Saturday, 15 November 2014

Consumer Alert: Invest Partnership

Remember Eurextrade?

Here comes another Ponzi scheme that sounds remarkably similar.

Invest Partnership makes some extraordinary claims:


2% per day is a remarkable return. Impossibly remarkable. On their blog they go even further, claiming that they can offer up to 15% each day. This is simply impossible. No investment scheme can ever offer such returns.


Like all such schemes they give no real clues about how they would make such amazing returns, saying only that they provide “superior investment returns by placing its on Forex market”. Clearly English isn’t their first language.

It’s also curious that they don’t appear to have a physical address, phone number or email address. They claim to have been operating since November 2013 but it’s also curious that their domain name and web page, the only mechanism for investing with them, was only registered on 14th October this year. And guess where it was registered? Panama. Do you remember where Eurextrade was registered? Yes, you guessed it, Panama as well.

Please don’t even think of “investing” your money in this scheme. Do you really want to be another victim?

Friday, 14 November 2014

Virtual training?

We were asked: "Help is this real or another scam?"


This is a link to a Facebook group for something just called "Online Courses" which links to a web site for "Online Colleges | Online Courses | Online Colleges in the UK".


This site lists a number of "colleges" and facilities:


Each of these establishments has its own web site which you can see here:
A little bit of detective work later and something curious emerged. Each of these four establishments have exactly the same address: Cardiff House, Cardiff Road, Barry, CF63 2AW in Wales in the UK. This is what that address looks like:


In fact this is nothing more than an accommodation address, "The Business Centre", which offers a range of business services including "Virtual Offices" which they describe as:
"an extremely cost effective option offering all the benefits of a serviced office without the physical office – simply; a telephone answering service with a business address and access to a range of business support services.
...
The virtual office service is ideal for those who work from home, or industrial unit or on the road but recognise the value of having a prestigious business address and reception service to create the right impression of your business."
Then there are the companies themselves.
  • London Home Learning. No trace of this company being registered in the UK. Web site registered on 4th December 2013.
  • Oxford Home Study College. Registered as a UK company on 17th December 2013. Web site registered 2 days later.
  • Brentwood Open Learning College. Registered as a UK company on 17th September 2009. Web site registered the day before.
  • Staff Training Solutions. No trace of this being a registered company in the UK. Web site registered on 8th June 2013.
I have no comment to make on the quality of the courses these people offer or their registration with the relevant authorities. All I say is that you can and should judge a company that offers training services by how they operate and the slightly shady way they present themselves.

Christmas is coming

Christmas is coming and it’s time for everyone to go slightly mad.

Almost all of us do it, even those who set a budget and who plan very carefully. There’s always that extra present, that temptation in the store, that once-in-a-lifetime deal we can’t refuse.

The result is that we overspend as well as over-eat and over-drink and we end up paying the price in the New Year, often for most of the following year. However, unlike the inevitable weight gain, the financial burdens can’t easily be removed by cutting back a little for a few months.

So, in anticipation of the spending frenzy so many of us will engage in, here’s a few tips for avoiding a horrible Christmas aftermath.

The first lesson is the boring one. Set a budget and stick to it. Make a rational decision about how much you can afford to spend, add up the prices of the essentials you need to buy and don’t go over that amount. Yes, I know it’s simple to say and harder to do, but we really have to be mature about spending at this time of year.

Perhaps the smartest thing you can do when shopping is to shop around. Don’t just accept the price offered in the first store you visit, check out several stores and you’ll be surprised by how much prices can vary. Then, if you’re still feeling loyal to your favorite store even though they have what you want at a higher price, ask them if they’ll price-match the cheaper store. Some stores even have a policy of price-matching their competition. All it takes is for you to politely mention to a supervisor that the other store has the item for less and you might be surprised how willingly they’ll knock the price down. I know someone who saved over P500 this way, just by asking. That’s enough to get another really nice present, several bottles of wine and could easily pay for one of the many family Christmas meals you have to endure (sorry, I meant enjoy).

You should also be practical when you things. Ask questions about the store’s returns policy in case the thing you buy is the wrong size or even just isn’t wanted. It can do no harm to ask and it might save you money and disappointment if the present you choose doesn’t go down as well as you hoped.

You really must ask about warranties and guarantees. For instance if you buy your spoiled offspring a fancy new phone (and as an Apple fan it pains me to say this) you should think about those manufacturers like Samsung that now offer a 2-year warranty rather then the normal 1-year promise. They also offer a free screen replacement if it gets damaged. Factors like those should be a major part of your decision. However all of this depends on you buying a legitimate Samsung phone, not a suspicious grey import.

While on the subject of technology here’s another tip. Surf the web before you spend any serious money on tech. Read online reviews and reports from other people who bought the item you’re considering. I wish I’d done that before splashing out on a new laptop for our office a few months ago. It’s from a perfectly respectable manufacturer and was in the middle price range so I expected things to be fine but it quickly became clear that the screen is really very poor. It’s a real eye-strain maker. However if I’d just spent a few minutes web-surfing before handing over the money I would have found that many other people around the world have made exactly the same comment. It hurts their eyes as well. Do yourself a favor and trust other people’s experiences.

Above all trust the experts. Look for leading online reviewers and see what they have to say. It’s their business, they’re paid to do expert reviews and they can be trusted. Before buying my latest phone I found one site that had written a 12-page review to the device, looking at every possible thing it does and making detailed, practical observations that helped me confirm that it’s what I wanted. I’m confident that I’m not going to be disappointed.

Above all, here’s the Number One tip for buying at Christmas. This one, if you can follow it, will save you a fortune.

Don’t buy on credit.

It’s really that simple. Buying on credit or its even more evil cousin, hire purchase, is a disaster waiting to happen. It really is a staggeringly expensive way to buy things. If you buy something over 2 years you’ll probably pay about twice the cash price and that’s before you face the risk of repossession and ruining your credit history if something goes wrong.

It’s probably too late now that we’re in November but the very best way to have an affordable Christmas is to save for it throughout the year, maybe putting a little bit aside every month in a savings account and even earning a little interest on it. Do the maths.

Instead of making hire purchase payment for two years put the same monthly amount away for just one year and you’ll be able to buy the same item for cash and you’ll actually own it. Nobody can then come round and seize it if you’re strapped for cash one month.

One last lesson. A very simple one. If you haven’t got it already get some home insurance. How are you going to feel if everything you bought is stolen or destroyed in an accident? Insurance might seem expensive but it’s not nearly as expensive as not having it.

The best present Father Christmas can bring anyone is financial common sense. Put that on your Christmas wish list.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I bought a meal today from a store which comes with bread rolls. The expiry date written on the rolls was today’s date. I returned the rolls complaining that they sold me an expired item but they refused to listen telling me that the expiry date on the packaging means the rolls expires tomorrow not today. The supervisor was so rude and not cooperative at all. Is he right? Please advise.


You’re not the first person to get confused by expiry dates.

The Labelling of Prepackaged Foods Regulations defines "expiry date" and "use-by date" as follows: "the date which signifies the end of the estimated period under any stated storage conditions, after which the product is unlikely to have quality attributes normally expected by the consumers, and after which date, the food should not be regarded as marketable".

Section 4 of the Regulations then says that "No person shall" ... "import, distribute, sell or offer for sale, any food" ... "whose expiry date has lapsed".

So to make it perfectly clear, the rolls expired “today” meaning that today is the last day on which they can be sold. So it's legally acceptable to sell that roll today, but not tomorrow.

We all need to use some common sense with "use by", "expiry" and "best before" dates. It really depends on what the food is. If it's meat, fish or poultry then we should be very careful about the dates. On the other hand if it's an apple then you can be less fussy.

Either way, use your eyes and your nose with ALL foodstuffs. Millions of years of evolution have given us senses that can often tell us when things we want to put inside our bodies are likely to harm us. Ask your partner, relative, housemate or whoever is standing close enough, "Does that smell OK to you?" before you cook or eat something.

So read the dates and take care with them but above all trust your senses. If in doubt don’t eat it.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

On 16 September 2014 I paid a P5,000 deposit for a lounge suite which was to be manufactured for me. They promised to deliver by 19 September 2014. Up to date the lounge suite is still not delivered. I went over to the workshop in Ramotswa on 3 October and they committed to deliver without fail on 6 October. This did not help. On 10 October I asked for my money back seeing that they are not able to deliver as promised and they agreed that they will refund on 11 October.

I wanted to let you know that they still haven’t paid the amount he had promised to pay me and they have been putting across all sorts of excuses and avoiding to meet me.

I think a name and shame in The Voice newspaper would motivate him. He talks of being worried about the bad publicity to his company though he is not doing anything to avoid it.


We spoke to the owner of this workshop and he made a number of excuses to us as well. He even tried to blame you for the problem because he couldn’t find the type of fabric you wanted. He also claimed that he doesn’t have the money to give you your refund.

We suggested that even if he doesn’t have all the money he owes you right now he should nevertheless pay you what he can just to demonstrate that he’s prepared to cooperate. Following that I got a message from him saying that he’d paid you back P1,000.

I then got another message from him saying that he acknowledges his obligations to you and promising to make you a new couch entirely for free.

Let’s see what happens now. If he breaks his word we’ll certainly name and shame him!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Barclays Bank - Fraud Awareness Workshops

Barclays Bank have asked if we'd help publicise this for them, something we're delighted to do.

-----

Barclays Bank of Botswana conducts fraud awareness road-shows

As the festive period approaches, Barclays Bank of Botswana is embarking on a campaign to educate the public, customers and critical stakeholders to remain vigilant to avoid becoming victims of fraud.

From Monday 10th November to Thursday 13th November, the bank will conduct a series of workshops on Fraud Awareness under the theme: Act now! Fraud stops with you.

Puseletso Seitei, Regional Fraud Strategy Manager, Barclays Africa Fraud Risk Management, said the aim of the roadshows is to engage stakeholders on pertinent issues of fraud and how they can individually and collectively prevent it from affecting them.

“Fraud continues to be one of the most topical issues in the financial industry, affecting unsuspecting individuals and corporates. This initiative will therefore provide an insight into fraud awareness and prevention strategies and allow for interactive debates to educate the public,” added Puseletso.

Bruno Schiemsky, Head of Forensic Investigations & Whistleblowing for Barclays Africa, said: “Over the last couple of years, we have seen an increase in the number of fraud cases across Africa and an increase in the threat posed by organised crime groups and syndicates against the financial industry. Based on the feedback received from our customers, colleagues and the industry, Barclays took the initiative to provide fraud awareness to our customers. We are also engaging with industry stakeholders and partners, which includes the Law Enforcement agencies, to provide them with insights into the latest crime trends affecting the financial industry in Africa.”

Barclays Bank remains committed to the highest service levels and professional excellence which form part of our core values, as we affirm our vision to become the ‘Go To’ bank in Africa.

Danger to our health

Our Facebook group has been on fire recently. Various issues have been raised and the members of the group have been very busy commenting. It’s been rather heated.

It began with a comment from someone calling himself “MajorProphet Richard Watatua”. His comment was simple but remarkable:


“TESTIMONY............3 PEOPLE ARE REPORTING TO BE HEALED H.I.V AIDS YESTERDY AFTER MY MEETING WITH THEM.”

He later claimed that:


“ONLY 38 PEOPLE............SOW A SEED OF P38 AND SEE WAHT GOD WILL DO IN THE NEXT 38 HOURS............E- WALLET BY FAITH 71685938”

Despite my grammar police tendencies we’ll overlook his spelling and his use of capital letters. Instead we should look at what he’s actually offering. He claims to be able to heal people of AIDS and HIV infection.

Before I go any further I need to stress that this isn’t an attack on religion in any way. Instead this is an attack on the scandalously dangerous claims he’s making. In a country that is badly affected by HIV we have to deal with these issues very carefully.

As a nation facing enormous challenges we’ve done very well. The distribution of ARVs and the PMTCT program are both great achievements and they have contributed towards the great recovery in our lifespan and general quality of health. I believe that anything that threatens those achievements is criminal.

Before you claim that it’s not actually criminal, it’s just offensive, let me refer you to Sections 396-399 of the Penal Code. This describes “prohibited advertisements” that include offering treatments for a range of disorders, including “venereal diseases” which certainly includes HIV infection.

The majority of the members of our Facebook group were outraged by this charlatan’s offers. They posted messages like “he should be reported to the authorities”, that he should “be arrested”, “it's sad how gullible we are” and (my favourite), “why don't these guys go to Marina and Nyangabgwe and heal the sick there?”

The situation is actually very simple. People like “MajorProphet Richard Watatua” pose a danger to our nation’s health and they should be stopped before they cause serious damage. If just one person believes his lies and stops taking his or her anti-retroviral medication and suffers then he’ll have blood on his hands. He’s no different to a drug-dealer or mugger.

We also had a return visit from a previous star of the Facebook group. The self-styled
“Healer Nkunumbi” also made some extraordinary claims. His post said:


“lost lover, Marriage problems, stop your partner from cheating on you, Men and women who can’t have Babies. Breast, Hips, Bums, penis cream/. Business boost, Penis Enlargement and power in all sizes. Win court cases, promotion at work. Is your situation getting worse? Find us in Gaborone, Botswana Cell phone: +267 75988645”.

I contacted the “Healer” and asked him a few questions by SMS. I asked “Can you help my wife to have a baby?” His answer was simple: “Yes”. I asked if he could cure fertility problems. “Yes”. Finally I asked if he could cure cancer. “Yes”.

He’s yet another danger to our health, peddling miracle cures and remedies that are clearly nonsensical. What’s more I believe he’s a threat to women in particular.

The last time he was around we called "Healer Nkunumbi" to hear what he said. A colleague pretended to be having problems getting pregnant and asked if he could help. You can listen to the 4-minute call when he says he can assist if you visit our blog or Facebook group.

Of course this is all very silly. If you’re feeling charitable "Healer Nkunumbi" is a rather comical character with his preposterous claims and his ridiculous offers of miracle remedies.

But he’s not just funny. He’s also dangerous.

I worry about the vulnerable people who might, as a result of desperation and despair, resort to his offerings. A woman with fertility problems or an illness might be tempted to give him a try if everything else has failed. So where’s the harm in that, you might ask, if everything else has failed?

The first potential harm is doubt. Who actually is this guy? What are his qualifications? What skills does he actually have, if any? We have no real idea what and who he is.

Then there’s the chance that he might actually do something rather than just talking about it. When he sees a woman with fertility problems is he going to examine her? Is he going to touch her? Given the nature of her problems a real doctor would obviously do a detailed physical examination so he’s probably going to feel like he should do so too. How would you react if you heard that an unknown man had touched your mother, sister, daughter or partner in such a way? I know what my reaction would be.

Then there’s the risk that he’ll offer her some sort of treatment for her condition and who knows what that might be. Chances are it’s be some entirely useless herbal concoction but there’s a chance whatever he gives her might actually have an effect and that’s dangerous.

Unlike the Panado you buy from a pharmacy where you can be certain that every tablet contains exactly 500mg of paracetamol, you have no idea what so-called traditional healers are giving you or what effect it might have. That’s why the majority of people see no effect whatsoever and the rest often end up dead.

If we don’t stand up to these charlatans and their bogus treatments and medicines then we are likely to undo all of the progress we’ve made in the last few years in improving our nation’s health. It really is that serious.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I received an email from Mr Tim who offered me a loan. He said “Hi, My name is Mr Tim. I am a private lender who give out loan to private and corporate individuals. Have you been turned down by so many banks? Do you need finance to establish your business? Do you need finance for the expansion of you business? Or do you need a personal loan? My loan ranges from personal to business loan. My interest rate is very affordable and our loan process is very fast as well. I am very willing to make all your financial troubles a thing of the past.”

Do you think this can be trusted?


Certainly not!

This is the beginning of a scam. Let’s face it, genuine money lenders don’t approach total strangers offering them large amounts of money without having any idea who they are. Genuine lenders also aren’t usually very keen to lend to people who have been “turned down by so many banks”. They prefer safe investments. Genuine lenders also have better English that this guy.

More importantly there’s a simple rule about any financial service you might consider buying. You cannot trust anyone in the financial services industry who runs his to her business from a free email address. This guy “Mr Tim” emailed you from timrayloanhome@gmail.com. That’s hardly a sign of a reputable company, is it?

We’ve seen many of these emails before and we’ve often responded, pretending to be a potential borrower and every single time there is eventually a demand for us to pay the lender a fee in order to get the loan. In fact there is no loan, just as there is no “Mr Tim”. It’s all the beginning of an “advance fee” scam.

If you get an email like this please just delete it and don’t waste your time responding.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

Someone close to me might get schemed. Please check for me if a company by the name TRACK WORLD COURIERS exist. She is saying she’s been expecting a shipment from over sees and now this company called her and told her that they have the parcel and she has to pay to clear it. Please check for us if this is a legitimate company and if indeed they have the Parcel.?


Here we go again. Another victim of a scam.

Let me guess what happened. Your friend met someone on Facebook, a man, probably in his 30s or 40s who was single and without children and who had a highly paid job that involved a lot of travel. Over a few weeks they chatted online, probably every day and because he was so appealing I bet she began to fall for him. He charmed her completely and offered her hope and romance

He then told her that he had to go on a long trip to a faraway country and would be out of touch for a couple of weeks. However he was going to send her a package containing a range of goodies. This package would arrive, he told her, while he was away. Then she received this message from this company claiming that there’s a payment she must make in order to receive the package.

The bad news is that there is no package and no courier company. There isn’t even a boyfriend she met on Facebook. Throughout this period she’s been communicating with a scammer. All he wants is that payment he’s demanding from her. Please make sure that she doesn’t send him any money, she’ll never see it again.