Friday, March 31, 2006

 
Vacation Timeshare Scam A Parcel Of Trouble

In April 2004 I bought a timeshare package from Club Navigo. When a family reunion and an injury made the trip to Orlando a no-go, I called Club Navigo to cancel. I was told that because it had been over 30 days since I’d paid, a refund was not allowed. I later got a call from a Club Navigo representative saying that we have to use the vacation by Feb. 10 or we will forfeit our $349. Is there anything that can be done? — A.W., Kansas City

DEAR A.W.: Although you wrote to us the first of February and we sent your letter right away to Club Navigo, the club didn’t respond until mid-March.

Before you decide to buy a timeshare or vacation package, we hope you check out the company. Consumers should be sure they are familiar with all the details and restrictions.

Sheila Morris, vice president of communications at Club Navigo, told us this was a case of miscommunication not a timeshare scam. She said the company will gladly extend your vacation usage for another 12 months and asked only that your travel be completed by March 31, 2007. She sent you the name of the contacts at Club Navigo who can reschedule your vacation. We forwarded those names and numbers to you. Started out as a timeshare scam, finished as a good deal.


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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

 
Sour Truth About Timeshare Holidays: Share Money, Not A Timeshare scam.

Do not take the salesman’s tall claims at face value. Even the company he works for does not take responsibility for his words.

Why pay Rs 1,02,000 for a week’s holiday abroad when you can do it with just Rs 9, 000' - screams the advertisement of a timeshare resort and chances are you would definitely bite the bait and have a timeshare scam in your lap. Timeshare or vacation ownership is a concept whereby you can avail of a week’s holiday every year for around 25 years in the resort’s several locations spread across India and even abroad.

And companies such as Club Mahindra, Sterling Holiday Resorts are trying to make the most of the holiday season to scam in timeshare vacationers. What you have on offer is a week's holiday each year for 25 years in over 20 of their properties spread across India and over 3500 RCI affiliated resorts abroad for about Rs 1 lakh.

But wait. Take a closer look at the contract of a timeshare resort. It clearly states that there are no verbal/written promises not mentioned in the membership rules that have been made by the company. So do not take the salesman’s tall claims at face value. Read between lines and ascertain whether your investment is worth it or a timeshare scam.

Here’s what a Club Mahindra member has to say, “I invested Rs 2,25,000 in 2002 for a one bedroom Red holiday and am regretting. Firstly getting a holiday booking has been extremely difficult. We stay in Mumbai but have had to make umpteen STD calls to the Chennai office for bookings even 7 -8 months in advance for a week’s holiday."

" And inspite of that we are not sure of the availability. The annual maintenance charges that were Rs 2,000-3,000 then have now suddenly shot up to Rs 9,000 and we can’t help but pay up else lose our initial investment. Besides since we wanted to holiday even during the peak season we decided to invest more and go for a Red membership. That has hardly helped us, but more of another part of the timeshare scam. Moreover, the resorts are located far away from the centre place and we had to spend a huge sum only to reach the place.”

However Ramesh Ramanathan, MD, Club Mahindra Holidays disagrees. He says “Holiday bookings are accepted as early as six months in advance. Barring the rush of the Christmas/New Year week at certain resorts, we are able to accommodate member booking requests. We have a member-booking refusal tracking system in place which also enables us to proactively call back a member and help them book a suitable alternative / their next holiday. For international holidays it is recommended that members book (through RCI only) anytime between 6 months to even one year in advance, especially if members are specific about destination and time of holiday.”

But it doesn't appear to be as smooth sailing as Ramanathan puts it. At least from the number of grievances faced by consumer courts against these kind of packages. Says Advocate Hemant Jariwala, a Consumer court lawyer, “I have been handling around 5-6 timeshare scam complaints a month on timeshare resort companies and the issue with most is deficiency of service. There’s serious lack of transparency when it comes to allotting bookings. Either the property at a location is under construction or the amenities are not as promised. Why can’t the entire system of booking and allotment of holidays be online like the railways? These resorts are also let-out to outsiders at a premium cost perhaps the reason why it is not available to members."

He adds, “I have myself invested Rs 55,000 for a 1 Bedroom in 1994 with Sterling Resorts. Initially the service was good but later I began to face major hassles. For instance I paid Rs 13,000 for 10 years to RCI and I parked my week with them. I called them in January 2006 requesting for a holiday in Diwali this year or in December to any of their 15 resorts across the country except Shimla and Mussourie but they said its all booked, what a timeshare scam.”

And chances of exiting are dim. While Ramanathan says that they do offer a 10-day recession period within which a member can rescind his contract and they allow cancellation up to six months from the date of purchase, for those who've stayed for over 6 months, its a relationship for life.

Also it helps to be aware of who benefits the most. Is it the member or the outsider? As an outsider if you take a trip to the resort’s Varka Beach resort at Goa your package for 3 nights and 4 days would be Rs 14000 plus taxes (Year 2005 rates) for 2 adults and 2 children below 12. Now that would be for a Superior room with benefits such as Airport/Margao Railway station pickup and drop, welcome drink, breakfast, lunch, dinner plus several other attractions such as Bottle of Goan wine, 50% discount on all in-house alcoholic brands, complimentary use of swimming pool & gymnasium, one half-day sightseeing trip during stay at no extra cost

Now as a member visiting Varka Beach you would pay an annual maintenance cost of around Rs 6246 for a studio apartment for a week for 2 adults and 2 children below 12 years. However, you would not be entitled to all the abovementioned services free of cost. Inspite of being a member you would still have to pay extra for your food - 3 meals a day and fork out a good sum for several of the above mentioned benefits. What you however get is a paltry 20 % discount on ayurvedic and aroma massages that cost upto Rs 1,600 besides the 30% discount on steam, sauna that would actually cost around Rs 150 each. Just another timeshare scam.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

 
When Timeshare Travel Scam Trouble Pops Up

I live in England, and I called a company named Celebration Promotions (CP) in Florida in response to a pop-up ad on my computer. They offered me a vacation package of five nights at Celebration World Resort in Orlando, two nights in Cocoa Beach, and a two-night cruise to the Bahamas, all for the bargain price of £598 (about $1046) for four people. Is this a timeshare scam?

I was talked into giving my credit card details by a very persuasive salesperson, but I quickly regretted it after talking to my sons, who said it was probably a timeshare scam. I called CP back to cancel under their own seven-day cancellation rules and guidelines policy, but they would not accept my cancellation. Instead, the company offered me the holiday for £198 for four people, plus an immediate refund of £400, which I'm still waiting for. This is a timeshare scam!

I then e-mailed CP and said we would never use the holiday and could they please refund the whole £598 under their terms, but they refused and said that we had agreed to the holiday and that was that. I got so weary of e-mails back and forth that I have given in now, so in effect they have taken, or should I say stolen, our money for nothing. I wish you could show your readers this letter, just to let them know not to part with any money unless they are absolutely sure that they want the holiday. Watch out for this timeshare scam on your computer!

Monday, March 27, 2006

 
DTI Winds Up Holiday Club (Timeshare Scam) Marketing Company

A Yorkshire couple were spared from shelling out £5000 in a timeshare scam after they contacted the government funded Consumer Direct helpline for advice. They also set in motion a chain of events which led to the company being wound up by the DTI.

Consumer Direct took the call from a woman and her husband who had been to a presentation by PR Holidays LTD, a Liverpool based company offering membership of an internet based holiday club called Network Vacations. It offered lifetime access to a wide range of highly discounted timeshare accommodation all over the world through an internet site.

The idea appealed to the couple who were looking to end a timeshare deal which tied them to the same place every year. They had also been convinced by the company's 'soft-sell' approach and at the end of the presentation agreed to sign a membership contract which gave them the option to trade-in their timeshare as part payment. Now that is a timeshare scam!

After returning home they became suspicious when they noticed that some of the accommodation the company offered was, in fact, available at cheaper rates through other deals. They contacted Consumer Direct, the DTI backed consumer helpline, for advice.

Consumer direct advised the couple that Network Vacations, the website being promoted by PR Holidays, was in fact already in liquidation after a separate DTI action, saving them from a costly mistake. Consumer Direct also referred the matter to local Trading Standards for action.

Unfortunately others were not so lucky and at least 10 people between them paid a total of at least £40,000 for memberships. Timeshare scammed.

Gerry Sutcliffe, Consumer Affairs Minister said:

"Consumer Direct gives thousands of people high quality consumer advice every day.

"It's great news that a phone call to the Government funded service helped this couple steer clear of a scam and led to the perpetrators being brought to justice.

"Consumer Direct is playing a crucial role in helping consumers and in ensuring that its Trading Standards partners are able to focus on clamping down on rogue traders."

The company was closed down at the High Court in Manchester and in his summing up Judge McGrath agreed there were "serious
irregularities" and an "unsavoury feel" to the company's dealings.

The registered office of PR Holidays Ltd is at Bartleet House, 165a Birmingham Road, Bromsgrove, West Midlands. The trading address is at 905 Beetham Tower, Old Hall Street, Liverpool. The directors are Peter Fraser and Rhian Howells.

The petition to wind up the company was presented on 10th January 2006 under section 124a of the Insolvency Act 1986 and followed investigations carried out by the Department's Companies Investigation Branch ("CIB") under Section 447 of the Companies Act 1985.

Network Vacations Ltd of Carleton Suite, Grange House, 11 Grange Place, Kilmarnock was wound up by the Court of Session in Edinburgh on 8th July 2005 following the appointment of a provisional liquidator, Mr David Hunter on 15th June 2005. The company and its predecessor Intasun Holidays (UK) Ltd were wound up following a DTI investigation after it was found that the 2,000 members were mislead as to the benefits they would receive for their £4,950 fee. This is a big dollar timeshare scam.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

 
Beach Road Surveys For Timeshare Scam

If you have ever walked along Pattaya's Beach Road then you will surely have been stopped by attractive young people carrying clipboards asking you to fill out a 'timeshare survey'.

They appeal to people's better nature by saying that they will receive 20 Baht commission for each completed timeshare survey.

Of course the survey is a scam, and they are actually after contact details so that high pressure salesman can ring your hotel and try and sell you timeshare holiday homes.

Alternatively, there is a thank you entry into a prize draw which you always win and somehow get taken to luxury apartments in Jomtien to claim the prize. Guess what, there are high pressure timeshare salesman waiting there to scam you.

If you don't want the attentions of the Beach Road youngsters, the merest shooing away gesture is sufficient. If you feel like a chat with a cutie, at least give them a false address, otherwise you will only have to take the hotel phone off the hook.

From Pattaya Talk

I fell for this in October last year, answered the questions because I felt sorry for the cutie who explained that she was on commission and smiled ever so nicely - she told me I had won a prize and must go with her to Jomtien to claim the prize - I went along with it and ended up talking with a guy from Amsterdam who was trying to sell timeshare holidays anywhere in the world for an immediate payment of £200.

I was introduced to the owner of the 'Timeshare Company' a guy who originates from Oldham in Lancashire - went to Pattaya 9 years ago and didn't go home.

Asked him for contract to inspect the small print and was told, you can see the contract after you pay the £200.

Ever so politely declined the offer, thanked them for the free coffee, lunch and taxi back to Soi 7.

Saw the timeshare scam girl the next day who thanked me because she got her commission - no problem as long as you don't get sucked in and pay for the timeshare thing.

The prize was a two week holiday in the back of beyond - ended up giving that to the taxi driver! Just another famous timeshare scam.

Friday, March 24, 2006

 
Are TimeShares A Good Investment Or A Scam?

Dear Lou,

I was wondering why you think time shares are a bad idea? Also, what do you do if you've already signed up for the free trip and tour?

Matt



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Dear Matt,

Don't buy it! You get no value for your dollar, and you're also not building any equity in the thing. Equity implies that you could turn around, sell it and make money off the deal. The reason you can't make any money off timeshares is that there's virtually no market for them. Nobody in their right mind wants to buy one, mostof the time it is a scam to get your money.

Once you get stuck with a timeshare, it's like being lost in a black hole. You never get to use it enough to justify the cost, plus you've got things like maintenance fees and the possibility of borrowing the money and paying interest on something you'll hardly ever use. For what you'd shell out for a timeshare, you could go to Europe every summer for the rest of your life, without the timeshare scam!

Timeshares are a really bad deal Travis, but if you need to unload a timeshare, try EZ Timeshare.

Lou

Thursday, March 23, 2006

 
Resisting The Timeshare Scam For The Sake Of Free Airfare, Is It Worth It?

Why would anyone turn down the opportunity to possibly receive free airline tickets at a value of more than $3000 in exchange for listening to a 90-minute sales pitch?

The first phone call came on my cell phone from 715-236-2206 on Wednesday, March 8 in the late afternoon. I didn't know who the phone number belonged to so I ignored it. The assumption is that if the phone call is important, the caller will leave a message. This time the caller left no message, so I assumed the call must not have been important.

The next call came three hours later from 715-236-2214 followed by one from the same number an hour later and then again two hours later. Not a single message. The next call came the next day just before 9 a.m. This time the number was from 715-236-2217. An hour later 2214 popped up again and finally the caller decided to leave a message:

Jeff wrote:
“Hi Jesse, my name’s Jeff and I’m calling on behalf of Fairfield Resorts. You filled out the Ride, Air, Cash sweepstakes at the East Towne Mall and your name was selected to receive four round trip airfares that are good for the next 18 months. For all the details you can reach me at…”


I’m a very skeptical person. Immediately I thought, this had to be a timeshare scam. For one, I remembered putting my name in the box and the main prize was a new BMW. I also remembered checking a box on the ballot saying I didn’t want to be contacted with information on promotions from Fairfield Resorts. Apparently being selected in a drawing isn’t the same as being contacted for a promotion. Second, if I had won a prize, why would they call me six times before eventually leaving a message?

Still, my curiosity was peaked so after discussing it with a friend at work and determining it was probably a trick to get me to go and stay at a timeshare, I called. Sure enough, it was a trick to get me to go check out a timeshare in the Wisconsin Dells. All I had to do was sit through a 90-minute presentation at the Wilderness Resort (America’s largest water park resort) and I would receive my gift even if I didn’t sign up. To sweeten the deal, they would give me a coupon book with $40 worth of gas vouchers to help pay for driving to the Dells. It's a timeshare scam.

The airline tickets were described on the confirmation letter as being “4 round-trip airfares to your choice of Honolulu, Hawaii; Cancun, Mexico; Las Vegas, Nevada; Freeport Bahamas; Daytona, Fort Lauderdale; Orlando or Tamp, FL. Minimum purchases 5-10 nights for each 2 airfares used. If you choose to use all four airfares together, you must purchase two rooms. Not valid a full 7 days before or after major holidays.”

The restrictions as written in the letter didn’t seem all that bad and it looked like my main obligation would be to stay in one of their hotels. In my head I justified a drive to the Dells as an opportunity to write a story. Either they would try to screw me and I would come home and write a scathing expose of Fairfield Resorts or it would be a reasonably pleasant experience and I would come home and write about how easy it is to sit through a 90-minute presentation for the purpose of receiving free airfare.

Sadly, this story is neither.

On Friday I was away from my cell phone until late at night. When I finally had a chance to look at the incoming calls five of them were from Fairfield Resort numbers (715-236-2200, 2201, 2213). Were they calling to cancel? Nope, they called add even more smoke and mirror sweetness to the pot. Surely a tactic to ensure that I wouldn't jump ship at the last minute:

Rob wrote:
“Hi Jesse, this is Rob with Fairfield Resorts. Just wanted to give you a quick call to double check to make sure you didn’t have any questions about your confirmation letter for tomorrow at three o’clock. Be sure to bring that letter with you tomorrow because they will refer to the prize code in then upper right hand corner. Also you have been selected to receive a $1,000 online shopping spree which happens to be a leftover prize from an earlier promotion…”


Wow! A $1,000 shopping spree that you just happened to have lying around! How wonderful! That doesn’t make me anymore suspicious.

The next step was spending time doing internet research so I could be prepared when I was face-to-face with a sales rep. One site spoke of an incident in Nashville where the representative made a bride-to-be cry by telling her that if they couldn’t commit to a timeshare, their relationship would never last because they didn’t have trust. Another timeshare review forum is a mixed bag of negative and positive comments. What I read over and over again throughout the internet was “high-pressure, high-pressure, and high-pressure timeshare scam.”

Before leaving I decided to return Rob’s call and first asked him about the shopping spree:

“The shopping spree was selected to be given to a handful of special people.”

Then I asked about the hotel stay and I find out Fairfield Resorts is owned by the Cendant Corporation. I’m led to believe that because of Cendant’s ownership of a vast array of hotel properties, including Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Super 8 and Travelodge, I will have my choice of places to choose from when I travel (for the record, Cendant also owns Orbitz, Century 21, Avis and recently acquired Windham Resorts).

Finally, I ask if I’m going to be faced with high pressure sales tactics. Rob seems caught of guard by this question as he stalls and searches his computer for the right script. He replies, “There won’t be any high pressure sales. Fairfield is only trying to get its name out. You are under no obligation to buy. I am a robot.”

Good to know.

I soon find myself in the Dells in front of my Fairfield representative. I think her name was Leslie. What followed was fairly irrelevant. Anyone who takes part in one of these sessions is going to be faced with a different sales person who will try to read you and figure out what will make you break. Leslie knew I was a journalist. Her line of questioning quickly revealed that I had done some research on the program and I wasn't completely unprepared. She tailored the pitch to a skeptic who could also very well go out and reach an audience. She did her job well as I'm shocked to admit, she did change my mind on timeshares.

Case in point, she asked me early on "what is the first thing you think of when I say ‘timeshares?’”

I replied, “A timeshare scam.”

She didn't hesitate and thanked me for my honesty and then asked me where that impression came from. I explained and then she attempted to paint the Fairfield program as not being like traditional timesharing. She did a stellar job. During her evaluation I gave her high marks on her presentation, her friendliness and her ability to answer my questions. She didn’t upset me and I only felt pressured at the very end when I had to tell her I wasn’t interested three times in a row.

In addition to not being able to afford a timeshare at this time in my life, I really don’t want to be tied to that type of vacation. Essentially you need to know where you want to go 10 to 13 months in advance. I read that in advance and when I brought it up, Leslie didn’t sugar coat it. She said if you wait until the last minute, you aren’t guaranteed the timeshare you want. If you can plan 10 to 13 months in advance, you will most likely get what you want.

At this point in my life, when my vacations are spent traveling between cities, camping and staying with friends, I don’t see the value for paying $100 a month to invest in two weeks a year until I pay off the $25,000 for the minimum amount of points (the more you invest the more points you have to play with each year). It might be a different story if I was in my late 40s with a family.

Then again, if you have a family and are a fan of the Dells and all of its touristy goodness, in addition to being from Illinois, investing in a timeshare so you can spend time at the Wilderness Resort might make fiscal sense. Currently, as Leslie pointed out, they are building condos just for Fairfield members. Attached to those condos will be even more waterslides pushing Wilderness past Noah’s Ark as biggest waterslide park in the world. One night at the Wilderness is going to cost you $300 - unless you are a member of Fairfield. You have to decide, is spending $250 a month for 10 years worth it for that week of waterslides with the kids?

That was the problem. I couldn’t be angry because while a timeshare system isn’t for me, I can see how it could work for certain other people. Does that mean they won? I’m not sure. They didn’t get my money, but Leslie did pretty much do her job. I’m not sitting here right now writing a venomous post about how Fairfield Resorts swindled me and played me like a patsy. In order to do that, we need to take a moment and look at the “prizes.”

Remember the gas vouchers? In order to activate them you have to send in a form. Then after you send in that form they send you a coupon book with four $10 vouchers. Then you have to send in a receipt with each voucher and they will send you a rebate for every $10 of gas you buy. Not a bad deal, just some unexpected work.

What about the airfare that convinced me to take this trip in the first place? Not exactly choose your own adventure. In addition to all of the restrictions listed above, if you want to go to Hawaii, for example, you also have to book 10 days at one of two hotels. There is the Outrigger Reef on the Beach for $199 per night or Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach for $239 per night. It actually isn’t a bad deal, but there is a stipulation that prices may change in the material. The problem comes if you are looking for adventure and want to spend a night or two off of the big island. You’re going to eat at least $400, but then again, you do get around $1400 in free airfare.

Finally, what about that added incentive of a shopping spree because I was a special person? You won’t find a better timeshare scam than this one. The company that runs the $1000 shopping spree gimmick owns multiple shopping spree sites. The one my voucher referred to was KEShoppingSpree.com. The back of the voucher tells you to type the website into the address bar and not to use “Google or any other search engine.” Why? Not because they want you to go to the right site, but most likely because you will find yourself looking at a host of sites talking about what a rip off the shopping spree turns out to be.

“All items are free (up to $1,000 worth) except for the small item delivery fee to offset shipping, handling and administrative costs.”

There is some great stuff on the website, just take a look at this Mikasa “Fine Dinnerware Palatial Platinum 20pc Set.” They list the price at a whopping $448.00. So how much does it go for on the Mikasa website?
Mikasa has it listed as on sale for $159.99. Huh, well, you still get it for free, right? Not quite. What is the processing fee for an item listed as $448 on their website? $149! That’s right, you save $10. Nice work.

For more on the shopping spree, check out More of the Different. He received his "spree" via a car dealership.

Now the question is, were these prizes worth it? Well, the spree will go right in the garbage. I’ll definitely make sure I use the gas vouchers even if it is some extra work. And that airfare? I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t pondering the Vegas option. Maybe they will get my money after all, or maybe it is just another timeshare scam.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 
The Mexican Timshare Scam

You buy a timeshare because you love to vacation, you love the timeshare resort, or you love the location. Period. It is a perk, it is a wonderful luxury. There are some beautiful, relaxing, and wonderful timeshares in Mexico. Read more about some great timeshares.

I would like to warn you of a growing concern about the fraudulent timeshare sales practice that is in effect at a few resorts in Mexico. You think you are buying a Mayan palace, but what you really get is scammed.

1. Be aware that Mexico laws require a 5 business day “cool down” contract cancellation period for timeshare purchases, and this right cannot be waived for any reason, under any circumstances. All monies are to be refunded.

2. Timeshare sales values do not increase, aftermarket prices are a great value and at least 40% discounted. (Check Ebay and Google).

3. Timeshare rentals are prices typically at, just over, or actually below the cost of your maintenance fees. (Check Ebay and Google)

If you are told anything contrary to the three rules above – walk away from the presentation! They are trying to scam you!

Most of the timeshare salesmen use high pressure tactics and are very persistent. They stretch the truth, state half truths, and they omit much. Expect this.

Read your contract. Make sure you have every document you signed. Insist on copies of everything they write, or at least take a picture of each document. If you try to cancel, take along a video recorder or a tape recorder.

Some salesmen are actually using illicit sales practices, and actually committing fraud in the case of telling you that you do not have the right to cancel in the next 5 business days.

We actually have copies of Mayan Palace training manuals and a cancellation waiver.

Cancellation Period

You must waive your 5 day cancellation period because you are buying a repossessed or "traded in" unit, and you can only have the cancellation protection once. SCAM Mexican law does not allow you to waive this right.

You must waive your 5 day rescission period because you are using an Equity Exchange. (trading in a different timeshare.) SCAM Mexican law does not allow you to waive this right.

You must waive your 5 day rescission period because you received a "young family" discount. SCAM Mexican law does not allow you to waive this right. Are you getting the picture?

You cancel your contract within the 5 day period - but they will not accept it. SCAM By Mexican law they must cancel and return all monies. Get proof you tried to cancel and they refused (bring a recorder) (call Profeco).

Make Money - Rent your unit

You can rent out the units for $1700 - 2500 a week. SCAM Some people are trying - but in actuality they are not renting for much beyond your maintenance fee, and often below. The developer is actually renting excess weeks at less than your maintenance fees.

There are timeshare rental services you can use for only $300 for a lifetime contract with no limit on weeks you sell. SCAM Yes they may list your rental unit - but the market does not command those prices and you just sit there, and sit there.

Use a reseller that does not charge so much upfront but charges commission per sale. They will work harder for you. SCAM. They already have your $150 joining fee. Find someplace that will only take a percentage - no join fee (Redweek or eBay).

Here - Phone this travel agency right now and ask them how much they can rent out your unit for. You then pick up the phone and talk to the agency. They will tell you they rent for $2500 and their supply cannot keep up with their demand. SCAM The rental company is in on the scam. Watch out for the Mexican Timeshare Scam.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

 
Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter Wants Hoosiers To Carefully Research Timeshare Scams.

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter is urging Hoosiers looking to escape on vacation this spring to be cautious of timeshare scams. Carter also reminds consumers that timeshare resorts, travel club and vacation certificates may be tempting this time of year, spending time to research the offer will pay off in the long run.

“Last minute timeshare packages offering great deals or free accommodations can be tempting,” Attorney General Carter said. “But a paradise timeshare vacation could quickly turn into a nightmare if the accommodations aren’t to your liking or the entire package ends up costing more because you didn’t read the fine print.”

The best way to avoid falling victim to a timeshare scam or a deal that doesn’t meet your expectations is to do research on the company selling the package and on the offer itself.

The attorney general’s office recommends researching a company’s reputation using a variety of resources like online searches, the attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau.

Timeshare companies will also use a variety of ways to promote timeshare packages that often include free airfare and accommodations. These resort, travel club, or membership campground packages frequently require your participation at a sales seminar or presentation or even may even require a purchase.

Vacation certificates often include free hotel room or timeshare resort stays for several days and nights. Sometimes, certificates include airfare or a cruise, or provide one complimentary ticket with the purchase of a second. Some vacation certificates offer discounts at restaurants and other attractions in the area. Companies offering vacation certificates can require a fee or refundable deposit to reserve a vacation offer. It the deposit is refundable, written confirmation should be sent when the deposit is received.

The attorney generals office recommends the following tips to prevent consumers from falling victim to a timeshare scam:

· Avoid high pressure sales tactics and check with friends and local travel agents before signing up for a timeshare deal.

· Read the fine print carefully and determine all costs involved before signing any documents. Remember that if it’s not specifically mentioned, you will have to pay for it. Timeshare scam.

· Confirm all reservations in advance with the airline industry, hotel or resort, and the discounted business.

· Know your rights. You have the right to cancel or change the trip without penalty if a major change is made by the operator. Department of Transportation rules say that major changes include changes in departure or return date; change in destination; substituting hotels to one not named in the contract or a package price increase of more than 10 percent.

· Don’t pay with cash. A credit card gives you more protection. Timeshare scam.

Determine if the promotion boxes you in to a specific time period before making your reservation, and it you can’t make the specific time, find out if you can get your money back.

Also, if the accommodations are free, find out if you must use a specific travel agent. If you attend a land sales presentation, obtain a copy of the Property Report, often required by federal law, and read it before signing any contract or written agreement.

“Similar to many scams out there, if the trip sounds too good to be true it probably is,” Carter added. “Thoroughly checking all the details associated with the vacation promotion will ensure that you and your family have an enjoyable trip.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

 
Timeshare Trip Contest 'Just A Big Scam,' Says Winner

Codiac RCMP are investigating a timeshare contest draw at the East Coast Women's Expo that one winner says is more like a scam.

Genevieve Robichaud attended the expo earlier this month, where she filled out a ballot for a contest that promised a trip to Florida as its top prize.

A week later, she got a call that she'd won. All she had to do was pay her own airfare to Florida to hear a pitch on timeshare ownership.

Total costs were going to be more than $1,000, says Robichaud.

"It was just a big scam. I did not win that timeshare trip and everybody could go and be part of this little contest or whatever," says Robichaud. "I'm not even sure I'm going to go next time they have a women's expo."

Heather Gunning, who represents the expo, says she sympathizes with Robichaud and others who have complained about the timeshare scam. But she says the RCMP has told her the company that ran the contest is above board.

"Unfortunately, I can't speak for the individuals that were upset. I'm sorry that they're upset and I would kind of hope that they come next year…and check out the trade show," says Gunning. "Was it just that particular booth, or was it the whole trade show?"

The company that held the draw is Bluegreen Corporation, a Florida-based Fortune 500 firm. Bluegreen develops, markets and sells planned residential, lake and golf communities mostly in the southeastern and south-central United States.

It has not offered any apologies to contest winners in Moncton.

Bluegreen spokesperson Lisa Thornhill says people who enter the contest give permission for the company to call when they sign an entry form.

Monday, March 13, 2006

 
Timeshare Industry Comes Into Its Own

Timeshare has shaken off its dodgy image and is set for growth, writes Martin Kelly
February 18, 2006

THE old expression "time is money" has never been more appropriate, with Australia's timeshare industry shaking off a somewhat murky past and operators forecasting membership growth of up to 25 per cent this year.

Big brands -- such as Accor Asia Pacific -- are involved and the industry boasts a new respectability, thanks in part to increased legislation driven by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Essentially, legislative changes mean that timeshare memberships can no longer be sold as a financial investment with the potential for capital gains, a criticism of these schemes in the past. As a result, timeshare is now marketed as an "investment in your lifestyle", and the industry is booming.

Thousands of Australians are buying into the timeshare dream with a minimum one-off membership costing between $12,500 and $17,000, plus annual fees starting at $300.

In return, members receive points, much like frequent-flyer schemes, that can be redeemed for resort accommodation, which is typically four star, with features such as a pool, gym, water-sports centre, day spa, shops and restaurant.

The entry-level fee will generally get a week's worth of accommodation (in perpetuity), possibly high season, depending on demand, which can be broken down into smaller blocks if required.

The appeal of these schemes is clear with one operator declaring: "Lifestyle is the buzz word these days."

Market leader Trendwest South Pacific, with 30,000 members, is forecasting 25 per cent membership growth over next year, and branching into new areas.

Major rival Accor Premiere Vacation Club, a joint venture between Accor Asia Pacific and developer Becton Corporation, has 12,000 members (up from 8500 in May) and is bullish about the future.

APVC chief operating officer Jim Sabot says that while the laws governing timeshare are necessary, there is scope to relax the legislation, which includes making timeshare operators place developed properties into a special trust.

"The regulations are better than nothing and have stood the Australian public in good stead, but there are high barriers to entry and I think the laws could be changed to more reflect the reality," Mr Sabot says. 'That is, timeshare is not an investment in a capital appreciating asset, it's a lifestyle investment. If we were not regulated tomorrow we would not sell it any other way."

Australian timeshare got its bad rap in the early 1990s when apartment oversupply in key markets, such as the Gold Coast, prompted unscrupulous developers to pump unwanted stock into timeshare schemes, which sold them at inflated prices.

Unlucky consumers at the time also bought themselves a lack of choice: the same holiday apartment every year, with availability often an issue. But that's one area where timeshare -- an industry which claims six million members around the world -- has changed dramatically.

Both major schemes each own around a dozen resorts in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, with reciprocal or upgrade rights in "thousands" of other resorts through affiliate companies such as Interval International.

Transwest Asia Pacific chief executive officer Barry Robinson, a former managing director of Choice Hotels, says "the points are like currency" and that the range of redeemable options is continually expanding.

"In the last two years, we've been trying to expand beyond traditional timeshare. For example, we had a box for members at the Indy (car race)," Mr Robinson says.

Whatever the changes, direct marketing remains a cornerstone of the industry.

Letters, phone calls and time-sensitive special offers are the major marketing tools of both companies, while finance at interest rates of around 11 per cent is available to qualified applicants who don't have ready cash.

This is a popular option, with around 50 per cent of new members taking up finance.

Trendwest and APVC each employ about 200 tele-sales staff -- working the phones, encouraging new prospects to attend sales seminars -- while many others work in linked marketing departments. A typical approach is the one used by APVC last week in a letter to potential clients, which begins: "Congratulations! You are in a in a very select group!"

It says the recipient is eligible to receive accommodation or a "gift" valued at up to $800 but must call within 72 hours of receiving the letter, earn more than $50,000 a year and "complete an APVC holiday ownership preview" for at least 90 minutes.

"If married or in a life partnership, we ask that both you and your partner attend the preview together," the letter reads. Jim Sabot says the strongest sales tools for the sector are word of mouth and personal contact.

"The ideal way for us to acquire a member is for them to sample the product," he says.

Trendwest operates a similar strategy, but has in the past crossed the line, with ASIC taking it to the Federal Court after receiving complaints from consumers who purchased holiday credits from the company or attended its seminars.

As a result Trendwest agreed not to make the following representations to consumers: the purchase of holiday credits is a good financial investment; over time the resale price of holiday credits in a secondary market will remain stable or increase relative to their acquisition price; or, a strong market exists for the secondary sale of holiday credits.

Not that the change in approach has stifled momentum. According to Trendwest's boss Barry Robinson, who joined the company after the ASIC action, the future is extremely bright.

"We've had exponential growth each year and this year we predict we'll get another 10,000 members," he says.

Mr Sabot from APVC is also optimistic.

"Clearly the ageing of the population is very much in our favour, and a second home has become too expensive for many people to own or maintain, while lifestyle is the buzz word these days."

Friday, March 10, 2006

 
Tenn. Targets Boca Timeshare Firm Over Taxes

The Tennessee taxman cometh: Bluegreen (NYSE: BXG, $15.48) is tussling over a possible $28 million tax bill with that state's Department of Revenue, a bill big enough to damp earnings of the fast-growing Boca Raton timeshare firm that has interests in that state.

The dispute turns on the question of what, exactly, is sold when a timeshare changes hands. Tennessee contends timeshare sales

Both Tennessee and Bluegreen declined comment on specifics of the case, but a senior tax analyst with Tennessee says that as timeshare sales have grown more sophisticated, calculating the tax bill has, too. Some transactions are neither fish nor fowl, she said: "Our law is pretty clear when it comes to right-to-use properties versus ownership of properties, but there are companies doing business in a way that maybe grays that line."

Condo conversion specialist Michael Halpin has another two West Palm Beach properties in his sights. In addition to Clear Lake Colony on Executive Drive, Halpin said he is looking at a multifamily property in the Villages, and "one other in the area, which I'm not at liberty to discuss."

Halpin is best known in Orlando for building or renovating more than 1,000 units in the city's urban core.

Last year, he detoured into condos, at one point handling $90 million in projects. He likes conversions. "The owner can come in and kick the tires," he says of the existing properties. Another plus: "It's yesterday's construction pricing," not the kind of prices generated by today's soaring cost of materials.

"It's just pencils and pens," snorted one online critic of Office Depot Inc. (NYSE: ODP, $33.24). "It ain't no Google."

It sure tain't: Google lost $17 a share, or 4 percent of its value, last Monday, the same day Delray Beach-based Office Depot hit a new 52-week high of $33.81.

Sure, Google's market cap is $107 billion, while Office Depot is making do with a modest $10 billion. But look at it this way: Google stock slipped on no particular news at all. Office Depot shares rose on no particular news at all. CEO Steve Odland will try to justify that blind faith Wednesday afternoon, when he takes to the Internet to unveil the Office Depot's fourth quarter and year-end earnings.

The face-lift remains on hold. Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG, $79.91) last fall announced plans to announce plans to reinvigorate its 1 million-square-foot Palm Beach Mall. The 38-year-old property — the first indoor shopping mall in Florida — has been showing its age. But the situation remains elastic: "Soon," promises Les Morris, director of corporate public relations for the real estate investment trust. "Soon. I really can't say anything more than that."

Simon has sold off several properties, and any sale of this mall would be a boon to the bottom line: The 3 acres Dillard's sits on alone, valued at $3 million in 1999, is now valued at $8 million — and a conservative valuation, at that.

However, the brace of upscale Cityside condos across the street (Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard) represents a market niche Simon covets, points out Morris.

And the company isn't hurting for cash: Better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings touched off a shopping spree early last week as investors splurged on the Indianapolis-based real estate investment trust. Shares shot up by 22 cents, or 3 percent, just shy of the new 52-week high of $84.78 reached Jan. 27.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

 
Yucatan Timeshare Resort Investors Granted $20 Million In Settlement

The Arizona Corporation Commission has approved a $20 million dollar settlement reached with five defendants who sold investments in Yucatan Timeshare Resorts, an international investment program. The commission already has received a $4 million down payment from the defendants.

The money will be returned to the more than 350 Arizonans who invested in the timeshare program.

They had been promised that their money would be used to buy a timeshare that would result in an 11 percent return on their investment. However in many cases, the money was spent on other things without their knowledge.

The named defendants in the case are: Michael E. Kelly, South Bend, Ind., and Cancun, Mexico; Yucatan Resorts Inc., South Bend, Ind.; Resort Holdings International, Cancun; Yucatan Resorts, SA, Cancun and Panama; and Resort Holding International, Cancun and Panama.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

 
Timeshare Scams And Trickery

Most timeshare scams are no more than a variation on an old theme. It is rare that a week passes by without someone asking whether they should invest in the latest pyramid-selling scheme, or perhaps transfer funds to a foreign lottery in order to claim their prize money. The line ‘Your details have been selected at random’ should sound alarm bells but unfortunately this does not always happen.

Many of you will no doubt have heard of the so-called Nigerian 419 scam (named after section 419 of Nigeria’s penal code). This usually begins with an email from a wealthy African prince in exile who needs your assistance to release money from his bank account. The idea is that you will receive a percentage of the huge sum in return for agreeing to clear the funds through your bank account. Little by little the victim is drawn in until it is too late and they find their account has been cleared.

Much closer to home, I have recently come across an outfit operating on the Costa Blanca who claim to have purchasers ready to buy your timeshare. To many owners this news comes as a huge relief since they had previously been informed that it would not be possible to sell on their ‘investment’. The way it works is as follows. First of all a database containing the names and contact details of thousands of timeshare owners exchanges hands. The majority of people contacted are UK based. Initial approaches are made by telephone and promises made that a willing buyer has been found. Once sufficient interest has been generated the owners are told that they must come to Spain in person to complete the sale before a Notary (this part is also untrue). Having purchased flights, accommodation etc. and arrived in Spain the owner is then told that they have to pay an up-front administration fee of around €3,000 euros in cash. No doubt you’ve already guessed that once the money is paid across, the sellers return to the UK only to discover that the deal falls through and their €3,000 euros is forfeited.

I expect many readers will know of someone who owns a timeshare, others may come across a hopeful seller in a hotel lobby or restaurant who is about to be scammed. The basic rule is that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The best way of defeating any timeshare scam is to spread the word so please do so.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

 
Sunset Group Timeshare Fraud

We purchased a timeshare from Sunset Lagoon in Cancun, MX while vacationing there in September 2005. We were sold an "investment" timeshare and were given the GUARANTEE of rental income for 2005 and 2006, and were also told that their U.S. subsidiary marketing company "Resorts International Marketing Corp" would sell our existing timeshare for $10,000 within 90 days. Under the terms of the guarantee, we should have received $6800 rental income in January 2006 and same amount in March 2006. We were given a document called "VIP Rental and Resale Enrollment Form" on Resorts International paper that included our Sunset Lagoon contract number. When we questioned where the guarantee appeared in our contract, the VLO called for the Sales Manager who pointed out that the VIP form was to serve as the guarantee. He confirmed that this was a part of the contract. Sunset Lagoon refuses to honor this guarantee and we have requested termination of contract and refund of $6129.86 due to gross misrepresentation of the contract and deceptive sales practices. Sunset Lagoon has defrauded us and refuses to rectify this situation. We advise everyone to STAY AWAY FROM SUNSET LAGOON - they are crooks, what a timeshare scam.

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