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