Sunday 18 February 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

More scam alerts

Maybe it's the time of year, I don't know, but there's a lot of scams around right now.

Last week we warned readers of The Voice about a scam called Miracle Farm which is a replica of Ecoplexus. Luckily a lot of people are more aware these days but people are still falling for it, depositing money into a local bank account that is being used to channel the money to the crooks running the scheme overseas.

But Miracle Fam isn't the only scam going around. There are other, including Ace Car Rental, Ceptual Trade, Crystal Queens and Forzza Odds. They all operate primarily from WhatsApp groups full of promises of massive and quick profits. They all ask for relatively small amounts of money but if lots of people fall victim to them, they still make a lot of money. You can be sure that anyone who gives them a little will soon be encouraged to pay them a lot more.

So how can you tell if something is a scam? Here are some ways to help you decide. Firstly, ask the person who invited you to join, why they did so? Did they do it because they're just a kind and charitable person? If they say Yes, then you know it's a scam.

Next, ask them if the scheme is a registered company. Hopefully they'll tell you that it's registered somewhere but if so, ask for proof. Then check if it's true. If you don't know how to check, ask us.

Ask them how money is generated by the scheme. People marketing a legitimate investment scheme will talk about share or commodity prices, dividends or the income a company can expect from selling products and services. People marketing a scam will be less specific. They'll talk about cryptocurrency or forex trading, Bitcoin mining or they'll say it's a motshelo or 'gifting' scheme. If you ask them how profits are generated they'll do their best not to answer. Because they have no answers.

Those promoting a genuine investment will welcome questions. They'll happily give you complete answers to every question you ask. However, scammers will very quickly become defensive and ask you why you're asking so many questions. "Just trust me", they'll say. Anyone who says this is trying to scam you.

Above all, scammers will make incredible claims about how much money you can make from their scheme. They'll tell you that small 'investments' can earn a great deal of money. They'll also ask you to invest more and more money, encouraging you to 'upgrade' to higher levels with promises of even greater profits. That's a sure sign of a scam.

A common trick they'll try is to show you bank payment messages. These are almost always faked but a few will be genuine because they do sometimes pay the victims a little money to make the scam seem legit. It's not, it's a criminal enterprise and the law makes it just as illegal to join a scam as it does to promote one.

Finally, remember this simple truth. Anyone who invites you to join their money-making scheme wants to make money from you, not with you.

Will they fix my TV?

Mr Harriman I need your help sir. I bought a 58 inch smart TV at a store in Tonota last year July. On the 14th December I found the screen cracked. I reported it to the manager they took it but they don't want to refund me for the television. They say its my fault I broke it while it was mounted on the wall.


I think we need to ask one simple question. Who caused the damage to the TV? The problem is it's hard to say. It's possible that the TV was damaged before it was installed at your place or during the installation. However, the store have already suggested that there's no evidence they broke it and it's more likely that it was broken while you had it. From their point of view, the fact that you took 5-6 months to report it to them supports that.

I'll contact them for you but honestly, I'm not optimistic.

Saturday 10 February 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

A warning – "Miracle Farm"

We all remember Ecoplexus. That scam started just over a year ago and promised people massive profits from a mysterious "investment" in solar power technology and generation. They were very smart. They used the name of a genuine, legitimate company based in the USA that does a lot of work in the solar business. But the scammers had no connection with this company. They were just exploiting the name.

I don't know how many people fell for this scam but it must have been thousands and between them they gave the scammers tens of millions of Pula. We warned people here in The Voice and on Facebook as early as January 2023 and luckily, many people took the warnings seriously. But many didn't. In May last year the scam finally collapsed but not before much of the money people had paid into local bank accounts had left the country. However, some was left here and that has since been frozen until the authorities can work out who deserves some money back. I think it's good that some people get some of their money back but personally I believe that anyone who actively promoted the scam shouldn't get a single thebe returned to them. They were willing participants in a criminal scam.

The bad news is that the scammers are back. There's a new scam that just started that calls itself Miracle Farm or Miracle Farm Capital or Miracle Farm Management and it's very similar to Ecoplexus. This time they make claims about making money in farming. 



For example, they say that if you invest P100 in peanut farming you'll make profits of P140 after 20 days. If you invest P12,000 in wheat, you'll make profits of P84,000 after 9 months. Like Ecoplexus, they have an Android app but it's all lies, just like the lies the Ecoplexus crooks told us.

These Miracle Farming scammers claim to be based in New York but the fake registration documents they send people can't decide if they're registered in New York, California or Colorado. The people promoting the scheme refuse to communicate by video or voice, just like Ecoplexus. That's for a very simple reason. They don't want us to hear their real voices because we'll spot their accents immediately.


Please don't fall for this scam and don't allow anyone you know to fall for it either. Spread the word as far as possible. The lesson from Ecoplexus is that only by standing and fighting together as a community can we beat these criminals.

Can I get a refund?

Hello Mr Harriman. I really need your help. I bought school uniform from the other lady in Mochudi and I'm not happy with her service. She gave me girls trousers instead of boys trousers and she refused to exchange for me nor give me my money back. I ended up going to police but I didn't get help. I went to the byelaw people where she took the trousers and told me that she will send my money during the day but she didn't do that till now. I posted on Facebook asking for help asking if people can buy the trousers so that I can buy the one for boys but she went to report me at the police and court. I'm waiting for the court to call me.


This is insane. This sort of business person, someone who delivers the wrong products, refuses to exchange them, promises a refund, then fails to do so and then reports their customer to the Police for complaining doesn't deserve to be in business. They deserve to fail.

I'm happy to contact this lady and suggest various ways that she can fix this issue if you like?

I think she needs to understand that she has a very simple obligation to deliver what you paid for or give you a refund. She also needs to understand that complaining in public about this sort of experience is a reasonable thing to do. Any complaints we post in public are a form of free speech, so long as they're reasonable, polite, true, not malicious and expressed in good faith. You gave her several opportunities to fix the problem nicely. She's the one who needs to be held accountable, not you.

Saturday 27 January 2024

The Voice - Consumer Voice

Where's my compensation?

Hello Richard. I kindly need your assistance. It is about my workers compensation claim that has been going on for long. The insurance Company is not committed to paying the money though I have done everything they requested. They are really failing me. I gave them the claim form last year November and they replied this year that they need me to do a second medical opinion of which I did. They keep going back and forth. 2 weeks back they wanted another medical opinion and I did and gave them the quotation. Right now they are not responding or taking my calls, a whole big Insurance company for that matter. I've spent a lot of money on transport due to this matter but no progress.

The accident was in 2020 and I haven't found help ever since then I tried everything. I tried to enquire to them once and they told me that they can sue me for placing a query at Consumer Watchdog.


This is ridiculous. You had an accident more than 3 years ago and your compensation claim still hasn't been processed? That's not acceptable. Section 14 of the Consumer Protection Act says that "where a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … timely performance and completion of those services (and) timely notice of any unavoidable delay". Clearly this insurance company, or perhaps the insurance broker used by your employer, don't understand what "timely performance" means, or they don't care. Or they just want to delay you until you give up.

I contacted the insurance company about your issue so let's see what they say.

And their suggestion that if you consult Consumer Watchdog they'll sue you? Here's my message to them. Don't sue your customer. Sue me. Go on, I dare you.

Is it too late to get my money back?

I reported a fraud case on the 12th of December 2023. We were scammed by fraudsters pretending to be from BURS and they gave us a purchase order and we then procured from the "Supplier" via EFT to their bank in SA at an amount of ZAR61,835 on 8th December. After 3 days we discovered this Supplier works with the fraudsters in South Africa. As soon as we found out it was a scam two working days after the transfer we went to our bank with a Police Report and asked them to freeze the funds before they reflected on the scammers account. They followed their normal protocol and said in 30 days they will give us a response.

I have been following up with them and they keep saying the other bank in SA says they will give them feedback and they don't even know if the funds were frozen or not. Their 30 days elapses on the 12th of Jan and they can't even tell me if the funds were frozen or not!

I'm had a meeting with the fraud department head, they said the issue was assigned to an investigator with the bank in SA and they are still awaiting their response since its 2 different banks in 2 different countries.


This is going to be complicated. I think you should also prepare yourself for disappointment.

We've seen many of these supplier scams in the last few years. It usually starts with an email from what appears to be a major state-owned enterprise like BURS inviting you to supply them with expensive products. However, the strange thing is that the invitation tells the victim which company can supply these goods. The victim then contacts this fake company and is offered a cheap deal on these products. They then transfer the money to them. That's all there is to it. The victim's money is gone, never to be seen again.

In your case you were very wise to inform your bank as soon as possible but the way these scammers work is they transfer any money they get from victims overseas as soon as possible. In the 4 days between your transfer and you alerting the bank, it's possible the money disappeared.

Let's hope you were in time.

Saturday 13 January 2024

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

This phone isn't new!

On the 29th December I purchased a phone, got home and the phone was not charging and it has photos inside that I found in it and it overheats when you switch it on and that's after hardly 24 hours of purchase. The next day on the 30th I returned to the store to lodge a complaint and was told that no exchange or refund will be made. Instead they just swapped chargers and gave me a Huawei charger while the phone is a Vivo brand. Since they had already taken my money the guys didn't even want to listen to my complaint, but if you purchase a mere pie from grocery store and it's not fresh you are given a refund.

I asked them to at least change to the other one and they refused saying I should have brought a better phone instead of crying for cheap one.


I wish you a very Happy New Year and I wish this cellphone store a very Unhappy New Year. I wish most businesses, the ones that work hard to serve their customer well, the very best of luck and I hope they prosper. But occasionally I hear about companies that I hope fail. Maybe this is one of them?

It's not too much to ask to expect a product that works. The law says the same thing. Section 15 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer "has the right to receive goods which are of good quality, in good working order and free of defects". Simple. But too difficult for this store to understand.

Section 13 of the Act says that a store that sells second-hand goods (like a phone containing the previous owner's photos) "shall inform a consumer that the goods sold are used goods by … placing a label on the goods that indicates that such goods are used goods" and "placing a notice on the invoice issued to a consumer". Again, simple. Again, too difficult for this store.

Section 16 says that if goods are faulty within 6 months of purchase the consumer can return them for a repair, replacement or refund. The store can choose which they offer but they can't just decide to ignore their offences.

I contacted the store and they haven't yet replied to my messages. I'll let you know if they do but meanwhile you can all join in the conversation about this in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group.

The repair didn't work!

My daughter had a problem with her iPhone on 22 December 2023 and she took it to be repaired. She was charged P800 for fixing which she paid and later given the phone same day on the pretext that the phone is ok. The next day the phone gave her the same problem. She went back to the store and the repairer refused to assist. He refused and was too arrogant. She took it to another repairer who told her that the screen which was installed is not an iPhone screen and promised to order a new screen for the iPhone.

So the first guy remained with P800 just like that. He should refund us so that we pay for the repairer who promised to order a new screen. Please help.


Another company that deserves to fail. I understand, like I'm sure you and your daughter understand, mistakes happen and repairs aren't always as easy as we might think. However, if what you've been told is correct, the first repairer is either incompetent or a liar. Or both. I don't think it's unreasonable to have an iPhone screen replaced with an iPhone screen, is it?

The good news is that the Consumer Protection Act also includes the quality of repair work. Section 17 says that a company that repairs something must offer "a warranty on every new or re-conditioned part installed during any repair or maintenance work, and the labour required to install it, for a period of three months". One day isn't enough.

I tried contacting the first repair guy but he's not answering calls or replying to messages. Maybe a call from the Competition and Consumer Authority would encourage him more?

Saturday 23 December 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Will they finish the building?

I was building a house with this company and the guys have just disappeared. I don't know where but I paid them all the money they charged because it was a turnkey program. I paid them a total of P220,000 in cash but they left my house at the roofing stage and it's not done yet but now it's raining. I don't think they will ever come to me because they told me they will start my house on the 5th so on the 6th I called them and they told me another story that their carpenter is not around so the hoping to start on the 16th. So this Sunday we were supposed to meet but they didn't show up again and since yesterday they are not taking my calls again. I'm so depressed.


I don't blame you for being depressed. You've spent a huge amount of money, almost a quarter of a million Pula and you've also wasted time and effort on all the phone calls. And let's not forget all the emotional energy and disappointment. Shady suppliers like this guy forget about that. Either that or they don't care.

I think the time has come to get firmer with this guy. I messaged him a few weeks ago when you first contacted me and I was hopeful. The owner of the company told me:
"Good morning Mr Richard. For now we can give you the executive time but we are organizing with our team to go and finish up will keep you posted".
They promised to contact you.

I'm not 100% sure what their message meant but it seemed like a promise that they would continue the job. But they lied. Since then they've gone completely quiet on both of us. So it's time to get tough. I suggest you complain about them to the Competition and Consumer Authority and also threaten the builder with legal action. I've also contacted them saying that we will identify the company if they don't start cooperating. It's not something we normally do but these people took a vast amount of your money from you. You need something in return.

Must I do this?

Apparently my ex boyfriend who we dated many years ago made me his one of the beneficiaries of his life insurance policy. He later got married and he passed on this year in March. Now someone called me on behalf of the insurance company saying I should go to and write an affidavit to withdraw from the policy by confirming that I had moved on and I have nothing to do with the late ex-boyfriend..

They told me I have nothing to do with the benefits and it's just the procedure. They need me to go to the police to make the affidavit with a certified copy of my ID which then I send to them so that they may close the case.

How legit is this?


It's legit. I checked out the company you mentioned and they exist and they seem to be genuine. They trace beneficiaries of insurance policies like this and check if they're still the right people.

BUT, this is where things go wrong. You're a good person who accepts that you have no claim on your ex-boyfriend's estate. You and he moved on and he had new commitments. Yes, he forgot to update his insurance policy beneficiaries but that's a mistake many people make. I respect that you're not trying to exploit this situation for your own benefit.

However, I think this company has forgotten what their job is. Why are they making your life difficult when you've done nothing wrong? Why are they demanding you spend your valuable time swearing affidavits and copying you ID? Isn't that their job? Aren't they the ones being paid to do all the hard work? They should be making life easier for you as well as their client.

And there's a lesson for all of us here. Make sure you keep your insurance, pension and medical aid providers up-to-date with who you want protected.

Sunday 17 December 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

How long should insurance claims take?

Two emails recently came to us. The first said:
"On 19th January 2022 I got injured at a store by their employee while I was buying food. The wrapper fell on my right toe and I got an injury. The lady was trying to wrap the food, it happened that the wrapper fell on my toe. The supervisor has the whole information, he was the supervisor when it happened."
The second said:
"On the 5 July I bought samp and chewed a stone that broke my 2 teeth."
These two people went to different stores but they were part of the same chain. Both victims complained to the store management and were asked for documents including medical and dental bills. The stores then passed over the details to the same insurance broker to process their claims for compensation. That's when more problems started. Delays. LONG delays. The first victim has now been waiting for nearly two years and the second for 5 months. Is this good enough? I don't think so. It was the job of the insurance broker to help these victims by processing their claims as quickly as possible.

The lesson here is if an accident happens in a store, speak to the management as soon as possible. Gather as much evidence as you can, take as many pictures and keep copies of all medical and dental bills and also your costs for transport to and from the clinic or hospital. Then keep up the pressure.

Also, be very careful what you sign. The victim who damaged his teeth was paid only for his dental bills and he was forced to sign a document agreeing he would never claim anything else from them, despite a statement from his dentist saying that he will never be able to eat properly again. He deserved a lot more but it's too late now.

Scam warning (Yes, again)

That scheme you've been invited to join. Is it legit or not?

Here's a simple guide to help you decide. Firstly, ask the person who invited you to join, why they did so? Did they do it because they're just a kind and charitable person? If they say Yes, then you know it's a scam.

Next, ask them if the scheme is a registered company. Hopefully they'll tell you that it's registered somewhere but if so, ask for proof. Then check if it's true. If you don't know how to check, ask us.

Ask them how money is generated by the scheme. People marketing a legitimate investment scheme will talk about share or commodity prices, dividends or the income a company can expect from selling products and services. People marketing a scam will be less specific. They'll talk about cryptocurrency or forex trading, Bitcoin mining or they'll say it's a motshelo or 'gifting' scheme. If you ask them how profits are generated they'll do their best not to answer. Because they have no answers.

Those promoting a genuine investment will welcome questions. They'll want you to get complete answers to every question you have. However, scammers will very quickly become defensive and ask you why you're asking so many questions. "Just trust me", they'll say. Anyone who says this is trying to scam you.

Above all, scammers will make incredible claims about how much money you can make from their scheme. They'll tell you that small 'investments' you can earn a great deal of money. Anyone who says this is a scammer. They'll also often ask you to invest more and more money, encouraging you to 'upgrade' to a higher level with promises of even greater profits. That's a sure sign of a scam.

A common trick they'll try is to show you bank payment messages. These are almost always faked but a few will be genuine because they do sometimes pay the victims a little money to make the scam seem legit. It's not, it's a criminal enterprise and the law makes it just as illegal to join a scam as it does to promote one.

Finally, remember this simple truth. Anyone who invites you to join their money-making scheme wants to make money from you, not with you.

Saturday 9 December 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should they refund me?

Hi Richard. I need your help. I bought a dress on the 19th of November, and in buying the dress, I told the lady assisting me that I am buying for my mom and would like to make a video call so she sees. She agrees and I end buying the dress. My mom got back yesterday, she fits the dress and it doesn't fit. Today I take back the dress hoping for an exchange or refund. I am told if I exchange there is a 30% penalty fee, but there is no refund. Their explanation is I could have changed the same day. That was not communicated initially. The receipt as well has no clause of that. In trying to get an explanation, the lady rudely tells me that it does not matter, its their boutique rules whether I was told or not. I have tried to reason that at least if this was communicated when I was buying the dress because no one literally said anything. How is that blamed on us. Kindly assist.


I'm sorry to hear about this. However, I'm not sure there's much you can do.

As you know, consumers have a right to return faulty items within 6 months for a repair, replacement or a refund. However, in this situation, the dress isn't actually faulty, it's just the wrong size? The problem for you here is that the store has done nothing wrong as I can see it.

It's unfortunate but your mother really should have tried the dress on before you paid for it. A video connection isn't a good enough substitute. Looking back, it also would have been better if you'd asked the store if you could exchange the dress later if it didn't fit.

Given the circumstances, I think it's reasonable for the store to charge you a fee for returning the dress. 30% seems high to me so it might be worth trying to negotiate but prepare yourself for having to pay them something.

Must I pay for the broken door?

My son accidentally shattered the glass door to a store and they say I am to replace the door. What's the law saying on this one? They are saying they don't have the insurance policy. Can you help me out?


There's a general rule that I'm sure we all agree on. If you break something belonging to someone else, you pay for it. If I came to your home and broke something valuable clearly it's my responsibility to replace it or pay for it to be repaired. We can all agree about that.

But this situation is slightly different. Any reputable store will have an insurance policy that covers losses like this. Like most insurance policies there might be an "excess" amount that the policyholder pays before the insurance company pays out but it's worth finding out how much it is. But the store staff told you there's no insurance policy? Can that really be true?

I contacted the Head Office and their story was different. They told me that the staff asked the children's grandmother, who was with the children, "to stop running around the store to avoid getting injured or bumping into fixtures". After one of the children ran into the door and broke it, the manager "requested for details from the grandmother so that she could log an incident for the Insurance claim".

They said that these details were refused and the staff were told that it's like "when a customer breaks a bottle of mayonnaise and that they are never requested to pay."

So there IS an insurance policy. I think you need to contact the store and help them complete an insurance claim before the insurance company says it's too late to claim and you need to pay for everything yourself.