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Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another edition of our Letter from America, this week Irene Parker writes about the upcoming Whistleblowers Summit & Film Festival. The term Whistleblower refers to someone who is making public information which they feel morally and ethically to be the right thing to do. It may be highlighting abuses of power by government, unfair working conditions by companies or even abuse of the elderly by care home providers. Whistleblowers are needed and should be thanked for what they do for the general good and not for profit.

The 8th Annual Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival

Washington D.C., July 29 – August 1

http://whistleblowersummit.com/summit_at_a_glance/

By Irene Parker

July 26, 2019

The 8th Annual Whistleblower Summit will be held July 29 through August 1 in Washington D.C. Attending the Summit last year was an eye-opener. I heard from like minds, unafraid to speak truth to power and hold the powerful accountable. This year I am honoured and grateful for the opportunity to participate as a panel participant in a Summit discussion called:

The Resilient Advocate – Elements Ethics and End Results

Panel members will discuss how resiliency skills helped them cope with stressful situations. Concepts surrounding resilience include mindfulness, meditation, gratitude and forgiveness of self and others.

I am listed as Irene Parker, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

I am not at present, an active CASA, but once a CASA, always a CASA at heart. I first became involved with CASA in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 2009 as a CASA volunteer. Later, I served as a paid CASA supervisor until 2012.

A CASA is a voice for a child in state care, a voice for the voiceless. A CASA’s duties include interviewing the child, the child’s biological parents, foster parents, and others involved in the child’s life. The CASA may not agree with the wishes of the child but assures the child that the court will hear what outcome the child wishes. As supervisor of 27 CASA volunteers, I edited volunteer court reports and wrote court reports for cases unassigned.  

In Florida where I live now, the program is called Guardian Ad Litum.

Skills learned at CASA provided me with the foundation to assist victims of timeshare fraud – timeshare members who wish to voice their concern about unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices.

As in the case of any family in crisis, explanations are usually confusing and convoluted. I liken it to a witness describing what happened after a serious auto accident. When contacted by a timeshare member, I frequently ask, “What do you mean by that?” or “Can you provide an example?”

I have heard from over 900 families reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, including 116 veterans and active duty service members. An active duty service member can lose his or her security clearances, and their career, over a timeshare foreclosure. More than a few families have been financially devastated, including a Navy veteran and retired postal worker forced to seek bankruptcy protection after being up-sold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments. 

The Resilient Advocate – Elements Ethics and End Results

The panel discussion will be led by the founder of Whistleblowers of America, Jacqueline Garrick, and a Department of Justice Whistleblower.

www.whistleblowersofamerica.org

A Navy veteran introduced me to Jackie after the veteran successfully resolved their timeshare dispute following our principles of self-advocacy. An obvious “bait and switch” left the veteran encumbered with a large loan. The purchase was presented as a way to reduce annual maintenance fees, but the opposite occurred. Knowing the veteran, and having received other complaints against the same sales agent, it was not difficult to know who to believe.  

Panel Discussion     

Resilience is the state of mind, body and spirit that allows a person to overcome adversity and experience growth. Therefore, the resiliency skills needed to overcome whistleblower retaliation.

  • There is no denying that whistleblowers face societal stigmas and negative responses for their disclosures
  •  These negative connotations have a psychological impact on ethical people who faced difficult decisions and took the high road to do the right thing
  • Most whistleblowers face years and years of retaliation, harassment and discrimination
  • They are at constant risk of losing financial stability, social status, and family security. Their physical and emotional health is impacted as a result.

Other panel participants include:

Maureen Elias, Deputy Director, Veterans Health Council of Vietnam Veterans

Richard Hill, MD, Retired Primary Care Physician

Ms. Heidi Weber, Associate Producer, Whistleblower on CBS

“Toxic Tactics” of Retaliation that have affected my family:

a.      Gaslighting – challenging the memories or ethics of the whistleblower –  making you question yourself

b.     Mobbing – getting others to conspire against or spy on the whistleblower

c.      Accusing – refocus on the whistleblower as the wrongdoer

d.     Harassment and (in my case a threat of) violence

e.      Emotional abuse, humiliation

f.       Legal and financial challenges 

What advice would I give to others thinking about blowing the whistle?

·        Understand the Pandora’s Box you are opening and the long-term implications to your family when opened

·        Recruit a team to aid in your efforts to ensure your efforts will continue if stifled or delayed due to the above mentioned retaliatory tactics

·         Recognize the extent of loss your family may experience as the result of “poking the bear” in an effort to right wrongs

While the timeshare lobby and political action committee ARDA and ARDA ROC recommends timeshare members contact their state Attorney General in regard to companies that provide exit services, I have suffered retaliation for encouraging timeshare buyers to contact an Attorney General if they feel they experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare practices. Timeshare sales agents are emboldened by the oral representation clause timeshare attorney Mike Finn described as “a license to lie” in a 2016 New York Times article written by Pulitzer winner Gretchen Morgenson.

The Timeshare Developer and Lobbyists Pot Calling the Kettle Black – There are unfair and deceptive practices on both ends of the timeshare transaction.

The rash of complaints and legal proceedings prompted the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) to issue a warning to consumers about these (exit) companies, encouraging owners who believe they have been unfairly taken advantage of or defrauded to contact their state Attorney General, local law enforcement or ARDA directly.

At least 200 complaints from timeshare members in our advocacy group have forwarded their complaint to ARDA and ARDA ROC. To my knowledge, all complaints have been ignored. The Board of Directors of ARDA ROC (Resort Owners Coalition) is staffed with timeshare executives.

(BBB) RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE INDUSTRY

The link below is a timeshare report warning consumers to beware of unfair and deceptive trade practices prepared by the St. Louis BBB, with input from the Missouri Attorney General’s office.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNMENT

  • Tougher law enforcement action. Regulatory agencies have reported receiving an increasing number of complaints about the timeshare industry. Bringing action against any bad actors in the industry could help consumers and deter companies from violating consumer protection laws.
  • New laws. BBB hears from many senior citizens who have been affected by the timeshare industry. Missouri legislators should consider special protections for those 65 and older who enter into agreements with timeshare and travel club companies. An extended right of rescission period could help seniors who may not totally understand what they have purchased. All consumers should receive pertinent information – such as access to websites and passwords – at point of purchase so that they can check potential savings and actual values of timeshares on resale market so that if they decide to cancel, they can take advantage of the rescission period.

For more information about this study, to obtain a Business Profile or register a complaint, contact BBB. 

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

Research and report on scams and fraud using BBB Scam Tracker.

https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us/

If you’re in the area, even if not a whistleblower, you will experience one of the most enlightening and inspiring events of your lifetime if you can attend. I’m hoping our Supporters or our timeshare members in distress will consider attending.  

We seek to provide timeshare members with a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market, and to educate prospective buyers.

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

Free at Last Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/623703881470577/?ref=share

Free at Last Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide

https://www.udprep.info/june

Bluegreen Facebook

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

Wyndham Facebook

New: https://www.facebook.com/groups/376743609795740/  

Sapphire Starpoint New: https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2F292083584642570%2F%3Fref%3Dshare

Diamond Resort Facebook

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

Gold Key Facebook

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

Inside Timeshare Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2213231165610648/

Thank you Irene we hope that you have a very informative time at the summit and we look forward to receiving your report on the proceedings.

Well that is it for this weekFriday is once again here and the weekend calls, have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to another edition of The Tuesday Slot, This week Irene Parker looks at the Bass Pro Shops and Bluegreen who are both locked in a legal dispute not only with each other but also their own clients. It would look like there is no end to the deceptions, misleading and bad practices that the timeshare industry thrives by. This brings us to ask yet again, when will the industry change its ways and sell a fair and useful product without the bad practices that we see on these pages day after day week after week? Somehow I don’t think we will get an answer any time soon.

Bass Pro Shops v Bluegreen $40 million Settlement

A Separate Lawsuit of Nearly Three Dozen Bluegreen Member Plaintiffs

As reported by The Palm Beach Post June 14, 2019

Boca Raton-based Bluegreen Vacations will pay Bass Pro more than $40 million to continue operating sales kiosks in its stores.

In a separate lawsuit filed this year, nearly three dozen timeshare buyers from around the country sued Bluegreen and Bass Pro Shops. The consumers said they were lured into high-pressure sales pitches, then sold expensive shares in units that they claimed were overpriced or in poor repair.

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/20190614/bluegreen-vacations-bass-pro-shops-settle-dispute-over-timeshare-sales-tactics?fbclid=IwAR2T5UbBR9fHwDbyhHIJk0HqhhHqgHYec8Npi2QpcrgE0ufBSEWIkIarxWk

Who’s the Fish?

By Irene Parker

July 9, 2019

Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-54

Excerpts from the Civil Action complaint (my comments highlighted in blue)

In the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville, a third amended complaint was filed April 8, 2019 against defendant Bluegreen Vacation Unlimited, Inc. in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and BPS Direct, LLC dba Bass Pro Shops (BPS), seeking contract rescission and damages on behalf of 16 co-plaintiffs (as of the April 8 filing) for alleged illegal, deceptive and misleading business and sales practices, statutory violations and fraudulent conduct.   

Such practices as described pertain to the Bluegreen Vacations Mountain Loft, Ascend Resort Collection Resort at Gatlinburg. Relevant to this lawsuit, Bass Pro Shop, partially in conjunction with Bluegreen, operated its retail business at its Tennessee-based facilities in Kodak and Nashville, along with 67 other locations across the United States.

According to the lawsuit, Defendant Bass Pro Shops were involved in the offering of a promotion for attending a timeshare presentation, which was solicited through representations made from within Bass Pro Shops, through BPS agents, or at least individuals who appeared to consumers to be acting as agents of BPS, and thus, such actions are attributable to Defendant BPS. The lawsuit Bass Pro Shops filed against Bluegreen seemed to focus on commissions not being paid on any “sampler package” and the “clawing back” of commissions not paid when a member defaulted or cancelled years after the sale.

The lawsuit alleges Plaintiffs were induced to purchase a timeshare interest from Bluegreen by fraud, without knowing the true nature of the presentation, because material information was either intentionally or negligently concealed. Defendants did not disclose material facts concerning the use of points and availability caused by overselling interests, and the right to the Public Offering Statement disclosures, which included rescission rights.

First Basis: Concealment of Rescission Rights and Public Offering Statement

The lawsuit alleges POS disclosures were avoided and/or intentionally hid, including material information about the rescission period. Despite Bluegreen’s legal duty to provide a copy of its POS, not one Plaintiff recalls receiving a copy of such a document. The lawsuit further alleges Bluegreen representatives had a strong incentive to conceal Plaintiffs’ rescission rights and limit access to the information contained in the Public Offering Statement. Plaintiffs were not aware they had a right of rescission or that they were entitled to review the POS before entering the contract.

Violations of the Tennessee Timeshare Act of 1981 include:

  • Public Offering Statement disclosure – The POS must be provided to purchasers “before the transfer of the timeshare and no later than the date of any sales contract,” and that the contract is voidable until the purchaser has received the POS.

Since late 2016, Inside Timeshare has heard from 890 timeshare members reporting unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices, including 113 veterans and active duty service members. Only in the last six months have I started asking the members about the Public Offering Statement to which the members reply, “A what?” Digging through past paperwork, they find it to exclaim, “It says,” READ THIS DISCLOSURE STATEMENT BEFORE SIGNING ANYTHING!”  The timeshare customer service representative, also a fine print detective, responds to the member with their initials agreeing that they read and reviewed the document. If the closing is recorded, the presentation of the POS should be recorded.

According to the lawsuit, after often five to eight hours of mentally and physically wearing the consumer down, there is a rapid signing of many documents that lasts only about ten to fifteen minutes. The Closer or Quality Assurance Specialist controls the entire process. Consumers are not permitted to read the contract, leave the room, discuss the contract alone, are not permitted to review the contract with an attorney.

Consumers are not permitted to take the contract and come back the next day. 

The lawsuit alleges this constitutes unlawful practice of law, overlaid with fraud and deceit with no meaningful disclosure of contract terms.  

If you think this is unfair, sign the Petition to Reform Timeshare, which seeks a 24-hour “cooling-off” period before signing a contract. This proposed 24 hour cooling off period was hotly contested by timeshare industry lobbyists during the 2019 legislative sessions.

https://www.change.org/p/state-legislators-in-arizona-florida-and-nevada-demand-reform-of-the-timeshare-industry-s-unfair-and-deceptive-practices

Of note is mention of Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL) in that consumers are told about how they can plan their Estate with the new “asset” to leave a “legacy” to their child or children using a Will while fraudulently concealing a known “successor” clause that forces obligations upon future generations who are all jointly and severally liable for ever-rising debt.

Inside Timeshare has received numerous complaints from consumers falsely told they must convert a deeded timeshare to a point-based timeshare or their heirs will be liable. It is also my belief this constitutes the unauthorized practice of law.

I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn about this, as I understand it, rarely is an heir forced to assume a timeshare liability. According to Mike, “Although I haven’t studied the so-called “successor clause” I am of the firm belief that unless the children were listed on the original sales contract as co-owners and signed the contract as same (assuming of course that they were of the age of majority on the date the contract was executed), that they cannot be bound by any third-party, to the contract, including their parents. Again, in my opinion, I believe this would be a violation of the “due process rights” of the children.”

How Can I Eliminate my Timeshare Liability for my Heirs?

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/eliminate-timeshare-liability-for-heirs/

Bluegreen is the sole owner of a subsidiary corporation housed within its corporate headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida called “Pinnacle” and the lawsuit alleges Pinnacle is devoted to exclusively keeping Bluegreen owners trapped in the resale market void.

Second Basis: Intentional Misrepresentation: Buy-Back Program

Bluegreen has never operated a program that buys back unwanted VOIs. Pinnacle sells services to VOI owners which purports to help owners sell unwanted VOIs when in actuality there is no viable resale market.

“Owners Meetings” or “Owner Classes” air to sell existing owners additional timeshare interests. Owners are told such meetings are mandatory to teach Bluegreen members how to navigate Bluegreen’s reservation system. In reality, such meetings are an attempt to sell existing Bluegreen members more points. Reported disappointments with the product can be resolved by buying additional points, but the lawsuit alleges promised benefits are rarely if ever, realized.   

Plaintiffs’ Common Factual Allegations

Promised 90-minute presentations lasted typically four to eight hours. Some presentations are timed with the presentation beginning only after completion of a known driving tour that lasts at least three hours, and for two Plaintiffs, the drive lasted eight or nine hours.

After long sales sessions, only 10 to 15 minutes was spent, on average, for the entire contract signing process, which harboured unknown obligations and lacked the use rights, amenities and features that were promised.

Plaintiffs allege they were told:

(a) Bluegreen timeshares are good investments and will always go up in value.

(b) Bluegreen timeshare is a long-term asset that can be resold at a profit.

(c) Maintenance fees do not exist, do not go up, or only go up very little.

(d) Bluegreen timeshares are a valuable asset and “a legacy” to pass on to children.

(d-f) Plaintiffs did not know that, despite any possible future contract to make a Will or Codicil, contracts executed that day would bind all children as “successors’ that are jointly and severally liable for the inter-generational debt.

(g) Plaintiffs have anytime, anywhere “easy booking.”

(h) Rental income can pay the mortgage, fees and sometimes earn a profit. Rental is impossible as represented.

(i) Promises that an “Upgrade” will resolve deficiencies, but were never fixed.

All Plaintiffs have a strong correlation regarding these four rescission-based commonalities:

(a) Plaintiffs did not receive Public Offering Statement prior to signing.

(b) Plaintiffs did not receive proper Statutory Rescission notice.

(c) Plaintiffs were deceived about a Will Asset (vs Successor Liability).

(d) Plaintiffs spend up to $21,000 for a one-week vacation, representing over 1000% of the timeshare’s online market value, accompanied by rising fees.

Third Basis: Intentional Misrepresentation: Points Value Representation

No Plaintiff had access to Bluegreen’s inventory system until after they were contractually-bound as Bluegreen owners for life. Upon access, they discovered availability constraints, insufficient point values, or other cost prohibitions they were not made aware of.

This is another source of a multitude of complaints. Members complain of having been sold too few points to book their desired locations, but they were not allowed access to the booking site until the next year.

In spite of this lawsuit and so many others, the timeshare developers and their lobbyists insist all is well and we are just a disgruntled few. In addition to member complaints, former timeshare sales agents have joined efforts to expose unfair and deceptive sales practices. Our Friday, July 5 article describes former Hyatt Sales Executive Candace Czarny v Hyatt wrongful termination/whistleblower lawsuit and our February 2019 article about a Wyndham Florida Whistleblower lawsuit:

https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-57/

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-42/

It is in everyone’s interest to drain the swamp of perpetrators.  

Join one of the self-help groups, organize, and get involved:

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

Free at Last Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/314773876071616/members/

Free at Last Timeshare Support Course offered by Straight-A-Guide

https://www.udprep.info/june

Bluegreen Facebook

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

Wyndham Facebook

New: https://www.facebook.com/groups/376743609795740/  

Sapphire Starpoint New: https://www.facebook.com/login/?next=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgroups%2F292083584642570%2F%3Fref%3Dshare

Diamond Resort Facebook

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

Gold Key Facebook

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

Inside Timeshare Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2213231165610648/

Thank you Irene for this weeks article, If you have any questions or comments on this or any article published, then use our contact page and get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s Letter from America, today’s article by Irene Parker explores the Whistleblowers of America Code of Ethics. A Code of Ethics is meant to be lived by. In timeshare, a Code of Ethics has been something to write and post on your website, but never seem to be followed. It doesn’t help that 200 or so of our readers who have reported violations in ARDA‘s Code of Ethics have been dismissed by the very executives that sit on their board. We take our hats are off to Whistleblowers of America for taking a Code of Ethics seriously. But then Whistleblowers are not in it for the money.

Hollywood Mirage Club

Inside Timeshare has been asked by an independent member of the committee at Hollywood Mirage Club for members to make contact with him as soon as possible. He and one other will be standing for election to the full committee at the AGM at the end of June. The unfortunate thing is that they have been told that there is “no mechanism” for them to contact other members with the Secretary stating he will not allow it under the GDPR (The EU General Data Protection Regulation). A move obviously designed to control the voting, but Article 47 of the GDPR “fully considers the right of members of groups (clubs) to communicate with each other”.

To make contact directly with this member who is standing please use our contact page and we will send you his contact details privately. It is in your interest to get together and have your say.

Now for Irene’s article.

Whistleblowers of America Code of Ethics

As Applied to Timeshare Support Mentors

Information about the 8th Annual WhistleBlower Summit and Film Festival to be held in Washington D.C. July 28 – August 1:

http://whistleblowersummit.com/

By Irene Parker

Friday, June 7

A Whistleblower is normally a person associated with a corporation or government agency that blows the whistle on wrongdoing as it pertains to waste, fraud and abuse, medical errors and wrongful death. You would not think an old lady crying from the rooftops of Florida about vacation plans would qualify, yet the harm done to veterans and active duty service members on the receiving end of a fraudulent timeshare sale has financially, emotionally, and physically, harmed many. Of the 841 families who have reached out to us, 106 are veterans and active duty.

We are asking for your signature on this petition for reform. You don’t have to be a timeshare member to sign.

https://www.change.org/p/state-legislators-in-arizona-florida-and-nevada-demand-reform-of-the-timeshare-industry-s-unfair-and-deceptive-practices

A grown daughter contacted me on behalf of her Bronze Star recipient father. She could not answer all my questions about the timeshare, so I told her to ask her father about it. He had a heart attack when they were discussing it, and at the ER, the doctor noted he had a heart attack two years prior when asked about his timeshare. Her parents are the kind of people who saved up and paid cash for cars, He and his wife had been upsold to the point he had to take out a reverse mortgage because he could not afford the timeshare loan payments. He said every time he walked in the front door, he felt like he was losing his home. A Navy veteran declared bankruptcy. He had been upsold to $2,700 a month in timeshare loan payments, living on his letter carrier’s pension, charging to a number of credit cards before his grown daughter found out.

Whistleblowers of America’s Code of Ethics spoke to me. I thought to myself, “Guilty as charged!” as I read through them.

It’s not easy to live in a state of constant anger, moved by the voices of those desperate and deceived. The only thing that keeps me going is hearing the voice turn from a desperate voice to an empowered voice.

From the Whistleblowers of America Code of Ethics:

  • Counter-balancing dysfunction responses to wrongdoing with informed advocacy and resilience, skill building is the cornerstone of interactions,
  • Understand legal processes and procedures, a guide in problem solving and decision making to overcome toxic tactics.

I employ skills I learned at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) writing court reports for Family Court judges and interested parties to make a determination as to the best outcome for a child in state care.

I learned an important lesson from my husband Don, a pharmaceutical researcher. The first thing a pharmaceutical company will do if they don’t like a lab’s answers, that would allow the launch of a billion dollar a year drug, is to blame the lab. Don told me to fight with data, not words.

A mentor needs to know their boundaries.

I don’t know if I speak for all whistleblowers, but I think there is a tendency to become over-involved, breaking through necessary boundaries. I will share an example of how I overstepped mine, but in the heat of the battle, we bend rules.

A Harvard graduate and fellow Rotarian turned out to be a brute holding a Korean lady hostage. Thankfully, another fellow Rotarian was our chief of police. He helped me rescue the mom and their toddler. Major Ganot of the Salvation Army was also in my Rotary Club. She could be a Major in anyone’s army after spending a couple decades in Haiti.

Mom and child stayed with us before we returned them both back to Korea. Mom had been a manager of Duty Free shops in Korea before coming to America. Her parents were math teachers at a university. The first night at our house I heard the child screaming. I went to ask mom what the child wanted. Mom replied, “Irene,” the child grabbed my neck and clung. Dad also had child porn on his computer. The police chief found THC in the refrigerator which mom said he used to put on his pancakes. He had DTs and once dropped the child at a Rotary function.

The advice Major Ganot gave to me is the advice all mentees and mentors should heed. “You are less effective if you become part of the storm.” Doctors call this intellectualization, in that if they went into a tailspin every time they lost a patient, they would lose effectiveness. This doesn’t mean the doctor doesn’t care. It means he or she must put their role is perspective.    

In psychology, intellectualization is a defense mechanism by which reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress – where thinking is used to avoid feeling.[1] It involves removing one’s self, emotionally, from a stressful event.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectualization

Whistleblowers of America Code: Ethical Standard #2

Shared Experience Rapport

I appreciate more than ever the fidelity of “Semper fi” that exists among those battling a common enemy. Lifelong friendships have blossomed and grown. Once a timeshare dispute has been resolved, we encourage the person made whole, or as whole as possible, join our efforts to respond to others.

The moto of Whistleblowers of America is Speak Truth to Power. I would like to add to that the headline this reporter used in his investigative report about ALEC, a powerful lobby. The television reporter led with “Holding the powerful accountable” and I see “Holding the powerful accountable” as the next step after speaking truth to power.

Ethical Standard #5 Non-judgement A mentor needs to be reflective and inquisitive, but not judgmental. A mentor does not adjudicate. They facilitate problem solving rather than solve the problem.

An obstacle to resolving any dispute is getting your opponent to listen, as opposed to just hearing what the other person is attempting to communicate. Callous customer service representatives “hear” the complainant and respond, “You signed a contract.”

They don’t listen. Leadership coach Stephen R. Covey said it best:

11. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

https://www.inc.com/dave-kerpen/15-quotes-to-inspire-you-to-become-a-better-listener.html

My collaborator Michael Santos at Straight-A Guide, teaches how self-advocacy can overcome struggle. The outcome may not be what you expected. It may not be the outcome you wanted, but staying the course with determination, and making the most of available resources, is part and parcel of advocacy and self-advocacy. A Whistleblower needs both as they must advocate for their cause, and they must advocate for themselves.

Ethical Standard #11Self-care

The words “disengage when necessary” hit me like a dagger. I hear from one to five infuriated timeshare members a day, seven days a week. The unhappy emails outweigh the “we did it!” emails. Resiliency is a word often mentioned in whistleblowing. Hurtful potshots from our opponents can weigh us down or sharpen our sword. Author Carlos Castaneda, a student of Yaqui Indian Don Juan, described them as petty tyrants.

I have a friend in Sedona by the name of Pete Sanders, a Navy veteran. A technic I learned from Pete, during one of his Free Soul sessions, taught me how to find my brain’s Limbic Center and Joy Center. As I understood Pete’s lecture, you can shift your negative thoughts by employing Pete’s techniques.

The limbic center is somewhere behind the eyes and between the ears. It’s kind of a negative thought center. Think about a time you were so angry that you were acting out in front of your spouse and kids. All of a sudden the doorbell rings and you snap into normalcy. According to Pete, you have shifted negative thoughts from your Limbic Center, to somewhere in the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex, the Joy Center, a compartment that holds positive thoughts. I took a class in head and neck anatomy and two semesters of A & P, but I’m getting out of my depth.  But trust me; even if I have botched the explanation, it works. I swear that I can feel the “half empty/half full” feeling before and after shifting the same thought.

Pete Sanders of Free Soul

Pete Sanders is an honors graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with principle studies in BioMedical Chemistry and Brain Science. Accepted to Harvard Medical School, he chose instead to pursue independent mind/body potentials research. That quest led to a revolutionary discovery: how to directly stimulate the brain’s natural mood-elevation mechanisms.

This technique provides a natural alternative to using alcohol, nicotine, drugs, or overeating for coping with life’s challenges. It gives you a method to enhance your feeling of well-being without being dependent on achievement or relationship success.

I look forward to this year’s Whistleblower Summit. I didn’t attend the Whistleblower Summit last year because I thought I was a whistleblower. I attended on behalf of the veterans and active duty service members harmed by timeshare. An active duty service member can lose his security clearance and his career over a mortgage foreclosure, so don’t think timeshare is a silly topic. One Marine lost his air unit command over a timeshare loan foreclosure.

There are laws protecting traditional whistleblowers, but not individuals. I’m alone. But an individual is alone only if they don’t reach out to other whistleblowers for help and support. Rosa Parks was one person who committed a courageous and dangerous act. She sat in the front of the bus. It was a small act, but possibly inspired by the actions and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was not so naïve as to think he was going to resolve racial divide once and for all. He knew this problem would not likely be solved in his lifetime. That did not deter his efforts.

One financial journalist called me a gadfly. “You’re nothing but a gadfly to this timeshare company,” he sneered. I looked up the definition.  

The original definition was an insect that stings cattle. Somewhere around the Middle Ages, in England, the meaning of gadfly morphed into “an annoying person who spurs others to action.”

I’m okay with being a gadfly. When I told my Free Soul Florida mate, attorney Mike Finn, that the journalist called me a gadfly, Mr Finn suggested an adjective, “How about the Green Gadfly?” “Like the Green Hornet?” I responded.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to explain to the attorneys who deposed me for six hours why Mr. Finn calls me gg. The deposition serves as an example of retaliation. I enjoyed explaining to my interrogator lawyer why I am called gg. Gallows Humor, or Humour, as my British collaborator would spell, should be included as a defense mechanism to Ethical Sandard  #11 Self-care . Humor really can be our best medicine.

Thank you to Whistleblowers of America for your support because this is not easy. My twilight years are anything but relaxing.       

https://whistleblowersofamerica.org/

Statement of

Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C

Executive Director

Whistleblowers of America

Before the

Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

U.S. Senate

U.S. House of Representatives

March 14, 2018

Excerpt from report:

Fraud and Scams Against Veterans:

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

Thank you, Irene, for all your hard work in getting these articles ready, along with all the work you do helping those with problems, you are a thorn in the side of the timeshare industry, as well as a Green Gadfly, but you are our thorn and our Green Gadfly!

Paramount – Club Paradiso Tenerife

Information has been received by Inside Timeshare that the resort known as Paramount – Club Paradiso has closed. Those with bookings have been refused entry on arrival and moved to other resorts such as Hollywood Mirage and Beverly Hills Heights.

The telephone is on constant voicemail and the website is no longer working

Telephone: +34 922 787 650

https://www.clubparadiso.com

If you have purchased any product such as standard timeshare, investment packs, company participations or Keys Concierge use our contact page and get in touch. Inside Timeshare will explain your options and point you in the right direction.

That is all for this week, join us again on Monday for Part Two of Exclusive Breaking News: The Truth Behind Silverpoint Exposed.

Have a great weekend.

Wise old dog

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this week’s edition of Letter from America, following on from our previous articles on the timeshare bills put forward by Florida and Nevada, Attorney Mike Finn submits his thoughts on this subject with the introduction by Inside Timeshares very own Irene Parker.

But first, a reminder that today is the first day of the Platinum Protest in Orlando, even if you can’t make it, please enter your support for them on the Diamond Resorts Owners Advocacy page on Facebook. We hope to bring you a report from them next week.

Lawyers and Their Important Role in Consumer Protection

By Attorney Mike Finn

Why You Should Sign our Petition asking a lawmaker to sponsor a Bill in 2021 requiring that timeshare buyers be offered 24 hours to review a perpetual timeshare contract before signing.

By Jordan Raskin

May 17, 2019

Our petition preparing to launch:  

https://www.care2.com/?fbclid=IwAR3w3tungUxAWYjY3fSro_WJBRUKB9pe99LiJ_9ur8T5WZOyC9wHsyswqZc

Provide the timeshare consumer 24 hours to review, at least think about, their decision to sign a lifelong perpetual contract, with no secondary market, often without even having tried the product, and often not allowed access to the booking site until after the rescission period.

This offer could be waived if the buyer chooses, either due to the certainty that the buyer wants the product, or the need to sign because the vacation is ending soon.

This offer should not be buried in the electronic fine print. It should be a separate disclosure presented and signed before the sales presentation. The price per point offer would be required to be maintained for 24 hours.

What’s so unfair about that?  

Introduction by Irene Parker

Never mind a lawyer! We’d settle for our mom, dad, son, or daughter!

Both the Florida and Nevada Bills referenced in Mike Finn’s article below, asking that timeshare exit providers provide buyers 24 hours to review their contract before signing, died in committee: Florida HB 2639 and Nevada SB 348 bill are dead  

SB 1430 Companion Bill to Florida HB 2639 Vacation and Timeshare Plans

http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/01430

SENATE – Died in Innovation, Industry, and Technology

How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? There are legitimate lawyers and lawyers with questionable business practices. I have contacted a number of exit company providers to inquire about the volume of calls they received. Two of the major exit companies say they receive between 3,000 to 3,500 calls each month from timeshare buyers desperately seeking release from timeshares they were told would be easy to sell. Each company only accepts less than 200 callers as clients, as the member must meet specific criteria of unfair and deceptive sales practices.  

Before we begin with Mike Finn’s article,  

If you are going to be in the Orlando area this weekend May 17-19 Friday – Saturday, please support our Platinum Protestors. Locations and dates provided: https://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-49/

Now onto:

“Why Kill All the Lawyers?”

By Attorney Mike Finn

“Add to that advantage the fact that the purchaser purchases on the same day they’ve been introduced to the product with no ability to consult with or review the multipage purchase contract with their own legal representative and you can begin to understand the owner/purchaser’s situation years later when they ultimately seek to terminate their arguably lifelong contractual obligations contained within their timeshare purchase contract.”

It’s hard to say anything about lawyers that haven’t already been said. They are both revered and reviled as staunch proponents and champions of justice or as avaricious opportunists. The profession is comprised of all types, from the most learned jurists to the slightly seamier side of humanity. We lawyers share the same spectrum of positive human qualities and negative frailties as the rest of our species.

The import of this article is less related to the issues of lawyers individually, but rather to the role of the attorney as consumer advocate within the legal system. I speak to the issue of what removing lawyers, or significantly diminishing their role to effectively represent their consumer clients, does to strengthen or weaken consumer protection in general, as a matter of national policy.

Currently, there is pending in at least two states with a significant timeshare presence, Nevada and Florida, House and Senate Bills sponsored by ARDA, the timeshare industry’s trade association. Ostensibly, per the statements made by ARDA’s political arm, ARDA-ROC (American Resort Development Assoc.-Resort Owners Coalition), the primary intent of these Bills is to enhance consumer protection. However, to some of us on the consumer side of the equation, we suspect there may be a darker, more industry serving purpose. These Bills seek to regulate two separate and quite distinct groups, lawyers and timeshare exit companies.

There can be no argument that some regulation is warranted, specifically in regard to the unlicensed and unregulated timeshare exit companies; however, this ‘shotgun style’ approach of lumping-in lawyers with this proposed legislation will if passed, create some chilling and decidedly consumer-unfriendly impacts on the timeshare consumer/owner.

To further distinguish these totally disparate entities, lawyers are already both licensed and extensively regulated by their respective State Bar Associations. Additionally, as lawyers, (and unlike exit companies) we are specifically trained and educated to handle matters involving contract disputes, as well as debtor/creditor rights issues and other relevant matters that may well arise in the course of a controversy. Without getting too far into the weeds, I think it’s fair to state that the pending State Bills are clearly designed to severely limit and restrict the involvement of both timeshare exit companies and, from my perspective, more importantly, lawyers, in terms of their ability to provide services to timeshare owners seeking third-party assistance in terminating or modifying their timeshare purchase contracts.

To summarize the owners’ plight, many owners didn’t realize that their purchase contracts did not include a way to terminate their contract when they could no longer utilize their timeshares because of life changes, like aging, job loss, divorce, death of a spouse, or other major life changing events. This issue wouldn’t be so troublesome if it were not for the fact that there exists little to no resale value or market for these timeshare interests, trapping owners who cannot continue to derive any benefit from their ownership, but remain legally bound by their purchase contract, subject to annual rising maintenance fees and other contractual liabilities.

The ‘timeshare exit’ industry sprang into existence to fill the market void created when the timeshare developers themselves were unwilling to offer owners relief from essentially ‘lifelong and perhaps beyond’ contracts. This exit industry includes lawyers who focus on consumer timeshare owner issues as part and parcel of their law practices, and exit companies, non-lawyers who claim industry knowledge and apparent ability to act on behalf of timeshare owners in their negotiations with timeshare developers or property owner associations.

The focus of this article will remain on the lawyer and not the exit company. It’s important to distinguish between these two different kinds of organizations and avoid comparing the two. They are completely and totally unlike and should not be combined or grouped together in these Bills. It’s impossible to make any logical form of comparison beyond stating that each seek to represent the consumer timeshare/owner in dealing with the respective owner’s timeshare situation. Combining the two and treating them as equals in proposed legislation is grossly inaccurate and inappropriate. It only adds to consumer confusion!

Attorneys have undergone extensive education and training and have prepared for and passed a state mandated Bar examination in order to prepare themselves for dealing with contested and controversial legal issues. Our legal system is by definition adversarial in nature. Justice involves a process by which parties on each side of a controversy present, through their selected legal representative, their respective position to an impartial determiner of the facts in order to produce a just outcome. Indeed, our very symbol of justice is a robed and blindfolded woman holding a scale aloft in her hand.

Each side, through its appointed legal representative, presents its best case to the referee, hearing officer, or judge and jury. At the end of the contest, the winning side, through presentation of evidence and persuasion, tipped the scales in its favor. This is our legal system, or at least the portion of it that decides controversies. Add to our justice system the requirement that each side starts off with a level playing field. Neither side has gained an unfair advantage prior to the contest commencement. As a condition of fundamental fairness, may the side with the most compelling case for justice win!

What can skewer the ‘level playing field’ aspect of the justice model, is if one of the players gets to the game before the other side, gaining a one-sided advantage. Arguably, that’s exactly what the Timeshare Developer has been able to do. Since the state requires the Developer to register and apply for a license to market timeshares within that particular state, the Developer has prepared its purchase contracts and other disclosure documentation and submitted them to the appropriate state agency well in advance of its initial sale. It’s probably fair to suggest that these purchase agreements were prepared by an able team of lawyers with the Developer’s best interests in mind. In fact, the only remaining task for the Developer’s sales team at the time of consumer purchase is to fill in the blanks on the preprinted purchase contract with the purchaser’s name and other pertinent information.

Add to that advantage the fact that the purchaser purchases on the same day they’ve been introduced to the product with no ability to consult with or review the multipage purchase contract with their own legal representative and you can begin to understand the owner/purchaser’s situation years later when they ultimately seek to terminate their arguably lifelong contractual obligations contained within their timeshare purchase contract.

Now that you can envision, from the consumer’s perspective, the un-level playing field that the consumer finds themselves on at termination time, and add to that the circumstances that would exist if the Timeshare Developers are successful in passing these new laws. These Bills, if passed, would further restrict the consumers’/owners’/members’ ability to seek justice within the legal system, if the lawyers’ ability to represent the consumer is constrained and restricted.

From where I sit, as lawyer representing timeshare owner/consumers, it appears that the timeshare industry is dissatisfied with its already existing unfair advantage over their consumer and still seeks to tilt the field further in their favor. My advice to them (not that I anticipate them appreciating any of it) is to show a kinder, gentler aspect to your loyal owners by either recognizing and permitting an easier contract termination, or, at minimum, not further attempting to restrict their right to effective legal representation as they seek relief from their onerous timeshare purchase contracts.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael D. Finn, Esq.

Thank you Mike and Irene for this week’s edition of Letter from America, these articles are certainly helping many timeshare owners see exactly what is going on in the murky world of timeshare.

If you have any views or comments on any article published then use our contact page we would love to hear from you. Do you have a story to tell, be it a positive one or a “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, which you would like to share, then contact us and we will help you to submit an article.

Well, that is all for this week, remember the Platinum Protest and show your support, have a great weekend and join us again next week.

The Tuesday Slot

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

“Thank God It’s April 15 Day!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for our Secret Shopper Report.

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

It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

By Secret Shopper

Tuesday, April 16

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

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

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

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

I am a victim of fraud. I was asked to attend a breakfast to talk about upgrades on a timeshare I own. I was told it would last only 55 minutes. 4 highly pressured sales people took turns on me and held me for 7 hours, bouncing me into 3 different rooms. I told them I didn’t want it and that I already owned the timeshare over and over again. They said I have to buy into the new and I own my timeshare forever, and that I could never get out of it. They said my timeshare went bankrupt and I had to invest with them (the new company) or they would go after my children for payment. I had a panic stress disorder attack. I was tired and hungry.  I was tired. In order to get out of there, I signed under dearest. I am a senior citizen 5 feet tall women and he is a 6 feet tall man standing over me stating he was a child of GOD and he can help me then said to me “I am a friend I can tell you the best thing to do only if I signed”. He added the BARCLAYS BANK CREDIT CARD. I was misled to only use the card for shopping that my points would go up and maintenance fees would go down. I never received the card. I never used the card. Now I have a trial date May 8, 2018, to pay their lawyers in the amount of $3446.04. DRI sent a letter stating the timeshare went into foreclosure and I am out of the contract. Since the timeshare and the bank are together I should be out of paying the bank as well? I need help. Could someone give me advice? Can I get someone to go with me and represent me? I am afraid and stressed. Please email me on what I can so as soon as possible. Thank You.

(Submitted to Inside Timeshare)

Our Secret Shopper Experience        

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

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

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

Let’s see how the game is played

Our salesperson pushed two major discussion points:

1 – Vacation Options:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 – Financial Justification:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We seek to provide timeshare members with a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market, and to educate prospective buyers.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America, This week Irene Parker writes about Americano Beach Resort and the lawsuit that has been filed regarding Foreclosure Proceedings, but first a quick warning to our European readers.

Another warning is being issued to those clients of Eze Group, a new firm has just emerged contacting consumers stating they have been appointed by the court to manage the return of money paid to Eze Group.

This company name is Egerton Advisory Limited, Company Number 10286171 and the registered address:

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

With an alternative location address registered as:

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

The directors are named as:

Victoria Noland Carter Egerton and William Luke Le Beward Egerton, both registered the New Street Square address.

The company was incorporated on 19 July 2016, but the filing history shows very little information or filing of any accounts.

As we have stated before, the courts do not appoint private companies or third parties to manage any payouts. No money has been awarded by Birmingham Crown Court to consumers of Eze Group, the O’Reilly‘s are now subject to investigation under The Proceeds of Crime Act, which will take some time to complete.

Along with Money Advice Limited, Claims Assistance Bureau Limited, Egerton Advisory Limited are fraudulent companies, if you are contacted by them or any other company with a similar story then let Inside Timeshare know and file a report to Action Fraud.

https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Now for this weeks Letter from America.

A Class Action Lawsuit was Filed against ARC Daytona Americano Beach Resort Contesting Real Property Foreclosure Proceedings are being Illegally Applied to Foreclose on Personal Property  

By Irene Parker

March 29, 2019

DC Capital Law, LLP filed a class action lawsuit on November 6, 2018, against ARC Americano, LLC and Americano Beach Lodge Resort Condominium Association on behalf of plaintiffs Gerald J Sohasky and Norma J. Sohasky in the Florida Circuit Court of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Volusia Civil Division.

According to the lawsuit, plaintiffs Gerald and Norma Sohasky allege illegal practices that violate the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act and the Florida Vacation Plan and Timeshare Act by threatening foreclosure on a piece of personal property and threatening to charge up to 40% of amounts owed in collections, where the original contract or law does not authorize charging such collection fee. The ARC lawsuit contends “Floating Week” debt is consumer debt, incurred primarily for personal, household or family use.

Having read or listened to complaints from 746 timeshare members and owners, I am astonished by the level of stress caused by what is supposed to be a stress reducing product.  

Comment sent to Inside Timeshare

My parents bought into the Americano in the 90’s. Fast forward to 2017 – my 70 something year old mother, now a widow, had to pay for a service we hadn’t used in ages.

They (Americano) HOUNDED MY MOM about switching to the freedom 365 plan. She was a 13 year widow on a very fixed income and somehow we were pushed into signing for a new plan that would offer us huge hotel discounts and she would be able to stop paying after 5 years.

My mom is going broke!  Sara

My husband and I purchased an Ozark timeshare in 1985. A St. Louis native, we enjoyed years of vacations, but after moving to Florida we no longer desired to vacation in the Ozarks. I contacted the resort and talked to the manager I had gotten to know over the years. “Yeah, we had a board meeting and decided we can’t expect loyal owners who faithfully paid maintenance fees for thirty years, now older, to be held hostage,” she said. A few days later I received a one page form to be notarized, sent it back and that was that. We paid $8,000 for the timeshare in 1985. I had no regrets getting nothing in return as we had used the timeshare for many years. Like Sara’s mom, and many in my age bracket, we are losing hips, knees, eyesight and spouses. The thought of going to the Ozarks alone, should something happen to my spouse, is depressing.

Americano is demanding owners, many who have owned at Americano for decades, spend an additional $5,000 to $6,000 to join a Freedom 365 Travel Club in order to be released from their deeded weeks. Making this mandatory for seniors seems unfair. Granted, the resort is in need of funds as Americano is the only Daytona resort still not opened after suffering hurricane damage, but other developers now have voluntary surrender programs for members in good standing. There may be a fee, but the fee is less than $1,000. Don’t forget that we were all told we were buying real estate so no problem selling the timeshare should we need to dispose of it. In a statement made by ARC’s law firm, they assert they will work with owners to find appropriate alternatives but typically for seniors, a Travel Club is the last thing needed. I’m looking at long term care plans.

The issues related to property damage are complicated. When Americano owners contact me, I explain that if they bought a primary residence condo, and the condo is rendered uninhabitable, the assessment fees don’t stop. It would be difficult to sell an uninhabitable condo. I understand ARC’s argument from this perspective.

Due to pending litigation, ARC’s response is from their attorneys. I have found others at Americano willing to listen and weigh in consideration; the harm timeshare exit in general is causing especially seniors. Let’s hope continued dialog will result in some form of relief for angry and frustrated owners.

Below is the response we received from ARC’s attorneys. Contrary to the attorney’s response, this article will not be disseminated to some of the Americano owners. Some Americano owners do read and share our articles. We sent a draft of today’s article to ARC to give ARC an opportunity to correct any inaccuracies, which they corrected. Inside Timeshare is published from Spain. Following ARC comments, are arguments presented by the plaintiffs’ attorney taken from the lawsuit complaint. A legal expert weighs in. Plaintiffs’ attorneys did not respond.

Response from ARC’s attorneys submitted by ARC President Scott MacGregor:

This information is given to correct inaccuracies to be contained in a publication that will be disseminated to some of the owners.  Americano is a Legacy resort that was severely damaged due to the recent back to back hurricanes, 2016 Hurricane Matthew and 2017 Hurricane Irma. There was one Special Assessment for $4,348,109, not $15 million, which will correct the incorrect reference in the article. The Association continues to seek insurance from its carriers, but had to pursue litigation to address the claims. The Developer is seeking financing and other options for the remaining restoration of the Resort estimated to be $15 million plus. However, it is imperative that all owners pay the maintenance fees, taxes and assessments as required under the Declaration and Florida law. It is fundamentally unfair to the paying owners for other owners not to pay to operate and restore the resort.

The Association is faced with vigorously defending any lawsuit against the Association, which litigation will only increase fees and costs to all owners, as required under Florida law, at the Resort. While our trial legal counsel has stated that no comment should be made at this time concerning any lawsuits, the Americano Beach Lodge Resort is a real property timeshare under Florida law and actions taken are authorized and required under the Declaration and Florida law.

The Developer and Association continue to try to work with each owner to find appropriate alternatives as discussed before. Owners are encouraged to seek ownership and payment options through the Association and Developer.  Lawsuits against the Association will not only increase maintenance fees and assessments for all of the owners due to legal and professional fee expenses, but also may leave those owners with potentially expensive legal bills in addition to their ongoing obligations to the Association. We believe it is much better to work together to resolve the issues that everyone is facing rather than unnecessarily expend owner and Association funds and resources that are needed to restore the Resort, for court expenses.

More from Sara:

They used scare tactics to convince my mom that I would be responsible for the timeshare in the event of her passing, and my children would be responsible after I passed. I have learned this is not true.

The Freedom 365 plan supposedly offered us huge hotel discounts and would allow my mom to stop paying after five years.  We attempted to use the Freedom 365 plan. The first two times we used it we did get a good discount on hotel rooms, but after that the deep discount was no longer available. We got a good rate the first time at $93 for a Hyatt room, but when we later tried to book the same week of the year the price was $100 more, about $170 plus tax. I called and asked why it was so much more. They stated they could price match if we got a better price on another website. What good is that? You don’t have to pay any kind of upfront money, financed by a loan, to book a hotel room using an online service. We were promised the best deals. We were promised so much and at what cost? My mom is going broke! The amount financed was $6,000.

Following are allegations made in the lawsuit

Is a “Floating Week” timeshare real estate or personal property?

If the timeshare is defined as personal property, the lawsuit claims foreclosure rights do not legally exist and are in violation of the Florida Timeshare Act.

I’ve had many discussions about timeshare foreclosure questioning whether a timeshare really is real property. I found the requirements governing real vs personal property foreclosure in Texas helpful:

Comparison of Texas Foreclosure Procedures for Real property and Personal Property

Real property and personal property foreclosures are dramatically different. Real property foreclosures are conducted on the first Tuesday of each month between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the courthouse door in the county in which the real property is located, with a notice posted at the courthouse door, personal notice to the debtor, and filing of the notice with the county clerk, all 21 days before the foreclosure sale. These requirements are defined by § 52.001 of the Property Code and are unique to Texas law. Personal property foreclosures are conducted under § 9.504 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code, which generally requires a commercially reasonable sale. The requirements of Article Nine of the Texas Business and Commerce Code are followed, with some minor variations, by all states except Louisiana.

According to the ARC lawsuit, plaintiffs purchased only the ability to make a reservation rather than ownership in real property. In the “Floating (or flex use) periods and The Timeshare Plan article of the Declaration, the Declaration makes it very clear that the Warranty deed of an “owner” who switched  to Floating time to become a member of a “Right to Use” program renders the deed worthless and provides none of the requisite rights associated with real property.

I asked an expert, as argued in the lawsuit, if switching from a “Fixed Week” to “Floating Week” would render the “Fixed Week” deed worthless.

Purchasers still own that deeded week and it can be found in land records. The purchaser simply surrendered their right to occupy that week and the use rights that went with it in exchange for a floating week use right. Their interest, however, is tethered to an actual real property ownership (even if they cannot legally possess it). If they sold their interest, they would be selling the deeded week they bought which would include the surrender and exchange agreement for a floating week. By the same token, if they are foreclosed upon for non-payment, it would be the deeded week that would be foreclosed and the agreements tied to it (i.e., the floating week right) would be rendered null and void.

As an analogy, let’s say you join a car-sharing group where everyone in the group can use whatever car is available using a reservation system. In order to get into the group, however, you are required to purchase a car to add to the fleet. You don’t buy the car outright; you finance it through the group such that your monthly dues are part car payment and part fees. Even though you hold title to one car in the fleet, you have no more right to use that car than anyone else in the group. If you fall behind in your monthly dues, you will lose your car-sharing membership (i.e., the use rights you bargained for), and the car that you added to the fleet (i.e., the tangible property you hold title to but surrendered possessory interest in) will be repossessed by the group.

Note from Inside Timeshare: Spanish Timeshare Law prohibits Floating Weeks and Points as there is no tangible product and they lack any substance.

My unnamed source is not saying the lawsuit is without merit, in that they feel the underlying real property is illusory, but they feel it may be a tough argument to win.  

Related articles:

Timeshare Foreclosure Explained to Lenders     

What happens if I stop paying my maintenance fees? Timeshare attorney Mike Finn answers the question in this article:

Proprietors behind Americano are ARC American Resort Collection

www.arcresorts.com/about-arc/

Self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced.

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

Thank you Irene, next week in the Tuesday Slot we welcome Mike Kosor with his response to the Wyndham Sr VP Jason Gamel and his testimony to the Florida HB 435 workshop.

Join us again next week and have a great weekend.

The Tuesday Slot

Welcome to our Tuesday Slot, this weeks article by Irene Parker looks at a possible “Special Assessment” which may be levied against Diamond Hawaii Collection members and something she terms as the “Ping Pong Up-sell”. This is something we have heard about from readers on numerous occasions.

After our article yesterday on the “Fake” Procuradur and Lawyers, Inside Timeshare has already had several emails from readers who have thanked us for bringing this to their attention, they had been contacted by the “fake” firms mentioned and were almost taken in by them. Thankfully they decided to do a search on the internet and found previous articles as well as the one published yesterday.

This really does go to show how cautious you have to be when being contacted about your timeshare, the “pitch” is always very convincing and plays on the fact you will get back thousands. For many of these owners this is very tempting, as they tend to be elderly and can no longer afford the maintenance fees or even be able to travel.

Now on with this weeks article.

Beach Erosion in Hawaii and The Ping Pong Up-sell

By Irene Parker

December 11, 2018

I read a RedWeek post last week written by a Diamond Resorts member asking about a $6,000 special assessment they were told was to be levied against Diamond’s Hawaii Collection in 2020 due to beach erosion. Diamond sells their points as Collections, so there is a U.S. Collection, a Hawaii Collection, and a few others. The RedWeek post:

Has anyone heard of an upcoming assessment to repair the beach erosion? I recently attended an update meeting and was encouraged to get out of the Hawaiian collection. I was told that in 2020 owners will be charged an assessment to repair the beach erosion. My assessment was estimated to be around $6,000.

The poster apparently was attending a presentation on the U.S. mainland, because the sales agent told her she should not have purchased Hawaii Collection points due to the anticipated levy of a $6,000 special assessment.

As I was reading the post, my phone rang. Coincidentally the caller happened to be an ocean engineer who called because he was concerned that his elderly parents had purchased timeshare points, told if they did not give up their deeded timeshare with another company and buy points, their heirs would be responsible for the timeshare. This is a common complaint and almost always not true, but beyond the scope of this article. A recent article entitled the Heir Scare, our Halloween edition:

http://insidetimeshare.com/fridays-letter-from-america-27/

The ocean engineer’s professional opinion:

My suggestion would be to ask Diamond for documentation to support the additional charges. For instance, it is reasonable to ask if the funding is for future flood protection that might be afforded by a beach nourishment project. Alternatively, inquire if the money might be required to pay for damage that has already occurred to structures or to restore a previously eroded beach.  If the assessment is intended for a beach nourishment project, it is likely that arrangements are in place for cost sharing between local stakeholders and government entities. Participation by a state or federal agency is an opportunity for those impacted by the additional billing to independently verify the project cost. The cost and scope of government efforts are a matter of public record, and learning the particulars is typically as easy as calling the project managers. If difficulties are encountered, the public has recourse in filing either federal or state Freedom of Information Inquiries.

In addition, 2020 is too far out to predict with any sort of fidelity. Concrete financial planning numbers at this stage are unlikely. There is an effort to have cost sharing between stakeholders and the federal entities. I have not heard of a federal project in Hawaii. It could be state, but most major beach nourishment projects are underwritten in part by the federal government. I have not heard of a state paying for damages from a flood.  The member needs to know what the assessment is for, in more detail than just beach erosion. Is it for protection or for damage that has already occurred? One is flood damage expense, the other is flood protection afforded by beach nourishment projects.

As I understand it “water intrusion” would be the responsibility of the timeshare developer, as water entered the property. Beach erosion is a natural, or some say a climate change generated phenomena, with the responsibility most likely in the hands of the federal government, but possibly the state.

This switch from one Collection to another is a common complaint. It’s been reported so frequently I have termed it “The Ping Pong Up-sell.” Numerous members have reported that they were told they should have not purchased U.S. or Hawaii Collection points, depending on which side of the Pacific they are sitting. We have categorized about 400 of the over 500 complaints.

One former Diamond member reported that her Virginia Diamond sales agent showed them pictures of decaying Hawaii air-conditioners as the reason they needed to switch to the US Collection from the Hawaii Collection.  

Roy Simmons and his wife are in the painful and demeaning timeshare foreclosure process. Mr. Simmons is a Navy veteran, living on a letter carrier’s pension. Mr. Simmons switched back and forth from the U.S. to the Hawaii Collection, ending up with $2,700 a month in Diamond loan payments. In his YouTube, which has had over 2,000 views, Mr. Simmons explains the reasons why he switched from:

  1. The U.S. Collection to the Hawaii Collection, then
  2. About six months later after this switch, Mr. Simmons switched from the Hawaii Collection to the U.S. Collection. According to Mr. Simmons, the Florida sales agent asked, “Why Hawaii?” The sales agent said the interest on their loan payments should be about $200 to $300 less in the U.S. Collection because Hawaii has hurricanes, and in the past, damage from the hurricanes had been expensed to members. He said they might have to pay thousands in special assessments.
  3. About six months after that, they traveled to Hawaii and were asked, “Why U.S. Collection?” “It was true the interest on our loan payments did not decrease by $200 to $300 a month, only $20 to $30 per month, and because we purchased more points, we ended up with $2,700 a month in loan payments. We always enjoyed our Diamond points,” said Mr. Simmons.

Mr. Simmons’ YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_nca6lMA4U&feature=youtu.be    

Diamond’s Kauai Poipu Resort did experience water intrusion damage in 2012, which prompted a lawsuit filed by owners.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60625-i1817-k5926954-Settlement_Reached_Between_Diamond_Point_at_Poipu_Owners-Poipu_Kauai_Hawaii.html

I asked attorney Mike Finn his opinion concerning special assessments of this nature:

I essentially agree with your engineer’s comments. The owners would be called upon for a special assessment if it was a water intrusion issue, as it would be assessed to them by the property owners association.

The legal issue regarding Poipu Point was the obvious mismanagement from the association’s management company in failing to prevent the water intrusion and/or failing to remedy the situation once it was discovered. The management company failed in its duty to pursue the insurance claim as well, perhaps realizing that their poor maintenance was probably the source of the problem and that was not covered by insurance.

As to the association’s responsibility for beach erosion, that would be quite a stretch and should be challenged by any board members not in the pocket of the developer. Maintenance of the beach should not be an association issue. That sounds like a salesman’s scare tactic.

As always, Inside Timeshare knows there are many Diamond timeshare sales agents that sell the product properly, and we hope the company will consider that Mr. Simmons may be telling the truth. We hear from senior after senior, contemplating foreclosure. I have listened to many tears.

Self-help timeshare groups we feel are not industry influenced and our mission statement:

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene and also a big thanks to attorney Mike Finn for your contribution, we are sure that this article will be of great interest to many Diamond Members.

If you have any comments or wish to contribute an article, then contact Inside Timeshare, we would love to share them with our readers worldwide.

Have you been contacted by a so-called law firm or claims company with a story that your timeshare company has been or is being taken to court?

Have you been told that your name is on a list of creditors owed money which the court is holding, due to a purchase you made years ago?

If so, then use our contact page and let us know, be safe rather than sorry, get the facts before you pay any money. Do your homework, you know it makes sense.

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to another Letter from America by our very own Irene Parker, this week we revisit our series on the 3 Rs and 1F of Timeshare, but first a word of caution brought about by some very disturbing emails received by Inside Timeshare.

These emails are all concerning companies our readers have paid to “relinquish” their timeshares, all being told that the “exit notification letter” being sent on their behalf is all that needs to be done and they are now timeshare and maintenance free. They are told they should not engage with the timeshare company or need to pay any further maintenance fee.

Unfortunately this is not the case, several of our readers have paid a certain company who shall remain nameless at present, but they know who they are, to exit their membership with Diamond, around three years ago. These readers are still getting demands for maintenance fees along with a surcharge for interest. They are also being threatened with court action and a debt collection agency.

The company concerned with these exits tells the clients that they are free of their timeshare  and to “DO NOTHING, PAY THEM NOTHING”. “That Diamond would not take court action because they knew they could lose given the dubious selling practices and the fact that no court would allow a company to insist on payments for a product the owner cannot use”.

We know that Diamond does chase unpaid maintenance, the debt is usually passed to Daniels Silverman a Market Leading Debt Recovery Agency, based in Liverpool. So it is not Diamond who take the “debtors” to court, but Daniels Silverman on behalf of their client Diamond.

If you are told to stop paying your maintenance fees until you have official notification from your timeshare company that your contract and membership has been cancelled, then failure to pay puts you in breach of contract.

It is also known that Diamond will not deal with these “exit” companies, they have their own system in place and will deal direct with the member. Remember no matter what these companies tell you, they are not “lawyers”, they do not know timeshare, all they know is how to take your money.

Now for this weeks Letter.

The 3 Rs or F of Timeshare Revisited (prior revision February 16, 2018)

Resolution
Relinquishment
Refund
Foreclosure

By Irene Parker

November 16, 2018

Our Timeshare Advocacy Group™ advocates brace for when timeshare companies hit the “send” button as millions of maintenance fee invoices hit inboxes.

February 16, 2018, when this article was previously published, we had heard from 300 readers since we began counting January 2017. As of November 14, 2018, we have heard from exactly 600 readers.  Not one of our readers was aware of the limited to no secondary market for a timeshare. This often triggers a complaint.

There is rarely a need to pay anyone money to get you out of your timeshare. Special circumstances, or if a member requests an attorney, we refer to one of the law firms we know and trust, if the timeshare company refuses to help. Seeking legal counsel is the right of every citizen if they feel they have been harmed, as is filing regulatory complaints.    

If you have a complaint, our “How to File a Complaint” form explains a process that takes time, determination and effort, but when it works, it costs nothing. We say when, because no one wins them all.

Timeshare companies cry, “Don’t call an exit company! We have your best interest at heart!” What the timeshare company means is:
Don’t call an exit company because it interferes with our recycled inventory process! Let us foreclose! We make collection calls to you no more than twelve times a day. (Six to each spouse, as has been reported)
When exist companies boast, “We can guarantee you release!” beware that that guarantee may include foreclosure. You don’t need to pay anyone to foreclose.  
Our complaint form: http://insidetimeshare.com/the-tuesday-slot-11/

Our goal:  Convert an angry, desperate, overwhelmed and confused member into an empowered member. Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has 44 core advocates, including a team of reporting advocates to answer questions about regulatory and, if needed, law enforcement filings. All of our Advocates are unpaid.  

The First R: Relinquishment

Some timeshare companies offer voluntary surrender programs, but relinquishments are not guaranteed and there cannot be an outstanding loan or delinquent maintenance fees.

Before relinquishing, check with a member of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Broker Association to find out if your timeshare can be listed with one of their members. http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

LTRBA members charge nothing up front, so they don’t waste your time or money by listing a timeshare that, in all likelihood, will never sell.

The Second R:
A refund is not easy to come by, but in cases of serious and obvious fraud; a refund may be achieved. The complaint process begins with a petition to the resort, followed by the filing of regulatory and law enforcement complaints.

The timeshare lobby ARDA has a Code of Ethics. Not one of the 600 members who have contacted us could tell us what the letters ARDA ROC stand for, yet collectively give about $5 million a year to ARDA ROC. ARDA stands for American Resort Development Association and ROC Resort Owners Coalition. The money comes through “voluntary” opt-in or opt-out donations. This $3 to $10 amount, which varies depending on the resort, appears on all maintenance fee invoices purchased in the U.S. if the developer is an ARDA member. Despite our advocates and members forwarding approximately 200 complaints to ARDA, questioning ARDA’s Code of Ethics, there has been no response.

ARDA’s Code of Ethics:

The intent is that all member activities subject to the Code are designed to be honest and fair, and are conducted with integrity, dignity and propriety.  http://www.arda.org/ethics/

Litigation can take years and often the amount of money at stake doesn’t justify the time and expense litigation requires. Some developers have a class action ban, forcing arbitration. There are many critics of arbitration, including Minnesota AG Lori Swanson:  
“The right to have your dispute resolved before a jury of your peers is as American as it gets; it’s a fundamental core American democratic principle,” says Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. “To think that millions upon millions of consumers are forfeiting their fundamental right to have their day in court because of fine print in a contract….”
Chris Parker, a reporter for City Pages writes: “Should a dispute arise, arbitration forces consumers out of the court system and into arbitration where appeals aren’t allowed, corporations historically wield a huge advantage—and details of misconduct are kept private,”

http://www.citypages.com/news/the-plot-to-kill-consumer-protection/451334393

Timeshare buyers should check immediately after signing a contract to see if they can opt out of the arbitration clause. Probably only a lawyer would think to do so.
http://insidetimeshare.com/tuesday-slot-arbitration/

According to the FBI agents and attorneys we spoke with, it is not legal for a company to hide behind fine print, providing sales agents the means to say anything they can come up with to sell points. With little enforcement in some states, deception prevails. Families after family have no option but foreclosure, if they have a loan outstanding. Most members contacting us do.        

The Third R

It doesn’t happen very often, but there is the possibility the member just doesn’t know how to use the booking system. Blanket statements like “You can always book online cheaper than using timeshare points” are not accurate. My husband and I are Diamond owners. We have often booked two weeks in Sedona or Orlando for less than it would cost booking online using our points.

I ALWAYS tell members when they say, “After we signed we read all these negative complaints!” that there are just as many and more who use and enjoy their timeshare.  

    Foreclosure

This is the least pleasant outcome, but foreclosure is not the end of the world. We’re working on a document for those who experience foreclosure to provide to credit rating agencies or lenders, detailing the patterns of complaints listed with the Better Business Bureau, Attorneys General, and lawsuits.

If you foreclose, there will be a hit to your credit score, but if you feel you are a victim of unfair and deceptive sales practices provide the credit rating agencies or your lenders with the reason why you refused to pay off a timeshare loan. Lenders are human. Many will take this into consideration.     

I asked timeshare attorney Mike Finn of the Finn Law Group some common questions we are often asked about the foreclosure process:
Will the timeshare company try to ruin my credit for non- payment of maintenance fees, loans or both?


Mike Finn: Generally no credit reporting on maintenance fees, yes they do on “mortgage” payments. Most timeshare property owner associations, which are separate non-profit entities, do not report non-payment of maintenance fees largely because they don’t maintain subscriber contracts with the credit reporting agencies. However, once referred to collection, those agencies do maintain subscriber relationships and that’s where the issue becomes relevant.

Can members be taken to court for non-payment of maintenance fees or loans?

Mike: Can yes, will, maybe not so much

Do they place liens for non-payment of loans?

Mike: Yes in the sense that they do pursue foreclosures, yes for maintenance fees as well.

Does the lien apply just to the timeshare, or does the lien apply to a member’s primary residence as well?  

Mike: The word ‘lien’ can be utilized in more than one way. In the timeshare world it typically means the security interest filed against the timeshare itself by virtue of nonpayment of maintenance fees. Only the timeshare interest itself is impacted by that kind of lien, not the owner’s property beyond the timeshare. A mortgage lien on the timeshare caused by non-payment of the initial purchase price can, under certain circumstances, become a judgment which could be satisfied by going after the defaulting party’s personal assets. This very rarely happens, but it has happened, so we can never, say never. A foreclosure on your credit report is quite damning, it will make refinancing or new residential purchases an issue for about five years. Rarely will they sue for deficiency balance.

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/learning-center/can-a-timeshare-hurt-my-credit-score

http://www.finnlawgroup.com/english/learning-center/page-12

Our Advocates, bringing experience and expertise from all walks of life, are here to help you put your timeshare in the rear view mirror, if that is your goal.

Our mission

We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.
https://www.facebook.com/timeshareadvocategroup/

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

Thank you Irene, useful as always, in the Tuesday Slot next week, we will have another “Secret Shopper” report, edited by Pete Gibbes the Secret Shopper Coordinator, so join us for another insight into the murky world of a timeshare presentation.

Don’t forget the book by Wayne C Robinson, Everything About Timeshares, Before, During and After the Sale, with the forward by Irene Parker, you can obtain your copy from the link below.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/everything-about-timeshares-wayne-c-robinson/1129749757?ean=2940161600962

Friday’s Letter from America

Welcome to this weeks Letter from America, today’s article is all about heirs inheriting your timeshare, with the introduction by Inside Timeshare’s very own Irene Parker, with contributions from Tom Tubbs of Island Consulting Realty and Mike Finn of Finn Law Group. This article will not only be of interest to our American readers but also to our European contingent.

But first Europe, news came in late yesterday of another High Court ruling from Tenerife against Silverpoint. Following a ruling against them at The Court of First Instance, Silverpoint appealed to the High Court. This court reaffirmed the previous courts verdict, consequently the original verdict has been upheld. The clients contract has been declared null and void due to lack of tangibility (a previous judge described it as “a bag full of smoke”), the client has been awarded over 24,000€ plus legal interest.

Again this is a case brought on behalf the client by Canarian Legal Alliance, these lawyers are just going from strength to strength.

After the article published yesterday about the “FAKE” law firm in Tenerife using the name of Mindtimeshare, another reader has sent in the following information on Abogados Litigación España  and JDD Juan Drimals Deolaro, which we highlighted on 22 October.

It is another “FAKE” compensation claim against Diamond, Grand Vacation Club and Sunterra, the Procurator fee was to be paid to one Ramon Juanca Comez in Tenerife who is also a “fake”. They also confirmed that a successful claim had been awarded amounting to 18,348€ plus 703€, obviously a “tax” of 20% would need to be paid before the court would release the money. Below are the bank details for the client to pay the procurator:

The Beneficiary  Ramon Juanca Comez

Address  C/Tortieras , Edif . Juntas , 323 Santa Cruz  38004 Tenerife 

A/C  IBAN … ES16 2038 9043 6060 0046 1027

BIC …..CAHMESMMXXX

Bank Address Avda.Santa Cruz 188 38600 Granadilla de Abona Tenerife

Now the address above is incorrect as this IBAN Number is the following bank in Valencia:

IBAN: ES1620389043606000461027  

BIC: CAHMESMM

Bank: BANKIA, S.A.

PINTOR SOROLLA 8
46002 VALENCIA

Branch number: 9043

SEPA Credit Transfer is supported.

SEPA Direct Debit is supported.

B2B is supported.

SEPA Instant Credit Transfer is supported.

 

Now on with today’s Letter from America.

Are Timeshare Developers the Pot Calling the Kettle Black?

The Heir Scare – The Same Scare Provided by a Timeshare Sales Agent and a Timeshare Exit Company Sales Agent!

A Second Warning We Wish We Did Not Have To Give

By Tom Tubbs of Island Consulting Realty

Following Phyllis and Marcy’s report

Introduction by Irene Parker

October 26, 2018

If Tom Tubbs Island Consulting Realty’s second warning wasn’t so sad it would be amusing. The most common complaint Timeshare Advocacy Group™ receives is:

“The sales agent said we had to give up our deeded week and buy points.”

The member, especially if a senior, is browbeat, told they have to give up their timeshare deed or they will be the last man standing, left holding the maintenance fee bag. Often the mostly bogus reason provided is that your heirs will be responsible for a deeded timeshare but not for non-deeded timeshare points.

The deed is usually paid in full, so by buy buying points via a loan, or charged to a credit card, the sales agent has created a liability when none existed. I’m not an estate planning lawyer, but I found this RedWeek post from a practicing estates lawyer:

To all those inquiring about your heirs being saddled with this albatross: I have been a practicing estates lawyer in NY for nearly 50 years. The information given to you by Laura (I believe her name was) was basically correct: your beneficiary cannot be “forced” to inherit (and therefore have to pay for maintenance etc.) for the timeshare. The legal route is to execute a disclaimer within 9 months after death, and make sure that you do NOT accept the timeshare by using it or otherwise indicating acceptance (e.g., trying to sell it as if you own it). However, each state has its own laws as to how one disclaims. ……Note though: the (resort) can then also disclaim it, so there are some further fine points legal steps that must be implemented in your Will or trust to deal with that possibility. But most definitely your heirs are NOT bound to accept the timeshare and make the payments if a proper disclaimer strategy is included in your estate planning documents.

stevenw on May 02, 2017 06:01 PM.

This is a complaint I read perpetrated by a timeshare sales agent falsely telling a deeded owner that she had to give up her deed or her heirs would suffer. Inside Timeshare previously published this account by Phyllis, age 67. She ended up representing herself in court and negotiated a lesser amount with the credit card company arbitrator. Following this scare offered by a timeshare sales agent, is the identical scare offered by a timeshare exit company sales agent.

What a timeshare sales agent told Phyllis (Unedited)

I feel I am a victim of fraud. I was asked to attend a breakfast to talk about upgrades on a timeshare I own. I was told it would last only 55 minutes. 4 highly pressured sales people took turns on me and held me for 7 hours, bouncing me into 3 different rooms. I told them I didn’t want it and that I already owned the timeshare over and over again. They said I have to buy into the new and I own my timeshare for ever, and that I could never get out of it. They said my Monarch timeshare went bankrupt and I had to invest with them or they would go after my children for payment. I had a panic stress disorder attack. I was tired and hungry.  I was tired. In order to get out of there I signed under dearest. I am a senior citizen 5 feet tall women and he is a 6 feet tall man standing over me stating he was a child of GOD and he can help me then said to me “I am a friend I can tell you the best thing to do only if I signed”. He added the BANK CREDIT CARD. I was misled to only use the card for shopping that my points would go up and maintenance fees would go down. I never received the card. I never used the card. Now I have a trial date May 8, 2018 to pay their lawyers in the amount of $3446.04. I received a letter stating the timeshare went into foreclosure. Since the timeshare and the bank are together I should be out of paying the bank as well? I need help. Could someone give me advice? Can I get someone to go with me and represent me? I am afraid and stressed. Please email me on what I can so as soon as possible. Thank You.

A pitch from U.S. Consumer Attorneys that Marcy submitted to Inside Timeshare which we previously published. Marcy called me the same day Phyllis did; both said they were having a panic attack over the result of their timeshare debacle. The timeshare exit company US Consumer Attorneys threatened Marcy as follows:

Louis S called me and said he was with US Consumer Attorneys Group and that he was calling about my timeshare. He was aware that I was a Diamond owner and that I owned at Ka’anapali Resort. He sent me a copy of their contract and said I needed to pay him $2900 to get out of the contract.  He said he is an attorney with US Consumer Attorneys Group. He said Diamond was going to take my house and my children would be responsible for paying all Diamond debts and that they would even attach my wages.  He said Diamond would also take my Social Security payments and my retirement.

I have not paid my Diamond maintenance fees for about three years. I wanted to deed it back to Diamond but they would not take it back when I was not behind on maintenance fees. I tried to sell it but no one wanted it.

Given the fact that many exit scam artists are former timeshare sales agents, it’s no surprise they will take the deception with them when they leave their timeshare sales job and make the move to an exit scam. Not all exit companies are scams, but this Federal Trade Commission link listing scams cannot be posted to often:

https://search.justice.gov/search?query=timeshare+scam+report&op=Search&affiliate=justice

Thank you once again Tom Tubbs for this important year end warning.

From Tom Tubbs at Island Consulting Realty:

A Second Warning We Wish We Did Not Have To Give

Hi Folks. So last week we warned you about “Exit” companies and this week we’re giving you a little bit of a different take on them. Why? We don’t want to beat a dead horse but it’s important that you do not fall victim to this. This time of year is when these companies get more aggressive in that they know your maintenance fee will be due soon and it’s a prime opportunity for them to pick your pocket. But first….Just what is an “Exit” company?

Well, these are the folks who “create” a problem that does not exist. This is a very common sales tactic with just about anything out there for sale or service. With timeshares, these companies create the VERY false impression that your timeshare is actually a burden instead of an asset. They give you the VERY false impression that you can’t sell it (although that’s what we’ve been doing for folks for the past 33 years….) and that when you die your kids will then be strapped with it (also false). Then they have a solution! (Of course!). Give them $3500 plus the deed to your timeshare and they’ll get you out of it. What great guys!

So in a nutshell what you have here is a company creating a problem for you that minutes earlier you did not know you had, and then solving that problem for you by you giving away your timeshare and your money! Problem is, for many of these companies it’s all one big fat lie; as the following story will tell….

Orlando woman says timeshare exit plan was all a lie

American Consumer LLC charged thousands then filed

Chapter 11 bankruptcy

ORLANDO, Fla. – Lisa Eller, a timeshare resort customer for 18 years, is convinced American Consumer LLC never intended to negotiate an exit from her resort contract despite promises from then Chief Operations Officer Cory “Hubb” Hubbell, that he could get it done.

    “He’s a smooth salesman; he seemed like he knew what he was doing,” Eller said. “He said, ‘It takes us about 12 months to work the program.'”

 Eller and her husband agreed to pay $2,350 for the program but just this week discovered no one from the company, aka A Consumer LLC, ever contacted her resort.

“They present themselves as people who have contacts at these resorts,” Eller said. “Our contract was paid in full; we were just paying maintenance.”

The last time Hubbell spoke to Eller was in March, according to Hubbell’s Facebook account, he left the company in May. Eller’s attorney, Jennifer Beaman Clark, told News 6 that when she advised the resort representative that her clients had been trying to resolve this for a year she was told, “It was the first time they had been contacted about the account.”

 According to records obtained by News 6, American filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sept. 9. The registered agent, Brevard County Attorney Michael Sarocco, said he would try to help consumers who wanted to get their money back but that he had no official ties to the company. In an email to News 6, Sarocco wrote, “I no longer represent the company and do not have authorization to make any statements on their behalf.”

A review of state records shows Saracco was the registered agent for American Consumer Credit LLC along with another 12 companies all linked to the same manager: Dana Micallef. Micallef started the company in 2011 and, according to state records, lives in Daytona Beach. Still, it appears he has been calling customers from a New York area code.

Rebekah Nelson hired the company last September and agreed to pay $2,800 to get a release from a timeshare in Vista, California. Nelson told News 6 a man she believes to be Micallef, asked her to wire $700 to continue the contract. “They block the consumer from talking to the timeshare so you don’t know (American) is not doing their job,” she said.

Nelson is convinced there are dozens of victims who fell for the same scheme.

News 6 found a website that explained how the company claimed to complete the exit:

“When you enter into the contract termination process with Aconsumercredit™, we start to permanently remove your timeshare contract burden. No more fees. No more payments.” Nelson said she was told to stop paying her timeshare fees and that is when her credit was ruined.

If you believe you are a victim of this company, contact Mike Holfeld at [email protected]

For more information, contact attorney Saracco: [email protected]

See you next week!

Tom Tubbs, Broker, R.N.G.

Island Consulting Realty

800-809-6020 or 941-922-3808  www.TimeSharesToGo.com

Senior Licensed Real Estate Specialist

Co-Founder: Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Association

Board Member: Florida Timeshare Owners Group

Doctor of Funology

Related articles:

By Mike Finn of Finn Law Group:

How Can I Eliminate my Timeshare Liability for my Heirs?

https://www.finnlawgroup.com/eliminate-timeshare-liability-for-heirs/

Timeshare self-help groups:

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

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

https://tug2.com/Home.aspx

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

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

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

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

Thank you to Irene, Tom and Mike for your contribution this weeks, we are sure this will be of great interest to all timeshare owners on both side of the “Great Lake”.

If you have any questions or comments on any article published, please use our contact page and get in touch, we welcome your input. If you need to find out about any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet then get in touch and we will help you find out if they are genuine and trustworthy.

Friday is upon us and the weekend beckons, we hope that you all have a great one and just relax, join us again next week for more on the murky world that is timeshare.

A New Twist In the Saga of Litigious Abogados

As if things couldn’t get any stranger, the “FAKE” law firm in Tenerife Litigacion Abogados which is one incarnation of the “FAKE” lawyers we have dubbed the Litigious Abogados family has now surpassed themselves with the lengths they will go to dupe timeshare owners.

The blog sight Mindtimeshare is now the victim, timeshare owners are now receiving calls from one Joyce Adams, who claims she is calling from a “law firm” called Mindtimeshare, from the following number:

0034822684554

Another number given is:

0800 802 1982

 

They have even set up an email address, again using the free email address provider of consultant.com, one thing you will notice is they have spelt it wrong:

[email protected]

As well as the Mindtimeshare name they are also using their logo, if you look at it carefully is not the same typeface as the original.

The story is the same as always, the consumers timeshare company is being taken to court and you can be part of the case. All you need to do to “benefit” from this is to pay the Procurators fee into an Escrow Account with the court in Tenerife.

One snag here, the account is in the name of the “Fake” Procurator Alexander Bowross. If you were paying money into a court I very much doubt that it would be into the account of a named individual!

For those of you who are aware of mindtimeshare you will know they are not a law firm, but a consumer advice blog site which also issues warnings of rogue and bogus operations, just like Inside Timeshare. Over the past year or so, Inside Timeshare has been sharing information on this “fake” lawyers in all their incarnations, we shall continue to do so which is why we are publishing this article today.

Inside Timeshare will continue to publish articles on these “FAKE, BOGUS and DUBIOUS” companies to warn you the reader and help you to save your hard earned cash.

If you have been contacted by any company or found one on the internet and want to find out if they are who they say they are, contact Inside Timeshare, we will help you to find out if they and what they say is genuine.

Remember the golden rule

CHECK, CHECK AND CHECK AGAIN, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

Tomorrow in Friday’s Letter from America the article is entitled

Are Timeshare Developers the Pot Calling the Kettle Black?

The Heir Scare – The Same Scare Provided by a Timeshare Sales Agent and a Timeshare Exit Company Sales Agent!

With an introduction from our very own Irene Parker along with Contributions from Tom Tubbs of Island Consulting Realty and Mike Finn of Finn Law Group.

This article will also be of benefit to our European readers as they will also be familiar with this subject, so join us tomorrow for more Letters from America.