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Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Friday and time for another Letter from America with Irene Parker, this week is part 1 with part 2 due shortly. Now, in Europe it has been a little quiet on the courts front this week, although there have been many cases before the courts, no sentences have been announced, so nothing there to report.

Inside Timeshare has been receiving many more enquiries regarding RSB Legal and Taylor Marshall Associates, these have all been very similar. They have all paid substantial amounts of money to have their timeshare contracts cancelled, none of this has been done. They are all receiving demands for unpaid maintenance and many are now in around two years of arrears.

It is obvious that these contracts have not been cancelled, despite what RSB Legal and Taylor Marshall are saying. All those who have contacted us have told us the same thing, their resorts have insisted that they do not deal with third parties to cancel contracts, only direct with the member.

Club la Costa has also been explaining this to members, they even informed RSB Legal and Taylor Marshall that they would not deal with them. But obviously they just carried on regardless and taking huge amounts from members knowing full well they would not get the contracts cancelled.

Another company which Inside Timeshare reported on in May, has come up yet again, Donaldson Bruce Associates, as we stated in the original article there is no record of them at Company House in the UK or in Spain. The website is registered under a privacy company and there is no address given just a contact page and a Sheffield telephone number 0114 303 0678.

This time the caller who stated to our reader that Diamond Resorts is closing its European Portfolio and will only be operating in America, well that is news to us and all the Diamond members who own in Europe! Having spoken with Diamond Resorts today about this company, they are now looking into the matter, they also confirmed that they will only deal with members direct regarding surrender of membership and not with any of these types of companies.

This is obviously a scare tactic on the part of Donaldson Bruce agents, to get people to sign up for a claim. Diamond Europe I believe, would inform their members if anything like this were to happen, after all it is in their interest to do so.

We do know that Diamond did close their sales offices and many staff had to be laid off, obviously many of these have set up these “claims” companies and may be using the data “stolen” from Diamond to contact their old clients. On the point of the sales office closures, this was done for economic reasons, Diamond have franchised out the sales side so they are no longer responsible for the marketing costs or wages of the sales staff.

http://insidetimeshare.com/thursday-news-slot-a-new-cold-calling-claims-company/

So now on with our Letter from America.

Part I – Did You Get the Letter?

Part II – I got some letters

By Irene Parker

Most members begin their report: They said I should have gotten a letter…

June 22, 2018

There is no question there are millions of timeshare members happy with their timeshare. However, many existing members may be unaware their timeshare has little to no secondary market until a life event makes the timeshare unaffordable, or useless, because of the inability to travel. Deeding it back to the timeshare company without receiving any monetary value back may be acceptable when you have used the timeshare for many years, but what about the buyer who purchases a timeshare and then learns, sometimes just weeks after purchase, they were a victim of fraud? Most of the 466 families reaching out to Inside Timeshare allege they were baited and switched. Many with 800 credit scores now brace for foreclosure.

We need to equip the existing timeshare member, as well as the first time buyer, with the tools needed to make an informed decision. We feel the timeshare consumer should be made aware that there may be little to no secondary market for the timeshare they purchased. It would be helpful to know that the points you paid $60,000 for should only be listed for $4,500, in the case of one timeshare company that has even this much of a secondary market. A member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association can estimate what your timeshare may be worth. LTRBA members will not even accept a listing for the points I purchased feeling my timeshare points have no secondary market. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Do not pay anyone upfront money to get you out of your timeshare without checking with us or one of the self-help groups listed below. There are many scams created by this flawed points based product.    

Existing timeshare members almost always begin their complaint like this:

Sales agent: “Did you get the letter?”

Timeshare owner: “What letter?”

Sales agent: “You should have  gotten a letter.”

Timeshare owner: “I didn’t get a letter.”

There was no letter and the reason the sales agents said this was to disturb the existing member. This is a common sales technic. As a financial planner, I disturbed my prospects with, “Do you know if you have saved enough to generate 70% of your current income in retirement?” The difference was my prospects needed to fear this, but in complaint after complaint, the fear factor was used to coerce a timeshare member to give up their deeded timeshare and convert to points, or lose everything. Another fear factor is, “If you don’t buy points (if they are not holding a deed), you won’t be at the level needed to pay maintenance fees with points (or sell points if that is the member’s concern). No timeshare member is required to give up their deed, unless all owners are required to do so because the timeshare is being terminated.

 Many members are astonished at the level of deceit they say they experienced. One former timeshare sales agent told me her manager told her to order the CIA Manual on Human Manipulation. When I looked up human manipulation I found several of the  20 most common manipulation techniques used, have been used on timeshare buyers. The actions of these bad apples makes it hard on sales agents that do sell the product honestly. For some companies, I’m not sure if the honest or dishonest agent is considered the rogue.

  20 of the most common manipulation techniques (my comments to the techniques I picked out as applicable to timeshare are italicized)

The Patriotic Vanguard http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/20-most-common-manipulation-techniques-used-by-human-predators

  1. Lying

Predators are constantly lying about practically everything in their life. They do this to wrong-foot their victim and confuse them. Lying is one of the manipulation techniques psychopaths typically use because they have no qualms about it.

Complaints always begin, “The sales agent said” and the member’s complaint is almost always dismissed with, “We are not responsible for what our sales agent says” or “You signed a contract” unless the member is holding a smoking gun (like the recording of a fraudulent sales presentation or a sophisticated spreadsheet they managed to get a picture of or smuggle out). One complainant even said her sales agent told her when she contacted him, “It doesn’t matter what I said. The only thing that matters is what you signed.” This dismissal is backed up by some Attorney General Timeshare Division reviewers, responding, “You have no proof” or, “You should not have relied on verbal representation.”

Okay fine. Our mission is to alert the public not to believe a word a timeshare sales agent says.

  1. Not telling the whole story

This is different to lying as a predator will often keep a key part of the story to themselves in order to put their victim at a disadvantage.

Oh Boy! We could write a novel about this tactic. “You can pay all your maintenance fees by charging to a credit card.” This may work for a timeshare sales agent earning $600,000 a year charging $270,000 to a credit card to pay a $2,700 maintenance fee, but for the average timeshare buyer, a 1% credit is a far cry from paying all the maintenance fees. “And you can use your points for airfares!” When I attempted this it would have cost $2,300 in maintenance fee dollars to book one domestic round-trip ticket. One former timeshare sales agent told me he was forced out for explaining the actual value. He had 30 years in the business before joining this particular timeshare company.

  1. Love-bombing and devaluation

Narcissists typically use love bombing as a manipulation tactic, they will go on a charm offensive and get you hooked into thinking this is the best relationship ever, then they’ll drop you like a ton of bricks without explanation.

This from Phyllis, being encouraged to give up her timeshare deed:

I am a senior citizen 5 feet tall women and he is a 6 feet tall man standing over me stating he was a child of GOD and he can help me then said to me “I am a friend I can tell you the best thing to do only if I signed”. He added the BANK CREDIT CARD. I was misled to only use the card for shopping that my points would go up and maintenance fees would go down. I never received the card. I never used the card. Now I have a trial date May 8, 2018 to pay their lawyers in the amount of $3446.04. They sent a letter stating the timeshare went into foreclosure and I am out of the contract. Since the timeshare and the bank are together I should be out of paying the bank as well? I need help. Could someone give me advice? Can I get someone to go with me and represent me? I am afraid and stressed. Please – email me on what I can so as soon as possible. Thank You.

The credit card company kindly granted Phyllis a 60 day extension to July. She is representing herself.

  1. Denial

Often the simplest way a predator will manipulate a person is by denying the thing they are accused of ever happening.

The timeshare company party line response has been, “After a thorough investigation, the sales agent said he didn’t say that. Here are your initials on the fine print. You signed a contract. Kind regards.”

  1. Spinning the truth

How many times have politicians twisted the facts to suit themselves? This spinning of the truth is often used to disguise bad behaviour by predators such as sociopaths.

This is one of our most recent complaints:

After we said no to L, Mr. Richard C told us we should buy points to save money on airfare since we have to fly so often to India to care for my mother undergoing chemotherapy. Richard said we could use our points to pay for plane tickets to India to help reduce expenses. L gave a long lecture on how immigrants (referring to me) should behave in the United States and should invest in programs like this to save money on travel.  They said I could fly four times to India instead of two. We have learned this was all a lie.

  1. Minimising

Where a predator will try and play down their actions as not important or damaging and shift the blame onto the victim for overreacting.

“You were confused” is a frequent response.

  1. Targets the victim

When a manipulator accuses the victim of wrongdoing, they are making the victim defend themselves whilst the predator is able to mask their own manipulation techniques. The focus is on the victim, not the accuser.

See #4

  1. Positive reinforcement

This includes buying expensive presents, praising them, giving money, constantly apologizing for their behaviour, excessive charm and paying lots of attention.

In timeshare these are all the free tickets, restaurant coupons and giveaways.

  1. Moves the goal posts

You might think you know where you stand with a person, but if they are constantly moving the goal posts in order to confuse you, then it’s likely you’re dealing with a predator.

These seniors lost their entire savings, $13,000, and were foreclosed. They were sold a minimal number of points that they could have vacationed with, but then up-sold into foreclosure, told they would lose everything if they did not buy more points. The husband diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the wife hard of hearing. The company used the recording of the QA against them telling the grown son, and “We recorded the QA. They were very engaged.” In a PR Release the company had stated the recording of the QA was an enhanced Quality Assurance. Members are not allowed to record the sales session.

http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-with-irene-8/

  1. Diversion

Diverting the conversation away from the perpetrator’s act and moving the conversation onto a different topic is a typical way predators manipulate their victims.

When I told a scam my timeshare company does not allow renting points and I can send them the rule, they smoothly asked, “So how much are you paying in maintenance fees?” as they moved on to a travel reimbursement pitch.  

  1. Guilt tripping

Someone who manipulates can guilt trip their victim by saying that they don’t care about them or that they are selfish or their life is easy. It all helps to keep that person confused and anxious.

Guilt tripping in timeshare often lays a guilt trip on the parents that they are not providing adequate vacation time for the kids.

  1. Playing the innocent card

A true manipulator will feign utmost shock and confusion at being accused of any wrongdoing. Their surprise is so convincing that the victim may question their own judgement.

One member reported they were told, “Those sales agents at that sales center are good guys.”  This was a sales center we received over 50 complaints against, eleven against one particular agent.

  1. Over-the-top aggression

Manipulators often use rage and aggression to shock their victim into submission. The anger is also a tool to shut down any further conversation on the topic as the victim is scared but focused now on controlling the anger, not the original topic.

See what happened to Phyllis in Point 4. We are flooded with complaints about timeshare sales presentations that last for hours with members being browbeat by rotating aggressors until they were diminished down to mush. I’m not making this up. If I had not heard 466 stories, I would not be this confident.

  1. Isolation

It is far easier to keep a person under control if they are isolated from family members and friends who could shed some light and truth on the situation.

This is accomplished by NDAs and arbitration.  I refused to sign one after I was offered our money back, which is why I am still standing. The developer describes arbitration something like, “litigating from the comfort of your own home.” The timeshare company hires the litigator for $400 to $500 an hour.  

  1. Feigns love and empathy

Predators such as psychopaths and sociopaths do not know how to love someone other than themselves, and cannot feel empathy, but they can pretend to in order to inveigle others into their lives.

See what happened to Phyllis in Point 4.

If you watch out for the above manipulation techniques, you can keep yourself out of a predator’s clutches.

… For reading, responding and for helping others.

Contact Inside Timeshare or these self-help groups if you need help or have a question you need answered.

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/

FTC Report on Fraud

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/03/ftc-releases-annual-summary-complaints-reported-consumers

Thank you Irene, we look forward to the second installment, join us again next week for more “Nightmares on Timeshare Street” and remember to do your homework, check, check and check again, there are many out there who just want to take your hard earned cash.

If you need any help in identifying any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet and want to check if they are genuine, then use our contact page and get in touch.

Have a good weekend.

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker looks at “Special Assessments”, in this case the Americano Beach Resort, this extra charge is something that we are familiar with on Inside Timeshare.

Over the years many owners / members have been handed these “extra bills” for various reasons, we even saw this with Diversified Resorts a couple of years back. That was because they had a huge tax bill owing, even those members that did not own with them at the time the tax should have been paid were given a bill. If they did not pay it within 30 days their membership would be suspended, blackmail or what!

Now for today’s article.

Americano Beach Resort

A Timeshare Resort in Dispute Hoping for a Dialog

By Irene Parker

June 19, 2018

Americano owners have been the recipient of a ‘special assessments’ to repair the Americano, which according to ABR/ARC is to the tune of around $15 MILLION!  

Hurricane season just launched, so as we brace for what is predicted to be a robust hurricane season, we look back to damage from which some resorts have still not recovered. When disaster strikes, dialog is important to restore not just the building, but the relationship between members and the developer. At the end of the article, I’ve included Tom Tubbs’ article about special assessments. Tom is with Island Consulting Realty and has 33 years industry experience. Tom is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.  

Americano Beach Resort, a/k/a The Suites at Americano Beach, now managed by ARC Resorts, LLC, has been shut down since a few days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September 2017. The reconstruction of the Americano Beach Resort is a complicated timeshare issue, and one that will take a series of articles to understand, given the complexity of the problems and the concerns of those who have owned at this timeshare for a couple of decades. Six Americano timeshare members have reached out to Inside Timeshare, expressing their frustration.  

As reported in Perspective Magazine, the plan before hurricane Matthew hit:    

In February (2016), ARC Resorts (ARC) acquired the rights to The Americano Beach Lodge Resort Condominium Association Inc. to uniformly redevelop and manage the 198 timeshare units located in Daytona Beach, Florida. Their objective is to redevelop and revitalize the property without burdening the timeshare unit owners with special assessments.

At The Suites at Americano Beach, the (hurricane Matthew) storm surge overwhelmed the Beachside Tiki Bar and the surrounding maintenance area beneath the pool deck. A large portion of the Sea Wall was washed away. The CAT 3 Wind forced significant water intrusion in the units, and compromised the window systems. The wind also compromised all the roofing systems. The resort ran on partial power for several days, which affected several major systems, such as the elevators and the cooling tower.

http://perspectivemagazine.com/081220165656/arc-resorts-daytona-property-rebounds-after-hurricane-matthew

Prior to the natural disaster however, ARC assessed the newly attained property in a thorough Insurance Review. They were able to upgrade the insurance coverage while lowering annual premiums. One feature in the upgrade was Business Interruption as a line item of additional hazard insurance coverage. This due diligence established security for ARC as an investor and shielded timeshare owners from excessive assessments.

https://www.insidethegate.com/2016/12/arc-resorts-daytona-property-rebounds-after-hurricane-matthew/

I reached out to R. Scott MacGregor, ARC President, and a 30-year resort industry veteran with executive experience in project planning, development, marketing, management, and finance. Scott understands the frustration long time owners feel.  

Like many resorts in the US, the Association had chronically underfunded reserves to keep assessments down, and had allowed a majority of the intervals to fall into default. Most boards of volunteer owners just aren’t prepared to deal with those issues, especially when a 60-year-old building requires the level of re-investment that the Americano does.

Americano members are asking for answers they feel have not been forthcoming in informational updates and meetings. Below are the questions Americano members would like answered. Scott MacGregor’s comments and answers to questions are in italics.

ARC had already agreed to post answers to many of the same questions that were presented at the May board meeting on the website, and we will do that and include some of the other questions provided below. Official information will be posted on the Association website only.  

Questions owners posed. Scott MacGregor’s answers are in italics.   

How much damage was claimed from Matthew?

How much has the insurance paid on these claims?

How was the money spent?

Owners state that there are lawsuits against insurers of the Americano.  What is the basis of these suits? I can’t comment publicly on the ongoing insurance litigation, only to say the basis for the lawsuits, for which the Association is the plaintiff, are over differences on the amounts claimed and the amounts paid by the insurers. Inaccurate comments about the litigation or the resort will be detrimental to the Association.

What work has been done on the Americano to date?

Why has it taken so long to get the Americano back open for business?

How much damage has been claimed from Irma?

How many special assessments are Owners expected to receive and what amounts?

The remodeling plan exceeds costs of $15 million.  It was stated that ARC anticipates gathering $10 million from investors.  What is the time frame for that?

Is it reasonable to expect owners to supplement $5 million, especially since it was stated 60% of owners are no longer paying annual maintenance fees?

If 60% of owners are no longer paying regular maintenance fees, how can the remaining 40% supplement the 60% who are not paying? If the 60% is accurate, it will be too costly for anyone to continue as an owner.

What do you estimate the building will be worth after all the renovations are complete?  Property records show the building valued at approximately $14.5 million now. The building was appraised and insured for $22 million, with additional coverage for contents, etc. (One of the members thought Volusia County had the building valued at or near $15 million.)

What kind of ‘exit’ plan do you have for owners who can no longer afford or wish to be part of the timeshare program, particularly long-time owners who are now senior citizens on fixed incomes?

Who owns ARC?

If the damage is more than 60%, should the building be declared totaled?

What compensation has been offered to owners who have not only been unable to use their weeks, or bank the weeks for exchange, but have paid maintenance and/or assessment fees for several years with nothing to show for it?  

Irene’s answer: Whether it is a timeshare condo or your personal residence, if a hurricane destroys property to the extent you can’t inhabit the property, it’s never easy. Property taxes and other expenses continue and alternative living arrangements need to be made. The real question the owners are asking – Is the reason the resort is still not open valid? It may be. The developer has every reason to see a closed resort open. If your home is 60% destroyed, it would be hard to find a buyer and more difficult to walk away from.     

Unrelated to the hurricane damage, owners claim that ARC has made significant changes to the way owners have always been able to book/use their timeshare weeks. Some say they have had their weeks changed from prime to non-prime; some have lost the weeks they had always booked for races and Bike Week; some were told they had to buy into a more expensive points system; some were told they had to change from Interval to RCI for exchanges, etc. We will reach out to these owners in a future article.

As was discussed at the May board meeting we can amend the Declaration to change the definition of a week from beginning on a Saturday only to being what suits the owner better. Race Week owners could stay Monday to Monday, for example, so they could enjoy the pre-race activities and stay over the night after the race without having to rent additional time. Bike week owners might prefer to come Sunday to Sunday, and be assured they could come for that event regardless of when the City scheduled it.

Owners reaching out to Inside Timeshare feel they may have been scammed, particularly as some owners paid thousands (as recently as 2017) to buy into a points system as they were told they had to in order to be able to continue to use their timeshare. No owner should have to give up a deed. Before doing so, the deed holder needs to make sure if the reasons a sales agent gives for giving up a deed (at any timeshare) is warranted.

At an Americano Board meeting May 21, 2018 a member reported:

Owners say they received a survey PRIOR to an owners’ meeting in March 2018, giving owners a chance to vote for:

(a) Continuing the timeshare program as is,

(b) Reducing the timeshare program to a few floors while redesigning and selling the rest as private condos, or

(c) Terminating the timeshare program altogether.  

From what owners say they were told at the meeting, over 60% voted to terminate the timeshare program.

Chris Crawford is an Americano owner and admin of a member sponsored Facebook page consisting of 200 owners. Chris did not attend the meeting, but feels the vote was hearsay. He said members who did attend reported no actual numbers were presented. Owners say they are frantic as they believe that they will lose their timeshare that they have put thousands into, many well over 20 years, and get nothing back.

Many want to deed their timeshare back to Americano. According to members, resellers will not even talk to owners about trying to sell as they are saying there is a lawsuit pending, but owners say they are receiving no information about a lawsuit (unrelated to the insurance litigation).  

Chris says complaints have been filed with various State of Florida agencies, certified letters sent to Americano Board of Directors and ARC requesting specific documents as proof of damages claimed, but owners say they have received no responses from Americano or the state agencies.

Scott MacGregor said there have been updates and information posted to members reporting the status.   

I hope the members of the member sponsored Americano Facebook group will heed the advice given to them by the State regulators and timeshare attorney Finn of Finn Law Group:  present evidence of malfeasance to the State Regulators or to a court of competent jurisdiction to be adjudicated, and/or present a plan for consideration by the Association which is better than the one ARC has presented.  

Our plan is pretty simple: we have been consistent from our engagement with the Americano that it will take about $15mm of capital to restore the facility to a current and compliant property after suffering years of under-investment in the reserves required to update all of the common elements when they reached the end of their useful lives. Initially, we intended to do that by generating $40 – 50 million in sales over 5 to 7 years and attributing about 25% of the sales volume (which is standard “product cost” in many US timeshare developments) toward that reconstruction.  Unfortunately, August of 2017 was the first month we attained break-even sales volume at the resort, only to have it shut down by Irma in early September. So, now our plan is to raise through ARC debt or equity $10 – 12mm as rapidly as possible to renovate the entire facility; to reduce the timeshare program to the number of units needed to support the remaining timeshare owners, and modify the use plan to make it more flexible for those owners.

Financially, the costs of ownership should decrease as the significant bad debt burden the owners have increasingly borne over the past 10 – 15 years would be eliminated, and the facility would be significantly upgraded, thereby eliminating the historic underfunded reserve problem the resort has had for the same time.  A facility of that size should have roughly $6 – 8 million in reserves. In the years prior to our involvement, its reserve balance as reported in its audits was closer to $500 – 600 k, less than a tenth of what was required. This is a common problem with too many timeshare resorts, done to keep the maintenance fees artificially low.  2016 was the first year in many that the Association had more than a million dollars in its reserve at year-end. I’ll also point out that 2017 will have been the first year the Association ever (as far as I can tell from past tax returns) the Association received net rental proceeds from the Developer, netting more than $120,000 through the first 8 months of the year.  The remaining units will be restructured as whole-ownership vacation rental units or held for rental, hopefully generating a return of and on the capital ARC is seeking to raise for its reconstruction.

It is the intent to raise capital externally, and not to require any additional assessments of the owners.  Were the remaining owners (including ARC which owns and pays assessments on approximately 1,450 intervals) to be assessed the amount necessary to complete the renovations, because more than 60% of them have stopped paying assessments over the years, the additional bill to each owner would have easily exceeded $5,000 per interval, which is not tenable.  The capital needed to be raises for a project like this isn’t easy; the units are small and don’t have external balconies, so the margins on redevelopment are slim. The funding will come from private investors; most likely those with a present stake in the Daytona market, from some of the specialized US timeshare lenders, or perhaps from a smaller Private Equity firm.  It’s what I spend most of my time working on.

Scott answer my questions highlighted in red: Since Inside Timeshare is published in Spain, we are interested in a statement made that ARC has ties to the EU. What are those connections?

When we started putting ARC together in 2015, one of the aspects we sought was ties to European (and South American) companies that we could leverage to send owners on trips abroad, especially to countries of their heritage.  Silverpoint and RCI Europe both expressed an interest in helping to do that, though we have no formal or financial ties to either. We do have a contact with the Holiday Plus discounted European hotel program, to which our ARC Freedom 365 members have access through the “Heritage” program on our website.  We will do an occasional “inventory swap” with Silverpoint, as we do with dozens of other companies. This helps us to place owners in locations they may not be able to get through direct exchange programs like RCI or II. Also, much of the programing staff for our technology partner TimeshareSoft International is based in Bulgaria.  We may also try to market some of the Americano condominiums in the EU and Asian markets through established broker networks in those regions, though we have not yet entered into any agreements to do so. There are no contractual or financial ties between ARC and Silverpoint. If there were, we’d leverage their destinations for marketing purposes on our websites.

Are hedge funds involved in the raising of funds?  

Hedge funds tend to make large, long-term investments in companies and real estate projects, but something as small (from their perspective) as ARC and the Americano redevelopment are not in their wheelhouse. We will raise the development capital from individual investors as noted above, and or from US specialty lenders in the timeshare space, and possibly from smaller Private Equity or VC firms. Due to the risk profile and complexity of the Americano, it will most likely be individual investors with interests in Daytona or other Florida beach markets and/or the US timeshare lenders.

My view is the solution is not to try to take the whole industry down, but to work on making parts of it better with community-based approaches to supporting the stronger, more sustainable resorts and helping those that are failing to do so in a controlled manner preserving as much value as possible and avoiding complete collapse of the Associations. I gave a similar presentation to the Timeshare Board Members Association in Orlando in May.

I don’t think anyone wants to take the whole industry down, but given several lawsuits and Attorneys General settlements, we believe timeshare could improve, especially in the sales and marketing department. Inside Timeshare has heard from 473 angry timeshare members and owners to date. We hope constructive dialog can improve customer relationships. If President Trump and Kim Jong-un can sit down and have a friendly chat, we should too.

Chris said the Canadian Teacher Association originally owned the Americano, developed as a place for teachers to vacation. According to Chris, the single largest shareholder (the old owner) sold it to ARC.  

Proprietors behind Americano are ARC American Resort Collection

http://www.arcresorts.com/about-arc/

Special Assessment: What Is It? Why Is It?

Tom Tubbs

Island Consulting Realty

It can happen. You open the mail from your timeshare resort and here’s a letter of explanation of why they are asking you to send them more money. First you have to understand what it is and is not. A special assessment is just that, special. Normally your maintenance fee is covering everything; upkeep of the unit and common area, housekeeping, taxes, utilities, insurance and also reserves. Let’s look at reserves. That’s the part that they collect and set aside for when the big things happen that we all know about; repave the roads and parking lot, new roofs, etc. It’s also called a sinking fund. But sometimes things occur that no one could have planned on and there’s no money in the budget to handle it.

Think of it this way. Every few years you paint your home (reserves). You know it’s coming. You clean the house regularly (housekeeping). You pay your taxes and insurance. But one day you’re outside and notice a crack in your foundation. You didn’t plan on it and didn’t budget for it but guess what, it’s there! You have to pay to get it fixed. That’s the same sort of thing that can happen with any homeowner’s association whether it’s your own neighborhood or vacation condo you own. Same with a timeshare. If it’s something that could not have been predicted, it simply has to be taken care of. The alternative is not making the repair and having the quality of the resort go downhill. That’s worse.

But here’s what you do have to watch out for. If it should ever happen to you, you need to know the real reason for the assessment. Was it something like described above and simply could not have been predicted? If so that’s understandable. BUT, what if they tell you it’s for “refurbishment” or something similar. That’s a red flag and it needs to be looked at. Since any competent management company or homeowner’s association knows that refurbishment is an ongoing expense, it’s normally a part of the reserves. Most resorts refurbish their units about every 5 years or so. It’s planned for.

   So if your letter states the special assessment is for refurbishing, you have to ask yourself, “What happened to the money I’ve been paying them all these years in maintenance fees?” Where is it? Is the Board of the homeowner’s association incompetent or maybe something worse? This is YOUR money they’re working with and they’re supposed to be able to handle it and account for it. If they’re not competent, it’s time to replace the Board of Directors of the homeowner’s association. And if there’s suspicion of theft, it’s time for a lawyer to get involved with a forensic accountant to go over the books.

So if it does happen, how much money should you be paying out? Well obviously that depends on what the problem is. But, again, this is where the beauty of timeshares come into play where you have a lot of people chipping in so no one in particular is going to get really hurt. Look at it this way. Let’s say you have a resort with 200 units. 200 units times 52 weeks per unit is 10,400 owners for the entire resort. If everyone were hit with a $200 special assessment, that’s over $2,000,000 coming in. It would have to be one unreal problem to cost that much money. So if you ever do get hit with an assessment, do a little quick math and make sure it looks like it adds up.

Thank you Irene, it really makes you wonder what the annual maintenance charges are actually used for?

That’s it for today, the next article will not be published now until Thursday, Inside Timeshare is travelling.

Friday’s Letter from America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to File a Timeshare Complaint (May 2018 revision)

Start with the Attorneys General Office

Timeshare Advocacy Group™

May 18, 2018

By Irene Parker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the FBI,

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two most common complaints reported:

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

How Advocacy Works

Timeshare Advocacy Group™ is organized into seven teams:

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

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

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

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

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

How to File a Timeshare Complaint

Name (s) and age of member

Phone Number

State of Residence

Member Number

For each contract in dispute:

Where Purchased and Date of Purchase

Number of Points Purchased

Sales Agent and Sales Agent ID# (if available)

Purchase Price

Amount Financed and Interest Rate

Current Loan Balance

Loan Number

Current Maintenance Fees

Name of Credit Card if one was used

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

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

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

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

MOST IMPORTANT – Purchase Timeline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of Regulatory and Law Enforcement Agencies

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

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

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

Who We Are and Why We Do This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://tug2.net/

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

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

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

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

May 18, 2018 Irene Parker Timeshare Advocacy GroupTM

 

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

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

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

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

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

Friday’s Letter from America

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

A Disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street

Three more Seniors Driven into Timeshare Foreclosure

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

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

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

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

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

May 11, 2018

Meanwhile, Introduction by Irene Parker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m having panic anxiety attacks!

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

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

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

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

By Phyllis

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

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

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

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

By Shirley K Minnesota, age 74

Club Wyndham

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

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

Branson sales agents:

Gerald Ryan was highly aggressive

Samantha Lapping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$7,349 Promotional purchase

$2,000 Promotional purchase

$30 Promotional purchase

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

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

Marcy S, age 70, a California resident, widowed

I owned a deeded week at Ka’anapali Beach Resort

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

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

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

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

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

Complaint #1

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

Complaint #2

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

Complaint #3

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

Complaint #4

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

Other seniors foreclosed:

Deneice and Louis Vargas – in the foreclosure process

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

Seniors Romeo and Lily Dalisay

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

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

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the Easter edition of Friday’s Letter from America, by Joshua Parker, Sheila Brust and Richard Sokolowski, edited by Irene Parker.

Just as we were getting this ready to publish, Josh has been informed by the Florida Timeshare Division, they will be initiating a new investigation into his complaint. Josh and Nicole’s first complaint that they were told their Diamond points are an investment and easily sold, had been closed. They are now expecting twins and cannot afford the timeshare, Josh is a combat veteran who has seen service in Iraq. So at least some good news before we start.

Normally we have a roundup of news from Europe, but that was published yesterday, so straight on with our Letter from America.

Timeshare is a Highly Regulated Product?

Earth to ARDA Part II

Another Open Letter to ARDA CEO Howard Nusbaum

Robert Clements, Lobbyist and General Counsel

Peter Roth, ARDA media

By Joshua Parker, Sheilah Brust and Richard Sokolowski

March 30, 2018  

consumer1

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

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

Diamond Resort members Sheilah Brust, Joshua Parker, and Richard Sokolowski have learned there is no timeshare regulation and there is no timeshare enforcement for us. We have been filing complaints with every regulatory agency known to an American citizen and all we get is a passing of the buck to another department or agency. In addition, we have been given some ludicrous advice from regulators that are clearly out of touch with timeshare consumer reality.

Sadly, we agree with Eron and Irene. We think ARDA’s Code of Ethics is meaningless. Like Eron and Irene, we are professionals.

Sheilah Brust: Worked for the New York Governor’s Office of Employee Relations

My experience speaking with an FBI agent and what I learned about the process    

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-14/

Josh Parker: Army combat veteran, Sergeant

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-41/

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

Richard Sokolowski: Arizona Real Estate

Earth to ARDA by Eron Grant and Irene Parker – Part I

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-40/

Eron’s YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FMk_45zRzk&feature=youtu.be

Sheilah Brust: So far the only light on the horizon is the FBI. Through Social Media members are talking to other members. No one doubts there are those who use and enjoy their Diamond points. I enjoyed my Diamond points as a Platinum member until we were pitched a program that does not exist. We weren’t confused. The numbers were easy to understand. Gad and Noreen Liebmann are enjoying their retirement by protesting outside Diamond’s Daytona Beach Regency Resort. We were both up-sold by the same Diamond sales agent, Brad Leslie, the same program that does not exist, and still Diamond will not listen.

Protest

According to Facebook postings, the FBI has been responsive and agrees our allegations constitute fraud – deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch. In our opinion, Diamond, in effect, endorses and approves of these tactics by maintaining the position the customer is always wrong. Hospitality agents from the Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department automatically respond, “Sorry you signed a contract” and the emailing of your initials on fine print rewards bad behavior with a commission check.  

Josh: I was advised by Hector Tapininge at the Florida Department of Business Practice and Regulation DBPR to call a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Like Sheilah, I learned licensed timeshare resale agents won’t even accept a Diamond listing feeling the resale market for Diamond points is non-existent. I almost signed up with a scam until finding our Advocacy Facebook.

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

When I informed my reviewer that licensed resale brokers won’t accept a Diamond listing; he said he was aware of this. In other words, send the consumer on a wild goose chase that often leads Diamond members into the nets of scams.

How many timeshare buyers knew they were buying a lifelong timeshare product that could not be sold? As a veteran, I can tell you no service member would ever buy an unsellable asset. The Diamond contract states you can sell your points. Since you are dealing with a licensed real estate agent, it is logical to assume the timeshare can be sold, especially since we were told Diamond points are an investment.

Given so little enforcement and regulation, our mission is to reach the general public to make sure they know they are spending thousands of dollars, signing a perpetual contract, with rising maintenances fees and no secondary market.

Veterans, Active Duty military and law enforcement and government workers are encouraged to support Whistleblowers of America, a nonprofit in Washington DC that seeks justice.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Sheilah: I was contacted by Mr. Alan Parkinson, Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Mediation & Enforcement, Division of Consumer Services.

Mr. Parkinson recommended I contact DBPR, the same Florida Department of Business Practices and Regulation Josh contacted. We saw how much good that did with the response Josh received. I will follow up and we will all continue to report on our progress or lack of. I too spoke with licensed resale brokers. I was told even timeshare companies that do allow a secondary market; the net to the consumer is often negative after commission. I was told I could list a deeded week I own, but it would end up costing me money to get rid of it. Consumers defrauded, are left with a perpetual contract, rising maintenance fees and no secondary market. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Richard Sokolowski: I tried to file a complaint against Diamond Resorts with the Nevada Attorney General’s office. They won’t do anything if I did not buy from a Nevada sales agent. I can’t believe a consumer complaint can’t be filed against a company headquartered in Nevada.

I was also told to contact an attorney. Diamond is the only major timeshare with a class action ban, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is known to be pro-industry. Diamond hires the arbitrator. If the arbitrator rules against the member, the member can be ordered to pay Diamond’s legal fees; and that amount can be higher than the disputed amount. Besides, Diamond has armies of lawyers and outside law firms. They can outspend the average citizen. I’ve talked to lawyers. Getting a lawyer will do nothing to stop predatory and criminal business practices.

Sheilah: According to Josh, this response from the Florida Bureau of Mediation & Enforcement is useless.

Ms. Brust,

By way of introduction, my name is Alan Parkinson and I am the Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Mediation & Enforcement, Division of Consumer Services.  I have received your concerns and would like to take a minute to respond.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has a Timeshare and Condominium division that can likely address many of your concerns regarding the sales practices and issues you have with Diamond Resorts.  If your issue is with the purchase and contract for the timeshare, they would be the appropriate agency to speak with. You can contact them through the link below:

http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/  

 

If your issue is outside of those parameters then you may consider filing a complaint with us so that we can reach out to them and asked that they address your concerns.

www.floridaconsumerhelp.com  

If you any questions please feel free to contact me directly.

Alan Parkinson

Comment from Irene

The Florida timeshare division only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from April 2012 to April 2014, in contrast with the Arizona Attorney General’s office that opened an investigation after receiving 400 DRI complaints and, according to a source, received 500 additional complaints after the press release. The AZ AG has issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, accusing the company of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. Diamond did not admit wrongdoing.

From Eron’s March 9 article:

Inside Timeshare will be following Platinum Diamond members Roy and Lillian Simmons as they make their way through Vacation Ownership’s highly regulated industry. Mr. and Mrs. Simmons are worried about losing their home, up-sold at age 69 and 70 to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. They live on Mr. Simmons letter carrier pension.   

Roy and Teresa Mori, Mr. Mori a recipient of two Purple Hearts, remains devastated. Based on the response daughter Teresa Laird reported to us from a hospitality agent working for Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy Department, the company doesn’t care if sales agents have allegedly ruined their lives. “Sorry, you signed a contract” after being sold 17,000 MORE points over the phone by a Las Vegas company representative after daughter Teresa called to explain the Sampler or trial product should be cancelled. In the middle of her archeology thesis, she is making signs to protest outside Diamond’s Polo Towers.  

In response to a draft sent for comment, Josh received this response from DBPR:

Josh’s responses to Ahmed Y. Kassoo  are in bold

Thank you for contacting the division regarding your concerns. Please note that the division is not authorized to comment on or give its opinion of or approve any articles written by any individual which he or she intends to publish in any form including at various websites or in other publications.

I understand.

Since the division does not regulate the operations of real estate brokers, we are not aware of their criteria with regards to offering real estate listing and marketing services.  As a courtesy and for information purposes only, we provide the web site information of licensed real estate brokers (LTRBA) who specialize in selling timeshare interests and vacation club membership in Florida.  We neither recommend nor endorse a particular broker.

I understand, but why is nothing done about Diamond sales agents allegedly selling vacation points as an investment, yet the points are worthless the moment the contract is signed, should the buyer need to sell. LTRBA members will accept a listing for any major timeshare EXCEPT Diamond Resort, so not only is there no resale value when they are selling the points as an investment, they are the only major timeshare company that can’t be listed with them. Our Diamond Advocacy Facebook of over 1,100 members is flooded with similar complaints, the BBB has over 1,000 complaints and the AZ AG received over 900 complaints, yet the Florida AG timeshare division sends you to LTRBA? Can you see how frustrating this is? Not only is there no regulation or enforcement, Diamond victims are sent on a wild goose chase.     

Please note that it is always safe to employ a licensed real estate broker who are prohibited from collecting advance fee for listing the timeshare for rent or sale, except when permitted by law, and who are strictly regulated by the state.

What does this have to do with Diamond members if the LTRBA members won’t list their points? They feel Diamond has restricted the use of points purchased on the secondary market to the point it does not exist; it’s a hamster wheel 1. Lie to sell 2. Force foreclosure (I know of over 30 active duty and retired military and law enforcement alleging they were defrauded by Diamond, Bluegreen and Vacation Village, seven are concerned they are going to lose their Security Clearance, one lost his air unit command) 3. Take back the points 4. Resell to the next victim. With so little enforcement or regulation, there is nothing to stop timeshare sales agents from using and abusing the oral representation clause.    

If they cannot help the owners, they will let them know upfront and will not waste their time and money to advertise their properties which they know are not marketable. They will not give a false hope unless they are sure they can sell the timeshare.  Despite your statement that “resale market is nonexistent”, please note that timeshare interests do sell in the secondary market, however, buyers are selective and only buy those timeshares which they consider to be in high demand at choice locations. Therefore, it is not true that the timeshare resale market is non-existent.  If it was, these brokers won’t be able to survive.

One of them told Shielah they survive because they get paid a commission even when the seller ends up with a net loss. We don’t hold that against them, but that’s how they survive.  

An owner is free to select any entity to market his/her timeshare interest or club membership.  However, based on the history of complaints we have received, we have learned that many owners have been burned by the individual and entities who take their money and run without providing the promised services based on false and misleading claims.

Exactly, I rest my case. The industry is the cause of the scams because desperate consumers who feel, know, they were defrauded, are easy prey for professional liars.  

I hope this information was helpful

No, I’m sorry. It was of no help. It is my opinion the reason there is so little enforcement and regulation is because Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is influenced by the timeshare PAC ARDA. I will be researching through FOIA how much money she has received in campaign contributions and other means.    

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

If you have any other question or concern, feel free to contact us at your convenience. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to address your concerns.

Thank you. I would like to speak with you. My wife and I have been defrauded. I am a combat veteran, 90% disabled. My wife is pregnant with twins. We bought this because we were told it was an investment and that the points could be easily sold. I know many other members who would appreciate your help, like Eron, Sheila Richard and Gad mentioned in the article.

How many consumers need to contact DBPR to convince DBPR some timeshare sales agents in Florida are engaging in criminal practices?  Irene said Bluegreen has as many complaints as Diamond, but they have their own Advocacy Facebook.

Josh Parker

If you are having a timeshare nightmare, contact our Facebook or one of the non-industry influenced, self-help Facebooks and website listed below.

star

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 to all our contributors and we hope we see more positive results in the weeks ahead. If you would like to share your story with others, contact Inside Timeshare.

We wish you all a very Happy Easter and don’t eat all the eggs in one go!

easter egg

Friday’s Letter from America

It’s Friday, so time for another Letter from America with Irene Parker, but first a look today’s major news in Europe.

El Diario a prominent Spanish daily newspaper published the following article today (see link for full story).

The article reports on the current legal actions against Anfi and tells of the 1.35 million Euros they have had to repay to consumers, in the execution of around fifty judgements. It also goes on to say that there are over 395 live cases at court with a value of over 27 million Euros, with over 100 having had decisions in favour of the consumers. Some of these are firm decisions with the sentences yet to be executed, others are awaiting confirmation.

With even the Spanish press publishing articles such this, it does make the claim by Anfi that they have not lost or the Supreme Court has got it wrong rather flimsy!

In fact on Tuesday yet another sentence was announced by the Court of First Instance against Anfi, again the clients contract was declared null and void with the judge ordering Anfi to return over £20,000 plus legal interest

(if using google. Right click on the article for a translation to English)

http://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/tribunales/Grupo_Anfi-condenas-negocio-timesharing_0_739477033.html

The same article has also been published in Canarias7, one of the major Canary Islands Newspapers.

https://www.canarias7.es/economia/turismo/anfi-paga-ya-1-35-millones-por-condenas-YK3590405

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

 

The 3 Rs or F of Timeshare Revisited (first published in three parts)

Timeshare Resolution, Relinquishment, Refund, Foreclosure

Magnify

By Irene Parker

February 16, 2018

There are many who use and enjoy their timeshare, but rising maintenance fees, high interest rate loans and higher interest rate developer issued credit cards can spell financial disaster, especially when an individual or family is hit with an unexpected life crisis. Not one of the more than 300 Inside Timeshare readers who have contacted us realized the perpetual nature of the timeshare contract (in the US), or that their timeshare had little or no secondary market. It is not uncommon for a family to have spent $100,000 or more on a timeshare.

There is rarely a need to pay anyone, or any firm, money to get you out of your timeshare. Special circumstances, like being in the middle of buying a house, may result in a referral to one of the law firms we know and trust, if the timeshare company refuses to help the individual or family.   

Our “How to File a Complaint” form explains a process that takes time, determination and effort, but when it works, it costs nothing. We say when, because we don’t win them all. No one does, not even lawyers. “We can guarantee you release!” boasts the exit timeshare ad. We have had reports of people paying scammers large sums of money for a guaranteed release, only to learn the guarantee came about because of foreclosure or non-payment.

Our complaint form: http://insidetimeshare.com/file-timeshare-complaint-revised/

The goal:  Convert from angry, desperate, overwhelmed and confused into empowered. Timeshare Advocacy Group™   has 44 core advocates and 10 technical support advocates to help you. All of our Advocates are unpaid.

The First R: Relinquishment

dont like

Some timeshare companies offer voluntary surrender programs, but relinquishments are not guaranteed and there cannot be an outstanding loan or delinquent maintenance fees. It is difficult to determine how many surrenders requests are granted, compared to the number of surrenders requested.

There is nothing wrong with deeding back a timeshare if you have used and enjoyed the timeshare for several years. However, if you find out just days or weeks after purchase that you bought a timeshare not matching what you were promised, walking away from even $5,000 doesn’t seem right.

Before relinquishing, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare can be listed with one of their 64 members. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

LTRBA members charge nothing up front, so they don’t waste your time or money by listing a timeshare that, in all likelihood, will never sell.

The Second R:

refund

A refund is not easy to come by, but in cases of serious and obvious fraud; a refund can be achieved.  Inside Timeshare has heard from so many members alleging fraud, we can sometimes guess the name of the repeat offender sales agent before we are told. The fact that some of the same agents are committing the same “fraud for profit” over a period of years is telling.

The complaint process begins with a petition to the resort. Anticipate a knee jerk “you signed a contract’ reaction. Next, begins the filing of regulatory and law enforcement agency complaints. This is where our advocates are ready to assist because just figuring out online forms can be daunting. Check our complaint form for the list of appropriate agencies to contact.

Eron Grant has become our resident ARDA Code of Ethics analyst. In all likelihood, timeshare members are not even aware they are collectively giving $5 million a year to ARDA ROC. ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association and ROC Resort Owners Coalition. The money comes through “voluntary” opt-in or opts-out donations. This $3 to $10 amount, which varies depending on the resort, appears on all maintenance fee invoices purchased in the U.S. if the developer is an ARDA member.

Despite our advocates and members forwarding a volume of complaints to ARDA, questioning ARDA’s Code of Ethics, there has been no response. Inside Timeshare has learned two of the worst alleged offenders each give $1 million a year to ARDA ROC, surely a disincentive to enforcement.   

Here’s Eron’s article: Why Does ARDA Have a Code of Ethics?

red dress

The intent is that all member activities subject to the Code are designed to be honest and fair, and are conducted with integrity, dignity and propriety.  http://www.arda.org/ethics/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-14/

Litigation can take years and often the amount of money at stake doesn’t justify the time and expense litigation requires. Some developers have a class action ban, forcing arbitration. There are many critics of arbitration, including 19 Attorneys General like Minnesota AG Lori Swanson, as reported by Chris Parker.  

“The right to have your dispute resolved before a jury of your peers is as American as it gets; it’s a fundamental core American democratic principle,” says Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. “To think that millions upon millions of consumers are forfeiting their fundamental right to have their day in court because of fine print in a contract….”

“Should a dispute arise, arbitration forces consumers out of the court system and into arbitration where appeals aren’t allowed, corporations historically wield a huge advantage—when not outright rigging the system—and details of misconduct are kept private,” writes Chris Parker, a reporter for City Pages

http://www.citypages.com/news/the-plot-to-kill-consumer-protection/451334393

Timeshare buyers should check immediately after signing a contract to see if they can opt out of the arbitration clause. Probably only a lawyer would think to do so.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-arbitration/

Timeshare developers know the industry is virtually unregulated and that they are protected by the oral representation clause. However, as we have stated in several previous articles, according to the FBI and attorneys we spoke with, it is not legal for a company to hide behind the fine print, providing sales agents the means to say anything they can come up with to sell points.      

The most common deceit and bait and switch complaints

  • The agent said I could sell my points.
  • The agent said my points were an investment, so easily sold, at a profit.
  • I can turn in points to pay maintenance fees but no such program exists
  • The value of airline and other travel awards is zilch. A common complaint is being told you can use a credit card to offset or pay maintenance fees in their entirety, when a member would have to charge $200,000 to pay an annual $2,000 maintenance fee.
  • The interest rate is 18%. They said I could get better financing but I can’t.

The Third R

resolved

It doesn’t happen very often, but there is the possibility the member just doesn’t know how to use the booking system. Blanket statements like “You can always book online cheaper than using timeshare points” are not accurate. My husband and I are Diamond owners. We have often booked two weeks in Sedona or Orlando for less than it would cost booking online using our points.

One amusing complaint was a buyer whose complaint was that they bought a trial program, but they were promised a lifetime membership. I explained, in the case of the timeshare company they bought into, the last thing they wanted was a lifetime membership. I encouraged them to become a Secret Shopper since they were not locked into perpetual maintenance fees.

 foreclosure  Foreclosure

This is the least pleasant outcome, but foreclosure is not the end of the world. Timeshare Advocacy Group has a foreclosure support group, with members offering each other tips on how to withstand the grueling up to 180 days or more of collection calls. Calls are relentless and members have reported many violations of debt collection consumer protection laws.  

We’re working on a document for those who experience foreclosure to provide to credit rating agencies or lenders, detailing the patterns of complaints listed on Better Business Bureau reports, Attorneys General Settlements, and Assurances of Discontinuance and lawsuits. There will be a hit to your credit score of course, but if you feel you are a victim of fraudulent timeshare sales practices, provide the rating agencies or your lenders with the reason why you refused to pay off a timeshare loan or credit card. Lenders are human. Many will take this into consideration.

I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group some questions about the foreclosure process for an article we published previously. Mike’s answers are worth repeating. Some common questions:

Will the timeshare company try to ruin my credit for non- payment of maintenance fees loans or both?

Mike Finn: Generally no credit reporting on maintenance fees, yes they do on “mortgage” payments. Most timeshare property owner associations, which are separate non-profit entities, do not report non-payment of maintenance fees largely because they don’t maintain subscriber contracts with the credit reporting agencies. However, once referred to collection, those agencies do maintain subscriber relationships and that’s where the issue becomes relevant.

Can or will members be taken to court for non-payment of maintenance fees loans or both?

Mike: Can yes, will, maybe not so much

Do they place liens for non-payment of loans?

Mike: Yes in the sense that they do pursue foreclosures, yes for maintenance fees as well.

Do they place the lien just on the timeshare? In other words, does the lien apply just to the timeshare, or does the lien apply to a member’s primary residence as well?

Mike: The word ‘lien’ can be utilized in more than one way. In the timeshare world it typically means the security interest filed against the timeshare itself by virtue of nonpayment of maintenance fees. Only the timeshare interest itself is impacted by that kind of lien, not the owner’s property beyond the timeshare. A mortgage lien on the timeshare caused by non-payment of the initial purchase price can, under certain circumstances, become a judgment which could be satisfied by going after the defaulting party’s personal assets. This very rarely happens, but it has happened, so we can never, say never.

Is it advisable to just stop paying fees without the aid of an attorney?

Mike: It really does depend on your ability to endure collection calls, letters threats, and a foreclosure on your credit report is quite damning, it will make refinancing or new residential purchases an issue for about 5 years. Rarely will they sue for deficiency balance.

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

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/english/learning-center/page-12

Remember, “I can’t afford it,” is not a valid reason to cancel a loan for a timeshare any more than it is a reason to be able to cancel your home mortgage loan. You can’t go to your home mortgage lender and ask them to cancel your home mortgage because, “I can’t afford it.”

Our Advocates, bringing experience and expertise from all walks of life, are here to evaluate and work together to help you put your timeshare in the rear view mirror, if that is your goal.

Our mission

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/

Let’s keep working together to improve the industry.

fix prob

That’s it for another week, remember if you require any information about any article published or any company that contacts you, Contact Inside Timeshare and we will get the information for you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.

weekend cat

Friday’s Letter from America

In today’s Letter from America, Scotty Black another service veteran tells his own story of his “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”. These stories are becoming all too common at Inside Timeshare, with readers contacting us on a daily basis. But first we have a look at what is happening in Europe.

As we have reported on many occasions, Anfi deny that they are losing cases and that no one is getting paid out, well we would like to share with you a press release from Canarian Legal Alliance.

One of their clients won their case at the High Court in las Palmas, Anfi appealed to the Supreme Court, the judges in Spain’s Highest Court confirmed the sentence and ordered Anfi to pay back double the amount of the deposit paid during the cooling off period, which is prohibited by law.

This particular client has now received into their own bank account the sum of 37,979€, this leaves us in no doubt that regardless of what Anfi claim, they are losing and clients are being paid.

c2

CLA also issued the following figures on cases for this past week.

  1. In the Courts of First Instance in Gran Canaria and Tenerife there have been 5 rulings in favour of their clients against Anfi and Silverpoint.
  2. In Tenerife, the High Court ruled once again against Silverpoint.
  3. There were also 3 Rulings in favour of their clients at the Supreme Court in Madrid, these were again against Silverpoint.
  4. In total, CLA clients have been awarded a massive 402,552.19€ Not bad for just one week.

Staying with Anfi, several of our readers have enquired about another letter sent by the Anfi CEO, in this he stated that any contract signed between January 1999 and January 2001 had a 2 year window for adaptation. The law referred to is 42/98, this was passed in 1998, it became effective on 5 January 1999, so the question is why would  resorts and developers be given a 2 year period to change?

Surly the period between the law being passed and coming into force is the window to change?

What would be the point of setting a date for the enforcement and then allowing things to continue as before?

These are questions that need to be answered, Inside Timeshare has asked for clarification on this and is waiting for an answer. We will publish in full when it is received.

More readers have informed Inside Timeshare that they have received a letter from the Police regarding the following Mark Rowe companies:

  • Monster Travel (known as Monster Group/Monster Rewards)
  • SellMyTimeshare
  • Complete Internet Solutions
  • Hollywood Marketing

These are being investigated as we reported previously by the South West Police, it looks like a major criminal investigation, if you have had any dealings with any of these companies you can contact the Police at the address below.

South West Police ROCU. DC 4624 Katie Andrews. PO Box 37, Valley Rd, Portishead,Bristol. BS20 8QJ

Now on with our Friday’s Letter from America.

A Letter to Timeshare Developers and ARDA

Law Enforcement, Military and Lawmakers

Our Mission to Stop Timeshare Crime – Front and Back

EW

February 9, 2018

By Scotty Black, M.S. Criminal Justice, former Navy

Promissory Note $65,741.14 @ 14.4309%

How I got here

  • Purchased 5000 timeshare points October 2014 Scottsdale AZ CA Collection
  • Purchase price $13,000
  • October 13, 2016 in Hawaii we bought 15,000 additional points
  • Name of sales agent Brian Holmes
  • Purchase price is $75,710
  • $4500 on a resort issued Barclaycard used for the down payment
  • Monthly payment $1,037.84
  • Maintenance fees $4,006.22

I am one of 22 active duty, retired military, law enforcement agents, feeling victimized by timeshare. For my family, I would describe timeshare as a parasite killing its host. Like Amanda and George Jones, I’m worried about losing my security clearance. Like, Lela Renea, I work in law enforcement. Like Kevin Hopkins, I am military trained in Electronic Warfare. I never imagined we would need that training to fight in a Timeshares War. Kevin is retired Air Force. I served in the Navy. My primary job was Electronic Warfare, but partly due to my attitude, I was sent often to security, so I ended up assigned to the Special Security Force, Battleship Missouri. The fact that this is the second complaint in a matter of weeks from an electronic warfare veteran and that there are 22 of us working, or having served to protect our country, filing timeshare complaints, is telling.

Kevin was featured in this article on January 30 unidentified, but as Kevin has since received his automatic knee-jerk, “Sorry, you signed a contract” denial, Kevin has been identified and has joined the ranks of Inside Timeshare Contributors.

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-8/

Kevin’s sales agent managed to work in every oral misrepresentation possible into one presentation. He’s working on an upcoming article about his experience.  

Timeshare companies have negatively affected national security with their fraudulent sales practices. Active duty Navy Technicians George and Amanda Jones could be forced into foreclosure. They say they were assured by two sales agents in two separate states they could lower their 18% loan interest rate by contacting finance companies offering a lower rate or a military rate. “Just Google it,” their sales agent said. Banks do not finance timeshares. Consumer credit issues can cause a revocation of security clearance. Jeff is in the process of writing to the Commandant of the Marines.

Jeff Diehl, former Marine, purchased a timeshare at Vacation Village

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-30/

Lela Renea, a detective, who purchased a Bluegreen timeshare

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-11/

Amanda and George Jones, active duty Navy, purchased a Diamond timeshare

http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-irene-3/

We have summarized our reports from our 22 unit members and have reached out to Whistleblowers of America, an organization that seeks justice for military and government employees. If you are not drowning in timeshare loan payments, credit card payments and maintenance fees, consider a donation.

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Here’s what happened

In Hawaii, October 2016, we asked our timeshare sales agent Brian Holmes what would happen in the event we could no longer make payments. As we were told in Arizona, we were told again points could be rented and that we would be able to sell the points, likely at a profit, especially since we purchased them at such a low price – a price so low because “a sales staff member forgot to file the declination of purchasing more shares in a previous presentation…!”

meet

We were told Hawaii points are a good investment. This sticks in my mind because my wife had to write a statement to that effect, so the purchase at such a low rate could go through. As for the potential of profit, we were told there is a land-usage moratorium on how many places and percent of the land can be built on in Hawaii so this would also make the points appreciate, even with a speculation of over $10 per point. We were told we would need to sell points through the secondary market but that would be easy.

We have since learned our vacation points have no secondary market and that renting points through a third part website is not allowed. I contacted members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Not one I spoke with would even accept a listing for our Diamond points feeling the restrictions placed on the use of secondary points renders the points worthless. Since LTRB members, unlike some scam timeshare exit companies, do not accept an upfront fee, it’s a waste of their time to accept a listing.  

In Scottsdale, at an “owners update” early September 2017, long after the issuance of the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance, we experienced yet another highly aggressive sales presentation. The length of the presentation was a violation of the AOD. We complained repeatedly that we wanted to leave. We were told it was not a sales presentation and they would not try to sell us points, but after the 55 minute presentation we were paired with a sales agent for at least two hours.  My wife had broken her foot on resort property the prior day and was in pain. She had to keep her boot elevated. They still did everything they could to keep us from leaving. I still was experiencing symptoms from a car wreck that had required a hospitalization. We were both on painkillers.  

Ultimately, I contacted Irene Parker and our Timeshare Advocacy Facebook group.

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

Irene suggested I contact Diamond’s Consumer Advocacy Department, which I feel has nothing to do with consumers. The “hospitality” agents are fine print detectives, in my opinion.

Irene explained about Diamond’s new Quality Assurance program, CLARITY, launched after the AOD was issued. CLARITY is reported to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer, but as Irene predicted, our Hospitality agent referred us to the oral representation clause. I ask what purpose CLARITY serves, other than a piece of paper to hand out to provide a false sense of security, making it seem like the company cares about false promises made by sales agents.

Researching timeshare in general, I have come to believe many timeshare sales agents employ tactics that meet the FBI’s definition of white-collar crime, Financial Institution Fraud, defined as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Timeshare buyers who feel they were victimized should file complaints with the following agencies:

  1. The Better Business Bureau
  2. The Attorneys General (The AGs where you signed, where the firm is headquartered, and where you live)
  3. State Real Estate Divisions against the individual agent
  4. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  5. The FBI (if as serious as mine at IC3.gov and orally through a field office public access line #4 prompt, then #3 white-collar crime prompt)
  6. The FTC if you have any energy left

Other agencies that investigate multinational and cross-border financial institutions

We know criminal actions on the part of timeshare sales agents extend beyond any one resort, except for Disney Vacation Club. Somehow they manage to show a profit without resorting to deceit.

mickey mouse

Hopefully, timeshare executives and lobbyists will read this. We know one lawmaker has.

http://insidetimeshare.com/lesson-timeshare-companies/

If you need help, call us.

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 Scotty for sharing your “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, we find it appalling that veterans are being treated like this, facing foreclosure and ultimately losing the valued and hard earned security clearance after years of loyal service. All we can say is shame on the the sales agents and even more so on the developers for allowing their sales agents to behave in this despicable manor.

News has just come in from Madrid, the Supreme Court has issued another sentence this morning against Silverpoint, this is now 89 rulings made against various timeshare companies by Spain’s Highest Court.

The latest ruling has awarded British clients of CLA a massive £36,000 including £8,000 which is double the deposit paid within the mandatory 14 day cooling off period, plus legal interest. The contract has also been declared null and void, so congratulations the these happy ex-timeshare owners and great well done to the staff and legal team at CLA.

Today we have received another email from yet another victim of Ramirez and Ramirez, it seems he is upto his old tricks again. The last we heard from him was in April 2016, (see link below).

The pitch is the same, the consumer is contacted and told that their claim has gone through, there is a substantial amount, in this case over £31,000 waiting for them at the court. All they had to do was pay £1,498 to Ramirez to get the payment underway, then they were told they had to pay £2,560 Tax  to the Agencia Tributaria (Spanish Tax Office) and the money will be released.

Please be aware this is one experienced conman, there is no money waiting for you at court, there is no tax to pay to release this ficticious money. Unless you have instructed a lawyer to act on your behalf through the courts then there is no claim.

The Resurrected!

That’s it for this week, a very big thank you to all who sent in valuable information which will always help others and to those who have contributed to the articles from our Cousins across “The Great Lake”.

Remember, if you have any questions about any article published or just need advice on whether to do business with any company, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good weekend.

weekend

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

In this weeks Tuesday Slot we welcome a new contributor Karen Krokosh, but first a quick look at what has been happening in Europe especially in the courts.

The year has certainly not started well for the timeshare industry, the first week of January has seen the Supreme Court in Madrid rule on 6 occasions against Silverpoint from Tenerife.

This court has declared these six contract null and void as they were over the 50 year period allowed by law, what is known as perpetuity, they also contained the points or floating weeks systems.

tribunal-supremo

The court also reaffirmed the position of the taking of any payment within the given cooling off period, even if taken by a third party as prohibited. This cooling off period was introduced to protect consumers and allow them to decide whether they wished to continue with the purchase, as these are usually made as decisions on the day.

The total amount the court has awarded in these cases is a staggering 321,274€ with legal fees and legal interest.

In another case against Silverpoint, the High Court in Tenerife has ordered the return of over £31,000 plus legal fees and legal interest to a British client. Again the contract was declared null and void as it contained the points or floating weeks system.

In the Court of First Instance at Maspalomas, another British client has been awarded over £19,000 plus legal fees and legal interest, with the contract being declared null and void. In this case the contract was sold by Anfi and was for a duration of over 50 years, which is not allowed under the Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98.

All these cases have been brought on behalf of client by the law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, so contrary to what the timeshare industry is is saying, this law firm is doing what it says and winning on behalf of their clients.

As they say the proof is in the pudding!

On with this weeks Tuesday Slot.

Sell My Timeshare Now,

A Timeshare Listing Service for Buyers or Sellers

Diamond Member Karen Krokosh Issues a Warning

face1

By Inside Timeshare Contributor Karen Krokosh

Comments about SMTN follow Karen’s article

January 9, 2017

I responded to a Sell My Timeshare Now (SMTN) solicitation. Not only did the company over promise the ability to sell Diamond’s non-deeded U.S. Collection points, they told me they could help me recoup expenses by renting my points. DRI does not allow renting through a third party site. As a resource for timeshare members, SMTN should abide by Diamond’s official rental policy by not accepting rental listings. Here is the current DRI rule:

2.5.1 A Member is not prohibited from periodically renting the Accommodation reserved for the Use Period or the reserved Other Redemption Opportunity pursuant to these Club Rules.

However, the use of Points to reserve Accommodations or Other Redemption Opportunities for commercial purposes or for any other purpose other than the personal use of the Member or the Member’s family and guests is prohibited. Use by a Member of public advertising or an online website to seek renters shall be deemed a prohibited commercial use.

Members who are primary developers of Club Resorts (that is, members of the Diamond Resorts International group of companies) and providers of Other Redemption Opportunities are specifically exempted from this restriction, and are entitled to use their reserved Accommodations and reserved Other Redemption Opportunities for promotional, rental, or other commercial purposes.

Diamond is not the only timeshare with little or no resale value. While some timeshares like Disney, Hilton and Marriott can be sold, it has been widely reported Diamond’s non-deeded points are especially difficult to sell. I contacted a few members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Not one would accept a DRI listing, feeling the restrictions the company places on the use of secondary points are too severe.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

SMTN agent Sandra Van Lanen suggested a list price of $12,000 for 3,000 points. We paid about $12,000, so in no way was that price realistic as I dropped my price from $12,000 to $7,500, $5,000 and $1,000 with no offers. What was SMTN’s response? They said, “It takes time.” There are about 15,000 Diamond Resorts members on a variety of Facebooks and websites and I’ve learned many of them would be willing to give away their Diamond points. I would have been laughed off these sites posting these ludicrous amounts. I am committed to exposing this company and others that are taking advantage of those already burdened by loan payments and maintenance fees.

Here’s what I paid SMTN:

The original “Advertising and Marketing” product was priced at $1,798. I was given a discounted referral of $1,498 USD, but paid initially a deposit of $699, agreeing to pay the remaining balance of $799 when the timeshare sells. Since that is never in almost all Diamond cases, I decided to cancel the lifetime listing. When you cancel, SMTN has the right to bill you for the remaining balance.

promotion

I have also learned many of the listing and resale companies are staffed by former timeshare executives and sales agents. Some are legitimately trying to help those desperate to get out of their timeshare, but others prey on the desperate. This is a Department of Justice report about timeshare resale and release scams:

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

Many timeshare buyers report they were sold a timeshare by deceit. I looked up the definition of racketeering. While timeshare exit plans are not violent crime against property, I see a similarity. The sales agents who sold us the problem are now the ones coming around to “help” us. “A common example of a racket would be if a group of people cut the tires of cars on a specific street, and then that same group, or one in concert with the one cutting tires offered ‘protection’ to the owners of the cars for a price. This fits the definition of a racket because without the organization’s slashing of tires in the first place, the demand for ‘protection’ would be low or non-existent.”

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/racketeering.asp

I have been trying to get rid of this timeshare for years. I was so relieved to find the member sponsored Diamond Resorts Advocacy Owners Facebook where I learned that Diamond has launched a new program called Transitions and from what Inside Timeshare told me, I am eligible! I am hopeful, waiting to hear back.

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

Comments about Sell My Timeshare Now by Irene Parker

After Friday’s article about the importance of Better Business Bureau ratings, I checked the SMTN BBB rating. My red flag was raised when I learned Karen paid up front money to list her Diamond points. Accepting upfront money to sell your timeshare is illegal in Florida, but it seems companies can work around the law by calling it an ad or subscription fee, or a market analysis.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-31/

SMTN has been sold twice since 2010. Scott Roberts is the owner of Vacation Innovations and SMTN is a wholly owned subsidiary of V.I.

The BBB has assigned SMTN a D rating. I called SMTN and talked to Mike. The first question I asked Mike is, “Can I rent my DRI points through SMTN?” Mike said renting DRI points is no problem. When I informed him DRI does not allow the renting of points through a third party site like SMTN, Mike said he would have someone from legal call me. We did not hear back. Irina Allen is one DRI member who had her Diamond account suspended, accused of renting points on RedWeek.

http://insidetimeshare.com/monday-start-another-week/

This is what BBB notes on SMTN, providing a good example of how the Better Business Bureau can assist consumers by providing important information.

According to BBB files this company has a pattern of complaints that centers around the company’s advertising claims. Complainants allege they are guaranteed a time frame in which their timeshare will sell. Many consumers allege the company makes a promise that their timeshare will sell quickly. The company responds to the complaints and reiterates the company policy which reads the company does not guarantee when a timeshare will sell.

On March 23, 2016 BBB reviewed the complaints on file and determined the pattern described above has not been eliminated. BBB sent a letter to the company requesting cooperation in responding to and eliminating the pattern of complaints.

BBB received a response from Sell My Timeshare Now (SMTN) who addressed concerns raised. SMTN has introduced a video that consumers are encouraged to view that clearly outlines their services. In their business model explanation SMTN says that: “…SMTN never promises buyers are waiting; does not request wire transfers, greendot moneypak payment or purchase of prepaid credit cards; does stand behind the services it promises and always strives to deliver excellent service to all of its clients”… Additionally, SMTN hired a law firm to review the complaints and details surrounding each one. This review of these recordings has shown that the communications between SMTN and individual consumers (when they are available) has been shown to differ. SMTN has also instituted training for salespeople. They are to only make promises that are consistent with the guarantees and promises made by the company in writing. SMTN is recording calls made by their sales people to confirm the training is being followed. SMTN now has a policy for their salespeople who consistently fail to comply with the training which results in their dismissal from the company. Finally, they informed BBB that they will be further training their customer care employees to offer to help earlier in the process and be sure to make certain the consumer is satisfied with the resolution.

On December 5, 2017 representatives of SMTN met with the BBB to update us on improvements they are making to their organization. They have taken steps toward improving customer service by hiring a new Customer Service Manager. They have put in place an “audit group” that will contact consumers on the day they sign the contract with SMTN and then again 90 days out as a way to ensure customer satisfaction. It is anticipated that by proactively working with their customers, the number of complaints will be reduced substantially. BBB will work closely with SMTN to follow their progress and to continue to address any complaints that may come in.

Consumers are, once again, requested to contact SMTN prior to filing a complaint with BBB at 1-877-815-4227.

This Business Is Not BBB Accredited

Sell My Timeshare Now, LLC

D

Customer Review Rating:

35%

62%

[12] Positive Reviews

[1] Neutral Reviews

[21] Negative Reviews

[34] Total Customer Reviews

[107] Total Customer Complaints

Composite Score:

Sell My Timeshare Now, LLC has received 1.93 out of 5 stars based on 34 Customer Reviews and a BBB Rating of D.

This content is provided by the business and may contain advertising. BBB does not review or endorse this content.

https://www.bbb.org/concord/business-reviews/timeshare-resale-and-rental-marketing/sell-my-timeshare-now-in-portsmouth-nh-92008632/Alerts-and-Actions

According to a post found on RedWeek, published on the internet, SMTN does seem to charge a considerable upfront fee. A member had asked whether they should buy timeshare points through SMTN.

Good question. Here is the straight scoop:

ken1193

1 month ago

Sometimes you will find a timeshare of interest on the SMTN site which may be available at a price acceptable to you. HOWEVER, you will have NO say or ANY choice regarding the “closing” entity. Closing costs through SMTN are quite excessive — multiple times the cost of customary and usual closing costs. You have no option to conduct a SMTN transaction “in person”, but that is the case in most any resale timeshare transaction, so SMTN is not unique in that regard. It would frankly be both highly unusual and entirely unnecessary to conduct a resale timeshare transaction “in person”. Objective, third party “closers” who have no association with either buyer or seller (not an available option via SMTN, unfortunately) look out for the interests of BOTH buyer and seller, holding all funds in escrow until closing if necessary. This obviously eliminates any need for any travel or physical presence by either the buyer or the seller just to “close” on a resale transaction.

With SMTN, you essentially have to determine ALL of the collective costs as a buyer and then ask yourself if that bottom line figure is acceptable to YOU to acquire that particular timeshare listing, despite the exorbitant closing costs. Far more often than not, the answer will be NO, but there are (relatively rare) exceptions. In all fairness, in the performance of your due diligence you really have to look at the big picture and ask yourself if the TOTAL expenditure involved justifies acquisition of that particular timeshare for YOU. You obviously first need to accurately determine the bottom line total figure before you can possibly make that fully informed evaluation and personal decision.

SMTN of course has nothing whatsoever to do with maintenance fees, regardless of the resort involved. Maintenance fees are determined only by individual resorts — and they are engraved in stone. That said, I would certainly want to verify the accuracy of any figures SMTN indicates as maintenance fees. This is very easily done by contacting the resort directly for confirmation of any figures claimed by SMTN in their listings.

Last edit by ken1193 on Nov 28, 2017 05:27 AM.

https://www.redweek.com/forums/messages?thread_id=14010;page=last

Keep calm Homework

Thank you to Karen for her advice! We look forward to hearing more from Karen as our first new Inside Timeshare contributor of 2018.  Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these member sponsored U.S. timeshare groups if you need help with a timeshare. It can save you money.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

If you require any information regarding this article or any other published on Inside Timeshare, please use the comments or contact form and we will get back to you. If you are considering using the services of any company and are unsure of how to check them we will also be pleased to help.

 

The Tuesday Slot with Irene

Welcome to the first Tuesday Slot with Irene of December, this week Irene gives an update on an article from October, but first some important news from Europe.

Last week Inside Timeshare had some unconfirmed news on a raid in Tenerife, which we did not publish, this was against the offices of Mark Rowe’s enterprise there. This week news came out of raids at his businesses in the UK By Trading Standards, so this could just verify the Tenerife news.

This raid follows an investigation by the “Scambuster Team” of Trading Standards, offices of around 22 Mark Rowe companies were searched, employees questioned and documents removed for further investigation and as evidence if any criminal charges are brought.

trading standards

Among those raided were ABC Lawyers, Glenmore Consultants, Monster Rewards, Jive Hippo (replacement for Monster Credits) and apparently the TCA (Timeshare Consumer Association). The raid in Tenerife would most likely have been Hollywood Marketing SLU.

It looks like we will have to wait until the new year before we know the outcome, this follows the news last month of another enterprise EZE Group, where the directors and owners Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates of “Aggressive” sales tactics and “Coercion” with their product EZE Credits. They are to appear at Crown Court on 15 December, whether they will be sentenced then or just remanded on bail until the New Year remains to be seen.

Now on with the article from Irene Parker.

TARS – Timeshare Advisory and Resolution Services

An Honest Timeshare Exit Program – Who knew?

TARS Limited Term Deed Program – A Monthly Update

case

By Irene Parker

December 5, 2017

In October Inside Timeshare featured the launch of TARS TIMESHARE ADVISORY AND RESOLUTION SERVICES LLC new “limited term deeded” program.  “Consumers enjoy all the “pros” of traditional timeshare and none of the “cons”, plus even more benefits,” announced TARS President and General Counsel, Martin M. Kandel.

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-america-24/

The limited deed/limited fun program is geared toward fixed week resorts, but the same strategy could be implemented by major timeshare point sellers, solving the problem a timeshare owner faces when life changes and now they own a vacation product they don’t want, they can’t afford, and can’t sell. TARS could eventually neutralize resale and listing scams. Scam revenue would turn into new buyer revenue which would be a win-win for everyone except the scammers.

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

Inside Timeshare has received timeshare complaints from 223 readers (176 when the October 26 article was published). Members sometimes describe catastrophic financial distress when denied a release.

I asked Dennis F. DiTinno, CEO and President of the Liberté Management Group of Companies and Chairman of TARS to provide an example of how the limited deed works. “The TARs program offers the member an option to purchase a limited term deed for five or ten years. The term will be the decision of the Associations, but we would not recommend any term less than three years. We feel the five year plan best suits the Association and the owners. The design is to utilize the units’ maintenance fee costs with an increase annually to make the tax repercussions better for the Association – a major savings, but each unit in each resort would be different,” Dennis explained.   

All Seasons Vacation Resort in Madeira Beach and the Voyager Beach Club Treasure Island are the first to launch a TARS program. TARS had just signed up their first sale when we first talked to Dennis and he said other owners told him they would be glad to sign up when they returned home.

The example Dennis provided was for a Voyager unit with an annual Maintenance fee of $510. A five year limited deed could be purchased for $6,000. The now former perpetual deed owner becomes a limited deed owner. At the end of five years the term is up and the unit reverts back to the HOA.         

At this point skeptics raise their eyebrows. Wait! A $510 annual maintenance fee turns into $1,200 a year or $171 a night for a seven night stay? The Liberté website offers a one bedroom gulf view for $1,053 a week. So the limited deed would cost the member $735 ($1,200 – $1,053 = $147 x 5 years).

One timeshare insider suspects it’s a crafty upfront scam. I know Dennis and Martin Kandel so I have no concerns there. Another insider I contacted voiced a concern about what would happen if TARS went out of business. Liberté has been in business 35 years managing seven fixed week resorts and brokers resales and rentals as well. Liberté is a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association.

Dennis received a great congratulation from one timeshare advocacy organization, told this can be a huge positive change for the industry. Dennis also spoke with Robert Follis at the Florida Attorney General’s office who also saw the program as a solution to many problems.  

When I called Voyager, I spoke with M J Hassall, also with Liberté, who expressed great enthusiasm. “Every owner is unique so we provide a one on one presentation. One obstacle is convincing owners this is not just another ruse to get them to buy more weeks. This really is important information they need to know about. We have presented the plan to about 15 members with about 50 percent in favor of the program,” explained M J.

“In conjunction with select strategic partners, TARS will provide an a la carte menu of products and enhanced services designed exclusively for the legacy market segment. One of the partners is Let’s Go N Travel,” M J added.

This led me to Let’s Go N Travel which will be the subject of January’s monthly TARS update. I spoke with Chip Langdon at Let’s Go N Travel. Chip described Let’s Go as a Vacation Club boasting 450,000 members. More on how this fits in with TARS later.  

https://www.facebook.com/4life4less/

TARS provides a new way to address old problems (www.tarserv.com) in an effort to provide legacy resorts with a means to maintain their resorts for a decade or more in order to plan for robust continuation or an orderly repurposing of the resort and its timeshare program. This would seem a concept owners need to wrap their heads around, as they may not have yet thought about an exit or even if they need one.

Thank you to all at TARS for their help as we learn more about this evolving program. As a former deeded fixed week owner, I can see spending the extra money on something I enjoyed for 30 years, paying an extra $735 spread out over five years to be done with it without the hassle of dodging scams or waiting for an over supplied product to sell. As with any product, if it meets the needs of the consumer, it will sell itself. Timeshare does not sell itself. It is product that has to be “sold” and often requires six to eight hours of brow beating, “pitching heat” and deceit, according to 220 of our readers. We hope, working with developers, such tactics will diminish. We know there are good timeshare sales agents out there selling the product the way it should be sold. Inside Timeshare endorses Disney for their scarce complaint record.

Inside Timeshare will publish a monthly resale recycle report to follow along as TARS progresses. I still need to call my favorite fixed week timeshare people at Port Elsewhere in the Missouri Ozarks and Maui Hill at Maui Lea to hear what they think.

 Liberté

At least this provides a positive topic members and developers can agree on – the need for an honest timeshare exit to shut off the scam valve.  

http://resorttrades.com/timeshare-advisory-and-resolution-services-llc-tars-and-the-liberte-management-group-join-to-expand-services-for-legacy-resorts-and-owners/

Irene will be keeping us updated on a monthly basis on TARS Limited Term Deed Program, could it be that there is some honesty in this industry called timeshare? Only time will tell.

Other news coming in from the US is the link up between ARDA (American Resorts Development Association) and Europe’s RDO (Resorts Development Association). It has been rumoured for sometime that the RDO is what you might call “strapped for cash”, well they have this year lost one of their major members, Silverpoint. Could this link up be the saviour of them?

Kwikchex has also laid out the scope of its new mission, running the “Timeshare Helpline”, on behalf of the RDO, which replaces the disgraced and bankrupt TATOC. As we know TATOC was supposed to be an independent body representing timeshare owners through their committees, but under the leadership of Harry Taylor, they did the bidding of their benefactors. These benefactors were the industry and RDO members.

So the question is if the new helpline is run by Kwikchex and the Timeshare Task Force, paid for by the RDO, how can it be independent and on the side of the consumer?

Have Trading Standards and other Authorities been taken in by them, the same way as Citizens Advice Bureau were taken in by TATOC?

Inside Timeshare leaves you the reader to draw your own conclusions.

Remember

“Non enim videtur”

“Not all is as it seems”

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to December’s first Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker examines Non-Disclosure Agreements in timeshare and should they be permitted. But first we have a look at what has been in the news in Europe.

Last month we ran the article on the court case involving Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, they both pleaded guilty to some very serious charges at Birmingham Magistrates court. Their case has been sent to the Crown Court for sentencing in January, it has now been reported that they will be back in court on 15 December. Whether they will be sentenced then we will have to wait and see, but if they are, they may be having Christmas dinner behind bars.

Yesterday we published an article with an opposing view of the Los Claveles saga, this has prompted some rather heated comments. It would seem that each side is accusing each other of telling lies, this is not the way forward, there will always be a difference of opinion, just because one person does not agree does not make it a lie!

Just having opposing views does not mean you cannot work together, it is your resort and that is what counts not the bickering or personal animosities.

 

The courts once again have been busy, with no less than three Supreme Court ruling this week.

tribunal-supremo

After publishing last Friday’s article it was announced that the Supreme Court had made another ruling against Silverpoint, the court awarded the client over £42,000, plus £3,000 which is double the deposit paid within the 14 day cooling off period. The client will also receive back their legal fees and legal interest.

On Monday 27 November, the Supreme Court again ruled against Silverpoint, declaring the contract null and void and awarding over £23,000 including the return of legal fees and interest.

On the same day they issued another sentence against Silverpoint. The contract was declared null and void with the return of more than £37,000 plus legal fees and interest.

It was the turn of the Court of First Instance in Tenerife on Tuesday 28 November to issue a sentence against Silverpoint, the judge following the Supreme Court rulings ordered the return of over £11,000 and declared the contract null and void.

On Wednesday 29 November the Tenerife Courts again found against Silverpoint with the return of £11,000 and the contracts declared null and void.

The same day from Madrid the Supreme Court announced yet another ruling against Silverpoint, contract declared null and void with the return of £7,000 plus legal fees and interest.

Other cases this week saw rulings from other courts around Spain which included the return of all payments and contracts being declared null and void against Anfi, Blue Bay and Puerto Calma

Now just to rub it in, as if Dominic and Stephanie O’Reilly havn’t got enough problems the list also included a sentence against EZE Group!

The total amount being returned to clients this week alone is a staggering 403,336.25€

All these cases have been brought on behalf of clients by Canarian Legal Alliance, with this week’s Supreme Court rulings bringing their total to 74, another record for the legal history books!

law

So on with this Friday’s letter

Timeshare Non-Disclosure Agreements

When they are fair and when they are not

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By Irene Parker

December 1, 2017

High school civics classes must be having interesting and lively class discussions about American politics today. Sexual harassment accusations have taken over the media and are raising questions about the damage caused by non-disclosure agreements (NDA). Sexual harassment settlements require the victim sign an NDA agreeing not to disclose what happened.

New Jersey lawmakers are proposing NDAs be banned in cases of sexual harassment. As NJ.Com reported, “Corporate boards of directors keep on approving settlements to cover executives who then go on to commit the same offense.”

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/10/harvey_weinstein_scandal_has_nj_dems_ready_to_ban.html

Timeshare members should lobby for a similar prohibition, especially when a member receives nothing in return after surrendering timeshare vacation points that can easily cost $100,000 or more. Out of 220 timeshare complaints voiced by our readers against multiple developers, 115 allege they were sold or up-sold by deceit and bait and switch, some just days after purchasing. Members have reported on the many ways sales agents and their companies can avoid the rescission or cancellation period. Especially in these cases, an NDA seems harsh.

The most common allegations of deceit reported by our readers include:

  •  The ability to sell or rent vacation points
  •  The ability to pay maintenance fees with points
  •  The need to always buy more points in order to have adequate availability
  •  Agents from the same company accusing each other of selling the member the wrong product. The member is told to buy more points to change from one product to the next only to be told by the next agent, they still bought the wrong points! The member is required to sign an NDA even when all they did was buy more points.    

One lawyer I spoke with, who asked not to be identified, said he is shocked by the use of NDAs in timeshare. He explained that as a litigator he saw large settlements awarded without a non-disclosure, but in timeshare even members who receive nothing in return for surrendering vacation points must sign an NDA.

When Inside Timeshare publishes an article about a member’s complaint, we no longer feature the article if the resort helps the member resolve their issue. We do maintain a complete list of all member articles for regulators and law enforcement and have compiled a 90 page complaint summary. With over 200 complaints, patterns emerge. Repeated complaints against certain sales agents point to repeating offenders. Comparing notes with law firms across the country, we have learned certain timeshare sales agents are household names at their offices as well.

Inside Timeshare published Deneice’s article September 29, 2017.

lady

 Inside Timeshare has received 23 reader complaints concerning Diamond Resort’s Las Vegas sales centers. Deneice Vargas alleges she was fraudulently up-sold in Las Vegas. Eight of the members reported a positive outcome working with Diamond Resorts to resolve their complaint.  

Initially, the DRI advocacy agent Deneise worked with seemed to agree with Deniece and had asked for supporting medical documentation about her husband Louis’s diagnosis of Bell’s palsy. Relieved, Deneice submitted the information only to learn the customer service agent who had been helping her quit and the new agent seemed to dismiss Bell’s palsy as if it were a common cold. I personally felt the loss because the hospitality agent who quit called me about my complaint over two years ago. We did not always agree, but I felt she had a moral compass.   

Deneice reached out to us recently to let us know how things were going. She was shocked to receive a call from one of Diamond Resort’s advocacy hospitality agents. According to Deneice, when DRI Consumer Advocates are not advocating, they make collection calls. “They called at 6:50 AM! Isn’t there a law that says you can’t do collection calls outside of normal business hours? I suspect the advocacy department called demanding payment because I was not answering the phone from the collection agents,” said Deneice.    

If there were no loan, I’m confident DRI would allow Deneice to surrender her points for resale, but Deneice’s situation is complicated by her allegations of deceit and bait and switch and the outstanding loan. We reached out to Diamond for comment, but there was no response. Deneice’s original article:  

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

If Deneice’s resort does decide to help her, she will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, agreeing not to say anything disparaging against her resort. One benefit (for our advocacy efforts) is that Deneice will not have to sign an NDA if she forecloses. We lose a lot of advocates because of the NDA. I’ve gotten to know Deneice and feel she will be of great benefit to our team of core advocates determined to stop or at least reduce the “pitching of heat” prevalent in timeshare today, bolstered by points based programs that offer easy deception. One of our advocates is a Florida detective who worked economic crimes undercover.

As a non-lawyer, I often rely on NOLO for legal advice. An added benefit of NOLO is somehow they prevent timeshare exit scam artists from posting ads all over their articles.

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/nondisclosure-agreements-29630.html

When I looked up nondisclosure agreement on NOLO, the site connected me to Richard Stim. I submitted this question to Mr. Stim at http://dearrichblog.blogspot.com/

I write for Inside Timeshare. We are receiving a flood of timeshare complaints. If someone who feels they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, spending $95,000 for a timeshare, convinces the resort to take the timeshare back with nothing in return, should they have to sign an NDA? Thank you for your help.   

ballchain

What property would anyone buy, be it a boat, home or car, financing a loan at 12% to 18%, knowing the product they were buying could not be sold?  Not one of our 220 readers knew, at the time of purchase, they could not sell their timeshare. There is a limited secondary market for some timeshares. Contact a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out how your timeshare fares on the secondary market or if you are stuck with a product you don’t want, can’t afford, and can’t sell.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

Thank goodness for Social Media. Here are some self-help member support groups offering good advice and a shoulder to cry one when one finds themselves caught in a timeshare trap.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and all who contribute to these articles, they are certainly bringing new information to members / owners in the world of timeshare.

Inside Timeshare once again reminds all readers to do their due diligence when deciding which companies to do business with, as always, doing your homework will prevent the loss of your hard earned cash. If you need help in checking who to trust contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

Have a good relaxing weekend and join us again next week.

weekend cat

 

stop press 1

Just as we were about to publish, this came in from the Supreme Court in Madrid, another Silverpoint contract declared null and void with this particular client being awarded over £90,000 plus legal fees and interest. That is now 75, yes, 75 rulings from Spains Highest Court!

After publishing this also came in.

The High Court in Tenerife found against Silverpoint yet again. The judge has declared this contract null and void with the return of over £74,000 plus legal interest.