Friday 24 October 2008

The Voice - Community survey – The dollar bill scam

Following the story on the dollar bill scam the Consumer Watchdog team hit the streets of Gaborone to ask people what they thought of this leaflet.

We didn’t tell them what or who was behind the leaflet, we just asked them whether they would be tempted to call the number or to send an email to the address given.

The good news is that only one third of the people we questioned would be tempted to make the call. One person said “Yes, with the strength of the dollar against the Pula, I think it’s tempting enough because you want to find out how you would get this dollar in your pocket.” Another said “Of course, Yes, I mean why not. It’s an opportunity to earn money and like it says you’ll be earning money in US dollars so it’s a great opportunity.”

Unfortunately consumers like these really need to be more skeptical. They need to ask themselves why the leaflet doesn’t say what the product is. Any normal, responsible and trustworthy piece of advertising would give you a clue what was being sold. This just offers you a get-rich quick opportunity. As the Consumer Watchdog team always say: “if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.”

However the good news is that two thirds of the people we spoke to didn’t trust the leaflet at all.

Most just told us that they instinctively didn’t believe it was true. One very smart young woman told us that “There are so many adverts that are really empty adverts.” She thought it was similar to the online lottery scams. She said “You get a message in your mailbox saying that you’ve won the lottery but you’ve never joined the lottery! It’s a scam.”

Another lady who the Consumer Watchdog team thought was very wise said “My ethic when it comes to money is to do things the old-fashioned way. Earn your way up and invest. These get rich quick schemes are usually corrupt.”

However, most damning was a man who told us “These people, they are thieves! They should be arrested. Send them to prison now!”

Perhaps that last suggestion was going a bit far but perhaps not? If someone is trying to scam you out of your money with a pyramid scheme then perhaps the law enforcement agencies should be involved?

The advice from Consumer Watchdog is that consumers really MUST be more skeptical. We mustn’t believe what anyone says unless there is reason to do so. If someone offers us a miraculous medicine, an investment scheme that can’t possibly fail or a get-rich scheme then we must ask ourselves whether there is any evidence that what they are saying is true.

The bad news is that it’s often difficult to research these things for yourself. The Internet is full of scammers trying to mislead people but there are sites you can visit that try to give impartial and honest advice. You can begin by visiting the Consumer Watchdog site where we’ve given a list of other reputable sites that will give you honest consumer advice.

Remember that Consumer Watchdog is there to help you. Unlike the dollar bill advert you can see above it’s completely free. What do you have to lose?

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