This weeks Letter from America by Irene Parker reviews the results for the First Quarter of this year, judging by these figures the rest of the year is definitely going to be busy. But first we have a look at what has been happening in Europe.
Canarian Legal Alliance announced this week their 100thSupreme Court ruling, this achievement has made Spanish legal history, especially in the field of timeshare litigation. Within days of this announcement, CLA also received numbers 101 and 102 judgements.
The three rulings declared the Silverpoint contracts null and void with over 63,000 Euros being returned to the clients plus legal interest.
There was also a High Court ruling from Tenerife, again against Silverpoint, resulting in the contract being declared null and void with the return of over 14,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest.
No doubt the clients, lawyers and staff at CLA are celebrating.
All this week Inside Timeshare has been running article on the “Fake Law Firms” operating out of Tenerife, identifying many of the photographs of “their lawyers” posted on their websites.
We have shown 2 US lawyers, 2 Australian, several Spanish lawyers, 3 of which are from the same firm, An eminent Peruvian lawyer, Chilean, Columbian and the most surprising of all was the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Argentina.
Now for this weeks Letter from America.
Timeshare Advocacy Group™
First Quarter 2018 Results
April 13, 2018
By Irene Parker
First quarter results are in. Inside Timeshare received 116 US timeshare complaints since January 1. Remarkably, there have been nine positive outcomes (loan cancellation and/or refund) and eight resolutions – relinquishment or an answered question resolved the dispute. Timeshare resolution within three months is unusual. This fast-track resolution saves the timeshare member legal fees and the timeshare developer legal or arbitration fees. We have kept many members out of the nets of “guarantee you a timeshare exit” scams created by the industry when licensed timeshare resale brokers won’t accept a timeshare listing, if they consider the timeshare worthless on the secondary market. Scammer listing agents will take your money and run, not caring if your timeshare sells.
Inside Timeshare has received 381 timeshare complaints since we began tracking complaints late 2016, so 116 complaints received since January 1 is an extraordinary jump in complaints (or readership). Timeshare members contacting Inside Timeshare have witnessed little interest from Florida, Virginia, California or Nevada Attorneys General timeshare divisions, assigned to enforce or not enforce timeshare regulations. Regulations may be in place, but seem to be little enforced. The Florida Timeshare Division dismisses timeshare members with, “Verbal representations are hard to prove,”and Nevada dismisses criminal allegations with, “You have no proof.” Based on one such response received by one Florida resident, we now know why the Florida Department of Business Practice and Regulation DBPR only acted on 110 out of 2,360 timeshare complaints filed from 2012 to 2014. One of our advocates is researching more recent numbers through FOIA.
According to ARDA’s website – “Vacation Ownership is one of the most highly regulated vacation products in today’s consumer marketplace.”
Regulations are one thing. Enforcement is another. However, Attorneys General who have initiated and closed investigations against timeshare developers in 2016 and 2017, achieving settlements, did not buy into “You have no proof” or “You signed a contract.” These Attorneys General include: NY, CO, AZ, TN, MO, WI, NC, and the Florida DBPR, sources say, is investigating The Berkley Group (Vacation Village).
Timeshare members have been reaching out to the FBI, because most allegations meet the FBI definition of white collar crime “deceit, concealment violation of trust, bait and switch.” One FBI agent contacted and met with one of our Diamond Advocacy Facebook members.
Updates from a few of our advocates:
Josh Parker, US Army, Ret, OIF
Josh says they were told DRI points are an investment and easy to sell. Now expecting twins, they have learned there is virtually no secondary market for DRI points. Josh was told by a DRI Vice President, “We’re not responsible for what our sales agents say.”
Teresa Laird, on behalf of her parents, Raymond and Teresa Mori, Mr. Mori age 83, 23 years a Marine, disabled. Raymond Mori earned two Purple Hearts, now facing timeshare foreclosure. Teresa says she asked DRI to cancel a Sampler trial product sold to her parents, but says instead the company by phone sold Mr. and Mrs. Mori another 17,000 points, saying they took care of it by attaching it to another program.
Angela Sandstede on behalf of her parents Roy and Lillian Simmons, Mr. Simmons a Navy veteran, retired letter carrier, upsold into foreclosure, now in danger of losing their home. Their monthly DRI payment is $2,750 a month. They live on Mr. Simmons letter carrier pension.
Section 5 of the FTC Code: The basic consumer protection statute enforced by the Commission is Section 5(a) of the FTC Act, which provides that “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce…are…declared unlawful.”
We know the members above have suffered substantial injury. The gray area is “not reasonably avoidable” so the answer is a determined and pervasive media outreach to educate the general public on the fact that when they buy a timeshare product, they are signing a perpetual contract, with rising maintenance fees, and virtually no secondary market. Not one of the 381 families that have reached out to us since late 2016 knew this. Contact Inside Timeshare or a non-industry influenced self-help group if you need help with a timeshare concern.
Thank you Irene and all those volunteers who give up their time to help others, the world of timeshare needs people like you.
If you have any comments or questions about any article published or just need some help in deciding which company is genuine, then contact Inside Timeshare through our contact page. We will help point you in the right direction, Remember doing your homework will save you money in the end.
Have a great weekend and join us again next week for more news and information on the murky world of timeshare.
In today’s Letter from America, Scotty Black another service veteran tells his own story of his “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”. These stories are becoming all too common at Inside Timeshare, with readers contacting us on a daily basis. But first we have a look at what is happening in Europe.
As we have reported on many occasions, Anfi deny that they are losing cases and that no one is getting paid out, well we would like to share with you a press release from Canarian Legal Alliance.
One of their clients won their case at the High Court in las Palmas, Anfi appealed to the Supreme Court, the judges in Spain’s Highest Court confirmed the sentence and ordered Anfi to pay back double the amount of the deposit paid during the cooling off period, which is prohibited by law.
This particular client has now received into their own bank account the sum of 37,979€, this leaves us in no doubt that regardless of what Anfi claim, they are losing and clients are being paid.
CLA also issued the following figures on cases for this past week.
In the Courts of First Instance in Gran Canaria and Tenerife there have been 5 rulings in favour of their clients against Anfi and Silverpoint.
In Tenerife, the High Court ruled once again against Silverpoint.
There were also 3 Rulings in favour of their clients at the Supreme Court in Madrid, these were again against Silverpoint.
In total, CLA clients have been awarded a massive 402,552.19€ Not bad for just one week.
Staying with Anfi, several of our readers have enquired about another letter sent by the Anfi CEO, in this he stated that any contract signed between January 1999 and January 2001 had a 2 year window for adaptation. The law referred to is 42/98, this was passed in 1998, it became effective on 5 January 1999, so the question is why would resorts and developers be given a 2 year period to change?
Surly the period between the law being passed and coming into force is the window to change?
What would be the point of setting a date for the enforcement and then allowing things to continue as before?
These are questions that need to be answered, Inside Timeshare has asked for clarification on this and is waiting for an answer. We will publish in full when it is received.
More readers have informed Inside Timeshare that they have received a letter from the Police regarding the following Mark Rowe companies:
Monster Travel (known as Monster Group/Monster Rewards)
Complete Internet Solutions
These are being investigated as we reported previously by the South West Police, it looks like a major criminal investigation, if you have had any dealings with any of these companies you can contact the Police at the address below.
South West Police ROCU. DC 4624 Katie Andrews. PO Box 37, Valley Rd, Portishead,Bristol. BS20 8QJ
Our Mission to Stop Timeshare Crime – Front and Back
February 9, 2018
By Scotty Black, M.S. Criminal Justice, former Navy
Promissory Note $65,741.14 @ 14.4309%
How I got here
Purchased 5000 timeshare points October 2014 Scottsdale AZ CA Collection
Purchase price $13,000
October 13, 2016 in Hawaii we bought 15,000 additional points
Name of sales agent Brian Holmes
Purchase price is $75,710
$4500 on a resort issued Barclaycard used for the down payment
Monthly payment $1,037.84
Maintenance fees $4,006.22
I am one of 22 active duty, retired military, law enforcement agents, feeling victimized by timeshare. For my family, I would describe timeshare as a parasite killing its host. Like Amanda and George Jones, I’m worried about losing my security clearance. Like, Lela Renea, I work in law enforcement. Like Kevin Hopkins, I am military trained in Electronic Warfare. I never imagined we would need that training to fight in a Timeshares War. Kevin is retired Air Force. I served in the Navy. My primary job was Electronic Warfare, but partly due to my attitude, I was sent often to security, so I ended up assigned to the Special Security Force, Battleship Missouri. The fact that this is the second complaint in a matter of weeks from an electronic warfare veteran and that there are 22 of us working, or having served to protect our country, filing timeshare complaints, is telling.
Kevin was featured in this article on January 30 unidentified, but as Kevin has since received his automatic knee-jerk, “Sorry, you signed a contract” denial, Kevin has been identified and has joined the ranks of Inside Timeshare Contributors.
Kevin’s sales agent managed to work in every oral misrepresentation possible into one presentation. He’s working on an upcoming article about his experience.
Timeshare companies have negatively affected national security with their fraudulent sales practices. Active duty Navy Technicians George and Amanda Jones could be forced into foreclosure. They say they were assured by two sales agents in two separate states they could lower their 18% loan interest rate by contacting finance companies offering a lower rate or a military rate. “Just Google it,” their sales agent said. Banks do not finance timeshares. Consumer credit issues can cause a revocation of security clearance. Jeff is in the process of writing to the Commandant of the Marines.
We have summarized our reports from our 22 unit members and have reached out to Whistleblowers of America, an organization that seeks justice for military and government employees. If you are not drowning in timeshare loan payments, credit card payments and maintenance fees, consider a donation.
In Hawaii, October 2016, we asked our timeshare sales agent Brian Holmes what would happen in the event we could no longer make payments. As we were told in Arizona, we were told again points could be rented and that we would be able to sell the points, likely at a profit, especially since we purchased them at such a low price – a price so low because “a sales staff member forgot to file the declination of purchasing more shares in a previous presentation…!”
We were told Hawaii points are a good investment. This sticks in my mind because my wife had to write a statement to that effect, so the purchase at such a low rate could go through. As for the potential of profit, we were told there is a land-usage moratorium on how many places and percent of the land can be built on in Hawaii so this would also make the points appreciate, even with a speculation of over $10 per point. We were told we would need to sell points through the secondary market but that would be easy.
We have since learned our vacation points have no secondary market and that renting points through a third part website is not allowed. I contacted members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Not one I spoke with would even accept a listing for our Diamond points feeling the restrictions placed on the use of secondary points renders the points worthless. Since LTRB members, unlike some scam timeshare exit companies, do not accept an upfront fee, it’s a waste of their time to accept a listing.
In Scottsdale, at an “owners update” early September 2017, long after the issuance of the Arizona Attorney General’s Assurance of Discontinuance, we experienced yet another highly aggressive sales presentation. The length of the presentation was a violation of the AOD. We complained repeatedly that we wanted to leave. We were told it was not a sales presentation and they would not try to sell us points, but after the 55 minute presentation we were paired with a sales agent for at least two hours. My wife had broken her foot on resort property the prior day and was in pain. She had to keep her boot elevated. They still did everything they could to keep us from leaving. I still was experiencing symptoms from a car wreck that had required a hospitalization. We were both on painkillers.
Irene explained about Diamond’s new Quality Assurance program, CLARITY, launched after the AOD was issued. CLARITY is reported to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer, but as Irene predicted, our Hospitality agent referred us to the oral representation clause. I ask what purpose CLARITY serves, other than a piece of paper to hand out to provide a false sense of security, making it seem like the company cares about false promises made by sales agents.
Researching timeshare in general, I have come to believe many timeshare sales agents employ tactics that meet the FBI’s definition of white-collar crime, Financial Institution Fraud, defined as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.” Timeshare buyers who feel they were victimized should file complaints with the following agencies:
The Better Business Bureau
The Attorneys General (The AGs where you signed, where the firm is headquartered, and where you live)
State Real Estate Divisions against the individual agent
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The FBI (if as serious as mine at IC3.gov and orally through a field office public access line #4 prompt, then #3 white-collar crime prompt)
The FTC if you have any energy left
Other agencies that investigate multinational and cross-border financial institutions
We know criminal actions on the part of timeshare sales agents extend beyond any one resort, except for Disney Vacation Club. Somehow they manage to show a profit without resorting to deceit.
Hopefully, timeshare executives and lobbyists will read this. We know one lawmaker has.
Thank you Scotty for sharing your “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, we find it appalling that veterans are being treated like this, facing foreclosure and ultimately losing the valued and hard earned security clearance after years of loyal service. All we can say is shame on the the sales agents and even more so on the developers for allowing their sales agents to behave in this despicable manor.
News has just come in from Madrid, the Supreme Court has issued another sentence this morning against Silverpoint, this is now 89 rulings made against various timeshare companies by Spain’s Highest Court.
The latest ruling has awarded British clients of CLA a massive £36,000 including £8,000 which is double the deposit paid within the mandatory 14 day cooling off period, plus legal interest. The contract has also been declared null and void, so congratulations the these happy ex-timeshare owners and great well done to the staff and legal team at CLA.
Today we have received another email from yet another victim of Ramirez and Ramirez, it seems he is upto his old tricks again. The last we heard from him was in April 2016, (see link below).
The pitch is the same, the consumer is contacted and told that their claim has gone through, there is a substantial amount, in this case over £31,000 waiting for them at the court. All they had to do was pay £1,498 to Ramirez to get the payment underway, then they were told they had to pay £2,560 Tax to the Agencia Tributaria (Spanish Tax Office) and the money will be released.
Please be aware this is one experienced conman, there is no money waiting for you at court, there is no tax to pay to release this ficticious money. Unless you have instructed a lawyer to act on your behalf through the courts then there is no claim.
That’s it for this week, a very big thank you to all who sent in valuable information which will always help others and to those who have contributed to the articles from our Cousins across “The Great Lake”.
Remember, if you have any questions about any article published or just need advice on whether to do business with any company, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
Here we go another Friday’s Letter from America, this week Irene Parker explains reporting a crime to the FBI, regarding timeshare complaints. To us in Europe this appears a little excessive, especially when we take the situation with timeshares purchased in Spain. But in the US, consumers do not seem to have the same protection as those in Europe.
Now for a round up of European news, once again Anfihave been ordered by the High Court in Las Palmas to return over 36,000€ plus legal fees and legal interest to an ex client. In this case the contract was again declared null and void, the main infringement of the timeshare law is once again the contract duration of over 50 years, or what is known as perpetuity. This point has been the subject of many rulings from the Supreme Court.
At present Inside Timeshare is looking into this and will publish in the near future, suffice it to say, from the copy of the post received, it looks as though there is a substantial amount outstanding. This journalist also asks the question if this is the reason for the lack of maintenance and upkeep at the resort?
More on this subject as and when we get the confirmed information.
Amador Galeca, one of the “Fake” law firms which springs from the Litigious Abogados family has been active again, with Inside Timeshare receiving many enquiries as to if these are genuine.
Once again, these firms are not genuine law firms, they have in place a very elaborate fraud, designed to fool owners into believing they have cases at court. Search Litigious Abogados in the search box, there you will find the story going back around two years.
The unfortunate aspect of this is the frequency with which they change the names of the law firms and the websites. This makes it very difficult for the authorities to keep up on their investigations. The one thing that does help, is the fact the websites are all the same except for the names.
In the end, it is up to you to check if they are genuine before paying these companies, it is no use after you have made the bank transfer, that money is long gone. This is the reason for creating the urgency, with stories such as the director is pleading guilty and the trial is in 3 weeks, so you need to hurry if you want to be part of this claim!
Now on with this week’s Letter from America.
How to Report a Crime to the FBI
By Irene Parker
January 19, 2018
There has been a change in strategy in reporting to the FBI if timeshare members feel they meet the definition of white-collar crime, financial institution fraud defined as “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.”
I’m still recovering from the comment Anthony Davisposted January 11 in response to one of my articles. Anthony wrote that he recorded a timeshare sales presentation. Anthony is an army vet, 90% disabled after serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coincidentally, someone who works in law enforcement contacted me just after I spoke with Anthony, informing us they wanted to donate a GoPro Hero 5 Session camera. My husband and I picked up the camera and drove to Orlando to meet Anthony and Ashley. They came to Orlando because they said they were required to attend a mandatory timeshare presentation scheduled for January 13th. This was their second required new member orientation and they had to bear the air and Uber expense to travel from Tennessee to Florida for two days, just to attend the orientation. Armed with our new GoPro, we recorded an interview with Anthony and Ashley. We also recorded the recording of the orientation.
The next morning, alarmed at what I had heard on the recording, I contacted the FBI. It took a while to explain the significance of this recording, because the FBI is not as familiar with timeshare as they are with say, terrorism, but the agent took the time to understand. At the end of our conversation agent #2222 (I did not ask permission to use his real number) concluded timeshare members need to call their local FBI field office and report orally through the FBI public access line, selecting option #4, white-collar crime. I thought he was going to dismiss me by sending members to the Attorneys General Offices! Here are the FBI field offices:
Previously, FBI agents had advised me to direct members to the IC3.gov portal. This is the FBI’s online complaint site. Filing at IC3.gov is similar to filing an online AG complaint. Timeshare members who feel they have been a victim of deceit and bait and switch should still file with IC3.gov, in addition to filing orally with your local FBI field office. Here’s the IC3.gov link:
Mortgage fraud is a subcategory of Financial Institution Fraud. It is crime characterized by some type of material misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission in relation to a mortgage loan which is then relied upon by a lender. A lie that influences a bank’s decision—about whether, for example, to approve a loan, accept a reduced payoff amount, or agree to certain repayment terms—is mortgage fraud.
Inside Timeshare US has received 278 timeshare complaints from readers. Of the 278 complaints, 263 allege that what happened to them meets the definition of white collar crime, “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, bait and switch.” Several timeshare members have reported timeshare sales agents advised them to falsify information, or the agent on their own falsified information, discovered when the member compares what they signed at the time of purchase to the document the timeshare company provides to the member after they asked for a document when pursuing a complaint.
The FBI and other entities charged with investigating mortgage fraud, particularly in the wake of the housing market collapse, have broadened the definition to include frauds targeting distressed homeowners.
This includes distressed timeshare members as a timeshare loan is considered a mortgage and is reported as a foreclosure, the same as a home mortgage foreclosure. However, timeshare attorney Mike Finnof the Finn Law Groupdid sue Bluegreen and managed to get foreclosed knocked down to “charged off” on behalf of 11,000 Bluegreen members and, going forward, Bluegreen no longer reports their timeshare point “take backs” as a foreclosure. Foreclosure is the most damaging hit to a credit report, and according to Mike, timeshare companies tend to pick the most damaging category to report.
There are two distinct areas of mortgage fraud—fraud for profit and fraud for housing.
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.
Timeshare member can relate to this definition! We have compiled three repeat offender summary reports. One of the reports describes highest loyalty members being up-sold to buy more points because they will be able to pay maintenance fees or sell points when no such program exists.
The FBI seeks to maximize its impact on the mortgage fraud and financial institution fraud as a whole through collaboration.
For example, the Bureau operates Financial Crimes Task Forces within several field offices throughout the country that act as force multipliers in addressing large scale financial fraud schemes. Comprised of federal, state, and local regulatory and law enforcement agencies who work together on a daily basis, these tasks forces have been an effective way to merge valuable resources of participating agencies.
By leveraging the skills, knowledge, and resources of various government agencies and private industry, the FBI and its partners are able to bring more perpetrators of fraud to justice.
Common Mortgage Fraud Schemes (I selected those pertinent to timeshare)
Foreclosure rescue schemes: The perpetrators identify homeowners who are in foreclosure or at risk of defaulting on their mortgage loan and then mislead them into believing they can save their homes by transferring the deed or putting the property in the name of an investor. The perpetrators profit by selling the property to an investor or straw borrower, creating equity using a fraudulent appraisal, and stealing the seller proceeds or fees paid by the homeowners. The homeowners are sometimes told they can pay rent for at least a year and repurchase the property once their credit has been reestablished. However, the perpetrators fail to make the mortgage payments and usually the property goes into foreclosure.
The DOJ places timeshare exit scams complaints second only to debt collection complaints. Timeshare exit scams flourish when timeshare companies do not allow a secondary market. This is a 13 page DOJ report on timeshare exit scams:
Loan modification schemes: Similar to foreclosure rescue scams, these schemes involve perpetrators purporting to assist homeowners who are delinquent in their mortgage payments and are on the verge of losing their home by offering to renegotiate the terms of the homeowners’ loan with the lender. The scammers, however, demand large fees up front and often negotiate unfavorable terms for the clients, or do not negotiate at all. Usually, the homeowners ultimately lose their homes.
Foreclosure is a guarantee, but you certainly don’t need to pay anyone to help you foreclose. These scams say foreclosure meets their promise of a guarantee!
In this weeks Tuesday Slot we welcome a new contributor Karen Krokosh, but first a quick look at what has been happening in Europe especially in the courts.
The year has certainly not started well for the timeshare industry, the first week of January has seen the Supreme Court in Madrid rule on 6 occasions against Silverpoint from Tenerife.
This court has declared these six contract null and void as they were over the 50 year period allowed by law, what is known as perpetuity, they also contained the points or floating weeks systems.
The court also reaffirmed the position of the taking of any payment within the given cooling off period, even if taken by a third party as prohibited. This cooling off period was introduced to protect consumers and allow them to decide whether they wished to continue with the purchase, as these are usually made as decisions on the day.
The total amount the court has awarded in these cases is a staggering 321,274€ with legal fees and legal interest.
In another case against Silverpoint, the High Court in Tenerife has ordered the return of over £31,000 plus legal fees and legal interest to a British client. Again the contract was declared null and void as it contained the points or floating weeks system.
In the Court of First Instance at Maspalomas, another British client has been awarded over £19,000 plus legal fees and legal interest, with the contract being declared null and void. In this case the contract was sold by Anfi and was for a duration of over 50 years, which is not allowed under the Spanish Timeshare Law 42/98.
All these cases have been brought on behalf of client by the law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, so contrary to what the timeshare industry is is saying, this law firm is doing what it says and winning on behalf of their clients.
As they say the proof is in the pudding!
On with this weeks Tuesday Slot.
Sell My Timeshare Now,
A Timeshare Listing Service for Buyers or Sellers
Diamond Member Karen Krokosh Issues a Warning
By Inside Timeshare Contributor Karen Krokosh
Comments about SMTN follow Karen’s article
January 9, 2017
I responded to a Sell My Timeshare Now (SMTN) solicitation. Not only did the company over promise the ability to sell Diamond’s non-deeded U.S. Collection points, they told me they could help me recoup expenses by renting my points. DRI does not allow renting through a third party site. As a resource for timeshare members, SMTN should abide by Diamond’s official rental policy by not accepting rental listings. Here is the current DRI rule:
2.5.1 A Member is not prohibited from periodically renting the Accommodation reserved for the Use Period or the reserved Other Redemption Opportunity pursuant to these Club Rules.
However, the use of Points to reserve Accommodations or Other Redemption Opportunities for commercial purposes or for any other purpose other than the personal use of the Member or the Member’s family and guests is prohibited. Use by a Member of public advertising or an online website to seek renters shall be deemed a prohibited commercial use.
Members who are primary developers of Club Resorts (that is, members of the Diamond Resorts International group of companies) and providers of Other Redemption Opportunities are specifically exempted from this restriction, and are entitled to use their reserved Accommodations and reserved Other Redemption Opportunities for promotional, rental, or other commercial purposes.
Diamond is not the only timeshare with little or no resale value. While some timeshares like Disney, Hilton and Marriott can be sold, it has been widely reported Diamond’s non-deeded points are especially difficult to sell. I contacted a few members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association. Not one would accept a DRI listing, feeling the restrictions the company places on the use of secondary points are too severe.
SMTN agent Sandra Van Lanen suggested a list price of $12,000 for 3,000 points. We paid about $12,000, so in no way was that price realistic as I dropped my price from $12,000 to $7,500, $5,000 and $1,000 with no offers. What was SMTN’s response? They said, “It takes time.” There are about 15,000 Diamond Resorts members on a variety of Facebooks and websites and I’ve learned many of them would be willing to give away their Diamond points. I would have been laughed off these sites posting these ludicrous amounts. I am committed to exposing this company and others that are taking advantage of those already burdened by loan payments and maintenance fees.
Here’s what I paid SMTN:
The original “Advertising and Marketing” product was priced at $1,798. I was given a discounted referral of $1,498 USD, but paid initially a deposit of $699, agreeing to pay the remaining balance of $799 when the timeshare sells. Since that is never in almost all Diamond cases, I decided to cancel the lifetime listing. When you cancel, SMTN has the right to bill you for the remaining balance.
I have also learned many of the listing and resale companies are staffed by former timeshare executives and sales agents. Some are legitimately trying to help those desperate to get out of their timeshare, but others prey on the desperate. This is a Department of Justice report about timeshare resale and release scams:
Many timeshare buyers report they were sold a timeshare by deceit. I looked up the definition of racketeering. While timeshare exit plans are not violent crime against property, I see a similarity. The sales agents who sold us the problem are now the ones coming around to “help” us. “A common example of a racket would be if a group of people cut the tires of cars on a specific street, and then that same group, or one in concert with the one cutting tires offered ‘protection’ to the owners of the cars for a price. This fits the definition of a racket because without the organization’s slashing of tires in the first place, the demand for ‘protection’ would be low or non-existent.”
I have been trying to get rid of this timeshare for years. I was so relieved to find the member sponsored Diamond Resorts Advocacy Owners Facebook where I learned that Diamond has launched a new program called Transitions and from what Inside Timeshare told me, I am eligible! I am hopeful, waiting to hear back.
After Friday’s article about the importance of Better Business Bureau ratings, I checked the SMTN BBB rating. My red flag was raised when I learned Karen paid up front money to list her Diamond points. Accepting upfront money to sell your timeshare is illegal in Florida, but it seems companies can work around the law by calling it an ad or subscription fee, or a market analysis.
The BBB has assigned SMTN a D rating. I called SMTN and talked to Mike. The first question I asked Mike is, “Can I rent my DRI points through SMTN?”Mike said renting DRI points is no problem. When I informed him DRI does not allow the renting of points through a third party site like SMTN, Mike said he would have someone from legal call me. We did not hear back. Irina Allen is one DRI member who had her Diamond account suspended, accused of renting points on RedWeek.
This is what BBB notes on SMTN, providing a good example of how the Better Business Bureau can assist consumers by providing important information.
According to BBB files this company has a pattern of complaints that centers around the company’s advertising claims. Complainants allege they are guaranteed a time frame in which their timeshare will sell. Many consumers allege the company makes a promise that their timeshare will sell quickly. The company responds to the complaints and reiterates the company policy which reads the company does not guarantee when a timeshare will sell.
On March 23, 2016 BBB reviewed the complaints on file and determined the pattern described above has not been eliminated. BBB sent a letter to the company requesting cooperation in responding to and eliminating the pattern of complaints.
BBB received a response from Sell My Timeshare Now (SMTN) who addressed concerns raised. SMTN has introduced a video that consumers are encouraged to view that clearly outlines their services. In their business model explanation SMTN says that: “…SMTN never promises buyers are waiting; does not request wire transfers, greendot moneypak payment or purchase of prepaid credit cards; does stand behind the services it promises and always strives to deliver excellent service to all of its clients”…Additionally, SMTN hired a law firm to review the complaints and details surrounding each one. This review of these recordings has shown that the communications between SMTN and individual consumers (when they are available) has been shown to differ. SMTN has also instituted training for salespeople. They are to only make promises that are consistent with the guarantees and promises made by the company in writing. SMTN is recording calls made by their sales people to confirm the training is being followed. SMTN now has a policy for their salespeople who consistently fail to comply with the training which results in their dismissal from the company. Finally, they informed BBB that they will be further training their customer care employees to offer to help earlier in the process and be sure to make certain the consumer is satisfied with the resolution.
On December 5, 2017 representatives of SMTN met with the BBB to update us on improvements they are making to their organization. They have taken steps toward improving customer service by hiring a new Customer Service Manager. They have put in place an “audit group” that will contact consumers on the day they sign the contract with SMTN and then again 90 days out as a way to ensure customer satisfaction. It is anticipated that by proactively working with their customers, the number of complaints will be reduced substantially. BBB will work closely with SMTN to follow their progress and to continue to address any complaints that may come in.
Consumers are, once again, requested to contact SMTN prior to filing a complaint with BBB at 1-877-815-4227.
This Business Is Not BBB Accredited
Sell My Timeshare Now, LLC
Customer Review Rating:
 Positive Reviews
 Neutral Reviews
 Negative Reviews
 Total Customer Reviews
 Total Customer Complaints
Sell My Timeshare Now, LLC has received 1.93 out of 5 stars based on 34 Customer Reviews and a BBB Rating of D.
This content is provided by the business and may contain advertising. BBB does not review or endorse this content.
According to a post found on RedWeek, published on the internet, SMTN does seem to charge a considerable upfront fee. A member had asked whether they should buy timeshare points through SMTN.
Good question. Here is the straight scoop:
1 month ago
Sometimes you will find a timeshare of interest on the SMTN site which may be available at a price acceptable to you. HOWEVER, you will have NO say or ANY choice regarding the “closing” entity. Closing costs through SMTN are quite excessive — multiple times the cost of customary and usual closing costs. You have no option to conduct a SMTN transaction “in person”, but that is the case in most any resale timeshare transaction, so SMTN is not unique in that regard. It would frankly be both highly unusual and entirely unnecessary to conduct a resale timeshare transaction “in person”. Objective, third party “closers” who have no association with either buyer or seller (not an available option via SMTN, unfortunately) look out for the interests of BOTH buyer and seller, holding all funds in escrow until closing if necessary. This obviously eliminates any need for any travel or physical presence by either the buyer or the seller just to “close” on a resale transaction.
With SMTN, you essentially have to determine ALL of the collective costs as a buyer and then ask yourself if that bottom line figure is acceptable to YOU to acquire that particular timeshare listing, despite the exorbitant closing costs. Far more often than not, the answer will be NO, but there are (relatively rare) exceptions. In all fairness, in the performance of your due diligence you really have to look at the big picture and ask yourself if the TOTAL expenditure involved justifies acquisition of that particular timeshare for YOU. You obviously first need to accurately determine the bottom line total figure before you can possibly make that fully informed evaluation and personal decision.
SMTN of course has nothing whatsoever to do with maintenance fees, regardless of the resort involved. Maintenance fees are determined only by individual resorts — and they are engraved in stone. That said, I would certainly want to verify the accuracy of any figures SMTN indicates as maintenance fees. This is very easily done by contacting the resort directly for confirmation of any figures claimed by SMTN in their listings.
Thank you to Karen for her advice! We look forward to hearing more from Karen as our first new Inside Timeshare contributor of 2018. Contact Inside Timeshare or one of these member sponsored U.S. timeshare groups if you need help with a timeshare. It can save you money.
If you require any information regarding this article or any other published on Inside Timeshare, please use the comments or contact form and we will get back to you. If you are considering using the services of any company and are unsure of how to check them we will also be pleased to help.
Welcome to Friday’s Letter from America, the last one for 2017, this week Irene looks at the past year from across “The Great Lake”, while we look at the past year in Europe.
Our first article of 2017 was about the family of fake lawyers from Tenerife, Litigious Abogados, it highlighted a new firm called Abogacia Española, which happens to be the name of the official website to check the validity of lawyers registrations. This was a very good move on the part of this well planned out fraud, as it did give an air of legitimacy when you did a web search.
Since then, we have seen many incarnations of this fake law firm, although the names have changed, one thing hasn’t, that is the nature of the fraud. They are still duping consumers into believing that they have a case at court, then to be part of it you need to pay the Procurator fees. That is only the start, it get even more sophisticated. Search Litigious Abogados for the full story.
This was a great blow to the RDO, as Silverpoint was also a major contributor. Funds this organisation could ill afford to lose. It has since come to our attention that the RDO is to form a partnership with ARDA (American Resorts Development Association). This particular organisation is well endowed with contributions and is very strong in the world of lobbying for its members. So it begs the question is the RDO going to be taking on board the tactics of ARDA?
Staying on the subject of Silverpoint, January was a momentous time on the legal front, with the Supreme Court making their first ruling against this company. This was the case of Mrs Shirley Wilson and her long battle against the selling tactics of Silverpoint.
Within a week the highest court in Spain ruled three times against Silverpoint, opening the doors for many more cases against them. Since then the rulings have been coming in thick and fast, leaving no doubt that what they had been selling was illegal.
February brought the news that Alberto Garcia had “stepped down” from Mindtimeshare and that the RDO would not be renewing the contract with that “Consumer Association”. Alberto Garcia for many years had been running the RDO’s“Enforcement Programme”, attacking any company which threatened the timeshare industry. This has now been given to Kwikchex and the “Timeshare Taskforce”, run by Chris Emmins.
Throughout the year, Inside Timeshare has been following the Anfi “Tauro Beach Project”, this has been a story that has now seen the former head of the Coastal Authority being charged with falsifying official documents and wrong doing in public office. No doubt we will see his trial sometime in the new year.
This project was to build a man made beach at Tauro, with the building of hotels and a shopping center. This was given to Anfi to run for 50 years, the Government of Gran Canaria is now seeking in the courts to remove these concessions in the light of the evidence of malpractice. This story is not over yet.
Anfi have been on the receiving end of many Supreme Court rulings since March 2015, they however have continued to deny any wrongdoing and inform their members that they have not lost any cases. In fact they have embarked on a campaign to attack Canarian Legal Alliance, trying to sow seeds of doubt among their clients. Below is a link to a video showing the National Spanish TV news on TVE 1, in this clip, one of the CLA lawyers explains the Supreme Court rulings. For the National Television to broadcast this item shows that CLA is doing what they say and that Anfi is trying to divert attention from this.
Another story we have been following is that of Los Clavelesin Tenerife and the battle for control of the resort. Again this is an ongoing story which at present seems to be dragging on. It revolves around the selling of Wimpen to ONA Grup, who were the managing company of this resort. Their contract has been ended but they still seem to be trying to run the resort against the wishes of the Owners Committee.
There has been a lot of argument on this issue, with some very nasty consequences, it is clear that this issue is not going to be resolved in the near future. It may also end up being a rather costly one with only the lawyers benefiting.
In July we published a rather different article on the timeshare world, this was a positive one, featuring a company that we have not been able to find any adverse comments or complaints. It is off course Disney.
This is a shining example of how the timeshare industry should operate, fair, truthful and with the consumer in mind. There again, it is what we expect from an organisation which prides itself on putting people first.
After a long reign TATOC finally went into liquidation, with Harry Taylor and TATOC being totally discredited. For years this organisation has duped not only timeshare owners but also organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau. Any owner that went to CAB with a problem would be recommended TATOC as the place to go. Little did CAB know that this organisation was funded and basically run by the industry. All we can say is good riddance to a very bad and foul smelling egg!
There have been so many articles it is difficult to review them all, but Inside Timeshare has highlighted some of the most dodgy companies that have emerged over the course of the year. These articles have saved many readers considerable sums of money, we intend to continue with this.
But before we go on with Irene’s roundup of the year from the US, we finish with the news of yet three more sentences issued by the courts. On 27 December the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas declared yet another Anfi contract null and void with the client being awarded over 29,000€ plus legal interest.
On the same day the High Court in Tenerife announced another ruling against Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and the client in this case being awarded over £9,000 plus legal interest.
There then followed on the 28 December another Supreme Court ruling from Madrid, this was number 82! Again the company was Silverpoint, with the contract being declared null and void and an award of over £23,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.
These cases were brought on behalf of clients of Canarian Legal Alliance, so this does show this law firm is doing what they say.
Now for the year from a US perspective.
What Timeshare Members Can Look Forward to in 2018 and what
I wrote looking forward to 2017 on December 26, 2016
Our Advocacy Group did not have a name one year ago, or a Facebook page. Our advocacy Facebook page was launched February 2017 and Timeshare Advocacy Group™ April 2017. As I write this, our advocacy Facebook page has 706 members. We encourage industry observers, as long as they are respectful.
Back in February, I remember scrolling down my Facebook feed, a pianist, waiting with nervous flute, oboe, trumpet, and bassoon middle school students for our competitions to begin, when I suddenly saw a post called “Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy” launched by an economics professor. This Facebook page was launched in response to a draft article I had written and distributed, requested by a few former timeshare sales agents who felt the practice of “pitching heat” to sell vacation points needed to be addressed and brought to the attention of the general public. Based on reader responses, only Disney Vacation Club seems to disavow this sordid selling technique.
Our professor also prepared this mission statement for our DRI advocacy group, but as our Inside Timeshare readers started to reach out to us asking for help with timeshare issues concerning other timeshare companies, I borrowed our DRI mission statement and generalized it to apply to all timeshare companies.
We seek to provide timeshare members and owners 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.
April 2017, a former Diamond sales agent contacted me, urging me to write a press release as she was worried Diamond members were not aware of the Arizona Attorney General’s $800,000 DRI settlement and the Assurance of Discontinuance announced December 23, 2016. There was a May deadline to file a complaint.
This former timeshare sales agent said we needed a Facebook page so that readers had somewhere to respond. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook until I got mad at timeshare July 2015, but I struggled through the establishment of a Timeshare Advocacy Group™ page, delighted to find a butterfly with a “Knowledge Speaks, but Wisdom Listens” quote by Jimi Hendrix. My first concert I attended in high school was Jimi Hendrix, second row, in front of the mic.
I expected my new creation to last for a month or two, until the press release ran its course, but it continues to receive views. We consider this Timeshare Advocacy Group™ Facebook a clearinghouse of articles written about all timeshare companies and are grateful to all our volunteer admins for both Facebook pages.
Now a look back to what I wrote December 26, 2016 with updates
Timeshare Lawsuits 2017
By Irene Parker, December 26, 2016
Our Inside Timeshare mission is to offer timeshare owners accurate reporting on both the good and bad aspects of timeshare today. While we admit we bear more to the negative side of timeshare reporting, this thirteen page report from the US Department of Justice listing timeshare scams explains why:
The other reason is because the industry is not well regulated. Timeshare owners do not have the level of organization or funds necessary to compete with timeshare developer lobbyists. Lobbyists used to primarily direct their efforts towards influencing lawmakers, but more and more efforts are now being directed towards influencing US Attorneys General:
Looking to 2017, we need to look back and reflect on timeshare’s unresolved and continuing legal battles. Timeshare developers, former timeshare sales agents and solicitors, timeshare owners, federal and state regulators and advocates continue to weigh in on possible changes that will make timesharing more owner friendly and less predatory.
Will the final piece of this legal and regulatory puzzle result in a less aggressive and deceptive industry – or will practices continue unabated and unchecked resulting in more of the same?
WestgateUpdate 12/29/17: After the presidential election the CFPB dropped the Westgate investigation. President Trump is close friends with the Siegels, Westgate owner David Siegelwas seen campaigning next to the candidate in 2016. That’s Mr. Siegel to the left of Trump. Charles Thomas reported on the timeshare the Trump family is launching in Scotland, reported as a golf course in the US during the campaign.
“Westgate is facing lawsuits in several jurisdictions and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Investigation. Allegations include fraudulent and deceptive business practices ranging from high pressure sales tactics, failure to honor timely rescission requests, elder abuse, illegal debt collection practices and impermissible telephone solicitations.” The Capitol Forum June 27, 2016
Former Wyndham sales agent Trish Williams was awarded $20 million for exposing deceptive sales practices. While the amount will probably be reduced on appeal, it sends a message that courts and juries are listening.
The Manhattan Club Update: Remarkably, New York AG Eric Schneidermanmanaged to ban the owners of The Manhattan Club from working in the timeshare industry and achieved a $6.5 million settlement. Rarely is wrongdoing admitted. However, attorney Douglas Wasser, representing TMC owners, said “Hundreds of members will be helped, but there are over 14,000 members.” Even a settlement this size will do little to curtail predatory marketing and sales practices. The investigation took years.
Back in 2016
Attorney Douglas Wasser represents 30 Manhattan Club defendants.
“To my knowledge there has been no dismissal of any Manhattan Club proceeding at this point. The NY Attorney General investigation is proceeding, and the motion to dismiss a currently pending class action suit has been adjourned to January 5, 2017 for now. Three prior class action suits at the Manhattan Club have been dismissed. But, at least for the time being, the current class action still survives,” Mr. Wasser reported November 15. 2016
Marriott Vacation Club Racketeering Update: Most disturbing of all, political and legislative maneuvering in Florida resulted in a change in the definition of timeshare, seemingly in an attempt to circumvent the merit of the case, according to attorneys involved with the case. That was not the end of it. We will hear more about this case in 2018.
“The Marriott racketeering lawsuit seeks to abolish Marriott’s points program, which attorney said is unique among timeshare companies. It also seeks the return of fees and costs paid by buyers.”Paul Brinkmann reported October 13, 2016 for the The Orlando Sentinel.
Diamond Resorts Update:A judge ruled in favor of arbitration in the billion dollar lawsuit filed against the company, and Congress reversed the CFPB ruling that would allow class actions. Diamond Resorts is one of the only timeshare companies to have a class action ban in their contract, forcing arbitration. Arbitration is binding and private. Lawsuits filed are public record.
A recent class action was filed against Diamond Resorts:
Matt Daniel Finazzo, et al. v. Diamond Resorts International Club Inc., Case No. 5:16-cv-02256, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
I don’t mean to be the Grinchess that stole Christmas, so to end on a positive note,
People are listening!
Charles Thomas and I are hearing from people all over the world who are joining forces to work towards:
⦁ A legitimate secondary market
⦁ Less aggressive and deceptive selling
⦁ Less predatory lending
Thank you from timeshare owners to our regulators and lawyers working to protect us. Since last year we have found a few more self-help groups we are confident are on the side of the timeshare member and are not industry influenced.
So that is 2017 in a nutshell, if this coming year is anything like the last we will be seeing many more stories like these.
Inside Timeshare thanks all those who have contributed to the articles and also to all the readers and those who have contacted Inside Timeshare for help and advice. If you require any information on any company that has contacted you or you may be thinking of using but need to know about them, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
We wish you a prosperous New Year, enjoy your celebrations and we will be with you in 2018.
On 8 November Inside Timeshare published an article about ANFI sending emails to Norwegian members, which included a video by a Mr Malterud, a former client of Canarian Legal Alliance. They have now been sending the same email to UK ANFI members, in an effort to stem the tide of claims in court against them. Inside Timeshare received several enquiries about this. (See previous article below).
In the letter, which is signed by the ANFI CEO José Luis Trujillo, it attempts to warn UK members about Canarian Legal Alliance, with a quote from Mr Malterud:
“CLA posed as a law firm. I was naive, and believed them, but eventually learned that this was not serious. I felt misled. I would strongly recommend staying far, far away from CLA”.
The letter also includes the video interview with Mr Malterud and Anfi Club Norway.
In a rather desperate attempt the email was sent out late Friday afternoon, ready for the weekend, in the hope that CLA would not be able to respond until Monday. This move seems to have backfired.
Inside Timeshare approached CLA for a statement, the spokesperson responded with this statement:
“CLA was alerted to the email by clients who have claims either pending filing at court or waiting for trial dates. Thanks to quick action by CLA staff, a statement was emailed to all clients in rebuttal of the ANFI claims.”
Inside Timeshare then asked what was the response from their clients:
“Many clients replied to our statement in favourable terms, thanking us for the prompt and full explanation. They also stated that they had the utmost faith in CLA and realised that it was a move by ANFI to scare them into withdrawing their claims”.
Once again we see ANFI spreading misinformation in order to save themselves, it shows how desperate they are.
In their Statement to their clients CLA included a video of an interview with one of their lawyers, EVA GUTIÉRREZ, Lawyers Registration Number 4350, this interview was aired on National Spanish Television News broadcast by TVE. See the link below.
Eva has been registered as a lawyer with the Colegio de Abogados of Las Palmas since 2008, so is very much an experienced and genuine lawyer, contrary to the statement in the letter from ANFI. Below is a pdf of her registration on the national database of lawyers.
This will put no doubt in anyone’s mind that CLA are a legitimate law firm, with many victories under their belt, including 77Supreme Court rulings against timeshare, 32 of which are against Anfi.
Only yesterday Wednesday 6 November they secured another victory for one of their UK clients at the High Court in Las Palmas. The judge declared the ANFI contract null and void, ordering ANFI to return £32,000, the client was also returned legal fees and legal interest.
One now has to ask the question, what are ANFI hoping to achieve by spreading these falsehoods?
Are they just destroying their own reputation?
Have they now also left themselves open to legal action on an unprecedented scale?
We leave it to you the reader to decide.
As usual time will tell, we will be keeping a close watch on any further developments regarding this issue and keep you informed.
Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, Irene this week looks at Black Friday, with a few books she recommends. Irene was wondering if we in Europe also have Black Friday, the answer is yes we do, it looks like the retail trade has followed in the footsteps of America. In the UK traditionally Boxing Day was the start of the winter sales, but as pre Christmas shopping was starting to decline as people waited for the sales rather than spend before Christmas, retailers began following the US trend.
Now for a quick roundup of the week in Europe, we begin with the news which came in late last Friday 17 November. The Supreme Court ruled against Silverpoint in tenerife once again.
The UK client will receive back over £67,000 plus legal fees and legal interest. The contract was also declared null & void. Then on Monday 20 November they issued another sentence against the same company. In this case the client was awarded over £25,000 plus legal fees and interest. The contract was over 50 years in duration and was declared null and void.
Then on Tuesday 21 November another Supreme Court ruling, again involving Silverpoint, with yet another Uk client awarded over £78,000 plus £3,000 double the deposit paid with legal fees and interest.
On Wednesday 22 November, the High Court in Las palmas Gran Canaria declared an Anfi contract null and void with the return of over 18,000€ plus legal interest.
Also on the same day in Tenerife, Eze Group was ordered to repay over £52,000 plus legal fees and interest. We also published the news that Dominic O’Reilly and his daughter Stephanie O’Reilly had pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates court to “aggressive” sales practices and “coercion”. The have been referred to the Crown Court for sentencing in the new year, these are criminal proceedings which the magistrates are limited in sentencing power.
Thursday 23 November in Tenerife, the High Court Number 3, declared yet another Silverpoint contract null and void, with the UK client awarded over £38,000 plus legal interest.
This morning the news came in of yet another High Court ruling from Tenerife, Yes you guessed it, Silverpoint again. The clients in this case will now receive over £40,000 plus legal fees and interest.
So a rather expensive week for Silverpoint and some good news for clients of Eze Group. So now on with our Friday letter from Irene Parker.
A Cyber Monday Shopping Suggestion to Avoid Black Friday
For Timeshare Members and Advocates
By Irene Parker
November 24, 2017 Black Friday in America
The Friday immediately following our American Thanksgiving holiday is called Black Friday. People really do sleep outside shopping malls ready to cash in on deals designed to launch the holiday shopping season. Consider instead shopping at home on Cyber Monday with this holiday suggestion perfect for your favorite politician or timeshare advocate. This will allow you to avoid the rush and possibly prevent broken bones and trampled toes.
The trilogy of books I suggest are helpful for family and friends who work in or are involved in politics, timeshare, customer service, advocacy or law enforcement. We have a high turnover of timeshare advocates due to non-disclosure clauses, but those who have signed such agreements can still steer timeshare members in trouble to Inside Timeshare or to a self-help timeshare group.
Here are three advocate orientated book selections
#1 Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
Author Jay Baer was the keynote speaker at this year’s Interval International’s Shared Ownership Conference attended by developers and private equity firms. Mr. Baer’s principle theme is: Haters are not your problem…..Ignoring them is.
His message is meant for customer service providers, but anyone can benefit from learning about how Social Media is changing the face of customer service. Take timeshare. Non-disclosure agreements, obstacles placed in the way of members designed to keep them from contacting other members, private arbitration rulings – all keep timeshare members silenced and isolated. That’s changing in the face of Social Media. A non-disclosure agreement doesn’t mean the signer can’t suggest someone read Inside Timeshare. There are thousands of timeshare members now comparing notes and Inside Timeshare has helped to tabulate and analyze patterns of concerns emerging from member submitted complaints.
Mr. Ford’s book is inspirational for politicians or advocates. When Mr. Ford’s father, Harold Ford, Sr., endured a ten year political scandal and lawsuit over alleged Mud Island Bridge misappropriations in Memphis, young Harold Ford, Jr. describes the success he achieved through grassroots efforts. By reaching out to the media, he learned how to educate and shape the public’s perception of his father. He reached out to broadcast and print media to expose improper jury selection. Mr. Ford, Sr. served 11 congressional terms. He was found not guilty.
In his own campaign, unknown and broke, unable to find speaking engagements, Mr. Ford, Jr., at age 25, was initially pleased to learn his co-campaign chair had arranged for him to speak at 32 graduation ceremonies, only to find out they were kindergarten graduation ceremonies! Still, he dug in with gusto and continued to build momentum throughout his campaign. Mr. Ford’s critics dubbed him “The Kindergarten Candidate”, which Mr. Ford turned into his moniker, and was propelled into congressional office by the votes of grandmas, grandpas, moms and dads who listened to him at kindergarten graduations. According to Mr. Ford, “The campaign was turning because of efforts that I never thought would yield this kind of momentum. The kindergarten speeches were catalysts….Often, the moment it seems least likely that something positive will emerge – it does.”
Any advocate or activist will appreciate the not-so-civil disobedience eight anti-war protestors undertook to break into the Media, Pennsylvania FBI office in 1971. Two were professors, led by Haverford College physics professor Bill Davidon. Without their extraordinary effort and courage, Herbert Hoover’s dirty tricks and illegal surveillance may have never been discovered. Catching them plagued Hoover for the rest of his life. More remarkable, they were never caught.
Thanksgiving in America is also a time for giving thanks and showing gratitude, so Charles Thomas and I both wish to thank our readers for reading and responding to our efforts to improve an industry desperately in need of repair. We especially appreciate our growing list of contributors, attorneys supporting our efforts we have chosen to support through their honesty integrity and experience. We would be remiss not to thank sales agents and developers trying to do the right thing by repairing broken customer relationships so that members can use and enjoy what they can afford. Charles, our advocates, contributors and I do this work and volunteerism so we can save vacations, not destroy them by tearing apart the industry. Let’s hope 2018 will be the year of working together. We can hope.
So that is it, another week over, some very happy ex-timeshare owners and two directors facing possible jail terms in the new year. Somehow I don’t think they are going to have a very Happy Christmas.
Don’t forget, before you deal with any company do your due diligence and check them out first, if you need any help in this, please do contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
It’s that time of the week again, so welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, this week we publish Part II of Timeshare Debt and Hedge Funds. This article is from Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer, with the introduction from our very own Irene Parker. But as usual a roundup from Europe.
It has been a very busy week in the courts again with many case being heard, with sentence still to be issued by the judge but there have been a few announced.
On Monday there were two announcements, the first was the judge of the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas found against Anfi, once again the contract was declared null and void, the client in this case will be returned over 12,000€ plus legal interest. The courts are certainly sticking to the letter of the law.
In the second case that was announced, the Court of First Instance in Tenerife found against Silverpoint (Resort Properties). In this case the judge found that the contract was in breach of the timeshare law 42/98 in that it exceeded the 50 years that is allowed, this should have also been explained to the customer before signing.
The judge declared the contract null and void, ordering Silverpoint to pay the client over £59,000 plus legal interest.
The following day, Tuesday, another sentence against Anfi was announced by the Judge of the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas. Another contract was declared null and void, with Anfi being ordered to return over 26,000€ plus legal interest.
Back in September Petchey Leisure (now MGM Muthu) was ordered to repay over 16,000€ and declared the contract null and void, by the High Court in Tenerife. The client in that case has now had the money transferred to their bank account.
On Thursday, there were three court sentences announced, Once again Anfi have been ordered to return over 20.000€ plus legal interest, this was by the Court of First Instance in Maspalomas. The judge also declared the contract null and void.
In Tenerife the Court of First Instance declared a Silverpoint contract null and void, ordering the return of over 30,000€ plus legal interest.
In the High Court in Tenerife, Regency Resorts was ordered to return £35,200 plus an extra £35,200 as double the deposit taken in the cooling off period, which is forbidden by law. This particular client will now be receiving £70,400 plus legal fees and legal interest. A nice Christmas present for this client!
Today as we this article was being prepared for publishing the following news was issued in a press release:
The Supreme Court in Madrid issued another damning sentence against Silverpoint, the Court ordered the return of the full purchase price plus double the deposit and all legal fees. The contract was also declared null and void. In this case the client will be receiving over £105,000.
All these cases have been brought on behalf of clients by the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance, who are certainly at the forefront in the field of timeshare law.
Inside Timeshare is still receiving many enquiries regarding “claims” companies and “law firms” contacting owners with the promise that they have cases and can get their money back. Many of these readers don’t even own in Spain, or even upgraded in Spain since the law came into place in 1999, so how can these cases go to the Spanish Courts?
Some of these are also being told that they pay for a relinquishment, then the claim will be filed on a no win no fee basis. This can only mean one thing, an attempt to claim under Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1974. Another aspect to this is the client will also be told at the meeting the only way they can do this is by purchasing another product! Sounds like the classic “bait and switch”!
There is also more news which at present we cannot publish as it has not been verified, so that is it from Europe, now on with our Letter from America.
Timeshare Debt and Hedge Funds – The Developer vs the Member
By Justin Morgan and Michael Nuwer
November 17, 2017
On Monday Inside Timeshare published an article comparing hedge fund involvement in Puerto Rico to hedge fund involvement in timeshare. Today we examine further how debt affects timeshare with help from Economics Professor Michael Nuwer and private equity investor Justin Morgan.
As a Diamond Resortsmember, I have access to information I would not have about other timeshare companies, so once again Diamond is used as an example with help from Michael Nuwer, also a DRI member, and Justin Morgan, a former DRI member, to explain the mechanics of timeshare inventory valuation and timeshare debt.
I asked Inside TimeshareAustralian Contributor Justin Morgan how a company like Diamond can have a $2.2 billion dollar valuation when the entire inventory of points is worthless to the members, given so many complaints about the lack of a secondary market. Of course, there is value to staying at a property, but for discussion purposes, timeshares are a liability on an individual member’s net worth statement. Inside Timeshare has received 196 timeshare complaints from our readers against four major developers. The majority allege they were sold or upsold by deceit and bait and switch. I have interviewed many families devastated, sometimes just weeks after purchase.
In an article I wrote for TheStreet, I expressed concern over inventory valuation irregularities that delayed DRI’s second quarter 2016 earnings report, the last public report before being taken private. Diamond previously reported 11 quarters of consecutive robust earnings growth. After announcing the delay, just after the Apollo acquisition announcement, earnings had to be restated from 2014 going forward.
“After the correction, the change resulted in a decrease in net income of $5.6 million for 2015 and a $1.3 million decrease for the first quarter, in each case from amounts originally reported, according to the second-quarter release. Significantly, second-quarter net income decreased $10.1 million or 28.5% to $25.5 million year over year, compared with a first quarter increase of $8.4% or 32.6% to $34.4 million, prior to the restatement.”
The whole industry itself uses some quite questionable inventory valuation methods that may be designed, according to some, to target more the financing arrangements that were the traditional model in the industry when GMAC and others were underwriting timeshare sales departments. This is why private hedge fund equity in the industry has somewhat caused a shift in thinking. If private equity is funding the model based upon equity vs loan models, the capital structures underneath begin to change. The same accounting reports will still be drawn upon to make sense of the numbers, but let’s not forget that inventory valuations do have a bit of leeway to move. Even financial reporting itself can diverge from standard reporting models, but it usually is flagged as a change in accounting methodology that would have otherwise tipped off Apollo.
Like Enron, it depends upon who’s looking, and who might be wanting to look away to get a deal done. Even if Apollo did know, it doesn’t mean they’d fess to the knowledge of spotting an irregularity if they believed they were able to profit in the end, and I believe that Michael Nuwer showed the sort of cap structure that Apollo introduced. It largely turned the debt into the membership, so whilst Apollo may have even noticed non-standard valuations, it might have only forced a better price to come from Diamond vs flagging the issue or walking away from the overall deal. Clearly, Apollo are their own beast in these type of private equity deals which reap profits and shift debt restructuring unwittingly into club members. This is a bigger issue. It’s like taking a loan out in someone else’s name and handing them the bill after you’ve taken what you want for the deal. Club members were only ever at Apollo-DRI’s mercy after this.
There are definitely some important and significant value-implied shifts from these numbers since the street uses earnings to make their valuations, but the valuation of inventory is an area that is somewhat suitable itself. The industry bodies know how to make it work and actually fought to use non-standard inventory models. But I’ve not gauged for differences between the pre-order hedge fund industry and the one we’re seeing rise out of the seas today.
I have looked with horror upon the entry of these private hedge funds because I know that they have little interest in the product itself. They are only in it to devour the membership of as much as they can get, and given the legal models, that could be the scariest evolution to date. At least cryptocurrencies attempt to establish some monetary supply rules, but timeshare clubs know that they can just keep raising budgets legally to cover their required rates of returns.
In an industry that generally looks for 30% per annum returns as a rule of thumb, that’s going to cause some high maintenance fee jokes in the future. But I remember the old DRI hiking maintenance close to 25% circa 2007 and then again in 2009. They first blamed a strong economy, whilst the second blamed the weak economy. More like a satyr blowing hot and cold in the one breath! But the disturbing thing to me is how Apollo financed this whole arrangement. They shifted the debt onto the members. They made their money from the start…The rest is just cream…The debt which now pays the Apollonian entities is the debt Apollo created and lumped into the membership at the financing stage.
We must be clear. They created the debt specifically to land it on membership; so really, it is as if the DRI members paid a good chunk of the deal. If the Attorneys General don’t see this, then they’ll miss what chicanery has been done here.
Diamond reports show increasing levels of bad debt accompanied by decreasing membership since the peak in 2013.
Membership is down 9% since 2013
One thing that is not clear to me is the economic value of points. It often appears that a developer sells the points (say 10,000 points) for, say, $20,000. But, the next day, if I (the owner) try to sell those points in the secondary market, they are worth, maybe, $1,000. (If Bluegreen points; DRI points are worth $0.) The economist in me thinks the developer originally sold me points for $1,000 plus a club membership for the remaining $19,000. Thus, if my points are foreclosed and resold for the full $20,000, only $1,000 is the value of the points.
So, the question here is: what is the developer selling. Is the sale just vacation points or is the sale a bundle that includes points plus other stuff? I’ve read my DRI contract many times and still can’t tell what it specifically covers.
So what happens when someone buys timeshare points?
Let’s look at this example:
Say Diamond makes a sale for $30,000. The buyer might make a down payment of 20% or $6,000. The remaining $24,000 is a loan. Diamond now has a short term financing problem. They have $6,000 in cash and $24,000 in a non-liquid asset. But Diamond has immediate operating costs. A bit more than $15,000 from the sale is needed for advertising, marketing, and commission expenses. The carrying cost of the inventory must also be paid. Additionally, Diamond faces G&A costs (general and administrative) which need to be paid. All of these are current expenses, but Diamond only has the cash down-payments to cover them.
To pay current expenses, Diamond borrows money from a bank (the jargon is a “warehouse facility”). This facility is a credit line agreement, and, just like my credit card, Diamond’s credit line has a limit. Before Apollo, Diamond’s credit line was $100 million with Capital One.
In short: Diamond must borrow money from a bank to cover the current year’s expenses while it waits 7-10 years to get re-paid on the outstanding loans made to members.
Securitization of the outstanding loans is a way to oil, and thereby speed-up, the lending machine. Once Diamond reaches its $100 million credit limit, it will not be able to offer more loans for the purchase of points. Thus, to overcome this limit, the company bundles outstanding loans into a trust fund and sells shares in that fund as an Asset-Backed Security. The proceeds from selling these shares are used to pay down the credit line and Diamond’s perpetual loan machine continues.
Irene asked how Apollo Global Management will fare in their purchase of DRI. Will the restatement of inventory valuation have an impact?
DRI EBITDA in 2015 was $385 million and thus the valuation multiple ($2200/385) is a mere 5.7. Apollo got the company for a steal. If they can spruce it up and get 10x, the valuation will be $3.8 billion. There’s Apollo’s 30% profit.
Thank you to Michael Nuwer and Justin Morgan for their analysis. I have nothing against private equity, but extraordinary investment returns at the expense of timeshare members or Puerto Ricans is not acceptable if so many complaint allegations are true. In addition to 192 Inside Timeshare readers who are timeshare members, I have interviewed ten current and former timeshare sales agents that all confirm predatory sales practices are widespread in this industry. There have been several recent investigations and settlements by Attorneys General including New York, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arizona, Tennessee and Colorado as well as lawsuits too numerous to mention. It is our hope developers will confront the problem and work with member complaints to improve the quality of timeshare sales today rather than continue to deny such practices exists. Contact Inside Timeshare or an Advocacy Facebook if you have timeshare concerns.
Thank you to Justin and Michael, also to Irene for her introduction. This week Irene has been very busy dealing with the many enquiries we have received from US owners / members. Within an hour of publishing Tuesdays article, we received 3 pleas of help, these are sent to Irene who then makes contact with the relevant advice and which of our advocacy team can help. Keep up the great work US Team.
If you need any information or help with any timeshare matter and don’t know where to turn, Inside Timeshare is here to help.
Also remember to do your homework before engaging with any company that either contacts you or you find in an advert. This last one rings very true for one UK reader, She found an advert in the Royal British Legion Magazine for a company that said it could help with a claim. Being in the British legion magazine she believed it would be genuine, well we all would! Unfortunately, adverts are not checked for authenticity, they are sold by a marketing company to pay the cost of publication, the same is also true for any newspaper or magazine. So the it proves that you need to do your homework!
On that note, Friday is here, the weekend is once again upon us, so have a great weekend and we will be back on Monday.
Welcome to this week’s Friday’s Letter from America, we decided to run with this particular article following the news from Europe on Monday that Diamond was closing its sales offices in Europe. Obviously this will have a great impact on the many employees, who are now out of work and will need to find jobs in an ever decreasing sales industry.
As usual before we go on with our article, this week has not been a very good one for Silverpoint in Tenerife, with another loss at the High Court and also at the Supreme Court.
The judge at the High Court Number 2, found serious breaches of the timeshare laws, declaring the client’s contract null and void and ordering the return of over £49,000 plus legal interest.
At the Supreme Court in Madrid, the judges upheld previous rulings and declared another Silverpoint contract null and void. This particular client will now receive over 28,000€ plus all legal fees and legal interest. Another happy ex Silverpoint owner.
As usual these were clients of the Arguineguin law firm Canarian Legal Alliance. So this does go to show that in spite of what many timeshare companies are claiming, such as the article published on Wednesday about Anfi attacking CLA, this law firm is doing what it says.
Now on with Friday’s Letter.
Inside Timeshare leapt at the chance to publish details of CLARITY, Diamond Resort’s program to promote accountability, transparency and respect for the Customer. The program was introduced after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovichissued an Assurance of Discontinuance accusing the company of violating Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act. The Arizona Attorney General received hundreds of Diamond complaints. One source informed us the office received 400 complaints leading up to the investigation and 500 more complaints after the press release.
Inside Timeshare continues to receive complaints from members almost daily, with common complaints:
Purchase more points as that will be the only way to sell points. (Diamond’s secondary market restrictions make Diamond points almost impossible to sell.)
Purchase more points because that will provide you with the ability to pay maintenance fees by tendering excess points at 30 cents per point. (No such program exists as this is an adulteration of a 30/30 program designed for other purposes.)
Agents working for the same company selling against each other from the Hawaii Collection to the US Collections telling the member they made a mistake purchasing the collection they purchased, depending on which side of the Pacific the member is on.
Inside Timeshare has forwarded members complaints to Diamond’s PR firm and to ARDA. Both have ignored the complaints, but it is unlikely ARDA will enforce their Code of Ethics against a corporate member that gives ARDA a million dollars a year from Diamond members who unwittingly are billed $7 as an “opt-out” voluntary donation on their maintenance fee invoice. It is doubtful the average timeshare members understands even what the initials ARDA ROC stand for.
After reading complaint after complaint from our Nightmare on Timeshare series, I am certain our EU Diamond agents did not stoop to such tactics. Did this contribute to sales targets not being met? Inside Timeshare has received 187 reader complaints, of which 178 are from Diamond Resort members.
Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never returned Marsha’s call. One of Diamond’s Advocacy“hospitality” agents left one message but never returned her calls. CEO Michael Flaskey ignored Marsha Young.
A representative from Barclay’s Bank did contact Marsha Young. Although they cannot help, as Barclays does not physically open credit card applications, Marsha appreciated the respect she was given by at least being acknowledged.
You be the judge of Marsha’s story.
How Buying a Timeshare can be Financially Devastating
Since our first Inside Timeshare US member story was published October 2016, we have received 186 member complaints, of which 171 allege they were sold by deceit and bait and switch, meeting the FBI definition of White Collar Crime. Of the 186 complaints, 177 are from Diamond Resorts members. We don’t dispute there are many timeshare members who use and enjoy their timeshare points, but many have not yet been made aware of the lack of or limited secondary market. The majority of complaints allege they were told to buy more points because only at the next loyalty level could they sell points or be able to offset maintenance fees. Neither program exists. These members are stuck with a product they paid thousands of dollars for, felt were sold by deceit, incur maintenance fees and can’t sell. Their network of friends and family want nothing to do with timeshare. Sales centers should take note as Social Media no longer keeps members silenced and isolated. Diamond Resorts did not respond to our request for comment.
By Marsha Young
The vacation memories my husband and I shared together at Embassy Suites and Sunterra in Hawaii on the island of Maui are my most treasured, but our memories so precious have been destroyed. Maybe not the memories, but the timeshare we knew and loved has turned into a financial trap.
My husband passed away in 2011. I still travel some with friends and family and I enjoyed the flexibility of the point program until I succumbed to high pressure sales. In the past, when explaining the struggles of raising a family, or other reasons why we could not upgrade, agents would not push us when my husband and I said no, so I was not prepared for what happened. In an effort to warn others to seek counsel before you sign a perpetual contract after a six hour sales session, with rising maintenance fees, and no secondary market, I share my story.
My problems began at the Diamond Resorts sales center at Williamsburg Virginia May 2017. I told the hospitality agent about how I had been deceived previously by a Hawaii sales agent. She told me she understood and explained that is why sales were stopped at the Williamsburg center for a while until a new program called CLARITY was put in place. My Williamsburg sales agents were Richard Rodgers and Mark Schilling. I told them I did not want to spend any more money as the maintenance fees were going up so much for the Hawaii Collection. They told me I should transfer my Hawaii points to the US Collection because maintenance fees would be less. The cost was never discussed. I thought there would be no charge. I saved the paper they used showing points transferring over to the US Collection. They also encouraged me to open a Barclay credit card because it accumulated points rather than miles, but neglected to tell me the card would be charged $7,100 for a down payment. I had sent an email to both Richard and Mark telling them I did not want to spend more money. The sales presentation lasted six hours. I was exhausted. When I got home and went to my DRI account. I was shocked at the new $34,000 mortgage. The maintenance fees did not go down.
I did not know where to turn so I called a friend who is an investment advisor. He called Mark Schilling. Mr. Schilling’s response was, “She signed the contract. The QA session was videoed.” Recorded QA Sessions are part of the new CLARITY program. The sales presentation is what needs to be taped because that is when sales agents make promises not kept.
Richard Rodgers told me $400 a month would be the maintenance fee but it is the mortgage payment, so I owe maintenance fees on top of the mortgage payment. I was also told I could still book Hawaii, but in July 2017 I went to a meeting in Hawaii and was told I should not have transferred to the US Collection, because I would not be able to get back into Hawaii. They also said the value of the Hawaii Collection was more valuable and had the highest availability. Jessica Ocegueda was the sales agent. She said I had traded down and if I want to go to Hawaii on US Collection points in all likelihood “it’s not going to happen.” I have learned from other members you still can book in Hawaii with US points. I was convinced to transfer all my US Collection points to Hawaii Collection.
After six hours, there is insufficient time or energy to review an inch high stack of documents. Diamond Resorts Consumer Advocacy never responded to my complaint, but they did send the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Barclays Bank my initials for the charge on a document.
Of the $138,000 approximate purchase price, $66,915 was taken back as credit for the US points and the balance financed was approximately $70,000
The down payment charged to my personal credit card was $8,529
A Barclaycard was charged $7,100
The monthly payment is $917.58
Estimated maintenance fee is $7,418
At age 71, I watched my credit score plummet from the 800s to the 700s. I am a widow living on a teacher’s pension. I learned from reading Inside Timeshare articles and joining an Advocacy Facebook page, many have been told if they purchased more timeshare points, maintenance fees would go down. While the maintenance fee per point may decline a cent or two, the maintenance fee invoice does not decline. It’s easy for the resort defending their position to say, “You were confused,” but the volume of complaints found on the internet speak of sleight of hand, in my opinion.
Not knowing where to turn I had contacted Irene Parker. Irene told me about the new CLARITY program Diamond Resorts implemented after the Arizona Attorney General issued an Assurance of Discontinuance, accusing DRI of violating the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act. She also said Diamond Resorts now provides an advocacy department for those who have concerns about their purchase. CLARITY is supposed to be about accountability, transparency and respect for the customer. I received none and was ignored by DRI Advocacy. It feels like the customer is always wrong.
The actions of these agents have taken away my financial security. I feel trapped. It is not as easy or as enjoyable to travel without my husband. I can still travel with friends and would have been able to remain a Diamond customer had I not succumbed to an upgrade for reasons that were not necessary or true.
I should have learned from the first bad experience I had in Hawaii. In Hawaii, I had been charged $2,995 for a program called the Sampler. I was refunded for that purchase because I did not know a credit card had been charged then until I returned home. Diamond said the agent, Mr. Frank Rippe, had been fired. They also said he had been the top selling agent of that particular product.
It is my hope timeshare members will continue to reach out to other members. It is a sad day when vacation timeshare plan buyers need a support group and a media outreach plan to warn other potential buyers.
We seek to provide Diamond Resort 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.
As we read many stories such as this it no longer comes as any surprise, what does seem to be a recurring theme is the age group of the people that contact us. They also all have the same story, credit scores being destroyed, after years of no defaults.
One thing that did make me chuckle in Marsha’s story is Diamonds comment on the the sacking of the sales agent, “he had been the top selling agent of that product”, well that is not surprising if he was being that devious!
Once again Inside Timeshare thanks all those who provide us with the information and contribute their stories, if you would like to contribute contact Inside Timeshare. If you just require any information about your membership or about any company that contacts you or even thinking of doing business with, but don’t know where to start, contact us and we will point you in the right direction.
Another week over and another Friday’s Letter from America with Irene Parker, but first a very quick look at two cases announced this week.
Silverpoint have once again been on the receiving end of another Supreme Court verdict. They have declared the client’s contract null and void, ordering the return of over £43,000 plus legal fees and legal interest.
In this verdict the court stated that the contract lacked specific information required by law, such as a specific apartment number, date and location. It is quite clear that the Supreme Court has on more than one occasion clarified the law.
In another case heard at the Court of First Instance in Palma de Mallorca, Altres Vacances have been ordered to repay the client over 58,000€ plus legal fees and interest, with the contract being declared null and void.
This court has followed the Supreme Court rulings on the length of the contract, the law is very clear on this point, the contract must be no longer than 50 years. They must also contain specific information as required by law.
Please Note: This “FAKE” law firm uses names that are known in the industry to enhance their own credibility.
Now according to this “law firm” they will be lodging the case against Diamond Resorts International Sl and Mr X (The Director) on the 7th November 2017, this will heard on Tuesday 21st November, very quick indeed, they must be very well in with the judges!
They state that following a “groundbreaking ruling on “Tuesday 19 March 2015” (very precise date), against Diamond Resorts International SL, one of the the directors, who we will call Mr X has pleaded guilty to the indictment of the Spanish Civil Code. They also state that the High Court of Santa Cruz de Tenerife have declared 28 of their clients contracts null and void, seizing all the personal assets of Mr X in Spain and the Canary islands.
In the case of our reader, they no longer own any timeshare with Diamond, they got rid of that years ago, so there is no basis for any claim. Beware the claims that you have a case, if you no longer own you don’t, even if you do own you may not have a valid claim. Before engaging with any company that states you do have a claim, check and check again.
So now on with this week’s letter.
Another Bluegreen Member Alleges a “Bait and Switch”
Sometimes Called “Pitching Heat”
By Irene Parker
Back in July, Inside Timeshare published an article by Lela Renea, a detective who alleged she was deceived by a Bluegreen timeshare sales agent. Camyell Pratt, another Bluegreen purchaser, alleges she and her husband were also deceived.
The FBI definition of White Collar Crime, Financial Institution Fraud, is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch.”Inside Timeshare has received 179 complaints from readers, of which 164 allege they were victims of a timeshare bait and switch. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime
Lela Renea is a detective. Camyell understands bad debt. She assists in collecting back taxes for a Virginia County government office and understands the repercussions when someone does not pay what they owe. But what if the contract agreed to was purchased under conditions of fraud?
In timeshare, that doesn’t matter thanks to the clause that appears in every timeshare contract – “I did not rely on any oral representation to make my purchase.” In other words, any complaint that begins with “The salesman says” can be conveniently dismissed.
Bluegreen is certainly not the only timeshare company Inside Timeshare has reported on concerning questionable sales tactics by some agents:
A jury awarded Trish Williams, a former Wyndhamsales agent, $20 million. Ms. Williams described TAFT days – tell them any blank thing on slow sales days.
NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a $6.5 million settlement with the owners and operators of the Manhattan Club, a timeshare in Midtown Manhattan, over the sponsor’s repeated false promises to potential and current share owners.
The settlement is the largest in recent history for the Attorney General’s Real Estate Finance Bureau. Under the terms of the settlement, the operators of the Manhattan Club, acknowledge that they repeatedly misled shareowners about the club’s reservation process, their ability to sell back their shares, and the details of the club’s state-approved offering plan.
Colorado, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Missouri Attorneys General took action against other timeshare companies.
As we’ve said before, the abnormal becomes normal, whether it be predatory timeshare sales or sex abuse in the Catholic Church or Hollywood. Victims are messengers to be beheaded or silenced and isolated through non-disclosure clauses. To my knowledge, except for The Manhattan Club, timeshare developers have not even acknowledged deceit on the front of the timeshare sale, despite thousands of internet complaints and lawsuits too numerous to mention.
Current and former timeshare sales agents and managers are also speaking out. As one manager explained:
I watched every day, agents selling for double and close to triple what it was supposed to be sold for but management laughed and congratulated them. The maintenance fees statement about buying more and using that to pay your maintenance fees was a practice that was encouraged but be careful. Some of the agents would sell the program for $98k when it was only in the 50k range. One of the guests came back to cancel but the agent said no worries I have it packed 40k but I’ll give then 15 off and still make a killing! It made me sick because these particular guests were in their late 70′ early 80’s. I asked the agent if he had a conscience and he just laughed…if you can get them to pay more you’re a hero!! They have the money!! Deception actually goes back further than that. We were told to pack the price for a trade in and imply that it was what they got back for their TS… we sold it for the regular price….they got nothing for their TS!
Some companies are trying to do the right thing. Bluegreen has been listening and taking appropriate action in some cases. Diamond Resorts has opened a Diamond Consumer Advocacy Department that pledges to help members from day one and has launched a program called CLARITY which promotes accountability, transparency and respect for the customer.
Instead of beheading the customer’s, legitimate attorneys, volunteer advocates and journalists, why won’t the timeshare developer not identify and drain the swamp of predatory sales agents? After receiving 179 complaints from our readers, at times we can guess the agent by the con.
Camyel and Jayson Pratt
Camyell and her husband Jayson endured an eight hour Bluegreen timeshare sales presentation at Harbor Light in South Carolina. They were promised:
For 4000 points, according to one of our Advocates, also a Bluegreen member, the member can book a studio in winter on the wrong side of the weather report.
After filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, Bluegreen did offer to credit Camyell the additional 6000 points promised. Camyell declined, deciding she did not want to have anything to do with a company that would resort to such tactics. Nevertheless, Bluegreen credited the family 6000 points anyway.
Camyell said they were given no paperwork after they signed the contract, told the contract needed to be processed. They were given a booklet about Bluegreen and the timeshare exchange company RCI.
Let’s see how Camyell’s complaint compares to Lela Renea:
Lela was told if she purchased more points her maintenance fees would stay the same. The maintenance fees have increased from $560 a year in 2015 to about $700 a year for 2017.
Lela was told she would receive a free cruise, but after all the fees and charges it cost as much as if she had booked it herself.
Lela was told the Barclaycard had a low interest rate of 5% when in actuality it was 25%.
Lela was not told she was entitled to 4000 bonus points. The points expired before she was aware of them.
Lela was promised availability she says does not exist.
Lela was showed a Presidential Suite that was said to be comparable to all Bluegreen accommodations.
Lela was not aware she had purchased so few points it was almost impossible to find adequate availability.
Timeshare members have had enough. Timeshare has been employing tactics former timeshare sales agents call “Pitching Heat” or “No Heat No Eat” for too long.
Like so many of our readers have complained, Camyell was not allowed onto the booking site until after the contract rescission period. When she did finally gain access, she was informed she was not within the booking window and did not have enough points to book the stay she desired and says she had been promised.
Here is our advice for those not knowing where to turn:
Prepare a written complaint and request for resolution. Submit to the resort.
If the resort denies the request, file first with the Attorneys General of the state where you signed a contract, where you live, and where the timeshare is domiciled. Some Attorneys General are influenced by lobby dollars, so don’t be discouraged if your complaint is denied. There is still merit filing “for the record” because the Attorney General’s lack of concern can be quantified and reported. Some states refer you to a different department.
File a complaint with the state real estate division against the agent (ID #) if you feel the sales agent is at fault.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission because every state has incorporated some part of the FTC Consumer Fraud Act into their respective state consumer protection act.
Report your grievance to ARDA http://www.arda.org/ethics/– this organization is the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition. ARDA ROC does not resolve individual member disputes, but they do have a code of ethics that should be enforced. When the needs of the member and the developer diverge, lobby dollars go to the side of the developer, so think twice about the “voluntary” opt in or opt out donation to an organization that may not always be targeting your best interest.
The FBI definition of White Collar Crime – Financial Institution Fraud – is “deceit, concealment, violation of trust and bait and switch”. File a complaint with IC3.gov if this is the case. IC stands for Internet Crime, but your complaint does not have to involve the internet. That’s just the FBI portal for complaints. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime
File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, although this agency has been vastly diminished due to the rollback of the Dodd Frank Act. According to a banker I spoke with recently, they are still the regulators. File with this agency only if a credit card played a part or there is a loan outstanding.
There we have it, Friday is here, the weekend is about to begin, have fun and don’t forget, do your homework before you deal with any company. If you are in any doubt, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.