sightseeing tour plans ruined. There has never been a time when staying at a Westgate vacation resort that I have not been pressured by employees trying to sell or upgrade me to a pricier unit. Despite making loan payments every month plus maintenance fees, before you can even use the week, you have to undergo the pressure imposed by a Westgate employee, taking up one of your vacation days, trying to sell you something that you don’t want or need.

When I think about my Westgate experience these last five years, listening to sales agents making promises unfulfilled, having spent thousands of dollars, what I have is worth nothing. This has been a nightmare.

I have tried to contact Westgate to talk about my concerns. They strung me along for months and months saying they’d get back to me. Eventually, their paralegal wrote a generic cut and paste letter stating that I had signed a contract so that was that. This is the level of care Westgate shows its owners?

Their home is 90,000 Square feet?

Thank you to this Westgate owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, but has provided their contact information should others wish to contact them through Inside Timeshare. These are member accounts hoping to warn others to know that what they bought is probably worth nothing. The timeshare developer is always welcome to present their side of the argument.  

My question to timeshare developers is, how much is enough? Inside Timeshare has heard from 609 timeshare members and owners, many families financially devastated, alleging unfair and deceptive sales practices. Most signed off on high interest loans.

We thank timeshare members for submitting their experiences in the hope of warning those thinking about buying a timeshare, to be aware the purchase they are about to make can have devastating financial consequences.

What house, condo, boat or car would you buy that could not be resold? What would happen to the residential home market if buyers learned after their purchase, the “asset” they bought had no secondary market? It is not uncommon for Inside Timeshare to hear from timeshare buyers who paid $100,000 or more for a timeshare, easily the cost of a condo or home. Timeshares are hard enough to sell, but almost impossible with a loan attached. You can sell a house or a car with a loan, but not a timeshare.

You can rent the documentary “The Queen of Versailles” from Netflix, about the 90,000 square foot home being built in Orlando by Westgate owners David and Jackie Siegel. The documentary took Best Director at Sundance some years ago.

https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/the-queen-of-versailles#

As a former stockbroker, I have no objection to great wealth, but given the Dashiell’s articles submitted last week and today’s article by a Westgate owner, I ask, “Wealth at what price?”

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-7/

I have heard from Carolyn Willis, a third Westgate buyer, whose timeshare went “Up in Smoke” also, angry beyond words.

 The Siegel’s 90,000 square foot house led to my timeshare advocacy efforts. I attended a pathetically aggressive timeshare sales presentation July 2015. When I returned to our unit, I turned on the television and happened to tune into Las Vegas attorney Bob Massi’s FOX show Property Man, featuring the Siegel house.  Disgusted with what I had just experienced, I wrote to Mr. Massi. About a month later the FOX producer called me and said they had received a flood of timeshare complaints. The producer said the segment was not even about timeshare, but about the Siegel’s palatial home. She said Mr. Massi is a friend of the Siegels. I was the only respondent invited to be interviewed by Mr. Massi. She said I was selected because I was the only respondent who said I wanted to talk about the positives of timeshare and not just the negatives.

 My house in Venice 1,770 square feet

Sometimes it takes a peasant revolt.

I described my timeshare presentation experience in fairytale format. My husband and I were in between homes, moving from Bowling Green, Kentucky to Venice, Florida. The comparison was irresistible, so I christened myself the peasant of Venice, as my LinkedIn profile describes.

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

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a timeshare experience to share. We know there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare. They may not be aware that timeshares often have virtually no secondary market. Many reaching out to us only learned this when life circumstances prompted them to look into selling their timeshare.  Timeshare companies list the lack of a secondary market as a risk to shareholders in their annual reports. There is little empathy for the timeshare buyer who has spent thousands of dollars only to learn their timeshare is, by design, worth nothing. Greenhaven Capital Management touted the lack of a secondary market as a benefit for private equity investors. In a moment of anger, I wrote this mock interview after reading about Greenhaven, touting the timeshare stock BECAUSE of no secondary market. I find this shameful.  

My apologies to British comedians Bird and Fortune

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

Do not pay anyone money upfront to get out of a timeshare without checking with Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups. You will find straight answers at no cost on these sites.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

That’s it for this week, remember if you have been contacted by any company with a story that your timeshare company or club has been taken to court and there is money waiting for you, it will be a scam. If you need any help in checking the validity of any company that contacts you or one that you have found on the internet or advert, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Changing Face of Timeshare Scams Pt 2

Over the years we have seen various changes in the scams surrounding timeshare, from the development of resorts in the beginning then the resale scam to the latest of the fake law firms. Once the timeshare is purchased then the never ending problem of who to trust emerges. Today we have a brief look at how these scams have changed, the only thing that ties them together is they want your hard earned cash.

The first scams to take place in what should have been a good product was the off-plan purchase. In the early days when timeshare resorts were proliferating, those on holiday were lured to the presentation deck or showrooms to be sold “The Dream”. These “UP’s” or “Unit Prospects” as you are known, were usually picked up off the street by the OPC’s or the touts with the scratch cards, every single person given these cards would win the Star Prize. Then taken to the deck to claim it and sit with a “rep” for the presentation.

They would be shown architects plans and artistic impressions of what the resort would look like, what facilities it would have and the standard of the apartments. Usually photos of existing resorts would be shown to enhance the quality that you would expect. It was also sold as an investment, you were buying into property or real estate, which would go up in value. In essence you were buying a share in your very own holiday home.

A proposed date for completion would be given and then the hard sell kicked in, for just a small deposit you can secure the week and apartment of your choice, if you could not afford the full price a payment plan or finance could be arranged. After all it would be some time before you would be able to use the resort as it still had to be built.

Unfortunately, many of these resorts were never actually completed or even started, what you purchased was a hole in the ground and “The Dream”. Many of these sales took place in destinations such as Portugal, Spain and its Islands. This did give these countries a very bad reputation.

It must also be remembered that these schemes tended to be run by criminals who needed to launder their ill gotten gains from criminal activities in their own countries. That was the start of the word “Timeshare” becoming synonymous with scams.

Once timeshare was established, the resale scam began to appear, many of these were based on the Costa del Sol which had many timeshare resorts. Call centers were set up, usually in apartments and hidden, remember there was no internet at that time, so making checks was virtually impossible.

The caller would introduce themselves and ask if you still owned the timeshare, once this was established the question of have you thought about selling, as the prices of timeshares was increasing. After all the purchaser did think they owned property!

After establishing what the owner had paid and what they owned, the agent calling would come up with a wonderful story of how they had sold recently for almost double the original purchase price. Once the owner had been hooked with the greed factor, then the agent would be needing a payment to list the property for sale. That would be the last you heard from them or your money.

The next move in the resale scam was the guaranteed buyer, or the corporate buyer, these tended to be the Discount Members Holiday Clubs, such as Designer Way Vacation Club and Club Class Concierge.

These originally worked in 2 ways, the pick up off the street or cold line, the call center targeting timeshare owners through lists. The cold line didn’t generally target owners, but once at the presentation they would establish that you did own timeshare.

With the telephone targeting of timeshare owners, they would be told that there was a buyer who was looking for timeshares, usually a corporate buyer. Once you agreed that you would be interested in selling they would invite you to their offices in Spain with free accommodation, to attend a meeting.

Once at the meeting the corporate buyer turned out to be a sales agent for the holiday club, they would take the timeshare off your hands but to do so you had to purchase membership into the club. You would get a discount for the timeshare and in many cases what was known as Cashback, which was another con in itself.

It the turned out that the discounts promised never materialised, the excuse was always the same, sorry not available on those dates. It also turned out that in many cases several year down the line the timeshare company started for non- payment of maintenance fees. The timeshare had not been disposed of as promised.

Thankfully the main culprits have been closed down, but there are still some about, resale scams still exist, but from what we have seen they are mainly targeting French and Belgian owners and are based in Marrakech.

We now move on to the claims sector which has really started to take off since the first Supreme Court rulings against timeshare companies.

Some of these are very sophisticated frauds, such as those of the Tenerife based family of fake law firms which we have dubbed the Litigious Abogados Family. Their method is very well put together, they even have some excellent fake court and procurator documents.

First they contact the owner, (in some cases the timeshare is no longer owned), with the story that the timeshare company is about to be taken to court and you can be in on the case. You are likely to receive thousands in compensation, but you do have to pay a fee to the procurator. Once paid, give it a couple of weeks and you are then notified that the director pleaded guilty and you have been awarded a substantial amount. Unfortunately there is a tax to be paid, which is 20% of the awarded amount, to back this up the unsuspecting timeshare owner is sent fake court documents showing the sentence and a photocopy of the cheque they will receive. Yes you guessed it there was no trial and you have just lost thousands.

Another ploy is the so-called firms calling themselves lawyers or claims companies, the pitch is simple, you have a claim which they will do on a no win no fee basis, great no legal fees upfront. There is one snag though, you need to cancel the contract first, but guess what they can do the relinquishment for you. All you have to do is pay upwards of £5000 and you will be out, then they will start the claim for you.

In some cases these companies have also used the “bait and switch” tactic to sell their own product, “Leisure Credits” (think Monster Credits) which is a discount club (very similar to the holiday club), again not worth the paper the contract is written on.

What we have seen with these particular schemes from many of our readers is simple, they have never received any money for the claim and they are now being chase for around 3 years of back maintenance. Their contract have never been relinquished.

We have seen this with one company that has gone out of business, RSB Legal. They operated for about 3 years so must have taken hundreds of people for tens of thousands of pounds. It must also be said that the UK authorities such as Trading Standards as well as the police are investigating many companies.

Yes, for the poor timeshare owner it is a very perilous world, a veritable minefield where thousands are lost on an almost daily basis, with very little hope of ever recovering what has been paid.

There are some genuine law firms and claims companies, these will not tell you that you have a claim if you don’t, it is not in their interest to take on cases which are not valid. As for relinquishments, many resorts will not deal with third parties, Ona Group, MGM Petchey, MacDonald Resorts, Diamond, Club la Costa and many more, they will only deal direct with the member. Then in most case the fee they charge is usually far less than what you would pay these other companies.

It now remains to be seen what form the next phase of scams will take, these crooks will always find an angle, after all they do want your money!

So the moral of this tale is doing your due diligence and plenty of homework, if you don’t know where to start, then use our contact page. We are here to give you free advice and point you in the right direction.

Timeshare Resale: Lisa Ann Schreier Open Letter to Developers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Open Letter to Timeshare Developers

Dear Timeshare Developers:

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

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

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

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

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

Marriott’s Desert Springs $4,295

Orange Lake North Village $3,000

Sheraton Broadway Plantation $500

Summer Bay Orlando $0 (not a typo)

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

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

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

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

The Changing Face of Timeshare Scams

Today we look at how timeshare scams have changed over the years, from the original sales to resale, holiday clubs and now for claims. You will be surprised at how they have developed, we will also give you some useful information on what to look for when either searching the web or being contacted.

When timeshare was first being marketed on a large scale during the 1980’s and the boom years of the 1990’s the most common scam was known as the “hole in the ground”. This is where the unsuspecting tourist while on holiday was picked up off the street by the touts with the scratch cards, taken to a resort with a sales deck and subjected to a rather lengthy presentation.

Nothing new there, the difference with this presentation was that the resort the potential client was at, was not what was being sold. That resort had not yet been built, it was in the planning stage, the client was being offered to buy “off-plan”.

off plan

These apartments and weeks would be sold at a discounted price, for example a studio may go for around £2,500, much cheaper than the ones on the resort they were visiting. Many signed up for these timeshares, only to find out later that the resort was never actually built, the marketing company had disappeared along with their money.

It was then towards the end of the 1990’s that the resale market began, many timeshares were sold on the basis that they were real estate, you were buying a portion of the bricks and mortar, so it would go up in value.

One of the early resale scams was started and run by the infamous Toni Muldoon from the Costa del Sol. He had a string of companies, one was known as Platinum Properties.

The scam played on greed, owners would be cold called and asked if they had thought about selling their timeshare. The pitch was very simple, there is a shortage of new timeshares and the prices of second hand ones was increasing due to demand.

The unsuspecting owners would be asked what they owned and what they had paid, the callers would then explain that those were in high demand and fetching very good prices. For example, an owner would say they paid around £5,000 for theirs, yes you guessed it, they would be told that those were now going for about £7,000 on the resale market and going up in value.

Now for only £1,500 Platinum Properties would list this for you, if they were not able to sell this within the 12 months of the contract, the deposit would be returned. That deposit would also be returned once the sale had gone through, as the buyer would pay all the costs. Many took up this offer and that was the last they ever heard from the company again.

Eventually Toni Muldoon was caught and received a 2 year sentence which was then suspended, he was eventually jailed in the UK for other non-timeshare related scams and has been release on parole. He has now set up 2 websites, one relating to timeshare (claims) the other called Scam-Busters. The question is can a leopard change its spots?

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His business became the model for all the other resale companies that sprang up during the early 2000’s.

The next incarnation of the resale scam was the classic “bait and switch”, this is where the client was told they had a buyer for the timeshare, usually a “corporate buyer”. All the seller needed to do was visit the resale office on the Costa del Sol or wherever and attend a meeting with the buyer.

But, there was no buyer, the meeting was a presentation for one of the new Discount Holiday Clubs. These were the  new way to holiday, free from the yearly and rising costs of maintenance fees. The pitch was they would take over your timeshare leaving you maintenance free, but to do this you had to buy a membership to their club. Again these varied in price depending on the length of the membership.

Those prices were obviously inflated, as they would then give a massive discount to take into account the price of your timeshare. For instance, the owner would be told that a 10 year membership would cost £15,900 but they would give you £6,500 for the timeshare, leaving the cost of membership at £9,400.

Another twist to this was the cashback scheme, this was a voucher made out for a large sum to cover the cost of the timeshare plus some of the membership fee, that had to be registered and in 36 months or so you would go through the reclaim procedure and receive at least 75% of the certificate value.

cashback

Incentive Leisure Group and their Designer Way Vacation Club along with Club Class Concierge were the major players in this particular scheme. Both eventually were wound up by the UK authorities.

The next system to emerge was based on the above, this time they were leisure credits, which “could” be used to get discounts on all sorts of goods and services, not just holidays. The same tactic was used, get the client to a meeting and the only way to get out of the timeshare was to purchase the leisure credits and join our scheme!

The most well known are EZE Group, whose owners are awaiting sentence at Birmingham Crown Court and Monster Credits. The latter is now under investigation by the Police after raids by Trading Standards.

We now move to the latest in this long list of innovative frauds, the claims business.

Since the first Supreme Court ruling in March 2015, these have mushroomed, they take on many various forms, from fake law firms to claims management companies.

The pitch varies from firm to firm but one thing is clear, everyone has a case and can claim!

The most sophisticated fraud is one Inside Timeshare has been following for over 2 years, the group of “Fake” law firms we have called the Litigious Abogados family operating out of Tenerife.

Theirs involves clients being told the case has been filed and they can be part of it, all they need to do is pay a certain amount and they will be included in the case being heard within the next month. All the documents look very convincing, even down to very good fake court documents. For more on this search for Litigious Abogados.

There are also many firms operating out of the UK, these are offering “no win no fee” claims, but in order to do this you need to have your timeshare contract cancelled, known as relinquishment. This involves a fee, this can be anything from £4,000 to £8,000 depending on the company. (Beware of this, many have found that after 3 years or so they end up getting demands for maintenance arrears).

sec 75

Once you have paid for the contract to be cancelled, then they will file a claim on the “no win no fee” basis. This does not involve a court case, (once your contract has been cancelled, you cannot take the case to court), it is a Section 75 under the Credit Consumer Act 1974. As you can imagine this is not going to work, the credit card company will deny the payment stating that you have had use of the product and therefore are not eligible.

Section 75 covers, not received the goods or services paid for, company has gone bankrupt, fraudulent transactions. This would not cover the misselling of timeshare, the contract can only be declared illegal in a court and at present the laws only apply to timeshares purchased in Spain.

Now, it can be very difficult to decide which company is genuine and which is not, this is where you need to do your homework.

Some very basic tips are, how long has the company been registered, this can be found out by doing a company search, this will also tell you if they have changed name. If the company has only been registered for say 1 year, then how do they account for their claims of helping hundreds of people, especially if they have testimonials dated several years before they were registered. Also just because a company has a registration, that does not prove they are genuine, anyone can register a company for very little outlay.

Another factor is the officers of the company, the director and secretary, these may be just front people, not the actual owners of the company.

What about the website? Who is it registered to and when was it registered?

whois

Some websites are registered under privacy registrations, these are using a privacy company to register the site for the person. This should set the alarm bells ringing, what have they got to hide?

Payment methods is also a very useful giveaway, any genuine company should have credit card facilities, at least that way you are covered if anything does go wrong. Do not use your card via any method such as PayPal, this is a third party and invalidates your rights under Section 75.

Companies using only bank transfers should be viewed with caution, especially if the transfer is to be made in the name of a private individual. Steer well clear of any company that asks for payment by any other means such as Western Union.

These are just the very basic rules, if in doubt do not do anything, if you require any help in checking the validity of any company that contacts you or one you have found while searching the internet, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Remember do your homework and keep your hard earned cash safe!

homework

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s time for another Friday’s Letter from America, with the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and Florida, many owners and members have been asking how the damage affects them. Mike Finn of Finn Law Group explains this, with an introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker.

Michael-D-Finn2
Michael D Finn

But as usual we start with some news from Europe, it has been a little quiet on the court front this week, with only three announcements made public.

All three involve the Tenerife based company Silverpoint, the first was at the High Court where the judge declared a contract null & void. He also ordered the return of over £40,000 plus legal interest. As usual the contract was over 50 years, deposits paid within the cooling off period and the contract did not contain the correct information required by law.

The second case against Silverpoint was from the Supreme Court in Madrid, once again this court upheld its previous judgements. The client in this case receives over 104,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest. They are also timeshare free.

The third case was another Supreme Court judgement against Silverpoint, this officially confirms the number of rulings by this court at 66. Again the contract was declared null and void, with the client awarded over £89,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.

Many readers this week have been contacting Inside Timeshare about ABC Lawyers, Timeshare Lawyers, Timeshare Compensation and off course the “new” Mark Rowe product Jive Hippo. (Not a name that conjures up confidence). Not to forget he also owns the TCA (Timeshare Consumer Association) and TimeshareTalk.

The comments from these readers have not been what you might call promising. Remember these companies are all owned by one person, who himself is an ex timeshare sales manager (Silverpoint / Resort Properties), turned gamekeeper. As with any company you may contemplate any business with, it pays to check, check and check again before you commit.

Amador Galeca Abogados, have been at it again, this time Andrew Cooper was named as the director of Personal Travel Group. Again he is pleading guilty. Now remember, Personal Travel Group was the successor to Incentive Leisure Group, owned by the late Gary Lee, of Timelinx and Designer Way Vacation Club fame. His partner Kim Bambrough also ran the call center at the old ILG office in Fuengirola, so Andrew Cooper had nothing to do with it all.

On the subject of this “FAKE” law firm, last week we reported that one reader managed to get their money back which they paid via bank transfer. It turns out that their banks fraud department managed to get this back from Deutsche Bank, where it was paid into the account of the “Procurador” Graham Ingum Gorrin.

We have also been informed that Sutton Hall have placed the information supplied to our reader on their members website, at least now the word is getting out.

So on with this week’s article.

How do Natural Disasters Affect my Timeshare?

natural disaster

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

By Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/what-if-timeshare-resort-suffers-damage

October 20, 2017

Introduction by Irene Parker

Given the severity of recent hurricanes, fires and earthquakes, Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has been receiving questions from concerned timeshare owners and members.

Of note are the relevant differences that come into play for right to use point programs compared to fixed week timeshares. Fixed week timeshares are defined as real estate, so the fixed week owner has the same problem as the owner of a primary residence. If a primary residence is demolished you may not be able to occupy the premise. Alternative lodging must be arranged and rarely does insurance make the owner whole again.

Do right to use point programs offer more protection?

In some ways, I think yes. The advantage of a fixed week timeshare is that you know what you own. You can see, feel and touch the week purchased. In a disaster however, that same benefit can work against the owner.

I contacted a team member at one resort. The company has property on St. Martin. The company’s right to use point owners are being refunded points for forfeited stays, but the company’s fixed week owners must book in other locations through an exchange service, and are unable to book St. Martin until 2020. Still, fixed week owners are fortunate to have this option because the owner on the other side of the exchange would not be able to stay at the owner’s demolished resort. Overall, industry insiders I contacted feel point members may have a layer of protection over fixed week owners when a disaster affects a single resort.

Does this mean right to use programs are better or safer overall?

Finn

Depending on vacation goals and lifestyles, right to use points may be the right choice. The Federal Trade Commission offers good advice. Of the points presented, the most important pieces of advice are:

  • Research the track record of the seller, developer, and management company before you buy. You also can search online for complaints,
  • Is everything the salesperson promised written into the contract? If not, walk away from the sale. (A standard resort rebuttal is, “You should have asked for anything of importance to you to be added to the contract.),
  • Don’t act on impulse or under pressure. (This is easier said than done, but better to forfeit a few perks than be saddled with a vacation plan you don’t want, can’t use or afford, with no exit and rising maintenance fees.)

This next FTC point is the least helpful as, according to complaints received by Inside Timeshare, sales agents often offer to be your vacation advisor or counselor until death you part, but many members tell us the person they were told to contact never returned phone calls, emails or text messages.

  • Get the name and phone number of someone at the company who can answer your questions — before, during, and after the sales presentation, and after your purchase.

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0073-timeshares-and-vacation-plans

Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group answers the question,

Finn-Law--Main-Logo

What if a Timeshare Resort Suffers Damage?

Many, many timeshare resorts are located in areas where terrible storms and other “acts of God” happen with some frequency, such as Florida or the Caribbean – both of which have suffered extensively this hurricane season.

As business owners and locals rebuild and recover in the face of a cataclysmic storm or other disastrous event, timeshare owners looking on from spots across the country have their own unique worry: Namely, how they will be affected if their “home” timeshare resort suffers major damage.

There is a lot to unpack here! In our experience, though, timeshare consumers who are worried about their resort are predominantly concerned with two things –

  • How their ability to make reservations will be affected, and
  • Whether they can expect to pay more in assessments and fees.

To the first point, it is quite likely that your ability to use a timeshare resort may be affected by damage. Facing a loss of property or a labor shortage (as employees stay home for their own safety), many resorts may well be forced to close or suspend service temporarily, affecting the plans of those who already had reservations or who were planning on making them.

The second major issue that concerns many consumers: Whether or not they’ll feel the effects of a storm or other natural disaster in their pocketbook. Assessments and fees for repair costs will vary from resort to resort, based on the unique circumstances at play.

Certainly, though, timeshare consumers would be wise to remember the words of the Orlando Sentinel’s Caitlin Dineen, who notes:

“In some cases, owners could be asked to pay fees to offset repair costs if some damages don’t meet insurance thresholds or there are large deductibles that need to be met first.”

Let’s expand upon that. Should a resort be damaged, the bulk of the costs of repairs should be covered by insurance; Property Owners Associations (POAs) also have reserve funds designated for special situations (both of these are paid for, at least in part, by owners’ annual maintenance fees).

With that said, it’s important to remember that insurance rarely covers everything, and that the POA reserve is often insufficient to take care of the difference. As a result, timeshare owners will often end up paying something more out of pocket in the event of resort damage, be it for debris removal, landscaping services, or other costs that arise in the wake of a weather event.

Resorts and owners will be affected on a case-by-case basis. Following the massive fires earlier this year in Tennessee, for instance, many interval owners were relieved to hear that they likely wouldn’t be on the hook for fees after several resorts in the area suffered damage. Other owners will tell you a different story, such as those who “found themselves on the hook for nearly $5,800 in special assessment maintenance fees” after their Hawaiian resort suffered “water intrusion.”

Note from Irene: Mr. Finn is referring to Diamond Resort’s The Point at Poipu Resort and the resulting class action lawsuit filed by owners.

http://www.poipuowners.org/News.html

An important thing to remember

Recuerde

 It’s important to consider that information on matters such as these will be included in the documents you receive at the time of closing. While it may be difficult to parse through the language, taking the time to research your contract and POS documents can only benefit you in the long run.

Have any more questions or concerns? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 45 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.

Thank you to Mike Finn for this very interesting article, also a big welcome to Tammy Arkley, who is a book editor and court reporting editor, who will be helping Irene with edits of the US articles.

That is it for this week, remember one thing, always check any company that contacts you or you may be thinking of doing business with, spending time to do your homework with save you thousands in the long term. If you need any help in doing this “homework” contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

weekend

The Monday Briefing

Well, here we go the start of another week in the world of timeshare, over the weekend Inside Timeshare has received numerous enquiries regarding companies offering a variety of services.

One reader who unfortunately has been taken in by Armando Gareca Abogados and the Litigious Abogados family. They have paid Ricardo Sannino a substantial amount of money, they have since tried to contact them by telephone, but the number is out of service. Not a very good sign.

number no longer in service

To recap on how the scam works, timeshare owners are contacted usually via email and informed that a case has been filed at court against their timeshare company / resort, they can be included in the upcoming case (usually within the next few weeks). They are told how much they will receive and when this will happen, in order to have their case included in this prosecution, the procurator fees must be paid. This will be around 10% of the amount being claimed.

Within weeks, you receive confirmation that your case has been successful, that the Director, usually a Keith Baker or Keith Balker, has pleaded guilty. This name has been used as the director of the following companies:

Diamond; Club la Costa; Resort Properties / Silverpoint; Incentive Leisure Group / Designer Way Vacation Club, Club Class Concierge and several others.

Not bad really, the same person acting as director for many rival timeshare companies, who also pleads guilty to every case!

Part of the confirmation that you have been awarded this substantial amount is a copy of the “court” order verifying the amount and a copy of a cheque with your name and the amount on it. The problem is the cheque is made out on a Banesto cheque, this bank no longer exists, it was taken over in 2012 by Santander, who subsequently removed all Banesto logos and name from all cheques cards etc.

Compensation_Cheque-page-001

To receive this lovely amount, “tax” needs to be paid, this is around 21% of the awarded amount. This once again needs to be paid to the Procurador, before he can release the cheque.

So once you have paid this fee, you then receive an envelope by post, but surprisingly it has been opened, document from the court is there, but the cheque is missing. Then comes the next phase to the scam.

You receive a letter from another company, the last one was Manuel Valentin, who states that they have been charged by the court with the task of investigating the disappearance of the cheque and retrieving your money. They inform the client that a gang of Romanians have stolen the cheque and cashed it. Not bad considering the cheque was made out in your name.

In order to do this work, you must once again pay a fee of 10% of the amount, they will then work on your behalf and retrieve this money for you. Guess what, you will never get anything back, you are now several thousand pounds the lighter.

Some facts.

  • You do not have a case at court unless you have personally instructed a lawyer to act on your behalf.
  • Cases at court will take anything from 1 to 2 years to get there, not the weeks this lot say.
  • No cases will have gone to court in August, the courts are closed.
  • No director of any timeshare company or resort is going to plead guilty.
  • Courts do not issue cheques for money awarded. Certainly not using a bank that no longer exists.
  • No company is going to be charged by a court to investigate and retrieve stolen cheques.
  • There is no tax to pay on any awarded amount, Tax would have been paid to the court when your case was filed.
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will never be involved.
  • Unless your purchase was made in Spain, then you will not have a case in a Spanish court.

If you require any information on court procedures and payments of legal fees and taxes, contact Inside Timeshare and we will explain them to you.

Remember, before you ever pay out any money, do your due diligence and check who the company is, do not be taken in by the large sums these companies say is waiting for you. For the full story over the months search Litigious Abogados in the search box.

search

Now on with another important story, this involves TimeshareTalk, a forum of timeshare owners, which was once seen as an independent place for the exchange of information and good advice.

Unfortunately there has been some dissention among the long standing members, as we know timeshare talk was the forum set up by the TCA, a once independent consumer website. These entities were sold a few months ago to Mark Rowe of Monster Credits, Hollywood Marketing and sellmytimeshare.tv fame.

Since his takeover, TCA have been doing nothing but extolling the virtues of of Mr Rowe’s new companies, such as ABC Lawyers. Timeshare talk members have had posts and discussions removed when they mention any of this person’s companies. The forum was no longer seen as the independent place for discussion. Totalitarian Regime practices took effect, the freedom of speech and expression which was the cornerstone of this forum had been eroded.

freedom of speach

But it is not all doom and gloom, many of those long standing members have now setup a new forum, Timeshare Users Forum, to bring in those lost ideals. It is a forum open for any timeshare user to join, you will need to go on the website and register as a user if you wish to participate.

Inside Timeshare has registered and will post any information that may be of interest to users, we will also be there to answer any questions with facts, if we do not know the answer, we will find out for you or point you in the right direction.

Inside Timeshare wishes this new forum the very best, we hope that the old ideals will be resurrected and also look forward to working with the members.

Follow the link to the new Timeshare Users Group Forum

https://www.timeshareusersforum.com/

August is almost over, so come September the courts will be back in full swing and we anticipate many more announcements of cases being won in favour of the consumer. Inside Timeshare will be keeping an eye on those announcements and will publish them here.

Tomorrow we will be publishing Part II of Hug your Haters, A Customer Service Message. This is based on the book, Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer, which is apparently available at most airport book stores. It is again written by our US colleague Irene Parker. Then this week’s Friday’s Letter from America will be travelling once again to the Land Down Under, for another installment from Justin Morgan our Antipodean colleague, in Friday’s Letter from Australia, this is titled “What Role Does Private Equity Play in Timeshare?”.

If you have any comments or questions, contact Inside Timeshare and we will try to answer them for you. If you have anything to share regarding your own experiences and would like others to benefit, we will work with you to publish your story.

So that is it for today, remember to do your due diligence, doing your homework will save you a lot of money and stress.

homework

Timeshare Debt: A Growing Problem

Many people have found themselves in financial difficulty due to huge finance agreements sold to them by the timeshare sales staff and the ever increasing maintenance payments. Usually this is down to a change in circumstances, either from illness, loss of a job or a change in jobs resulting in a severe cut in wages.

Some who are in arrears in maintenance have to this stage because they have listened to bad advice, “Just don’t bother paying they won’t do anything, that’s what I did”. Others because they believed their timeshare had been transferred by a company they paid, only to find that either the timeshare resort does not recognise the transfer or it was never done.

Those who were taken in by Incentive Leisure Group and Designer Way Vacation Club are all too familiar with this scenario.

Timeshare companies will sell the debt to a collecting agency, they will hound you and threaten court action, which is why many end up paying it.

In this article from Irene Parker she explains the problems in the US, it may just sound very familiar to our readers in the UK.

Timeshare Debt Collection

Life after Foreclosure

foreclosure

By Irene Parker

May 30, 2017

The flood of Inside Timeshare reader responses concerning timeshares and what to do when your resort denies your release, request for refund, or loan cancellation has been eye-opening. We have heard from a surprising number of timeshare members in their 60s and 70s with high US credit scores around 800 considering foreclosure for the first time in their life.

Out of 58 formal complaints and request for relinquishments filed in the US and EU, 42 allege they were victims of deceit and bait and switch. The remaining 16 requested relinquishment. Voluntary surrenders or “take back” programs are evaluated case by case. Some of the 42 members were offered surrenders but could not tolerate the non-disclosure agreement, especially the clause that states the member cannot say anything negative about the company. They wanted refunds if they felt they were deceived or a victim of a bait and switch.

We should not harp on the elderly being targeted. At least a third of the approximately 80 timeshare members who have contacted Inside Timeshare are 40 years old or younger. The youngest was 19 and pregnant when she signed a timeshare contract after a six hour presentation.

Continuing on after the 3Rs or F of timeshare we previously reported on –

Resolution

Relinquishment

Refund

Foreclosure

http://insidetimeshare.com/3-rs-timeshare-part-1/

We move on to the cheerful calls from the debt collectors and what happens during the foreclosure period. The shortest timeshare debt collection period seems to be 60 to 90 days and the longest 180 days. If a timeshare company is worried about reporting a high default rate to the investment community, one way to lower that statistic is by lengthening the debt collection period.

It’s been surprising to learn how many of those in timeshare trouble are financing a vacation at a 12% to 19% interest rate. The emphasis in a sales presentation is on the low monthly payment. If someone does think to ask, “At what interest rate?” typically the answer is, as in the sales presentation I attended, “Don’t worry, when you get home you can get a home equity loan.”

An instant credit card is often used to finance the timeshare down payment. When you buy a house, there’s a reason why banks won’t let you borrow the down payment. That reason doesn’t go away when you buy a timeshare for $20,000 to sometimes over $100,000, but credit card companies and lending laws have helpfully aided and abetted timeshare lending.

I have come to the conclusion placing credit card applications in the hands of a thousand timeshare sales agents is like sending a thousand three years olds into Toys R Us unsupervised. Inside Timeshare has published several timeshare lending “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” articles. There have been so many it has turned into something of a series authored by our readers.

Once again, I turned to the Finn Law Group Learning Center to better understand timeshare debt collection.

Timeshare attorney Mike Finn agreed with my assessment concerning overzealous timeshare lending cramming third party loans into the deal. “An additional point to be made in this regard is that their efforts are contrary to Federal law (Truth in Lending Act (TILA), which requires the new debtor to receive in writing PRIOR to the loan being funded a written summary disclosure statement summarizing the deal points. This procedure is never ever followed by the timeshare industry and why the practice is permitted is beyond my grasp.”

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

“Timeshare buyers need to think beyond the down payment and loan payments. “Maintenance fee rates may far exceed the annualized cost of inflation,” Mike added.

“To make matters worse, resorts sometimes categorize timeshare loans as “mortgages”.” What this means is that if you stop making payments on your loan, it may be reported to the credit bureaus as a mortgage foreclosure. Many resorts try to pick the category that does the most damage to the consumer.

Finn Law Group helped timeshare owners settle a class action lawsuit against Bluegreen Corporation. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., and Equifax Information Services, LLC in Best and Snapp, et al. v. Bluegreen Corp., et al.

The plaintiffs alleged that when they were delinquent, Bluegreen sent a series of letters advising them that they were terminated from the Bluegreen Vacation Club and the status of their accounts may be reported as foreclosures to the credit agencies in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Florida debt collection laws. While the companies did not admit liability, the more harmful “foreclosure” category was deleted from over 11,000 individuals’ credit reports, replaced with the less damaging “settled for less”.

First and foremost, avoid timeshare transfer agents offering a “guaranteed” release in exchange for an upfront fee which can easily run into the thousands. Our previous interview interviewing an HOA Collection agent tells why.

http://insidetimeshare.com/timeshare-hoa-collections-agent-shares-experience/

Consumers need to be wary of television celebrities like popular financial expert Dave Ramsey, paid to endorse timeshare transfer companies with lofty sounding names. Some of these transfer agents may be legitimate, but heed the warning of our HOA collection agent above. Lisa Ann Schreier, author of Timeshare for Dummies, also explains why:

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/2016/11/an-open-letter-to-dave-ramsey-and-laura.html

According to Mike Finn, bankruptcy is a worst case solution.

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/mortgage-after-bankruptcy-timeshare

“Timeshare consumers can face a steep financial burden which can lead to a ruined credit score, and, in some cases, the need to file for bankruptcy. For more on the complexities of what happens to your timeshare and timeshare debt in bankruptcy, we encourage you to read on over at NOLO or The Bankruptcy Site,” said Mike.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/can-timeshare-be-foreclosed-nonpayment-fees-assessments.html

“Failure to pay timeshare loans before bankruptcy can be reported to credit bureaus as delinquencies or even foreclosures, both of which can negatively impact your credit and make it extremely difficult to secure the 580 credit score that the FHA requires for its low down payment advantage.”

So if you are in this situation, what’s next? What can I do to save my credit score?

chains

Sun Trust Bank offers these words of hope and encouragement

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/real-estate/debt-collector-demands-huge-fees-on-past-due-time-share.aspx

“Now, if you were deceived or otherwise legally abused in the purchase, you can file a complaint against the seller. Each state has a different process so you’ll have to contact your state’s attorney general to determine the jurisdiction. Have a narrative of your complaint and a copy of your contract when filing. The agency will contact you if it finds a valid violation of real estate statutes (or sometimes banking statutes), especially if it involves deceptive sales practices. Collectors must legally back off in such under-dispute cases, though many don’t.”

“By the way, consumer complaints about abusive debt collectors have nearly tripled in less than a decade, according to the Federal Trade Commission. They’re exceeded only by identity-theft cases, says the FTC, which has sued about 200 collection companies since 2010. Many have been banned from doing business. “

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers this helpful advice concerning what a debt collector can and cannot do.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/329/are-there-laws-that-limit-what-debt-collectors-can-say-or-do.html

consumer

Our Advocates are here for you if you are concerned about your timeshare. By accumulating a volume of timeshare accountings, we can better recognize patterns of deceptive and predatory lending practices. The following Facebook was launched by Diamond Resorts members working with the company to resolve member issues.

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

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

Inside Timeshare thanks Irene for this insight into the problems of debt and also Mike Finn if the Finn Law Group for his legal contribution.

As for the goings on at Los Claveles, there is at present no confirmed news about Carol Parkinson the Owners Committee President, when we get confirmation of what is happening we will publish here.

If you have any comments about any article published we would like to hear from you, your contributions are welcome. Also if you require any information about any company that you have had contact with, but are unsure how to check them, Inside Timeshare will point you in the right direction.

More From Across The Pond.

As we all know trying to sell your timeshare or as they like to call it today “holiday ownership”, is a bit of a minefield. Who can you trust?

 

Our friends from across the Atlantic have the same problems, you think you have got rid of your timeshare, then suddenly you receive the annual maintenance bill. The resort does not recognise the transfer. This happened to many people who ended up buying into Designer Way Vacation Club several years ago.

 

With this particular scheme, you “sold” your timeshare to DWVC but had to pay many thousands of pounds to become a member of their club. The perks, well, you could stay in the same resorts for a fraction of the cost, discounts on flights, and off course no more maintenance bills. Oh yes, I almost forgot, you also were given a “cashback” certificate, this was for the value of your timeshare plus a bit extra for the cost of your membership. Then after registering it (which was a nightmare task), you had to wait around 5 years for it to mature. If you were lucky you may have got a few quid back, that’s if you claimed correctly.

 

Then after finding that the so called “discounts” were not what you were told at the presentation, (actually costing more), you suddenly received a maintenance bill for several years arrears. All this with the threats of legal action by a debt collecting agency. DWVC did not transfer your timeshare, or the resort did not recognise it.

 

This has also happened to one old lady who owned a MacDonalds timeshare, Yes, I am referring to Mrs B. Her timeshare has been sold for 1euro, (she actually paid the company around £7,500 to relinquish, not sell it). MacDonalds is now chasing for maintenance arrears because they do not recognise the transfer.

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Following is an article written by Tom Tubbs, an advisory member of The National Timeshare Owners Association, the American equivalent of TATOC. In this article he clearly shows how some companies in the US operate and how it affects the resorts and owners. This was sent to me by my American colleague Irene Parker.

 

By Tom Tubbs

Island Consulting Realty – NTOA Advisory Board Member

 

We’ve all heard the radio commercials, received the postcards in the mail, seen the TV ads, seen the web sites:

 

“Get out of your timeshare now! Call us today. Guaranteed or your money back!”

 

“You own a timeshare you can’t sell? We guarantee to get you out”.

 

“Dear friends. This is ‘Mr/Ms. Celebrity’. I trust these people”.

 

Now, think back. Remember the similar ads we heard from different companies years ago? Where are those companies now? What happened to them? Are these just new companies who rose up to fill in the gap? Hmmm…..

 

So, how is it that you could sell your timeshare but continue to be on the hook for the maintenance fees? What I’m going to share with you is a real story that is taking place right this minute. The names are changed, obviously. The way it’s being handled is not brand new, but relatively so and it’s happening more and more and more. Read the story and make sure you don’t fall victim to this.

 

So we’ve told you in the past about “transfer companies”. You pay them $3500 or so and they take your time share from you and they promise that your days of owning a timeshare and paying the maintenance fees are done. Many of these are perfectly good timeshares that could be sold and money put into the pockets of the owner, but if you’re a reader of this newsletter you know the stories the transfer companies tell you to convince you to give up your money. These companies for the most part have no real estate license so that they don’t have to worry about a state agency looking over their shoulder. Many of them come and go quickly…..with your money.

 

But there’s a new sheriff in town. A company called Timeshare Transfer Registry (real name) monitors timeshare transfers. They are especially suspicious about transfers going into the name of an LLC or Trust. Suspicions go up when they see 10, 20, 50, 100 or more timeshares being transferred into the same name. Resorts can register with TTR to try to protect themselves from being deceived by the transfer company.

 

So here’s what happened. “ABC Resort” (names are changed now) gets a copy of a recorded deed showing one of their owners sold their timeshare to “Whoopie Doo, LLC”. The resort contacted Timeshare Transfer Registry and learned that Whoopie Doo owns a LOT of timeshares. It’s looking pretty obvious that the LLC will never pay the resort a maintenance fee and the resort at some point will have to foreclose (that’s what happened to your timeshare). You don’t care, right? You’ve sold your timeshare and the deed is out of your name, right? Wrong……to an extent. You’re definitely going to care. Here’s why.

 

The resort notified the LLC that they noticed the LLC has purchased a LOT of timeshares and it looks like an obvious case of a transfer company about to dump the timeshares on the resort; costing the resort a ton of money. The resort refused to acknowledge the transfer.

 

In an interesting twist, the LLC contacted the resort and swore up and down they were not the same “Whoopie Doo, LLC” that owns so many time shares. Seriously? Really? The resort contacted National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA, http://www.NationalTimeshareOwnersAssoc.com/) asking for advice. (Now in the interest of full disclosure I want to mention I am on the advisory board of NTOA. Before I became a member of the board, however, I was singing the praises about this organization for a long time. Becoming a member [talking about you, dear reader] is not a bad thing. You know I would never steer you wrong). I was asked my opinion about this. I advised that the resort tell Whoopie Doo to go pound sand. Whoopie will probably threaten legal action but the resort should stand firm. The last thing con artists like Whoopie Doo want to do (hey! That rhymes!) is walk into a court of law.

 

So now here is an interesting situation. You’ve paid a company $3500 to take your time share. You have signed the deed over to this LLC. You actually no longer own the timeshare, this is technically true. But the resort is refusing to acknowledge the transfer which means you are still on their books as the owner and you’re going to get a maintenance fee bill each year! Congratulations! Now, you won’t find this out until you get your bill next year. By that time, good luck on finding those nice folks who took your $3500. You now no longer own a timeshare and you’re on the hook for the yearly maintenance fees.

 

“Wait”, you say, “How can the resort refuse to acknowledge a lawfully recorded transfer of a deed”. (we heard you thinking this). Well, there’s this little thing called fraud. It was a fraudulent transfer designed to make money by bringing harm to the resort. (As a side note: Some resort who have been burned by this are now suing not only the folks behind the LLC but also the original owner [that would be……you] claiming fraud).

 

So how do you protect yourself? First, if you find yourself in a situation where you want to sell your timeshare, call us. It’s what we’ve done for folks for the past 30 years and we offer different programs depending on what you have and your particular situation. There’s not many folks we can’t help. And for the few we can’t help, we can refer you to the right person who can or offer free advice on what to do. Secondly, if you’re bound and determined that you trust that famous celebrity or the nice person across the table from you who wants you to pay them a lot of money, ask them for a copy of their real estate license. They should offer no excuses, no “this doesn’t apply to us” stories; they either have one or they don’t. If they don’t, well……..I’d hate to be writing a story about your situation in an up-coming newsletter.

 

At least in the US there is a company which tries to ensure this does not happen, The Timeshare Transfer Registry, but even with this in place the scam still goes on, not only losing thousands for the owners but also for the resorts.

 

So what can you do about not getting caught, unfortunately there is no straight answer. All you can really do is check the company and check again, ask your resort do they recognise the company you are dealing with. If you are undertaking a private sale, again check with your resort on how the transfer is done legally. Once the transfer is complete, again check with your timeshare company or resort that you are no longer registered as the owner and liable for maintenance.

 

The biggest problem is actually finding someone who wants to buy it in the first place, just look on ebay! There are alternatives to trying to sell, some resorts will take them back, for those that do not, then there is a legal process of relinquishment. Yes this will cost, the amount again depends on the company, but beware, as Mrs B found out she paid for a relinquishment but ended up with a transfer of ownership to another person and this is not recognised by the resort.

 

If you have any questions about this article or any other timeshare matter, Inside Timeshare is here to help. Contact through the comments section and will find the answer or point you in the right direction.

Solutions Group, Still Going?

Around three years ago a company came up on the radar called Simple Solutions, this was part of the Solutions Group registered as XYZ Solutions SL. This company is based in Tenerife and was registered at Avenida Del Claudio Delgado Diaz 101, Las Chafiras, San Miguel De Abona, 38620. CIF Number B76558519 and telephone numbers 0203 137 7214 & 0203 137 3970 also using an email address [email protected], the website they quoted was www.consumeract75.co.uk which was registered to Global Solutions at the same address.

 

There was also another company apparently based in Madrid called European Consumer Complaints which used the same www.consumeract75.co.uk  website.

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The nature of the business was claiming for breach of contract, misrepresentation and mis-selling of timeshare and discount holiday clubs such as Incentive Leisure Group and Designer Way Vacation Club. These claims would be made under the Credit Consumer Act 1974, Section 75, there was also an upfront fee which was payable via bank transfer.

 

It now seems they are back, this time as Solutions Ltd, which is supposedly a UK registered company, yet no trace can be found at Company House. The telephone number is the same one used by Simple Solutions and XYZ Solutions, 0203 137 3970 also using the same email address [email protected]. The address given this time is: Calle Luciano 5D, San Miguel, 38369, the address is genuine but looking at street view on google maps, there is no sign of any company such as this and is right on the corner of the original address

 

The operation is the same as before, claims against timeshare companies using the Credit Consumer Act, again for breach of contract, misrepresentation and mis-selling. There is still an upfront fee which is payable by bank transfer to a Santander bank account.

section 75

Inside Timeshare has also been informed of one lady who believed that her timeshare resort had gone bankrupt several years ago, this was after she had received a call from one of the original companies. She then stopped paying her maintenance fees thinking she no longer owned, now she is getting demands for payment of the arrears. The resort was a Heritage Resort in Marbella.

 

Now she has had a call from Solutions Ltd to pay them to make a claim, luckily because of the demands from Heritage, she has realised the original call several years ago was a ruse to get her to pay for a claim.

 

It is important to remember to make your checks before dealing with any company that claims your resort has gone bankrupt or closed down, or that you can get a refund via section 75 for an upfront payment. Also never pay anything using a bank transfer, cheque, paypal or even a Western Union, once any payment is made in this way your money is gone. If you do need to make any claim for any payment using section 75 it can be done yourself, your bank, citizen advice or one of the following websites can help you do this:

 

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/section75-protect-your-purchases

 

http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/section-75-of-the-consumer-credit-act

 

http://insidetimeshare.com/claiming-money-back-credit-card/

 

If you need any help in finding information about any company, contact Inside Timeshare, if we know of them we can pass on the information. If they are not known to us then we will research them for you or tell you how to find out for yourself. It pays to do your homework and keep your money safe.

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