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Diamond

Start the Week: News from the Courts, Marriott and Anfi Lose Again

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, we start this week with news from the courts with Marriott and Anfi losing in all cases and a payment to a client from Anfi. Last week we highlighted a new “cold caller” and website which we believe to be another “lead generator” for unnamed “claims and exit” companies. Inside Timeshare received an email from a lady who answered an advert for “telemarketing” staff and gave Inside Timeshare some more valuable information.

As we explained in one of the articles, many of the staff are just ordinary people answering an advert for staff, with the situation regarding employment any offer of a job is welcome. Unfortunately, it is these people who are also being taken in by the less scrupulous of these operators, being told what to say and how to get you the timeshare owner to pay up and sign with their company.

Luckily, this particular reader realised within a few weeks that something was not right with this company and found them to be “dodgy”, terminating their employment immediately. The information supplied regarding Independent Timeshare Assistance is rather interesting.

It would appear that a person by the name of Chris Wilson, a name that does ring a few bells, is the one behind it and is actively recruiting new staff with more adverts, these also seem to be based in Portugal.

According to our information, these “clients” are being sought on behalf of a “law firm” based in Scotland. Well we do have our suspicions on who these are and they are not law firms, but more companies set up by ex-sales staff and sales managers from Diamond and others.

Again this does show how careful you need to be, not just as a timeshare owner but also an employee answering adverts for “call centre” staff, you may believe that it is a legitimate job, but you could also be fooled into working for a scam operation.

In a case that has set new records for the speed for the case to go through the courts, Marriott has lost another case at the Court of First Instance Number 4 of Palma de Mallorca. This case has taken a remarkable 6 months to be processed through the courts, a bit of a miracle to those who know the Spanish legal system.

The German clients of Canarian Legal Alliance had their contract with Marriott Vacation Club declared null and void, with the court ordering the repayment of 21,150€ plus legal interest and legal costs.

This also included the repayment of double the amount taken illegally as a deposit within the statutory cooling-off period, in accordance with the law and the rulings of the Supreme Court.

The case was prepared and conducted by the CLA Lawyers Adrián Diaz Saavedra Morales and Christine Ihmann, with Claims Consultant Evi Richter assisting the client throughout the process.

In another case against Anfi at the Court of First Instance Number 2 of San Bartelóme de Tirajana, a Norwegian client of CLA has had their contract with Anfi terminated and declared null and void. They have also been awarded 102,576€ plus legal interest and legal costs.

Again the courts recognised the illegality of the taking of payments within the statutory cooling-off period and awarded double the amount as established by previous rulings and the law.

The case was prepared and conducted on behalf of the client by CLA Lawyer Eva Gutierrez with the client being assisted by Claims Consultant Caroline Castro.

We end today with the good news received by one English client of CLA and their battle against Anfi coming to a successful conclusion. They have now received directly into their own bank account the full award of 17,551€ Anfi were ordered to repay by the courts.

The original case was heard at the Court of First Instance Number 5 of SBT, where the contract was declared null and void and the repayment to the client was ordered, as was expected, Anfi once again filed an appeal with the High Court.

The lawyers are now well aware of these tactics and as soon as the sentence is issued by the Court of First Instance they begin a “provisional execution of sentence”, this then secures the funds on behalf of the client until the sentence is confirmed by the High Court.

We all know that Anfi “plays” the game of appeal in order to delay payment, they are also known to “hide the funds”, in order to claim they have no money to payout. This is subject to an official investigation by the Provincial State Prosecutors Office, this may very well lead to criminal prosecutions.

Thanks to the diligent work and investigations of the legal team at CLA, this client received their payment from monies embargoed by CLA from a tax refund Anfi was supposed to receive. In the end, Anfi will pay, it is just a case of plugging away and “chasing the money-go-round”.

This case was prepared and conducted on behalf of the English Client by Eva Gutierrez with Claims Consultant Jake Kaiser assisting the client during the process.

That is all for today, if you have any questions or comments, or you would like information on a possible legal case or just how to exit, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to the end of another week with Inside Timeshare and another Friday’s Letter from America. This week we welcome back Adam Siler with his article regarding what the Federal Trade Commission really does need to know about the practices used in timeshare sales and marketing. We all know and it is totally apparent that the timeshare companies allow their sales agents to say and do what they want, as long as they get the sales. How many times have we heard Diamond say that “They are not RESPONSIBLE for what their sales agents say” or “you signed the contract”. They don’t care, they have your money and then more by way of maintenance fees and continual upgrades. Things do have to change and they need to change drastically, enjoy Adam’s article.

What the Federal Trade Commission Needs to Know About Timeshare Sales and Marketing Practices 

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/AYfEKEirNuYJzOLeJIJvTuhF7BAq--wuLMczPdmHUm9F-lblwpxzOdplbnMA1KOk5EE05lt7jYUAqY6A5Iu-F-DHQg2DsVVMnsqNuIdyAmfM1xNoS0sNnRBZT4wMc8BgAiL8eXmC

By Adam Siler

[email protected]

April 9, 2021

A group of concerned timeshare members proposed nine changes or disclosures we feel are necessary to correct unfair and deceptive timeshare sales and marketing practices. We submitted our proposed changes to the Federal Trade Commission. Your feedback would be appreciated. Part of my veteran and active-duty military outreach is to have timeshare presentations declared off-limits for active duty service members. An active duty service member may lose his or her security clearance if they foreclose on a timeshare loan.

Timeshare Sales are #7 on the FTC’s Top Ten Scams list. Anyone who experienced unfair and deceptive practices should file a complaint with the FTC.   

https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc

What can the FTC do? 

The FTC protects consumers by stopping unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices in the marketplace. We conduct investigations, sue companies and people that violate the law, develop rules to ensure a vibrant marketplace, and educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities…. 

https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/what-we-do

I reached out to Inside Timeshare after experiencing deceptive timeshare sales practices in Florida. Since my article was published February 26, I received a sixth report from a timeshare member who described how the same sales agent, who promised me the elimination of 50% of my maintenance fees, told an existing member that if she achieved a new 100,000 point status, she could take 40% of her points and pay all her maintenance fees. The report was submitted by a Secret Shopper who did not buy. 

Multiple complaints against the same agent provide a level of proof, albeit a lower level of proof. It’s all about proof. Timeshare buyers need to record their sales presentation. A recording is clear and convincing evidence. Permission to record must be granted in two-party states.

Standards of Proof

  • Beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Clear and convincing evidence.
  • Preponderance of the evidence.
  • Probable cause.
  • Reasonable belief.
  • Reasonable indications.
  • Reasonable suspicion.
  • Some credible evidence.

Preponderance of the Evidence according to Justia:

In most civil cases, the burden of persuasion that applies is called “a preponderance of the evidence.” This standard requires the jury to return a judgment in favour of the plaintiff if the plaintiff is able to show that a particular fact or event was more likely than not to have occurred. 

https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/lawsuits-and-the-court-process/evidentiary-standards-and-burdens-of-proof/

When we asked a company employee about the new 100,000 point program proposed to our Secret Shopper, the truth is that having 100,000 points would allow the member to not have to pay maintenance fees on unused points. Accumulating this many points would require an outlay of $300,000 to $400,000 and points have no resale value. Six similar complaints against one sales agent provide a reasonable belief, indication and suspicion, but without the sales session recorded, had the Secret Shopper signed a contract, her complaint would have been dismissed because of lack of proof. Record your sales session or don’t buy.    

Nine Proposed Changes to Unfair Timeshare Sales and Marketing Practices Based on an Analysis of Common Complaints

1.   A disclosure warns the buyer that if they show their proposal to anyone outside of the timeshare company, they are subject to penalty. This is unfair, especially for those who may be of diminished capacity. Contracts can be for $100,000 or more. Any consumer should have the right to seek a professional opinion or the opinion of a friend or family member.

“Distribution of this information to unauthorized persons, including but not limited to persons not employed by agents of (the company), or to persons not listed on this option, is strictly prohibited and subject to penalty.” 

Our agent tried to convince us to purchase points for $11.40 per point. Just the week before, another sales agent attempted to sell us the same points for $4.79. Manager Brett asked us where the $4.79 came from. We shared the paperwork we had been given. He became rude and threatening saying, “it is illegal for you to have these papers.” The papers had been given to us.   

2.    If the closing (signing) is recorded, the device should not be stopped while an agent explains an item a buyer questions. The question and answer should be recorded.

3.    If a recorded closing can be used against the buyer, the buyer should be allowed the opportunity to record the sales session to prevent agents from coaching the buyer on how to “pass” the recorded signing session. 

4.    The purchase price should not appear as an inflated retail price of all purchases. An additional purchase should be identified on the contract as an “Incremental Purchase” instead of “Additional Equity” as the use of the word equity is misleading. Anyone who has been involved in a traditional real estate transaction would logically assume equity to mean actual cash value rather than vacation time. Timeshare points have little to no resale value. 

In the following complaint, a senior couple believed their sales agent; so they did not question the ability to refinance. Since they did not bring refinancing up on the recorded closing, the company initially dismissed their complaint. That’s how the recording can be used to entrap the buyer.  

Our sales agent explained that we could reduce our monthly payments by getting a HELOC through U S Bank using our “additional point equity” of $240,040 which he highlighted in green. He provided an ad and assured us a rep from U S Bank would call us after five days (the contract cancellation period). We would only have to pay $1,349 for January and thereafter $649. The purchase price was $288,300 less “additional equity” of $240,040 = $48,260 for 7,000 points. We financed: $87,405.85 including a prior loan.

5.    If disputing a contract, the buyer should be allowed to listen to the entire recorded closing without obtaining a subpoena.

6.    It should be disclosed if the QA agent is incentivized. A lawsuit states: 

It is not disclosed to the purchaser that the Quality Assurance employee has a financial stake in the transaction and is compensated based on commission dependent on the number of Quality Assurance presentations given; of which is paid only if the purchaser completes the purchase.

Case 2:18-cv-00903-RFB-GWF Document 3-1 Filed 05/18/18

7.  The buyer should be allowed 24 hours to consider their purchase. 

8.  The buyer should be provided access to the booking site prior to the end of the contract rescission period. Often first-year usage is not until the following year. Buyers don’t even know what they bought because inventory availability cannot be determined by reading the contract.  

9.  The state-mandated Public Offering Statement (POS) (Disclosure Statement) should be presented by the closing agent during the recorded closing, not by the sales agent. This state-mandated document is often hidden in a stack of documents. Two sales agents reported that the policy changed to having the sales agent provide the POS, instead of the QA agent, after the decision was made to record the closing.   

Clearly, timeshare sales and marketing practices have room for improvement. Wyndham has over 1,700 Better Business Bureau complaints and a Pattern of Complaints alert:

BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning misrepresentation in selling practices. Consumer complaints report that the verbal representations are inconsistent with the written agreement. According to complaints, claims include representations that the purchase is an “investment” and the same as “real estate” in that it will increase in value. Owners report mandatory meetings that they are led to believe are to introduce new features and benefits but result in a sales presentation to purchase or upgrade their points. In some instances, owners are encouraged to complete a survey or questionnaire which results in another sales presentation to purchase additional points.

Bernadette in Oklahoma is a member of our team. She launched a Change.org petition asking that a YouTube be removed. If an Attorney General appears on YouTube warning about exit companies, a YouTube should be produced with an Attorney General warning about timeshare companies.    

https://www.change.org/Michael-Flaskey-MO-WA-AG-take-down-YouTube

Email me if you would be interested in joining our efforts to make timeshare sales more honest and accountable. Too many families like mine have been harmed. 

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.

See the source image

Thank you Adam for your contribution this week and we look forward to receiving your next article.

To all Veterans and Serving Personnel who may have fallen foul of unscrupulous sales agents please email Adam with your story using the email address below. Only together can we influence the industry to change.

[email protected]

That is all for this week, we hope you have a great weekend and join us again next week for more information and stories about the murky world of timeshare.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to our Friday’s Letter from America with an update from our US contributor Tiffany Renee who explains Why the buyer is blamed when told lies by sales agents. This is a subject that has been covered on numerous occasions over the years, with many articles by Irene. This particular problem is not just confined to the sale of timeshare in America, it happens all over the world but is very much a serious problem in the US. Tiffany reached out to Diamond Resorts for comment. They responded placing the blame on Tiffany’s parents. This does make you question Mr Flaskey’s quote in Bernadette’s petition, “And they could have just called Diamond.” We have heard so many times Diamond’s response, “we are not responsible for what our sales agent say”. That as we know is lamest of excuses, they are your employees, they are selling your product and they are representing you, it is your “Responsibility”.

Why the Buyer is Blamed if a Sales Agent Lies 

STAY VACATIONED or else

https://blog.thunderquote.com/assets/uploads/2016/08/B-19.jpg

April 2, 2021

Update from Tiffany Renee

Last December Inside Timeshare published my article about how my parents were browbeaten for 11 hours until they were convinced they had no choice but to forfeit their two Gold Key deeded timeshares that they had loved for years. Their sales agent and Quality Assurance agent told them that if they didn’t give up their deeds my brother and I would suffer dire financial consequences should something happen to them – maintenance fees will increase dramatically – to over $6,000! Their Gold Key maintenance fees were $2,000. The transaction resulted in maintenance fees of over $6,000. My father collapsed when he received the notification. The “QA” agent made them wait while he called the developer of Gold Key to get them the secret special price …. You must buy today…. the special price time period has expired! 

How can this be happening to so many seniors in America?

The full story: https://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-elder-abuse-and-timeshare-sales/

If there is no problem with Diamond Resorts CEO Michael Flaskey making claims that exit companies lied and took $10,000, $12,000, $14,000, $25,000 from Diamond members, then there can be no problem with my making the claim that Diamond agents lied and took over $85,000 in cash and deeds from my parents.

An interview with Diamond members Frank and Betty, ages 88 and 89, parallels the elderly couple interviewed in Mr Flaskey’s YouTube describing how they lost money to exit companies. Betty, a former librarian, said in a USA Today article that she has had insomnia and fainting spells from the stress and has gone to the hospital several times.

Michael Flaskey’s YouTube 

Frank and Betty’s YouTube

Diamond Resorts took approximately $31,000 from my parents and their two deeded weeks. The purchase price was around $88,000 of which approximately $57,000 was credit for their deeded weeks. 

Many years ago they paid $17,600 for a Turtle Cay 2 BR unit and $37,550 for a 2 BR Ocean Beach unit. It was not easy to piece together what happened from the mounds of paperwork, but as of November 28, 2020, it looks like after the up-sell they ended up with 32,500 points of which 24,000 points were credited for their Gold Key deeds. The purchase of 8,500 points is why maintenance fees increased. 

Frank and Betty lost $63,000 to Diamond Resorts and told them they were buying an “annuity” timeshare that would release a survivor spouse from the timeshare liability should something happen to one of them. After the transaction, their cumulative loan balance was $197,000 and annual maintenance fees $19,000.

For Betty and Frank and my parents, fear was used as the bait.  

Then and Now: Why Seniors Need Support 

(STAY VACATIONED letter received from Diamond Resorts March 29, 2021)

Unfortunately, if your account remains in default for 30 days from the date of this notice, the Association will take necessary action to collect the unpaid assessment fees together with late fees and interest…. These actions may include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Send the delinquent account to an attorney, which will result in additional legal fees; 
  • Engagement of a professional collection agency which will result in additional collection fees;

Michael Flaskey said on his YouTube, “They could have just called Diamond.”  

My parents are proof you can’t. 

Bernadette’s Petition

Bernadette in Oklahoma launched a Change.org petition March 7, 2021 asking Michael Flaskey to remove the YouTube in which he, the Missouri and Washington Attorneys General, and the former Arizona Attorney General, criticize deceptive practices by timeshare exit companies. Lawyers are called “storefront clowns,” yet the Missouri Attorney General’s Office recommended Bernadette retain an attorney. Please sign Bernadette’s petition after reading about her Diamond experience:

https://www.change.org/Michael-Flaskey-MO-WA-AG-take-down-YouTube

Our experiences are two of over 5,600 accounts from members of our member-sponsored Diamond Advocacy Facebook. The majority of our Facebook members joined to ask for advice about resolving disputes or complaints about Diamond’s sales and marketing practices. Volunteers answer questions as to how to file regulatory complaints. We know there are many who are happy with their Diamond membership and with the sales agents they worked with. Our Facebook consists of mostly members who feel they experienced unfair and deceptive sales and marketing practices. 

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

I initially filed a complaint with Seniors Vs Crime, a project of the Florida Attorney General’s Office. They mediate disputes and volunteers are seniors themselves. I was informed Seniors Vs Crime would not be allowed to help my parents. I was forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office.  Instead of being contacted by someone from the Florida Attorney General’s Office, I was contacted by a doctor Diamond retained who introduced himself as a consultant hired to arbitrate our “allegations.” He blamed my parents.

A staged so-called Quality Assurance contract signing session was recorded. I later learned my parents’ QA agent served four years in jail for burglarizing seven homes, among other charges, yet Diamond’s jury ruled my parents sounded just fine on the recording. 

If the buyer makes the mistake of believing their sales agent, thus not raising a question, the recording is used against the buyer. The buyer is not allowed to record the sales session, and the buyer is not allowed to listen to the recorded closing unless an attorney issues a subpoena. This is unfair. 

Many members have reported that the recording is routinely used against the buyer to dismiss complaints after being coached by sales agents to not saying anything because 1) it’s a new program, 2) I help you on my own 3) they don’t want you buying to make money, and so on.     

Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods said in Mr Flaskey’s YouTube “it is infuriating to see members paying money to companies that make them worse rather than better.” 

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson warns, “They are preying on people with misinformation…Telling people things that are flat out not true and they are just trying to take as much money as they can from them.” 

Diamond CEO Michael Flaskey grieves for families who lost“$10,000, $12,000, $14,000, $25,000” to exit companies.

I am pregnant with my second child. I have a problem pregnancy and had to be hospitalized at one point during my first trimester. The stress Diamond Resorts brought into my life because of the financial loss my parents suffered has played a part in my baby’s problems. Timeshare medical distress now spans from prenatal to Betty and Frank, ages 88 and 89. 

I end where I began – but adding the other end of life’s spectrum. 

How can this be happening to seniors and pregnant moms in America?   

My motto is based on a concept of unjust enrichment that can be traced to Roman law and the maxim that “no one should be benefited at another’s expense”

“nemo locupletari potest aliena iactura or nemo locupletari debet cum aliena iactura.” 

There is a tendency to blame the victim. AARP Staff writer explains in his book why no one is “smart” enough to outsmart a con. 

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/afDrSe2gMaKdxWK4j3g7qZXTB9On0ezeP3Z2RFjWmVxL4tYEymOc05ZkK54YMANutYIfUR1ri3LlIZw4zh099_iMN2lMvQvzcYh-a4psrVzw9WJQDETd99NVfnbKxmgDajoDadB1

Understanding the artist behind the scam is a first step in protecting yourself and your loved ones from deceit. After conducting personal interviews with dozens of con artists and studying their personalities, Shadel has found consistent trends in the tactics they use to defraud their prey. What do they all have in common? For starters, a life filled with fast money and women, drugs and alcohol, and lots of lying and cheating. But the most successful cons are also masters of persuasion, using a sophisticated set of psychological tricks and tactics that work time and time again.

Think all victims look the same?  Wrong.  Outsmarting the Scam Artists explains how individual scams are carefully crafted and tailored to meet specific victim profiles.  

That is all for this week with Inside Timeshare, we hope that you have a great Easter weekend and will join us for more news and information on the murky world of timeshare next week.