The CA Attorney General Warns Consumers About Timeshare Scams

The CA Attorney General Warns Consumers About Timeshare Scams

It seems that one can’t turn on the news today without discovering some new scam.  As the public becomes aware of the tactics, criminals seem to always be one step ahead.  Because of this, the attorney general of California sent out a warning to protect consumers from being victimized by timeshare scams during their distress. In the article, Xavier Becerra discusses the initial sales process and specifically addresses the strategies used by fraudulent timeshare resale and recovery companies.

First and foremost, you have to understand that most questionable operations have to give away free stuff to persuade consumer consideration. Companies involved in timeshare scams often use large complimentary gifts in exchange for sitting for a “short educational seminar” on timeshares.  

These gifts often include free hotel stays, lavish meals, or tickets to local shows.  Resort sales teams know exactly how to make attendees feel indebted because of the extent of the seminar meeting.  It causes consumers to believe they’d be foolish not to agree to such an amazing deal.

All of the shiny objects presented during seminars normally distract potential timeshare owners from the often large upfront costs and maintenance fees.  In addition, there are rarely any stipulations in the contract regarding an unexpected increase in these fees.  If you decide to sit in for one of these educational seminars, make sure the salesperson points out any promise they make in the contract.

For instance, if they state that you can sell back the property at any time for full market value, have them point out exactly where it states that. Since this is such a large purchase, do your due diligence and ask follow up questions.  If at any point they cannot show you what they have stated, be on high alert. If you catch them in one lie, you have to expect there are more to come.

The Resale Market Can Be Misleading

Since timeshare scams have been frequently publicized over the past few years, consumers are beginning to look into secondary resale markets to buy a timeshare. This can be dangerous for those not thoroughly educated on ownership. Similar to a new car, a timeshare loses a lot of value after first being sold. Far too many people don’t look past the price tag to see what timeshare ownership actually entails. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

If someone is looking to get rid of their timeshare for next to nothing, then you know the financial burden of the purchase was underestimated. Why would you make the same mistake? Even after the mortgage is paid off, many are forced to sell the property simply to escape annual or quarterly fees. The ability to travel to a condo in a tropical location for less than a thousand dollars may seem like an amazing deal – but the seller’s desperation to get rid of the timeshare should be a red flag. Make sure you thoroughly understand all costs, fees, and reservation processes before taking on someone else’s remorse.

Proceed With Caution During a Timeshare Resale

As more people sell their timeshare, more fraudulent companies crop up claiming to be resellers that facilitate the process.  Although there are legitimate resale platforms, don’t assume legitimacy and learn from exposed timeshare scams as well as the mistakes of others.  In other words, do your homework before working with any company to find timeshare relief.  Research beyond the Better Business Bureau or Yelp reviews, as many companies simply rebrand themselves to avoid their paper trail of fraud. Reviews or recommendations can be easily fabricated online and companies that seem good can easily sell you something that isn’t beneficial. This is especially true when it comes to timeshare resales.

As with any real estate transaction, make sure to have a contract that protects all parties included.   Be hesitant to work with a company that mandates upfront costs, even if there is a money back guarantee.  Also, be hesitant if the reseller states that they have an interested party looking for a property exactly like yours. This is a common pressure tactic used to get timeshare owners to sign up for “can’t missresale opportunities.

Don’t Get Victimized Twice

The last scam timeshare owners tend to run into has to do with recovery fraud.  These companies promise assistance to persons that have already been scammed by the timeshare company. They target their vulnerability by promising restitution, only to re-victimize the timeshare owner shortly after the sale.  When seeking out a company that helps victimized timeshare owners, make sure to completely investigate their reputation before paying any fees up front.

In the Attorney General’s warning, you can tell he was genuine in his attempt to protect consumers from timeshare scams. At the same time, he realizes there is only so much he can do. Without documented evidence of corruption, it’s nearly impossible to win a legal battle with timeshare companies that are built to protect themselves.

Avoid the Scam, Cancel if You Can…

If you’re tired of the deceit and are looking to cut your losses before things get out of hand, Vacation Ownership Consultants is only a phone call away. Since 2014, they’ve helped every single one of their clients terminate their timeshare contract and eliminate the financial burden of vacation ownership. Thousands of timeshare owners are scammed every year and it’s their goal to help them find the relief they deserve.

Diamond Resorts Has Timeshare Legal Troubles With AZ Attorney General

Diamond Resorts Has Timeshare Legal Troubles With AZ Attorney General

The Arizona Attorney General’s office and The Diamond Resorts Corporation reached an $800,000 settlement on December 23rd, 2016 regarding misleading and false sales practices during timeshare sales presentations. The timeshare legal troubles for Diamond Resorts Corporation began after the Office of the Attorney General received repeated complaints from many timeshare owners citing the significant difference between the contracts and what was communicated to them during the sales presentations. Mia Garcia, the AZAG’s spokeswoman, stated that this is the first time Diamond Resorts has been investigated for consumer fraud and that the office received more than 500 complaints before the investigation ensued. 

Diamond Resorts Consumer Fraud Settlement

The practices that were cited in the settlement included maintenance fees, resale, buyback programs, rentals, and further discounts.  The time frame for these practices was January 2011 until January 2017. Provisions of the settlement dictate that The Diamond Resorts Corporation must pay $650,000 to timeshare owners, $150,000 to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, and offer a “Relinquishment Remedy Program, which permits qualifying consumers to return their timeshares to Diamond Resorts without any further obligation.” The Details of Diamond Resorts’ Timeshare Legal Troubles.

The Details of Diamond’s Timeshare Legal Troubles

The first deceptive practice cited was that salespersons would make false statements regarding the dollar amount that maintenance fees could or would increase yearly.  Most seasoned timeshare owners understand that maintenance fees can significantly impact the cost of timeshare ownership, often costing thousands of dollars per year.  The salespersons falsely implied that maintenance fees would either not increase, or increase at a lower percentage than the actual percentages listed on the contract..

Another deception was regarding the ability of owners to sell their timeshares to the public.  While many timeshare contracts restrict the ability to resell timeshares, the sales teams with Diamond Resorts were actively deceiving the potential purchasers stating that no such restrictions applied, even though the restrictions were included in the contract. In the long run, most timeshare owners discover that their property has zero resale value. Stating they were disappointed with this reality would be an understatement.

Salespersons also actively deceived potential owners by leading them to believe that there was a buy-back program through Diamond Resorts itself, a kind of money back guarantee, as it were. However no such program existed, leaving the consumers stuck without the ability to sell the property to the public or back to the company, all the while having to pay yearly maintenance fees.

The sales persons also would suggest that the timeshare owners rent out their timeshares in order to make a financial profit off their purchase. However it was the exact opposite in the contract, meaning that the owners could at no time rent out their timeshares to others. This is where Diamond’s timeshare legal troubles became inevitable – but it is unknown at this time what penalties or legal ramifications occurred as a result of this deception.

Diamond Resorts personnel also stated that sales teams also told potential owners that timeshare ownership gave them access to discounts for other travel needs, although no such program or discounts existed. Although prosecution tends to cease when it comes to allegations during timeshare sales presentations (because they know how to protect themselves), a number of timeshare owners were able to prove manipulative statements were made during the sale.

When something sounds too good to be true, it’s imperative that consumers act on their intuition instead of crossing their fingers. Far too many people have been taken advantage of by misleading tacts over the years. Seeing through the persuasion from the get go can save you tens of thousands of dollars.

What to do If You’ve Been Taken Advantage of.

In order to qualify for restitution or the Relinquishment Remedy Program, consumers must have purchased memberships between January 2011 and January 2017, must have been living in Arizona at the time of purchase or made the purchase itself in Arizona, and consumers must provide a detailed account of any and all deceptions that occurred during the sales presentation. Without any evidence of wrongdoing, it’ll be extremely difficult for your claim to be taken seriously.

For those of you planning on attending a timeshare sales presentation, be sure to document the claims of the resort and ask them to point out the details in the contract. If they’re unable to do so, it’s important that you walk away from the opportunity immediately. Catching them in a lie right away should tell you that ethics is being left out of the sale. Although the timeshare presentation may intrigue you, nothing is worth financial hardship or timeshare legal troubles down the road. If you decided to buy into timeshare ownership and regret your decision, we’d be more than happy to talk to you about your options. Request a free consultation or submit a qualification form below.

Midtown Manhattan Timeshare Lawsuit Won by the NY Attorney General

Midtown Manhattan Timeshare Lawsuit Won by the NY Attorney General

Timeshare Fraud Results in $6.5 Million Settlement

The Attorney General of New York recently released a statement regarding the illegal practices of the owners and operators of the Manhattan Club, which includes 10 subsidiaries.  The owners of the Manhattan Club, at 200 West 56th Street, must now pay $6.5 million in restitution, maintain a lifetime bar from the timeshare industry, sell all stakes to alternate parties, and remove all associated officers and directors as members of the Board of the Timeshare Association. Provisions of the settlement dictate that the owners and operators must also admit that they repeatedly misled timeshare owners about the reservation process, and lied about the ability of sell back timeshares.  This settlement from a timeshare lawsuit is one of the largest for the Attorney General’s Real Estate Finance Bureau.

An investigation of the Manhattan Club began after the Office of the Attorney General received repeated complaints from many shareowners that were unable to make reservations at the hotel. The timeshare patrons paid tens of thousands of dollars for a “vacation ownership retreat [at a] residence-style boutique hotel for those who frequently visit New York City to enjoy Broadway theatre, fine dining, and shopping, [and] classical performances”.  Despite paying hefty sums for their timeshares, the rooms were rented to the general public rather than the timeshare owners, which was in direct violation of the timeshare contract.

However, the illegal practices began even before the purchases.  Investigators found that timeshare sales teams repeatedly deceived potential buyers regarding the reservation procedures, the capacity to sell back shares, and specifics of the offering plan.  Prospective purchasers were subject to high pressure sales tactics that even went so far as to state that their timeshare ownership was “better than money in the bank.” The sales pitch included promises of exclusivity from public use of rooms, an easy reservation process, and scarce constraints regarding reservations for owners.  All of these claims were found to be false by the Office of the Attorney General.

What the Timeshare Lawsuit Also Uncovered.

The investigation led to the discovery that the owners’ annual maintenance fees rose over 200% over the last decade, beginning at $2,000 per year for the smallest units.  Similar to many frustrated timeshare owners across the world, many owners sold their timeshares for pennies to avoid the additional yearly costs.

Fortunately, the Manhattan Supreme Court barred the Manhattan Club from withdrawing any money from bank accounts, selling more timeshare interests, and pursuing foreclosures on current members, during the investigation process.

The owners of the Manhattan Club lured thousands of timeshare buyers with false promises and shady sales tactics that violated New York law,” stated Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.  “While timeshares can be legitimate enterprises, scams like this one are common. To avoid becoming a victim, always be wary of high pressure tactics.” Unless you document occurrences that break the law, it’s going to be extremely difficult to progress with a timeshare lawsuit.

The Attorney General’s office does offer a brochure about how to avoid timeshare scams, however there does not seem to be any information regarding steps or processes once you have been victimized. The best thing you can do is file a complaint and wait to see if the government will investigate. But, proceeding with this process and walking away from your timeshare obligations isn’t recommended. Investigative action may take years to occur.

How to Access Information From the Timeshare Lawsuit

Regarding timeshare owners of the Manhattan Club, they were told they would be contacted by a claims adjustor at a later unknown date. Supporting evidence was crucial in their case and their patience was eventually rewarded. Not all timeshare owners are so lucky. In fact, most are unable to support their cause. While persistence may work out in your favor, it can also backfire over time. Some parties involved in the Midtown Manhattan timeshare lawsuit are still seeking restitution for the scam.

If you’re tired of dealing with incentivized “customer services” or the inability to access your timeshare, we’d be more than happy to go over your options with you. Our free consultations are meant to help you exhaust all options before attempting to get rid of your timeshare contract.  Once you’ve done everything you can to make it work, our timeshare cancellation services allow you to walk away free and clear of any obligation moving forward.

Whistleblower Exposes Timeshare Sales Scams That Targeted the Elderly

Whistleblower Exposes Timeshare Sales Scams That Targeted the Elderly

Although many lawsuits against timeshare companies don’t work out, the pursuit of justice can be worth it in the long run. At the same time, it’s important for those considering challenging a major corporation to understand what they’re up against. Timeshare companies make millions off of vulnerable property owners and know exactly how to  deflect accusations. A lot goes into accomplishing a favorable ruling. While most of our articles surround  timeshare contract cancellation, we wanted to start a series that shines a light on the reality of the timeshare industry. So, let’s kick things off with a former employee that took a stand against unethical activity and timeshare sales scams that targeted the elderly.

Former sales person Trish Williams, for Wyndham timeshare, was recently awarded $18.6 million by a California jury as a whistleblower against the corporation.  The settlement was awarded for wrongful termination after Williams reported timeshare fraud on the elderly by Wyndham. They were basically executing timeshare sales scam that preyed on those that couldn’t really even take care of themselves. The court later reduced the amount to $12.8 million citing a mismatch for the compensatory damages, but made statements that Wyndham’s timeshare sales tactics were “highly reprehensible”.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff, Williams, reported shocking and abhorrent timeshare sales strategies that were used by the sales department of the largest timeshare company in the industry.  Evidence presented in the month long court case documented that Wyndham employees were encouraged to lie, cheat, and do whatever it took to get the sale.  Employees were also opening and maxing out credit cards without knowledge or permission of owners of the timeshares. The salespersons also made untrue statements regarding the values of the timeshares, as well as statements regarding easily selling those timeshares back to Wyndham at the owners request.  

old-man-not-listening-to-daughter-and-being-robbed-by-timeshare-sales-scams

The most atrocious of these tactics included “Taft” days, when high pressure sales tactics of “Telling them any f’n thing” in order to get the sale. One employee was quoted, “I sold my soul to the devil. I can say whatever I want so long as I don’t put it in writing, that’s why Wyndham has good lawyers.” What really crossed the line was the targeting of the defenseless aging population. Companies and their employees were banking on people at the most vulnerable state of their lives.

Williams’ lawyer and legal team specified, “This was an epic battle against a well-funded army of lawyers that took us across the United States to obtain evidence and testimony demonstrating the fraud.  This jury was deliberate and careful. In no way should this verdict be characterized as anything other than what it is: just compensation for Ms. Williams and a penalty of less than one half of one percent of this mammoth corporation’s net value.”

Williams herself addressed the reporters stating, “I am grateful a jury of 12 people exposed the facts of this fraud and confirmed that I was terminated for standing up to Wyndham on behalf of the elderly clients that they were ripping off.  For six long years, I have battled the world’s largest timeshare corporation so that the facts showing their dishonesty would be revealed to an unbiased jury and the American public. I want to say to others that know people are being cheated by their employers: have the courage to stand up and protect others.  It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. I’d also like to thank [the multiple legal teams] who took my case and beat back the army of defense lawyers that Wyndham threw at us. We need more lawyers who will fight for what’s right.”

One of her lawyers also chimed in to her statement by saying, “This is a warning to [timeshare] corporations worldwide: do not steal from the elderly as you will be held accountable.  Given the aging of our population, more and more elder financial fraud is occurring. Whistleblowers need to come forward, and they should be commended for their courage and sacrifice.  If others in this industry, or any industry, see fraud, report it to any outside agency and make a protest to your company’s ethics line. It’s up to individual citizens, lawyers, judges, and juries to protect the vulnerable and bring the powerful to justice.”

elderly-man-celebrating-coffee-with-granddaughter-after-escaping-the-clutches-of-timeshare-sales-scams

If you’re currently experiencing frustrations with your timeshare company, don’t lose hope. Aside from resort employees realizing what they’re doing is wrong, there are plenty of timeshare owners who feel your pain. Do you feel like you’re stuck in a timeshare? Do you know someone or have an aging parent that might be paying thousands of dollars towards a timeshare they don’t use? We’d love to talk to you and explain some of the available options for finding relief. Whether you simply need some advice to negotiate with the resort or you’re ready to cancel your contract, our free consultations give you the answers you need More information about resort negotiations or how to legally cancel your timeshare is only a phone call away.

How police brought down one shady time-share operation

How police brought down one shady time-share operation

The timeshare industry has historically been plagued by developers who use high-pressure and deceptive sales tactics to close a timeshare sale. Using false and misleading statements of what buyers could expect from their timeshare ownership, the industry has a tarnished reputation which over the years grown ever worse.

In 2008, with the collapse of the economy and crash of the stock market, many homeowners found themselves no longer able to afford their homes much less the timeshare that they had purchased in a moment of weakness.

Because a timeshare is essentially a “lifetime” obligation to pay maintenance, taxes and fees it is a liability not an asset, that many people could no longer either afford or want.

Faced with the prospect of ever increasing maintenance fees, and desperate to get rid of the so – called “ vacation of a lifetime” many timeshare owners turned to the timeshare resale market in an effort to be relieved of their lifelong obligation to pay ever increasing dues and fees.

Into this vacuum of desperate owners wanting to sell, jumped the timeshare resale scammers.

Armed with false promises of ready buyers, fast sales, big profits and money-back guarantees fly – by – night scammers proliferated with promises of a quick sale and lots of money for what was now an unwanted timeshare.

The truth is timeshares are not an appreciating asset and there is no ready market for a used timeshare. A simple search on ebay can verify the truth of this statement. By simply entering the search term “timeshare” hundreds of supposedly valuable timeshares will appear for as little as $1.00 with the seller agreeing to pay all the closing costs.

With the timeshare resale scam running rampant, the Federal Trade Commission and state consumer protection agencies began to shut down dishonest timeshare resellers for bilking timeshare owners out of millions of dollars.

The state of Florida quickly passed a state law designed to crack down on this kind of fraud. That law forbids timeshare resellers from making unfounded promises and collecting large upfront fees.

The Federal Trade Commission was even more proactive, spearheading a national effort against the timeshare resale scam bringing over 200 actions nationwide against the scammers in 28 states.

So if you are a timeshare owner who is no longer interested in the ever increasing fees, lack of availability and high pressure sales pitches to “upgrade” avoid the timeshare resales scam at all costs.

If you own a timeshare, question any offers to help you resell it. Moreover, if you are thinking of selling a timeshare look first at what is out there. Listen carefully for the promise of lots of money quickly and a request for an upfront fee. Those are two signs of a timeshare resale scam.

The California Bureau of Real Estate warns: “The fraudsters use the names of companies (some of which have professional-looking but usually phony websites, fancy-sounding titles and addresses, and purport to be escrow, timeshare resale, finance, and/or title service businesses) and individuals in California.”

Remember this, once purchased a timeshare is very, very hard and almost impossible to sell.

So if you are looking to be relieved of your timeshare and its lifelong financial obligations, find a company who can provide you a guarantee to cancel your timeshare contract.

At the offices of Vacation Ownership Consultants, we have helped hundreds of timeshare owners who no longer wish to be burdened with their timeshare.

For more information on how you can safely eliminate an unwanted, unsellable timeshare, please contact us today. Our consultants are standing by to assist you. Call 1-800-614-5288

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