Friday, 27 March 2015

Consumer Alert - "Download Your eTAX e-Statement Report"

We received an email entitled "Download Your eTAX e-Statement Report" that appeared to come from BURS, the Botswana Unified Revenue Service.

Attached to the email was a file named that contained a Windows program called monthlyreport.exe.

You must not open the zip file.

You must not run the program that it contains.

If you did run the program please tell me what it did.

The program could easily do damage to your computer and its contents.

Consider yourself warned. When did you last update your anti-virus software?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I trust her?

I saw a job post on Facebook by a lady from London named Verisuku Lusiana Cawai looking for nanny saying she pays £1,906 saying its P28,164. She asked for my details and referred me to her lawyer Andrew Lewis. They say I must send my passport scan and to travel they pay 80% and I pay 20%, say travelling is £1,200 so I only pay P3,600. She says I should send today and come next week.

Are they to be trusted or are they scammers. Please help me!

This is undoubtedly the beginning of a scam. I’m 100% certain of it.

The first clue is that people don’t really advertise for nannies on Facebook. Real nannies are recruited through specialist agencies. Real nannies need to be highly trusted and thoroughly checked because they’ll be caring for children, often in a foreign country. The parents and the authorities in these countries are very strict about this.

Ask yourself this. Why would someone in London try to recruit a nanny from 8,000km away instead of from her neighbourhood? Why can’t she find a suitable nanny in London? It can’t be because in Botswana we’re seen as cheap labour when they’re offering a salary that high. I suspect it’s because they think we’re gullible and likely to fall for scam. We need to prove them wrong.

What these scammers are looking for is the money they say you should send them for the travel, that P3,600. I guarantee that if you pay them the money they’ll just string you along with more and more demands for money until either you realize you’re being scammed or you just run out of money. They’ll take as much from as they possibly can.

Update: I reported this scammer’s profile to Facebook and it was immediately removed. However, be careful. This scammer will be back with another scam within minutes!

Help me get my phone!

I opened cell phone insurance with a store last year, last week my phone was stolen and I submitted my claim. It took more than a week to get response after I emailed them pleading with them to assist me, I was issued a claim of P4,000, that I have to claim a phone amounting to that amount. I have been looking for the phone of P4,000 the only available phone that I found is around P2,000 and when I ask them they told me that they are not expecting any stock soon so I can take any available phone.

I have been paying enough money to be able to claim a nice phone, so I cannot afford to claim a cheap phone while I have been paying for a nice phone.

Please help me to convince them to either give me money to buy myself my phone or place an order for my phone.

This is tricky. I think that this depends entirely on what the insurance policy says. Does it offer you a “new for old” cost where you get a brand new phone to replace your phone, which I guess is now a year old? Or does the policy say that it covers the replacement value of the phone so it would give you the cost of replacing a year old phone with another year old phone?

Either way you deserve to be given whatever value the insurance policy promised you. Whether the store has phones in stock or not is irrelevant, they owe you whatever the policy says. They have to stick to their side of the agreement, just as they expected you to stick to your side of it.

I suggest that you contact the store and get a copy of the insurance agreement before you do anything else. Let me know what it says.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Baytown "University" - another fake

Yet another fake university. This one calls itself Baytown "University".

Someone contacted us with the following comment:
"Few months back I got a call from Baytown University which said I can get a degree based on my life experience. I got an MBA degree for $500. I showed it to my employer and as per the HR its an unaccredited degree 'Diploma Mill' being run from South Asia, probably Pakistan. I want to inform all people to stay away from them. Its an unaccredited university and due to it I almost lost my job. Now i'm finding my way to get my full refund (chargeback will be my last resort)."
So I thought I'd enquire. Their web site has the usual "Live chat" facility. All the usual clues that it's bogus are there. All it takes is cash to buy yourself a degree. No exams and "There will be no classes No courses".
You are now chatting with 'Rob Garner'.
Rob Garner: Hi Samuel
[Me]: Hi
Rob Garner: How are you
[Me]: Good thanks. How are you?
Rob Garner: I am doing Great, How can I help you
[Me]: I need to get a Masters degree in Physics as quickly as possible to get a promotion at my school.
Rob Garner: Sure,
Rob Garner: Do you have any working experience?
[Me]: Yes, I'm a Teaching Assistant.
Rob Garner: How old are you
Rob Garner: Do you have your updated resume?
[Me]: I'm 35. I don't have it here with me.
Rob Garner: Okay
Rob Garner: Can I call you?
[Me]: Not at the moment, I'm in a class.
[Me]: I just need to know how quickly I could get a Masters degree.
Rob Garner: How quickly you want?
[Me]: As soon as possible?
Rob Garner: Okay
[Me]: The vacancy I want to apply for is closing in about two months and I don't know how long it normally takes to get a Masters degree.
Rob Garner: I can get it deliver before that
[Me]: Oh wow. What about exams? Must I sit exams?
Rob Garner: a) There will be no classes No courses
Rob Garner: b) Your Records will be kept as YOU HAVE STUDIED AND OBTAINED THIS DEGREE(Online Education)
Rob Garner: c) It will take just 15 days & documents will be delivered via DHL
Rob Garner: e) This degree is acceptable worldwide just like a normal traditional degree.
Rob Garner: f) This Degree can also be stamped by The US State Dept.
[Me]: That's amazing. How much does this cost?
Rob Garner: It will cost you $500.00
It's interesting that they claim to have been "internationally accredited by ABOET (Accreditation Bureau Of Online Education & Training)" but that this apparent accreditation agency has only ever accredited one establishment. Yes, you guessed it, the bogus Baytown "University". Bogus accreditation of a bogus establishment by a bogus accreditation body. At least they're consistent.

Please don't waste your time, your money and your reputation on this fake establishment.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Questions and answers

These are just a few of the questions we’ve had recently. Let me know if you think we responded well or not.


“I have been inconvenienced by a bank teller which resulted in the cheque which I wrote not going through. The guy I was paying was very angry with me and didn’t buy my story when I explained that I still have sufficient funds in my account so I was definitely sure the cheque didn’t bounce because of insufficient funds. Please, I need advice; will I be successful if I demand that the bank compensate me for the damages and sufferings I'm going through? In case they refuse to compensate me, is there any possibility of winning the case if I sue them? I also intend to send a copy of this letter to Bank of Botswana. Please advise me in all options that I can use to solve this issue.”

Let’s leave legal action to one side for now. That will just cost you lots of money, bother and frustration. Instead I think you should contact the bank and see if they won’t sort this out for you. If you want we’ll get in touch with them as well and help explain that this has caused you enormous embarrassment. It’s also left you in trouble because giving someone a cheque that bounces is a crime in Botswana. Anyone who receives a cheque that is dishonored can call the Police and lay a charge using Section 23 of the National Clearance and Settlement Systems Act. It’s critically important that the bank take responsibility for fixing this problem for you.


“I received an email from Robert Alfred of Belltown University. I replied to this person to ask how they much they will convince you to pay for their fake diploma and I received several calls from that number from Pennsylvania to send my resume to update my profile, which I will never sent.”

I admire you for noticing that Belltown “University” isn’t a university at all, it’s a complete fake. Belltown, like others calling themselves Headway, Rochville, Belford, Ashfood, Woodfield are all just web sites designed to sell fake qualification to people gullible or crooked enough to think that they can get a qualification without doing any work to earn it. I had an online conversation with a representative of Belltown in 2013 when they told me that without sitting any exams or doing any coursework I could “get a Masters degree in Psychology to get a promotion”. All I needed to do was give them my credit card number and pay them $274.

The bad news if you are tempted to fast-track your career using a fake degree is that if your employer ever finds out they can fire you instantly and call the police to charge you with fraud. You’ll have stolen the money they paid you when you lied to them about your qualifications. Is that a risk worth taking?


“Please may you let me know if it is legal to have an office tenancy lease without an exit clause? My husband and his partner rent offices in Francistown and last year they wrote to the landlord to terminate the lease but we're told they couldn't because the is no exit clause so they can't leave before two years is up.”

I’m afraid that the lease agreement that your husband and his partner signed with the landlord is a contract and they’re committed to it.

Did they actually read the contract before signing it? I’m sure they would have noticed that there was no escape clause allowing them to terminate the lease before the two years had completed.

Think of it this way instead. Do you think that the landlord should have been able to change his or her mind halfway through the lease agreement and kick your husband and his partner out? Or do you think he should have honored the agreement? It works both ways.


“Who pays compensation in the event that a bag put on a bus shelf by its owner falls on top of another client resulting in their glasses being broken? Is the compensation paid by the bus owner or client who put his/her bag on the shelves?”

I think it probably depends on who was negligent. Was it the client who placed the bag on the shelf carelessly and allowed it to fall on you? Perhaps it was too big for the shelf? Or perhaps the shelf wasn’t attached to the bus properly and it collapsed? It depends on various things. You should also check to see if the bus company has a disclaimer saying they’re not responsible for any loss or damage caused while you’re on their buses. However, even if there is such a disclaimer it can only go so far. Imagine that a company had a sign saying that if you fail to pay on time they can have you shot. Would that be a legal disclaimer? Of course not.

I suggest that you contact the bus company and ask them what their policy is on these issues. If they don’t give you a good enough answer let us know!


And finally, the question we frequently receive.

“What do you charge for helping people with their problems?”

It’s very simple. Consumer Watchdog has never, does not now, and will never charge consumers for anything we do to help them. Everything we do for consumers is entirely free.

And it always will be.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can we escape from a lease?

Please may you let me know if it is legal to have an office tenancy lease without an exit clause? My husband and his partner rent offices in Francistown and last year they wrote to the landlord to terminate the lease but we're told they couldn't because the is no exit clause so they can't leave before two years is up.

I don’t think you need to be a lawyer to understand this situation.

Your husband and his partner willingly and competently entered into an agreement with the landlord, an agreement that was put in writing. Neither of them was insane at the time. They both read and understood the lease they were signing. They noticed at the time that there was no early termination clause. They did read the lease agreement, didn’t they?

Unfortunately your husband and his partner are committed to whatever the lease says and are not able to exploit things that aren’t in the lease, but they wish were there. If there’s no early termination clause in the lease then no early termination is possible without the consent of the landlord.

Think of it this way. Do you think the landlord should be able to kick your husband and his partner out just because he changes his mind or should he or she be committed to the two-year agreement they all signed?

One option would be to try and find a new tenant to take over the lease so the landlord doesn’t suffer any losses but that’s not always easy to do.

The lesson is simple. You must read and fully understand anything you sign before you sign it. If you don’t understand the document, whatever it might be, then don’t sign it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lease for a property, a banking agreement or (most importantly) a store credit or hire purchase agreement you must not sign it until you’ve understood it. If necessary ask a relative, a friend, a colleague, your kid’s teacher or Consumer Watchdog to help you understand it. Just don’t sign it until you know what every word means.

They took my money!

I am glad to have read about how your organisation had helped both customers and business's to resolve issues with fairness of what the law permits.

A friend of mine had applied for a loan at a bank in January, she was told she has to clear a debt at a store, about P2,500, which she did, then she received another charge of about P890 in the name of charges as they had reported her at ITC. When she thought it was over, the store gave her a letter that shes cleared but the information from the bank indicated she still owed about P400, she went back and queried then the store deleted it. Now it is hard for her to be given a letter clearing her from ITC, she is being told it may take up to 7 days.

It is all confusing why after paying all these has to happen and instead of easing her financial needs and make use of the funds to invest, she’s being tossed around.

How can u help her?

My understanding is that “clearing” your name with TransUnion (who used to be called ITC) does take a few days. Your friend also needs to understand that getting a loan to “invest” is a remarkably poor financial decision. The fees you pay on loans are likely to be a lot more than the profits you make on any form of investment. Do you know what sort of investment she’s considering? Have you checked that it’s not a scam? Please let me know.

I think your friend needs to get a full statement from TransUnion. You can get this directly from TransUnion but I think you can also get them from major post offices for a small fee. That will show her everything that the bank sees about her. Then she’ll know where she stands.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Guard yourself

Against security guards.

The behavior of some security guards is getting out of control. Not only are they exceeding their powers, they are assaulting and abusing people.

Last week we heard from a consumer who had visited a store but hadn’t actually bought anything. As she left the store a security guard approached her from behind demanding that she return to the store. The guard believed she had stolen something from the store. Rather than undergo further embarrassment she did as she was told.

Once back in the store the guard, another woman, insisted on taking her prisoner to a changing room and then insisted that she lift up her dress to prove that she hadn’t hidden anything under her clothing. The poor customer was then forced through the indignity of stripping to her underwear in front of this guard, finally proving that there was actually nothing hidden, nothing stolen.

After this ordeal was over and the guard had conceded that there was no cause to detain her the victim decided to stand up for herself. She demanded to see the manager to complain about the way she had been mistreated. That’s when this already unpleasant situation became bizarre. The guard’s excuse to the manager for her behavior was to point to the victim and say “this is the one that stole shoes on Wednesday”. That’s when the victim got even angrier. Quite rightly she went straight to the nearest police station. Not only had she been insulted and abused, she was now being accused of being a proven criminal.

To their credit the police demanded to know the evidence for the guard’s claim that the victim was a previous criminal. Under pressure from the officers in blue the guard relented. No, she said, that wasn’t actually true, she’d made that bit up.

So we have a guard who accosts innocent people, strip searches them and then makes up lies to defame them and defend her actions. We know who the real criminal is here, don’t we?

Despite being a strong woman with the courage to stand up to abuse she was still very upset. She told us “I am an honest member of society and this incident has really upset and unsettled me, my blood pressure is high and I am now taking medication.” I think she’s the victim of a crime.

The first ever case we had of abuse by a guard was many years ago when a guy called us to report his 17-year old daughter’s experience. She had also been accused of stealing from a store, this time a pair of shoes that the guard suggested she had hidden down her jeans. Given that the daughter was very slim and was apparently wearing skin-tight clothing this seemed unbelievable. Nevertheless the male security guard had insisted she strip off her clothing in front of him.

You can imagine how her father felt and what he was tempted to do. Luckily reason prevailed and he was able to express his understandable rage to us and then to the store. To their credit the store was as appalled as everyone else and they apologized for the disgraceful conduct of their lecherous, perverted, sex-abuser guard.

However the tide is beginning to turn.

In May 2011 a woman went shopping in Pick N Pay at Riverwalk with her three daughters and some of their friends. As they were leaving the store a security guard from Scorpion Security stopped her and demanded to search her handbag. Rather than asking nicely he just grabbed the bag from her in a manner she described as “violent and physical”, searched through it and, finding nothing, handed it back to her. She claims that she felt “belittled and humiliated” by his treatment of her in front of her children and their friends but being a strong character she decided not to take this lying down. She got angry and took Scorpion Security to court.

And she won.

When the case was heard in the High Court in Francistown in August 2013 the Managing Director of Scorpion Security gave evidence. He explained that he saw their job as looking after their client’s goods but then went on to embarrass himself in front of the judge by having no idea what powers his guards had. He told the judge “that security guards could search. That they had the authority to do similar to that of Police Officers.” In his ruling, the judge said that the MD “did not know circumstances when a legal search could be made.”

The judge went on to said that:
“I find that indeed the Defendants searched the Plantiff without her consent and it was unlawful. […] I accordingly grant judgment in her favour.”
It gets better. He continued:
“On the issue of damages, considering the humiliation embarrassment and impairment of her dignity as an honest member of society I have considered that P60,000 would be sufficient solatium for her dented image in society.”
So let’s make it clear, yet again. Security guards are just civilians in uniform. They do a difficult job that helps to protect us but that doesn’t mean they have special powers. All a security guard can do is detain you until the police arrive. Only a police officer can search you against your will.

Of course we should do our best to help stores protect themselves against thieves but that doesn’t mean they can treat those of us who are honest members of society as criminals.

Next time you are accosted by a security guard make sure you stand up for your rights!

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I give my cell number?

On Thursday 6th January I went to a store where I bought a few items and then paid with my debit card, the receipt came out and I was asked to sign and write my cell number.

I asked the assistant why they need my cell number, she told me it is the policy, I refused and asked her to call her supervisor, she came and the supervisor started shouting to me that I am the first customer to ever do that. I was very offended.

I want to understand the significance of writing the cell number on the bank receipt, because in my opinion by signing the receipt it shows I have authorised payment.

Good for you for standing up for your rights. I think you are within your rights to keep your cell number private. I always refuse to give people my cell number when they ask me for it, even when they argue. Sometimes I tell them that my number is secret and if they persist I just tell them that I don’t have a cellphone. That usually shuts them up.

I also think that you’re right that when you’ve authorized the transaction that’s the end of it, particularly these days with PIN-based payments.

I understand that stores are scared that cards might have been stolen or compromised somehow and that they don’t want to lose money but how does taking a customer’s cell number help with that? Do you really think that a criminal using a stolen card is going to give his own cell number? I’ve no idea how they this this will help.

I don’t blame the assistant who first asked you for the number, I blame the supervisor and the manager who has presumably made up this silly rule. They are the ones who should explain why they need to insult and bother their customers instead of showing them some respect.

They took my money!

In February a gentleman from Hotel Express International called me and we talked for 20 minutes and he convinced me to join. He explained that the membership was to be confirmed by the existence of a credit card. He stated that by giving him the Credit card details it would just be confirmation purposes so I gave my credit card number and expiry date. Two days later a transaction went through my Credit card and they debited P852.42 and a few days later they debited yet again P686.12. A few minutes after I received another call from a lady from Hotel Express ad she confirmed that I have been activated and that my card had been debited. I made it clear to the lady I was furious and requested that they reverse the transaction and that I was not interested anymore but she was adamant that it was not possible and that a confirmation email has been sent to me regarding the membership. I have never received that confirmation email to date.

I decided not to put any money into my credit card which remains over drawn because of their transaction and they continue to check for funds in my accounts and the account continues to charge me failed transaction fee.
Can I get my money back from this organization?

Unfortunately you are not the first person to have this experience. We’ve heard from many people who told us exactly the same story. Luckily Hotel Express International say they record all of their phone calls so they will be able to check that you didn’t actually consent to joining and paying their fees. I’ve sent your details through to them so there’s hope they might fix this situation.

The lesson is NEVER to give your card details to anyone over the phone like this. How can you be sure they’ll respect your wishes and your money?