by Irene Parker
A whistleblower is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public. The information of alleged wrongdoing can be classified in many ways: violation of company policy/rules, law, regulation, or threat to public interest/national security, as well as fraud, and corruption.
Those who become whistleblowers can choose to bring information or allegations to surface either internally or externally. Internally, a whistleblower can bring her accusations to the attention of other people within the accused organization. Externally, a whistleblower can bring allegations to light by contacting a third party outside of an accused organization such as the media, government, law enforcement, or those who are concerned. Whistleblowers, however, take the risk of facing stiff reprisal and retaliation from those who are accused or alleged of wrongdoing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower
I had the privilege of attending the Whistleblowers Summit held July 30 – August 1 in Washington DC. A frequent comment Charles Thomas and I hear from timeshare members, after describing how they were defrauded by unscrupulous timeshare sales agents is, “It helps to know I am not alone.” That’s how I felt meeting and listening to fellow whistleblowers.
One remarkable whistleblower at the Whistleblowers Summit was Aaron Westrick, Ph.D. Dr. Westrick, former Director for Research and Marketing at Second Chance Body, received a Pillar Award for exposing defective bulletproof vests. One police officer died and another injured when the vests did not hold up. Dr. Westrick explained how he had been fired from his company for exposing corruption and how he endured a 14 year legal battle as a result of his truth telling.
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When it was suggested I attend the Whistleblowers Summit, I thought I was attending on behalf of 68 members of law enforcement and military, veterans and active duty, who reached out to Inside Timeshare describing how they had been defrauded by timeshare sales agents. Veteran Administration whistleblowers were well represented. However, in the last few weeks, I have learned that I am a target of retaliation as a result of my attempts to expose fraud.
Inside Timeshare has heard from 528 timeshare members angry beyond words. I believe highly educated, professional timeshare members alleging fraud over the timeshare sales agents they accuse. There are too many patterns of identical complaints and too many repeat offenders to be ignored. We have been contacted by senior after senior, up-sold into foreclosure. The foreclosure process is demeaning and demoralizing. For the young, unwittingly signing a perpetual contract with no secondary market, the credit downgrade is long lasting.
Two timeshare members are working on their own articles.
One member attended a timeshare presentation in Las Vegas. According to the member, he told the sales agent his wife purchased a deeded timeshare week 18 years ago and he had hated the timeshare for 18 years. He explained that he had never attended a timeshare presentation until this presentation, which he attended only to learn how to exit. The sales agent told him that in order to be eligible for the voluntary surrender program he would need to convert his deed to points. This was blatantly false. Many deeded timeshare members have surrendered their deed. The sales agent sold the member $12,000 worth of points for no reason. Worse, the timeshare company requires a six month waiting period before applying for a surrender, to capture 2019 maintenance fees.
Past articles have mentioned timeshare customer service representatives responding to members, “We are not responsible for what our sales agents say.” After we published this response, the line was changed to, “It sounds like a he said, she said,” as this member was told.
The other timeshare member was also up-sold by a Las Vegas timeshare agent. Six months ago a disabled veteran recorded a blatantly fraudulent up-sell. The recording was so obviously fraudulent you would have assumed the agent would be fired. Not so. Inside Timeshare received a complaint this week from a timeshare member reporting they had been defrauded by this same timeshare sales agent and that the sales agent told the member he was assigned to the highest loyalty level members. Two sales agents with this distinction had been fired, but only after years of complaints.
Wells Fargo made national headlines when they admitted allowing their representatives to open bogus accounts. It’s annoying to have an unauthorized credit card opened, but timeshare members report being defrauded out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Complaints involving $100,000 to $200,000 are not uncommon.
In the case of Wells Fargo, at least victims could file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Timeshare buyers could not effectively file a CFPB complaint because the timeshare company services the loan. The filer has to select a lender from the CFPB drop down menu and a timeshare company is not a choice.
It doesn’t matter what you are blowing the whistle on. I learned at the Whistleblowers Summit you can expect retaliation. In the case of Wells Fargo whistleblower Jessie Guiltron:
Jessie Guitron began working for Wells Fargo in 2008. Soon after, though, she realized they all faced a company-mandated quota to sign up new accounts. Some of her colleagues, she noticed, were promising to open free accounts for clients but signing them up for premium accounts which came with hefty fees. Customers were overdrawn, and their credit ruined.
“I kept complaining and complaining, and nothing ever gets done,” Guitron says. “I was doing what my conscience was telling me to do. It’s fraud. That’s what it is.”
Trying to stop that fraud put a target on her back. She was fired in 2010, she says, without warning. Unable to find a new job and believing she had been blackballed, Guitron filed a lawsuit claiming Wells Fargo fired her for speaking out against the fraudulent practices she witnessed.
But then, two years later, her claims against Wells Fargo were dismissed.
“I was deflated,” Guitron says. “I was like, ‘OK, I’m done.’”
In 2016, the world around her changed when the government accused Wells Fargo Bank of opening numerous accounts without their clients’ consent.
Like Bernie Madoff, unscrupulous timeshare sales agents and unscrupulous timeshare companies don’t care who they hurt. It is our hope that someday, some regulator will listen and respond. All timeshare complaints filed by our readers with the Nevada and Florida Attorneys General offices have been dismissed with, “You have no proof” or “You should not have relied on verbal representations.” In effect, there is no timeshare regulation in those states, at least not for the 528 members reporting back to us. Echoing the timeshare company’s “You have no proof,” provides a green light for fraud.
Like other whistleblowers, I have no regrets and would do nothing different. I would rather be attacked than ignored to shed light on so many responsible families financially devastated by decades of predatory, aggressive and fraudulent timeshare sales. Of course there are honest timeshare sales agents and happy timeshare members. Of course not all sales agents are dishonest, but researching Attorneys General investigations, lawsuits and complaints, Charles and I are not alone in our desire to take back our vacations. If only the developers and their law firms would take off the blinders. Charles and I know truth is our best defense.
If you have a question or concern about a timeshare, contact Inside Timeshare or an advocacy group.
We seek to provide timeshare members a way to proactively address membership concerns; to advocate for timeshare reform; to obtain greater disclosure from the company; to advocate for a viable secondary market; and to educate prospective buyers.
How to File a Timeshare Complaint
The St. Louis Better Business Bureau Timeshare Report
Thank you Irene, I know that you found the Whistleblowers Summit very intriguing and made many new contacts there. It is through people like those mentioned here that the truth is made public, without them large corporations and governments would get away with murder. Keep up the good work.
That’s it for this week, Friday is here and the weekend is about to start, time for the beach, pool and BBQ’s, have a great weekend and join us again next week.
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- Some timeshares that DO NOT OWN any properties?
- What “secret” strategies do resorts use to induce guests to buy the same day?
- Are timeshare attorneys and relief companies offering services that timeshare owners can easily do themselves?
- Why is it that so many timeshare owners CANNOT USE their own timeshares?
- Are major resort chains harboring ILLEGAL TRAVEL CLUBS on their properties?
- When timeshare owners trade in their old timeshares, how much do the resorts REALLY GIVE THEM ?
- Do timeshare sales managers expect or require their sales staff to LIE?
- Do resorts use ILLEGAL PROFILING METHODS to market their timeshares?
- What are the TRICKS that resorts use to get consumers to sign legal documents WITHOUT EVER READING THEM
- Do new timeshare owners really receive FREE GIFTS for purchasing?
- Where can consumers purchase the same timeshare for a FRACTION of what they are selling for at the resort ?
- Do consumers who purchase timeshares at all inclusive resorts really GET DISCOUNTS when they use their timeshares?
- Can timeshare owners EASILY GET OUT of a timeshare?
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