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Timeshare Fraud: Happens on Both Sides of the Pond

We all know the “scams”, many timeshare owners have fallen victim to them over the years, from the “we will sell your timeshare for you”, “we can get you a legal surrender” to “we can get your money back and your contract cancelled”.

In Europe, as Inside Timeshare has highlighted in many articles over the past months, the proliferation of so-called claims companies and law firms is rife. From companies such as Litigious Abogados the rulings made by the Spanish Supreme Court have given them the tools to fool you the owners.

Many other companies who once peddled other products are also getting in on the act, companies such as the Monster Group, owned by Mark Rowe, now have a company called ABC Lawyers. All using the rulings as if they were their own, that only they can get your money back and cancel those contracts.

In the past it was the resale and transfer companies, many would charge to “relinquish” your timeshare, but would actually transfer it to a third party for 1€. Then after about 2 years, you find the demands for arrears in maintenance fees dropping through your door. The timeshare company does not recognise the transfer made by the company you paid. This is the problem Mrs B has had with MacDonald Resorts.

In the US this is also a very big problem, Irene Parker in today’s article continues to look at the US market, and what can and is being done to stop these fraudulent practices and protect you the consumer.

How to Reduce Fraudulent Timeshare Transfers

The Smart Money Turns to Logic and Simplicity

By Irene Parker 21 March 2017

goal chart

The National Timeshare Owners Association works diligently behind the scenes to stop fraudulent timeshare transfers by working with attorneys, law enforcement, regulators and other stakeholders in the timeshare community. It’s a collaborative effort as we highlighted last week with HOA Collection Agent Kristi Hanley. She explained the pervasive and unending attempts to defraud timeshare owners and developers alike along with the financial consequences.

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

 Gregory Crist, CEO of the NTOA says “This is white collar crime that we call the “Viking Ship” model. It is well funded and highly sophisticated. By design, it is creating further damage to the secondary market at a rapid rate and leaving behind a trail of clouded deeds. This is a serious problem we have on our hands right now. At the NTOA, we are sharing “Best Practices” with HOA’s and helping them utilize proper safeguards to protect themselves.”

However, there is light shining on the horizon. After our interview with Kristi we followed up with Dave Heine at requestmyestoppel.com and learned about Timeshare Pro Plus, a simple and effective way to reduce timeshare transfer scams. Today we will examine this innovative Cloud based technology and then hear what Laura Hey, Assistant Manager at Silver Beach Resort Daytona, has to say about timeshare transfer problems and about Timeshare Pro Plus.

According to the company’s website, Timeshare Pro Plus can improve timeshare transfer efficiency by at least 75% while reducing timeshare transfer fraud.  

If you are a timeshare owner wondering why you should be concerned with the nuts and bolts of a timeshare transfer, review this fifteen page Department of Justice timeshare scam report.

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

Everyone needs to do their part to stop fraudulent transfers. When a company contacts you asking if you would like to get rid of your timeshare, be the detective. Write down the name and location of the company, the website address, the caller’s name and a phone number to call them back.

The beginning of the timeshare hamster wheel, as described by a former timeshare sales agent, is the vacation give away. Those calls are usually outbound only and if you ask for a call back number, they will make one up or hang up. Transfer agents do offer more information as they must pose as a legitimate business.

Be an empowered and informed timeshare owner. Leave the desperate, angry and confused shackles behind. Become an advocate. If you are able to gather this information, report it to one of our advocates and we will take it from there by forwarding the information to the National Timeshare Owners Association.

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

Here are Timeshare Pro Plus bragging rights  Timeshare Pro Plus puts everything the resort’s back office needs to efficiently transfer a timeshare deed or contract while implementing some safeguards in the transfer process, under one umbrella by using the latest Cloud technology. This saves time, money and paperwork.

This software incorporates SSL encryption

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral.

The data center is HIPPA Compliant assuring the level of security demanded by the medical community.

https://home.timeshareproplus.com/

When Kristie Hanley said cleaning up the timeshare transfer business might be accomplished by requiring a simple signature from the timeshare resort, it sounded too simple and logical to be true so I contacted Dave Heine at Timeshare Pro Plus.

Sure enough, it is not simple. There are four parties involved in a timeshare transfer: The timeshare seller

⦁ The timeshare seller

⦁ The timeshare buyer

⦁ The transfer agent

⦁ The resort – pictured is Maui Hill – our favorite timeshare resort

Kristie’s suggestion was a good one, but requiring a signature from an HOA is not applicable to timeshare any more than it would be selling your primary residence. You don’t ask your HOA to sign your contract when you sell or buy a house or condo, but the HOA can put a lien on your property if you are past due on fees.

The same thing happens in timeshare. As Dave explained, timeshare scams are caused when the fictitious buyer is an individual or a company that has no intention of paying future HOA or timeshare maintenance fees. These companies charge upwards of $5000 or more to guarantee your transfer out of your timeshare unit, but in a fraudulent transfer the buyer disappears or was non-existent in the first place as soon as the transfer agent receives the owner’s transfer fee. Owners thinking they disposed of their timeshare learn the resort did not accept the transfer when they receive an invoice for maintenance fees at the end of the year.

I asked Dave how many resorts are using Timeshare Pro Plus. “Out of approximately 1000 or more resorts we work with about 50. Timeshare companies have been relying on the post office since before fax machines were invented. Resorts are slow to embrace modern technology from a fear of being cost prohibitive or from familiarity. Many take the approach of, we have always done it the way we have been doing it, it works, so why should we change?” offered Dave.

We would still be reading by kerosene lamps with that mentality.

One resort that is keeping up with modern technology is Silver Beach Resort in Daytona, Florida. Laura Hey, Assistant Manager, describes timeshare transfer as “a no man’s land” encompassing transfers from here to Hawaii and beyond. The problem is worldwide as told by one of our Inside Timeshare readers this week.

http://insidetimeshare.com/merdith-pritchard-readers-experience/

Ironically, Laura said many of the fraudulent companies are not in Florida. Florida is a mecca center for timeshare. Laura feels this may make it easier for the perpetrators to be caught operating in a state always on the watch for fraudulent transfers.

Silver Beach uses Timeshare Pro Plus and acknowledges it has made a difference, but Laura does not feel the problem can be eliminated by software alone. It takes people working together, more information, hard-hitting questions and legislative efforts. “We feel a sense of joy and victory whenever we outwit those preying upon the vulnerable,” said Laura. “Recently we received two recorded deeds, but we are not sure the transfer is legitimate. More needs to be done to make sure that, for example, a timeshare delinquent $10,000 in maintenance fees isn’t transferred to a person that doesn’t exist. When we requested a driver’s license to confirm the identity of two buyers, we learned both Nevada driver’s license were fake.”

Laura went on to warn timeshare owners to stay away from Postcard companies.

http://tstoday.com/members/magazine/issue118/39-postcard%20warning.pdf

 

It seems there is no end to the creativity and the ingenuity generated by timeshare’s lack of a secondary market. In summary – here is what we at Inside Timeshare propose:

Work towards an improved and viable secondary market.

Ask your resort if they use Timeshare Pro Plus and if not, ask what the resort does to ensure legitimate transfers.

Report companies that call asking if you want to be released from your timeshare.

Help spread the word to encourage people to ask the right questions when buying a timeshare, including talking to a member of the US Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to compare the benefits or lack of benefits buying on the secondary market.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

I hope more resorts look into Timeshare Pro Plus because reducing timeshare transfer fraud is one point timeshare owners and developers can agree on.

For more information about Timeshare Pro Plus contact Dave Heine.

http://resorttrades.com/business-directory/timeshare-pro-plus/

world hub

As we have seen, much of the problems around these “scams” and “frauds” are actually caused by the industry itself. By over valuing  the product as “an investment” as if it was actual “real estate”, lack of a resale or secondary market to the selling of contracts that breach the laws.

When there are problems such as this, it leaves owners with nowhere to go, they are then vulnerable to the clever “scammers” who then fleece the desperate of thousands.

If you need any help or advice on any company contact Inside Timeshare, we can point you in the right direction. We will show you how to check out these companies for yourself, remember doing your due diligence will save you money in the end.

  

 

letter from america

A Timeshare HOA Collections Agent Shares her Experience

By Irene Parker, March 13, 2017

Hair pull

Inside Timeshare has written many articles about timeshare transfer agents, but not often does a timeshare developer offer insights from their perspective. Kristie works in HOA Collections at a west coast legacy resort. Her job can’t be easy, so we appreciate Kristie taking the time to answer our questions.  

The timeshare resort asked not to be identified. Attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman’s response to the interview is posted at the end. We reached out to Timeshare Exit Team but they have not responded.

Irene: We are grateful that you have come forward to offer a developer’s point of view. Tell us your biggest concerns.

Kristie: I am excited to have been asked to offer my thoughts concerning this difficult topic and happy to provide any assistance you may need in the future. The biggest problem we see is that only the seller has to sign the deed. One thing that might help alleviate transfer scams is if both the timeshare owner and the resort representative had to sign to sell and receive property. Year to date I have tracked 85 individuals, representing $352,000 in uncollected dues because of what we consider to be fraudulent activity.

We have been able to address many fraudulent practices by working closely with the National Timeshare Owners Association (NTOA). Our establishment met CEO Greg Crist at the TBMA Orlando Conference a few years ago. Since then, we have worked together to stop some of the seemingly never ending fraudulent activity. Greg and his team have always provided positive outcomes. I would encourage every timeshare establishment to reach out to NTOA. They are the best in the industry.

Owners pay transfer companies thousands of dollars to be relieved of their timeshare which in the end often does not relieve them. This negatively affects the current dues paying owner with Maintenance Dues increases due to “Viking ships” that have no intention of paying dues. The term Viking Ships refers to Vikings who put their dead on ships and then shipped them out to sea.

We also work with Dave Heine @ requestmyestoppel.com. His program was set up to try to assist timeshare companies in an effort to stop fraudulent transfer activities by having a place for the purchaser & seller to sign as well as the estoppel & account information pages. His program can be built into any resorts policies. This saves all parties time and money.

Real Life Examples

The following article is about a Waunakee Wisconsin businessman who took over unused timeshares for a fee and will have to refund money to owners and return the timeshares to resorts, according to a consent judgment.

Jail

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/state-gets-judgment-against-waunakee-time-share-wholesaler/article_11d2cf8b-f2d9-5cdb-86d3-054e9148e417.html

NTOA works behind the scenes in their effort to stop fraudulent transfers.

https://www.ntoassoc.com/

“Most NTOA members are timeshare owners, but twelve HOAs have joined NTOA as non-profit Associate Members. We assist HOA members when an HOA suspects fraudulent activity by working cohesively with the resort under attack while cooperating with and coordinating regulatory and law enforcement agency efforts,” Greg explained.

“Our HOA members agree to abide by NTOA’s Timeshare Owner’s Bill of Rights and Best Practices Agreement. Most if not all legacy resorts, meaning sold out traditional timeshare resorts, fight fraudulent practices on a daily basis. When a deeded timeshare is not properly transferred, the resort must hire a lawyer to resolve “clouded title” issues. This costs a resort from $200 to $2500,” he added.

Our interview continues:

Irene: Question 1 – Have you seen a dramatic increase in owners seeking release or more children and heirs taking over their week?

Kristie: We have seen both. Individuals seek a release because either they don’t want to burden their children or they have stated the kids don’t have the money or the time. Our resort and our owners have matured.  Other reasons for release include age, health, finances or are not able to travel like they used to.

If they do transfer the timeshare to the kids, they have stated it’s because they don’t want to give up the property and because of the wonderful memories. They want to keep the family tradition going.

Question 2 – Have your owners been successful selling their weeks and does your resort maintain a resale department or refer to Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers?

Some of our owners have had great success selling their week and some have had difficulties. Based on feedback, it seems that it is about 50/50, with half selling on their own and half having a licensed resale company sell it.

When a customer calls we strive to give them all the information they need to make an educated decision. We advise customers about the many frauds and guarantees and to stay away from timeshare attorneys. We advise them of the transfer costs and re recording fees and even provide the paperwork they will need.

Question 3 – What are the some of the problems you have encountered when owners seek release through transfer agents?

We see fraud and incorrect deeds being prepared and recorded.  It seems that nine out of ten transfer companies are fraud and when one gets shut down 20 more open up. We have seen timeshares that have been transferred to individuals and companies that keep buying them but then never pay dues.

We have new transfer policies in place for all resale companies. All companies requesting a transfer must provide their company information so we can make sure they are a legitimate company.  We also cross reference addresses and phone numbers and if we find that the customer has chosen a resale company that is not legitimate we immediately advise the customer.

Question 4 – Are you familiar with Resort Release, endorsed by FOX celebrities Laura Ingraham and Dave Ramsey? If so, what is your opinion?

I am not familiar with Resort Release but I am familiar with radio hosts Laura Ingraham and Dave Ramsey and how they have endorsed certain resale companies. Unfortunately they are endorsing the wrong companies giving false information to clients. They both get paid to endorse companies to make it sound good regardless of the outcome. They are in advertising.

Most resale companies promise to get an owner out of their timeshare, but if it’s a deeded property they have to transfer the deed. The resale company might be able to get someone out of a contract, but they can’t get our customers out of a deed. The deed must be transferred to a legitimate party and all of our transfer procedures must be met for a transfer to be valid.

Question 5 – Are you familiar with Timeshare Exit Team? One of their agents contacted me and asked me to review their program. What is your opinion of this firm?

I would never endorse or advise anyone to use their services ever!! They specialize and advertise “Cancellation of Timeshare Contracts” but we don’t have contracts. We have deeds. We have chosen not to do business with Timeshare Exit Team because of their inability to follow our procedures and because of the quality of work previously sent to us.

Timeshare Exit Team has been involved with two other timeshare resale companies and/or timeshare attorneys that were involved with transferring 18 of our deeds since 2014 to four individuals that have never paid the dues and are delinquent in the amount of over $18,000. Out of the four individuals we were able to track, we learned that they are all associated with each other thru business dealings, contract employees or registered agents. They must assume that the association will eventually foreclose or take the property back but it is very costly to foreclose and we do not accept property back. It seems as long as they get their money they will make an effort, but if it doesn’t work out in their favor they just transfer the deed to anyone without making sure of whom they are selling it to.

Our newest issue is with the US Consumer Attorneys. They also specialize in Timeshare contract cancellations. They have transferred deeds to the same individuals as stated above that have never paid, and seem affiliated with timeshare Attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman.

We were never notified of the transfers and none of the procedures were followed. This seems to be a repeat of the Timeshare Exit Team accounts all over again. We would be happy to work with any timeshare resale company as long as the procedures were followed.

Question 6 – When you deny someone a release, and they foreclose, with no loan, do you or the collection agency file a lien or report this to credit reporting agencies?

The account is considered delinquent 30 days after the due date. We send a few letters before filing a lien on the property. Once the lien is recorded and the customer has received the final notice we send the account to a 3rd party collection agency. They will report the account to the credit bureau. They work the account and report it negatively for a year. After the year we pull the account out of collections and evaluate the account for litigation.

Question 7 – Are there any transfer agencies you feel are appropriate for owners denied surrenders or are they better seeking help from a timeshare attorney?

We refer our clients to a company called The Timeshare Guys @ 877-987-4897. This is a legitimate resale company that we use all the time.

http://www.timeshareguys.com/

We never refer our clients to a timeshare attorney. Everyone we have dealt with has taken money from our owners and not been able to perform the work they promised they would do. The timeshare attorneys send us letters telling us that their clients will no longer pay the dues and we need to transfer the deed back to the association. That is not our policy and unfortunately our customer paid thousands for something an attorney cannot do. In this situation we refer our customer to the Secretary of State, or State Bar Association to file complaints to try to get their money back.

Question 8 – If an owner is denied a release, how likely is it a transfer agent will be able to release the owner, as some transfer agents guarantee a release and others offer money back guarantees? Is there such a thing as a guaranteed transfer agent?

If our owner is denied a release, a transfer agent will certainly not be able to get the owner released. If they offer a guarantee and money back they are only deceiving the customer. The board members are the only ones that have the authority to release a client and there are policies that must be followed for that to happen and it does not happen often.

Question 9 – What do you charge an owner for a one week deed-back if your resort accepts the transfer?

Usually we charge two times the amount of the dues plus hard costs.  Each owner’s request is reviewed by the board and our owner’s situation is taken into consideration. The board will never agree to transfer the deed just because the owner is tired of paying. This is deeded property like a home and is treated as such.   

Question 10 – Are transfer agents necessary? If an owner is denied a release, ads say the owner can get released through a transfer agent. The deed goes back to the developer anyway and the owner can be charged $5000 or more.

Our association would rather deal directly with our owners to avoid the transfer agent fee but it seems the customer reaches out to transfer agent first. If the transfer agents were legitimate they would be helpful because they can prepare & file any paperwork.

Question 11 – Are there any other specific company names you can provide that timeshare owners should watch out for?

 

Kristie: There are so many timeshare resale companies that just pop-up and think they know what to do. I am not sure how they get lists of owners but they get the names and prey like wolves on consumers. Some of companies we have had the most problems with and would advise owner to stay away from are: Tek Solutions, Vacation Ventures, Resort Access, Tanya’s Timeshare, Superhealth Technologies, Sunshine Groves, Sunshine Clearing, Starla Missions, and Fireside Registry, just to name a few. Then we have the deliberate scams that timeshare attorneys and resale companies transfer to – individuals that never pay and never notify us. We usually find out about things like that when the customer gets the bill or we stumble upon it in the recorder’s office.

Irene: Thank you Kristie for answering my questions. It sounds like the popular timeshare slogan “Vacation Planning Simplified” does not apply to vacation un-planning. I learned a lot from Kristie’s answers. It will take some time to digest. Inside Timeshare will continue to unravel the mysteries of our timeshare world.

think box

Mr. Sussman responded as follows:

While I understand their position, the simple fact is that if the timeshare had any value at all….the resort should be thrilled to take it back so that they can resell it for a profit.

Of course, since the timeshare is a liability and not an asset, the resorts refuse to take back what is essentially a lifetime financial obligation.

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

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

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

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

Mitchell Reed Sussman

Attorney at Law

The views expressed in this article are the views of the interviewee. Timeshare transfer agents and the problems resulting from fraudulent transfers – as evidenced by the Department of Justice timeshare scam report linked in our article below – is a subject Inside Timeshare will be closely following.

http://insidetimeshare.com/consumer-protection-week-usa/

 

Inside Timeshare would like to thank Kristie for her time and insight, it gives owners / members more information on this mysterious world called timeshare. Also a big thank you to Attorney Mitchell Reed Sussman, his views on owners being able to hand back without the need of an attorney will, we believe, be welcomed by many on both sides of the pond.

 

We welcome your comments and stories, contact Inside Timeshare if you have something you would like to share. It you the reader who provides the information which will help others.