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Trading Standards

The Changing Face of Timeshare Scams Pt 2

Over the years we have seen various changes in the scams surrounding timeshare, from the development of resorts in the beginning then the resale scam to the latest of the fake law firms. Once the timeshare is purchased then the never ending problem of who to trust emerges. Today we have a brief look at how these scams have changed, the only thing that ties them together is they want your hard earned cash.

The first scams to take place in what should have been a good product was the off-plan purchase. In the early days when timeshare resorts were proliferating, those on holiday were lured to the presentation deck or showrooms to be sold “The Dream”. These “UP’s” or “Unit Prospects” as you are known, were usually picked up off the street by the OPC’s or the touts with the scratch cards, every single person given these cards would win the Star Prize. Then taken to the deck to claim it and sit with a “rep” for the presentation.

They would be shown architects plans and artistic impressions of what the resort would look like, what facilities it would have and the standard of the apartments. Usually photos of existing resorts would be shown to enhance the quality that you would expect. It was also sold as an investment, you were buying into property or real estate, which would go up in value. In essence you were buying a share in your very own holiday home.

A proposed date for completion would be given and then the hard sell kicked in, for just a small deposit you can secure the week and apartment of your choice, if you could not afford the full price a payment plan or finance could be arranged. After all it would be some time before you would be able to use the resort as it still had to be built.

Unfortunately, many of these resorts were never actually completed or even started, what you purchased was a hole in the ground and “The Dream”. Many of these sales took place in destinations such as Portugal, Spain and its Islands. This did give these countries a very bad reputation.

It must also be remembered that these schemes tended to be run by criminals who needed to launder their ill gotten gains from criminal activities in their own countries. That was the start of the word “Timeshare” becoming synonymous with scams.

Once timeshare was established, the resale scam began to appear, many of these were based on the Costa del Sol which had many timeshare resorts. Call centers were set up, usually in apartments and hidden, remember there was no internet at that time, so making checks was virtually impossible.

The caller would introduce themselves and ask if you still owned the timeshare, once this was established the question of have you thought about selling, as the prices of timeshares was increasing. After all the purchaser did think they owned property!

After establishing what the owner had paid and what they owned, the agent calling would come up with a wonderful story of how they had sold recently for almost double the original purchase price. Once the owner had been hooked with the greed factor, then the agent would be needing a payment to list the property for sale. That would be the last you heard from them or your money.

The next move in the resale scam was the guaranteed buyer, or the corporate buyer, these tended to be the Discount Members Holiday Clubs, such as Designer Way Vacation Club and Club Class Concierge.

These originally worked in 2 ways, the pick up off the street or cold line, the call center targeting timeshare owners through lists. The cold line didn’t generally target owners, but once at the presentation they would establish that you did own timeshare.

With the telephone targeting of timeshare owners, they would be told that there was a buyer who was looking for timeshares, usually a corporate buyer. Once you agreed that you would be interested in selling they would invite you to their offices in Spain with free accommodation, to attend a meeting.

Once at the meeting the corporate buyer turned out to be a sales agent for the holiday club, they would take the timeshare off your hands but to do so you had to purchase membership into the club. You would get a discount for the timeshare and in many cases what was known as Cashback, which was another con in itself.

It the turned out that the discounts promised never materialised, the excuse was always the same, sorry not available on those dates. It also turned out that in many cases several year down the line the timeshare company started for non- payment of maintenance fees. The timeshare had not been disposed of as promised.

Thankfully the main culprits have been closed down, but there are still some about, resale scams still exist, but from what we have seen they are mainly targeting French and Belgian owners and are based in Marrakech.

We now move on to the claims sector which has really started to take off since the first Supreme Court rulings against timeshare companies.

Some of these are very sophisticated frauds, such as those of the Tenerife based family of fake law firms which we have dubbed the Litigious Abogados Family. Their method is very well put together, they even have some excellent fake court and procurator documents.

First they contact the owner, (in some cases the timeshare is no longer owned), with the story that the timeshare company is about to be taken to court and you can be in on the case. You are likely to receive thousands in compensation, but you do have to pay a fee to the procurator. Once paid, give it a couple of weeks and you are then notified that the director pleaded guilty and you have been awarded a substantial amount. Unfortunately there is a tax to be paid, which is 20% of the awarded amount, to back this up the unsuspecting timeshare owner is sent fake court documents showing the sentence and a photocopy of the cheque they will receive. Yes you guessed it there was no trial and you have just lost thousands.

Another ploy is the so-called firms calling themselves lawyers or claims companies, the pitch is simple, you have a claim which they will do on a no win no fee basis, great no legal fees upfront. There is one snag though, you need to cancel the contract first, but guess what they can do the relinquishment for you. All you have to do is pay upwards of £5000 and you will be out, then they will start the claim for you.

In some cases these companies have also used the “bait and switch” tactic to sell their own product, “Leisure Credits” (think Monster Credits) which is a discount club (very similar to the holiday club), again not worth the paper the contract is written on.

What we have seen with these particular schemes from many of our readers is simple, they have never received any money for the claim and they are now being chase for around 3 years of back maintenance. Their contract have never been relinquished.

We have seen this with one company that has gone out of business, RSB Legal. They operated for about 3 years so must have taken hundreds of people for tens of thousands of pounds. It must also be said that the UK authorities such as Trading Standards as well as the police are investigating many companies.

Yes, for the poor timeshare owner it is a very perilous world, a veritable minefield where thousands are lost on an almost daily basis, with very little hope of ever recovering what has been paid.

There are some genuine law firms and claims companies, these will not tell you that you have a claim if you don’t, it is not in their interest to take on cases which are not valid. As for relinquishments, many resorts will not deal with third parties, Ona Group, MGM Petchey, MacDonald Resorts, Diamond, Club la Costa and many more, they will only deal direct with the member. Then in most case the fee they charge is usually far less than what you would pay these other companies.

It now remains to be seen what form the next phase of scams will take, these crooks will always find an angle, after all they do want your money!

So the moral of this tale is doing your due diligence and plenty of homework, if you don’t know where to start, then use our contact page. We are here to give you free advice and point you in the right direction.

RSB Legal Update

Over the past few weeks Inside Timeshare has been receiving many enquiries about RSB Legal, all are of a very similar nature, money paid and now they are unable to contact them. Their phone lines are down and the website is no longer available. According to company house records there is an active proposal to strike them off.

From all the enquiries we have received all had been contacted by RSB Legal about making claim against their timeshare resort for mis-selling, this was to be on a no win no fee basis. A meeting was then arranged at RSB Legals Office in Redditch, once there all have said it turned out to be just like the presentation for their timeshares.

The “consultants” went on about how the timeshares had been mis-sold and that they had very good cases for a claim. But then came the crunch, in order to do the claim under no win no fee, the contract had to be cancelled first. For this a large amount of money needed to be paid first, so deposits were taken and a date for the balance to be paid arranged.

The client was also told not to pay any more maintenance fees, as the contract would be cancelled.

All those who have made enquiries have the same story, they have received demands for maintenance fees from their resorts, also being told that their contracts have not been cancelled by RSB Legal or by Taylor Marshall who took on many of the cancellations from RSB.

We do know many RSB clients have received an email or letter from Club La Costa, this states that they have not paid out compensation or cancelled any contracts for clients of RSB Legal or Taylor Marshall. They have repeatedly informed these companies that they will not deal with third party companies in respect of their members, they will only deal directly with the members concerned.

They have also pointed out that CLC will allow any members to surrender their membership free of charge, which RSB Legal and Taylor Marshall were fully aware of.

RSB Legal also told their clients that the claim would be going through the Spanish courts, no cases have ever been filed, clients were not informed of which lawyers had their cases, no translations of documents had been done and no power of attorney signed to allow the Spanish lawyer to act on the clients behalf.

It is also a point of fact, that once the contract is cancelled then no claim can ever be brought to a court, so this then leaves the question how the claim would be made?

Just from the number of enquiries Inside Timeshare has received recently with the average payment made to RSB Legal being around £8,000 mark, some have been considerably more, we are looking at over £100,000 which just these few have lost. Multiply that by the possibly hundreds more clients that have been taken in by RSB Legal and we must be looking at well over one million pounds swindled over the 2 years this company has been in operation. This is looking like a major fraud, it begs the question why have the authorities not done anything about them?

If you have paid RSB Legal and have paid any amount by credit card, then you may have a chance of getting your money back through Section 75 of the Credit Consumer Act 1974. Provided you have paid a minimum of £100 by your credit card then you can claim back the full amount upto £30,000.

As this company is appears to be no longer trading, plus the fact a proposal to strike off has been made, will make the claim through section 75 stronger as the company is no longer solvent therefore you will not receive the goods or services paid for, in other words they have breached their contract with you. See link below for full details on section 75.

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/section75-protect-your-purchases

It would also be prudent to make an official report to the police and receive a crime number, this can be done very easily online through Action Fraud. The more that report this the more chance of an investigation. You can also make a complaint and report to Trading Standards. Details for both are at the links below.

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

http://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/contact/

If you have had any dealings with this company and have any questions or concerns then use our contact page, we will get back to you and answer your questions.

Have you been contacted by any company with a similar story and want to know if it is genuine, then contact Inside Timeshare, we’ll help you find out.

Remember doing your homework will save you in the end.

Friday’s Letter from America

In this week’s Letter from America we welcome the first article from Ken Silva, with his Nightmare on Timeshare Street story. This is also made more complicated due to the involvement of Barclays, as this is considered as a separate agreement to the timeshare. But first we look at the news from Europe.

It has now been confirmed that the enterprises owned by Mark Rowe, are being investigated by South West Police, this follows the report at the beginning of January of the raids conducted by Trading Standards at several premises used by these companies. This followed after an investigation by the “Scambuster Team”.

The Police are contacting clients who either have lodged complaints with Trading Standards and the Police in the past, or from records seized in the raids. If you have had any dealings with any of his companies (a full list can be found at the link below), then contact:

South West Police ROCU. DC 4624 Katie Andrews. PO Box 37, Valley Rd, Portishead,Bristol. BS20 8QJ

Police ROCU UK

http://insidetimeshare.com/monster-credits-associated-companies-summary/

Could this now be the end to the Mark Rowe Enterprises?

If we thought that things could not get any stranger in the world of timeshare, then you would be wrong.

For now on with today’s Letter from America.

A Warning to Anyone Thinking About Buying a Timeshare

Our Diamond Resorts International nightmare

Fri Doh!

By Ken Silva

February 2, 2018

Timeshare Consumers, take my advice and do due diligence before buying a timeshare.

Protect your family. Do not get your family into the mess we are in. Do your research. There’s a reason there are so many timeshare members on Facebook and websites seeking to dump their timeshares. I’m sure there are sales agents selling the product honestly, but you decide about our sales agent after reading what happened to us. All you have to do to prove we are telling the truth is to get on our booking site and try to find a vacation based on what we were sold.

Attorneys General, please, do not dismiss our experience. We are fighting to get our money back, as we still owe $10,000 on a Diamond Resorts Barclaycard credit card. We hope to escape the “ironclad” STAY VACATIONED contract.  

Here’s what happened

saleman

In May of 2016 my wife and I purchased a Diamond Resorts International (DRI) Sampler (trial) package for $2,995 in Las Vegas.

Using our Sampler points we booked a stay at Diamond’s Ka’anapali Resort. We purchased 2,500 Hawaii Collection Diamond points for $13,000. Our sales agent was Karen Cossettee. Ms. Cossette told us we would be able to book one to three weeks of vacation anywhere. Our son Jacob, age 3, has a serious medical condition so we need to vacation close to home as we have to be near medical facilities. We had to cut both our Hawaii and Las Vegas trip short because our son experienced a medical emergency back home.

After we returned home, we got on the booking site, but found no locations meeting our requirements. About the only bookings you can get with 2,500 points are for places like Branson Missouri or Gatlinburg, maybe a one bedroom in Orlando. It is impossible to stay one to three weeks in a one bedroom in California near a major medical facility.  

Jacob has cerebral palsy. He has been diagnosed failure to thrive and is on a feeding tube. He requires 24/7 care and he is a case study at Stanford University Medical School. We cannot fly because of his condition. We booked Tahoe recently, but cancelled that trip because even Tahoe is too far.  

Using our Sampler points requires a sales presentation, so we booked a trip to

Las Vegas November, 2017. We stayed at DRI’s Cancun resort. There the Diamond sales agent, Davia Hunsicker said, “Hawaii lied to you! You can’t go anywhere on 2,500 points.” We were told Hawaii Collection points are expected to be slammed with assessments and 10-14% increases in maintenance fees because Hawaii is so expensive and subject to weather damages. However, in Hawaii they told us maintenance fees increase only 6%. They went on to explain that Hawaii was going to have a $1,000 plus assessment for damage to shores.  Ms. Hunsicker told us U S Collection maintenance fees increase only 2% on average.   

The Vegas agents told us the only way out of this situation was to move our Hawaii points to the US Collection and to do that we had to buy 4,500 points for $18,000 to own 7,000 U S Collection.

Like in Hawaii, we were shown several places we could stay that met Jacob’s needs. Again, when allowed on our booking site (again after the rescission period), it was a different inventory. I called DRI and reached a Platinum agent who said, “I’m with the Platinum desk. I can pull strings.” She found a desirable option, Pacific Grove in California. This was one of the locations we were shown in Vegas, only in our inventory it would require 22,000 points.

Timeshare companies can dodge the rescission period by not allowing access to the booking site until after the rescission period. In our case, I tried to log on two days after signing but was told my account was in escrow. The rescind period is seven to ten days, but it takes nearly 30 days before you can access the booking site.

DRI sales agents are so good at having all the answers and they will promise you the moon. Ms. Hunsicker also said we could get an extra 8500 “ghost” points that would upgrade us to Silver by saying we owned an RCI week. She instructed us to just nod to the QA person when they ask about RCI and we would be able to get the extra points, but not to say she told us because, “You might get me fired if they find out, but that way you’ll get another 8500 points.” She advised us to purchase an RCI week at Sam’s Club for $500 – $600 and then trade it in to Diamond for 8,500 points. She said with Silver benefits we could have food stocked and luggage forwarded. This was a tremendous benefit because of Jacob’s needs. However, when I read about these benefits the luggage benefit costs additional funds and the food service was not available at the Silver level.  

We asked about what would happen if we could no longer use the points and were told DRI will work something out and were informed DRI has a website where you can sell points. DRI points are virtually worthless on the secondary market.

We would have rescinded our contract immediately if I had been able to see that we could not use our points as promised. Diamond salespeople will offer their cell and promise to be available and act like they genuinely care about you (like ours did concerning Jacob), but then disappear after a few days of friendly texts.

I work for a faith based non-profit. We teach anti-bullying and leadership skills. Our credit score is over 800. I am 33 years old and my wife is 31, caring for our son’s severe medical issues. To think that timeshare companies allow these practices and hides behind the fine print is astonishing.

I published a review on Trust Pilot.

Reply from Diamond Resorts International

Published Monday, January 15, 2018

We regret to hear of your experience as we are known in being forthright and delivering top notch service. Please email us at [email protected] for further assistance.

My response to Diamond’s response

Edit: Diamond Resorts reached out, as seen below, however, they have not responded to my email to them as of 1/25/18. Also, they are not known for their top notch service. In fact, look on Facebook for the various groups of people who are in positions like mine, or the many other reviews on Trust Pilot. It often takes DRI 45 or more days to get back to you and many are ignored. When you call customer service, they tell you there’s not much they can do to help.

If Diamond was forthright and delivering top notch service, they would refund victims their money. I’m glad I have a background in Social Justice and Social Media.

I hope our pain will save others.

Notes from Irene

Since Ken submitted this article a week ago, Inside Timeshare received five more complaints directed against this same sales center, one against the same agent Ken complained about.  Especially in California, there have been complaints from Monarch owners of deeded weeks, coerced into giving up their deed and buy points, only to find out they did not have access to the week they had used and enjoyed for years.

http://www.monarchowner.com/p/opt-out.html

https://monarch-grand-vacations.pissedconsumer.com/lawsuit-against-monarch-grand-and-diamond-resorts-20150428628300.html

All timeshare resorts have non-member inventory that always guarantee non-members can spend the money but members often cannot find availability. Diamond is not the only resort with complaints like this. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman settled with The Manhattan Club for $6.5 million. Clearly, there is a problem industry wide.

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-65-million-settlement-midtown-manhattan-timeshare-scammed

Timeshare deception and “bait and switch” is not a practice limited to Diamond, but in the case of DRI, licensed resale brokers will not even accept a Diamond listing. It’s bad enough if you can sell a timeshare if you were lied to, (often a timeshare is worth only pennies on the dollar), but with Diamond it is worse because it has been widely reported Diamond has virtually no secondary market. Try calling some of the members of the Licensed Timeshare Resale Brokers Association and see what they have to say.

http://www.licensedtimeshareresalebrokers.org/

ethics scale

We really do hope timeshare developers will work with us to stop predatory timeshare sales.

Thank you Ken and Irene for today’s article, it is with these stories that everyone becomes aware of what is happening, including the developers. Let us hope that they take note and start to change how they operate.

Inside Timeshare has just been informed from one of our German readers that Marriott is sending out emails to clients with the following statement (part of email translated from German):

An important commentary has been published in the press regarding letting restrictions on tourists (especially in the Balearics and in Catalonia) in 2017.
We would like to point out that MVCI Management, S.L. the only licensed company that has the right to rent properties in MVCI Resorts in Spain for themselves or their owners.
Weekly owners who rent their time-share weeks either by themselves or through third parties face fines of up to € 400,000.
Due to the complex nature of the legislation in question in Spain, we recommend that you obtain legal advice on your individual circumstances before renting your weeks outside the MVCI rental program.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us or send an e-mail to [email protected]com.
Best regards,
Marriott Vacation Club
We will obviously bring you more on this as we get more information as and when we get it.

If you have any questions or require any information on this or any other article published, contact Inside Timeshare, we will be pleased to help and point you in the right direction.

So that is it for another week, Friday is upon us and the weekend beckons, have a good one.

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