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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.

Start the Week

We start this week with a look at some of the companies we have highlighted over the past few months, many of these are now going into liquidation. These companies are in most case only around two years old and began as “contract termination” with “no win no fee” claims once the contract has been cancelled. We also look at some of those that are under investigation or are in court and those that have even been sentenced.

First we look at RSB Legal, this company first came to our attention back in 2016, there modas operandi was very simple, once they contacted the timeshare owner the offer was to meet at one of their offices to discuss a “no win no fee” claim against the clients timeshare company. This soon turned into a pitch for the cancellation of the contract first, once this had been completed then the claim could go forward.

The one problem was they needed upwards of £6,000 to do the cancellation to be paid in advance, the claim would come later. The question that was asked was how was the claim to be made? After all it couldn’t go to court, especially if it was a timeshare bought in Spain, as once a contract is cancelled then no claim could be taken to court.

This left a Section 75 claim under The Credit Consumer Act 1974, against the credit card company or the finance company if it was purchased with a loan supplied by the timeshare company.

These were unlikely to have paid out, as with all section 75 claims you must show either: you have not received the goods or services paid for; the company has gone into liquidation; faulty goods unfit for purpose. This is fine if you are purchasing say a washing machine, but with a holiday product, especially a timeshare purchased many years ago, you will have used it and taken holidays. Even if the company no longer exists it would be difficult to get a payout.

Section 75 does not cover the misrepresentation of the sales agent at the time of purchase, if it is not in the contract it was never said!

The credit card provider will always contact the company involved to get their side, obviously, they will say that you have received the goods and services, after all you have used it. You may argue that you were unable to use it as you could not get the dates you required, the answer of the timeshare company is always going to be, sorry but these are always subject to availability, we did offer alternatives but the member didn’t want those. Hence claim denied.

Another twist is RSB Legal palmed off the cancellations to another firm Taylor Marshall Associates, a very clever move as if the contract wasn’t cancelled, no claim could be made against RSB Legal under section 75. They would claim that they have fulfilled their part of the contract and it was Taylor Marshall who had not done the work.

This is a scenario that we have seen on many occasions with many of these “Exit Companies”. Once it is passed over the client is then told that they should no longer pay their maintenance fees as their contract will be cancelled within weeks. The unfortunate thing is that nothing was done, the exit company did not carry out the work and the client ends up with several years of maintenance fee arrears. This has been the case with RSB Legal clients passed to Taylor Marshall, especially those members of Club la Costa. In this case CLC had informed RSB and Taylor that they do not recognise them, that they do not deal with third parties, but will cancel a membership directly with the member only and free of charge!

For those clients who have been through this, you can try a section 75 claim, but you should also report to Trading Standards and Action Fraud.

Back in January 2018, we reported on the announcement that Standon Mortimer Associates were the subject of a Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation. Again this was a company contacting clients for exit and claims, the list of companies they were involved with is quite extensive, including RSB Legal, FHA Marketing along with Anderson Read Consultancy, Warwickshire ConsultantsCharles Ashworth Consultants and Harwood Jones Consulting.

So it looks like all these companies were all working hand in hand, the unifying factor appears they all worked with or for RSB Legal. The unfortunate thing is that many people have paid and lost thousands, yet these companies are limited liability companies and go into liquidation after spiriting the money away leaving no way of retrieving what you have lost. It just makes you wonder what new companies and scams they owners are going to come up with next.

Now for our old friend David Cox and TESS Paralegal Services Ltd, this is another in the long list of companies that David Cox has been behind, many have been dissolved along with massive debts.

Since his last post on 29 March, there has been nothing new posted in his “news” section, he has gone very very quiet, it is rumoured he is trying to sell the company or even liquidate it. This will not be good news for those who have paid him for cancellation services.

To see the full story of David Cox, use the search box.

As we know the Regional Organised Crime Unit of Somerset & Avon Police are investigation several Mark Rowe companies, we have also been told by reliable sources that Hollywood Marketing in Tenerife is also under investigation by the Spanish Authorities.

The companies under investigation include sellmytimeshare.tv, Monster Rewards and Monster Credits, yet Mark Rowe is still advertising in the press, facebook and other media his ABC Lawyers, Timeshare-Lawyers and other companies. The unfortunate thing is that many people will believe any advert they see in the press.

A good example is one reader, an elderly lady who saw one of his adverts in the Royal British Legion magazine, so naturally she thought it was genuine. The next thing is she had been sold Monster Credits. As we explained, just because the advert appears in a publication which we know and trust, does not mean it is genuine. After all, the magazine publishers need to sell advertising space to cover costs, they don’t check if advertisers are genuine, they only take the money.

Back in February we also reported on the jailing of several people involved in a long running timeshare scam, this revolved around the resale of timeshare. It then went on to contacting those who paid to sell their timeshare being contacted yet again, this time to get the money back from the original scam. There was then a third part, another company called to say they had been appointed by the Spanish courts to contact clients who had been scammed before, that there was money waiting for them and a tax needed to be paid to release the money.

The full article can be seen by following the link below:

http://insidetimeshare.com/they-get-them-in-the-end/

There is still no news on the sentencing of Dominic O’Reilly or his Daughter Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group. From information received this may not be taking place until around September. This leaves it very difficult for those taken in by the Leisure Credits to be able to get their money back. When new information becomes available we will publish it here.

So, we are losing some of these companies, but how long before other surface to take their place, as always, beware the calls offering “no win no fee” claims, the guaranteed exit solution or the “fake” law firm that tells you a case against your timeshare company is about to go to court or has been to court. Check, check and check again, do your homework, contact Inside Timeshare if you want help in checking the validity of any company that has contacted you or even one you have found either on the internet or advertising in the press.

Tomorrow we publish another Tuesday Slot with Irene, this week it is about “Special Assessments” at the Americano Beach Resort.

Thursday Roundup: Some News from the UK Courts

In last Friday’s Letter from America we mentioned the Birmingham Crown Court hearing for the sentencing of Dominic O’Reilly & Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, this was to have taken place on Monday of this week.

From information received it looks like EZE Groups legal counsel could not make it and asked for an adjournment before Monday’s hearing. Although it would still have had to be addressed in open court with a new date to be set.

A very strange fact that did emerge is that the hearing has been switched from sentencing to a directions hearing. This could indicate that their guilty pleas may have been withdrawn and a another plea will have to be made in open court. If they do plead guilty then the case will again have to be adjourned and pre-sentencing report carried out.

As we find out more we will publish here.

In another case which was announced on 17 April, against Francis Madden at Bournemouth Crown Court. The case was scheduled to last about six weeks, but news broke yesterday that Madden had pleaded guilty to three counts of fraudulent trading between May 2012 and February 2016.

The case revolved around his “Holiday Club” companies, where people were invited to attend a “two hour presentation” which actually lasted more than “five hours”. They were sold accommodation which either did not exist or was near impossible to book for thousands of pounds. In most cases the accommodation could have been booked for far less via the internet.

Although clients had been informed that there was a cancellation period, when they did try to cancel they were told in was not possible. It also transpired that the exhausted clients were “frog marched” by staff to a cash machine to withdraw the payments.

Jailing him for a period of 40 months the judge called his conduct “reprehensible”.

It seems now that the authorities are finally catching up with these charlatans as only recently we have seen several jailed at Stafford Crown Court, EZE Group in the dock and some of Mark Rowe’s companies under police investigation.

See link to the Mail Online report:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5682173/Timeshare-fraudster-marched-victims-cash-machines-hand-thousands.html

When timeshare first started it was a very good concept, the accommodation was superb, far better than what was available through the high street travel agent, but something went very wrong. Greed took over.

Some of the first “scams” were the buying off plan schemes, where all you purchased was a hole in the ground and an architects plan. Many of these were never built with hundreds of people losing thousands of pounds.

The industry itself did little to “police itself”, countries laws where these timeshares were being built were not adequate, allowing many frauds to take place, with the perpetrators getting away with millions.

After the “off plan” scams, the industry through how the product was sold was instrumental in the next phase, the resale scam. As timeshares were being sold as “property” which would go up in value, the resale companies capitalised on this. Offering clients the promise of selling their timeshare for more than they actually paid for it, taking thousands to “list” the timeshare for sale and then disappearing.

Now because the laws have been strengthened, especially in Spain, we are seeing bogus claims companies taking thousands for relinquishments and no win no fee claims. Just recently Inside Timeshare has been getting enquiries about one of these companies, RSB Legal. Many have paid them to cancel their timeshare and claim the money back, but they are now no longer trading, they have simply vanished, leaving hundreds of clients out of pocket.

These stories show why you must do your due diligence and homework before going to any presentation, or doing business with any company. Check, check then check again, ask the questions, are they for real, how are they going to claim, can they do what they say they can do, how long have they been trading?

That last comment is probably one of the most important points, a company that has only been trading or registered for say 1 year, yet claims they have got back thousands and helped hundred of owners, is that actually possible?

If you have been contacted by any company or have found one on the internet and want to know if they are genuine, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you find out.

Remember doing your homework will save your hard earned cash!

Inside Timeshare would also like to share some great news with all our readers, our last article contributor Joshua Parker and his wife Nichole are the proud new parents of twins. Welcome to the family Matthew Alexander & Maverick Luke.

Friday’s Letter from America

Friday’s Letter From America is from Irene Parker, written from Poco Diablo Resorts, a Diamond Affiliated property in Sedona, Arizona. Irene thought our EU readers would like to hear about an unusual travel activity that takes place annually in Sedona, one of the most popular tourist destinations in America, south of Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

Irene said she received good value for her Diamond points. All timeshare members should remember their timeshare math, checking the value of maintenance fee dollars against booking online. Given Poco Diablo’s $13 per night fee for something, and a 13% tax, it was significantly less using Diamond points. She checked into Poco Diablo on Friday the 13th.

Inside Timeshare has been asked by Canarian Legal Alliance to issue the following warning.

A company going by the name of Abogados Lopez (Gran Canaria & Marbell) is contacting clients and stating they are calling on behalf of CLA. In the call clients are told that a settlement has been reached and a considerable sum has been offered.

To finalise the payment  of these funds, a processing fee of 10% is required, this is to be paid by bank transfer.

According to the email after the initial telephone conversation, the processing fee covers the following:

Modelo 214: This is a Tax declaration form, it has to be filled in by their Notary on the clients behalf. It is to confirm that the money awarded by the judicial system is non-taxable, but when is arrives into the clients personal account via bank transfer the client must inform the Inland Revenue.

Modelo 037: Another form which enables their Notary to set up an online verification account in the client’s name.

Modelo 790: Yet another form which gives them authority to enter the clients non-residential NIE number into the fiscal system, attaching it to the clients case file. The client is also told it is only valid for three months.

The attached letter in the email has what looks like official stamps and logos, so it does look very official to the uninitiated.

They are using 2 telephone numbers, one is a Spanish mobile number: 0034 602 657 670 and a UK number with a Chepstow code: 01291 440500, when dialled this number does not connect, another number that has been given is 0034 951 242 867 which is a Malaga number.

Their email address is: [email protected], there is a website but it does not contain any information. The website was registered on 22 March 2018 and is using a privacy service to hide the owners.

The address that Abogados Lopez is using is: Calle Teniente C Castillo, Olivares 12, 35011, Palmas De Gran Canaria, Gran Canaria, España.

This is yet another fake law firm and is not working with Canarian Legal Alliance and has no authority from them, if you have been contacted by Abogados Lopez and received any information from them via email, contact Inside Timeshare and we will pass on the information to the lawyers at CLA.

Now for this weeks Letter from America

Our Diamond Resorts Experience at Poco Diablo, Sedona, Arizona

The War In Between, by Director Producer Riccardo Ferrais

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

A documentary about PTSD diagnosed veterans and wolves and why timeshare sales agents should not defraud our veterans

By Irene Parker

April 27, 2018

Tuesday May 1: A Military PSA by Joshua Parker, US Army, Ret, OIF

A Wolf Friendly Resort – Wolf Week April 17 – 22 at Poco Diablo

An unusual resort activity

POCO DIABLO RESORT is a trademark of Poco Diablo Resort, LLC, a limited liability company formed under the Limited Liability Code of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

Those who suffer from the effects of a traumatic event can do one of two things – fall victim or channel outward in the fashion of John Walsh, producer and director of the American television show, America’s Most Wanted, advocating on behalf of homicide victims and their families. Joshua Parker is an army combat veteran alleging he was defrauded by timeshare and told by a company vice president, “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” Joshua has joined our advocacy efforts reaching out to military publications to warn veterans, and especially Active Duty military, several in danger of losing their Security Clearance due to timeshare foreclosure.  Sales agents, by the words of this vice president, are encouraged to make up outrageous claims to sell vacation points. Inside Timeshare has heard from 42 members of the military alleging they were defrauded by timeshare sales agents.    

Scamming consumers is bad enough, but we find nothing more disturbing than preying on war heroes who have put their physical and mental health on the line to protect all Americans. About a third of our veterans are combat veterans, several 90 to 100% disabled. We believe the reports of the war heroes over the denials by timeshare sales agents, several repeat offenders. According to the FTC:

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/

Wolves and veterans

One of the activities during Wolf Week in Sedona was the showing of the documentary, The War In Between. Combat veterans, diagnosed with PTSD and wolves, victimized by illegal trappings, work towards recovery. After the film, we had the opportunity to meet director Riccardo Ferrais and the wolves.

Plan B Founder and advocate with her rescued victims, Chaos and Theory

https://www.planb.foundation/

https://lockwoodarc.org/larc-veterans

Wolf Week was presented by The Plan B to Save Wolves and Apex Protection Project with Presenting Sponsor Poco Diablo Resort an Enterprise of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

Founded by Betsy Klein and Timon Pratt, the Plan B Foundation is a 501(c)3 corporation created to support organizations and individuals in their mission to protect, preserve and rescue wolves and wolf dogs through advocacy, education and funding.

From the book Wolfer, by Carter Niemeyer, a Wolf Week guest speaker:

“Carter stands between these waring groups, the furious ranchers and outraged environmentalists, mediating, doing what he has to do, with a heavy heart.”

Nicholas Evans, Author of The Horse Whisperer

Having spent almost three years now listening to reports from families describing how their lives have been ruined after falling victim to predatory and deceptive timeshare sales, I understood the bittersweet experiences wolf advocates experience on a daily basis. We wish we could win them all too, but reluctant regulators and timeshare developers, who care little how points are sold, allow the hamster wheel of recycled timeshare inventory to continue unchecked. The best we can do for some is guide the member and their family through the painful foreclosure process. Despite what “Get you out of your timeshare” ads advertise, there are no guaranteed timeshare exits. We have had members report being charged thousands of dollars, only to eventually be told foreclosure is a guarantee. Most timeshare members have high credit scores and have rarely been late on a payment, but rising maintenance fees, the lack of a secondary market, and rising fraud have spelled disaster for many families. Inside Timeshare US and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has assisted 406 families, 148 since January 1.

I hear members say things like, “There is never any availability” or “You can always book cheaper online.” My husband and I own 10,200 Diamond points. We used 8,000 points to book two weeks (which happened to be during Wolf Week) at the Diamond affiliate Poco Diablo property. Our first timeshare exchange thirty years ago was at Poco Diablo. Compared to Booking.com, we saved a good bit using Diamond points over booking online. The wolf friendly Poco Diablo resort, of the same name, borders the timeshare Poco Diablo.  

We usually stay at Diamond’s Los Abrigados resort in Sedona, our home resort, but Los Abrigados was not available this year. We own Diamond US Collection points and Premier Vacation Club points. I’m told PVC members pay the highest maintenance fees. When we asked to use the Spa at Los Abrigados, checking the box that said we were PVC members, we were denied access. We explained that the reason we were not staying at Los Abrigados was because there was no availability and that our maintenance fees went toward the spa maintenance. The attendant said they would make an exception this one time, but advised that we would have more flexibility if we gave up our PVC points for Diamond points. After a ten minute lecture, the attendant said, “Maybe I’ll look for another job.” Diamond advertises Poco Diablo as a Diamond property.          

https://www.diamondresorts.com/destinations/property/Villas-at-Poco-Diablo

Our advocates are available free of charge. We have saved more than a few members from the nets of scams. We have assisted hundreds of members with regulatory and, if needed, law enforcement filings. We thank all our advocates for their part in the process, and thank timeshare members for reporting. Without regulatory filings, nothing will ever change. Contact one of these self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced if you need help with a timeshare concern.

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

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

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 Irene, we all hope you and Don had a very enjoyable vacation, although we do know you were still hard at work on behalf of all those who have contacted us.

If you have any comments or questions about any article published use our contact page and get in touch with us.

Have you had a call regarding your timeshare, be it resale or claims and want to know if the company is genuine, then get in touch and we will point you in the right direction.

Join us again next week when we bring you the latest news on the timeshare world, we also hope to have some news about the EZE Group case at Birmingham Crown Court, where Dominic & Stephanie O’Reilly will be told their fate.

Have a great weekend.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

In this week’s Tuesday Slot with Irene, we welcome another new contributor, Alicja Tandecka from Poland, with comments from Irene Parker. This story is one with a happy ending, so Inside Timeshare is pleased to share this with you. But first we have a quick look at Europe.

On the legal side, it now looks like we have two courts where the judges have decided to dispense with full trials and issue judgements at the pre-trial stage. Usually the pre-trial is a general review of the case and the judge will then decide to set a date for a full trial.

The Courts of First Instance No 1 & 4, of San Bartelomé de Tirajana in Maspalomas have now in several cases decided that a full hearing is no longer necessary. Their reasoning behind this is very simple, it is a matter of contracts, they are in breach of the timeshare laws 42/98 & 4/12 along with the rulings from the Supreme Court. In these cases the judge has decided to rule and issue his sentence, the last one was issued within three days of the hearing.

This is obviously good news for clients, as it will speed up the legal process no end.

Another lawyer known to these pages has now started to publish the results of his cases, Javier Correa, who at one time worked with Miguel Rodriguez Ceballos of Canarian Legal Alliance. With the news that Javier is now publishing his results does go to prove that what timeshare companies such as Anfi, along with David Cox of TESS stating that these are all fictitious cases is not true. They are a matter of public record, Inside Timeshare even published links to the official website where these case files can be accessed.

News has just been received on the EZE Group case, Dominic O’Reilly and Stephanie O’Reilly his daughter, are to appear at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday 30 April 2018 for sentencing. This will be good news for all those EZE Group clients who have been taken in by this company. One question which we will ask, is how will Birmingham City Football Club deal with this, after all EZE Group are linked to them and also have a stand named after them?

As we were about to publish , we went to check some details on the EZE Group website, the account has been suspended and cannot be accessed.

More news on this next week.

Now for our Tuesday Slot.

Alicja Tandecka’s Trip to America turns into a Polo Towers

Diamond Resorts Issue Resolved!

The Federal Trade Commission’s Report on Complaints

April 24, 2018

By Alicja Tandecka

My visit to America from my home in Poland to attend an Arbonne conference turned into a travel dilemma after I signed a contract to purchase a Sampler product from Diamond Resorts. I signed a contract to buy 20,000 Diamond Sampler points for $4,000.

Two hours after I signed the contract, I decided I had made a mistake, so I went back to cancel. I was alarmed to read that this Sampler product has no cancellation period, even though I had found on the internet Nevada has a seven day cancellation period. I feel this is a very unfair business practice.

As a foreigner in a foreign country, I did not know where to turn. I reached out to Inside Timeshare and the Diamond Member Sponsored Advocacy Facebook for help. I will be eternally grateful to have found them and their pro bono help in all this will not be forgotten. This is what restores my faith in humanity.

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

As you can see, we were having a great time in America until I realized I had made a mistake buying something I really did not understand.

https://www.facebook.com/alicjatandecka

Irene Parker from Inside Timeshare directed me to the Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy department. I told her about the high pressure sales presentation I attended. Irene explained that Diamond has introduced a program called CLARITY that promises no high pressure and that I should explain to that department what happened.  

When I went back two hours after I signed the contract to cancel, the office was closed. The next morning I went back again and was asked to write down the reasons why I wanted to cancel so the agent could send this to Diamond corporate. The agent I spoke with assured me I would be refunded, but I was worried.

Irene explained that Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates have helped 404 timeshare members because reports indicate there is no enforcement of timeshare regulations in Nevada and a few other states. She suggested I submit an article to Inside Timeshare about my experience. She sent my article to Diamond Resorts for comment to see if someone might reach out to help me end this ordeal. Someone did so my trip to America ends with many new Facebook friends and a timeshare issue resolved!   

Comments from Irene

The Federal Trade Commission released complaint statistics and timeshare made the highest dollar amount. The amount of $1,700 seems low as timeshare member reports from members reaching out to Inside Timeshare include members losing money in amounts ranging from $25,000 to $400,000 or more.

The most common comments:

I’m so embarrassed! I feel so stupid! We haven’t told our kids!

Excerpts from the FTC report:

The Federal Trade Commission has released statistics on complaints and other problems reported in 2017. Some came directly from consumers, while others originated with law enforcement agencies and other organizations, including the Better Business Bureau.

The FTC received 2.7 million reports in 2017, a slight decrease from 2016. However, the amount of money people reported losing to fraud increased 7.5 percent to $905 million. The true numbers are much higher since many people don’t report being defrauded because they’re embarrassed, afraid, or don’t know where to turn for help.

Abusive or fraudulent debt collection calls were the top source of complaints in 2017, representing 23 percent of all reports. Identity theft, led by credit card fraud, and impostor scams rounded out the top three.

For the first time, the FTC broke out the numbers by the age of the person filing the report and the results mirror what the BBB has found in analyses of complaints it receives. Younger people reported losing money to fraud more often than seniors, but seniors suffered a greater dollar loss.

The median loss from all types of fraud was $429. 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.

Florida had the highest per capita rate of reports to the FTC, at 993 per 100,000 population. Tennessee came in 10th at 649 per 100,000 and Mississippi was 27th at 514. North Dakota had the lowest ratio at 277 per 100,000 population.

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

Inside Timeshare will walk with Alicja until her issue is resolved or foreclosed. We’re checking into whether defaulting on $4,000 will have any great effect on her credit report in Poland or create any problems coming to America in the future.  

More helping hands:

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 Alicja for your contribution, Inside Timeshare and all the team who work with Irene are very pleased to have been of help, we are glad that your trip has ended with a host of new friends and we wish you luck for the future.

If you have any comments, questions or concerns about this or any article published, or need help to decide what to do and who you can trust, then use our contact form and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

 

Start the Week: New Information on Centaurus Mediations

We start this week off with more information on the company linked to Silverpoint and contacting their own clients regarding relinquishments and claims, Centaurus Mediations SL. Once again Inside Timeshare has received more emails from readers who have been contacted or attended meetings at their office in Tenerife.

There is now another new twist to the tale, this is a company based in Stirling Scotland called Fullbrook Associates, this company it seems is employed by Centaurus Mediations (who are charging extortionate amounts) to take on their “cases” to get the owners out of the Silverpoint contracts and claim back their money!

Who are Fullbrook Associates?

According to company house, they were incorporated on 13 June 2016, under the name of Fullbrook Marketing Ltd, changing the name to Fullbrook Associates on 17 March 2017, with the company registration number:  SC537793

FULLBROOK ASSOCIATES LTD – Overview

The registered address is:

4/5 Stirling Business Centre, Wellgreen, Stirling, Scotland, FK8 2DZ. But the address given on the website shows a slightly different address: 73 Wellgreen Pl, Stirling FK8 2DZ, UK. This is a business center offering office space to rent either full time or on a need to use basis, as with all these business centers they are also mail delivery points.

According to company records the nature of their business is: 70229 – Management consultancy activities other than financial management. So this begs the question what are they to do with timeshare?

The director section of company records is rather interesting, the original director was Martin Scully, appointed 13 June 2016, but resigned 13 June 2016, (no that is not a mistake) with Kathleen Mary Scully also being appointed on 13 June 2016. It is also believed that Martin Scully was at one time working in the marketing department of EZE Group, not an unfamiliar name to these pages.

When looking at “Meet the Team” section of their website, they show the photos of 6 ladies including one solicitor and one paralegal, yet in their profiles not one of them shows any history or knowledge of timeshare matters or law. Although according to the Legal Services section on Timeshare Termination they state  “Fullbrook Associates has such specialism. We can not only extricate unhappy clients from their timeshare contracts but can successfully pursue compensation claims surrounding mis-selling and consumer credit breaches”.

On the point of “compensation Claims”, one has to ask how they are going to do this?

Are they going to use the Credit Consumer Act 1974 Section 75?

Staying on the website, they do not show any company registration numbers, no SRA registration number for the lawyer or any registration with the Institute of Paralegals for the Paralegal, which one would have thought was of great importance. They also show no official membership to any organisation, or show any registration for claims management with the Ministry of Justice.

Obviously, we have mentioned the link between Centaurus Mediations, Silverpoint and Mark Cushway, we have also in the past published that Silverpoint / Mark Cushway had approached Claims Solutions Group to take on cases against themselves!

http://insidetimeshare.com/start-week-joke/

Once again we have timeshare owners being charged huge amounts of money by one company to extricate them from their timeshare, (run by the very people who sold it to you in the first place), then being passed onto a third party to do the work. One can see the problem here, if the work is not done by the third party, Centaurus can get away from any Section 75 claim by stating they have fulfilled their contract, it is not their fault the work has not been done.

Remember, if you purchased your timeshare in Spain after January 1999, your contract is for more than 50 years, you have points or floating week systems, you paid any money within the cooling off period, then the only way to successfully claim is through the Spanish Courts using Spain’s very stringent timeshare laws. (Please also bare in mind that not all are claimable regardless of what you are told).

If you just want to terminate your membership, contact your own timeshare company first, many are now offering to allow termination, most will not even deal with third parties, only with the member direct, so you could be paying for nothing.

Just because a company boasts they are UK registered does not mean they can be trusted, look for their track record, how long have they been operating, are they able to prove their “expertise” in timeshare law, can you get independent confirmation that they have actually got people out of timeshare and got their money back? (Do not always trust testimonials published on their websites).

These are all questions you need to be asking, do not just believe the “pitch”, do your homework before you pay any money out.

If you require any information about any company that has contacted you or one that you have found on the internet, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

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.

They Get Them in the End

On 23 February, West Mercia Police issued a press release about 9 timeshare fraudsters being sentence to more than 20 years in prison. It revolves around a timeshare resale scam that began back in 2012, when the company Simple Property Marketing Solutions first made its appearance.

All 9 appeared at Stafford Crown Court between 21 and 23 February, they are:

  • James Barrass, 37 from Norwich, sentenced to two years for money laundering.
  • Matthew Barker, 25 from Bromsgrove, Fraudulent Trading, 1 year & 1 month. Suspended for 1 year a & 6 months, 250 hours community service.
  • Brian Carr, 31 from Redditch, sentenced to 6 years for conspiracy to defraud and perverting the course of justice.
  • Daniel Carr, 24 from Redditch, Conspiracy to defraud, 4 years prison.
  • Steven Cross, 37, From Worcestershire, Conspiracy to defraud, 6 months.
  • Dawn Gingell, 55 From Hampshire, Conspiracy to defraud, 3 years 6 months prison.
  • Brendan Hicks, 28 From Redditch, Fraudulent Trading, sentenced to 1 year 1 month, suspended for 1 year 6 months plus 250 hours community service.
  • Alan Sharp, 66 From Norwich, Money Laundering, 8 months in prison suspended for 1 year plus 200 hours community service.
  • Craig Walker, 27 From Redditch, Conspiracy to defraud, 3 years in prison.

They are all facing proceedings to recover the money stolen, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

staffordcrowncourt

It all started with the company Simple Property Marketing Solutions Ltd, based in Norwich in 2012, they began contacting timeshare owners with the promise of buyers for their timeshares. These buyers were offering tremendous prices to acquire them.

In order for the timeshare owner to start the sales process, Simple Property Marketing Solutions, headed by Brian Carr, needed payment of between £600 and £1,500 for notary fees and security bonds.

According to the evidence it amounts to around £875,000 paid by about 470 people.

But the scam did not stop there, under different names and companies the next stage was to contact those who had lost money in the original scam. They would offer new schemes in order to help the victims to at least recoup some of their earlier losses.

The third part in this scam was one we have seen all too often, the victims are again contacted, but this time the callers say they are from the Spanish Courts. The money they have lost has now been recovered and can be returned to the victims bank accounts, obviously there would need to be a fee paid first.

Brian Carr was also the director of the following companies:

It is believed there were around 10 companies formed in the UK and Spain which were used to either launder the money or perpetrate the scam.

This fraud ran from the start of the companies in 2012 to 2015, they targeted mainly the elderly and vulnerable timeshare owners, many who were in poor health. This is a recurring theme in this type of fraud, as we have to remember the vast majority of timeshare owners today are now retired and many are not in the best of health.

Recently we have been seeing many other “scams” being closed down, from resale to holiday clubs and leisure credits. The authorities are taking more notice of these frauds in the timeshare world, we are still waiting to hear what sentence Birmingham Crown Court will be bestowing on the EZE Group owners Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie. We are also waiting for the outcome of the investigation in several of Mark Rowe’s companies by the South West Police.

As the title of this article says, They Do Get Them in the End!

If you have been contacted by any company or are wondering about one you have found on the internet, contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you find out what you need.

due diligence

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?

Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Tuesday Slot with Irene


Here we are with another Tuesday Slot with Irene, this week it is all about “Whistleblowers”, those who decide they need to tell the inside truth about companies, organisations or even politicians. Inside Timeshare has highlighted this topic before, without them we would never know the truth. But first a quick look at Europe.

We started this week with a warning about the scam involving clients of Ramirez and Ramirez, our old friends from the Costa del Sol, this one had an unusual twist as it involved the Supreme Court in Portugal. We are used to seeing letters supposedly from Spanish Courts, maybe because they have been highlighted this so often the “fraudsters” have decided to take a different angle.

There is still no news on the sentencing of Dominic and Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, last year they pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates Court, they were sent to the Crown Court for sentencing as the powers of the Magistrates Court were deemed insufficient due to the severity of the offences. When we know what they receive we will let you know.

We are still receiving emails from clients of the Mark Rowe companies being investigated by the South West Police, Regional Organised Crime Unit, that they have been contacted by the Police and are making statements. This is obviously a huge investigation and will take some time, we will keep you informed of any developments.

To finish off the European news this has just come in from the courts in Maspalomas.

The Court of First Instance Number 4 has issued their latest sentence against Anfi, The judge has declared the CLA clients contract null and void and ordered the return of over £26,000 plus legal Interest. This is another blow to Anfi and the CEO’s claim they are not losing in the courts!

Now for the Tuesday Slot with Irene Parker.

United in Speaking Truth to Power

remember vets

A borrowed headline from Whistleblowers of America

Press release

February 20, 2018

Introduction by Irene Parker

The Whistleblowers of America press release below describes alleged misuse of power. Seekers of justice and fair play seek to change corporate and/or government corruption. Deceit can become ingrained and accepted. It becomes the norm until those brave and determined enough to fight back, strike back.

Vivieca Wright Simpson, VA’s third-most-senior official, altered language in an email from an aide coordinating the trip to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government, then used the award to justify paying for his wife’s travel, Inspector General Michael J. Missal said in a report released Wednesday. VA paid more than $4,300 for her airfare. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/veterans-affairs-chief-shulkin-staff-misled-ethics-officials-about-european-trip-report-finds/2018/02/14/f7fbc020-0c3a-11e8-8b0d-891602206fb7_story.html?utm_term=.e6c8f81cab95

Inside Timeshare has connected 31 active duty and retired military and law enforcement members, alleging they were a victim of timeshare fraud for profit. Whistleblowers of America is dedicated to seeking justice for this population.  

Five members of our military and law enforcement group are worried about losing their security clearance, including two who have published articles:

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

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

I have highlighted the following excerpts in red from the Whistleblowers of America press release below, noting similarities between what VA workers and timeshare victims confront when power and wealth seek to destroy individuals and families by way of corporate greed and misuse of power.

First, several VA employees noted that their cases have lasted from three to eight years while investigations continue – far greater than the 6 months it took to investigate Shulkin. However, some have reported that the OIG never even responds to their complaints.  They have called repeatedly, but their reports of fraud have not been investigated.

It takes at most a day to buy a timeshare, but weeks, months and sometimes years to cancel a timeshare contract. There are endless rebuttal emails responding to timeshare contract fine print experts (also known as customer service representatives), regulatory and law enforcement filings, YouTube interviews, and media outreach.

Such has been the case with reports of homelessness numbers being underreported

Non-disclosure agreements and private and binding arbitration rulings have effectively swept timeshare corruption under the rug, but recent Attorneys General actions, Social Media, and lawsuits are saying, “No more.”

One whistleblower said, “If you don’t have photographs, they don’t investigate.”

If a fraudulent timeshare presentation is recorded, or the victim works for the media or for an Attorney General’s office, or has a family member working in these fields, resolution is quickly achieved.  

Another whistleblower in the Philadelphia Regional Office laments that the new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) is being used to fire employees over production.

One timeshare company initiated the recording of Quality Assurance sessions, announced as a consumer protection. The QA session occurs after a two to eight hour hard sell sales presentation, basically a nodding, initialing and signing session. The sales session where the crimes are committed is not recorded and members have reported the recording of the QA session being used against them and some buyers coached on how to “pass” QA because they didn’t get “the letter” (that was never sent).

Several other whistleblowers report that once they are terminated or forced to resign, they can no longer afford to pay costly attorney fees. These out of pocket expenses can soar above $100,000 before settling.

The timeshare industry counts on this, knowing the amounts involved will not withstand the time and expense it takes to litigate. State enforcement is spotty at best. Federal enforcement, like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is ineffective because members often can’t even select a lender when filing a complaint because payments are made to the timeshare company that services the loan, and timeshare companies are not a choice from the CFPB dropdown menu.  

A Washingtonian whistleblower familiar with the Shulkin attorneys’ fees reports that their insurance rate is $275 an hour, but other whistleblowers report spending $500 an hour on attorneys while the government lawyers defend the perpetrators of the wrongdoing.

Timeshare members are sometimes at the mercy of arbitrators, hired by the timeshare company. Arbitrators charge $400 to $500 and have a reputation of being pro-industry. If the arbitrator rules against the timeshare member, not only are they liable for the timeshare debt, they can be assigned to pay the timeshare developer’s attorney fees.

Whistleblowers have lost their homes and college tuition for their children.

The first article we wrote was about the Saldana family, transferring a $30,000 loan balance to a home equity loan, forfeiting $60,000 in timeshare points back to the timeshare company, left with no vacation, a $30,000 home equity loan, and a high school graduate starting college that year.

http://insidetimeshare.com/irene-parker-write-barclay-card-usa/

United in Speaking Truth to Power

whistleblowers

www.whistleblowersofamerica.org

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

#USTOO: Whistleblowers United in Seeking Justice WoA is a nonprofit organization assisting whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation after having identified harm to individuals or the public. Together, we can speak truth to power.  

Washington, DC, Feb 13, 2018 – USA Today reported on February 12, 2018, that the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that Secretary David Shulkin inappropriately accepted gifts and travel expenses for his wife during his visit to Europe last July. After this story posted, Whistleblowers of America (WoA) was inundated by VA employees outraged by the different standards by which their leadership is held versus the scrutiny they endure.

Shulkin has hired lawyers Justin Shur, Eric Nitz, and Emily Damrau to rebut the OIG findings related to the wrongdoing.

First, several VA employees noted that their cases have lasted from three to eight years while investigations continue – far greater than the 6 months it took to investigate Shulkin. However, some have reported that the OIG never even responds to their complaints.  They have called repeatedly, but their reports of fraud have not been investigated.  

Such has been the case with reports of homelessness numbers being underreported at medical centers in the Midwest and 14,000 disability claims lost out of the Oakland Regional Office.

One whistleblower said, “If you don’t have photographs, they don’t investigate.”

Another whistleblower in the Philadelphia Regional Office laments that the new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP) is being used to fire employees over production.

Allegedly, one employee with 28 years of service has been served a proposed termination notice for recently missing production standards. However, these production standards have been a sore point with Congress over the last decade as numerous Veterans Service Organizations have testified that quality should beget quantity and for Raters to “Do it right the first time.”

Even when the OIG finds in their favor, many whistleblowers still suffer the consequences of retaliation and must take their cases to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) for further adjudication.  One whistleblower who could no longer tolerate the stress of months of retaliation, resigned before hearing back from OAWP.  

Several other whistleblowers report that once they are terminated or forced to resign, they can no longer afford to pay costly attorney fees. These out of pocket expenses can soar above $100,000 before settling.

A Washingtonian whistleblower familiar with the Shulkin attorneys’ fees reports that their insurance rate is $275 an hour, but other whistleblowers report spending $500 an hour on attorneys while the government lawyers defend the perpetrators of the wrongdoing.

While it may be affordable for a VA Secretary to hire three counselors to battle his own OIG, most VA employees who report wrongdoing are GS 12 – 15s.  They quickly run through their family savings and retirement funds to fight whistleblower retaliation and if they do not reach settlement and damages, then the financial losses have impacts for several years. Whistleblowers have lost their homes and college tuition for their children.

And for those who are not terminated, remaining employed often means being marginalized to lesser assignments, lost pay or advancement opportunities, privacy invasions, poor performance evaluations that mar personnel folders, which then obstruct their ability to compete for other gainful employment. Even attempts at Alternative Dispute Resolutions that can resolve conflicts at the most internal levels are fraught with impartial mediators, lack appropriate decision-makers and can be non-binding, so costly when final arbitration is still needed at a higher level. Whistleblowing has been labeled “career suicide.” When you are not the VA Secretary or other senior leader, life gets tough when harmful disclosures are made to the OIG.

WoA is a 501C3 that provides peer support to whistleblowers because retaliation has consequences that can result in depression, anxiety, substance abuse, divorce, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide, as USA Today once reported in the case of psychologist, Chris Kirkpatrick.  He died by suicide after reporting overmedication of patients at the Tomah VA Medical Center in Wisconsin and was fired.

Contact:

Jacqueline Garrick, Executive Director

www.whistleblowersofamerica.org

202-309-1870

[email protected]

Thank you Irene and Whistleblowers of America, a very interesting article.

If you have any information regarding the practices in the sale of timeshare and want the world to know the real truth behind the industry, then Inside Timeshare welcomes any information you can share.

Been contacted by a firm and want to know who they are, or if they are genuine? Then contact Inside Timeshare for honest, truthful and impartial help and advice.

 

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