Deceiving Resort Fees Causes DC Attorney General to Sue Marriott

Deceiving Resort Fees Causes DC Attorney General to Sue Marriott

For many years, timeshare companies have been able to play by their own rules. When buyer complaints arose, they were typically shut down and labelled as purchase negligence. Although buyers may not have known what they were signing, it never really mattered. Today, the general public is becoming more aware of the sales and marketing tactics used by travel companies. While the legalities and laws are still evolving, more and more people are taking a stand in the consumer’s favor. One might think this would encourage timeshare companies to focus more on buyer benefits, but it has not. Despite there being a tremendous opportunity to revitalize timesharing, they’ve continued resorting to additional fees at the expense of their clients to make up for losses. Deceiving resort fees are also a part of the same equation.

Marriott Hotels is the latest hospitality conglomerate to fall under the microscope. If you haven’t already heard, Washington DC’s Attorney General, Karl A. Racine, is suing Marriott for misleading tens of thousands of local consumers with “deceptive resort fees when booking hotel rooms.” He made the announcement on his Twitter feed. “Through these fees, Marriott hides the true price of rooms and misleads consumers to increase company profits.”

While this may not specifically pertain to timeshare ownership, there are some implications. Fractional owners have long been frustrated with the continual increase of annual fees. Some have even experienced financial hardship because they didn’t budget for additional expenses that weren’t explained during the sales presentation. If the Attorney General is able to successfully implement standards for travel companies while holding misleading ploys accountable, it will be a huge boon for timeshare owners.

What the Attorney General is Accusing Marriott of Doing.

Racine claims Marriott was luring consumers by “advertising daily room rates lower than the true total price for a room.” Many industries use this tactic because it occurs after the buyer has made a decision. Racine went on to say, “Then, during booking, mandatory [resort] fees were added on top of advertised rates, which allowed Marriott to increase profits without appearing to raise prices.” While this might appear frustrating, most continue on with the sale.


When you think about it, a lot of time and effort goes into planning a vacation. Once travelers make a decision on lodging, most don’t want to start over – even after realizing there are additional fees. “Discovering these charges only after a consumer has started to book a room makes it extremely difficult to compare prices and make informed choices,” said the AG. The normality of deceiving resort fees and service charges has also caused some consumers to assume the fees are standard. It’s hard to believe Marriott and others don’t know this. Travel companies like theirs spend millions of dollars on marketing efforts. 

After investigating the booking process himself, Racine believes he’s able to prove this. “In some instances, Marriott led consumers to believe the resort fees were government-imposed charges, rather than additional daily charges paid to Marriott,” he said. But why would they stoop to this level? Balancing out Hotel losses by charging innocent customers doesn’t seem very smart. They had to know someone was eventually going to speak up about their greedy grab, right? 

It’s pretty obvious what they’re doing isn’t ethical. Some have even gone as far as calling deceiving resort fees a tax dodge. “This kind of bait-and-switch advertising and other forms of deceptive pricing are unfair and illegal,” said Racine. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more common than most people think. The public is just now beginning to understand how many travel companies operate.

Hotel Chains Make Millions From Deceiving Resort Fees.

For years, consumers have been lied to and taken advantage of by travel companies. While Marriott’s fees can be as little as $9, some resorts are charging fees as high as $95 per night. They know how to charge just enough so that the buyer doesn’t abandon the purchase. Over time, companies have been able to coup millions of dollars in revenue due to misleading fees. Although the internet presents a challenge for consumer protection agencies, it’s good to see misconduct being labeled for what it is

The Attorney General’s office is currently seeking a court order that requires Marriott Hotels to advertise real prices that include fees. Because the hospitality chain violated DC’s consumer protection laws, the AG is also requiring that Marriott incurs civil penalties and repays deceived buyers. Other major hotel chains should take note because Marriott’s problems don’t end in Washington DC. The UK’s ICO is also suing them for compromising privacy laws. Hopefully the end result causes a ripple across the entire travel industry. Travelers don’t deserve to be misled and taken advantage of anymore. 

Stay tuned for more as the lawsuit unfolds.

4 Things to Look For in Timeshare Interval Exchange Companies

4 Things to Look For in Timeshare Interval Exchange Companies

Vacation ownership will always be known for its ups and downs. No matter the level of deception exposed, demand still remains. When you think about it, nearly anyone is willing to listen to a pitch about the “affordability” of timeshare travel. Especially when free gifts are involved. Although the sale itself is obviously concerning, the multitude of questionable post-purchase options is definitely noteworthy. Aside from the resort’s in-house solutions, most timeshare owners eventually become bombarded by 3rd party agencies. This is because many buyers immediately look into timeshare interval exchange companies once they realize there’s limited availability at their home resort. Resale, exit and enhancement solicitations (like travel clubs), usually don’t surface until buyers give up on the resort and acknowledge the purchase was a mistake.

Why Timeshare Owners Are Pushed to 3rd Party Solutions.

When timeshare owners find themselves dissatisfied with their purchase, many believe complaining will invoke resolution. But in this industry, demanding satisfaction gets buyer’s nowhere. It’s awfully difficult to work things out with the resort when demands or claims lack substance. If a contract was signed, then an agreement was made. You can’t expect them to budge. At the same time, if misconduct occurred then owners deserve restitution. It’s important they understand the more they know, they better their chances are. Thinking irrationally only allows the resort to use their emotions against them.


Before we talk about exchanging weeks, there are a few things you should know. Timeshare sales teams have been extensively trained to defuse conflict. They’re surprisingly good at turning complaining buyers into upgraded customers. But many timeshare owners eventually realize paying more (for a desired experience) doesn’t solve their problem. When all hope in the resort becomes lost, searching for another form of relief seems logical. While a majority immediately turn to resale or legal services, some initially believe their interval exchange program will solve their main problem with lack of availability, but it comes at an additional expense.

Avoid Irrationality When Selecting an Exchange Program.

Just like any other form of relief, timeshare interval exchange companies need to be thoroughly evaluated before you do business with them. Fractional owners need to realize that 3rd party services can be just as (or even more) misleading than the timeshare company’s ploy. No matter how many guarantees are thrown your way, nothing matters when lies are involved. If you think you’ve been liberated because you’ve officially given up on the resort, guess again. Navigating the waters of hopeful solutions need to be taken seriously or you can easily make matters worse.


So, What Exactly Are Timeshare Exchange Companies?

Before selecting an interval exchange company, you have to understand what you’re exchanging so you aren’t taken advantage of. A timeshare interval is the actual length of time that you bought from the resort. While most time periods come in week-long intervals, some resorts sell one tenth or a quarter (year) intervals. When you make an interval exchange, you’re essentially trading in the time period of your contract for something similar in value. Many assume this is an equal exchange, but that is not always the case. This is why hiring a reputable company to help with the switch is important.

The main responsibility of timeshare interval exchange companies (in our opinion) is to ensure owners receive similar value in return. This includes properly valuing points before converting them into weekly intervals. At the end of the day, exchange companies should be focused on providing fractional owners with extensive options that extend the life of their timeshare. Anything less than fair is pretty much a slap in the face.

We have to remember that when unhappy buyers contact an exchange program, they’re still trying to get what they paid for. They don’t deserve to be downgraded. But that doesn’t mean an enhancement program will shows empathy. Many deem desperate timeshare owners as an opportunity to earn, not to serve. Although your timeshare sales representative may have said you could freely exchange with 100% of the properties available (on the exchange platform), this may not always be true. It’s important that you inspect your agreement and understand all of its terms before moving forward with the transaction.

Before Contacting a Timeshare Exchange Company.

If you take the time to do your research, you’ll find that exchanging a timeshare can be done in a number of ways. So you need to determine what makes the most sense. Whether you’re off-loading points or straight up swapping the property, get started by listing the companies that suit your needs best. Some options provide geographical perks while others include a wide variety of resorts in destinations across the world. Take the time to compare one-time exchanges and membership programs against each other. Whatever you do, make a confident decision and stick to it.

Before reaching out to any business in this industry, you also need to make sure the operation is a legitimate one. Unfortunately, hundreds of scams dwell in the shadows of the timeshare industry and many of them know how to hide pertinent information from you. In order to combat deceitful practices, you have to know what to look for before reaching out. Confirming business information is a good place to start. If you’d like some tips, we wrote a blog that helps owners identify red flags when seeking relief. We even created an infographic if you don’t feel like reading.

No matter who you end up hiring, keep in mind you’ll always be charged some sort of exchange fee. Don’t be surprised when this fact isn’t prominent during the sale. Many relief programs cater to your frustration more than explaining their solution. The pitch will sound good. This is why you should never settle for the first company that appeals to you. Asking the right questions, knowing the perks and itemizing fees will help you make a sound decision.


4 Ways to Scout Timeshare Interval Exchange Companies.

The idea of getting rid of your timeshare can be exciting, but don’t allow the anticipation to distract you. In reality, desperation is what gets a lot of timeshare owners buried under debt. Remember, the intentions of many timeshare exchange companies are not in your favor. Understand that once you reach out to them, you’ve initiated their sales process. A good percentage of solicitors will not take “no” for an answer. Do your best to stick to your needs and make sure the salesman sticks to the facts. As always, if at any point you’re feeling pressured, it’s best that you just walk away. The longer you stay, the more likely they’ll persuade you.

With that being said, let’s dive right into four things to look for in timeshare interval exchange companies:

1. An established reputation is always a good sign timeshare exchange companies are worth contacting. While reviews may be the obvious place to look, you can also explore company partnerships and affiliations to get an idea of their track record. If the business is connected to a scam or local support hasn’t been established, it’s enough to cause concern. The company’s outlook can also be assessed by researching company employees – past or present. Websites like Glassdoor give those with affiliations an opportunity to speak on their experience. If past employees or customers haven’t been impressed, then you probably won’t be either.  If you can’t find anything reputable (or the bad news outweighs the good), then it’s best you assume the worst. Why would you want to be the guinea pig for a company that has nothing to show?

2. Your questions shouldn’t be met with an aggressive sales approach. No matter what type of relief program you speak to, you have to be prepared to ask questions. The more detailed and uncomfortable your questions are, the better. Getting salesmen out of their comfort zones will help you assess their integrity. Companies that offer honest and valuable solutions tend to be more patient with assumptions or criticism. Their employees are normally better trained to handle conflict. Those that are only interested in the sale will more than likely respond in an unprofessional manner. This should give you enough reason to move on to the next option.

3. Diversified options are a characteristic of quality interval exchange companies. When making this decision, try to think long term. Settling on a quick fix normally puts you right back where you started. Selecting a company with a variety of exchange options gives you a better chance of continuously finding something similar in value. Go out of your way to confirm every capability to ensure you’re not signing up for a mirage. You have every reason to question a sales pitch. If they’re able to prove everything to you and show you examples of current customers, then they’re definitely worth considering. Again, don’t settle for the first company that appeals to you.

4. If your satisfaction isn’t a priority then look elsewhere. Many relief programs will tell you what they need from you in order to provide assistance. While this may not be a bright red flag to some, exchange companies should present a servant’s attitude. They should know they’re not your only option and that there are better solutions out there. Arrogantly treating you like a number is simply bad business. Timeshare exchange companies should be looking to provide you with an experience you’ve yet to receive. If you feel as though they don’t value your business or that they would never go above and beyond to find you an immaculate property, then it’s not worth your time and money. An inability to “wow” you during the sale should tell you everything you need to know.


Interval Exchange Companies Can Benefit Timeshare Owners.

In closing, exchange programs give fractional owners an ability to enjoy something they’ve been forced to anticipate for too long. Members usually receive their first year for free and they can even “bank” their weeks or points (deposit them for a later date) so they don’t lose them over time. For the most part, they’re extremely valuable to the timeshare industry and play a role in its history. Compared to other relief programs (like cancellation and resale), timeshare exchange fraud isn’t nearly as common. But it doesn’t mean misconduct doesn’t occur.

Setting aside time to analyze every company you’re considering is one of the best investments you can make. Consumers are scammed because they don’t take this seriously. Although the timeshare company may have let you down, it’s inevitably up to you to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. If you’re patient, there are companies willing to be patient and honest with you.

While getting out of your timeshare contract may not be ideal, helping you vacation the way you deserve is important to us. To receive more tips or to learn about our attorney based service, you can schedule a FREE consultation or proceed with a qualification form below.

Timeshare Relief Company, Vacation Consulting, Accused of Misconduct

Timeshare Relief Company, Vacation Consulting, Accused of Misconduct

Over the years, we’ve realized there’s never a shortage of newsworthy timeshare topics. It may seem like the $9.6 billion industry has a lot of good things going, but unethical timeshare sales and fraudulent 3rd party companies are slowly deteriorating the public’s perception. Although an enjoyable timeshare experience isn’t impossible to come by, the greed involved makes the travel option foggy at best. But we’re not here to persuade you to avoid fractional ownership. We’re simply trying to protect your interests by exposing those taking advantage of unhappy buyers. Today’s spotlight is a timeshare relief company by the name of Vacation Consulting.

As misconduct continues to grow in the timeshare industry, a number of consumer protection agencies have taken notice. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been especially helpful to timeshare owners over the past few years.  Although the platform does have its flaws, it has proven to be an effective tool in identifying timeshare fraud.

How Vacation Consulting Deceived Timeshare Owners.

After recently investigating 10 midwestern businesses claiming to be timeshare relief companies, the BBB came to the conclusion Vacation Consulting has been “promising something they can’t guarantee they can deliver on.” While the BBB can’t exactly press charges, they can make their findings public. Spokeswoman Laura Blankenship went on to say the Bureau has received hundreds of similar complaints regarding the company.

“People are calling and not hearing back and not getting services and not getting their money back,” says Blankenship. Collectively, people have lost millions of dollars since the company began reaching out to timeshare owners. So what exactly are they doing to scam people? Let’s let one of their customers explain their interaction with the timeshare relief company.

A Look at Vacation Consulting’s Customer Experience.

Robert and Suzann Allison first received a call from Vacation Consulting a few years ago. At the time, they owned three timeshare properties and we’re quite content. They bought their first timeshare in the 1970’s and absolutely loved their experience as fractional owners. When they spoke to the timeshare relief company, they were intrigued but not necessarily interested. But the aggressive tactics by Vacation Consulting caused them to reconsider.

Since the couple was aging and didn’t have the itch to travel like they once had, the salesman was able to persuade them to meet in person. After accepting an offer to attend an event in Troy, Michigan, the Allisons ended up handing over $14,000 to sell all three of their timeshares. What inevitably sold them were the money back guarantees. They were told, if the properties didn’t sell in a year, they’d receive a full refund. So they figured, why not.

Mr. Allison said, “I would have been satisfied if they did what they said. But they haven’t and they’ve avoided us in every possible way.” He explained how Vacation Consulting didn’t even try to sell his properties in a timely manner and he had to eventually drive to their corporate office in Missouri for answers. After Robert confronted the business, they claimed two of his timeshares and were sold. For his displeasure, they offered him a partial refund on the third. But this is where things got interesting. As soon as Robert exhaled, the wind was knocked right back out of him. “They sent me a check in late December and it bounced in 3 days,” he said.

The Reality of Investing in a Timeshare Relief Company.

Hundreds of predatory agencies operate the same way Vacation Consultants did. They know how to keep consumers on the edge of their seats by always promising a solution. In the end, the customer gets burned and the business plays dumb. Brian Skroggs, the owner of the alleged timeshare relief company, has recently gone to the news to refute the public claims against his company. Amongst a handful of excuses, Skroggs placed most of the blame on the Allisons. Unfortunately, people involved in misconduct tend to always find a way to justify their actions. It’s apparent when they spend more time saving face than serving customers.

The owner of the timeshare relief company said, “As you can see, we have done everything that we promised. I could have argued that because we didn’t get the estoppel that we did not owe him any money. But for customer service reasons, I cut him a check for $3,948.99.” Not because he cared, but for “customer service reasons.” Thanks Brian, you really shouldn’t have.

Timeshare Transfer Scam Lands Virginia Lawyer in Federal Prison.

Timeshare Transfer Scam Lands Virginia Lawyer in Federal Prison.

Over the past few months, we’ve shared a lot of news regarding fraudulent activity by timeshare relief programs. But not all misconduct focuses on victimizing unhappy buyers looking to escape perpetual agreements. There are deceitful measures occurring everywhere in the industry. Even those with the utmost of character are tempted to partake in quick money schemes. Blinded by potential earnings, they make greedy decisions they later regret. This was especially true when a lawyer in Virginia found herself disbarred and facing jail time after puppeteering a timeshare transfer scam.

Lawyer Tries to Make Money Transferring Timeshares.

Beginning in 2011, Deborah M. Wagner and her staff began working with a number of co-conspirators, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars through 3rd party transfer services. Her law firm, Wagner & Hyman, claimed to execute their transfers by using “straw purchasers.” Also known as nominees, straw purchasers volunteer to buy something for someone who can’t, then they transfer it into the interested party’s name. In most cases they receive a kickback for the transaction. But that wasn’t what was occurring at Wagner’s firm.

Wagner’s operation was inevitably labeled a timeshare transfer scam due to the simple fact this pool of “straw purchasers” consisted of uninformed people. Her employees ended up creating false documents with their stolen identities to illegally process the company’s timeshare transfers. People were unknowingly placed under someone else’s contract without their permission.

They were able to make a pretty penny by fooling both parties during the timeshare transfer scam. Once the original owners were timeshare free, they happily compensated the firm. But Wagner wasn’t able to pull off the timeshare transfer scam on her own. Similar programs played complementary roles in the scheme. Brendan Hawkins (owner of Goodbye Timeshare) and Kieth Kosco (owner of Exotic Equity Transfers) also processed fake transfers and paid Wagner for her involvement. For the most part, they were responsible for persuading timeshare owners the transaction was legitimate because an attorney was involved.

But the multi-year scam ran its course when the maintenance fees and taxes of over 1,000 transferred properties went unpaid. Not only did the timeshare transfer scam cost resorts hundreds of thousands of dollars, it also left identity theft victims (straw owners) with severe damages to their credit. To give you an idea of how far Wagner went to pull off the scam, at least one of the straw owners was in jail. She had no idea timeshare contracts were in her name.

How the “Timeshare Lawyer” Tried to Cover Up Her Tracks.

When timeshare companies questioned specific transfers, Wagner would try to move ownership to another stolen identity. She eventually established another company by the name of Vacation Match, LLC, in order to target additional straw purchasers. She used the address of a tanning salon she owned in an attempt to legitimize the business. In all, the scam resulted in over $1.3 million in losses

Leader of the Timeshare Transfer Scam Sentenced.

Deborah Wagner pled guilty to conspiracy and mail/wire fraud in September of 2016 and has been disbarred from practicing law in the state of Virginia. 10 additional charges were dropped due to her agreement with the prosecution. On July 20th, 2017, the federal court concluded the trial by sentencing the Virginia Lawyer to 50 months in prison. Hawkins was sentenced to 46 months on April 20th, 2017 and Kosco is currently serving 74 months. This is a strong message to those thinking about pulling off a timeshare transfer scam.

Before Considering Timeshare Relief, Do Your Research..

If you’re considering timeshare relief, make sure you thoroughly research the services you’re considering before doing business with them. It may cost you some time, but the money you’ll save will make it all worth it. For more information on our cancellation services, feel free to schedule a free consultation or proceed with the qualification form below.

More Companies That Couldn’t Get Rid of Timeshare Purchases.

More Companies That Couldn’t Get Rid of Timeshare Purchases.

When people purchase a timeshare for the first time, negative repercussions are never at the forefront of their minds. It’s pretty much sunshine and rainbows in the beginning stages. While the sales presentation might have been overwhelming, new buyers are usually extremely content with their initial decision – and some remain that way. Others experience remorse quickly after they realize front-end disclosure was vague, misrepresented, or outright omitted. This can occur when owners realize availability isn’t what they were promised or when they stumble across hidden contract obligations. Unexpected annual fees often catch first time owners off guard. When a timeshare owner ends up feeling conned or trapped they usually start looking for a company that knows how to get rid of timeshare purchases.

Unfortunately, like our last article pointed out, finding relief is a lot easier said than done. Every year, tens of thousands of people are robbed during their quest to cancel a timeshare. Not only are resorts working against them to keep them under contract, but 3rd party “solutions” are bombarding them with ambiguous promises.

Far too many fractional owners truly don’t know their timeshare is perpetual. They think they can ask for a refund if it doesn’t work out. Once they realize they can’t cancel (because their rescission period has passed), they tend to begin losing hope in the resort. Especially if their decision to upgrade packages (as a solution commonly offered by their resort) backfires too.

But trusting 3rd party resolutions isn’t always fruitful either. Some buyers become desperate at a certain point which causes them to be irrational. Predatory agencies love consumer desperation. Truth be told, some timeshare owners really get drug through the mud after they sign the dotted line. The budgeted expense can turn into a devastating financial setback if you’re not careful. Since you can read all about this in some of our other blogs, let’s turn our attention back to some of the companies that claimed they knew how to get rid of timeshare purchases – but they just couldn’t get the job done.


Resort Release Files for Bankruptcy After Collecting Fees.

This year is already proving to be a progressive one when it comes to halting unethical timeshare cancellation services. A number of bankruptcies have already been filed while even more scams have been exposed. Incompetent operations, that persuade vulnerable timeshare owners to hand over thousands of dollars for nothing, are slowly being held responsible. To say regulatory agencies have been busy is an understatement.

When timeshare exit companies first came about, they had their way with fractional owners. Vague accusations didn’t warrant lawsuits. Now that laws and regulations are in place, prosecutors can begin holding scam artists accountable. Because buyers are asking more questions and understanding their rights, they’ve been able to prove they’ve been lied to more than ever before. Especially when guarantees are involved.

This was the case when Resort Release LLC – also known as the American Resource Management Group, LLC (ARMG), Resort Exit Team and Redemption Services – recently attempted to sweep their inaptitude under the rug. The timeshare relief service filed for bankruptcy with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida in April this year. During their hearings, some major red flags were uncovered. This forced the court to order a Chapter 11 Trustee to take control of the business and review all of their financial affairs.


An Unethical Trend Causes Them to Throw in the Towel.

Shortly before filing bankruptcy, Resort Release began receiving multiple complaints on their BBB profile. To date, their response to every grievance has remained consistent. They’re claiming none of the dissatisfied customers ever did business with them. Hopefully they’re not leaning on denial to escape penalty. If a business promotes an ability to get rid of timeshare purchases, it’s rather clear what the end result should look like.

Ever since Resort Release’s filing, legal questions surrounding their up-front costs have been a hot topic amongst those overseeing the investigation. What they were giving in exchange for payment wasn’t adding up. But it wasn’t the only thing not making sense. During proceedings the defendant continued to claim they were located in the midwest but the company was clearly operating in Florida. Little lies like this led others to believe something unethical was going on.

The ignorance of their approach was concerning to say the least. Apparently, they thought they could lie to the court and it would be glazed over. ARMG also didn’t have ample financial reserves to cover their 100% guarantees. Not only was the company making promises they knew they couldn’t keep, they didn’t even have the capital to back it up. In the meantime, their clients had no idea.


What many can’t figure out is, how does a company that collected millions of dollars in upfront fees have no money? Keep in mind, they didn’t just sell their services to a few dozen people. Resort Release told thousands of fractional owners they could help them get rid of timeshare purchases, guaranteed. As the public’s awareness of the bankruptcy claim grows, more and more people are filing suit for false advertising and a failure to adhere to the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. We’ll keep you updated.

Escort Release Sued by Major Timeshare Chains.

Positioned as an advocate company, Escort Release recently was targeted by a number of major hospitality organizations for misleading timeshare owners. While there isn’t a lot of information online about this situation, we know they immediately filed for bankruptcy following pending lawsuits.

What an advocacy group does is represent unhappy buyers in their attempt to get rid of timeshare purchases. They basically support their client’s stance by advocating on their behalf. Call it a sophisticated hype man if you may. There is no legal approach to this. Escort Release essentially told their prospects that they could negotiate a settlement with the resort without taking legal action. Unfortunately, we don’t know of any advocacy agencies that’ve been able to sustain their ability to eliminate timeshare contracts.


Vacation Owners Group Linked with Wesley Financial.

This is probably one of the more complex operations that’s been exposed to date. Not because of the amount of money or number of victims, but the level of deception. When it comes to identifying timeshare exit fraud, a company with numerous aliases should always raise a red flag. Vacation Owners Group definitely falls under this category.

Otherwise known as VO Group and VO Financial, the operation solicited timeshare owners and offered to settle their outstanding timeshare mortgages by negotiating with timeshare property associations, banking and lending institutions. The owner of Wesley Financial Group, Chuck McDowell, is being tied to these companies through a number of online resources. Already being linked as a key player behind multiple companies deemed scams, McDowell purportedly exited VO Group just before legal action was taken and arrests were made. But let’s backtrack a little to follow the paper trail.

Vacation Owners Group got its start nearly a decade ago by soliciting timeshare owners about their new relief program. They initially engaged their victims by claiming they were calling regarding a complaint they had about their timeshare. It was used as a way “to get their foot in the door” and gather more information about the timeshare property. When owners would open up about their frustrations, solicitors would then tell them they could easily get rid of timeshare purchases if they really wanted to.

Victims say each company solicited them with claims to be able to recover money from timeshare companies (Mainly Wyndham) for fraudulent sales practices on a contingency basis (10%) and no up front fees. Many that were scammed have since come forward, revealing the contract provided by Vacation Ownership Group actually contradicted these claims. Over the years, thousands of people have taken the bait and still own their timeshares.

The Public Realized VO Couldn’t Get Rid of Timeshare Purchases.

The VO Group’s trail inevitably caught up to them when they fell under federal investigation. Victim testimonies and defendant interviews exposed the company’s deceitful ploy. In an FBI conducted interview with Adam Lacerda (co-owner of The VO Group), he admitted, in substance and in part, that The VO Group did not work with any banking or lending institutions. Yet, in another interview, Ryan Bird (a co-conspirator) stated that he told customers The VO Group worked directly for banks and had the ability to settle customer’s timeshare mortgage debt. Like many other timeshare scams, the lies ran rampant in this scheme, proving the services rendered were fraudulent.

Victims of The VO Group said their timeshare was never paid off (by any means or by settlement) after paying thousands to The VO Group. But continuing payments on the timeshare they wanted to get out of wasn’t the only letdown. They later found out they also fell victim to a “bait and switch” scheme where they unknowingly became liable for an additional timeshare. All because they trusted a relief company to help them get rid of their timeshare purchases. One of the company’s former attorneys even went on record saying he attempted to cover VO Group’s tracks by obstructing justice in a federal criminal case back in 2013. It’s no wonder McDowell slipped out the back door.

Casualties Have Continued to Pile Up From the Scam

To this day, timeshare owners are still complaining about the predatory scam. Whether the sales pitch was coming from VO or is currently coming from Wesley Financial Group, customers are voicing their complaints on both companies. Some victims have even claimed Wesley Group is using the same phony reviews as VO was. Although sources show McDowell was the VP of both operations, it appears he’s somehow been able to escape consequence. There is a saying that you may be familiar with, “a leopard never changes its spots.” Hopefully, this proves not to be the case for Wesley Financial Group, although customer complaints on Wesley Financial Group’s BBB page are proving otherwise.

While online documentation does connect the owner of Wesley Financial Group to a number of scandals that didn’t know how to get rid of timeshare purchases, it’s not our place to say history is repeating itself. Maybe he’s learned from mistakes. Either way, it’s ultimately up to you to do your own research and make your own determination before doing business with any relief company.


You Deserve to Enjoy a Timeshare Experience.

Timeshare ownership isn’t always a devastating experience. But in order to thoroughly enjoy the purchase, you have to understand what you could be getting yourself into. Whether we like it or not, unwelcome and damaging solicitations lurk around every corner. In order to avoid costly decisions, you must review the details of everything you agree to, research every business and always ignore appeal. We live in a digital world with information at our fingertips. Stay up to date and obtain factual information that equips you make informed decisions.

At VOC, we remain committed to spreading awareness on misconduct so consumers can make smart choices online. All we can do is state the facts and hope for the best. In the meantime, we look forward to sharing more of our clients stories. To learn more about our industry-leading reputation, you can subscribe to our blog, schedule a Free consultation or proceed with the qualification form below.

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