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Irene Parker

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’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today we highlight two families who have been up-sold by Diamond, Gad and Noreen Liebmann who are staging a protest outside Diamond’s Daytona Beach Resort and Sheilah and Thomas Brust. These stories are another in the series of  “A Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, but first a quick roundup from Europe.

It has been reported that yet another “Relinquishment and Claims” company is in liquidation, Standon Mortimer Associates. This company is one in a long line that informed clients that they could lodge a “no win no fee” claim against their timeshare, the only thing was to do this they had to “relinquish” their membership first. Obviously this was a great cost.

Once the membership was canceled then they would put in a claim, usually under section 75, which as we have said before is not likely to pay out. The whole scam was to get your money for the cancellation, which in many cases was never actually done.

If you have paid this company to carry out any work regarding your timeshare and it has not been done, contact the liquidators below:

Name of Company: STANDON MORTIMER ASSOCIATES LTD

Company Number: 10437622

Nature of Business: Timeshare Relinquishment

Type of Liquidation: Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation

Registered office: C/o Kingsland Business Recovery, 14 Derby Road, Stapleford, Nottingham, NG9 7AA

Liquidator’s name and address: Tauseef Ahmed Rashid, Kingsland Business Recovery 14 Derby Road, Stapleford, Nottingham NG9 7AA

Office Holder Number: 9718.

Date of Appointment: 18 April 2018

By whom Appointed: Creditors

Further information on Silverpoint or is it Signallia Marketing has just come in, apparently a representative from Signallia is knocking on the doors of guests at Hollywood Mirage and arranging appointments with none other that Aspirantco SL. We will be publishing the story of this meeting next week.

There are this week a couple more happy ex-timeshare owners, the first is an ex-Anfi member, who this week had over 53,000€ paid into his bank account after his recent court case where his contract was declared null and void.

This does fly in the face of the Anfi management denying that anyone is getting paid, according to Canarian Legal Alliance, Anfi have actually paid out 2 million euros.

In another case a German client who purchased his Anfi del Mar timeshare for 14,000€ had his contract declared null and void, with thcourt awarding him over 23,000€ plus legal interest. This is a result of Anfi taking a deposit within the cooling off period which is forbidden, so the court awarded double the amount taken.

Now on with our Friday letter.

A Report from Two Diamond Resort Platinum Members Up-Sold by the Same Daytona Sales Agent

Sheilah Brust warns: Keep The Pencil Pitch

Gad and Noreen Liebmann: Up-sold into financial disaster

There is no such thing as the “Ability to get (Double Usage)”

Page 2 of the Pencil Pitch is based on 15,000 points actually purchased instead of 25,000, so 65,000 points illustrated instead of the 75,000 first proposed

65,000 own                $8,631 current maintenance fees before 15,000

65,000 given                2,621 maintenance fees on the new 15,000

130,000 points            $11,252 Total maintenance fees with new 15,000

 50,000 if used            8,000 Less reimbursement check

 80,000 left                  $3,252 Maintenance fees still owed       

x $.10 reimbursed     EXCEPT THERE WAS NO 65,000 POINTS GIVEN!

$8,000

The CLARITY™ Promise handed out before sales presentations:

With this clear, concise and consistent information, consumers can easily determine whether the Diamond Resorts hospitality experience is the right decision for them and their families.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170123005839/en/Diamond-Resorts-Launches-New-National-Customer-Service

Diamond’s Response to Sheilah Brust:

On April 5, 2018, we received a call from a “hospitality” agent. She said our complaint had been escalated to the legal team and they found no wrongdoing. This is part of what she said to us.

I definitely agree that your confusion of that process is warranted. I have spoken to our legal team and sales team and we agree the double point explanation is definitely something that could have been misconstrued or seen as confusing by members or purchasers.

We have made changes to the way that information is given at the time of sale but we have to say the stance we take on this is: because there may have been some confusion on how you may use those points to create a savings for yourself doesn’t make the explanation illegal.

By Irene Parker

June 8, 2018

Gad and Noreen Liebmann were up-sold by the same Daytona Regency sales agent as Sheilah Brust. Gad and Noreen have been protesting outside the Daytona Regency by holding up signs an hour or two every day except Sunday for over three months. They will take a few months off to go up north, but plan to resume their protest in September.

In preparation for this article, I felt it was important to get a feel for what it was like to hold up a sign. As we walked to Daytona Regency from our cars, Gad and Noreen dropped off food for a homeless man. Gad told us, “One of the homeless was offered $20 to ‘get rid of them’ and on another day one of the salesmen brought some water and wanted to “thank us” for picketing. He claimed that our presence increased their sales. He also told us that we could have more effect by working as greeters at Walmart to help pay our dues.”  

My husband and I weren’t sure what to expect. We arrived about 11:00 AM, Friday June 1. We were greeted by the security guard. He could not have been nicer. He seems to serve as a sort of diplomatic liaison between Gad and Noreen and the staff at Daytona Regency. He patiently listened to me relate some of the more serious allegations timeshare members have reported to Inside Timeshare, 208 since January 1. He said he has not purchased Diamond points.          

Inside Timeshare has heard from a total of 32 Diamond Platinum members, alleging they were up-sold by deceitful sale tactics or are disappointed in their Platinum membership. Of the 32 Platinum members, 29 members reported they were told they would be able to sell points, or pay for maintenance fees, if they purchased more timeshare points; utilizing programs members say did not exist. Thirteen of the 32 Platinum members say they have resolved their dispute. Eleven were up-sold by the same Diamond sales agent.

Pictured from left: Noreen, Irene, Tyler and Don

The sign my husband Don is holding reads,

Diamond is not responsible for what our sales agents say.”

This was told to Diamond member Joshua Parker (no relation) by a Diamond VP on a call Diamond recorded. Josh says he was told points are an investment and would be easy to sell. When Josh and Nichole learned they were expecting twins and could no longer afford the timeshare, they learned there is virtually no secondary market for Diamond points. Josh is a 90% disabled Army veteran. He served in Iraqi. They are in the foreclosure process.

John Collick, a decorated 100% disabled Marine veteran, was told he needed to buy Diamond points because Diamond was acquiring his timeshare, The Colonies. This turned out not be true.

Josh and John were both told, Diamond is not responsible for what our sales agents say.” That would be okay, except Diamond hands out to consumers before a presentation their CLARITY™ promise, launched after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued the company an Assurance of Discontinuance.

Amanda and George Jones are both active duty Navy. They recently received their foreclosure letter. Both fear losing their Security Clearance. They say they were told by Diamond sales agents in Virginia and Florida their 18% loan would be easy to refinance, “Just Google it.” http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

Today, June 6, 2018, another Navy couple contacted Inside Timeshare. They too could lose their security clearance as they are Navy logistics.   

Sheilah and Thomas Brust’s “Double Point Promise” complaint

Sheilah says she and her husband Thomas were promised double point usage if they upgraded by buying 15,000 additional points. Already Platinum members with 50,000 points, they had enough points to meet their travel needs.

Sheilah and Thomas met with Brad Leslie on February 4, 2017.  Mr. Leslie said there were big updates due to Apollo changes. Brad said he had just learned about the double points program in Orlando while in training. Another Florida DRI sales agent pitched a double points program to a Navy veteran. Her complaint has been resolved:

We were hosted by the Diamond Resorts East Coast Sales Team from Mystic Dunes. They said we had been invited to the workshop as a way to thank us for having been Platinum members for over five years. Mystic Dunes sales agent A M explained details of a program only available to five plus year Platinum members. A M said if I purchased an additional 25,000 DRI points, I could take advantage of a special offer and never have to pay maintenance fees. He illustrated on paper how the program worked.   

57,500 points I owned prior to the workshop

25,000

82,500 x 2 (double points) = 165,000

Back to Sheilah’s “Pencil Pitch”

Brad Leslie said that over ten years our maintenance fees would be $86,310. According to Brad, we would have 65,000 points after buying 15,000 more points but DRI would give us 65,000 more – so we would have effectively 130,000 annual points. Of the 65,000 original points, we would use 50,000 and the purchase of an additional 15,000 points would allow us the extra bonus 65,000 points. Brad said we would receive via check or reloadable debit card $8,000 from the redemption of 80,000 points at $.10 through a travel reimbursement program that could be used to pay maintenance fees. If we redeemed 80,000 from the 130,000, we would be left with 50,000 points to travel.     

I asked Brad why this program was developed. He said Diamond wanted to make sure we STAYED VACATIONED. Now it seems more likely he wanted to drive us into foreclosure to be able to start over with his next victim.  

As a result of this up-sell, we have less time to travel because we have to work to pay for the additional points that increased maintenance fees to $11,252. We also have a loan with Diamond for $31,000 and the $26,000 Barclay card charges.

Brad charged on two Barclay cards $14,000 in my name and $12,000 in Thomas’ name. After he opened the cards, Brad said,Barclays loves you! You got $26,000 credit!” I was livid after I learned what happened as we were unaware the amounts had been charged. We could have used a different credit card that would have gotten us rewards points.

We saw Brad again in May 2017. Brad said the program had changed. Brad told us in February we would be sent a debit card that would be reloadable for the maintenance fee reimbursement program. Brad informed us in May that DRI was getting rid of the debit cards because there were problems. Brad had said the double points (65,000) would appear on a split screen on our dashboard. He said DRI was still working on the split screen. This program only made sense if we received the additional 65,000 points. I wrote down everything Brad said. I have an accounting background.   

This whole deal was based on having 130,000 points using points at $.10 a point for a Travel Advantage reimbursement service, but this was of very poor value and only made sense because of the extra bonus 65000 points. You can book a lot of vacations with 54,259 points that would vastly exceed a measly reimbursement check for $5,425.90.

Brad assured us he would be here for us and hoped he could restore our trust in Diamond. We had explained how we had been duped into buying 4000 more points in California so our heirs would not be saddled with Diamond points.

Diamond has refused to help Sheilah, but she is encouraged by a call from her Florida Timeshare Division reviewer supporting her claim.

Gad and Noreen’s debacle

Gad and Noreen own 96,000 Diamond points, only because they bought an additional 25,000 points to take advantage of benefits they now know they already had. Gad and Noreen are both Army veterans. Noreen served as an Army officer in the nursing corps. Gad, also an Army veteran, worked for IBM and VISA, at times stationed overseas. The Liebmanns have nine children, not counting children they fostered. According to Gad,  

For over 20 years we enjoyed using our Diamond points. We had purchased eight Diamond contracts over the years and had been happy until Daytona sales agent Brad Leslie sold us 25,000 points November 22, 2017, we allege by fraud.  Brad told us that if we purchased 25,000 additional points for $70,000 we would get additional benefits. He showed us how using these benefits, we might not have to pay more maintenance fees if we used the same amount of vacation time. What Brad Leslie neglected to tell us was that we were already eligible for these benefits. He knew this. He also claimed that we could recover the cost of the additional points after 10 years. This was also false. Brad said that we would be even on the $70,000 within ten years if we only booked through Value Getaways.

A call to Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey got a response from a lady who offered to allow us to give back some of our points, lowering the dues but not eliminating the latest purchase.  In other words, give back points we already paid for, requiring us to pay the company $70,000 after being sold points to take advantage of a program we already had. We may be older, but we’re not stupid.

We have used all of our 2018 points for redemption reimbursement and with the over $700 monthly mortgage payments, we can no longer use Diamond points for vacations. Since we can’t afford to travel because of this debacle, we thought we should warn others by holding up our signs. I feel America is in a moral crisis when CEOs feel no concern when people complain directly to them of questionable business practices. My heart is heavy since the DRI salesman Brad Leslie professed to be a Christian, as I am.

Gad and Noreen protesting outside Daytona Regency

Thank you to Gad and Noreen and Sheilah and Thomas for joining our advocacy efforts. I reached out to Diamond for comment, but they did not respond. We were hoping they could explain Sheilah’s pencil pitch.  

Many timeshare members feel there is little to no timeshare enforcement in Florida. According to several members, Florida dismisses complaints, backing up the developer by also falling back on the oral representation clause. Florida receives about $70 billion a year in tourist revenue.

From the Florida Attorney General’s Timeshare Division DBPR

Timeshare developers are required to provide full and meaningful disclosures to purchasers in the documents they are required to deliver to them including the public offering statement, sales contract, and all supplemental documents at the point of sale.  A document called “Acknowledgment of Representations” or “Purchaser’s Understanding” or a similar document provides the disclosures which each purchaser initials and signs at the time of purchase and it contains all the relevant information about the timeshare product.  A developer heavily relies on these documents to refute any claims by a purchaser regarding the alleged misrepresentations. Therefore, in light of these written documents, it is very difficult to prove the allegations raised in the complaint.  

From the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance:

IV Assurances

“Diamond shall enhance its programs, policies and training and continue to instruct and train its Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers to comply with the ACFA (Arizona Consumer Fraud Act). Diamond shall advise all Vacation Counselors and Sales Managers that they may not:

  1. Sales agents should not deviate from sales material
  2. Sales agents should not make oral representations at the point of sale inconsistent with the Purchase document.

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

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups if you need help.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, join us next week for more readers stories and their experiences in the world that we call “A Nightmare on Timeshare Street”.

We will also be publishing more information on those companies that keep springing up promising the earth and delivering nothing, so remember if you are called and are not sure if the company is genuine, do not do anything until you have done your homework, double check and check again.

If in doubt contact Inside Timeshare and we will show you where to look.

Have a great weekend.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to this weeks Tuesday Slot, today Margaret Chandler shares her “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, with an introduction and editing by Irene Parker. This story focuses on the problems being faced by senior citizens at the hands of unscrupulous sales agents, this is being commonly called Elder Abuse.

We were actually hoping that this article was going to be pulled, but unfortunately we have not had any answer or reply from Wyndham, so on with the article.

For the Benefit of the Consumer and the Benefit of the Industry,

Timeshare Consumer Education is Important

Margaret Chandler shares her Wyndham disaster

Introduction by Irene Parker

If you buy a house and have a loan, you can still sell your house.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 443 mostly angry and desperate timeshare members, many seniors with 800 credit scores, facing foreclosure in their 70s and some even in their 80s. All report they were told their timeshare would be easy to sell or that the company would buy the timeshare back. Margaret contacted two licensed timeshare resale brokers. They both told her there was no demand for timeshare points.

I contacted Tom Tubbs of Island Consulting Realty. Tom has been in the timeshare resale business for 32 years. Tom said Wyndham points can be listed for a penny or a penny and a half a point. So, for example, 300,000 points could be realistically listed for $4,500. That’s quite a hit from a likely initial purchase price of $60,000. http://www.timesharestogo.com/

Margaret has filed complaints with the appropriate regulatory agencies, but chances are nothing will happen. Timeshare members tell us the Florida Attorney General’s timeshare division will say, “You should not have relied on verbal representation,” the Nevada Real Estate division will say, “You have no proof,” and the Texas Attorney General will advise legal assistance. With virtually no timeshare regulation, and few understanding at purchase the limited secondary market, more and more timeshare members have been contacting Inside Timeshare seeking straight answers. Do not pay anyone upfront money to get you out of your timeshare without checking with Inside Timeshare or one of the self-help groups posted below. Scams abound. We sent a draft of this article to Wyndham. They said they are looking into it.       

Elder abuse is “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.” Wikipedia  

June 5, 2018

By Margaret Chandler

My name is Margaret and my husband is Edward. We are both 70 years old and Florida residents.  Edward is an Army veteran, E6 at discharge. Our timeshare nightmare started with Wyndham in 2012. I want to detail some of the lies we feel this company told us so that others can be forewarned. We have filed a complaint with the Florida Attorney General’s office, the Nevada Real Estate Division and the Texas Attorney General. We have also filed with the Better Business Bureau.

We purchased Wyndham points several times.

We bought 125,000 points in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2012.

We bought points a second time in San Antonio, Texas in 2013. We were told buying more points would increase our original point value to get more availability. This did not improve availability.

We could only find availability in less desirable locations.

We went to Hawaii in 2014 and bought what they said was deeded property.

We were told at Pompano Beach in November of 2014 we would be better off with non-deeded points. They took our Hawaii points. They said there would be higher maintenance fees with the deeded points because deeded points are tied to real estate. The maintenance fees did not go down.

We bought additional points in Atlantic City December of 2014. They kept telling us we would have better benefits at a higher loyalty level.

We bought more points at Daytona Beach January of 2017. They took two contracts and traded those in and added more points. Now all we own is points.

We still have the Nevada and the San Antonio contract in addition to Daytona.    

We are financially devastated.

Our experience started out fine, but got worse and worse. We ended up paying more and more money to fix a situation that never improved.  I imagine it’s something like a drug dealer hooking a new junkie. The first hit is for free. After that you have to pay more and more to get something that gives you less and less satisfaction.

Wyndham’s salespeople have always told us that they have our best interests at heart and that they are there to make our experience better. One salesperson even called me ‘mom’ and another invited us to her son’s wedding. Others were ex-teachers like me or said they had military connections when they found out Edward is a veteran. As a result, we have signed six contracts between 2012 and 2017 that have been upgrades, trades or merges.

The problem is we now feel that that the sales agents were not truthful about pretty much everything. We are both being treated for high blood pressure worrying about the money that we feel they have taken from us so dishonestly. Edwards’s face turns red and I can see the stress level increasing every time the topic of timeshare comes up. We cannot even talk about using it anymore, as he stresses too much. He wants us to be able to enjoy our remaining lives without the threat of bad credit, missed payments or annoying phone calls from Wyndham all day long. I keep telling Edward not to answer calls, but he forgets and answers anyway….then he becomes annoyed all over again.

Edward was working a part time job during 2016-2017 but gave it up because his blood pressure was increasing due to the worry over these timeshare loan payments. He has not been sleeping well which is another factor that is leading to his declining health.

Wyndham promised us the vacations of our dreams, an investment that would be something we could pass onto our children. One salesperson, Zadith, even offered to contact us in a year to help us deed it to our children. They said the Las Vegas location’s value would rise, Hawaii would always be in demand, and Bonnet Creek was a great one because it’s near Disney.

We had to book 13 months in advance to get a place in Hawaii and it has become harder and harder to find availability. Wyndham said there was no availability when we tried to book six months ahead in San Antonio, but online booking sites showed River Walk Wyndham was available. Now how does that happen that owners cannot get a room, but the rooms are available to the general public??

The Wyndham sales agents told us to go to the bank to get a line of credit after we returned home, using the properties as collateral, but we learned timeshares are not considered properties so we can’t refinance. We are stuck with a high interest loan.

Wyndham told us the contract would pay for itself with rentals and they would help us do that but when we tried to rent they told us it would cost 40% of the fee of the booked room to put it in the rental pool and if it was not rented we would have to cancel or lose our points. No one helped us with this complicated process. It was completely left to us.

They told us we could resell the timeshare with ease because timeshares are in demand but when we called Wyndham to do this they said we couldn’t because we still owed money on it. They didn’t tell us those were the conditions at the presentation. If you buy a house and have a loan, you can still sell your house. We were referred to two licensed resale companies that wanted to charge us 10% and 15% of the sale but told us there really was no market for timeshares because the market was flooded.

This was the turning point. Wyndham lied and pressured us into paying more and more money, each time telling us they would fix the problems, but each time we were saddled with more debt. Our ‘personal reps’ were never available. The latest one Zadith, from Daytona Beach, has not been in touch at all.  I tried texting her several times.

We are on a fixed income and we cannot keep up with the increasing costs. We are near the end of the money that we saved all our working days just to pay for these purchases. How can their sales people sleep at night after taking advantage of people that are hardworking souls and are honest and simple folks? They don’t have to lose sleep over our bills that are not being able to be paid. They are not worried about our blood pressures or our health. They just move on to the next victim.

We have written to Wyndham and they have offered to cancel our latest contract from 2017 but not the first two. We have tried to explain that the only reason we have so many contracts in the first place is because they told us the new contracts would fix the problems with the old ones. We are tired and exasperated and just want to be done with Wyndham.

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 Margaret and Irene, once again it is a story we at Inside Timeshare are becoming very familiar with, it is a great shame that a once superb product is being destroyed by nothing more than greed.

If you have had a similar experience to Margaret or just want to comment, then use our contact page and get in touch with us. Inside Timeshare is here to give you a voice.

 

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the first Letter from America for June, this week Irene Parker follows on from Haley Saldana’s Tuesday article, but first we look at the end of the week in Europe.

Over the past few weeks we have been issuing various warnings on some very dubious claims companies and fake law firms, we have now received some new information about one called Abogados Lopez.

In the past warnings the name of the lady on the phone was Hope Brugge, well it seems that Hope has now changed to Megan Haywood.

The pitch is the same as before, checking the details of how much they paid etc, before they file the case at court, the a day or so later the great news comes in that they have won the case and the court has awarded a substantial amount. Yes you guessed it they need to be paid to release the money.

The telephone numbers being used are:

0034 951 242 867 which is a Malaga code

0034 602 654 670 which is a Spanish mobile

Another number that has been used is

0044 1291 440 500 which is a Chepstow code.

This week has also been busy with the courts, Silverpoint has been on the receiving end of yet more Supreme Court rulings, with four in one week, this makes a total of 118 against the timeshare industry as a whole.

There have also been six sentences issued in the Courts of First Instance against Anfi del Mar and Silverpoint, with the total being awarded by the courts to the clients amounting to over 409,000€ plus in most cases the return of legal fees and legal interest. The contract have also been declared null and void, leaving these client not only financially better off but timeshare free.

All these cases were brought on behalf of the clients by none other than those intrepid lawyers of Canarian Legal Alliance.

Now on with this weeks Letter from America.

Diamond Resorts International Lawsuit against Castle Law

Declarations of Two Former Castle Law Employees

The Tangled Web: Castle Law Group Entities

How money was funneled from timeshare members to Castle Law

By Irene Parker

June 1, 2018

Diamond Resorts International filed a first amended complaint for damages, injunctive and other relief against Judson Phillips, Esq., Castle Law Group, P.C. and 24 other defendants in the US District Court of the Middle District of Tennessee on February 21, 2118, in an effort to untangle Defendants’ web  of deceit and so as to end Defendants’ improper and legally inappropriate schemes, and in doing, not only vindicating its own rights, but also safeguarding the unsuspecting public and positively impacting the timeshare industry at large.

Case 3:17-cv-01124

Timeshare developers say timeshare exit companies like Castle Law are targeting timeshare members, enticing them to get out of their timeshare contracts. Some of these exit companies charge thousands of dollars upfront, but members are held in suspense for months or years, only to learn they were not released from the timeshare contract. On the other side of the dispute, timeshare members have been contacting Inside Timeshare, desperate to be released from timeshare contracts they never knew were perpetual, and had little or no secondary market.  

https://www.nashvillepost.com/business/legal/litigation/article/20972343/resort-company-sues-local-lawyer-over-timeshare-exits

This past Tuesday we published an article about Haley Saldana getting caught in the middle of a dispute between Castle Law Group and Resort Relief. Haley lost $3,495 after paying Castle Law to get her out of her Silverleaf timeshare, only to find herself foreclosed anyway. http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-6/

Two former Castle Law employees, a director of business development and an attorney, relate their experiences working for Castle Law Group, PC and Castle Marketing Group, LLC in depositions filed. I reached out to both employees through Linked-In and the attorney’s law firm. They did not respond.  

Over a year ago I received an email from Carly Vaughn, former public relations manager and content writer for Castle Marketing, asking if I would be interested in writing for the Castle blog. I declined the offer.

We first published an article about developer lawsuits against Castle Law and Judson Phillips August 22, 2017.

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

Among the twelve causes of action in the “cease and desist” letter Castle sent to developers, are those Inside Timeshare readers, asking for help in complaints against developers, would not disagree with. From the Castle “cease and desist” letter found in public filings:

  • Improper and unethical high pressure sales tactics.
  • Gross and deliberate misrepresentations regarding benefits of ownership.
  • Gross misrepresentation regarding the ability to utilize timeshare points to cover fees associated with membership and exchanges.
  • False information regarding the ease and/or ability to resell for a profit.
  • False sense of urgency to purchase the same day.

A “cease and desist” letter demands all communication with the client, including collection attempts cease under the Fair Debt Collections Protections Act.

Declaration from an attorney who worked for Castle Law

In his declaration, the lawyer states that it became clear to him that Castle Law was not functioning within the ethical boundaries of a proper law firm. At no time was the lawyer tasked with meeting with and/or engaging clients. Rather, according to the attorney, Castle Law clients were primarily engaged through outside third-party exit timeshare companies. Only on a few occasions does the lawyer recall even speaking with a prospective client. The attorney graduated from law school in 2015 and was hired by Castle Law Group, P.C. in 2015. He worked for Castle Law until May 2017. According to the attorney’s declaration:

It was my understanding, through observations, that many prospective clients engaged the services of Castle Law without ever speaking with any attorney. Strangely, I agreed to have a rubber stamp made of my signature to be used by assistants, which made me uncomfortable.

While at Castle I was shocked to learn telephone calls were being recorded without my knowledge, whereby neither of the two parties was aware they were being recorded. I learned of this practice from Sean Austin, president of Castle Marketing, which I now know to be illegal.

I was involved in the evaluation of various cases of timeshare owners who did not have valid claims and should have been entitled to a refund of monies paid to any of the Castle entities. I reported my claims to Judson Phillips and Michael Keever. To the best of my knowledge, very few, if any, actually received a refund. (Castle Law Group and Castle Marketing were both operated by Sean Austin and Michael Keever, neither licensed to practice law)

After I left Castle, I became aware that Castle Law sent out letters to their purported clients that they never represented them. I became aware of such letters after I was forced to defend my license to practice law against four bar complaints against me. All four complaints were eventually dismissed.

DECLARATION 2

This declaration was provided by the “assistant director of affiliate relations” who later served as “director of business development” for Castle Marketing Group as an independent contractor in 2015.

The director’s role was to communicate with and manage outside affiliate companies, referred to as Third Party Exit companies (TPE) who solicited timeshare owners to cancel their timeshare contracts. According to the director:

I observed that Castle Law allowed the outside affiliates to use Castle Law Group’s engagement agreement without an attorney being present or consulted. I observed that timeshare owners were being led to believe they were paying legal fees entirely to Castle Law Group, which was not true.

Initially, Castle Law Group collected all of the funds and was engaged in the practice of sharing the fees with the TPEs. Sean Austin told me that they had created Castle Marketing Group to “act as a buffer between the clients and the law firm” and to “protect the law firm” and to “get around the issue of fee splitting.”

Later Sean Austin told me Castle Law Group was not making any money, which was “not legal,” and that funds had to be pulled out of Castle Marketing Group and transferred to Castle Law group, so that it would appear as if Castle Law Group was earning revenue as part of the transaction. The TPEs kept their portion of the amounts paid for legal services and sent the rest to Castle Marketing. Castle Marketing then transferred funds to Castle Law Group and the many other business entities operated by William Michael Keever and Sean Austin (pictured above).

I observed that attorneys at Castle Law Group rarely, if ever, met with or spoke to the timeshare owners. Sean Austin told me that the staff needed to keep the timeshare owners happy as the lawyers did not have time to confer with them.

At times a year or more went by without any action taken by Castle Law Group on behalf of the timeshare owners. I witnessed that timeshare owners who persisted with their complaints, or demands to speak with an attorney, would be placed on an “escalation sheet.” Staff members would, in some instances, contact customers to calm them down and say whatever was necessary to keep them hanging on until the deadline for their money-back guarantee had expired. My job became so stressful as a result of timeshare members and TPEs demanding answers, my health was impacted and my doctor advised me to quit my job.

The funds collected from the legal fees paid to Castle Marketing Group were funneled to other business ventures owned by Sean Austin and/or William Michael Keever. These businesses included: Castle Venture Group, Worthington Galleries, God Cloud, ExxoGear, Advisant, Kryptobit, and Instant Merchant Group, among others. Sean Austin expressed to me on more than one occasion that the payroll and budget for all these companies was dependent on my work with the TPEs and the funds generated.  

When I expressed my concern that “clients” would complain to the Tennessee Attorney General, Sean Austin stated that Castle Law Group was registered only in the name of attorney Judson Phillips, so Sean Austin, William Michael Keever and the staff, as non-lawyers, would be shielded from any liability or fault.

The Director left Castle Market Group in 2016.     

To date Inside Timeshare has received 437 requests for assistance from timeshare members who allege they were defrauded by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents. It is our hope a meaningful dialog will develop to clean up both sides of the timeshare sale.  

Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these self-help groups before paying anyone to get you out of a timeshare contract.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

So that’s it, the end of another week in the world of timeshare, a week that has seen more fake companies emerging and many cases against some of the major timeshare companies being resolved in the courts.

If you require any information or have any comments on any article published, use our contact page and send us a message.

Have you been contacted by a company with a similar story to the ones published and want to know the truth, or have you found one on the internet, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to find the information you need.

Remember to do your homework before engaging with any company, it will save you a lot of heartache in the end.

Have a great weekend and join us next week for more “Nightmares on Timeshare Street”.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

In this weeks Tuesday Slot we welcome a new contributor, Haley Saldana, who shares her experience with Resort Relief and Castle Law, the introduction is by Inside Timeshare’s very own Irene Parker.

But first, yesterday it was announced by Canarian Legal Alliance that they have secured a Court of First Instance sentence against Club la Costa, in the number 4 court of Fuengirola.

The case was brought against Club la Costa Leisure Limited by CLA on behalf of their English clients. The main basis for the judgement was the contract did not have an end date, which made it a perpetuity one, this has been declared illegal under Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98, which states that contracts have a duration of between 3 and 50 years.

In this case the contract has been declared null and void, with the clients being refunded a total of £19,442 plus all their legal fees and legal interest.

It is quite clear that the lower courts are following the now 115 rulings made by the Supreme Court, which is good news for all clients who have cases pending or are considering filing claims.

Now for today’s article.

Resort Relief and Castle Law Group’s Tangled Web

Part I: How Haley Saldana Lost $3,495 retaining Resort Relief

Part II June 1: Declarations of former employees of Castle Law Group, P.C. and Castle Marketing Group, LLC

Haley Saldana shares her Castle Law and Resort Relief experience

Introduction by Irene Parker

May 29, 2018

Former Silverleaf member Haley Saldana relates her frustration over a cycle of hopeful vacation promises that ended with a desperate need to get out. More consumer awareness is needed, so Haley has shared her story today hoping people ask the right questions before buying a timeshare or signing up to get out of one. It’s important to examine the reasons why people reach out to a timeshare exit company in the first place.   

Inside Timeshare has heard from 431 mostly angry, overwhelmed, desperate timeshare members. They don’t know where to turn for straight timeshare answers. Most allege that they either bought or upgraded a timeshare from sales agents employing bait and switch tactics. If deceived, or just not understanding the nature of the product they purchased, they soon learn the challenges one faces attempting to be released from a timeshare contract, especially if there is an outstanding loan. The contract is perpetual, and the resort usually dismisses the member with a “You signed a contract.” Some state regulators second that response. With no other way out, the buyer seeks legal or third party assistance, or gets foreclosed. In Haley’s case, seeking third party assistance cost her $3,495 and she still got foreclosed!

Haley explains why she feels she was deceived into purchasing a Silverleaf upgrade. Unable to get help from Silverleaf, she contacted Resort Relief. Haley is 31 years old and her husband Louis, 34. Haley and Louis went from Silverleaf timeshare owner, to Resort Relief, to Castle Law, and ultimately to foreclosure.

Through public filings, we obtained depositions from two former Castle Law Group, P.C. employees. Their descriptions of what it was like to work for Castle Law will be the subject of Friday’s Letter from America.      

By Haley Saldana

I contacted Resort Relief in 2016 after being convinced to make a second Silverleaf timeshare purchase. In 2014 we had paid approximately $11,000 for our first Silverleaf timeshare. We had no problem affording this purchase.

We feel we were deceived into making the second Silverleaf purchase. We could not use the bonus time that went with the original purchase. At a members’ meeting we were told a second purchase or upgrade would give us more availability, but it did not. I contacted Resort Relief. Resort Relief set us up with Castle Law Group. We were charged $3,495 February 2016.

Castle Law Group told us if we talked to Silverleaf they would drop us and keep our money. I heard nothing until I talked to a guy at Castle in 2017. He said to keep not paying and again told us not to talk to Silverleaf. We had gotten a letter from Silverleaf that said we should contact them. We received a second letter from Silverleaf June 23, 2017 that said if we do not pay them what we owed them, it would go against our credit, but we had been instructed not to talk to Silverleaf. By this time it had been well over a year since we had originally contacted Resort Relief February 2016.

I emailed Barb Holland from Castle Law the Silverleaf letter June 23, 2017.

Next, now almost two years later, we got a letter from Silverleaf January 26, 2018 saying that they were proceeding with foreclosure.

We notified Castle Law. Castle responded by letter informing us they no longer represent us because of a serious legal conflict with the organization that referred us to Castle Law Group (Resort Relief).

We contacted Resort Relief. Resort Relief owner Kevin Hanson told us, “I’m sorry, I lost $2 million because of Castle Law. He said that Castle Law Group came back to Resort Relief and said “Here are your clients. Castle Law Group is no longer representing Resort Relief clients.”

You would think Resort Relief would make things right since they were the ones that set us up with Castle Law. Instead, Mr. Hanson said if we pay Resort Relief $750 they will transfer our case to a local attorney. We lost the timeshare through foreclosure, and the $3,495 paid to Resort Relief/Castle Law. I have all the emails confirming this disaster.

Mr. Hanson said Baker & Britt is the local (Conroe Texas) law firm that is representing him (Resort Relief) against Castle Law Group.

On the creditor’s side of the fence, back in March 2017, I interviewed Kristie, an HOA collections agent. Kristie expressed her discomfort with Timeshare Exit Team and timeshare attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman. Countering Kristie’s comments, timeshare attorney Mitchell Sussman Reed responded:  

While I understand their position, the simple fact is that if the timeshare had any value at all….the resort should be thrilled to take it back so that they can resell it for a profit. Of course, since the timeshare is a liability and not an asset; the resorts refuse to take back what is essentially a lifetime financial obligation.

Senior citizens are especially vulnerable. When for health reasons or simply lack of income they are unable to utilize the timeshare the resorts have zero sympathy, refuse to take back the timeshare and then report the owner as a dead beat to the credit reporting agencies.

Shame on them, and bravo to any attorney willing to sue or otherwise punish the resort for taking advantage of the weak and infirm.

If a resort wants attorney’s in the field of timeshare cancellation to not feel as I do, they should simply agree to take back their timeshare when asked by their owner. Not by the attorney. Why should there have to even be attorneys in this field?

If timeshare resorts maintained a policy that would allow owners who are no longer willing and able to travel out of their timeshare, there would be no need for timeshare attorneys or timeshare transfer companies.

Mitchell Reed Sussman

Attorney at Law

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

Resort Relief has an A BBB rating! As explained on a TUG post below, an F rating may be more credible than an A+ rating.  

https://www.bbb.org/houston/business-reviews/timeshare-advocates/resort-relief-llc-in-conroe-tx-90046035/reviews-and-complaints?section=complaints

Here’s a complaint almost identical to Haley’s complaint!

Complaint

We were sent a letter from Resort Relief where we were talked to about getting timeshare relief for the Timeshare we have through Silverleaf Resorts and was told that this service was a money back guarantee and that we were going to be able to get out of our timeshare once we paid the $4050.00. We… paid the monies and was referred to Castle Law Group who took the information and received all of our documents for them to proceed. I had no heard from the in sometime so I contacted Castle Law Group for a follow up. I was informed on September 11th that the law firm could no longer represent us due to a conflict of interest and referred me back to Resort Relief. I have been calling nonstop and no one is available to give me information or anything. I have stressed that I want my money back and I am getting tossed back and forth from Resort Relief back to Castle Law Group and back to Resort Relief. This has been stressful and I am not getting anything but a Reba will bet back to me and I haven’t heard anything and the worker that answers the phone Tyler doesn’t either and he knows its stuff going on and can’t tell me.

Thank you, Haley for sharing your disappointing experience after responding to a “Get you out of your timeshare or your money back” ad, powered by massive search engines seeking desperate timeshare members. It’s very difficult to reach Castle Law and when I tried calling Resort Relief I kept getting the busy signal.   

Maybe it’s just me, but I find today’s timeshare product one of the most flawed products in history. First, members contacting us allege they were deceived into buying or upgrading a timeshare. When they complained to the resort, the resort dismissed them with, “You signed a contract.” The member is then driven into the net of a search engine, and contacted by someone that often is a former timeshare sales agent or executive. When we researched one questionable timeshare sales agent, we learned he had several open and closed LLCs with names like Vacation Planning. Hence, the sales agent dangled the bait, made the sale, the timeshare buyer victimized, the exit company next deceived them, and possibly by the very person who sold them the timeshare in the first place! Worse, one snoop removed from our advocacy Facebook, had in his background a company called, Timeshare Fraud Recovery. No question this meets the definition of racketing. The member is defrauded by an exit company and then contacted by the same people offering fraud recovery!     

We’re not lawyers, so Haley and Louis would need to contact a reputable lawyer for an opinion as to where to go from here. Given what money has already gone down the drain, I can understand her reluctance to pursue this further. It’s a mess.  

When a reader asks about an exit company, keeping an open mind, I contact the company, explaining one of our readers asked us whether we would recommend them. Often they hang up the phone after a few questions. Once I received a threat accompanied by a string of expletives. Three timeshare exit companies I contacted I feel are reputable and we have maintained communication in an effort to better understand this murky world of timeshare exits and transfers.   

One timeshare insider provided us with this Timeshare User Group forum (beginning November 2016). I can vouch for one of the licensed brokers mentioned, Judi Kozlowski. Judi has helped us out with a few of our articles.

(Brokers recommended) Fred Messreni

www.timeshare-gallery.com

Seth Nock

www.sellingtimeshares.net

Judi Kozlowski

www.timeshareresalepros.com

Tug review crew comment November 16, 2016

I’m adding one more voice strongly recommending that you steer clear of any and every “exit / release / escape” entity — and to ignore meaningless BBB ratings.

 

You might consider “sweetening” the TUGgiveaway” by now additionally offering to pay the transfer fees — and maybe even the next maintenance fee bill as well (…said bill is likely already in hand at this time of year, or very soon en route to you). You’d still be mathematically “ahead” compared to paying any shaky upfront fee parasite, whoever they may be.

Finding a valid new recipient is infinitely more “clean” and legally conclusive than getting involved with (and/or paying) any upfront fee “exit / release/ escape” entity. Bear in mind that some of these entities are actually committing outright fraud by design …which could boomerang back around to you in the future.

Good luck, but do yourself a big favor and stay away from any and all of these alleged “escape artists”.

TUG Admin February 23, 2018

Looking at your ad, we see you are still asking for money for your Festiva timeshare.

You also don’t appear to be offering to pay closing costs as the seller.

Both of these factors are the reason you are having no success in selling your timeshare…not that fixing them will guarantee a buyer…but having them is certainly guaranteeing that the only folks interested in your ad…are upfront fee scammers.

(You are welcome; we just saved you thousands of dollars being thrown away for an upfront fee company)

Contact any of these independent self-help groups if you have a question or concern about your timeshare.

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and Haley, this industry is in dire need of a major shake up and regulation, the periphery companies such as resale, terminations and claims are a product of the greed of the major developers, with the lack of a resale market and the inability to terminate membership.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other article published on Inside Timeshare, use our contact page and we will get back to you.

Have you been contacted by a termination or claims company, or have found one on the internet and are not sure if they are genuine, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will help you to check them.

Remember, by doing your due diligence and your homework, you will save thousands in the end.

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.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

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

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

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

Is Freewheeling Credit Card Lending Here Again!?

The Over Reliance on Credit Card Lending

Our Stormy Point Village, Summerwinds Experience

By Mike Yelton, Army and Air Force Vietnam Veteran

May 22, 2018  

Introduction by Irene Parker

Was this Elder Fraud?  

Was this Credit Card Fraud?

Was this an Unfair and Deceptive trade practice?

Was Summerwinds resolution to the Yelton’s offer fair?

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

Another Wells Fargo Settlement

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

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

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

By Mike Yelton

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

Discussion Question 1

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

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

Discussion Question 2 & 3

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

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

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

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

Discussion Question 4

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

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

Discussion Question 5

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

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

Discussion Question 6

Do you think the offer Summerwinds proposed was fair?

We will allow the cancellation of the last upgrade.

The debt prior to this purchase is still your responsibility.

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

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

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

Discussion Question 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summerwinds Resorts Services, LLC has a BBB rating of F

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to File a Timeshare Complaint (May 2018 revision)

Start with the Attorneys General Office

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

May 18, 2018

By Irene Parker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the FBI,

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two most common complaints reported:

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

How Advocacy Works

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is organized into seven teams:

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

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

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

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

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

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

Name (s) and age of member

Phone Number

State of Residence

Member Number

For each contract in dispute:

Where Purchased and Date of Purchase

Number of Points Purchased

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Current Loan Balance

Loan Number

Current Maintenance Fees

Name of Credit Card if one was used

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

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

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

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

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

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

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

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

Who We Are and Why We Do This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://tug2.net/

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

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

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

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

May 18, 2018 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy GroupTM

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

In this weeks Tuesday Slot with Irene we welcome a new contributor and member to the Diamond Resorts Advocacy Facebook Group, Jenny Baldner, edited and introduction by Irene Parker. In this article Jenny gives her way of avoiding those persistent “update meetings”.

In response to Marcy’s comment about US Consumer Attorneys in Friday’s Letter from America, another Veteran has come forward worried about the $6,000 he paid US Consumer Attorneys after he was not allowed out of his timeshare. George Yamada served his country in Vietnam. He is 70% disabled, exposed to Agent Orange.

Inside Timeshare has heard from 44 veterans and Active Duty members of the military and law enforcement alleging timeshare fraud. Those who have put their life and health on the line for us should not have to suffer timeshare abuse that can ruin their retirement.

Last week after publishing Friday’s Letter from America, news came in of yet another Supreme Court ruling from Spain’s Highest Court in Madrid, Once again the lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance secured the ruling against Silverpoint in Tenerife, making the number rulings from this court a massive 112!

The judges in this case ordered that the client be awarded over 80,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest, with the contract being declared null and void. So another happy ex-timeshare owner.

Considering the above and what has been published in the past, it seems strange that David Cox of TESS is still very quiet, still nothing published since his diatribe against Inside Timeshare, Canarian Legal Alliance and Praetorian Legal back in March.

Could it be he has run out of thoughts (not difficult for someone without a brain), or just forgotten how to write, not that he could write anyway, or is it he knows that he has landed himself in the proverbial legal dung heap!

We actually suspect that this enterprise is going the same way as all the others he has been involved with, LIQUIDATION!

https://tesstimesharefacts.com/news/david-cox-bernadette-cox-disolve-companies-faster-alker-seltza-glass-water/

Now for this Tuesdays article.

A Fair and Balanced Timeshare Review

By Jenny Baldner

May 15, 2018

Introduction by Irene Parker

Two common timeshare complaints are:

There is never any availability!

You can always book cheaper online!

I don’t agree with either comment, but it is also true there are many times it is cheaper to book online than use vacation points. My mission is to slow the growth of deceit and bait and switch tactics used to sell points, inspired by the evolution of the points based timeshare product.

Today Jenny Baldner shares her fair and balanced opinion along with her words of wisdom on how to dodge efforts to get her to attend sales presentations. Jenny is a Diamond Resorts member, but Inside Timeshare has heard complaints from members who own points of several timeshare companies. More than a few members have told us the only reason they want out is because of the herculean efforts of greeters to get you to sit down for that 90 minute presentation that can end up taking as long as nine hours. Nine hours has been the record so far.    

The only comment of Jenny’s that I don’t agree with is “since we are stuck with it for life.” The old adage holds true. The only two things we are stuck with are dying and paying taxes. Developers are finally starting to wake up to the fact that ironclad one sided perpetual contracts, accompanied by rising maintenance fees, with little or no secondary market, are a one way ticket to disaster. As always, don’t pay anyone any money to get you out of your timeshare without checking with one of the self-help groups listed below or Inside Timeshare.

Three important considerations need to be input into Jenny’s model:

  1. The age of the buyer
  2. The initial investment
  3. The interest rate – never finance a vacation at 12% to 18% for 10 years   

We appreciate Jenny’s article submission. Due to the escalation in the number of comments and complaints Inside Timeshare receives, contributor articles allow Charles Thomas and I more time to answer questions and point members in the right direction in order to resolve their complaint. And I love to edit!

Jenny’s Timeshare Tips

I’m really glad I was accepted into this group.

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

I see that a lot of people have experienced what we have. So, I wanted to share a few ways to evade the badgering of sales agents and other ways I get my money’s worth since we’re stuck with it for life.

  1. We always check in late to avoid the rush. Sometimes we travel separately so I can say my spouse isn’t accompanying me on this trip. They leave you alone if your spouse isn’t with you.
  2. Skip the concierge desk after checking in.
  3. Don’t answer the room phone during your stay. Most of us have cell phones so you can go one step further and unplug the room phones which I have done if they’re persistent.
  4. When they call your cell phone, make sure that you let them know that every day is booked with set activities. This is not a lie.
  5. Program that number into your phone so you know not to answer it.
  6. Kill them with kindness. “Thank you so much, I appreciate it but, No!”
  7. We have way more points than we need every year, so I usually book extra rooms so families can join in on the fun. I supply the room and they either pay me money to go towards my maintenance fees, or they buy all the food while we’re there. They don’t have the money to buy or rent hotels or resorts. I always try to upgrade to get my money’s worth.
  8. I got tired of feeling like I was being duped, so now I use a budget planner to track my maintenance fees and points. When I find a location using my points, I compare the market value of the resort as if I were to book the same room through booking.com, Trip Advisor, hotels.com, and so on. I make sure that when I book a room, I couldn’t get it cheaper through the market.
  9. Lastly, I hate the way they sell you these timeshares! But, I have to admit I like the rooms and it forces me to take a couple vacations every year. If you have it, use it! Don’t lose your points. I have booked rooms for my friends and their families after they return from deployment. One year I even used it as my white elephant gift at work.

On another note…a few days after 1 January, I save my max points for the year. If I need them back because I went over the remainder to use, they just pull that amount back for your booking. You already paid your maintenance fees so you don’t have to pay anything extra. And then you don’t have to worry about forgetting to save your points by a certain deadline.

Below is a picture of this year’s budget. As you can see if I were to book these vacations without my timeshare it would have cost me an additional $2,552.79. The market tracker does include taxes and the additional resort fees we don’t pay.

I hope this helps you or someone. We started with Sunterra in 2006 and are now with Diamond Resorts.

Thank you again Jenny! Jenny worked as a Resource Advisor for a few years while in the Air Force and decided to take those skills and apply them to this. “Nothing worse than feeling like you were made a fool of,” Jenny added.

The consumer is not off the hook, but clearly more timeshare public awareness is needed to slow the volume of complaints as well as rising default rates. Consumer knowledge can address both negatives.    

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://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

Thank you Jenny and Irene, I’m sure that by using this advice, you will have a much more peaceful vacation.

If you have any comments or questions about any article published, then contact Inside Timeshare and we will be pleased to help.