My husband and I were in Puerto Vallarta Mexico last November and on Nov 2nd went to a presentation on the Grand Venetian, a full ownership condominium complex that we toured as part of the presentation. Through a series of events that began with us rejecting a proposal to buy a unit, we entered in to an agreement to sell two timeshare memberships that we owned in order for a guaranteed price of $53K US to purchase a membership in World Luxury Destinations (WLD) at a total cost of $35K US. The agreement was cancelable by either party for any reason. We were asked to provide a credit card number to reserve the contract membership until the timeshares were sold and told there would be no charge made (it was like guaranteeing a hotel reservation was the exact explanation).
The WLD membership entitled us to 8 weeks at the condo size of our choice each year at the Grand Venetian (based on availability). WLD was represented as a luxury concierge service that worked with developers to rent unsold condos in various properties worldwide. Continental Resources was the company that would sell our timeshares withing 30-60 days guaranteed. No money was required on our part and additionally they would buyback the WLD membership in five years for the full price if we weren't satisfied. There were no yearly maintenance fees and the prices per week were from $289-899. They also offered us two free airline tickets from any US or Canadian hub and one week at the Grand Venetian free.
As a test we asked them to book our week in a five bedroom penthouse New Year's week 2012. No problem they said and included a written certificate for the week and airfare. We immediately booked flights for our kids and grandkids to fly down that week. They told us to send our timeshare contracts to Continental Resources as soon as we were back in the US. Upon our return on Monday, I called WLD to verify the availability of the condo and to book our free airfare. The "luxury level concierge" barely spoke English and knew nothing of the certificate. She asked that I fax it to her, which I did. I never heard back from her.
It was then I started to question what we were dealing with and started doing some searches on the Internet under Grand Venetian fraud and also our salesperson, Jerry Forney's name. The stories of fraud beginning late 2010 started popping up. I called our salesperson and told him of our difficulties and he assured me there was no problem that he misdirected me and I should call Mr. Brooks at Continental Resources. I also told him about the articles and complaints I had found on the Internet and he claimed no knowledge. I told him I would email them to him which I did. I never heard from him again!
Mr. Brooks claimed no knowledge about the tickets. I asked for his company address and he insisted FAX was the best way to deal with him but finally gave me an address in Houston Texas. I called Jerry Forney and Alberto Lares at WLD and left messages that all contracts were cancelled per the five day rescention allowed by Mexican Law. I sent certified letters to both companies cancelling all and any contracts.
So then we checked our credit card. My husband also called CIticard who confirmed a transaction was processed by Cela (I have no idea who that is) on November 2. He explained what had happened and they opened a fraud investigation. I sent copies of everything, contracts, letters, emails, narrative of what had happened, links to websites that had descriptions from others of the fraud.
Finally close to the 90 day limit on investigations we got an email from Citicard telling us they had closed the case and we would have to pay. The reasons: the contracts were not cancellable per the one document, the contract number on the WLD contract and on the Continental Resources contract were different and the charge appeared valid not a billing error.
My husband immediately wrote an email back stating that by Mexican Law any contract is cancellable in five business days if there is notice sent within five days which we did. We also pointed out that we never said this was a billing error but we were defrauded by someone offering a service they never intended to deliver. We also asked why Citicard (who has historically locked our card over as little as a $200 charge in Mexico) never had any question of fraud for a $35,000 charge. The Monday following receipt of my husband's email, the Citicard investigator called to say our case was reopened. It has been over a month and last night in response to a request for status I received the following message:
"Your case is still being reviewed at a supervisory level. I will forward all of your concerns, and any additional documentation that you send, to those reviewing your case. We will contact you as soon as a possible resolution is reached. I apologize for the delay.".
BTW on the Citicard website they say the following: Fraud Early Warning
We understand how important security is when it comes to your credit card. That's why we've established Fraud Early Warning. If we notice any unusual activity on your account, we'll contact you to verify the charges and get your approval before allowing any additional activity.
I guess a $35,000 charge in Mexico isn't unusual. Also they have my husband's mobile number for any Fraud Early Warning calls and we did not get any calls either at our home or on his mobile phone regarding this transaction. We were back in January and my son used his Citicard for a $200 purchase and his card was immediately locked.
Obviously Citicard would rather not back us up on this. We have asked for a direct contact with Mastercard but received no information. I understand that success in these matters is often predicated on how you construct the claim. What can we do? There is never going to be any services provided by WLD. My daughter who works for VISA says they have an advocate that works with people who file claims. I don't feel like the person we are working with is an advocate. According to his recent message a "supervisory committee" is looking for a possible solution. I've read a lot about ID theft and goods ordered that don't arrive but this doesn't seem to fit either category. Any ideas????
BTW, I know that timeshares are not a good investment that is not the issue here. The transaction was a supposed guaranteed sale of our timeshares to pay for a membership in WLD. Continental Resources does not sell timeshares and WLD is a shell operation that does not provide any service. They simply steal the money and they keep promising action until by the time the buyer figures it out it is usually too late for action to be taken to rescind the contract (after five business days.) or contact the credit card company. The only reason we found out quickly is we wanted to go back right away. Citibank says they protect you from fraud when you use your card...this is fraud by any definition:
Fraud is defined to be:
–"an intentional perversion of truth" or
–a "false misrepresentation of a matter of
fact" which induces another person to "part
with some valuable thing belonging to him
or to surrender a legal right".