Welcome to this week’s edition of Letter from America, since we first published on the subject of timeshare purchases and the consumer labeled as “gullible” and is to blame for their own woes, it has sparked quite a debate on various forums. Today we welcome another old contributor back to Inside Timeshare, Sheilah Brust, who is also a Tarda Board Member and her own take on this subject.
Why the Consumer Should not be Blamed
By Sheilah Brust, a TARDA Board Member
May 28, 2021
I have been following ARDA and the Timeshare Crusader’s comments about people like me being gullible, versus Inside Timeshare explaining why the consumer should not be blamed. I read about the non-reliance clause, sometimes called the oral representation clause. I won’t rehash what that’s all about, but being called gullible prompted me to share my experience to explain why my timeshare experience led me to join efforts to form the timeshare consumers’ voice in Washington D.C.
One of the reasons why the timeshare exit industry is out of hand is because timeshare developers and timeshare industry lobbyists refuse to acknowledge the role that timeshare sales agents play that prompts thousands of timeshare members to contact exit companies or an attorney. My experience serves as a good example.
I have personally communicated back and forth with Florida’s timeshare division, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and reached out to ARDA-ROC, along with hundreds of other members who feel they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices. I won’t go into all the reasons why my reviewer at DBPR, and even the DBPR supervisor blamed me, but I am encouraging the reviewers at DBPR and ARDA to read the book Not Today Buster! Author Vern Thornton, and founder of Senior Vs Crime, explains why the consumer should not be blamed.
Glendora Goodwin, known as “GG” to her friends, is pictured on the cover of Not Today Buster! GG was a “Super Sleuth” in that she worked undercover. She wrote a “Snooper” column for a Florida newspaper. One of her three primary warnings was, “Never buy on the same day an offer is presented.” If consumers followed that advice, it would stop a lot of timeshare complaints.
I did not think my complaint would be dismissed because I had written proof of deception. Moreover, four others had the same “pencil pitch” in their possession. Only the numbers differed, depending on the points purchased. Note “8631 – 8631 = 0” is written on the left. That was the amount of maintenance fees for that year. The Florida sales agent, writing upside down, explained in great detail how I could be relieved of all maintenance fees.
Dismissed by the resort, and DBPR, and no response from ARDA-ROC, I reached out to Seniors Vs Crime (SVC), a Special Project of the Office of the Florida Attorney General. I learned that DBPR is not a consumer protection agency. They cannot mediate a dispute or compel a company to cancel a contract. In contrast, Seniors Vs Crime is a consumer protection agency, and can mediate a dispute. ARDA doesn’t mediate disputes, but they have a Code of Ethics that their members are supposed to abide by. The ROC in ARDA-ROC stands for Resort Owners Coalition, the timeshare members’ arm of the Political Action Committee (PAC).
I reached out to Seniors Vs Crime and met with a “Senior Sleuth” volunteer at her Florida Delray office. They were understanding and so moved that they looked into other complaints I forwarded to them. They seemed shocked that there is nothing to stop deceptive statements, thanks to the non-reliance clause.
TARDA stands for Timeshare and Resort Developer Accountability, Inc. A few hundred of us are raising funds to engage a lobbyist organization so that real timeshare consumers can be the voice for timeshare consumers, who at present feel they have no voice. TARDA is an all-volunteer 501c4 nonprofit.
But back to my being gullible, the purpose of this article. I was a Platinum timeshare member. That means that over the years my husband and I purchased points costing our family over $200,000. Having purchased a few times, and used to relying on the ethics of real estate agents, the sales agent’s written illustration convinced us our agent was being truthful. He provided plausible explanations why this new program to relieve us of maintenance fees had not yet been announced so would not be part of the contract. He said the website would be updated shortly.
Had I recorded the presentation, which is not legal in Florida without the other party aware, I’m not sure if even that would have been enough to cancel our contract. The non-reliance clause gives a green light for sales agents to say anything to make a sale. Even with proof, that one sentence in a stack of documents that says I did not rely on oral statements, legalizes deception.
Given no harm befell the agent – he is free to continue to promote the ability to be relieved of maintenance fees. The resort responded that while they could understand his explanation to be confusing, it was not illegal. They would take steps to make sure it would be better clarified in the future. Six months later a fifth member complained, providing the same pencil pitch and the same explanation. Their dispute was resolved. Maybe I paved the way.
All the complaints sent to ARDA ROC that I am aware of were ignored.
Thank you Sheilah and those who have helped to edit and proofread the article, it has certainly been a great help at the moment. Hopefully, Inside Timeshare will be back next week with a few more articles. In the meantime have a great weekend.
We are also pleased to announce the publication of The book Everything About Timeshare, Before, During and After the Saleis just around the corner, plenty of time for the holiday shopping season. Our own Irene Parker wrote the Forward for Wayne C. Robinson‘s book. To stay updated on the release, subscribe to this link:
We have also received the following from one of our very concerned Anfimembers and readers, this was posted on the Anfi Contracts facebook page. It would appear that there is some grave concern as to where large amounts of money have gone and members are calling for an explanation.
Ahead of Monte’s general assembly in November, an important issue needs to be clarified. In the accounts published last year, Monte’s two main debtors were, at the end of 2016: Anfi Resorts (the operational company) with an accumulated debt of €1.897.858, and Anfi Sales (the sales company) with an accumulated debt of €1.854.918.
In the accounts presented this year, Resorts are listed with €0 in debt, whereas Sales’ debt has increased by €20.000 to €1.874.755. Meanwhile, a new post has appeared: post 12, called “present investments” (translated from Norwegian), with a total of €1.456.093 at the end of 2017.
These investments represent €441.765 less than Resorts’ accumulated debt at the end of 2016. At the general assembly, the club members should be entitled to an explanation as to the whereabouts of this money, and be informed about where the “present investments” have been invested.
Well all we can say is we will be watching this story as it unfolds with the November General Assembly.
Now for this week’s article.
Timeshare Advocacy Group™ 3rd Quarter Report 2018
T Shirts are in! (T Shirts are blue)
By Irene Parker
October 12, 2018
Timeshare Advocacy Group™ has heard from exactly 600timesharefamilies as ofSeptember 30, 2018, since we began tracking complaints in 2017. We received a total of 267 reports from families for all of 2017, so 333 families for the first three quarters of 2018 is a dramatic increase.
2018 broken down by quarters:
1st quarter 126
2nd quarter 111
3rd quarter 96
We anticipate an upswing fourth quarter when maintenance fee invoices go out. We have already received 21 new complaints from October 1 to October 10.
Most families contacting us are angry, overwhelmed, and confused, all but a handful describing unfair and deceptive sales practices. They say they bought a timeshare for reasons that did not exist, based on false promises made by timeshare sales agents. The Brett Kavanaugh hearings have taught us about the importance of the burden of proof. While four FBI agents and several attorneys have told me it is not legal to use and abuse the oral representation clause, the ingrained mantra timeshare company response to the majority of complaints is “You signed a contract.”
Not one member who contacted us was aware of the inadequate secondary market until hit with a medical or financial crisis, like Ashley Muise our newest Inside Timeshare contributor. Ashley’s baby was born needing two open heart surgeries. Adding a timeshare loan foreclosure on top of that kind of stress has driven many families to despair. Most of our senior readers maintained an 800 plus credit score for 30 plus years, now forced to endure the demeaning timeshare foreclosure process. I would not make a good timeshare customer service representative because I am moved by their distress.
Our standard disclaimer is that we know there are millions who bought and use their timeshares with no complaints. Timeshare buyers blessed with an honest sales agent should not demean or judge those who say they experienced unfair and deceptive sales practices.
“Don’t call a timeshare exit company!”
“We have your best interest at heart!”
This the message one timeshare company sent to their members.
No they don’t have your best interest at heart. If the timeshare company had your best interest at heart, why do they almost always respond, “You signed a contract” when members complain about being lied to. They have their bottom line’s best interest at heart. The timeshare developer doesn’t want anyone to stand in the way of their “recaptured inventory” process. Timeshare company annual reports list a secondary market as a risk to shareholders.
The timeshare developer
The timeshare lobby
Lawmakers and some regulators
We are as much against timeshare exit companies as the developer, but given the “Hear no evil, see no evil” response from the industry as to the obvious deceit perpetrated by timeshare sales agents, it’s hard to feel sympathy for the timeshare developer plagued with “cease and desist” letters. They say their members are being “targeted” when in fact members are desperate and turn to internet key words for help.
The Florida Department of Business Practices and Regulation (DBPR) advises members to call a lawyer – referring them to what amounts to be a lawyer phone book of sorts. More than a few times the member ended up with a lawyer who doesn’t know what they are doing because they don’t have timeshare experience. The lawyers get paid, and then we end up helping the member for free.
Members have reported back to us that The Nevada Real Estate Divisionhas responded to all but a few complaints with “You have no proof.” It is legal to record a meeting without the other party aware in Nevada. In Nevada members need to record the sales presentation.
The Florida DBPR, responds, “Verbal representations are hard to prove,” but Florida is a two person state, meaning both parties need to be aware of the recording of an in-person meeting. Members are not allowed to take handwritten notes from the sales agent, so I don’t know what proof anyone could produce. Tell them you will record. If they say no, forget the gift and leave. If you will be charged something if you leave, painstakingly write down every word the sales agent utters.
Only two out of 600 complaints have members recorded. The first to record had their contract cancelled in a heartbeat. The second, even with the recording, has had to fight tooth and nail. She has received a full refund from the credit card company, their entire purchase, but the timeshare company is still not releasing her from the contract!
Timeshare members seek straight answers, which our advocates provide free of charge from England to Malaysia.
Our 44 advocates are professionals who bring their skills and life experiences to the table, volunteering their time to help answer members’ questions.
Advocate Sheilah Brust has her three page pencil pitch from Florida that shows:
0 (Meaning buying additional points would result in no maintenance fees)
First, Sheilah was told the company didn’t know if she obtained the pencil pitch without the sales agent knowing. When she pointed out how preposterous this defense is – while the pencil pitch is incriminating, it is inadmissible if she took it on her own! The next defense, the Florida AG timeshare reviewer told her that she didn’t understand the pencil pitch either until she talked to the company’s attorney. So how, Sheilah asked, would anyone understand this convoluted, sleight-of-hand explanation of the ability to pay maintenance fees with points? No such program exists?
Frustrated, Sheilah designed a T Shirt that we hope to sell to raise money for a legal defense fund, as has been suggested. We have several 100% disabled veterans and members with grave medical decisions driven to financial disaster, some driven to the verge of bankruptcy. We have a five member committee to account for receipt and disbursement of funds. As of now, we are in the preliminary proposal writing stage. We are working out the mechanics of a Go Fund Me account. We will suggest buyers contribute $5 from every T Shirt to the legal defense fund.
Many of those we have helped were on their way to the upfront “guaranteed to get you out of your timeshare” firms, some that prey on those already victimized. Not all exit companies are bad, but scams abound. From this perspective, the developer, the timeshare lobby ARDA, and TAG advocates are on the same side. This 15 page Department of Justice report listing timeshare fraud, jail terms and fines, says it all:
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 to all our Inside Timeshare contributors and upcoming new contributors. ContactInside Timeshareif you, or someone you know, needs assistance or would like to share their timeshare story for the benefit of others.
“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens” Jimi Hendrix
That is all for this week, if you have any comments or would like to contribute an article use our contact page and we will get back to you.
Welcome to the Tuesday Slot with Irene, this weeks article has been submitted by Sheilah Brust and her complaint to the FBI regarding her dealings with Diamond sales agents. Inside Timeshare has passed on many complaints to the US team, who are also helping people to file similar complaints.
Now for our usual look at some of the European news.
Another contract has been declared null and void by the Supreme Court in Madrid, this time against Palm Oasis / Tasolan. According to the judgement the contract was once again in breach of the timeshare law in regards to the contract being for an indefinite period, or for more than the stipulated period and the taking of deposits within the cooling off period.
It has also just been announced that CLA have received Supreme Court ruling number 95, this was against the Tenerife based company Silverpoint.
The court again declared the contract null and void and has awarded £99,504 to the client, the court increased the amount by an incredible £26,652 in way of a fine against Silverpoint for taking an illegal deposit at the point of sale during the cooling off period. The client will also received back the legal fees and legal interest.
So far there is no news on the sentencing of Dominic O’Reilly or Stephanie O’Reilly of EZE Group, they pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates last year, with the magistrates referring the case to Birmingham Crown Court for sentencing. The delay may just be due to waiting for reports from the probation service which is a normal procedure, especially if a custodial sentence is possibly involved. When we find out we will let you know.
There is also still no news of the investigation of the South West Police ROCU investigation into some of the Mark Rowe companies, this is likely to be a long drawn out investigation which will be covering these companies activities over a number of year. Obviously there will be many consumers with complaints and all these will need to be interviewed. So don’t expect a speedy conclusion.
Now on with our FBI article from Sheilah edited by Irene Parker.
FBI Talking Points – “Just the Facts, Ma’am,” Joe Friday
By Sheilah Brust
March 13, 2018
For timeshare members too young to remember, “Just the Facts, Ma’am”
The show (Dragnet) was the result of an extraordinarily close collaboration between (Jack) Webb (Sgt. Joe Friday) and LAPD Chief William H. Parker, who had quickly built a reputation for eliminating corruption. (Timeline June 20, 2017)
It was hard to believe I was on hold, waiting to talk to an FBI agent about my vacation plan. I am so disappointed at having to resort to this, but what we were told was not true. We have owned this timeshare since before it was acquired by Diamond Resorts. We had traded in our deeded timeshare into non-deeded Diamond vacation points and had accumulated 50,000 points, enough to become Platinum Diamond members. We had hoped to leave something nice for our children and grandchildren. After experiencing what I believe to be fraudulent bait and switch tactics, we don’t have enough money to travel. Like so many other complaints, we were told if we purchased additional points, we would not have to pay maintenance fees. My husband and I had to get part time jobs to pay for the fees. I used to work for the New York State Governor’s office of Employee Relations, so I knew to start filing regulatory complaints, which is so time consuming it’s like having two part time jobs!
50,000 points I owned prior to the presentation
15,000 additional points in dispute
65,000 x 2 (double points) = 130,000
Our annual maintenance fee on 50,000 DRI points is $8,631. The additional 65,000 points redeemed at $.10 a pointwould have paid for $6,500 of the $8,631. It’s a great program. Too bad it doesn’t exit.
There is no such program allowing double points, but “Hospitality” agents at Diamond Resorts “Consumer” Advocacy department are trained to be detectives themselves, searching through the member’s contract to be able to email you back your initials on the fine print, in essence saying, it doesn’t matter what a sales agent says. All that matters is you signed a contract.
According to lawyers our advocacy group has talked to, it is not legal to hide behind fine print, encouraging sales agents to lie. I found this online:
In case after case, scandal after scandal, American federal law enforcement officials have clearly shown by their indictments and prosecutions that there is no confusion in their minds—lying is a crime. Businesspersons need to clearly understand those rules and what prosecutors define as lying.
The reason timeshare agents get away with it is because there is virtually no enforcement. Timeshare buyers usually buy timeshares in states other than the state they live in (usually a state that sells lots of timeshares and brings in lots of tourist dollars), so when you file a complaint, the elected officials of the state, in which you are not a resident, may not take you seriously.
The weakened Consumer Financial Protection Bureau doesn’t even allow you to select a timeshare company from their menu when filing and the timeshare borrower usually doesn’t even know the name of the actual lender. The timeshare company services the loan, so we picked Barclays from the menu, but when you talk to Barclays they usually say, according to our Facebook members, “That’s too bad but we didn’t directly sell you the points or commit the alleged crime.”
So, here we are asking the FBI for help. This is what I learned reporting an online white-collar crime complaint through IC3.gov and orally through the FBI field office nearest to where we bought our timeshare. Any timeshare member who feels they have been victimized by “deceit, concealment, violation of trust, and bait and switch” of a seriousnature, like ours, needs to file a complaint with the following law enforcement agencies in addition to filing regulatory complaints:
The FBI at IC3.gov online using the FBI’s Complaint Referral Form,
The FBI orally through the FBI field office nearest where you signed your contract.
When you call, select the prompt for “Submit a Tip” then #3, White Collar Crime. Have your facts ready and contract handy. It’s a good idea to write your facts down so that you have good facts in front of you. Even the thought of calling the FBI is a little intimidating, but the agent I spoke to was a nice man who seemed very interested in what I had to say.
The Secret Service – FBI agent #1234 I spoke with (I don’t want to use his real number) said we should also file with the Secret Service if it involved credit card fraud. We’re looking into that. www.secretservice.gov
In our case, we were not told two DiamondBarclay credit cards were going to be opened. We were not even aware of the amount of the down payment. The down payment was $26,000! We would have for sure used a credit card that would have earned us reward points. I wasinfuriated when our DRI salesman Brad Leslie came back and said “Barclay loves you guys! They gave you $26,000 credit!” We thought the form we filled out was to check our credit for the down payment. We already had two Barclaycards, one issued by Diamond and other personal. Now we have four Barclaycards!! We did not dispute it because Brad said he would transfer it to our existing Diamond loan. That never happened.
Some of the things they will want to know include:
When you purchased your timeshare?
Where you purchased your timeshare?
Who sold you the timeshare?
What did you purchase?
How much did it cost?
Why do you feel it was fraud for profit?
Fraud for profit: Those who commit this type of mortgage fraud are often industry insiders using their specialized knowledge or authority to commit or facilitate the fraud. Current investigations and widespread reporting indicate a high percentage of mortgage fraud involves collusion by industry insiders, such as bank officers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, attorneys, loan originators, and other professionals engaged in the industry. Fraud for profit aims not to secure housing, but rather to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash and equity from lenders or homeowners. The FBI prioritizes fraud for profit cases.https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/white-collar-crime/mortgage-fraud
I have read so many sad stories on our advocacy Facebook page. It tears me up inside to think a company that was good until about 3 years ago can do this to people. It’s gotten worse in the last few years. I guess I always want to believe in the best in people, but after this – $60,000 later, that is hard to do. We have asked Diamond to give us our money back for the last purchase that we believe meets the definition of fraud for profit. It takes a day to buy a timeshare, but weeks, days and sometimes years to get out of one.
Whatever you do, don’t pay anyone you don’t know money upfront to get you out of your timeshare. Check with our advocacy group before retaining an attorney or a “get you out of your timeshare” exit company.
With no secondary market, consumers are completely at the mercy of the timeshare company, but I hope we can turn this around and make the public and Diamond aware that some of their sales agents exhibit questionable business practices.
Diamond, make this a good company again!
There may be other timeshare members who feel they have been victimized by the same sales agent. If so, you can give the name and phone number of that member to the FBI agent so they can look up the other member’s complaint, linking your complaint to theirs. It’s a sophisticated system.
Timeshare members nationwide want to thank the FBI for their efforts. Without them, we would have no federal enforcement – only members helping members.
These are timeshare advocacy groups Inside Timeshare believes are pro-consumer, non-industry influenced, seeking to provide 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 Sheilah for your contribution, we are sure it will give others the confidence to undertake this task themselves.
As always, if you have any questions or comments on any article published or are just wanting information on any company that has contacted you or you have found on the internet, contact Inside Timeshare and we will point you in the right direction.
Remember doing your homework and checks before engaging with any company will save you in the end.