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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, this article is based on a report released by the St Louis Better Business Bureau, it is based on their full report published on the BBB website which we have included as a link. The full report carries some very sound advice along with recommendations for Government and the industry. Whether they take note is another matter.

August is the month for Spain to basically close down, so there is no news from the courts, but this little snippet from the RDO website news section and published on 24 July caught our attention.

“We never sleep”

During this particular break-out session the RDO legal panel will provide attendees with an update on a range of issues, including the latest developments in the Spanish Supreme Court rulings and the on-going lobbying programme.

Other issues that will be covered within the session will be ongoing collaboration with UK authorities to take fraudulent individuals/companies to court and new legislation that is being developed to curb the activities of claims companies. Attendees will also learn how ARDA is dealing with similar issues in the US and whether there are lessons for RDO and its members.

Well one thing is for sure, the RDO obviously believe that the Spanish timeshare laws are not good for the industry, with the judges getting it wrong, along with their belief that they will be able to change things in their favour through the lobbying programme. Well somehow I don’t think the Spanish authorities will be looking to changing their laws to return back to the bad old days!

In the end these court cases that are being brought are of the industries own making, if they had abided by the laws in the first place they would not be paying for it now. A very good case to remember is Silverpoint, whose CEO Mark Cushway was at one time also a director of the RDO, this company is being pilloried by the lower courts in Tenerife and the Supreme Court in Madrid.

Why?

Quite simple, they sold a product that flouted virtually every article of Law 42/98, especially with their promise of the “investment” weeks, where unsuspecting purchasers, many of them on the verge of retirement, were sold under high pressure and very misleading sales pitches a promise that these weeks would be sold or rented out. These never materialised and are the subject of many of these court cases. All this while Mark Cushway was one of the directors of the industry trade body, there to ensure that members operated in a legal and ethical manner.

On the legal front, Canarian Legal Alliance has just published their mid year report, it is certainly impressive and really does put the above statement from the RDO in a different light. Follow the link for the full report direct from the lawyers themselves.

https://canarianlegalalliance.com/canarian-legal-alliance-mid-term-successes/

Now on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare is a Highly Regulated Product?

A St. Louis Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report

Released July 24, 2018

Don’t Fall for Deception Pressure and Traps Disguised as Vacations

August 3, 2018

Inside Timeshare has received complaints against Florida, Nevada, Missouri, Hawaii, California, and Virginia sales centers. Missouri is no worse than the other states. We appreciate the St. Louis, Missouri Better Business Bureau taking timeshare complaints seriously.

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

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

From the St. Louis Better Business Bureau report:

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

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNMENT

  • Tougher law enforcement action. Regulatory agencies have reported receiving an increasing number of complaints about the timeshare industry. Bringing action against any bad actors in the industry could help consumers and deter companies from violating consumer protection laws.
  • New laws. BBB hears from many senior citizens who have been affected by the timeshare industry. Missouri legislators should consider special protections for those 65 and older who enter into agreements with timeshare and travel club companies. An extended right of rescission period could help seniors who may not totally understand what they have purchased. All consumers should receive pertinent information – such as access to websites and passwords – at point of purchase so that they can check potential savings and actual values of timeshares on resale market so that if they decide to cancel, they can take advantage of the rescission period.

(BBB) RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE INDUSTRY

  • More honesty from the industry. The timeshare industry needs to develop and adhere to a set of ethical standards to address widespread reports of high-pressure and deceptive sales practices and to deliver accurate, honest sales pitches to consumers. Reputable companies do not pressure consumers over several hours to purchase services they had little interest in buying or, in some instances, can’t even afford. If presentations are held, consumers should not be detained past the scheduled time or express a false sense of urgency to act immediately. Avoid telling consumers something that will entice them to sign but is later contradicted by your contract.
  • Honor promises. Provide tickets or other promotional items at the time of the presentation. Do not mail them later or make the consumer obtain them from another source.  
  • Do not mislead about timeshare inheritance. Too often misleading statements or scare tactics are used to encourage those who have inherited a timeshare to believe they are liable for it. Don’t misrepresent the law or circumstances for financial gain.
  • Do not require consumers to initial documents “under duress.” Too often, consumers are faced with presentations consisting of long hours; eventually succumbing to high pressure sales tactics.
  • More transparency from the industry. If a consumer is referred  to another company or person to complete the presentation process, be transparent about the process (ie. obligation to sit through a two hour presentation to obtain discounted tickets) and amount of time it will actually take to possibly alleviate someone from their timeshare.
  • Eliminate company mediation. Do not require consumers to mediate through the company’s internal program should a dispute arise. Instead, use neutral, third-party mediation source such as Better Business Bureau or American Arbitration Association.
  • Easier exits. The recent establishment of deed-back programs may be a step in the right direction. More consumers should be able to take advantage of these programs. The establishment of more deed-back programs is likely to lead in a decrease in fraud seen in the resale and exit markets.

Inside Timeshare has received 515 timeshare complaints from our readers, 271 since January 1. All but a handful report their complaint was dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” Our advocacy efforts have had an effect. After publishing this last statement a few times, the defense has been changed to, “It sounds like a he said, she said” still relying on the oral representation clause. About 200 complaints were copied to ARDA / ARDA ROCbut were ignored.

If “You signed a contract” – is the industry’s official policy, and the regulator’s position in some states, the public needs to be made aware misrepresentations reported by timeshare buyers will be ruled in favor of the timeshare sales agent. In Florida and Nevada, all our readers’ complaints filed with those state Attorney General’s timeshare divisions have been dismissed with “You don’t have proof.” An upcoming article examines proof and why FBI agents and several attorneys don’t buy this response.

Inside Timeshare contributor Sheila Brust reported, “We were given ludicrous advice from a regulator that is clearly out of touch with timeshare consumer reality. I was told to contact a licensed timeshare resale broker, but every agent I contacted informed me my timeshare had no secondary market. By steering complaining members to licensed real estate agents, when turned down, members often end up the contacting a scam that will charge the member upfront money promising to sell or cancel their timeshare. Often that promise falls short.”

Inside Timeshare has received numerous complaints against Branson, Missouri sales centers. Our researchers discovered one Branson timeshare sales manager was selling points at the same time he was working for a timeshare exit company named Mutual Release a suspicious name for a company, as mutual release is the form signed when a timeshare issue has been resolved.

Our Advice

DON’T FINANCE A VACATION or any Luxury Item AT 12% TO 19% and don’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. As the St. Louis BBB recommends, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association before buying any timeshare. There you will receive straight answers.

 http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the positives when it feels like the battle is all uphill. All we can do is reach out to those who feel lost to let them know Inside Timeshare and real advocacy groups are there for them. Consumer and advocacy are two words members should take with a grain of salt, used and abused by scam artists. We are real advocates.   

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, for those in Europe beware the heat wave, especially if you are travelling to Spain, Seville is reported to be facing temperatures of 48º C or 118º F.

Join us next week for more news and views on the world of timeshare, don’t forget if you have any comments, questions or just need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a great weekend and don’t get sunburnt!

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

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

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

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

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

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

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

(+34) 603208693 Spanish mobile

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

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

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

http://procuradores-igraim.com

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

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

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

Now for this weeks article.

Timeshares Affecting the Lives of our Veterans

Another Veteran Family

A Tahiti Village Timeshare Experience

July 31, 2017

Introduction by Irene Parker

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

By a Discouraged Tahiti Village Member

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments from Irene

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

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

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

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

www.whistleblowersofamerica.org @whistleP2P

601 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, D,C.

Statement of

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C

Executive Director

Whistleblowers of America

Before the

Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

March 14, 2018

Fraud and Scams Against Veterans:

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

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

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

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

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

Start the Week: Diamond Lose in Tenerife; Latest news on Tauro Beach and Anfi.

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, today we report on two cases Diamond Resorts have lost in Tenerife, but first we look at the disturbing scenes at Tauro Beach over the weekend.

Over the past year Inside Timeshare has been reporting on the debacle that is the Anfi Tauro Beach Project, this has been an ongoing saga, with charges being brought against the former head of the coastal authority along with others and a full blown investigation by Seprona, the Guardia Civil Nature Protection Service.

It has been well reported that Anfi had plans to transform the old shingle beach into a man made one with sand, build a marina and also several hotels with a shopping complex on the land behind. It turns out that part of the investigation into the beach found the sand had been illegally imported from the Western Sahara. (see link to The Guardian Article).

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/28/trouble-in-paradise-the-canary-island-beach-accused-of-illegally-importing-sand

Now a company called Desokupa went in over the weekend and began demolishing the homes of those who live there. The reason is the land “belongs” to Anfi, who claim that these dwellings are illegal. Whether they are or not is not the point, considering that there are no planning permissions in place and the fact that the Anfi concession to run the beach is on hold while the Gran Canarian government apply to the courts to revoke the licenses. Should these demolitions have waited until the outcome?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIHbrdIC_To&feature=share

Was there a court order which allowed Anfi to bring in the bulldozers?

All valid questions which will eventually be answered, but what we have lost is a little bit of old Gran Canaria and a very popular paradise spot, for locals and tourists alike. The bar Pio Pio is one of the most popular venues in the area at the weekend, with a wonderful atmosphere and great music. Is that now in danger!

https://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/sociedad/Violento-derribo-chabolas-Tauro_2_794790515.html

Since publishing this following has appeared on facebook for Nueva Canarias

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10155352630021755&id=185892306754

It will take you to the link below, this is very disturbing news.

http://canarias-semanal.org/not/23270/un-comando-de-boxeadores-peninsulares-viaja-a-gran-canaria-para-derribar-chabolas-video-/

Now for the court cases against Diamond Resorts and a look at timeshare law compared to other places.

Both these cases were heard at the High Court No 3, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, both were appeals on behalf of the British clients. These cases were originally held at the Courts of First Instance and unfortunately the clients lost those cases. These were heard before the Supreme Court in Madrid issued the numerous rulings (now 126) on how the timeshare laws should be interpreted and applied.

Before these rulings, different courts and judges interpreted the laws differently, no one actually knew how the laws should be applied. This is nothing unusual in legal work, laws are put into place, but it is not until they are tested and challenged are they effective, this is what the Supreme Court has done, issued a definitive interpretation.

In the first case, the client has been awarded over 19,000€ plus legal interest, with the contract being declared null and void.

In the second case held at the same court, over 30,000€ has been awarded plus legal interest, again the contract being declared null and void.

The court found several infringements of Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, (along with other relevant Consumer Laws), with contracts being over 50 years in duration and the illegal taking of payments within the cooling off period. The court also found as per the rulings from Spain’s Highest Court that the contracts lacked any substance or tangible product as they were points based. These have been declared illegal in Spain. (See PDF’s below for the court sentences).

HC n 3 Diamond 1

HC N3 Diamond 2

So how does Spain’s timeshare laws compare with elsewhere?

During the early days in Europe, timeshare was virtually unregulated, know one actually knew what it was, was it real estate, as that is how it was “sold” to the public, a share in your own holiday home, or was it purely a holiday product which was not an investment?

The free for all lasted some years, then the European Union issued the first of many Timeshare Directives, these were to try and regulate the industry, with the directives supposedly being put into the domestic laws of each member state. Basically all singing off the same hymn sheet!

In some countries, the directives were very much watered down, the industry trade body The RDO and the “representing” owners body TATOC, (now defunct), successfully lobbied the UK parliament and those laws are probably the weakest in Europe, they tend to be in favour of the industry not the consumer.

Spain on the other hand had a very different approach, which in some respects is not that surprising. Spain was one of the major places for timeshare development, they had just recently found freedom and democracy, with the country in dire need of development. The building of resorts and the tourist industry was one of the most important factors in this development.

The unfortunate thing is the free run timeshare developers had, timeshare was being sold even before the resorts were actually started, known as off plan. Many consumers got stung in these enterprises, with the resort they paid for never even getting built.

People on holiday were being picked up off the street left right and center, taken to sales presentations and coerced into parting with huge sums of money. Spain’s reputation as a great holiday destination was being sullied by these practices.

That all changed in December 1998, when the government introduced Law 42/98, based on the EU Timeshare Directives, but stronger. Spain was going to have the strongest laws in Europe and this was going to hurt the industry if they didn’t comply.

The law became effective on 5 January 1999, although they did allow a period where the timeshare companies could get their house in order and comply. One aspect of the law was regarding the duration of the contract, before, these were sold in perpetuity, there was no end date. The law now demanded that contracts be for a duration of a minimum 3 years and maximum of 50 years. Timeshare companies were allowed to place a deed of adaptation to all contracts sold before the law came into place, this allowed the pre 99 perpetuity contracts to remain, but all new sales must conform.

Many ignored this, on advice from their lawyers many continued to sell perpetuity, citing the deed of adaptation as the basis for carrying on. This obviously was one point that needed to be tested in the Supreme Court, but that would be many years ahead.

As a point of interest, there were two countries where timeshare laws only allowed for a maximum of 30 years on contracts, they are Madeira and Malta. Those had been put into place right at the start of timeshare development.

Another aspect of the law which Spain has put into place is the illegality of the Floating Weeks and Points systems. According the the Supreme Court they have ruled the timeshare law clearly states that any contract must have substance and tangibility, in other words the guarantee of the apartment and the week being sold. Floating weeks and points do not do this, you only have a right to use subject to availability.

So how does this compare with our friends experience across the Great Lake in the US?

Well from the many articles we have published on Inside Timeshare, they are sadly lacking any control or real consumer protection, it is pot luck which State you have purchased as to what protection you have. There appear to be no Federal Laws governing the sale of timeshare.

In Europe we have the 14 day cooling off period, where no payments should be taken and the consumer has the right to cancel, in some States we have been informed this can be as little as 3 days!

From what we have published, there are so many different agencies and authorities for the consumer to turn to, from Attorneys General (that depends on which State you are in) to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI. (See link below on filing a complaint).

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

We are seeing many complaints coming into Inside Timeshare on the practises of sales agents, which the timeshare companies seem to condone. There needs to be regulations to govern what is acceptable and what is not, these should be right across the board so that no matter which State you purchase in, the rules are the same for all.

Canada is preparing new legislation on the regulation of timeshare, we hope to bring you news of this from our Canadian readers in the near future.

South Africa is also pushing for changes, there have been several high profile cases against the timeshare industry, resulting in jail time and massive fines. It will not be long before they also have some of the strongest laws regulating timeshare in the world.

In Australia, there is also a move to regulate the timeshare industry, we have published in the past a couple of articles on timeshare down under. Again we wait for our Antipedian friends to submit their articles.

There is nothing wrong with the concept of timeshare, it may not suit everybody, after all we are all different, but it is how it is sold and administered that is the problem. For too long the industry has and in many cases, the US in particular, still carries on as though they are untouchable.

Diamond believed this in Spain, these cases highlighted today and those in the past along with the many more waiting to be heard, are letting them know that they are not above the law and will be curbed and brought to justice. Consumer protection is paramount in any industry, after all it is the consumer’s money that keeps any company afloat!

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

Are you being contacted by different companies offering claims or relinquishments? If so and you are not sure if they are genuine and will do what they say, then contact Inside Timeshare, we will help you look for the information and point you in the right direction.

Tomorrow we publish an article by a new contributor, Diane Creager and titled Elder Advocates, so join us tomorrow and welcome Diane.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

This week’s Tuesday Slot we publish a revised article on How to File a Complaint, but first a quick word on the article yesterday and the post on Timeshare Talk by Mr William Dobbs. We have had several emails from readers venting there disgust at the use of Ian Smart’s name considering he passed away.

Mr Dobbs you should think very carefully at what you write and who about, to use the name of a deceased person who cannot speak or defend himself is the lowest of the low. I have had emails from his personal friends and family, all demand the removal of his name and for you Mr Dobbs to publish an apology.

It is also clear that you have no idea what you are saying or writing, yes I do know many of the people on that list, after all it is my job to know, but much of it is so out of date it is laughable. One person who you mention as sales at Palm Oasis, has not even been in the industry for at least 15 years and as we stated yesterday, in any industry people will be acquainted with each other. So Mr Dobbs will his family and friends get the apology?

Now on with today’s article.

How to File a Timeshare Complaint (July 17, 2018 revision)

  

Start with the Attorneys General

If necessary, continue to the FBI at IC3.gov

Finish with the Federal Trade Commission, if Section 5 is violated

FTC Unfair Practices

An act or practice is unfair where it

  • causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers;
  • cannot be reasonably avoided by consumers; and
  • is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition.

FTC Deceptive Practices

An act or practice is deceptive where

  • a representation, omission, or practice misleads or is likely to mislead the consumer;
  • a consumer’s interpretation of the representation, omission, or practice is considered reasonable under the circumstances; and
  • the misleading representation, omission, or practice is material.

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/supmanual/cch/ftca.pdf

“I was told that in order to be released from a timeshare I had owned for years, which was a deeded timeshare week, I had to turn the deed into points. Believing the sales agent, on June 19th I bought $12,000 worth of points for no reason. A few weeks after purchase I learned through Social Media the company has a voluntary surrender program.” (Example of an actual complaint)

Inside Timeshare has received 499 U.S. timeshare complaints as of July 16, 2018. All but a handful of complainants allege they had been sold a timeshare by deception. In all but a few cases, the member was dismissed with “You signed a contract” or “It doesn’t matter what the sales agent said.” If timeshare companies would acknowledge that some timeshare sales agents do intentionally mislead the consumer, there would be no need to file complaints and no reason for the existence of member supported advocacy groups.

According to FBI agents and lawyers our advocates have consulted, it is not legal to hide behind fine print, but it takes volumes of complaints to raise a regulator’s eyebrow. The Federal Trade Commission released its 2017 complaint report, listing travel, vacation, and timeshare as one of the most costly frauds at $1,710. Our reader complaints dollar amounts range from $4,000 to $400,000 or more. We wish members were only losing $1,710. Inside Timeshare has received complaints from 61 veterans and active duty military and law enforcement.   

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/

Timeshare Members need to be especially vigilant about “Get you out of your timeshare” firms because many are scams. Some are not. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ (TAG) has a scam research team formed by members who have themselves been scammed. This 15 page US Department of Justice timeshare scam report illustrates the seriousness and extent of the problem, caused by the lack of a viable secondary market. Timeshare company annual and quarterly reports have mentioned a viable secondary market as a risk to investors.    

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

Advocates for reform feel the problems that exist in the industry today are caused by an overreliance on the oral representation clause, iron clad developer based contracts, the lack of an adequate secondary market, and limited enforcement. We don’t dispute there are many who use and enjoy their timeshare and many sales agents who sell the product properly, but here are the most common timeshare complaints reported by our readers:

  • The agent said I could easily sell my points,
  • The agent overstated the value of travel awards to pay for airline tickets, or the use of a travel credit card to pay maintenance fees,
  • The agent said I had to give up my deeded timeshare and buy points,
  • The agent said I have to give up my deed and buy points (or buy enough points to get to the next loyalty level) or my heirs will be burdened,
  • The rescission clause was dodged because the agent said the (bogus) program would not be available until after the first of the year, or we were  not allowed access to the booking site until after the rescission period.

To begin your complaint, raise your right hand.

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

Information Needed to File a Timeshare Complaint

Name (s) and age of member

Phone Number

State of Residence

Member Number

For each contract in dispute:

Where Purchased and Date of Purchase

Number of Points Purchased

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Down Payment

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Loan Number

Current Loan Balance

Name of Credit Card if one was used to pay the down payment

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

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

Complaints expressing dissatisfaction with general availability will go unheeded as will a request based on not being able to afford the timeshare. If you feel you were deceived, list the reasons why. If there was no deceit, ask for relinquishment. Maintenance fees must be current and there can be no loan outstanding. Just like your personal residence, you can’t go to your home mortgage lender and say you can’t afford it. The difference is you can sell your home if there is an outstanding loan.  

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

It is better to state your narrative as a narrative referring back to the contracts and figures at the top of your complaint. Begin with when you first became involved with the company and proceed chronologically. Keep your history brief up to the point when things began to go wrong.

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

Mark your email to the resort urgent if you are in financial distress. It is best to file a complaint before the debt collectors are hounding. If one of our advocates is assisting the member, the member will report back to us if the issue is resolved. Due to the required non-disclosure, terms and conditions will not be discussed.

Attorneys General

If the resort has dismissed your complaint, the next step is to file a complaint with the Attorney General of the state where you signed your contract. It can take sometimes a month to hear back from an AG but once your complaint has been accepted, debt collectors are not allowed to call. You can find any Attorney General by searching the state name and Attorney General. Some states will direct you to the real estate or consumer division. You should file a complaint with the state Real Estate Division against the agent if the agent was deceptive. Not all states require timeshare sales agents be real estate licensed.     

We have determined, based on reports from our readers, some Attorneys General walk lockstep with the developer, responding to complaints with, “You should not have relied on verbal representations.” Thus, in those states, the consumer is out in the cold and at the mercy of the developer’s decision. In other states, Attorneys General have opened investigations and reached settlements based on a volume of complaints and a pattern of consistent reports of deceptive behavior.

The FBI

Any complaint reported to the FBI should be of a more egregious nature. “They promised me a free cruise but it wasn’t free” is an example of a complaint that is not serious enough for the FBI. Our opening example, describing a buyer told they had to give up their timeshare deed when that was not necessary, would merit an IC3.gov report. To determine if your complaint is serious enough to file an FBI complaint, review the FBI definitions of criminal acts:  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

  • The Attorney General’s office where you signed your contract. Most AG complaints can be filed online.
  • The Real Estate Division of the state where the agent is licensed if your complaint is against the agent.
  • The FBI at IC3.gov portal if you feel you were deceived. For allegations of a serious nature you may also contact an FBI field office to file a tip orally. Have your facts and figures ready. The FBI complaint website is called IC3.gov which stands for Internet Crime. This is a bit confusing. IC is the name of the portal. That doesn’t mean it has to be an internet crime. Click IC3 as your choice when filing. Sometimes your local field office will pay closer attention than say Las Vegas, where losing money is a tourist attraction. You can find your nearest field office from this website. https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
  • The Federal Trade Commission is one of the most important agencies to file with, because it is federal. Most states have incorporated a portion of the FTC’s “Unfair and Deceptive Trade Act” in their state law.   
  • The media – the court of public opinion is often the only court available. Inside Timeshare, published in Spain, welcomes member submissions, positive or negative.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for credit card or lending complaints, under the mortgage option (even if no mortgage), selecting the bank involved. Timeshare has dodged this regulatory bullet because most members don’t know the identity of the lender as the timeshare company often services the loan (Timeshare companies are not an option from the CFPB’s drop-down menu). CFPB is the organization that helped Wells Fargo victims. The CFPB lost influence after the roll back of the Dodd Frank act March 2018. The Dodd Frank act was enacted after the abuses caused by subprime lending. The CFPB is still considered a regulator. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The company’s BBB rating can be misleading in that the BBB only rates how efficiently a company responds to complaints. Sometimes the BBB allows you to log in and file a rebuttal. If you file a complaint, a review is not allowed. We have received complaints from members reporting that a company representative called, saying the message is time sensitive, but does not answer the phone when the member repeatedly tries to call back. We suspect this boosts the company BBB rating because the company can report, “We reached out.”
  • Lawmakers – The problem is the timeshare buyer typically does not buy in their state of residence which is why lawmakers don’t seem to take timeshare seriously. Still, any effort to contact lawmakers is encouraged.

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

Depending on the seriousness of your complaint, you may forward your complaint to the firm’s public relations office or firm and to ARDA, the timeshare industry’s PAC, for violating ARDA’s Code of Ethics. ARDA’s Code of Ethics can be found on ARDA’s website. ARDA ROC does not mediate disputes, but ARDA does have a Code of Ethics. Due to lack of response to about 200 of the more serious complaints we sent to ARDA, we do not recommend owners make the voluntary “opt in” or “opt out” ARDA ROC donation on your maintenance fee invoice. Not one of the members we questioned knew what ARDA ROC stands for, yet collectively gives ARDA ROC about $5 million a year. It is the opinion of our advocates, that although ARDA lobbies for the industry and for timeshare members, when the issue at stake is one that is at odds with members, members lose because they have no voice.

You may also forward your complaint to the Association of Vacation Owners. AVO has been tracking our complaints for research purposes. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-3/

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

Who We Are and Why We Do This

Our advocates are not attorneys and we do not provide legal advice. We have researched regulatory agencies and are here to direct consumers to the appropriate regulatory and law enforcement agencies. The right to file a regulatory complaint is the right of every citizen who feels they have been wronged.  

It’s a good idea to contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out whether your timeshare has a secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Venting on complaint sites has no effect whatsoever but an organized campaign to track complaints and report alleged fraud has already born fruit in the form of Attorneys General investigations and greater public awareness.

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

Contact Inside Timeshare or email Irene Parker at

[email protected] or call 270-303-7572 EST if you are interested in becoming a volunteer. Feel free to call any day of the week from 1:00 to 5:00 PM EST. It’s best to schedule a call. All calls and emails are returned within 24/48 hours.  If your email is not returned, please resend and send a text message.

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

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

http://tug2.net/

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

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

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

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

July 7, 2018 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy Group™     

Related article: FTC Section 5

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-12/

That’s it for today, you now have all the information to be able to file a complaint, if you need any help with this or want to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, then use our contact page and we will point you in the right direction.

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.

Tuesday Slot with Irene

Inside Timeshare publishes members accounts of sales presentations.

The reason we publish members accounts is because all but a few members report back to us that their claims of false promises made to sell them timeshare points, which they call lies, are being met with “You signed a contract” or “We’re not responsible for what sales agents say.”

That’s fine if that is the official position at  some timeshare companies, but the public needs to be made aware of the FACT that their complaints, in almost all of the 483 reported (as of the end of 2nd quarter 2018, were met with “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.”

The last thing we want to do is throw out the baby with the bathwater, lumping a fine timeshare company like Disney, into the tub of timeshare companies we feel need to improve sales and marketing practices.  

Please take the time to read decorated Marine veteran, John Collick, 100% disabled, his bio, and ask yourself “Who should I believe?”  

Now on to our U.S. British 4th of July edition of Inside Timeshare, submitted by John Collick and by Irene Parker.

Introducing Timeshare Advocacy Group™

Military Team Leader John Collick, and Military Team members:

George Yamada

Teresa Laird

Angela Sandstede

July 3, 2017

By John Collick, First Sergeant, USMC (Retired), and Irene Parker

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, the day Americans celebrate Independence from …. England. England and the US were once enemies, but now allies and friends. If two countries can resolve their differences, maybe timeshare developers can heal their relationship with 483 angry timeshare families that have reached out to Inside Timeshare for help. Like freedom, customer relationships must be daily earned and refreshed.  Four veterans share their allegations of deceit and frustration over the lack of timeshare enforcement.

There is no federal timeshare enforcement on the front end of the timeshare sale, and little to no enforcement in states where the Attorney General also falls back on the oral representation clause. Some Attorneys General conducted investigations based on members’ reports, but others, like Florida, mimic the timeshare developer’s response to complaints, “You signed a contract.”

Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s (DBPR)

The department’s response to all complaints we have directed to DBPR

As you are aware, alleged verbal misrepresentations are very difficult to prove in light of the written documents and disclosures.  In terms of evidence we rely on these documents to prove or disprove the allegations. The actions taken by other state agencies are not evidence of the alleged misrepresentations related to the sales transactions conducted in Florida.  

This is exactly why we need a media outreach campaign to let the consumer know how any complaint that begins with “The sales agent said….” will be received. In essence, the Florida Timeshare Division, DBPR, does little to stop the deceit. False verbal representations made by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents are allowed to continue unchecked. Repeat offenders receive awards.   

The Florida DBPR demands proof. What would be the proof? Florida is one of only a few states that require both parties be aware of a recording of an in-person sales presentation. Most states allow a consumer to record an in-person meeting without the other participant aware.

http://www.diligentiagroup.com/legal-investigation/private-investigator-tips-is-it-legal-to-record-a-phone-call-or-conversation/

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau helped Wells Fargo victims, but timeshare members, even in the CFPB’s heyday, could not effectively file a CFPB complaint. This was because borrowers filing a CFPB complaint are required to select a lender from the CFPB menu. Many timeshare borrowers don’t even know who the lender is, as the timeshare company services their loan. A timeshare company is not a choice on the CFPB’s drop-down menu.

We know there are millions who use and enjoy their timeshare points, but 483 families have described to Inside Timeshare how they were deceived by false statements and promises. Such tactics are illegal in the eyes of the FBI, described as white-collar crime – deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.          

It is particularly disturbing to hear reports from 51 veterans, active duty military and law enforcement members. Several active duty military are worried about losing their security clearances due to timeshare foreclosure. Recent victims #50 and #51 are a police officer and a deputy.

John Collick, First Sergeant, USMC (Retired), 100% disabled, shares his timeshare experience. John is working on an article about his timeshare experience that he intends to submit to the DOD Inspector General and to the Military Times newspapers: Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Times.   

Several other veterans and members of veterans’ families have come forward to assist John in his efforts, including:

  • George Yamada, Vietnam Army veteran 70% disabled due to Agent Orange,
  • Teresa Laird, her dad Raymond Mori, a two time Purple Heart recipient, alleging he and his wife were up-sold into timeshare foreclosure,
  • Angela Sandstede, her dad a Navy veteran, up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments, living on his letter carrier’s pension, now facing foreclosure.

John’s bio

John has a long and distinguished career as an Intelligence Specialist, both as a Marine and a federal employee. John was a Terrorism Analyst for the Navy in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; later became the Coast Guard’s Senior Threat Analyst, where he wrote a protocol for identifying risks and threats in the maritime domain. When this was implemented in the Port of Boston, it saved the city, state, and federal governments several million dollars. The port recently used that protocol while conducting a live shooter drill, with success.

John held a Top Secret SCI clearance for over 35 years; in addition to those identified above, he was also a Supervisory Intelligence Specialist at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a Senior Intelligence Research Specialist, responsible for developing a process for vetting Syrian refugees at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Department of Defense HUMINT Issues Manager for Yemen. In this position, he was responsible for coordinating all classified activities concerning U.S. interests in Yemen.

Timeshare and the Military

Using his experience as a Marine First Sergeant, Mr. Collick advised that the Navy Criminal Investigation Service, Army Criminal Investigation Division, Air Force Office of Special Investigation and Coast Guard Investigation Service are responsible for investigating crimes against their service personnel, especially if it appears endemic. Although it is usually accomplished at the base commander level, any of the military service headquarters have the authority to place any business on the “off limits” list if it appears that their business practices are hurting military personnel. If endemic throughout the country, the Joint Chiefs could do the same. John has been reaching out to active duty members and others, gathering reports for his research and articles.

John is married with four kids; a 31 year old daughter, also a disabled veteran; a 27 year old son, an active duty Army officer; a 15 year old daughter in high school; and a 13 year old son, with Downs Syndrome, who has the mentality of an 18 month old.

His personal awards from military service include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Arctic Service Medal, Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and Combat Action Ribbon. He was also awarded the Navy’s Civilian Commendation Medal, for his role in translating documents and identifying previously unknown terrorists in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

By John Collick

It is my intention to reach out to the military and others in an effort to warn the military and the public at large that timeshare sales agents are, according to our experience, encouraged to make any false claim necessary to sell vacation points. We purchased our timeshare in Florida.

We were told by a Diamond Resorts sales agent, that we needed to purchase Diamond vacation points to ensure our weeks owned at The Colonies in Williamsburg VA timeshare didn’t lose value. The salesman, Mr. Stephen Kim, stated this was necessary because Diamond Resorts was in the process of acquiring The Colonies. We had recently upgraded to four weeks at The Colonies, so had no intention of making further changes in our vacation program until we received this false information. Mr. Kim said the points would be much cheaper if we purchased before Diamond acquired The Colonies because after the acquisition, the price per point will increase significantly. It wasn’t until a year later, after we purchased a Platinum membership at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes in Florida, we learned The Colonies was not to be acquired by Diamond Resorts – or any other company.

I filed a complaint with Diamond requesting the contract be rescinded. Diamond’s Hospitality agent responded, “Diamond is not responsible for what our sales agents say.” The FBI agents I spoke with, and attorneys have confirmed, hiding behind fine print is not legal, but with no enforcement, deception continues unchecked.   

We attended a mandatory orientation presentation at Mystic Dunes after our first purchase of Diamond points in Williamsburg VA. I asked sales agent Rida about Mr. Kim’s statement that Diamond was in the process of acquiring The Colonies. She said that she hadn’t brought it up because it hadn’t been made public.

We were also told we could use our Diamond points for amusement parks, concerts, the theatre, airplane travel, etc., only to learn airline travel was the only item mentioned for which points could be used, but even that was of little value.

All our timeshare experience has been with The Colonies of Williamsburg. They always told us the truth, not what they wanted us to believe. We have no desire to ever sell The Colonies of Williamsburg timeshare, but have every intention of ridding ourselves of Diamond Resorts.

Other veterans facing timeshare foreclosure, George Yamada, Roy Simmons, Raymond Mori  

George Yamada

Vietnam Army veteran 70% disabled

I work as a pension administrator. I was told the timeshare points I purchased were an investment. The first few purchases I made were based on the vacation experience but there is no question the last purchases were made because I was told the price per point had appreciated and was expected to continue to appreciate.

Angela Sandstede

My father, Roy Simmons, is a Navy Veteran. He had been happy with his timeshare points, but was up-sold to the point we are concerned about my parents losing their home if they have to file for bankruptcy. We made a YouTube hoping someone would listen and we will be reaching out to our Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson. My dad retired on a letter carrier’s pension. My parents were up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payment.

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

Teresa Laird

My father, Raymond Mori, also a Marine veteran, earned two Purple Hearts. My parents were sold a trial package, despite being timeshare members of this company for years. When I asked the company to cancel the purchase, they would not talk to me, insisting they had to talk to my parents. They “fixed” it by selling them 17,000 more points. When I went with them to Las Vegas, the agents there tried to sell them $234,000 in additional points at age 83, while my dad was dozing off in his wheelchair. Had I not been there, I feel they would have signed.    

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

Whistleblowers of America reviewed several timeshare complaints reported by veterans and active duty personnel. They presented our timeshare fraud report to the Joint Committee of Veteran’s Affairs March 14, 2018.    

Anyone helped by our advocacy efforts is encouraged to make a donation to WoA.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Thank you John and Irene, the number of complaints that we have received from military and law enforcement personnel is only the of the proverbial iceberg, there are many more who have had the same experience but have as yet not found who to go to.

Inside Timeshare will continue to publish these stories, they may not be popular with the industry, but the 4th July is about the freedom to express yourself, if you believe you have been wronged then is in not your right to speak up?

To all our friends and readers in the United States we from Europe wish you a very happy 4th July.

Fridays Letter from America

Welcome to our Friday’s Letter from America, Irene Parker continues our theme of “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, with this latest article about the treatment of “Seniors” by the timeshare industry. This article edited by Irene is from another new contributor Jang Park.

But first the latest breaking news from Europe.

Legal history has once again been made in Spain, the Supreme Court has issued another two judgements, numbers 121 & 122. These cases again involved the Tenerife timeshare operator Silverpoint, who has figured in a huge number of cases in the past year. They are also losing on an almost daily basis in the lower courts in Tenerife, this is a result of years of malpractice in the sales of their timeshare product which has seen hundreds of consumers lose thousands of Euros each. (See yesterday’s article, Silverpoint in the Courts: Criminal Action Vs Civil Action).

This weeks court figures are what can only be described as impressive, along with the two Supreme Court results there has also been the following:

In the Courts of First Instance in Maspalomas, Anfi del Mar has had EIGHT rulings made against them.

Silverpoint have also figured in the lower courts.

In the Courts of First Instance in Arona, Tenerife, Silverpoint has lost FIVE cases.

They have also lost in TWO cases in the High Court in Santa Cruz, Tenerife.

Diamond Resorts Europe Ltd have also lost TWO cases:

In the High Court number 3 of Santa Cruz, Tenerife, this court upheld the previous sentence from the Court of First Instance in Granadilla de Abona, which Diamond appealed.

In the Court of First Instance in Granadilla de Abona, Tenerife the client has been awarded over 24,000€, which also includes double the deposit illegally taken within the cooling off period. This particular case is interesting in that the company named is Sunterra Tenerife Sales SL, but under Spanish law Diamond are liable as they took over Sunterra members when buying out Sunterra years ago.

(See PDF files of the court sentences below).

Diamond 1st Instance

Diamond High Court

As usual all the contracts have also been declared null and void, leaving all clients timeshare free.

In all that is an incredible NINETEEN victories, totaling a massive 851,215.00€. This can only be described as a very expensive week for timeshare in the Canary Islands.

These cases were brought on behalf of these clients by the Gran Canarian law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. This does prove that despite what the industry is trying to tell people, these cases are genuine and the timeshare industry is losing.

Below is a video from a Spanish news program aired in December 2017 by TVE, which is the major state owned television station in Spain. It explains the Anfi appeal at the Supreme Court against a High Court ruling which they lost on the illegal taking of deposits. The Supreme Court rejected the Anfi argument that it did not take the deposits as these were paid to a third party. The Supreme Court rejected this appeal as the law clearly states that no money is to be taken within the cooling off period, even by a third party. (Law 42/98 Article 11 & Law 4/12 Article 13).

The video is in Spanish and is subtitled in English, it also has a short interview with Eva Gutierrez a lawyer from Canarian Legal Alliance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of9a5iX3Mmg

In other news, last month the RDO (Resorts Development Organisation) announced that it was working with the Alliance of International Property Owners, to replace the discredited and defunct owners association TATOC.

This association is to be totally independent of the timeshare industry, it does represent those who own outright their properties abroad, so let us hope they will be more effective in protecting timeshare owners and helping to change the industry for the better.

Now for our Letter from America.

Another Senior Couple, Age 82, Driven into Timeshare Foreclosure

By Jang Park

June 15, 2018  

I am 82 years old, a California resident and a Korean American since 1978. I worked for a steamship company as an owner representative.

I submitted my complaint to my timeshare company March 31, 2018. I received a refusal from the company yesterday, June 13, 2018. I have asked Inside Timeshare to help me prepare an article to warn other seniors. I was a deeded owner for almost 20 years.We were happy with our timeshare.

We were willing to remain a timeshare member with this company if our last contract for 5,000 points, for which we paid $20,000, would be cancelled. We strongly feel these points were sold by deception.  Now we have to seek the help of an attorney or foreclose, but will work through Inside Timeshare to make sure we talk to the right people. We understand there are a lot of scams that offer to get you out of your timeshare but don’t. I will be filing the following complaints assisted by advocates. I have been told there is no charge to me for this assistance.

First: California Real Estate Division against the California sales agent  

Assisted by my CA Advocate

Second: Better Business Bureau – Assisted by my NV Advocate

FBI, resubmitted due to now six complaints against this sales agent

Federal Trade Commission

AARPhttp://AARP

I have learned through the advocacy group we are the sixth member to complain against this same California timeshare sales agent. I am #6.

Complaint #1  

RB, a veteran “We upgraded in California ONLY because this sales agent said our heirs would not be liable for maintenance fees if we gave up our deed. The sales agent said he used to be a financial advisor. We bought 15,000 points for no other reason. We now know that the survivor benefit already existed. We lost $13,000.

RB worked as a contract specialist for Consolidated Edison. “I know, but when you buy cars and houses all your life, you don’t expect the real estate agent sitting across from you to be a bold faced liar,” he remarked.  

The agent said he would have to look at our contract, but our heirs would likely be responsible for the timeshare. I told him I would be willing to hire an attorney to fight that. He indicated it would be futile to do so as my timeshare company has top notch attorneys and we would not be able to win the case. He then said if we upgraded by buying 15,000 more points, we could avoid those issues. He also said the contract would be an annually renewable contract that we could walk away from at some future time.  

We were led to believe we could pay all our maintenance fees by opening their credit card and charging purchases. We later learned we would receive only $50 credit for qualified purchased for every $5,000.

Compliant #2 Ages 70 and 68 (resolved)

JM, Disabled Vietnam Veteran

First points purchased June 27, 2012

10,000 additional points purchased for $12,500

15,000 additional points purchased for $13,903

Number of points per contract:  30,000

Original Loan Amount: $49,900 @ 12.2441%

We feel we were deceived by the sales staff.  We had been deeded owners since 2001.

On 1/13/2017, we were asked to purchase a trial package. This sales agent advised us that our additional 15,000 points combined with our original 15,000 points would be worth $9,000.  He stated that the value of our points could be applied to pay our maintenance fees. We learned only some members can pay maintenance fees with points at only $.04 per point. He stated that we could take any points we did not use and apply them towards our maintenance fees. He then spoke of the opportunity to earn an additional $2,700 towards our maintenance fees by using the Barclay Credit Card. We learned we would have to charge over $270,000 annually to earn $2,700 towards our maintenance fees.

The sales agent said that with the few points we owned we would be stuck with the contract as well as our heirs, but said if we upgraded, our heirs would be released. He said there would be a letter in our packet stating this. There was no letter.

We were told that the bank would contact us with an interest rate change to 6% from the contracted amount of 12.2441%. That did not happen.

In a phone call they said they had no reason to cancel our contract and that we never mentioned being told that we could sell our points to pay for maintenance fees.

The 6/26/17 written response from the company not marked confidential.

You were in fact properly advised on the fee structure of your ownership per your contract. The findings also went on to confirm through the use of Barclays and the use of Member benefits you can reduce or apply redemption gained back by your choice to your maintenance cost. They found an area of miscommunication regarding your heirs being liable. The information conveyed (but in contradiction to the sales agent) explained that no one is bound to ownership. The on-going correspondence referenced has been forwarded and we have now provided you with a summary of those correspondences in the details aforementioned. Please feel free again to let any of us or myself of course know any other questions you might have.

Complaint #3 GB

7000 points purchased August 2016

Purchase price: $22,975.20

I told this CA sales agent I wanted to sell our timeshare points online to pay for the maintenance fees and loan payment.  He said it wasn’t allowed but he would privately show me how to do this and gave me his cell number. I called numerous times and he never answered. He told us when we upgraded we would have access to multi-million dollar homes. He said we could rent those for a week @ $10.000 and he would show me how when I called his cell.

Complaint #4 AP

1500 points purchased for $6,975 at an October 2016

The presenter said we were not full members and we should have received a letter to go to full membership. We never received a letter.  He then gave us an option of a deal that would only be good right then but we would have to buy 1500 more points to become full members. He made this seem like a huge deal because upper management would not want to give us this deal but they were working with us so that we would be happy.  He informed us that what we had was worth nothing now and we would have to upgrade to be able to use any benefits.

#5 DT, over 85 years old

40,000 points purchased December 2017 for $116,400

Amount financed: $93,870

Maintenance fees $13,000

At the December meeting we were told we could pay all our maintenance fees turning in points. When we contacted the company we were told that we could only pay $2,000 of the maintenance fees turning in 50,000 points.

We were told we could give it up and walk away if we purchased more points.

I am complaint #6 against this same sales agent

I purchased 5000 points for $20,000. The California sales agent told me I could pay maintenance fees by redeeming points at $.20 per point through the 20/20 program. I confirmed this more than five times with his agreeing when I said there should be some $250 left over after paying our new maintenance fees of about $2,800 with his writing down on the working paper, which he refused to give me after the presentation when I asked.

He said if we get their sponsored Visa Card, they will put $1,000 cash to our credit card account as an Honored Member. When we said we will have two cards, each for me and wife, he said $500.00 of cash will be credited to each account. It was not so important benefit compared with above no. 1, but was found a lie.

The sales agent said we can exit from Timeshare Ownership at any time without any obligation, which his manager confirmed true.

In 2015 we gave up our deeded timeshare. We were told there is no cap on maintenance fees for people who hold a deed. This was not true. We were told there is a 5% cap on maintenance fees increases for points if we gave up our deed. This is not true. We purchased 10,000 points. The sales agent said we could sell the points if we needed to. He gave me the name of a company that could sell the timeshare if we needed to.

The agent said it is almost impossible to sell a deeded timeshare, but timeshare points can be sold easily for about $15,000. He checked with IPhone and gave the following companies to me:

  • Steve Likins – Hilton Head & timeshare sales, 843-816-1900
  • Jimmy ; 706-839-7798
  • Timeshare Resale USA.com; 407 345 9333

We tried to sell our timeshare, and attended about five times, timeshare exit companies’ presentation, but we found all of them asked some fees to get exit.

Thank you to Mr. Park and to all members hoping the public gets the Buyer Beware and do your homework message.

Self-help groups for timeshare members.

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 Jang for your story, it is one we have become so familiar with over the past year or so, ever since we highlighted our first seniors article, we have been receiving a constant stream of similar complaints.

As we have said before, the industry is destroying itself by allowing their employees to lie and cheat, then take no responsibility for those actions. We keep hearing from all quarters, “ We are not responsible for what our sales agent say”. That is the weakest get out imaginable, they are your employees, they are selling your product, they represent your company. It is about time you as an industry took responsibility and changed for the better.

Timeshare could be a good product, the complaints are around the sales not the resorts, accommodation or the resort staff, in this area it looks like the vast majority are happy owners / members.

We are not against business, but we are against business purely for greed, which is what the timeshare industry has turned into.

If you have any comments or questions about any subject in this article or any others published, then use the contact page and get in touch. If you are from the US you will be passed to our team coordinated by Irene. For those in Europe then you will be contacted directly from Inside Timeshare.

As usual we warn you to be vigilant when dealing with any company that contacts you or one that you have found on the internet, do your homework, check, check and check again. If you are unsure how to check, or you are not sure if what you are seeing is true, then contact Inside Timeshare, we are here to help and guide.

That’s it for this week, Friday is here, happy hour is calling, so have a good weekend and join us for more news from the world of timeshare next week.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot, in this article by Irene Parker looks at the Seniors vs Crime project, but first another warning to our UK and European readers.

We have recently been reporting about the activities of a bogus law firm called Abogados Lopez, apparently working out of Malaga, well they are still at it.

They contact clients who have cases running against their timeshare resorts, the information they have seems to be fairly accurate, they ask for confirmation of details and explain that this is so they can put the case before the court within the next day or so.

A few days later a Hope Brugge or Megan Haywood calls with the wonderful news that the case has been won and that the court has awarded a substantial amount, but a fee to release the funds from the court is required. Depending on the amount awarded it is around £1000 to be paid by bank Transfer to the lawyer.

Two names have been reported for the account holder, Kingsley Ehigiator in Malaga and Isidro Palm Perez in Barcelona.

We have also now been informed that a second call from a Paul Tyler or Taylor, this time he needs a payment of 7% of the awarded amount to pay the fees for the bank transfer.

Again this is a scam and this is not a bona fide law firm, somehow they have stolen sensitive data and are using it to defraud timeshare owners.

Now for today’s article.

The Florida Attorney General’s Seniors vs Crime Project

Can the “Senior Sleuths” help timeshare fraud victims?

Perhaps even more important than the raw numbers is the psychological and emotional impact of crime on our older citizen.

By Irene Parker

June 12, 2018

The Florida Attorney General’s Seniors vs Crime Senior Sleuths act as “eyes and ears” of the Attorney General’s Office and local law enforcement by reporting on scams, high pressure sales techniques, false or misleading advertisement, or other deceptive or illegal activity. There is similarity in cases the Senior Sleuths have pursued and the 459 timeshare complaints Inside Timeshare has received.   

The senior timeshare buyers described below fell victim to “Defend against scams” points: #2 #3 #4 and #5. Following their case, we compare two Senior Sleuth cases and show how the crimes described are similar to timeshare crime. The FBI defines white-collar crime as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.”     

Reader complaint #452 was submitted by their son Eric. We have not identified the family or the company to allow the company time to respond to the complaint.

My parents are both 78 years old. My father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My mother is hard of hearing. Points were purchased in Florida at a hotel presentation and at a later date in Virginia. They were pressured for six hours in Florida, told the price was time sensitive. They signed electronically, despite having no computer skills.

In Virginia they dealt with seven sales agents who kept them for seven hours. My parents told the agents they had limited savings and could not afford the second purchase.  My mother said she started to cry. The sales agent said they had not purchased enough points the first time so they would lose everything if they did not buy more points and that the price per point would increase if they did not buy that day. My parents have never used the points. They cannot travel because this has caused their health to deteriorate. The $27,000 they spent represents all their savings. The first purchase of $13,000 has been paid in full. The balance is a loan.

We will be filing a complaint with the Florida Attorney General and the Virginia Attorney General, although I’ve learned through Social Media they will in all likelihood dismiss the complaint for lack of proof.  

The reason this meets the definition of fraud is because the couple did purchase enough points to be able to stay a week at a resort. They might have trouble booking Hawaii or the California coast, but there are many locations they could have stayed at with the number of points first purchased. In addition, they could bank their points into the next year and have double the points, easily covering a week’s stay. The complaint of being told the member did not buy enough points is a common ploy. “I can’t believe they sold you so few points! You can’t stay anywhere with only THAT many points!”

There would have been no trouble going back the next day, buying at the same price as the day before. This would at least have given Eric’s parents time to talk it over with Eric or with a financial advisor.  

Based on reports from members filing timeshare complaints, in all likelihood the company will respond, “We are not responsible for what our sales agent say,” falling back on the oral representation clause. Given the company’s response and the Florida Timeshare Division and Virginia Timeshare Division’s likely response, “You have no proof,” as our readers have reported back to us, timeshare sales agents are thereby encouraged to misrepresent. In effect, there is no timeshare regulatory enforcement in some states.

Senior Sleuths

“The Attorney General’s strong support for the Project, and dedication to helping consumers, ensures that those who fall victim to unethical business practices or frauds will have someone and somewhere to turn for help.”

This has not come to fruition for our readers complaining to the Florida and Virginia Timeshare Divisions. Maybe Senior Sleuths can help. Give them a try if you bought in Florida or live in Florida.

Once again we are left with public awareness as our only consumer protection.

From the Florida Bar Journal

“The Commission will find deception if there is a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances, to the consumer’s detriment.”

The Third DCA confirmed that the standard requires proof of probable, not possible, deception; that the potential deception must be of consumers acting reasonably in the circumstances, not just any consumers; and that the deception must be likely to cause injury to a reasonable relying consumer.

https://www.floridabar.org/news/tfb-journal/?durl=/DIVCOM%2FJN%2FJNJournal01%2Ensf%2F76d28aa8f2ee03e185256aa9005d8d9a%2F1f23234b2401bb9885256af50015dc33

The family is asking the second purchase be rescinded. The Senior Sleuths resolved similar complaints described below.

The History of the Seniors vs Crime Project

Taken from the Seniors vs Crime website:

In 1989 the Florida Legislature ordered the Attorney General to form a task force to report on crime and the elderly. The Task force on Crimes and the Elderly, formed and chaired by Attorney General Bob Butterworth, held a number of public meetings around the state. Mr. Vern Thornton served on the Task Force as a consultant with the AARP Criminal Justice Services. The Task Force found that seniors were being targeted for scams, were being subjected to high-pressure tactics by salespersons, and were being deceived by false advertising at an alarming frequency. Perhaps even more important than the raw numbers is the psychological and emotional impact of crime on our older citizen.

Vern Thornton presented the Attorney General with a crime prevention program, to be run by volunteers and focused on Florida’s growing senior population. The program was to be called the Seniors vs. Crime Project. Volunteers, now called Senior Sleuths at the suggestion of the Attorney General, became more active in assisting law enforcement.

Examples of work performed by Senior Sleuths range from checking on scanner prices at supermarkets and counting pills when picking up prescription medications to performing undercover stings that captured salespeople utilizing high pressure sales techniques and engaging in false and deceptive practices.

What started as a fairly small organization, primarily on the (Florida) East Coast, has now grown statewide with over 2,000 Senior Sleuths. While methods used by the Project may change over the years the goal will remain the same – prevent victimization and provide a way for seniors to contribute to the safety of all Floridians.

Cases similar to timeshare handled by Senior Sleuths

An Auto Dealership Complaint

They told the salesman they wanted payments not to exceed $250 per month. When they returned they learned the monthly payment was $587 per month. The dealership agreed to take the automobile back and refund monies paid.  

This is a common timeshare complaint. Members report they are told they will be paying one loan amount but the actual loan amount turns out to be much higher. Also, many are told their maintenance fees will go down if they buy more points, but maintenance fees end up being higher.

A Going on Vacation Complaint

A St. Augustine couple signed up for a vacation membership with a travel agency that cost $2500. The couple could not access the website that promised them vacation discounts. Through no fault of their own, they were not able to access the website for five days. Once they finally gained access, they realized they could have arranged vacations on their own for a lower price than that offered by the membership website. The travel agent initially cited that the time to rescind the contracts had lapsed as presented on the website. Ultimately the couple was reimbursed the $2500.

Inside Timeshare has received many complaints from readers who describe how the company and/or the sales agent were able to dodge the rescission period by not allowing access to the booking site until after the rescission period had passed or saying bogus programs to sell points or pay maintenance fees would not be available until after the first of the year.    

Seniors vs Crime online complaint form (a description of how the program works is below) https://sites.google.com/a/svcproject.com/intakecenter/onlinecomplaint

How the Seniors vs Crime project works:

Victim must make the request. The services of the Seniors Vs Crime Project must be requested by the victim in the complaint. The Project cannot respond to suggestions that a third party has a problem and should be contacted. Victims may be assisted in filing their complaint by family, friends or Power of Attorneys but the victim must sign the Request for Assistance form before assistance can be rendered.

Two Options for Assistance.  When requesting assistance from the Senior Sleuths at a Project Office, a person has two options. The person may only be looking for coaching “assistance” through a situation. Seniors Sleuths can advise the senior on how to handle a particular matter and not get involved with anyone except the senior. The victim is not required to sign anything to receive this type of assistance. It’s just one senior talking with/advising another senior.

A second option is for a Senior Sleuth to intervene and represent the complainant. In these instances the Senior Sleuth will thoroughly research the complaint and attempt to mitigate the case with all parties involved. Many people, initially only seek advice, then after some discussion they quickly realize the situation is more complex, so they ask for a Senior Sleuth to assist in resolving the situation. This second option does require written authorization from the victim.

Civil Disputes involve many Civil Actions. All of the civil proceedings are expensive and arduous, and out of the financial and emotional reach of most seniors. While many civil lawsuits against scams are successful, to make matters worse, the proceedings expose a senior who has been scammed to public display for being naive or foolish, which is effectively making the victim a victim again. And making the victim a third time victim, most often when a senior “plaintiff” wins a civil case the efforts to collect the court award involve another long civil process. The Seniors Vs Crime Project’s Senior Sleuths do everything possible to reach a settlement for a senior without cost and without public or family embarrassment.

If you are involved in a civil situation and you request the Seniors Vs Crime Project’s assistance, the Senior Sleuths assigned to your case will do everything possible to reach a settlement without cost to you and without public or family embarrassment. Senior Sleuths are successful in a high percentage of cases. http://www.seniorsvscrime.com/history

Timeshare self-help groups:

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/

Related articles: Unauthorized credit card charges and

Timeshare Advocacy Group’s complaint form

https://www.thebalance.com/what-to-do-about-unauthorized-credit-card-charges-960260

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-5/

Inside Timeshare is pleased that the Attorney General’s Office is taking this matter very seriously, when you consider the number of complaints that we are receiving with the number going up on an almost daily basis, this is certainly a matter that needs to be dealt with.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other article published, use our contact page to get in touch. If you require any help or advice about any company that contacts you or you have found on the internet, then Inside Timeshare is here to help.

We would also like to inform our Danish (& Scandinavian) readers of a new website which Inside Timeshare is collaborating with:

https://www.timesharehjelpen.com

We will be sharing our information and reporting on each others articles. We wish this new site all the best.

Remember do your homework and keep your money safe.

Friday’ Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America submitted by our very own Irene Parker, but first some news from the Gran Canaria.

Canarian Legal Alliance has had what can only be called a very successful and dramatic week in the courts. At the Supreme Court in Madrid the judges once again ruled in two cases against the Tenerife timeshare operator Silverpoint. This now brings the total number of rulings by Spain’s Highest Court against the timeshare industry as a whole to a massive

There was also a High Court ruling in Tenerife against Silverpoint, plus two Courts of First Instance rulings in Gran Canaria against Anfi Del Mar. In all, clients will be receiving over 148,000€ plus legal interest.

In four cases at the Courts of First Instance, numbers 2, 4 and 5, with Anfi Resorts once again the defendants, all judges came to the same decision as per the rulings of the Supreme Court. The basis of the sentences varied from the lack of a tangible object found in the contract, floating weeks, along with the contracts being over 50 years in duration.

In all the courts have awarded these clients over 138,000€ plus legal interest, also in all seven cases the contracts have been declared null and void.

So seven very happy clients and no doubt celebrations at the offices of the lawyers.

Now for our Letter from America.

How I Made my Worst Enemy so Much Money in the Stock Market in Six Days he probably didn’t have to Work Anymore!

The Flip Side – Consumers Drowning in Debt

By Irene Parker

May 25, 2018

After a pathetically aggressive and deceptive timeshare presentation my husband and I attended in 2015, I started researching timeshare. We had owned three timeshares having bought our first two timeshares around 1984. I didn’t know how to use Facebook and knew little about Social Media. I started posting comments on places like Tripadvisor. One site responded to my post asking me to fill out a form describing my work and educational background. That seemed odd, but I responded that I had retired from Edward Jones Hawaii and had an MBA and a CFP. A few days later I received a call from one of the TheStreet editors. I almost fell over when he said TheStreet was Jim Cramer of CNBC Mad Money’s investment news service!   

My first TheStreet article was an “editor’s pick” about how I made my worst enemy so much money in six days he probably did not need to work again. Another article was about creating wealth. Given most of the 431 timeshare members who have reached out to Inside Timeshare are struggling with oppressive timeshare loan payments, credit card payments and maintenance fees, I republish my advice to graduates on how to avoid excessive debt. I published about twelve articles for TheStreet before finding my writing and advocacy home at Inside Timeshare. The education I received while working with four TheStreet editors, all possessing the patience of Job, felt like I had earned a degree in journalism.

I hope a developer or two will take the time to read about how two adversaries can come together for the good old fashioned goal of making tons of money. Shooting yourself in the foot by allowing deception to become the norm is unfair to the consumer and has devastated many families. Let’s together turn this ship around and drain the swamp of predatory and criminal sales agents. At least that is what they are if allegations hold true, according to several FBI agents I have talked to over the last year.

Doctor Khalil in my article and I had a grudging respect for each other that we weren’t even aware of. It is my hope the angry timeshare member and developer can come to a similar understanding for the good of the industry. The timeshare developer needs to wake up to the futility of allowing and encouraging sale by deception via overreliance on the oral representation clause, making the consumer sign a perpetual contract, often at a high loan interest rate, often with no secondary market. It can’t continue as it has. Social Media is here to stay.

My investment hero is Peter Lynch, former manager of Fidelity’s Magellan fund. As mentioned in my article, while sitting around waiting for my Series 7 score, I read Warren Buffett’s biography and Mr. Lynch’s book, One Up on Wall Street. Their sage advice guided my career. It was a great compliment when ValueWalk reposted my article referencing One Up on Wall Street. I may take a flyer once in a while, but I will always be a value investor at heart.  https://www.valuewalk.com/

May 22, 2016

 https://www.thestreet.com/story/13576145/1/the-markets-crashed-my-first-day-as-a-stockbroker-and-here-s-what-i-did-next.html

The consumer is not off the hook. My mother would admonish anyone who financed a luxury item like a timeshare at 12% to 18% for ten years, often relying on a 20% or higher interest rate timeshare credit card. That doesn’t make any sense, according to my mom.     

Predatory Credit Card Lending – Graduates Beware!

Heed the Cardinal Rule of Investing

How the Time Value of Money can grow $50 a month to $1 Million  

Originally published by TheStreet June 11, 2016

What does this have to do with timeshare?

Don’t finance a luxury item at 12% to 18% as this has been driving some families into foreclosure and sometimes bankruptcy. I don’t think there is a financial planner in the land who would think this is a good idea.

Timeshare members have been contacting Inside Timeshare describing how they have ended up in a financial timeshare wasteland. Tomorrow is my 67th birthday, which has caused me to reflect on my mother, who would have reacted violently, had she learned I financed a vacation at 12% to 18% for ten years.

The importance of prudent borrowing and paying yourself first

First off, buy no vacation plan unless you are maxing out your 401K, 403B, IRA or company retirement saving plan. It’s always best to check with your accountant to determine whether a 401K or IRA is the best choice. The Roth IRA is of great benefit to younger people. But this is not an article about retirement vehicles – it’s about encouraging graduates to start early.

To become better informed, read Jim Cramer’s book, Get Rich Carefully, and then simply check yes to something, preferably 15% payroll deduction.

Here is my TheStreet article about my mom’s extraordinary forced savings plan and about how $50 a week starting early can end up over a million $. Please pass this lesson on to your upcoming graduate.

   

https://www.thestreet.com/story/13603800/1/recent-college-graduates-heed-this-cardinal-rule-of-investing-now.html

My mom drilled into me the time value of money principle every Friday night from the third grade until my high school graduation. This principle is so simple you would think it would not even need to be mentioned. Unfortunately, as an Edward Jones broker, only about one in twenty of my 1,200 client families working towards financial independence, got it. Many did not max out their 401K, 403B or self-employed retirement account.

My mother’s retirement savings method was extraordinary. Her finance education was nothing more than a bookkeeping class she took in high school; but she was a walking MBA. My father flunked 7th grade three times due to something about the school basketball team. He started and failed in six businesses, narrowly escaping a second bankruptcy. I was born into a dry cleaners, his seventh attempt at business.

The first thing my mother did was to hire an accountant. She had had it with financial mismanagement. The accountant, John Schmuck of Ferguson, Missouri, warned my mother, “Whatever you do – keep Johnny out of the books!”

On my ninth birthday, I was informed I was to start helping with the Friday payroll. Mom told me about her “background fund”. Every Friday night she would point to the checkbook balance and a number she recorded in a secret location. She would say each week, “This is our background money – and you are not to tell your father about it unless I die.” It was a lot to absorb at age nine. You see, if the dry cleaners took in $200 in a day, but had $100 in bills to pay, Mom would only record the balance as $100 so my dad would think they were broke. My Mom kept up this charade for 27 years! At age 65, my parents stopped by a Cadillac dealer. Mom pointed to a powder blue Cadillac and asked Dad, “Do you like this one Johnny?” He nodded. Mom looked at the salesman and said, “We’ll take this one.”  She wrote a check, turned to my dad and told him he could retire.

One of my brokerage clients was a cartoonist. She took this story and made it into a cartoon booklet. I handed out 2,000 copies to help build my brokerage business on the Big Island of Hawaii, currently erupting. I had just opened my brokerage office in Honoka’a. The local police officer went up and down the street warning residents not to invest money with this haole lady (haole means in Hawaiian “one who has no life” because the Hawaiians thought the white sailors were ghosts) as I would in all likelihood take their money and abscond back to the mainland. At the time, the local insurance agents were selling whole life insurance policies as an investment.

Undeterred, learning the sugar plantation had closed, and workers could not get their pension benefits, but could get Social Security disability benefits, I lobbied the ILWU. It took about a year, but they amended the plan, workers received their benefits. I began receiving calls like, “You’re the only haole we trust!”  My business flourished as $50 million in assets flowed in.

But – back to the cardinal rule of investing. The most important principle my mother taught me was – PAY YOURSELF FIRST!  As I typed payroll checks, she would point to the list of employees and sadly say, “You see these people! They live from paycheck to paycheck! Think of yourself as a light bill or a telephone bill. You would not miss paying those bills. Don’t wait until you pay your bills to see if anything is left over to save!” Pay yourself first!

If you heed my mother’s advice here is what can happen based on historical stock market performance:

Age 25 – first job at $40,000 per year – 15% of pretax earnings = $6,000

$6,000 in annual 401K contributions

(The Wow of throwing an estimated $5,000 to $6,000 a year in payroll taxes – to the IRS – and what that could have grown to if invested in a 401K convinced a lot of people to get with the program) To continue:

N = number of years (35) to work to age 60

8% – Average estimated growth rate or total return with dividends and capital gains reinvested

The estimated future value at age 60: $1,116,612.

Liquidating or receiving in dividends and capital gains 5% of portfolio income each year in retirement: $55,830 estimated annual investment income.

Most people can comfortably retire on 70% of current income (you should be earning more at age 60 than the $40,000 a year you started out with at age 25).

Sadly, it was not unusual for someone age 45 to come to my office and tell me they needed to start saving for retirement with nothing yet saved. This scenario:

Age 45 earning $40,000 = $6000 saved annually

N = 15 years until age 60 and average estimated growth rate – 8%

Future value estimate at age 65: $175,945.

5% of the $175,945 would generate an estimated $8,797 a year in income

The examples illustrate the power of the time value of money. I went through this exercise with all new clients and watched their eyes widen as my now ancient 12C HP Calculator blinked out the good or bad news. I recently showed my estate planning law firm how it works. Despite being a highly skilled law firm, my little calculator caused shock and awe. Teachers were the best savers; maybe because of the steady paycheck and their expertise in education.

Make sure to pencil in ten minutes every birthday to keep your annual scorecard by updating the numbers. There are an abundance of retirement estimators on the internet. My husband and I had kids to send to college, pitfalls and financial disasters, but overall, we kept the 15% rolling.

Thanks to our pharmaceutical bioavailability laboratory, my jumping ship to learn the ropes of Wall Street, and prudent investing, my husband and I retired at age 55. We don’t live in a palatial home or drive an expensive car, but we enjoy our comfortable lifestyle.

And you know what else? Not one of my clients ever told me they were sorry I made them save all that money.

Thank you Irene, a change from our normal theme, Next week in the Tuesday Slot we publish a story from Haley Saldana, another new contributor and her story of woe.

If you need any help or advice about any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, whether is be about claiming or just getting out of your timeshare, use our contact page and we will give the correct information.

So that’s it for this week, it’s Friday and the weekend is now upon us, have fun and join us next week with more news from the world of timeshare.

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to File a Timeshare Complaint (May 2018 revision)

Start with the Attorneys General Office

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

May 18, 2018

By Irene Parker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the FBI,

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two most common complaints reported:

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

How Advocacy Works

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is organized into seven teams:

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

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

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

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

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

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

Name (s) and age of member

Phone Number

State of Residence

Member Number

For each contract in dispute:

Where Purchased and Date of Purchase

Number of Points Purchased

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Current Loan Balance

Loan Number

Current Maintenance Fees

Name of Credit Card if one was used

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

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

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

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

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

It is better to state your narrative as a narrative referring back to the contracts and figures at the top of your complaint. Begin with when you first became involved with the company and proceed chronologically. Keep your history brief up to the point when things began to go wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

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

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

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

Who We Are and Why We Do This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://tug2.net/

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

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

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

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

May 18, 2018 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy GroupTM

 

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

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

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

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

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