Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should I join AIM Global?

I read what you wrote about Alliance In Motion (AIM) Global in the newspapers last year. It is now back in Gaborone to recruit members. My question is: "Is it now a proper company to join?"

No, please don’t even think of joining Alliance In Motion. Nothing has changed since they first appeared all the way from the Philippines to sell their scheme.

AIM Global is most certainly a pyramid scheme and they don’t seem shy about talking about it. They talk non-stop about the need to recruit multiple levels of people beneath you and then about how much money you can make when you start recruiting other people. If you read Section 9 of the new Consumer Protection Act you’ll see it explains that a pyramid scheme is “where participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants”. That’s exactly how AIM describe their business.

The really dangerous aspect of AIM Global is the product range they offer. They claim that their “C247” product can help with 100 different serious medical conditions including asthma, beri-beri, cirrhosis, bone fracture, deafness, endometriosis, epilepsy, hypertension, hepatitis, “toxins in the body”, stroke, migraine and even cancer and “immunodeficiency”. Not only are they extremely dangerous claims to make, it’s also illegal in Botswana to make them. Not only does the Penal Code forbid such advertisements, but the new Medicines Regulatory Authority are going to want to ask some questions as well.

But that’s not the only illegal thing they do. I had a WhatsApp conversation with one of their recruiters and he proudly claimed that this C147 product had been approved by both our Ministry of Health and the Botswana Bureau of Standards. Both of those claims are lies and are illegal.

So, do you really want to associate with a company that has broken the rules set by the Ministry of Health, BOMRA, BOBS and by the law itself? Did I mention that the new Consumer Protection Act says that even joining a pyramid scheme, not just operating or promoting it, can lead to a fine of up to P100,000 and imprisonment for up to five year?

Can I demand a new phone?

On 25th October i bought a Lenovo K6 phone from a store in Game City. Around 28th January the battery seemed to have a problem as it could not fully charge even if I left it charging overnight. On 2nd February the phone was completely off and could not charge. I took it back to the store where they promised they'll fix the battery. On 8th February I went to check my phone only to find its screen broken with a crack diagonally connecting two of its corners. I talked to the manager about it and she admitted it was one of her employees fault then she told me to come and collect it today around lunch time as they will fix the screen. I just said yes BUT throughout the night I was thinking about my phone and wondering what if the phone was dropped or knocked breaking the internal circuit? They might just fix the screen and next week it will give me another problem. So I wanted to know if I have any right to demand a new phone to replace this one as they have already voided its warranty. I am afraid the fixed or replaced screen is not going to give me the satisfaction that I got from the original screen of the phone.

It might seem unfair but there is currently no right to demand a replacement when a product is faulty. You are entitled to one of the three Rs: a refund, a repair or a replacement but it’s the decision of the supplier to decide which they offer you. They’re entitled to do their best to repair the phone to the condition it was in when you gave it to them.

However, I also think you’re entitled to ask them for some evidence that the phone is back to its original condition. I would ask them for a technical report that states that the battery and charging mechanism are back to normal but also exactly what you asked for, an assurance that the screen repair didn’t cause any other damage. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable thing to ask.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Radio show notes - week beginning 4th February 2019

Source: Wikipedia
2019 – The Year of Consumer Education

The big theme for Consumer Watchdog in 2019 will be consumer education. Lots of it.

But where do consumers need to be educated? What are the biggest threats to our welfare? What do we need to know?

We asked the member of the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group what issues they thought we should address. This is what they said.

1. The small print

One of the biggest mistakes consumers make is not reading and understanding the small print of agreements before signing agreement. The lesson is very simple. Don't EVER sign something you haven't read and fully understood.

There are also times when it's critically important that consumers DO sign things. Whenever you buy or sell something, make sure both parties sign a sale agreement. It doesn't need to be complicated, it just needs to identify the seller and buyer, describe the condition of the item and the sale price, acknowledges that full payment was made and that ownership has now been transferred. Add a date and some signatures and you have a sale agreement.

It's not a consumer issue but we recently received the following message:
“i have been working as a security man since the 24th until the 9th, the man is refusing to pay and during the time i was working for him, he didnt take good care of me nor enquire about my well-being, right now he is not answering my phone when i tell him to pay me, please help me out”
I asked "Did you have a contract of employment?" He responded:
"No sir, we just agreed by word of mouth and that was the first and last time i saw him"
He's likely to be out of luck.

2. Taxation

Benjamin Franklin apparently said that, "in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes".

So many people contact us asking about the taxes and duties imposed by BURS on imported goods. We need to do some more research.

3. Medical aid

Yet another form of insurance but it is still often misunderstood. What is covered? What's excluded? The answer, like with any insurance policy, is to ask questions and understand the policy before you commit to it.

4. Consumer rights

Consumer need to know a lot more about their existing right, those offered by the 2001 Consumer Protection Regulations but now we have the new 2018 Consumer Protection Act. That will be a key part of the 2019 project.

5. Bank charges

One of the banks recently started charging certain customers a P10 monthly fee which came as a surprise to many of them. When prompted, the bank stated that they had alerted customers in newspaper notices last year. But is that good enough?

Banks are required to publish details of their charges but what does "publish" mean? In 2019, surely it means Facebook and Twitter as well as the newspapers?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where is my refund?

Please I need help, I paid a garage in Mogoditshane a deposit to buy a car, and I no longer need the car. The garage has paid back 2 instalments of 5k and still owing 24k. To this day they're all quiet, I took them to the consumer office in ministry of trade and they called them they never showed up, and the office said there is nothing they can do maybe I can try lawyers. I have legal insurance so I engaged them and they rejected me because the debt is more than six months even though proof of payments show that my last instalment was in September. They wrote demand letter which to this day the garage has not honoured. As a consumer I feel so helpless and ask for advice and guidance and if possible help me recover my 24k.

I find it surprising how shameless some suppliers can be and this is a particularly extreme case. This garage ignored you, they ignored the Consumer Protection Unit and they ignored your attorneys. I think the time has come to escalate this situation to a much higher level.

In normal circumstances I would mention that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when an agreement, such as yours, “is rescinded, cancelled, or otherwise terminated” a supplier must return any deposit or payment “promptly”. It doesn’t say “eventually”, “at their convenience” or “whenever they feel like it”, it says “promptly”.

I’ll get in touch with the garage and see if they’d like to become a lot more popular by being named and exposed as the sort of company that ignore its customers, the Consumer Protection Unit, attorney and the requirements of the law.

Is the Green World scanner legit?

There is something called Green World group, I understand you buy a scanner and test people. The scanner will show you what the body lacks then you sell them those supplements that the machine would have shown they lack. My worry is it operates more like a pyramid scheme and another question is it really legal to recommend or issue supplements when you don't have any medical background?

No, it certainly is NOT legal to diagnose medical conditions unless you are a qualified and registered health professional. We’ve covered Green World several times over the last few years. They market and distribute a range of so-called “alternative”, herbal health products about which they make some extraordinary claims. The last time I was in contact with them one of their local distributors told me that they “treat all known disorders. Just to name a few: Diabetes type 1,2, BP, Cancer, Obesity, Period pains, Fiberiods, Libido, Low sperm count, Infertility, Prostate disorders etc”.

Those are illegal medical claims. They’re also extremely dangerous. While it’s clear that their products can’t do all of these things, the danger is that people who are suffering from these disorders will take a Green World substance instead of seeking professional medical help. That will leave Green World and their distributors with blood on their hands.

Then there is this ridiculous scanner they market. They have the nerve to refer to it as a “medical scanner” and as the “Quantum Resonance Magnetic Analyser Machine”. I found one Green World web site that claimed that this machine can diagnose disorders such as “Anaemia, High blood pressure, Low blood pressure, Nutritional deficiency, Prostate disorder (not cancer), stroke, Low sperm count, hormonal imbalances, erectile dysfunction, ovarian cysts, cardiovascular problems, cerebrovascular problems, bone problems”. These are illegal claims and I’ve already forwarded them to BOMRA, our new Medicines Regulatory Authority for their investigation.

And finally, yes, they look remarkably like a pyramid scheme, encouraging new recruits to build multiple levels of people beneath them, and promising a range of amazing benefits that, like with all pyramid schemes and even Multi-Level Marketing companies, are empty promises.

In fact, everything about Green World is bogus and the sooner they’re stopped from marketing these illegal and dangerous products the better.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Radio show notes - week beginning 28th January 2019

Source: Wikipedia
1. Funding – where to get it. Not from Africa Funders

Where do you get funding for a business venture?

You might start with the banks but they can be conservative, perhaps a little closed-minded. They won't often share your vision.

Then there are the riskier options.

Companies like "Africa Funders". We warned people about this company, who described themselves as “Africa’s biggest online lending platform”, in 2017, saying that we felt they were a bit too suspicious to be trusted.

They offered a strange business model. They said that we “Can work with them by either: Becoming a funder, Applying for funding” and that “60,000+ Personal and Businesses Borrowers Network that has engaged with us in last 5 years”, that "$10,000,000+ loan/deal values funded” and “220+ Business deals/loans funded”.

We recently heard from one person had invested “P11,383.00 with Africa Funders in 2017" and that " the particular investment was to yield 10% profit. Then we were only paid P3127.” Despite subsequent promises, nothing came forth. They told me that:
“Last year which was 2018 we went there only to find that their offices have moved and no one has any idea where they have gone. None of their contact lines work. We don't know where to get hold of them and it seems that they have packed and left with a lot of people's money.”
Another victim contacted us saying:
“We sold them shares in our business. They then took over the running of the business. They took over all the paperwork and any sales made were paid directly into their business account. We later found out (when wages etc couldn’t be paid) that they would change the invoice and the customers were informed to pay into their company account. This left no money in our account to cover any running costs of the business. The staff took us to labour, as we were the management of the company. We are still busy paying off debt. We took them to court and won the case, but the deputy sheriff has never been able to locate them to serve the final court order.”
2. Another potential funder

Here's a similar story. Maybe you can get funding from another company (which will remain nameless for now). We were told that after a joining fee of P2,000 you can be offered a:
“package up to P600 000. The loan is payable in 5 years. You are given a period of 5 years to clear it up. [The company] will be doing production with you all the way, trainings and mentorship.”
However, in return for this, the company “Takes 2.5% commission from your net profit” and
“The company will be signatories to the business account. This is to monitor the use of finances. There is no how we can use money without your approval, the same as you, you cannot take money without us approving it. This is where we will know how much you made and how much net profit you made where a 2.5 % commission will come from.”
In effect, “they will be controlling everything in the business”.

Be cautious. Be very cautious.

3. The Regulators

Who are the regulators and what are they doing?

BOCRA. They cover communications, telecoms, TV, internet access. Look at the legal action they took in recent times against certain suppliers.

Bank of Botswana. They cover banks, Bureaux de Change, money transfer schemes. The banks are reasonably well-behaved but are we seeing enough from them?

Botswana Bureau of Standards. Filling stations, Weights and Measures, new tyres, bottled water, domestic electrical items, there's a long list of products they regulate. As you read this there's probably a BOBS specialist out there testing something, helping to protect you and me.

NBFIRA. They might even have too much to do. They cover microlenders, insurance companies (including brokers and agents), pension schemes, investment and financial advisors, the list goes on.

The Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority (BOMRA). They cover medicines (having recently taken over from the Drug Regulatory Unit in the Ministry of Health and Wellness) and cosmetics. A very good start but do we really want the Shampoo Police?

The MITI CPU (say it out loud). The Consumer Protection Unit in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. Soon to be Competition and Consumer Authority (once it merges with the Competition Authority) and responsible for enforcing the 2018 Consumer Protection Act.

What do all of this regulators have in common? They all need us. They can't be everywhere but we can be. They need us to make complaints to shout about abuse, to make as much noise as possible so they can do their job.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Siza Charity Network legit?

Is Siza Charity Network above board since they claim they can make you a millionaire if you pay R500 to join. Kindly advise.

The so-called Siza Charity Network is a pyramid scheme, it’s a simple as that.

They on their web site that they’re “a non governmental organisation registered and established in South Africa” which is true but they’ve only been registered since 4th January and their domain was registered just before the New Year. This is a company that is less than a month old.

Their business model is very simple. There are no products, no services, nothing at all, it’s just about recruiting multiple levels of people and making profit from the money they pay to join. Siza have been imaginative and have given these levels names: Builder, Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, Diamond, Crown diamond, Ambassador and Crown Ambassador. However, the curious thing is that these are exactly the names that was used by the Jamalife pyramid scheme last year. Either it’s the same people running a new scheme or they’ve just stolen the idea from other scammers.

I had a WhatsApp conversation with one of the people recruiting people into the scheme and I asked a simple question: “Do I need to sell anything?”. I got an answer that explains everything you need to know: “U don’t sell anything you recruit 2 people to join under you an tell those people to do the same.” I asked if members make money just by recruiting other and she told me “Yes dear”.

I urge you to avoid wasting your time, effort and money on this obvious scam. Even if you could believe anything they say, to reach the top and achieve the millionaire status they promise, I’ve done the maths and you would need to build a pyramid of almost 17,000,000 people. You think that’s likely?

Is my boyfriend real?

My boyfriend is deployed in Syria by the US military and has asked his 'lawyers' to process my application to come and join him in the US. My boyfriend says he doesn't have access to money in his account to pay and he was asking me to pay the money to the lawyer Kennedy Solicitors for processing fees.

If you can kindly use your informed and trusted sources to verify if indeed such company exists in the US and they are a registered law firm. I'm a but skeptic with the lawyers way of writing as I have so much respect for the profession. Please let me know if you can help before I find myself scammed.

I’m sorry but you are our first romantic scam victim of 2019.

Unfortunately, everything you’ve been told has been a lie. The emails and messages you sent me are typical of this sort of scam. He sent you pictures of himself in uniform and off duty but I was able to trace several of them quite easily on the web.

They’ve been taken from a range of sources and trust me, none of them are the person you’ve been communicating with. I was also able to find that several of the pictures had been used before with other scam victims around the world. Also, and please forgive me for being skeptical, real people don’t propose marriage to someone they’ve never actually met. Not unless they’re either very na├»ve or more likely they have an agenda.

The “lawyer” they asked you to pay doesn’t exist either. Real, respectable attorneys don’t use free email addresses. They also don’t use words like “hubby”.

This is all about the money they want you to pay for this fictitious “processing fee” of $850. I suggest that, hard though it might be, you delete the emails and messages these scammers sent you and put this behind you. I’m genuinely sorry for the upset you’ve been through.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Radio show notes - week beginning 21st January 2019

Source: Wikipedia
How to spot pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes

Example 1. 50/50 Crowdfunding

50/50 are busy recruiting on FB and real life as you read this.

They describe the process.  You "register" for $29 (about P325) and then you'll "be allocated two people” who each “make donations of $125 (P1,400) each making (P2,800) to the two people allocated”.

You then need to recruit 6 people beneath you and the pyramid starts to build.
“1. level $250 will earn you $750 (P8,400) in one week”
“2. Upgrade to Level $500 will earn you $1,500 (P16,800) in one week”. 
Etc etc etc until you reach Level 5 when they say you'll get $23,250 (P260,000).

I asked one of their active recruiters “Do we have to sell products or just recruit people?” and her answer was very simple:
“No selling of products”
Let's do some arithmetic If 6 new people are recruited at each level and they then each recruit another 6, by Level 5 there will be 9,330 people in the pyramid. They will have paid a total of P3,032,250 to join. And you get a miserable P260,000. Someone somewhere is making a lot of money BUT leet's face it, they're not really. There aren't enough gullible people to make that work This is all about the small payments victims make to join this obvious pyramid scheme.

The clues? Magic words (crowdfunding), multiple levels, exponential growth, impossible targets and the phrase “No selling of products”.

Example 2. Siza Charity Network

The Siza Charity Network describes itself as:
“an international platform as well as a global family. It is a non governmental organisation registered and established in South Africa”
The company does indeed exist but was registered in South Africa on 4th Jan 2019. Their domain was registered on 27th Dec 2018. This scheme is less than a month old.

They say that their plan is to
"build a solid financial base devoid of slavery, over bearing points and balancing that creates a stumbling block for active networkers to count their blessings."
That appears to mean nothing.

Their scheme consists of several levels as follows: Builder, Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, Diamond, Crown diamond, Ambassador and Crown Ambassador.

Hang on. Doesn't that sound familiar? This is an exact copy of the Jamalife pyramid scheme that was busy stealing people's money last year. Either this is the same people or it's a case of one pyramid scheme stealing from another.

As with Jamalife the promises are extravagant. If you reach the top level, Crown Ambassador you'll:
"Become a shareholder, Non Cash Incentives A family home worth 2 million, An Investment Property worth R1million, Furniture worth R500 000, Infinity Bonus of all your direct downlines R200 000.00, R200 000.00 Infinity allowance from all direct downlines becoming Crown ambassadors"
I asked one of their recruiters the usual question “Do I need to sell anything?” and I got the expected answer:
“U don’t sell anything you recruit 2 people to join under you an tell those people to do the same.”
And then “So we make money just by recruiting others?”
“Yes dear”
The clues? Multiple levels, crazy numbers, a copy of previous pyramid scheme, the fact that they admit it's all about recruitment and the big one, that in order to reach “Crown Ambassador” level, you'd need to recruit 16,777,214 people.

Example 3. CBN aka "Charity Begins Nathi"

CBN offers the expected model of multiple levels of recruitment.

At Stage 1 you get R60, at Stage 2 R120, Stage 3 bring you R1,100 and a R900 smartphone etc etc etc until you get to Stage 8 when you get R1.2 million plus a car worth R1.2 million, a house worth R2.5 million and furniture worth R500,000.

Again, the arithmetic doesn't work well. To get to the top you'd need to have 2,015,538 in the pyramid beneath you.

And yet again the conversation I had with a CBN recruiter told the same story. It's “Recruitment only”, “No selling products” and “Simply recruit them to join under you, and you will be making money.” 

The clues? See above!

The penalties

Section 9 of the 2018 Consumer Protection Act defines a pyramid scheme as:
“where participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants”.
It goes to say that people:
“shall not directly or indirectly promote, or knowingly join, enter or participate, or cause any other person to promote, join, enter or participate in … a pyramid scheme”
Did you see that? Even joining a pyramid scheme is forbidden.

And if you're caught? You can face a fine of up to P100,000 or jail for up to 5 years. Or both.

And another thing. Academic fraud.

A company calling itself “WritersBlock”, apparently based in Zimbabwe advertise that:
“We can help you with essays, assignments, research paper, coursework, dissertations and more. All papers 100% unique, delivery on time, affordable cost, complete privacy of your info.”
I contacted them and asked if they could write a Masters-level dissertation for me. Yes, they said, for just $900. Referring to their customers in Botswana they claim to have helped "4 Undergraduate and 3 Masters students last year". When pushed further they told me they were "2 from Botho University and the rest UB."

I asked another company, “Prime Tutors” who are based in Botswana the same question. "Can you write a Masters dissertation for me?" They said:
"Yes we can" 
"Even now we have some projects for environmental science(Ph.D. ), 2 projects for education management( masters). Others are undergraduates"
All it would take was P4,000. And the subjects available?
"Education management, marketing, accounting, psychology, environment management"
Regarding the finished product:
"It will be in your name. It will be yours"
When I asked whether submitting a dissertation written by someone else as if it was my work might be fraudulent, I was told:
"All professors work with research assistants"
"As long as you read and conceptualize it. Even Obama's speeches are written by other people"
I disagree.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is this a real job offer?

Please help me in confirming the authenticity of the company called ISFuels (claiming to be based in the USA). Last month the flouted some job vacancies through some local newspapers. I applied for one the position with the believe that the company is planning to set-up a branch here in Botswana.A week later they responded to me by sending a questionnaire (interview) of which I answered and sent back. Three days later they sent me an offer letter but i am a bit skeptical about the whole issue.

You are the fifth person who has approached us about this supposed job offer in the last couple of weeks. Like you, all the others responded to the advertisements, mostly on Facebook, thinking that they were communicating with “ISFuel Inc” that claims to be a fuel company based in Texas, USA. In fact there really is a company called “ISFuel Inc” in Texas but this isn’t who you or the other people have been talking to.

The clues are simple. Firstly these job offers aren’t coming from, they’re coming from people with free email addresses. It’s also curious that they don’t give a single telephone number. I suspect they don’t want people contacting them and asking difficult questions.

The other clues are in the job offer itself. Everyone has been offered the same job, “Assistant Administrative Manager”, a job that they say offers a monthly salary of $4,800 (nearly P600,000 per year), free “feeding and accommodation”, medical aid, sports facilities, flights, annual leave and relocation. You have to ask yourself, why would a company in a country with over 6 million unemployed people want to recruit someone to a basic level position from the far side of the planet?

The answer is simple. Because they want your money. Some of the other potential victims got to a later stage in this recruitment scam when they were asked for money for a visa fee. That’s what this is all about, the “advance fee” that gives this scam its name. Thankfully, none of the people who’ve contacted us have paid anything yet, but who knows how many other have? Please spread the word to everyone you know.

Where’s my bag?

On Saturday 22nd I went into a store at Rail Park Mall. I put my bag containing my house keys at the parcel counter and was given a disc for my luggage. I went into the store to buy things, but when I went to claim my luggage I was given a different bag from mine and I told the attendant that that was not mine.

She informed her supervisor about the ordeal who started checking the cctv footage which showed me while handing in my bag. Unfortunately the footage can't show how my bag got out. I’m told all this has been reported to their security personnel for assessment but to now haven't heard anything from them since then.

On Sunday I was asked to submit the estimated value for everything that was in the bag. Please help.

I don’t like parcel counters and I don’t trust them. More specifically I don’t trust the stores that have them. I don’t trust them to look after the goods that are left with them and your story is yet more proof of how untrustworthy they are.

Part of the problem is that stores know themselves that they can’t be trusted. That’s why there’s almost always a disclaimer by the parcel counter saying that they take no responsibility if goods left there are lost or stolen. If they don’t trust themselves to look after your property, why should we trust them?

I suggest that we escalate this issue to the senior management at this chain of stores. Regardless of any disclaimer they might have, they still had a moral responsibility to look after your goods with some care. The fact that their CCTV conveniently didn’t record your bag being taken should surely raise their suspicions as well as ours.

Meanwhile, the good news is that they want a list of the items in your bag. That suggests to me that they’re thinking about compensating you. I think they know they’re responsible somehow. You should give them the list and don’t be shy about the value of the items that were in your bag. Include the cost of changing all the locks at your house as well. Who knows who has your house keys right now so you need to be cautious and protect the security of your home.