This Letter from America was originally scheduled for publication in August, it follows the revelations published here about a crucial decision from Scotland’s Court of Sessions, by Lord Sanderson. It is a US perspective of Mr Trump and his relationship with certain timeshare moguls, just like the story of his involvement in Scotland, it does not paint a very good picture. This article also briefly shows the efforts and role of the “Regulators” in the U.S. So it ties in with another article published this week. For those of you who are not familiar with the “Timeshare Mogul” named, click on the YouTube link and watch the “Queen of Versailles”, you will then ask yourself the question, “Is this where my money has gone?”
U.S. names like Trump and Biden are not mentioned in polite company without jeopardizing relationships with friends and family. There are many reasons to like or dislike both named politicians, but those on the side of consumer timeshare protection have reason to question former President Trump’s biased stance on timeshare sales and marketing practices.
Charles reported earlier this week on questionable lending as pertaining to the Trump Organization’s acquisition of the Turnberry Resort and golf course in Scotland. A look back to what happened in 2016 provides some political timeshare history.
Pictured above is candidate Trump in 2016 on the stump. Westgate owner David Siegel of Queen of Versailles fame is seated to Mr Trump‘s right. The Queen of Versailles documentary describes the couple’s 90,000 square foot Orlando home that includes Mrs Siegle’s 5,500 square foot clothes closet. The documentary took Best Director at Sundance some years back.
I have no objection to great wealth, but a number of Westgate owners have reached out to me or our volunteers, unable to exit their timeshare. Some have debilitating and chronic health conditions. One couple, the husband, age 90, was forced to default on their timeshare week because Westgate objected to their paying their broker his $800 commission after the broker had found a buyer offering $500. I know of no honest timeshare resale broker (those who charge no upfront money to list a timeshare for sale) that will accept a listing for Westgate units because it is written into the contract that Westgate is entitled to 50% of the commission.
Westgate underwent a two-year investigation concerning sales and marketing practices. According to Buzzfeed News, Diamond Resorts was the next likely candidate to come under CFPB scrutiny. Not only was the Westgate investigation dropped almost immediately after the 2016 presidential election, the CFPB was all but dismantled.
REGULATORS ARE LOOKING INTO AMERICA’S LARGEST TIMESHARE SELLER March 18, 2016
According to the CFPB’s civil investigative demand (CID), the Westgate investigation looked into possible violations by salespeople involved in “the sale and financing of timeshares engaged in, or are engaging in, acts or practices in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act, the Fair Debt Collection Act, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act and the Fair Credit Billing Act.”
Where is the CFPB today?
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today issued a report highlighting legal violations identified by the Bureau’s examinations in 2020. The report also highlights prior CFPB supervisory findings that led to public enforcement actions in 2020 resulting in more than $124 million in consumer remediation and civil money penalties. June 29, 2021
Anyone who is unable to resolve their dispute, after reaching out to their timeshare company, and feels they experienced unfair and deceptive practices, should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the state Attorney General where the contract was signed, and the Better Business Bureau. It is only because of a volume of complaints that Timeshare Sales appeared at #7 on the FTC’s list of Top Ten Scams at $17.4 million and Timeshare Resales (We have a buyer for your timeshare scams) #10 at $12.5 million.
Inside Timeshare will say this again, there is nothing wrong with the concept of timeshare, for some, it is a good option and suits their vacation needs, but as always it is the way it is sold and managed. The consumer is just the proverbial “Cash Cow” to be milked of their cash by the greed of the industry.
Inside Timeshare welcomes your views on this subject, Inside Timeshare can see many similarities in what is happening in the timeshare world, not just in Europe but in the US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. Eventually what happens in one place will happen elsewhere, it is an international problem, so we invite you to use our contact page or just leave a comment. Have a great weekend.
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 Bureaucomplaint 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 reporttells consumers what to watch out for:
When a member complains, they are shown their initials on the fine print,
Retaining an attorney will not stop unfair and deceptive business practices,
Litigation is time-consuming and expensive,
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.
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.
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.”
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):
601 Pennsylvania Ave, South Tower, Suite 900 Washington, DC 20004
Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C
Whistleblowers of America
Committees on Veterans’ Affairs
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.
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.
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.
Welcome to the Tuesday Slot, today in her article Irene Parker continues to address a very serious problem that of timeshare foreclosure, especially for seniors. Inside Timeshare has been highlighting this problem for some time and we will continue to do so.
Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders
When and Why Some Timeshare Buyers Have No Choice
The Heartbreak of Senior Timeshare Foreclosure
We had to do a reverse mortgage on our home as a result of these timeshare purchases because our social security income was too low to cover the total charged on both Barclay cards. A reverse mortgage was the only way we saw to deal with the financial distress. My credit score was 817 the day we met with the timeshare sales agent but it has gone down considerably after that purchase.
A former Army Captain, Vietnam
By Irene Parker
December 18, 2018
Over the past year I have received calls from mortgage brokers calling on behalf of former timeshare members trying to buy a house, battling the decline in their credit score due to timeshare foreclosure. When I explain to the lender that consumers are often left with no choice but to foreclose, due to no secondary market and the contract perpetual, the call has always ended with the mortgage broker convinced.
Six grown children, alarmed and astonished at the deceit their parents described at the hands of timeshare sales agents, have connected to bring to light unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Their parents are being driven, or were driven, into timeshare foreclosure. They possessed credit scores over 800 until they were up-sold into insolvency, now trying to understand how our country could leave senior after senior financially devastated. Two of the six families have previously published articles. On Friday we publish an article submitted by a third family, her parents financially and physically devastated because they believed a series of timeshare sales agents. We have received 20 complaints directed against their sales agent. He earned $2.4 million selling timeshare points in 2016 and $2.4 million in 2017. The complaints are similar or identical.
If you buy a house, car, or boat, and there is loan outstanding, you can still sell the asset. Timeshare companies themselves don’t want the timeshare back because, when no longer wanted or needed, a timeshare is a liability. What would happen to the primary housing market if we suddenly learned there was no secondary market? Damages suffered by senior timeshare members, often accumulating points over several purchases, are commonly $100,000 to $300,000 or more, easily the cost of a home. Often the report of deceit happens at the last one or two purchases, because a level of trust developed over the years until they purchased for reasons that did not exist – programs that would relieve them of maintenance fees or allow them to sell points. Members reaching out to us all report that they were told at purchase the timeshare would be easy to sell, it is real estate, an investment.
When the buyer has experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices, the result exacerbates the financial disaster, as has been reported by many of the 626 families that have reached out to us angry, overwhelmed and desperate. Some have learned within 24 hours after the rescission period, what they bought was a far cry from what was described.
Such deceptive practices are known within the industry as “pitching heat” and the answer to complaints are routinely dismissed with, “You signed a contract” or “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” In Nevada, all complaints we have received that were submitted to the Nevada Real Estate Division quickly received a “You have no proof” denial. In Florida, the response has been, “Verbal representations are hard to prove.”
Fine, but why not let the consumer know a timeshare sales agent can say anything to make a sale. Let the consumer know they can’t believe a word a timeshare sales agent says. That would at least be transparent. Florida is a two party state, so consumers are not even allowed to record. How is proof even possible?
At the end of this article I list several Attorneys General settlements and lawsuits supporting my claim that the finger needs to be pointed also in-house, instead of solely at timeshare exit companies. The timeshare developer created this timeshare exit scam nightmare. Timeshare companies list in their annual reports that a viable resale market is a risk to their (stock) investors. Not all exit companies are scams, but many are. An FTC report on exit and transfer scams:
I liken million dollar deceptive timeshare producers to a baseball player like Jose Canseco, breaking the performance enhancing drug rules to earn millions, while other teammates earn far less because they did not break the rules. Honest timeshare sales agents are harmed by the actions of the dishonest too.
According to GustonCho Associates, “Many consumers purchased timeshares in the 2000’s when the real estate market was hot.”
Among foreclosures were consumers who purchased timeshares and could no longer liquidate the timeshares and had to go through timeshare foreclosures
I get many calls by home buyers who were told by banks and mortgage lenders that they do not qualify for a FHA Loan because they have a timeshare foreclosure
Timeshare owners were told that there are mandatory waiting period after timeshare foreclosure to qualify for a FHA Loan
This is not true and unfortunately, these loan officers who are telling home buyers that there is a waiting period after timeshare foreclosure to qualify for a FHA Loan do not know what they are talking about
There is no waiting period to qualify for a FHA Loan with a prior timeshare foreclosure
Timeshares are not considered real estate loans
Timeshare loans are considered consumer installment loans under HUD FHA Guidelines
We have also received requests for help from the millennial generation. Seniors often tell me that at their age, they don’t care what happens to their credit score, but for the younger buyer, a timeshare foreclosure at a young age can also be financially devastating.
Not one member who has contacted Inside Timeshare realized their contract was perpetual or that there was little to no secondary market.
The Foreclosure process is gruesome. There will be threatening calls and the hit on the credit score. Timeshare today is broken. When sales agents can lie and laugh about it, at the expense of the young and the old, financially devastated by their vacation plan, something is very wrong. Too many families have been financially harmed by an industry run amuck. Rising loan loss provisions are just a number on an annual report to Wall Street and the developers. To us, they are broken families.
Lawmakers, heavily influenced by the industry, don’t seem to care because timeshare buyers don’t typically buy a timeshare in the state they live in. Attorneys General try to protect the public, but the settlements achieved so far have been mere speed bumps in extraordinary revenue streams.
A few of the Attorneys General investigations and settlement and lawsuits:
New York Attorney General reaches $6.5 million Manhattan Club Settlement
Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster today announced that Welk Resort Sales, Inc., a California corporation that sells timeshares in Branson, has entered into an agreement to pay $18,000 in restitution to Missouri consumers who purchased timeshares from Welk.
HARRISBURG – The Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection has reached a settlement with Florida – based BlueGreen Corporation that addresses complaints about the company’s alleged use of deceptive “contests,” misleading sales presentations and improper contracts in the marketing and sale of timeshare vacation packages in Pennsylvania.
Thank you Irene, as usual you have highlighted very well a severe problem and explained it in a very simple manner. In this Friday’s Letter from America, another new contributor Brenda Santos, highlights the “Nightmare on Timeshare Street” of her elderly parents at the hands of an unscrupulous sales agent. We think this will make your blood boil, so join us for our last Letter from America this year.