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Solicitors Regulation Authority

Start the Week: Are They Genuine?

Welcome to the start of another week with Inside Timeshare, today we have a look at how to spot a possible scam, what to look for and the warning signs to be aware of. Over the past months, there have been numerous new “fake” law firms, claims and exits companies appearing, with Inside Timeshare issuing many warnings. Unfortunately, many timeshare owners have been taken in by them only to find they have been scammed after they have paid.

One of the first points that you should consider is the initial cold call, although cold calling is not illegal, you should be very cautious about who they are and how they have your details. What information are they holding, do they know what and where you own, do they also know about any previous contact with “fraudulent” companies? These are usually telltale signs that the data they hold may have been obtained illegally, either it has been stolen from the timeshare resort or has been passed on by other fraudulent entities, usually the same people behind the new company.

During the call it is up to you to do the questioning, what is their full company name, where are they registered, do they have a company registration number and can this be verified. This point does not guarantee they are legitimate, anyone can register a company for very little outlay, just because they are registered does not mean they are not scammers.

What is the company address, is it a permanent office or one of the virtual offices often used to register short term companies. How long has the company been registered, does this correspond with what you are told, such as they have been operating for say 5 years, yet the company was only registered 1 year ago!

Does the company name appear on any searches, or does it show many companies with the same or similar name?

Many of the new cold callers are using names of genuine law firms or variations of them, even down to a similarly named website. A good example of this point is one article published last week on the law firm Cabrera Ayala Abogados, where a genuine lawyer’s details are being used. Even down to the address being very similar. The other example is of a Spanish Registered Lawyer and UK Registered Barrister, Jeremy Scudamore, both of these can be seen on the links below.

https://insidetimeshare.com/wednesday-news-another-new-fake-lawyer-and-more-woes-for-anfi/

https://insidetimeshare.com/start-the-week-catching-up-with-the-news/

What is their website, is it a new one or one that has been operating for a number of years, When was it registered and for how long? Is the registrant hidden by a privacy protection service, hiding the people behind it? Again another point to give concern. 

What telephone numbers are they using, have they appeared on sites such as Who Called Me, and what comments have been made?

Are they landlines, mobile or VOIP used mainly on internet telephone systems from third-party providers?

Does their email address go to the website or is it a free email service such as Gmail, Yahoo or ones that we have seen regularly with our friends the Litigious Abogados Family from Tenerife, such as consultant.com or europe.com?

Any email that is not directly attached to their website is usually a very good sign of a scam operation.

On the website itself, does the website show any company details, such as company registration numbers, Solicitors Regulation Authority registration, for Spain are they registered with their local Colegio de Abogados?

If they are processing claims they may also need to be registered and regulated under claims management with the Financial Conduct Authority. This does depend on the type of claims management they are undertaking. Do they have an FCA registration number?

Even if this number appears on the website, it does not mean they are registered, especially if they are a new company. They may have applied and only have “temporary” approval, permanent approval is not given straight away, there is a period where the FCA will be investigating them before they finally approve full authority, this can take at least one year.

On the website, is the information shown correct, how is it written, does it look like it has been cut and pasted from another “legitimate” website?

How is it written, is it full of spelling and grammatical errors, are they trying to use legal terms to make it look like a genuine law firm?

What services are they offering, is it a fully legal claim which will for Spanish purchased timeshares need to go through the Spanish legal system with a genuine and registered Spanish lawyer?

Or, are they offering a relinquishment first (for a fee) and a “compensation” claim on a no win no fee basis, remember once you have cancelled your contract no case can then go through the courts. The contract must still be running with all maintenance paid to date, so the question is how is the “compensation” going to be claimed

How do they expect you to make a payment?

Do they have Credit Card facilities, if so who is the payment made to, is it the company that is carrying out the work or a third party?

If this is the case you may not be covered by Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1974 under the third party payment rules. As an example, you pay company A, the work is supposedly carried out by company B, which does not do the job, you have no claim against either party. Third-Party Rule.

Another point to consider is the use of third party payment companies using your credit card, these are money transfer agencies such as PayPal and Transferwise. Using your card to pay using these methods also invalidates your rights under Section 75.

If you are requested to make a payment by bank transfer, who is the payment being made to, is it a company account or to a named private individual?

Lastly, have they sent you any documents, do they look genuine?

Many of these fake documents including court rulings have been published on Inside Timeshare over the years, some are exceptionally good, especially if you have no experience of any legal documentation. There will always be telltale signs, the most common for court documents is the “case number”, these can be checked and verified, with our experience we can tell them to be fake at a glance. You unfortunately may not be so lucky.

Example of a Fake court document sent out by the Litigious Abogados Family.

These are just the basic rules to be safe when dealing with either cold callers or any company you may have found on the internet. If you require any help in verifying these companies, please use our contact page and Inside Timeshare will get back to you.

REMEMBER, DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST BEFORE PAYING ANY COMPANY!

Mark Rowe: Lansdown Financial

The name Mark Rowe is not an unfamiliar name to these pages, for those of you who have had dealings with the myriad of companies under his ownership, from Monster Credits, Monster Rewards, ABC Lawyers, ABC Legal, Jive Hippo and not to forget Lansdown Financial Ltd. As we know along with the many “clients” who engaged the services of Rowe’s “legal” firms to “relinquish” their timeshare and then being passed on to Lansdown Financial for a “compensation” claim on a no win no fee basis. A new twist in the story has now appeared and it is rather disturbing.

Lansdown Financial Ltd, Company number 09742346 is another Mark Rowe company, he resigned as director in May 2019 but in February 2020 reinstated himself as a director with the resignation of the previous one.

It now appears that Lansdown Financial Ltd is the “Trading Name” of Mellor Solicitors, Company number 10620587, incorporated 15 February 2017. They are also registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, SRA No 639178 and have been registered since 19 June 2017.

Inside Timeshare has received several emails from readers expressing concern over an email they have received from Lansdown Financial, this email begins with a “quote” from the Financial Ombudsman. It begins:

“I’m getting in touch about your complaint”.

“I know you’ve asked a claims management company to represent you. However, all claims management companies must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority”.

“We’ve now found that your claims management company is no longer authorised to provide this service – so, unfortunately, this means we can’t talk to them about your complaint. But please don’t worry – we can still help you”.

In their reply to clients Lansdown Financial signing off as Mellor Solicitors – Timeshare Team is as follows:

“First and foremost your claim is being dealt with by Mellor Solicitors and we are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, we are not a Claims Management Company and do not require authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority.”

“For many of you the claim has been with the Ombudsman for 2 years and they have done virtually nothing, apart from sending you a letter stating that we are sorry and will revert back to you at some point.”

“As a Law Firm we can actively pursue your claim both with the Lender and the Ombudsman. We have recently had some great success stories with Barclays Partner Finance, Natwest and GE-Money. In many instances, we have managed to succeed where the Ombudsman has failed and achieved a better result for our clients.”

“We would remind all our clients that we will not ask our clients for any monies upfront and that we are operating on a ‘No Win No Fee’ basis.”

“For those of you that have returned the Letter of Authority a big thank you, and those that have not please contact us as a matter of urgency.”

“For all those clients who are refusing to do so, please note that you are still under contract and this would constitute a breach. Please let us pursue this matter on your behalf as you have nothing to lose and potential compensation to receive.”

It is the last three paragraphs that have given rise to concern from our readers, that if they refuse to sign the “Letter of Authority” to pursue a claim, then they will be in breach of contract. Surely if you are engaging a firm for any legal matter such as filing a claim especially one that is supposed to be a firm of solicitors, is it not the clients right to cancel the claim if they so wish?

Is this yet another case of the bullying tactics of Mark Rowe, just as we have seen in the past with his other ventures?

Mark Rowe

When having a look at the “Mellor Solicitors” website, we came across something that Inside Timeshare finds rather disturbing. Under the heading of “More” on the menu bar is a drop-down box with a link to the following page:

https://www.mellorsolicitors.co.uk/jivehippo.html

It appears that Mellor Solicitors (Lansdown Financial owned by Mark Rowe) is pursuing claims where the client purchased using a credit card, in other words, a Section 75 claim under the Credit Consumer Act 1974.

There is obviously something not quite right here, one company sells the product Jive Hippo (replaced Monster) which we already know is not worth a thing, then another company still owned by Rowe makes a claim for “compensation” from the credit card company!

Surely, this cannot be right, do the credit card companies not realise that a claim is being made by one company against them for payments to another, yet to all intents and purposes they are one and the same being owned by the same person?

Do the “lawyers” at Mellor know the full story behind Mark Rowe, or, is he attempting to pull the wool over their eyes?

As usual, we let you the reader decide.

Links to company records.

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09742346

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/10620587

https://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/register/organisation/?sraNumber=639178#headingFirmNames

https://www.einforma.com/informacion-empresa/jive-hippo

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09863488