Welcome to this weeks Letter from America by Irene Parker, it is appropriate that today on this special occasion in the US we publish our Veterans “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”. You may also be familiar with some of the names, as we have published their stories in the past.
Pearl Harbor Day, December 7
By Irene Parker
Yesterday America mourned the loss of 41st President George H. W. Bush. We pause today to remember Pearl Harbor and all veterans and active duty service members.
Tom E. (Tommy) Unger was my best friend and fellow Rotarian when I lived in Hawaii. The picture above is from his book, Max Schlemmer, Hawaii’s King of Laysan Island. I can think of no better way to honor my friend than to promote his book about his grandfather, a whaler and later a superintendent of a guano mining operation on Laysan Island, one of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands about 800 miles from Honolulu. I wrote Never Forget and then remembered Tommy’s book. I dug it out of the bookshelf and read his inscription, “To Irene and Don – who gave me a midnight ride to the hospital. Dear friends I shall never forget. Aloha, Tom E. Unger. This happened after a couple martinis did not sit well with Tommy’s heart medication. It felt like Tommy answered me.
Tommy grew up across the street from Roosevelt High School, becoming one of Roosevelt’s star football players. Following in his footsteps, grandson Max Unger plays NFL starting center for the New Orleans Saints.
From Tommy’s book cover, “Tom saw action during the Pearl Harbor attack as a civilian rescue worker. He received a Purple Heart and a Combat Commission during three Italian campaigns.” Visitors to Pearl Harbor were greeted by Tommy as they settled in to watch the film describing that day. He gave lectures and acted as a guide at the Visitor Center at the Arizona Memorial until his passing. Credit for photo: Donald J Johnson
Inside Timeshare has heard from 86 veterans and active duty service members who have described astonishing accounts of unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices. Several of the veterans are disabled. Below I list five Agent Orange veterans, including Leo Gomez who passed away at age 72 in November, battling pancreatic cancer and his timeshare contract. I think of Leo often given the number of times I talked to him the last month of his life about his timeshare. The company responded that I am a “self-styled” so-called, third party (not an attorney) “advocate” with “clients” who purports to assist members in exiting their contract. I am a human being with a conscience, who is incapable of hanging up the phone when a distraught fellow human being contacts me in distress. It’s called having a soul.
Listed below are five Agent Orange exposed veterans who have contacted me, describing extraordinary accounts of deception, perpetrated by timeshare sales agents. Timeshare company representatives will call their accounts allegations. I don’t. Based on a volume and a pattern of complaints, I believe war heroes over repeat offender timeshare sales agents. This volume and pattern of complainants together I believe establishes and overcomes the “you have no proof” denials offered by the companies purporting to care about their customers, and some regulators, together allowing deception to continue unchecked with “You have no proof” auto-denials.
I want to also thank Whistleblowers of America for supporting our efforts. They included our timeshare report at the Joint Committee on Veterans Affairs March 14, 2018.
Please remember WoA this Holiday season.
Speak Truth to Power
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™ 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.
Our five Vietnam Agent Orange exposed veterans:
Mr. David Althage is the 5th Agent Orange exposed veteran harmed by timeshare. We are currently reaching out to the company hoping they will help Mr. Althage.
My name is David Althage and I am a veteran of the Marines. I served from 1964 to 1968 and ended up as a Corporal E4. I spent most of 1965 and 1966 in Vietnam and my specialty was machine gunner which I did on the ground and also as the door gunner on helicopters. I was wounded twice and I have also suffered from the cancerous effects of Agent Orange on my skin. All of that seems a lifetime away as my wife and I have been settled for many years in Missouri. These days I repair mobile homes for work, and I keep going at this even though I am now 73. I do not have retirement or a pension. I only have social security.
#2 George Yamada, 70% disabled, bought timeshare points as an investment – George is a pension administrator
#3 100% Agent Orange disabled, Purple Heart, shot in Vietnam, company resolved the timeshare dispute.
#4 Danny Wolfer, up-sold by a timeshare sales agent we have received 20 complaints against. Mr. Wolfer is 100% disabled, issued a $170,000 IRS 1099 due to timeshare foreclosure. Danny’s son contacted us about the 1099 after his dad had been foreclosed. We helped him resolve the IRS liability.
#5 Leo Gomez, earned two Purple Hearts, with one month to live, battled pancreatic cancer and his timeshare – Sadly Leo passed away November 9, 2018.
Thank you to all service members, especially those who have sacrificed their life and health, to protect even those who seek to do them harm.
If you have a timeshare story, positive or negative to share, contact Inside Timeshare. We know there are many honest sales agents who have sold timeshares to many who use and enjoy their timeshare. We are not disputing that. One former sales agent and executive is Wayne C. Robinson, author of Everything About Timeshares, Before, During and After the Sale. Wayne is himself a Navy veteran, a former Navy journalist, and now a champion for those who feel they have been harmed by unfair and deceptive timeshare sales practices that Wayne witnessed during his timeshare career. Please consider Wayne’s book on your stocking stuffer list. It’s the perfect size!
Timeshare self-help groups we feel are not industry influenced:
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.
If you have any comments or would like to share your “Nightmare on Timeshare Street”, please use our contact page, Inside Timeshare would love to hear from you.
Have a great weekend and join us again next week.