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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of Friday’s Letter from America, this week Inside Timeshares Irene Parker reports on day 1 of the trial she attending in Orlando, Florida. This is a case between Diamond Resorts and Aaronson Law Firm, this is yet another law firm being taken to court by the timeshare industry.

So unlike our usual Friday editions, we will forego news from Europe and go straight to Irene’s report.

Diamond Resorts v Aaronson Law Firm Trial

Day 1 of 6: Jury Selection and Opening Arguments

Anatomy of a Timeshare Trial

By Irene Parker

May 3, 2019

Having recently experienced Part I of a deposition that lasted six hours against another law firm that provides timeshare exit assistance, I was motivated to attend a six-day timeshare trial in Orlando District Court that began Tuesday, April 30. The cost of a deposition or a six-day trial is staggering. Ultimately, the timeshare member pays. It’s too bad we can’t just sit down and talk to each other, but I guess attorneys have to make a living.

Diamond Resorts International Inc., Diamond Resorts U.S. Collection Development, Hawaii Collection Development LLC, and Diamond Resorts Management Inc, filed a lawsuit against Austin N. Aaronson and Aaronson, Austin, PA.

Case No. 6:17-1394-ORL-37-DCI

Attorneys Richard W. Epstein, Jeffrey A. Backman, and Olga M Vieira of Greenspoon Marder LLP are plaintiffs’ attorneys. Mr Aaronson is represented by Charles J. Meltz of Grower Ketcham, Eide, Telan & Meltz, P.A.

As reported by ABA Journal January 30, 2018:

The Florida suit was filed against Orlando lawyer Austin Aaronson and his firm Aaronson, Austin. In a Jan. 26 ruling, U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton Jr. of Orlando tossed RICO and malicious prosecution claims by Diamond Resorts but allowed claims for false advertising under the Lanham Act, tortious interference with contract, trade libel and deceptive trade practices.

Diamond Resorts had claimed Aaronson and his law firm solicited timeshare members in an advertising campaign that weaves a false narrative, causing timeshare members to stop contract payments and subjecting Diamond Resorts to baseless arbitration proceedings.

Aaronson had claimed his firm’s advertising was not false or misleading because it constituted opinion or puffery.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/judges_refuse_to_toss_suits_claiming_law_firms_interfered_with_timeshare_co

Opening day started with jury selection. Six of the eighteen potential jurors reported a negative timeshare experience:

  1. Lots of pressure from a timeshare presentation in the 80s,
  2. Purchased Marriott 30 years ago, lots of pressure,
  3. Westgate was difficult to exchange and was unsellable. An attorney was contacted. The attorney said Westgate is not sellable. Timeshare is a waste of money.
  4. Negative experience,
  5. Agents are pushy and don’t give up,
  6. An engineer said he had a negative bias.

Judge Dalton explained that Plaintiffs are required to convince the jury that Austin Aaronson is guilty by a preponderance of evidence. Criminal trials require a stricter standard – beyond a reasonable doubt.

The four claims against Austin Aaronson are:

  1. False advertising that harmed the reputation of Diamond Resorts and caused damages,
  2. Tortious interference,
  3. Intentionally publishing disparaging information on a website,
  4. Deceptive and unfair practices.

There are a total of 134 joint exhibits.

Mr Epstein, attorney for Diamond Resorts stated that there are few complaints against Diamond Resorts. He alleged Aaronson accused Diamond of wholesale unsavoury conduct.

Mr Meltz, attorney for Aaronson, reported how maintenance fees had more than doubled from 2007 to 2015 from $.07 per point to $.145 per point and that there is no secondary market for Diamond points. He explained how Diamond Resorts controlled Board of Directors hires Diamond Resorts managers to manage Diamond properties. As to the claim that Diamond misappropriated maintenance fees, both sides will bring in accounting expert witnesses to prove or disprove how maintenance fees were misappropriated.

In a lighthearted moment, Judge Dalton asked one of the Plaintiff attorneys if she was chewing gum. She was. She was asked to leave the courtroom to dispose of her gum.

Judge Dalton instructed the jury not to read newspapers, Facebook posts or blogs about the case. He said in the old day’s reporters attended the trials, but these days they just talk to those who attended as they exit the courtroom. He said he was amazed that when he reads an article about one of his trials, how little of what was reported actually happened in the courtroom. I was proud that Inside Timeshare will be in attendance for the duration of the trial taking copious notes.

Inside Timeshare and our readers just want the timeshare industry to admit that unfair and deceptive sales practices exist on the front end of the sale. I have always said half a problem goes away when confronted, but I doubt this will happen.

I have contacted four timeshare exit providers. Two of the larger firms report receiving 3,000 calls a month from members desperately seeking release from a timeshare contract. These firms only accept 100 to 150 cases as they require a strong case of unfair and deceptive practices. This stay vacationed or else strategy has created a timeshare exit industry timeshare developers want to crush, but Social Media is not going to put this Pandora back in her box. The lack of a secondary market is financially devastating family after family.

Greenspoon Marder contends all is well because Diamond Resorts has 460,000 timeshare members with few complaints. I feel 6,000 families reaching out to just two timeshare exit providers monthly is a real problem. There is no other product that has spawned an entire industry devoted to responding to customers with nowhere to turn, desperately seeking release from unused and unwanted timeshares. Many report they learned they were duped just days or minutes past the rescission period.

In Florida, timeshare division reviewers received 1,600 complaints in 2017 and 1,600 complaints in 2018, mostly about the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors. The AG engaged 42, mostly about timeshare resales. That means 1,600 families annually feel they were duped by a timeshare, there is no secondary market, maintenance fees doubled in seven years for at least one timeshare company, and this is not a problem.

Yes, it is.   

We seek to provide timeshare members with 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://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Than you Irene, we look forward to further reports on this trial and I’m sure that all Inside Timeshare readers are hoping that the outcome will be in Favour of Aaronson. One thing is certain, Diamond does not like criticism, but Inside Timeshare will continue to publish the “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” stories of our readers, be they Diamond or any other timeshare company.

In Spain, Diamond has lost in the courts for selling illegal contracts, along with other timeshare companies, many of them are the big players in Europe. Spanish timeshare law is based on the European Timeshare Directives but has been strengthened to protect consumers of unfair, misleading, predatory sales tactics and illegal contracts. It leads the way in Europe and we may see other countries following suit.

If you have any comments on this or any article or have a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” story of your own, then use our contact page and get in touch we look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend and join us again next week.  


The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week Irene Parker asks the question Wait! What Timeshare Regulations? But first, we have an update on the last 2 weeks of court cases in Spain, these figures came in late Friday afternoon, just a little too late to include in Friday’s Letter from America.

In total, Canarian Legal Alliance has received 38 sentences by various courts in Spain, these have been against 3 of the major players in European timeshare and are broken down as follows.

In one of the High Court sentences against Anfi, they were also ordered to repay the client the in-house finance including interest, this may just be good news for others who purchased their timeshare using in-house finance. It certainly sets a precedent.

The total amount which will be returned to the clients is an incredible 1,310,533.00 €, plus in most of the cases the return of legal fees and legal interest. All contracts were also declared null and void leaving them all timeshare free.

At least in Spain, there are regulations that protect consumers, so now on with our Tuesday article with Irene.

Women Who Money

Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?

https://womenwhomoney.com/timeshares-worth-money/?fbclid=IwAR0bYNP97–z3c_zLuiKII59MamwEsSaCA6exdi6GdNOspnL26F88c09eeg

Wait! What Timeshare Regulations?

By Irene Parker

April 30, 2019

I enjoyed reading Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run? published by Women Who Money.  I agree with the author’s major points, except “regulations being in place to protect timeshare consumers.” Having heard from timeshare members about how easy it is for a timeshare sales agent to dodge a contract rescission period, I wonder if there is any foolproof way to prevent being scammed. Some things, like actual availability, cannot be discerned by reading the contract. My contract said, “You can sell your points. We will not assist you.” The part about no buyers was left out. I was duped by reading the contract.

House, Senate and Assembly Bills are flying across the country. The timeshare PAC ARDA ROC was successful in extracting consumer protection measures out of Arizona HB 2639, as reported by The Courier Daily.

“They’ve got a lobbying presence here and around the country,” added Amanda Rusing who lobbies for the office, “It was very disappointing to have to remove all of the stronger, pro-consumer provisions.”

https://www.dcourier.com/news/2019/apr/16/opt-out-provisions-timeshare-bill-no-longer-table/

Timeshare members “voluntarily” contribute approximately $5 million annually to ARDA ROC via maintenance fee invoices. ROC stands for Resort Owners Coalition. Why would any organization oppose offering a buyer 24 hours before signing a perpetual contract with no secondary market? Buyers are told that they have to buy the same day.

We are asking legislation be proposed that would allow the timeshare member 24 hours to review a contract before signing. We understand a member may not want 24 hours to review, so this offer could be waived. This offer should not be buried in the tap, tap, tap, electronic fine print. Members often report being held under duress for up to eight hours by a tag team of agents. Some sales centers take your driver’s license and credit card and won’t give them back.  

ARDA ROC introduced legislation in Nevada and Florida that would require those contracting with timeshare exit service providers be given 24 hours to review a timeshare exit service provider contract. This was proposed because they care about their members experiencing deceptive sales practices? Give me a break.

We would think it silly if a bill was proposed requiring those who seek to buy a car be allowed 24 hours before signing a contract. Typically when buying a car, you shop, and a tag team of agents doesn’t gang up on you for hours.

A synopsis of recent Florida, Arizona and Nevada legislation:

Timeshares are regulated by states. Since timeshare buyers typically buy a timeshare in a state other than their state of residence, lawmakers have little incentive to react to non-constituents. Lawmakers need to listen to those who bought a timeshare in their state, not just those who reside in their state.

I found the Woman Who Money article, “Are Timeshares Worth the Money in the Long Run?” on Lisa Ann Schreier’s Timeshare Crusader blog. Having worked in the industry for years, Lisa’s knowledge brings a lot to the table. Lisa is the author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies.

From Women Who Money   

Regulations now exist to help protect consumers from high-pressure sales tactics. If you buy a timeshare and quickly regret it, you may have options for getting out of the signed contract.

https://womenwhomoney.com/timeshares-worth-money/?fbclid=IwAR0bYNP97–z3c_zLuiKII59MamwEsSaCA6exdi6GdNOspnL26F88c09eeg

Lisa Ann Schreier

Timeshare expert and author of Timeshare Vacations for Dummies

“While it is true that each state has a legally mandated rescission period, the fact of the matter is that 99% of purchasers will not read the contract within that time frame. The days of relying on the salesperson for good, solid information are over. Consumers must go into these timeshare sales pitches armed with a litany of questions and be prepared to walk out without purchasing anything if they don’t receive answers that can be pointed out within the contract.”

http://thetimesharecrusader.blogspot.com/

My husband and I used and enjoyed our timeshare for 25 years with no complaints, questions or Facebook posts. The points-based product does offer greater flexibility. We’re not saying timeshares aren’t good for many, and we know there are many honest sales agents, but I am convinced after hearing from over 800 timeshare members, current and former sales agents, managers and even an executive or two, “pitching heat” is on the upswing.

Timeshare buyers should record their timeshare sales sessions in one-party states where legal. Florida is a two-party state, so you cannot legally record without the other person aware. How is a victim supposed to obtain proof? All our readers’ Florida and Nevada timeshare complaints sent to the Nevada Real Estate Division and Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation were dismissed with “You have no proof.”  I would recommend not buying a timeshare in a two-party state.

One of our Supporters, Sheila Brust, has her “Pencil Pitch” denoting the following figures, with an arrow and “save” written alongside:

  • $8,631
  • -8,631
  • 0

According to Sheilah, the three-page pencil pitch describes how she would be able to cover all her maintenance fees through point usage. A second and third buyer bought from the same sales agent. The Florida DBPR reviewer told Sheilah that she did not understand the program either until she spoke with the company’s attorney. What chance does the average consumer have if a Florida timeshare reviewer, who has reviewed hundreds, if not thousands of timeshare contracts, did not understand the program until she spoke with the company’s attorney?

As far as proof, 83 Platinum members, who don’t know each other, reported similar to identical complaints, often against repeat offender sales agents. I’m told that constitutes proof as it is a good faith investigation and a reasonable conclusion. We have prepared a 130-page summary which is available upon request if a lawmaker or regulator is interested. We can hope.       

We are working on a petition. If you would like to become more involved with our efforts, contact Inside Timeshare. Of the 805 timeshare members who have contacted us, 103 are veterans and active duty services members.

We seek to provide timeshare members with 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://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you, Irene, and also Lisa Ann Schreier for your contribution, if you have any comments or views on any article published, please use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

If you have been contacted by any company with regards to resale, relinquishment or a claim and you are unsure if they are genuine, again use our contact page and let us know. We will point you in the right direction. Remember, doing your homework will save you in the end from losing your money.

Start the Week: Update Advance Business Consultants Legal SL

Further to our article published on 23 April, regarding the liquidation of ABC Lawyers and Advance Business Consultants Legal SL both owned by Mark Rowe, new information has now come to light.

It appears that the Timeshare Consumer Association is now a trading name for Advanced Business Consultants Legal SL along with ABC Legal, ABC Lawyers, Timeshare Compensation, Timeshare Advice, Timeshare Lawyer, Value My Timeshare, ABC Legal Reviews.

So what was once an independent website giving independent and impartial advice to timeshare owners is firmly under the umbrella of Mark Rowe. He continually denies he has anything to do with the TCA, the latest evidence shows otherwise.

This is now in black and white on the Privacy Notice updated on 24 April 2019,

So what does this mean for timeshare owners who contact the TCA for advice on how to get out of their timeshare contracts?

Very simple, they will not be getting any independent or impartial advice, instead, they will be directed to one of the companies owned and controlled by Mark Rowe. This is not the first time the TCA’s impartiality has come into question, Andrew Penman of the Mirror brought this subject into the public domain way back in December 2016.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/timeshare-consumer-association-claims-independent-9367808

Mark Rowe

As we already know, several of his companies are under investigation by the Regional Organised Crime Unit of Somerset and Avon Police as well as the Spanish authorities, these are:

Inside Timeshare has received many emails from timeshare owners who have paid for relinquishments and so-called claims through ABC Lawyers, one reader paid around £7,500 for relinquishment and a claim. They were simply told to stop paying the maintenance fees, which they did, they have since found out that Club La Costa terminated their membership on the grounds of non-payment of fees. In other words, ABC Lawyers did nothing, they have also never received a penny of the £30,000 they were promised for their claim, despite signing the contract with ABC in October 2017.

Inside Timeshare has continually stated that the only sure way of making a claim for timeshare purchased in Spain is through the Spanish Courts, using a genuine lawyer registered to practice in Spain, with the knowledge and experience of timeshare law.

You are also unable to make any claim through the courts once you have had your contract terminated, plus you are very unlikely to receive any money back by using the Credit Consumer Act 1974 Section 75. This is a simple fact, the credit card company (if you paid the deposit by card) will always contact the timeshare company, they will obviously inform the card provider that the timeshare was used, so they have provided the goods and services paid for. Section 75 does not cover the fact that your timeshare contract may be illegal under Spanish law.

Once again, it is important that you know who you are dealing with, the TCA may have been independent and impartial at one point, but that was many years ago, we are sure the late Sandy Grey will be turning in his grave, all his hard work has now been turned upside down.

If you have any questions or need real advice on any timeshare matter, use our contact page and we will get back to you. Remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that contacts you or that you find on the internet.


Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today Irene Parker sets out instructions on how to file complaints with the FBI and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). Unfortunately, many of the requests for help Inside Timeshare receives fall into the category of fraud, yet the industry still does not recognise that they need to change.

Before we start a bit of news from the Spanish Courts.

The lawyers from Canarian Legal Alliance have been at it again this week with a resounding 25 sentences issued against timeshare companies.

These have been broken down as 3 issued from the High Court and 22 from the Court of First Instance. With Anfi receiving 24 judgements against them and Club La Costa receiving 1. The Club la Costa case was heard at the court of First Instance in Fuengirola, Malaga and is the very first case to involve one of CLA’s Spanish clients. (Click on the PDF below for the court sentence).

The other cases were clients from the UK and Scandinavia, with most receiving double the deposits paid and the return of legal fees, all contract were also declared null and void.

The total amount awarded in all these cases is a staggering 828,329€. So congratulations to the clients and also the entire legal team at Canarian Legal Alliance.

Now for our Letter from America.

Timeshare Accountability Group™

FBI and FTC Filing Instructions and Talking Points

April 26, 2019

By Irene Parker

When timeshare members feel they have experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, the member should first reach out to their resort in an attempt to resolve the dispute. If informed, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say,” file a Better Business Bureau complaint and file a complaint with the Attorney General from the state where you signed a contract.

Unfortunately, some timeshare complaints meet the FBI definition of white-collar crime. If the complaint is of a nature that meets the following description, file with the FBI at IC3.gov or file orally by contacting an FBI field office.

# 1 IC3.gov

Timeshare fraud falls under White Collar Crime/Mortgage Fraud/Financial Institution Fraud/Fraud for Profit. click on the link below to read about mortgage fraud. The general definition of white-collar crime is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, and bait and switch.”  

Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry.

Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners.

The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.

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

To file a complaint with the FBI, select IC3.gov from the three choices available. It’s confusing because IC stands for Internet Crime, but it doesn’t have to be about internet crime. That’s just the name of the portal. You can file a complaint on behalf of someone else. At the end of the form it will ask if you are filing on someone else’s behalf.

https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Some of the information that the IC3.gov online form asks for is not necessary – fields like routing numbers, bank addresses. Don’t worry about having all that information. They are not required fields. Victim bank is the bank from where you made payments or the credit card company. Subject bank is where you send your payments.

If you receive additional information after filing an original complaint, there is a handy box to check that asks, “Is this an update to a prior report?” Start the complaint over, but check that box to add the new information.

Step #2 File an oral FBI report 24/7

You can also file orally by contacting an FBI field office. Contact the field office where you signed a contract. Members have reported some agents have spent one or two hours on the phone with them. One member met with her FBI agent!

When you call the field office, select “Submit a Tip” then wait for the white-collar crime prompt. One person ended up in the wrong pew of the right church told they had to have lost a million dollars or more to file a complaint. That’s not true.

Members report the FBI has been responsive, but the FBI agent needs to be convinced getting a lawyer will do nothing to stop the problem of timeshare fraud for profit. Timeshare companies have armies of lawyers and they can drag a proceeding on forever until the member is broke. It is an understatement to say timeshare attorneys don’t look favourably on the arbitration process.

In Florida call the Tampa Field Office

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

Whether filing at IC3.gov or orally, you can provide the name and phone number of other victims, especially if you are aware of similar complaints. That way the FBI can look up other reports directed against the same repeat offender sales agent.

Sheila Brust’s article, “Just the Facts, Ma’am” is about her experience reaching out to the FBI. Sheilah worked for New York Governor’s Office of Employee Relations. The FBI advised Sheila to file with the Secret Service because her allegation also involved credit card fraud.

www.secretservice.gov                                                       

Don’t expect to hear back from the FBI. They don’t work like that. That doesn’t mean they are not listening. It takes volumes of complaints and a pattern of complaints to launch any investigation, whether with the FBI or with an Attorney General.

Filing your own complaint requires dedication and perseverance. Resolutions can be accomplished, empowered with information the member needs to take matters into their own hands. Thinking beyond their own dilemma, members can become one of our volunteer Supporters to help others.

Our Complaint Instructions were revised by a millennial timeshare buyer who followed our complaint instructions to resolve her dispute.

How to File a Complaint revised January 25, 2019

Timeshare member complaints tend to start out convoluted and confusing. We suggest having a friend or neighbor, not familiar with timeshare, read your complaint to see if it makes sense. Provide examples. Expect to be denied. Read the reason for dismissal and respond with a rebuttal.

Saying things like “I can’t afford this” is useless. You can’t go to your home mortgage lender and say “I can’t afford my home mortgage” and expect them to take your house back. You signed a legally binding contract. If there was no deception, you are bound by the contract, although it’s possible to request a contract cancellation due to medical or financial hardship.

We refer to a lawyer about one in ten times when all else fails, or the member does not have the time or energy to follow our process, which is admittedly timeshare consuming. A list of reputable law firms is provided upon request.   

#3 File with the Federal Trade Commission

The FTC online form has a “Timeshare Sales” option. It’s not easy to find. Instructions are in this article. Don’t be discouraged by receiving only a “Here’s some timeshare tips!” response. https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-13/

Extra Talking Points

You must inform the FBI agent why you experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices. The agent you speak with may know nothing about timeshare basics. Explain the contract is perpetual, there is no secondary market, and when members complain, the company often hides behind the oral representation clause.

Your mission is to convince the FBI that this is not about only a few complaints. This article “Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders” lists just a few of the Attorneys General investigations and lawsuits, and the St. Louis Better Business Bureau report tells consumers what to watch out for:

Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders

St. Louis BBB report

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

Why doesn’t the government do something about this?

  1. There is no federal enforcement,
  2. Timeshare Attorney General Investigations and settlements are usually mere financial speed bumps, comparable to fining an NFL player $10,000. One exception is The Manhattan Club settlement. https://nypost.com/2017/08/17/new-york-ag-reaches-6-5m-settlement-with-manhattan-club
  3. When a member complains, they are shown their initials on the fine print,
  4. Retaining an attorney will not stop unfair and deceptive business practices,
  5. Litigation is time-consuming and expensive,
  6. Arbitration is widely known to be pro-industry. If you lose you can end up paying the resort’s arbitration fees. The resort hires the arbitrators.
  7. The CFPB has been rendered ineffective. Even in the CFPB heyday members could not file a complaint because the borrower often doesn’t even know the name of their lender. You had to select a financial institution from the dropdown menu and timeshare companies are not a choice.
  8. Some lawmakers may be influenced by lobby dollars, as reported by The Daily Courier. https://www.dcourier.com/news/2019/apr/16/opt-out-provisions-timeshare-bill-no-longer-table/
  9. Some state AGs turn a blind eye. At a Florida legislative workshop in Tallahassee March 12 of this year, the spokesperson for the Florida AG reported their office received 1,600 annual timeshare complaints in 2017 and 2018, mostly about the initial sales presentation, 50% seniors, of which the AG engaged only 42 of the complaints, mostly about resales. This spells no enforcement. The Nevada Real Estate Division responded to all our readers with a “You have no proof letter.”
  10. Timeshare members give the ARDA ROC Political Action Committee approximately $5 million dollars annually, often “Opt-Out” donations. We have heard from over 800 timeshare members. Not one could tell us what ARDA ROC even stands for. ARDA ROC vigorously opposed recent proposed pro-consumer changes in Arizona.  

Let us know if you are active duty military, law enforcement, a government worker or a veteran, as we are supported by WhistleBlowers of America. They added timeshare fraud to their March 14, 2018 report before the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs (the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has since been all but dismantled and we changed our name from TS Advocacy to Timeshare Accountability Group):

United in Speaking Truth to Power

www.whistleblowersofamerica.org @whistleP2P

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

Statement of

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C

Executive Director

Whistleblowers of America

Before the

Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

March 14, 2018

House and Senate Committee Members:

Whistleblowers of America (WoA) was incorporated in 2017, as a newly focused nonprofit service organization providing peer support to whistleblowers, so we are honored to be able to share our concerns with you today. The majority of our contacts are with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees or veterans who have identified waste, fraud, and abuse, medical errors, denials of care or benefits, discrimination, harassment or bullying.  For doing so, they have suffered reprisal and retaliation. From the report:

Fraud and Scams Against Veterans:

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

Consider a donation to Whistleblowers of America if you have been helped by Timeshare Accountability Group™

It’s remarkable that a timeshare member must go through this many stressful hoops concerning a product that was sold to be stress reducing. If you have skills that could help others, consider becoming a Supporter. Contact TAG.

Related articles:

3Rs or F of Timeshare

The Timeshare Tax Trap, February 26, 2019

Arizona HB 2639, March 1, 2019

Arizona HB 2639, March 5, 2019

Florida HB 435, March 15, 2019

Florida HB 435, March 19, 2019

Nevada SB, March 22, 2019

Arbitration October 24 2017

Member self-help groups

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://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you Irene, this information should prove a great help to many of our readers, it is just a shame that we have to resort to this type of action. One day the industry may just realise that it is through their own greed that they are on the receiving end of so many complaints.

Once again the weekend is upon us, whatever you are doing and wherever you are, have a great weekend and join us next week for news and information on the murky world of timeshare.

Legalidades Tenerife and the Missing Cheque Scam

Over the past few years, Inside Timeshare has been highlighting a string of fake law firms operating out of Tenerife, we dubbed them the Litigious Abogados Family. Every few months they resurface with new names, although the websites are all exactly the same with only the names of the fake lawyers, the photographs and the company addresses changed.

One of these names is Legalidades Tenerife which we highlighted back in July 2018, (see link below), well they seem to have resurfaced with their latest scam.

One of our regular readers who unfortunately did pay them for a supposed claim has now received their latest email. Our reader who we shall call Mr X, contacted them as he had not received the cheque from the court as they had promised. According to the email signed by Javier Montoya Mulata from the Departmento de Reclamaciónes, there is some very bad news.

Apparently, Legalidades Tenerife has been informed by the Comisaria General de Policia Judicial (Judicial Police), that our of 64 “compensation” cheques issued by the Courts in Santa Cruz their cheque was intercepted and cashed. A time and precise date were given.

The cheque was paid into an account for an import-export company registered to four Ukrainian citizens. The police suspect that it was an “inside job” and 16 Post office employees are being interviewed.

According to Javier Montoya Mulata, banks have been on the receiving end of many fines for inadequate record keeping on the opening of accounts with the clearing banks having many discrepancies to be formally addressed.

The Legalidades lawyers are “most disappointed and upset of the stress this must be causing you through no fault of ours or yours”. They also go on to say that they will extend their full support to provide the documentation for a replacement cheque.

They also go on to say that although the correct documentation can be provided within days, the “protocols and implications are severe and protracted”, so it will take 180 days or more to try to resolve the matter.

According to Mulata, the National Police are now involved in the investigation in tracking the cheques path, with the Santa Cruz Courts even going to the length of appointing an “independent trustee” who specialises in this field to “expedite and resolve” the matter without further delay.

Mulata also goes on to state that Legalidades lawyers have filed an official complaint against Sociedad Estatal Correos y Telégrafos SA (post office). The lawyers have also learnt that a small standard compensation payment will “without question” be paid within the next few weeks for their “contractual negligence and shortcomings”.

Well, this is all very nice, the court issues 64 cheques and apparently, the post office workers are in cahoots with a Ukrainian gang and steal only one cheque to the value of over 21,000 euros belonging to our reader. I suspect that another batch of letters just like this one has been sent to the other “clients” telling them the same thing.

No doubt the next phase of the scam will be another letter saying that they are so sorry, but to get the money paid out a fee will now have to be paid, will this be for tax or what?

This is a very eloborate and long running scam, in fact there are so many names we just can’t keep up, below is the link to article with a list of names so far. You can also read the full letter in the PDF below.

If you have had anything similar to this, whether it is from Legalidades Tenerife or another fake name, contact Inside Timeshare through our contact page. Your information just may help to save someone else from being taken in.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another in our series of Secret Shopper reports, but first some news from the UK about ABC Lawyers, one of the Mark Rowe owned companies.

On 8 February 2019, an application to wind down the company ABC Layers Ltd was filed by Mark Rowe with Companies House. The appointed liquidator is David Meany of Quantuma LLP, The Old Town Hall, 71 Christchurch Road, Ringwood, Hampshire.

ABC Lawyers is just one of the companies under the umbrella of Advanced Business Consultants Legal SL,  (formerly registered as Jive Hippo SL), CC Fañabe Plaza 338, Avenida Bruselas, Costa Adeje, 38660, S/C de Tenerife, it is also known as ABC Legal/Other companies are Timeshare Compensation, Timeshare Lawyer, ValueMyTimeshare and Timeshare Advice, all owned by Mark Rowe.

Mark Rowe is also the owner of the following companies registered in the UK, TULOCA LTD (10748107), LANSDOWN FINANCIAL LTD (09742346), STAYCATION LODGES (SCOTLAND) LIMITED (SC549238), STAYCATION LODGES LIMITED (10332646), JIVE HIPPO LIMITED (09863488), MONSTER TEMPCO LIMITED (09855107) and GORLEY VALE FARM LIMITED (09669372). Although he resigned as Director in February 2019, leaving Nicola Helen Rowe as the sole director.

The question being posed now is what will happen to all those clients who have signed up with ABC Lawyers for “compensation claims” and “relinquishments”, are they going to have the work completed?

As we know, several of Marke Rowe’s companies are under police investigation, could this liquidation be a move to prevent yet another of his companies falling under that investigation? Only time will tell.

Now for today’s Secret Shopper Report.

Timeshare Wars!  Deeded Timeshare Owners Fight Back

What kind of business sells points by demanding that if you don’t buy our timeshare points, your children will have to be our customer?

A deeded owner

Marriott Vacation Club Fights Back

Not since the Book of Genesis [1:9-10] has the extraordinary feat of creating land from nothingness been chronicled … and Marriott “saw that it was good” for business. (Plaintiff’s response to motion to dismiss)  

By Another Deeded Week Secret Shopper from Out West

April 23, 2019

Some Vacation Clubs employ predatory and deceptive methods to convince deeded week timeshare “owners” to give up their deed to become a “member” of a points-based timeshare program. Owners are lured to “mandatory” updates designed to convince them why they should join their vacation club.

Last Tuesday a Secret Shopper shared his experience. Shopper owned two continuous deeded weeks at Virginia Beach. He determined that if he had agreed to forfeit his deeds for points, it is unlikely he would have access to the vacation location the family had enjoyed for years.

Some timeshare point members have no “beneficial interest” in actual real estate. Wyndham does sell a point-based deeded timeshare. The (intended pun) point is that just because points are used to identify one’s use interests, does not necessarily make the timeshare a users’ rights product.

In the case of non-deeded points, the point buyer buys points in a “right-to-use” program. Ownership rights are stripped away from the actual real estate. It’s more like buying a membership in a country club than buying a condo, except it’s a country club membership you can’t easily terminate unless the membership is free and clear. If there is no loan and maintenance fees are current, the resort MAY take the timeshare back in return for nothing more than the peace of mind knowing you are done with it.

Charging closing costs for a product that is not real estate was the basis of a class action lawsuit against Marriott Vacation Club.  In a recent ruling,

A Florida Judge has sustained central claims in the class action against Marriott and their points based system. “Consumer Deeds are invalid because they lack any cognizable legal description of a real property interest being conveyed as required by Florida law.”

https://www.nyrealestatelawblog.com/manhattan-litigation-blog/2019/april/florida-judge-sustains-central-claims-in-suit-ag/?fbclid=IwAR2wlVr8NIPBZj9Mcg8vVQI7_yHJvTHkIWTU4NdT9XEC8QANg0rfR9wmZrs#.XKZAISFvVH0.facebook

Our Secret Shopper Experience

Throughout our presentation, we were concerned about the sales agent using terms associated with real estate. Our sales agent said points are backed by real estate held in a trust. Agents used words and phrases like “opening escrow” and a 30 to 45 day closing period. One particularly deceptive use of real estate jargon was stating maintenance fees as HOA fees. They are not the same. It would take another article to explain why they are different. They would not disclose the terms of a loan unless we agreed to purchase.

My husband and I went after them from a financial angle. We said we were concerned about the company’s financial health. We felt the thousands of complaints that can be found about this company on the internet, over 1,000 Better Business Bureau Complaints, a government action, and numerous lawsuits would eventually catch up with them. That doesn’t mean all their sales agents are dishonest, but there are a disproportionate number of complaints compared to other timeshare companies.

What seemed to be the craziest comment came from an agent who came over to answer our questions about the budget report. We had asked:

“Is the Club solvent?” “Are they in debt?”

The agent shockingly responded, “Why would that matter to you?”

We asked for their California public report. We showed them that there was a deficit of $9.696 million. We asked why the public report does not show a reserve account. They said it’s typically not shown in a public report. This makes no sense as that is one of the first things to put in a public report to make the consumer feel more secure. The truth is – there is no reserve account based on documents we had analyzed.

Our sales agent seemed a bit dumbfounded. Our session ended without the usual downturn in attitude when a member says no and means no. We don’t think these agents are used to informed buyers. But Vacation Clubs don’t just try to take your deed. They try to take your Resort!

We are longtime owners at one of the resorts that have opposed the Vacation Club’s attempts to take control. Owners realized a few years ago that the Club was rapidly accumulating inventory. Some owners started reporting that they had been to presentations or updates where they had been informed that either the Club already ‘owned’ our resort, or used scare tactics to convince the owner that if they didn’t convert their deed to points, their deed would be worthless and would be subject to a special assessment. Often, especially seniors are falsely told that if they don’t give up their deed and convert to points their children will be required to be club members when the owner passes.

The Vacation Club business model dealing with “Legacy” resorts is well known. I call this model extortion. Here’s how it works:

  1. The acquiring company takes over management,
  2. Substantially higher fees are charged than the resort was currently paying,
  3. Deeded owners’ maintenance fees are raised substantially,
  4. The cost of club operations is shifted to the deeded owners,
  5. Excessive capital reserve projects are imposed in order to collect additional fees from deeded owners,
  6. Availability, especially for desirable weeks, is reduced for deeded owners.
  7. Desirable weeks are rented to the public to increase income to Club managers.
  8. Nuisance fees are added that are applicable to only deeded owners such as parking fee, split week fee.
  9. Benefits deeded owners enjoyed for many years are eliminated, such as day use and bonus time
  10. Information available to deeded owners is reduced in order to force them to attend high-pressure sales presentations or “updates” designed to wrestle the deed away from the owner.
  11. The value of deeded ownership is demeaned by emphasizing the negative aspects of deeded ownership.  Deeded owners are threatened with special assessments, higher maintenance fees, less availability.
  12. Exchange options become limited for deeded owners in order to coerce them to convert to club membership.

Our Club has used unscrupulous Florida title companies to purchase units from deeded owners under false pretext and transfer them to the Club. The Club has pressured management hired by the resort to enact policies beneficial to the Club.  The Club has brought frivolous legal action against the association and board members individually to intimidate vendors and board members so that the Club can gain control of the resort.

The intent of the Club has been to purchase voting power rather than quality ownership. They have done this by acquiring less than desirable units in less than desirable seasons. The units are not used by the Club for occupancy, yet they still pay the dues for these units. As a result, the Club is determined to take control of the resort so that they can better monetize this worthless inventory.

What can be done to keep our resort?

Our resort has taken advantage of social media to increase owner engagement and the free flow of information among owners and between owners, the board of directors and resort management.  The availability of timely information to the deeded owners has empowered our resort to resist the persistent pressure from the Club to take control of our resort.

Our owners and our board are passionate about our resort and determined to maintain the control that allows them to continue enjoying what they purchased. Deeded owners must unite and organize to hang on to what little real timeshare real estate is left. To think the timeshare world will be nothing but points is sad.

We seek to provide timeshare with 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://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you to our Secret Shoppers for their report, these do help others to be aware of what actually goes on at these presentations and helps them to be prepared.

If you have any views or comments on any article published, use our contact page, Inside Timeshare welcomes your insights.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, but before we start the article, a quick update on A K Advisory Limited. As we have reported this is just one company contacting Eze Group clients, saying they can get their money back for a £725 upfront fee, one of our readers has informed us of the “ESCROW” account and the name of the recipient that it should be paid into, these are the details.

The BACS  account is a Lloyds TSB account, Number 37871668, Sort Code 77-13-11, Name of account holder Mr Connor Baker.

This company along with all the others is a fraud, do not pay them anything, you will not get your money back.

Now for todays Letter from America.

It is unlikely Arizona Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, quoted below, will bother to read the reports from some of the 80 Platinum members who have been financially devastated because they believed in timeshare programs they say did not exist. Today’s Inside Timeshare describes some of the members financially devastated. We hope timeshare members will recognize how ARDA ROC lobbyists spent some of members’ $5 million in annual $3 to $10 opt-out “donations” and recognize that this organization is not the voice of 1.8 million timeshare members. The comments below from lobbyists and pro-industry lawmakers are appalling.

At least the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and Howard Fischer, a journalist for the Daily Courier, understand. What chance does the consumer have if ARDA and the developers will not even heed the advice of an Attorney General. As we have previously explained, there are many ways to dodge a rescission period. Tuesday’s Secret Shopper explained how easy it is to bait and switch the unsuspecting. Just how out of touch can those in authority be. Imagine how you would react if you learned minutes after the rescission period that you experienced fraud, reading,

“the timeshare industry’s top lobbyist told ConsumerAffairs in January, admitting that points have no resale value while claiming that consumers don’t mind this because the value comes from the experience.

From The Daily Courier

Lobbied by the industry, state lawmakers are not going to help those who bought timeshares get out from under what is often a lifetime obligation.

https://www.dcourier.com/news/2019/apr/16/opt-out-provisions-timeshare-bill-no-longer-table/?fbclid=IwAR2cs4PdvFFqQVlvUd_I5-DxOSOUl5U59w_KVEYs1jchViitMMLYzz6PRx0

“We’re disappointed that the timeshare industry killed a lot of the pro-consumer parts of this bill,” said Katie Connor, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office.

“They’ve got a lobbying presence here and around the country,” added Amanda Rusing who lobbies for the office. “It was very disappointing to have to remove all of the stronger, pro-consumer provisions.”

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said the legislation, which now awaits a roll-call vote, does include some additional requirements for what needs to be disclosed to prospective buyers.

“At some point, these are adults that come to a meeting of the minds and want to sign a contract,” Ugenti-Rita said, saying that buyers have some responsibility to know exactly what they are signing.

While the industry claims that “points” are no different than a deed, simply with more flexibility, consumers have noted that points appear to have no intrinsic value because they can’t be resold, making memberships that were purchased for hundreds of thousands of dollars essentially worthless on the resale market.

“Their value comes from using it,” the timeshare industry’s top lobbyist told ConsumerAffairs in January, admitting that points have no resale value while claiming that consumers don’t mind this because the value comes from the experience.

According to ARDA lobbyist Don Isaacson:

But the bottom line said (ARDA lobbyist) Isaacson, is that the state should not step in to protect people who didn’t bother to understand the nature of the deal.

“You read the documents,” said Isaacson. “And unless there is fraud, you are bound to that particular purchase.”

Anyway, Isaacson argued that too much is being made of the issue.

Timeshare Insider

Save the Date! Our next Platinum 80 Protest is May 17 – 20

Two Locations:

Friday, May 17 near the Florida DBPR Office

Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19 near Disney World

You don’t need to be Platinum to Join Us!

Protesting Unfair and Deceptive Timeshare Sales Practices

By Platinum Protest Organizers

Friday, April 19, 2019

When we protested in March in Las Vegas, where we represented 70 Diamond Resorts Platinum members alleging that we had been intentionally targeted for our loyalty and deliberately up-sold into insolvency. Since then we have grown to 80 Platinum members, many similar if not identical complaints. We believed in programs to pay maintenance fees that do not exist. Others say they were told if they purchased additional points, they would be able to sell points. According to Diamond, we are all confused. We are all educated professionals.

As reported at a legislative workshop in Tallahassee, Florida March 12,

Victoria Butler, from the Florida Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Protection, reported a figure of 1,500 to 1,600 complaints in recent years, with about 50% involving senior citizens. She said the majority of complaints were in regard to the initial sales presentation.

Ms Butler stated that the Florida timeshare division engaged only 42 complaints, the majority concerning resale. This fits with our members reporting that all timeshare complaints they submitted, DBPR responded, “Verbal representations are difficult to prove.”  

Based on these numbers, a sales agent can say anything to sell points. At least let the consumer know they should not believe a word a sales agent says. Reading the contract doesn’t always help. Members are often not allowed onto a booking site until after the rescission period has passed.   

The status of 80 Platinum member complaints:

  • 26 Resolved their Diamond dispute so won’t be protesting. Resolved doesn’t mean people didn’t lose a lot of money,
  • 21 Unresolved,
  • 9 Foreclosed with one senior Navy veteran filing for bankruptcy,
  • 18 Unknown outcome because we don’t call to find out what happened,
  • 4 Relinquished which meant they lost everything.
  • 2 In litigation.

Diamond points sell for around $4 a point. Platinum members own a minimum of 50,000 points. In 2018 maintenance fees had increased to $8,631. Out of the 80 Platinum complaints, 42 members report that they were told of maintenance fees relief programs that they later learned did not exist and 16 specifically say they were told they could pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point.

Only Platinum loyalty members can pay maintenance fees at $.04 per points so if a member turned in 50,000 points, redeemed at $.04 per point, it would mean they would be credited $2,000 towards a maintenance fee bill of $8,631 with no points left to travel. Members report that when they file a complaint, the hospitality agent responds describing a legitimate 30/30 program that offers travel discounts. This program has nothing to do with paying maintenance fees at $.30 per point.  

Inside Timeshare told us they do not link prior articles if the complaint has been resolved, but given Platinum complaints are increasing, they said they would allow us to link articles published by 14 of the 80 Platinum members even though some have resolved. They resolved, but not without endless rebuttals and regulatory filings. When you read our 130-page summary report – reports from educated professions who don’t know each other, all reporting similar to identical complaints, it’s unlikely a reader would conclude all our reports are falsehoods.  

We have added the Lusk family to our list of 81, even though they did not submit their complaint through Inside Timeshare. Their experience was published in USA Today. As reported by Rebekah L Sander for the Arizona Republic, Frank and Betty Lusk are retired Christian missionaries, nearly 90 years old. Annual maintenance fees are $19,000.

He told the Lusks buying another $150,000 timeshare with 10 per cent down was “life insurance” that would resolve any debts they had with the resort when they died, a promise they repeatedly questioned, Betty said. The timeshare contract they received is not life insurance and does not pay off debts upon death.

https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/3310015002

Following are 14 articles submitted by our Platinum 80 members:

Article 1 published April 12, 2019 Platinum member #80

The timeshare member is single, over 70 years old. From 2015 to 2018 the member was ping-ponged back and forth seven timeshare times told, “You should not have bought Hawaii points,” and then “You should not have bought US Mainland points,” until up-sold into insolvency. The member has lost their entire retirement savings that were worth almost $400,000. The member also suffered tax consequences due to liquidating a retirement asset.

Since we published the article, the family learned she was only switched back and forth five times over six transactions. These histories can be a nightmare to piece together, worse than your worst tax return.

Article 2 was published by Consumer Affairs March 29, 2019 Platinum #57/80

The FBI website is tricky. One of our three FBI helpers helped Diane through the intricacies of the FBI filing website IC3.gov. It starts off confusing asking if you want to report Terrorism, Missing child or Internet Crime.

Diane’s father had asked Diamond to take back a fully paid timeshare when he was 85 years old. They said no. He was sold five additional contracts between the ages of 85 to 88.

Diamond Resorts still can’t explain why it sold $250,000 worth of timeshare points to an 88-year-old

In late December, Diane Burkhart sent a complaint to the FBI describing how her 88-year-old father agreed to purchase $250,000 worth of timeshare points over the course of 18 months, from 2016 until late 2017. In 2018, he was diagnosed with dementia. He is now 89 and living in a nursing home, Burkhart says. His wife passed away last May.

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/diamond-resorts-still-cant-explain-why-it-sold-250000-worth-of-timeshare-points-to-an-88-year-old-032919.html

Article 3 is by Platinum Protestor Patty Boyak Valentine’s Day 2019 #28/80

Patty’s Las Vegas sales agent was recorded defrauding a disabled veteran in 2017. That family was interviewed January 2018, at which time they provided to Inside Timeshare a copy of the highly disturbing recording. An interview Inside Timeshare conducted with the couple was sent to Diamond’s attorney. The dispute was swiftly resolved, but instead of firing this agent, Patty met him October 2018. He introduced himself as a Platinum Specialist. Patty purchased her last contract from him. Just recently Inside Timeshare has heard from a third member sold by the same agent, the husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and English is his wife’s second language. The family is financially devastated.

The very first complaint Inside Timeshare received in 2016 was about being told buying additional points would relive maintenance fees.  

At their last stay at a Diamond Resorts International resort in August 2015, Sylvia Saldana said that a sales agent tried to convince them to purchase another 10,000 points in order to achieve platinum level, which is 50,000 points (Remember they owned 30,000 points). The sales agent explained that by being platinum, it would allow the couple to pay their maintenance fees with their points, as only platinum members are allowed to use their points to pay maintenance fees, Sylvia Saldana said.  https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-on-thursday/

Patty’s Miracle Mile Protest in March article (pictured above)

Article 4 was submitted by a 100% disabled Army veteran. He was issued a 1099C for $170,000. His is one of now 21 complaints directed against the same sales agent. At least following the advice we provided to his CPA, he successfully disputed the phantom income.

This former Diamond member says DRI sales agent Rick Casper, working out of Polo Towers in Las Vegas, told him to buy more Diamond vacation points to eliminate maintenance fees. He and his wife wanted to talk to someone at DRI because they were struggling to pay maintenance fees on the 50,000 DRI points they already owned. This member is a 100% disabled Vietnam veteran, having been exposed to Agent Orange. The former member did not contact us to complain about Diamond Resorts. He wanted to know if there was anything that could be done about 1099. I did ask why he purchased additional timeshare points from Rick Casper, given Inside Timeshare has received 11 identical complaints about the same Las Vegas sales agent over an 18 month period.   

In 2016 we went to Las Vegas and stayed at Diamond’s Cancun resort and met with Rick Casper. Mr Casper said if we upgraded, we would be able to cover maintenance fees. However, maintenance fees increased after the upgrade to $16,000 a year. After five hours, my blood sugar was at 400. I was recovering from congestive heart failure. Rick Casper said it would cost us $198,000, $2500 a month in payments for the next 10 years but after ten years we would have no maintenance fees and no loan payment. Rick Casper said, “Then the little people will be paying for your vacation.” He said it would take a year to a year and a half to set up but he would personally handle it. He said since we were only paying $3, he had a guy that could sell points for much more than that and the proceeds would pay for the maintenance fees. I ended up paying a company in Branson MO $1500 to get out of this, but now the IRS has issued us a 1099 which has to be claimed as income. It’s for around $170,000. I’m now 71 years old. I would have been better off foreclosing.

Article 5 is by Gad Liebmann and his wife Noreen. They have been protesting outside Daytona for a year. They have had to stop protesting because Noreen was injured in a fall. They are both Army veterans and have many foster children.


From left, Noreen, Irene, a good Samaritan holding sign for Gad and Don

One of the Diamond sales agents told them they should be greeters at Walmart to help pay maintenance fees. Their complaint is identical to Sheilah Brust’s complain. Sheilah and Gad were sold by the same agent. Sheilah attended a presentation as a Secret Shopper and was told this agent was a problem at Wyndham.

Article 6 is Sheilah’s article. The article is called “Sheilah’s Pencil Pitch”

Sheilah is in possession of her “Pencil Pitch” which clearly states $8,631 minus $8,631 = 0 on the first page. There is an arrow and “save” written on the paper. At first, DBPR dismissed Sheilah with, “We don’t know if you were given this paper or you took it.” Sheilah was astonished. The last Sheilah heard from the reviewer is that she didn’t understand the program either until Diamond’s attorney explained it. That alone should have been grounds for dismissal. Here’s the first page of the pencil pitch. Sheilah was impressed her agent could write this upside down.

Article 7 is by Angela Simmons Sandstede. Her dad is one of those switched back and forth between Hawaii and US Mainland programs like the single female described in Article 1.

Roy is a retired letter carrier and Navy veteran, up-sold to $2.700 a month in loan payments. He had been charging loan payments to credit cards. The family had to retain a bankruptcy attorney. They are in their 70s. They had maintained a  high credit score before this.

Roy’s YouTube and March 6, 2018 article:

Article 8 This PhD trained the sales force for Perkin Elmer.

They are caregivers for two grandchildren, one autistic, one Down’s syndrome. They relinquished, losing everything.

Article 9 Filipino seniors with a previous high credit score foreclosed.

Article 10 – An executive VP posted one rental ad on RedWeek, despite hundreds of ads to rent on RedWeek.

Their account was suspended and it was demanded she pay $2,400 a month in loan payments and a $23,000 annual maintenance fee while her account was suspended.

Article 11- These seniors are foreclosed, the husband has Bell’s palsy

We were told “We are real estate agents. You can write off the interest paid and closing costs on these contracts because it is like real estate.” They said the proof was because they have real estate licenses. They are licensed real estate agents, but what they told us was not true. Our accountant said we were not allowed to take any deductions. We were told we had to buy that day so we could not talk to our accountant.

Article 12 This family did not know until they returned home they had purchased $142,000 in timeshare points, $17,000 charged to a Barclaycard.

Their attorney gave up. They submitted this article for comment and resolved their dispute that day. He is a Gulf War veteran, on 25 meds. She has had two knee replacements and a double mastectomy.

Article 13 A 21 year Army veteran, taught biological, chemical and nuclear defence at colleges.

Today we thank Samuel Melendez who spent 21 years in the army training soldiers, working with colleges, teaching chemical, biological and nuclear defence. When a military family is forced into foreclosure because they were lied to about being able to sell back points or finance at a lower rate, they don’t just lose their money. This can jeopardize their security clearance and their job.  

Article 14, A Coast Guard veteran, relinquished so lost all.

Rick Casper told us we should contact him when we needed to sell points because he had people that would buy them. This was the only reason we upgraded from 30,000 points to 50,000 points. When we contacted Rick earlier this year, we learned from Dan Percy (Rick Casper’s immediate boss) that we could not have been told that and we might be able to sell them through a resale third party. We never heard a response from Rick Casper.”

“In addition, we asked Rick about combining our seven previous contracts into one contract covering all 50,000 points. Rick Casper (allegedly) advised us not to do so as it would be easier to sell smaller quantities of points and inferred he could do so easier having contracts in increments, as when someone wants to upgrade from Gold to Platinum requiring only 20,000 additional points.”

“The thought of being able to sell was a relief.”

These are only a few of the Platinum complaints. We have heard from exactly 700 families as of today. We wish there were only a few bad apples, but Inside Timeshare says they have received multiple repeat offender complaints.

St. Louis BBB report warning consumers about timeshare

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

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

We hope you can join us on May 17 – 20! We will publish exact locations soon.

Our Mission Statement

We seek to provide timeshare members with 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; to educate prospective buyers.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

https://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

That is it for this week, we look forward to hearing your report on the protests next month and for those who cannot attend we will be there in spirit.

Inside Timeshare would also like to share this little gem from Mahatma Gandhi, it is for Irene Parker, who as we know is under attack from the industry big guns, you have our support Irene.

Have a great Easter weekend and join us again next week for more news and views on the murky world of the timeshare industry.

Mid Week Round Up: Latest Information on A&K Advisory Ltd

More details are emerging about A K Advisory Limited from our readers, with new names making the calls. The pitch is still the same although with a few more details to make it sound more plausible.

Just to recap, the company details are:

A & K Advisory Limited, company number 11120313

With the registered address: 20 Cow Green, Halifax, England, HX1 1HX

Telephone 01422 400223

The email addresses supplied are [email protected]

[email protected]

This is the email being used by Jill Rutherford.

Which are free email address provider and is not linked to any company website, always a sure sign of a dodgy company.

The company was registered on 20 December 2017 with the director named as Adam Hussain.

The first new name we have is Martin Jacobs, in his call, he states he is the payments manager for A & K Advisory, well, this is a new position which we have not heard of before, does sound official. During the call, Martin Jacobs claims that they will be able to get back all the money the client paid to Eze Group, plus, wait for it an extra £2000!

Sounds great, but first, the client needs to pay £725 by BACS (Bacs Payment Schemes Limited, previously known as Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services, is the organisation with responsibility for the schemes behind the clearing and settlement of UK automated payment methods Direct Debit and Bacs Direct Credit, as well as the provision of managed services for third parties.) The money will be held in an ESCROW account for 10 days.

A courier will then arrive with paperwork, once this has been translated into Spanish (in Madrid), the client will then receive their money. The client also received an email from Mr Jacobs outlining the cost but there was no company name or details.

The second name to appear is David Eaton, in his call, he asked the client if they would like to go with A & K Advisory to get their money back from Eze Group. Again he wanted £725 to be paid upfront and they will then work on the client’s behalf to get the original money refunded.

When you think about it, £725 doesn’t sound much considering how much other scams are charging, but if you think of how many people may have been taken in it soon mounts up. It would only need 200 Eze Group clients to pay this amount and the scammers will have received £145,000 a very lucrative scam indeed.

These companies are out to take your money and that is it, there is no money being held by any Spanish Court or UK Court for that matter. The courts do not appoint or retain private or third-party companies to contact clients, plus the Spanish Courts at present are not even involved in any case against Eze Group.

If you have been contacted by A & K Advisory Limited or any of the companies listed below or even any new company name with a similar story, then use our contact page and let us know. We would also advise you to contact Action Fraud and make a report. The potential amounts of money that these people are able to make is huge.

Money Advice Limited,  Company Number 11796746 with the registered address:

10 Adamson House, Towers Business Park, Didsbury, Manchester, United Kingdom, M20 2YY

Telephone number 061 505 0398

Names of callers supplied are Mark Spalding, Thomas Jones and Irene Golding.

Claims Assistance Bureau Limited, Company Number 06832938

Ty Glen, 1 Brecon Court, William Brown Close, Llantarnam Industrial Park, Cwmbran, NP44 3AB

Tel: 02920099129

Egerton Advisory Limited, Company Number 10286171 and the registered address:

Eighth Floor 6 New Street Square, New Fetter Lane, London, United Kingdom, EC4A 3AQ

With an alternative location address registered as:

Q3 The Square Randalls Way, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 7TW

Telephone number 0203 745 2315

The directors are named as Victoria Noland Carter Egerton and William Luke Le Beward Egerton.

Remember, never believe what you are told no matter how plausible it sounds until you have done your homework. If you require any help in checking any company contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to The Tuesday Slot, this week we have another of our Secret Shopper Reports, coordinated by Pete Gibbes, these articles have proved to be very popular with our many readers. One thing they all comment on is how similar to their own experiences these reports show.

“Thank God It’s April 15 Day!”

For those in the US, the 15 April is the day when many members will receive a tax liability bill if a loan is cancelled. For us, in Europe, we find this very strange, especially for loans linked to timeshare purchases. At least our European members don’t get a tax bill when their loan is cancelled.

Inside Timeshare has directed many back to their CPA to dispute this tax bill for “phantom income” as the former has not been enriched by the cancellation of the loan as they have retained nothing of value.

Now before we go on with our Secret Shopper article, a little news on the legal front from the leading European law firm in timeshare litigation, Canarian Legal Alliance.

With the Easter Holidays now upon us, the lawyers at CLA are having a well-deserved break, especially after the past two weeks of court cases.

In the past five days alone, there have been 25 trial and 20 sentences issued, many of these were pre-trials, with the judges once again confirming that there was no need for the case to go to a full trial. The reason being, these cases are based on documentary proof, they are based on contracts which according to Spanish timeshare law contain illegalities. This is obviously very damaging for the timeshare companies but very good news for the clients.

So to recap, in the past 2 weeks, there has been a total of 26 victory sentences with 24 against Anfi del Mar, all heard in the Court of First Instance, San Bartelomé de Tirajana, Gran Canaria. With 2 High Court, Santa Cruz de Tenerife against Silverpoint. The total amount awarded is a staggering 931,229€ plus all contracts being declared null and void.

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

How do you define a “Bad Apple” Sales Agent?

It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

By Secret Shopper

Tuesday, April 16

We have all heard stories of outright deception and deceit employed by timeshare salespeople. Many complaints are from those who were convinced to give up their deeded timeshare week and convert to the points-based timeshare.

Fixed week timeshares may lack the flexibility of points, but if you like knowing what you own, a guaranteed stay may mean more to you than flexibility. With a points program, you can stay more or less than a week and book other resorts at other times of the year. However, many have complained that after giving up their deed, they were not able to access even the resort they had vacationed at for years.

Timeshare companies will say that salespeople who use scare tactics represent only a few “Bad Apples” so are not typical. Timeshare Accountability Group has heard from more than a few members that were frightened into giving up their deed, told their children will be burdened because of their parent’s decision to buy a timeshare. We’re not lawyers, so we defer to timeshare attorney Mike Finn to fill us in on what happens when you inherit an unwanted timeshare. It’s a topic many are interested in, especially as baby boomers age.

Some of the tactics sales agents use to coerce an “owner” to give up a deeded timeshare week to become a “member” are downright predatory and constitute practicing law without a license. This is what happened to Phyllis, age 67, in her own words (unedited):

I am a victim of fraud. I was asked to attend a breakfast to talk about upgrades on a timeshare I own. I was told it would last only 55 minutes. 4 highly pressured sales people took turns on me and held me for 7 hours, bouncing me into 3 different rooms. I told them I didn’t want it and that I already owned the timeshare over and over again. They said I have to buy into the new and I own my timeshare forever, and that I could never get out of it. They said my timeshare went bankrupt and I had to invest with them (the new company) or they would go after my children for payment. I had a panic stress disorder attack. I was tired and hungry.  I was tired. In order to get out of there, I signed under dearest. 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 BARCLAYS 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. DRI 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.

(Submitted to Inside Timeshare)

Our Secret Shopper Experience        

In mid-summer 2018, we went on a “mandatory” update after attending a Diamond Resorts event in Virginia Beach. We are well versed in timeshare methods and had our “ears up” to catch any of the standard tactics they might use to persuade us to convert our two deeded weeks into points.

Despite being ready for the worst, I will openly admit that our salesperson never told us any OVERT lies during our two-hour presentation. He was friendly, polite, and had a long history with Diamond Resorts at various locations throughout the country. He told us where he lived in Virginia Beach (a very expensive waterfront area).  He did not lie to us.

That being said, his words were very carefully chosen, and of course, what he didn’t tell us was even more carefully chosen. At a minimum, his pitch was misleading, confusing, full of half-truths, and in my opinion quite diabolical.  When someone commits a “material omission” is it a lie? That sounds like a question for attorney Mike Finn.

Let’s see how the game is played

Our salesperson pushed two major discussion points:

1 – Vacation Options:

Our sales agent demonstrated what would happen if we gave up our deeded weeks and purchased 5,000 points. He showed us a world of amazing Diamond Resorts locations on his computer screen. He explained these resorts would be available to us with the 15,000 points in total we would have if we gave up both deeds.

He showed us availability on HIS computer. He said things like “Here, let me show you on MY account” and “the system shows ME availability for these vacations for only 3,000 points… look at all of them!” Yes, many were available on many different dates. Wow, the world would be our Oyster.

Now, all that is technically true, but he presented it in a manner to imply that if we converted to 15,000 non-deeded points, we would see the same availability and options we were shown… but he never actually said that. His online Diamond account is a “Special Sales Double Platinum Account” (a descriptive term as there is no such thing as a Double Platinum loyalty level). It shows everything in the system and probably quite a bit more, but did not display what we would have access to using the proposed 15,000 points (for two weeks).

If the buyer is not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract has been executed, you would not see actual availability at your loyalty level until after the rescission period had passed.

If you knew what to listen for, the agent chose his words incredibly carefully to sidestep the issue. This would have misled us if we were not informed shoppers. In my opinion, it was a shameful sales tactic that almost anyone would likely fall for.

I know that none of the locations available under his sales account would be available to someone with only 15,000 points, especially summer weeks in Virginia Beach, which he was asking us to give up. He repeatedly showed us that Turtle Cay was only 6,500 points for a week vacation in July… which is accurate… if you are one of the handfuls of people in the US with status and connections to get access to that level of availability. It is unlikely at the Silver loyalty level we would ever be able to stay there again even if we were to convert to points. He didn’t mention that.

He also gave us pamphlets describing Diamond Dream Vacations (DDV), also known as Holiday Vacations, which we could take advantage of anytime for 3,000, 7,500, or 15,000 points. Each DDV included two airfares at top-notch accommodations. One package included four days at Diamond’s Mystic Dunes resort along with a five day Caribbean cruise for only 7,500 points.

For those not familiar with points, maintenance fees for Silver level are about $.20 per point so if the Dream Vacation requires 7,500 points, the trip would cost $1,500. Multiply 7,500 points times $.20. Always do your timeshare math. Four nights at Mystic Dunes, two airfares and a five day Caribbean cruise for two for $1,500 is a GREAT deal! It even included rental car discounts.

After submitting this article, Pete explained that these great deals really do exist. I thought they were completely bogus. He said that since these packages are for the purposes of selling points, they are available to anyone who purchases as a “sweetener” or to existing members in an effort to sell more points.  

Apparently, tremendous bargains are always promotions. Our sales agent never said Dream Holidays were promotions that would require a sales session. He said “These packages are available anytime” to use his exact wording. Again, he didn’t lie… he just didn’t present an important fact.

2 – Financial Justification:

He presented a very complex 10-year financial analysis showing how it would cost us far less over ten years if we converted to points, even though he wanted us to drop more than $75,000 for 15,000 points, which would have included giving up our two deeded summer weeks. He did not know that I used to be a financial analyst with IBM. I worked on billion-dollar transactions. His spreadsheet was malarkey, and even I couldn’t follow it. Once again, he was not lying; his analysis was just crappy… which is quite common as financials go. Of course, we were not given a copy of any of his figures. When we tried to take it, he whisked it away.

All told, I doubt other salespeople would consider our sales agent a “Bad Apple” as he didn’t tell any lies. He did not mention any bogus programs (e.g. “you can pay maintenance fees at $.30 per point”) or other false claims. In fact, our sales agent is probably a shining example held up for other salespeople to emulate: nice, amiable, well dressed, 6.5 feet tall with 12 extra teeth in his smile.

After we firmly said no and started to leave, we were sent to a manager to “check out.” This person was quite reprehensible. He showed us further discounts off the $75,000. He spoke about the “investment” we would be making, what our “Equity” would be out of the gate, and how our “Equity” would grow over time. Our “investment” would only go up in value.

I got quite angry and blew up at him at this point, calling him out directly on those misrepresentations. His eyes flew open wide as he backtracked, “When I say Equity I mean your equity in future vacation time and how your vacation time would become more valuable as you learn how to use the system wisely.”

He claimed he never said he was speaking about a financial investment and not to put words in his mouth but he actually said these things with no qualifiers until he was pressed to do so . My wife loudly told him off and we got up to walk out. He asked why she was being so rude. In a sick sort of way, it was funny, really.

As our experience shows, a “Bad Apple” is in the eye of the beholder.

Contact Inside Timeshare if you have a story to share. Our standard disclosure is that we know there are honest sales agents selling the product honestly. Deceptive agents harm honest sales agents too. Our concern is the number of agents “pitching heat” to sell points could lead to a decline in sales unless acknowledged and addressed.

Contact Secret Shopper Coordinator Pete Gibbes through Inside Timeshare if you would like to become a Secret Shopper.

We seek to provide timeshare members with 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://everythingabouttimeshares.com/consider-exchange-options/

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

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

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

Thank you to our secret shopper and to Pete Gibbes the coordinator for this week’s report, these do help others to be aware and of what to expect when they attend any presentation. As the old saying goes,  “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

One thing is certain, purchasers of timeshare in Spain do have the full protection of the law, misrepresentation of the product is not tolerated. We also know that many other European countries are reviewing their own timeshare laws in accordance with EU Timeshare Directives designed to protect consumers, many are also looking to Spain and may just adopt their legislation. For too long the timeshare companies have had the upper hand, but the tide is turning.

If you have any comments or would like to share your experiences use our contact page, we would love to hear from you.

Do you have a problem with your timeshare membership, or need to know about any company that has contacted you or you have found?

Again use our contact page and we will get back to you and point you in the right direction.

Start the Week: A & K Advisory Ltd

Welcome to the start of another week, today we highlight another company that has been “appointed” by the High Court and contacting Eze Group clients with the news that they are due money held by the court going by the name A & K Advisory Limited.

According to our reader, the calls coming from 01422 400223, which is a Halifax number, George Smith and Jill Rutherford can help to get money back for the client, there is only a matter of a processing fee of £725 which needs to be paid first. This is the same amount being asked by the other companies that are making the same calls and claims.

There is a company registered at Company House called A & K Advisory Limited, company number 11120313

With the registered address: 20 Cow Green, Halifax, England, HX1 1HX

The company was registered 20 December 2017 with the director named as Adam Hussain.

These are the other companies we have highlighted:

Money Advice Limited,  Company Registration Number 11796746 with the registered address:

10 Adamson House, Towers Business Park, Didsbury, Manchester, United Kingdom, M20 2YY

Telephone number 061 505 0398

Names of callers supplied are: Mark Spalding, Thomas Jones and Irene Golding.

Claims Assistance Bureau Limited, Company registration Number 06832938

Ty Glen, 1 Brecon Court, William Brown Close, Llantarnam Industrial Park, Cwmbran, NP44 3AB

Tel: 02920099129

Egerton Advisory Limited, Company Number 10286171 and the registered address:

Eighth Floor 6 New Street Square, New Fetter Lane, London, United Kingdom, EC4A 3AQ

With an alternative location address registered as:

Q3 The Square Randalls Way, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 7TW

Telephone number 0203 745 2315

The directors are named as: Victoria Noland Carter Egerton and William Luke Le Beward Egerton.

They all have the same pitch, being “appointed/retained” by either Birmingham Crown Court or the High Court in Madrid, which leads us to believe they are the same people or are working together. We also believe that they are either ex-employees of Eze Group or have obtained the customer records of all purchasers from employees.

Remember, no court is going to “appoint or retain” any private or third party company to make contact with potential victims. If as customers your names had come up in any seized documents taken before the courts you would have been contacted by the authorities and asked to give statements. This is just an out and out fraud to get your money.

If you have received a call telling you the same or similar story or even any new name, do not pay any money, use our contact page and let Inside Timeshare know, Inside timeshare will publish as a warning to others.