Monday, 31 January 2011

Belford University - it's fake accreditation

The fake Belford University claims to be accredited by two bodies:
"the International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities (IAAOU) and the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA)"
Curiously, both of these so-called accreditation bodies are themselves fakes.  Their web sites were registered a mere 3 seconds apart from each other:

  International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities (IAAOU)
  Domain Name:IAAOU.ORG
  Created On:29-Jul-2003 07:18:22 UTC
  Registrant Name:Direct Privacy LTD Direct Privacy ID D8FA5

  Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation
  Domain Name:UCOEA.ORG
  Created On:29-Jul-2003 07:18:19 UTC
  Registrant Name:Direct Privacy LTD Direct Privacy ID 8C3E5

And this was only a couple of weeks after the Belford University web site was registered, by the same company that registered the fake accreditation bodies:

  Domain Name:BELFORDUNIVERSITY.ORG
  Created On:09-Jul-2003 04:51:26 UTC
  Registrant Name:Direct Privacy LTD Direct Privacy ID 1920C

Of course this isn't a coincidence. It's all the same bunch of crooks.

Friday, 28 January 2011

I've got a fake, fake PhD from a fake university

I got an email from the utterly stupid and fake "Belford University" saying:
"Congratulations!

While the payment against your order is not received, we are pleased to announce that based on your resume submitted by the Assistant Registrar and your profile score calculated using the CPAAS® profile evaluation system, the 10-member evaluation committee at Belford University has finally approved you for PhD Degree in Medicine. You are among the 5% of candidates who qualified under the CPAAS® profile evaluation system.

You may now pay the amount from the link provided below and get your PhD Degree in Medicine within 15 days from today."
All they need from me is $924.

How did I qualify for this degree? All I did was tell them that I had "worked in hospitals for many years helping patients".

So, being lazy, and always wanting a doctorate, I decided on a new course of action. I copied a degree certificate that I took from someone who proudly displayed his fake Belford University doctorate in his online CV and changed the name and subject to what I wanted.

Surely there's nothing wrong with faking a fake certificate from a fake university?  Unlike some other people I don't make any claims about this certificate. I don't claim it's real. I don't claim it's from a real university. I don't claim that it has any value, certainly not $924.  Like the "university" it comes from it's just a fake.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Threats

It’s been a week of threats to Consumer Watchdog.

Of course none of them are actually even slightly frightening, they’re all rather silly, but it shows we’re onto something.

The first came from a company called First Morgan Capital Group. A couple of readers have contacted us about them, having been approached by this company who offered them a loan. The first is a businessman in Francistown who had applied for a venture capital loan from them. They offered him $323,600 (over P2 million) but he became suspicious when they demanded that he pay them 7% of the loan amount as a security deposit to a bank account in Singapore.

Most of us have applied for a loan at some point in our lives but how many of us were asked to cough up cash in order to get it? Yes, we sign an agreement saying they can seize our goods if we default but has anyone ever been asked to pay money up front before getting a loan? And why would a company that claims to be based in Switzerland and Peru ask for the money to be paid to a bank in Singapore? It’s way too suspicious.

Another reader said:
“I am victim of their scam and it has left me in a mess, because I had to borrow money to send to them after I believed that the loan amount would have been wired into my account, only to discover that Kenneth Jones just disappeared. This guy is a thief and people should be aware of him. I though this was a genuine deal because I spoke with him on the phone and he did not sound like the Nigerian type guy. Please be aware of this company. I am still in shock as to what happen to me, I am not able to pay my bills because of this, it has sent me into bankruptcy.”
[A quick lesson in logic. Just because many scammers are Nigerian it doesn’t mean that all Nigerians are crooks or that all crooks are Nigerians.]

I got in touch with the company and asked them about this. I asked if they could give me the name of just one company that had received a loan from them. Just one, that’s all I asked for. What they gave me was a single name “Michael Car” who they said owned a bus company in Jamaica and to whom they lent $1.5 million. Unfortunately I couldn’t speak to this person because he doesn’t exist. Neither the name, the phone number they gave or the loan exist.

Then a few weeks ago an American reader (isn’t the internet wonderful?) emailed us and asked about them. He sent First Morgan Capital details of what we’d said and they were not happy at all to be exposed like this. They emailed me and promised that they:
"will provide you with reference to our bankers who have funded at least 30 separate transactions for us."
Unfortunately they changed their minds and won’t give us either details of their supposed bankers or a single, traceable company that has ever received a loan from them.

Now they were also getting angry. The last thing they said in their last email was:
“We have been advised by your lawyers [Yes, they really said that] to get the name and contact for the party who is slandering our firm first then we will proceed. Our lawyer will need this information to file a lawsuit."
Yeah, whatever. I hope they’ll forgive me for not quaking in my boots, wetting myself in fear or crying for my Mummy.

I suspect that this dodgy company might now go quiet and let this exposure (admittedly not the first time they’ve been exposed) die down. However that might be difficult. If you do a Google search for “First Morgan Capital Group” you’ll find that Consumer Watchdog reports are the 4th, 5th and 6th links you find. It’s more likely that they’ll just disappear and reappear under another name .

I was also contacted and threatened by the World Business Guide last week. As reported before and on our blog this deceptive web site invites people to enter their company details into their online directory saying that “Updating is free of charge!” It’s only later that they send you a bill for €995 (about P9,000). Their trick is that “inserting” your entry costs money but “updating it” is free.

Unfortunately for these scammers they seem to have been scammed themselves. Someone has registered a fake company with them and has given them the Consumer Watchdog fax number and MY cellphone number as contact points for this made-up company. I should thank this well-meaning trickster because I’ve been able to see the faxes the World Business Guide send to people demanding money. The letters they send are fairly official, on headed paper and have a slightly threatening tone. I can imagine how someone might actually fall for this and pay up.

Last week I got a call to my cellphone from a withheld number that turned out to be someone from the Guide trying to find someone representing this company. The woman who called seemed very confused and then very angry when she found out that firstly the company didn’t seem to exist and that I wouldn’t pay them a thing. She got even more upset when I told her who she had reached and suggested she read our blog. I hope they’ve read it now and realise that Botswana is not going to be very fertile ground for them.

This week’s stars
  • Shadrack at AON for excellent service
  • Kesego and Mr Sebape from Pula Medical Aid for helping a customer in distress

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I hope you can help me and my wife with a problem with our bank. My wife got a loan from the bank through the government property advance scheme, GEMVAS. She paid off her loan in 2003 but she neglected to "change the ownership" of the vehicle by getting a bank clearance letter from the bank and taking it to the Department of Transport who would have removed that entry on the vehicle registration book which says “Financial interest: Government of Botswana”.

Recently we have been trying to dispose of the car and of course we cannot do this until ownership is changed into her name. The bank won’t produce the clearance letter because apparently they cannot recall her car loan account that far back due to some new filing system. Effectively the car remains the government property as she still could be owing money to the bank.

The bank repeatedly insinuates it is her fault for not remembering the account number, not keeping the bank statements and not requesting for the clearance letter when the matter was still fresh in their minds.

While we admit our mistake, I am sure we are being unfairly treated here. Firstly, we all know how infrequently the banks sends out bank statements and we find ourselves having to go to the banks to request for statements. Secondly, surely the bank ought to have a simple inventory of all those who owe them and they should be able to know who owed them what no matter how old the loan? We have been to the Ministry of Finance and the new company which administers GEMVAS (UNIGEM) and they both insists the bank ought to be able assist us as they are the ones who loaned the money. Mr Watchdog we are at our wits end. How can you help?


My first reaction is that we can’t help with a bank as catastrophically useless as this one. This is utterly incompetent.

Excuses about having changed their filing system are simply not relevant. I also think it’s not good enough (as well as very rude) to suggest that it’s all your fault. Remember that you were PAYING the bank to lend you that money, they are obliged to give you a decent service. You are not being unreasonable when you ask for a record of a loan even if ti was a few years ago.

We’ll get in touch with the bank and see what they have to say for themselves. Readers will notice that I haven’t named the bank but rest assured I certainly will do if this cock-up isn’t fixed quickly.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

can you please help me i am a student that is experiecing great problems over nothing
i first started when i failed the module which they say is a prerequisite, but having failed it i retook the module again so that i can finish my tuition. According to them i can not procceed to the next level without passing that very module. i have been re doing it and now my marks are mixed up fist of all i failed the module that i haven't done, my marks for the retake have been withheld and the whole protocol has been skewed up
do you thing you can help me


[Note to Voice readers. I haven’t corrected the spelling, grammar or typing of this one. I hope this student isn’t studying English. Or typing. Please say it isn’t Law?]

If I’m right, your problem is that you’ve repeatedly failed a particular module of your course and the establishment you’re attending won’t let you go any further until you pass it?

I’m sorry but that’s just normal practice, isn’t it? In most courses I’ve ever known it’s made quite clear how the course works at the beginning. If there are rules about passing certain modules they would have been explained to you. I’m sorry but I don’t think there’s much we can do to help with this.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #3

I have just received an E mail informing me that my mobile phone has won me the sum of $2,000,000 in on going free lotto promotion. It goes on to say for claims I should E-mail freelottoagent73@aol.co.uk & call +447024061573.

What kind of a scam would this one be and how would they have picked my name? It is more interesting to win a lotto you have never participated in. Please warn those who might fall victims of this. Thanking you in advance.


NB. I have not responded and I am not intending to. If I am to respond I intend to tell them all the nasty words I can think of. Would that be harmful to me?

Yes, as you suspect this is certainly a scam. It’s a free email address, a UK cellphone number and above all you can’t win a lottery you haven’t entered!

Your other question is interesting. How DID they get your email address? I suspect that your email address is available on the internet somewhere and the scammers have “trawled” the internet for millions of email addresses and they’ve contacted them all. It’s interesting that we get loads of scam emails to the Consumer Watchdog email address, which can be found over 5,000 times on the internet, and I get precisely none to my personal email address which I never place on the internet anywhere.

Lastly, no, I don’t think it would do any harm if you respond to them but it won’t do any good. It might be fun though! How often to you get to tell someone that they are a ****?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Stock Market Direct - still lying

Taken from their web site today. What you see below is a lie.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

What's missing from this advertisement?

There's something missing from this advertisement from Beares. Any idea what it is?  A clue. The law requires it.

The Control of Goods (Marking of Goods) Regulations 1974 requires that:
"Where goods are offered for sale... by way of credit-sale ... the following details shall be displayed in addition to the prescribed details and in characters of similar size
...
(e) the total amount to be paid by way of deposit and instalments.

Friday, 21 January 2011

I told you so

I know it’s wrong to gloat but I can’t help myself.

I told you about Stock Market Direct, I honestly did.

In late 2009 the Botswana Stock Exchange issued a statement warning the public that Stock Market Direct wasn’t authorised to trade on our local stock market. SMD then responded by pointing out that this didn’t matter, they only helped people to trade on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Then we did some digging and began to understand what it was they were actually offering. That was firstly little more than helping people to open online trading accounts with genuine South African brokers, the ones that actually do the work and secondly, providing their customers with the information they need to decide what to buy and sell. However this too is not something that SMD themselves do, they just acquired the information from a legitimate South African provider and charge extra on top.

OK, you might think that’s worth the extra money, despite it being measured in thousands of Pula. What concerned me more were the signs of deception. Their web site still claims that the
“company has been operating for several years with offices in Johannesburg, Mbabane, Maseru, Windhoek, and now Gaborone.”
Not true. Not even slightly. There is no trace of the company in any country other than Botswana. They’re certainly not registered as a company in South Africa, I know, I’ve checked. Nor is there any trace of them in Swaziland, Lesotho or Namibia.

We’ve continued to warn readers about them since 2009 but most recently things became much more serious. A reader got in touch alleging that after he attended one of their presentations he decided to sign up and offered them a cheque on the spot but this wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted cash. What’s more they wanted the reader to pay cash into the personal bank account of one of the presenters.

Unfortunately our reader must have been excited and caught up in the moment because that’s what he did. You think he’s making this up? I’ve got a copy of the deposit slip.

Now you know, I know and now the reader knows that this is extremely suspicious.

So I called the people at SMD to find out what could be done. That’s when I heard the story that made it into the papers last week. Tony Samuels, the Director of Stock Market Direct, the guy who stood me up when we were due to meet, never responded to my emails, phone calls or text messages had left town and was on the run from the cops. According to what I was told by his former colleagues several million Pula of investors’ money has gone missing and was last seen heading south with Samuels.

The people left at SMD claimed they were suspicious all along but, well, they would say that wouldn’t they now that the cops are asking awkward questions.

The unfortunate fact is that our reader’s money has gone and isn’t likely to come back.

Getting this money back is going to be challenging because I have another suspicion about Tony Samuels. I suspect that he might not actually exist. I can find no trace of anyone called Tony or Antonio Samuels before he arrived in Botswana to steal investors’ money.

Yes, there is a man who was associated with SMD whose picture is still available on their web site but I wonder whether he was ever a South African citizen called “Tony Samuels” or “Antonio Samuels”. Here’s a challenge for anyone who knew him or worked with him. Did you ever actually see his passport, ID or driving licence?

So is there a lesson in this? Well, there’s an obvious one: not to trust total strangers with large quantities of your cash. According to one news report one investor gave “Samuels” P600,000 to invest on his behalf. I don’t know what sort of person has that sort of cash lying around that they can just give it to the first jerk in a flash suit who asks for it but clearly it’s someone who shouldn’t be allowed out without his mother.

The other lesson is that anyone with a bit of common sense, a little knowledge of how to trace people and some curiosity can find out enough about a company to know it’s not worth trusting. Over the last 14 months I’ve probably spent no more than a few hours researching Stock Market Direct but found out enough to say that I personally wouldn’t trust them with my money and I would suggest the same to any friend or relative.

If I can do this then you can too, it doesn’t take much effort or skill. Even if it does take a bit of effort and diligence don’t you think it’s worth it when you’re considering giving away lots of your hard-earned money?

One last thing. This is personal I’m afraid. In a report in a newspaper last week one of the few remaining people at Stock Market Direct didn’t take kindly to my criticism of the company. She said “He knows nothing and should say nothing” and “He should have done something before dismissing us”. Well dear, I DO know something and I DID do something about your company and it’s strange and deceptive ways. I told everyone, here in Mmegi. I guess that’s what has upset you.

Shame.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I took a loan from FNB in September 2009 and in August 2010 I cleared my loan. I was told that I would get a refund for the insurance that I was charged since I paid off the loan before the end of its term.

I was told that it has been sent to the insurer for processing and they would inform me when its ready which can only be in November since there were so many refunds to be processed. In mid November I enquired and was told that my refund was returned back by the insurer as they had used my middle name instead of my first name so they couldn’t get my ID number. I asked why didn’t they contact me since they have all my details and my ID number is on the original loan application forms.

The bank promised they would call me as soon as my refund was ready but they never did. In December I called again but nobody returned my calls. Out of frustration I called their complaints people but they never responded. Finally I was called by a gentleman from FNB who apologized and promised that he would personally follow up on my query but I never heard from him again.

On 22nd December I called again and was told that my refund was ready but they hadn’t been able to contact me to tell me. I can’t believe this as they had my numbers. I asked them to send it to their Francistown branch so I could pick it up there. Instead they suggested they do an electronic payment directly into my account, which I accepted. However that didn’t work either as they needed authorisation of some sort. Despite many phone calls by 6th January I still didn’t have my refund.

I then was told that the payment had been made into the wrong account. I still haven’t had a refund or an explanation of when I’ll receive it. I feel that I have been disrespected as why do they promise to call back when they know they don’t have any intention of doing so. I’m so frustrated and hurt by the treatment I have received.

Please do assist me to get better service from this bank I don’t owe them, all I want is my refund and to be treated with some decency.


I’m sorry that you’ve been treated this way. It’s unbelievably frustrating when an organisation makes promises and then lets you down repeatedly.

We contacted FNB on your behalf and they promised to look into the situation. Unfortunately while they were very apologetic that claimed it was your fault for not giving them the correct account details. I know that you disagree with this and feel that it was their failure to take your details correctly that was to blame. The good news is that FNB say the money has finally been refunded.

The other bit of good news is that you refused to give up, despite the frustration and disappointment you felt by the way you had been treated. Yes, of course problems like this shouldn’t happen in the first place but inevitably mistakes are made. Smart, grown up organisations do their best to fix them and not throw the blame back at the customer to whom they owe money. I also think that as someone who was smart enough to pay off a loan early you deserve a little bit of extra care and attention from the bank. You’re the sort of customer they want to keep, not offend.

Perhaps certain banks should also learn that it’s how a decent, honest and reliable customer feels that should be uppermost in their mind.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I was travelling on a bus from Botswana to Joburg on the 28 December connecting with the Greyhound bus to Cape Town. When we were on the bus to Cape Town at the station we realized we forgot the bag in the first bus on the top luggage storage. Unfortunately the bus was leaving. I decided I will call when we arrive because we didn’t have the contacts. I made numerous calls but was not assisted properly. Apparently they couldn’t find it though I don’t think it could be stolen as we were very few in the bus less than 10 people and up to now they have not called back though they promised to call me.


We’ll get in touch with the bus company to see if they can help sort this out but you should prepare yourself for bad news. Of course it’s possible that someone has handed in your bag and it’s being safely stored somewhere but it’s equally possible that the bag has been stolen.

I also imagine that the bus company will say that this is not their responsibility and I suspect they might be right.

However we’ll get in touch and let you know.

First Morgan Capital - they break a promise

In a recent email First Morgan Capital promised that they:
"will provide you with reference to our bankers who have funded at least 30 separate transactions for us."
However, now they seem to have changed their minds and say:
"Please provide the name of person(s) or company making the accusations you have posted on your website. Once received we will release the information as stated.

We have been advised by your lawyers [Yes, they really said that] to get the name and contact for the party who is slandering our firm first then we will proceed. Our lawyer will need this information to file a lawsuit."
So I told them.  The name of the person making the accusations is...

Me.
I haven't heard back from them yet.

I wonder what exactly they plan to charge me with. Telling the truth? That's not illegal in Botswana. I wonder if they know that?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Stock Market Direct - I told you so

First Morgan Capital - still a scam

I received an email regarding this extremely suspicious "leading global alternative funding group". They claim to have assets "in the tune of 5 billion" (not mentioning which currency that might be) and promise enormous loans from $500,000 to $100 million with no checks, just an up-front payment from you to them. You can see the history here, here and here. The email said:
Hi Watchdog,

After reading your piece on First Morgan Capital Group, I emailed it to them and below is the response I got back:
"This sounds very convincing but I will ask you one thing.

Contact this individual who has posted this complaint about our company and ask them to provide you with proof that we First Morgan has taken any advance fee from anyone. This message you sent me states that we stole money from some unsuspecting victim which is totally untrue. We have an impeccable record and have never charged any upfront fee.

This site seems to be a Watchdog site which is mealy a witch hunt site targeting companies of their choice without any real evidence. Again if you can provide us with proof that we have taken any money from anyone we will gladly present you loan with 0% interest.

I am very convinced that you will not find any such incident that even warrants your concern. In fact we have clearly stated to you that all issue will be handled through your local bank and fees are paid out of disbursements.

Sincere Regards,
Kenneth Jones
Corporate Lending
-------------------------------
First Morgan Capital Group"
My reply went like this:
Thanks for getting in touch.

I would ask First Morgan Capital a number of questions.

1. Why are the addresses they give on their web site, in both Switzerland and Peru false? There is no trace of FMG at either of the two locations. The address they used to give in Switzerland didn't even exist but they seem to have changed this.

2. Why are the telephone numbers they give always answered by automatic answering services that do not ever connect to a human being?

3. They claim on their web site to have lent money to a variety of companies but none of the ones they mention seem to exist. When I last contacted them in early 2010 asking for a reference company I could contact they sent me the contact details of a company that also didn't exist.

4. We were alerted to FMCG when a consumer here in Botswana contacted us reporting his suspicions. In order to get a loan from FMCG he was required to pay an upfront "loan security" of 7% of the loan amount. This is NOT how loans work and contradicts what "Kenneth" says in his email to you.

5. He was also contacted by someone claiming to work for a Canadian bank who would actually provide the capital. However the name he gave is not of anyone employed by the bank in question.

6. Much of content of their web site appears to have been taken directly from other sites including Capital Source. Compare these two pages FMCG and Capital Source. Other pages have similarly "lifted" from other web pages.

7. See the comment on one of our reports here. Admittedly it's anonymous but I find the story told plausible.

8. I'm not the only person who thinks they are a scam. See here, here and here.

All FMCG need to do to answer their critics is to provide us with a single, credible reference company for us to talk to, a company that is independently traceable, has a presence on the web and whose finance managers are prepared to confirm the FMCG story.

That shouldn't be too difficult, should it?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

New Year promises

I’ve had enough of New Year’s resolutions. We all make them but hardly any of us actually stick to them? I reckon that’s probably because most of us keep these resolutions private. If we all published our resolutions in Mmegi for everyone to read we’d all be much more likely to stick to them.

So here we go. Consumer Watchdog is going to abuse it’s position and use this column to advertise it’s 2011 promises to Mmegi readers.

To begin with we promise to get you, Mmegi readers, more involved. In fact, we promise to rely on you more than in the past. Yes, we still want you to send us your complaints and criticisms, but we need more than that. We’re going to be naming and shaming those organisations that appear to have broken the rules but will then be asking you to contribute your experiences. For instance, you’ll have read over the last year our concerns about Stock Market Direct. This strange organisation, which is neither a financial services provider nor an educational establishment is actually very suspicious. With it’s former Director apparently currently on the run from the cops we can only continue to investigate them with information from their customers or victims. Please get in touch and tell us about your experiences, whether they’re good or bad.

For instance, has anyone actually made money from their involvement with Stock Market Direct? Has anyone made enough profit to pay themselves back the massive enrolment fee?

That’s the sort of thing we’ll be doing more and more often. Are you willing to help?

We’re also going to be digging deeper than ever before. In fact I started digging deep over Christmas when I started to unearth more information about the so-called “World Business Guide”. You can see the background on our blog site but these crooks scam people into entering their company details into this online business guide by suggesting that it’s free. It’s only later, after the victim has sent off their details that the crooks highlight the bit in the small print, the VERY small, almost invisible small print that entry in the guide costs €995, about P9,000.

When you complain they insist that you voluntarily signed the contract and threaten you with legal action unless you pay them everything they want. This is, of course, criminal extortion.

The irony of the World Business Guide is that their claim to have an online searchable directory is itself a lie. Their web site is almost impossible to search, making it effectively useless. However, with a couple of technological tricks I was able to get the entire list of companies who had registered in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Namibia. It wasn’t anything illegal but I am incredibly proud of my technical skills in obtaining a complete list of all their local victims from their silly web site. If amateurs like me can get their list of victims they really should try a little harder.

I harvested over 300 email addresses of companies who had fallen for this scam and I emailed every one of them on Christmas Eve explaining my interest and asking if they would share their story with me. A week later more than 30 had been in touch and every one of them, without exception, told exactly the same story (all on the blog site). They had all fallen for the supposedly “free” entry in the database, only to then receive an invoice. Every one of them had then tried to cancel their enrolment only to be told that this wasn’t possible and that they must make a full payment. So far I’ve only heard from one of the 30 who actually felt obliged to cough up the money. Every other company had told them to get stuffed. And guess what? Not one of the victims had actually ever been prosecuted. That’s because the crooks who run the World Business Guide know that they are villains and that any judge in the world fling them out of the court and might even have them arrested.

There will be more of this over the next year. More detailed, prolonged investigations into crooks like these people.

We’ll also be a LOT more aggressive when the situation demands it. There comes a time when the gloves must come off, when everyday courtesies are discarded and we call a crook a crook. And I mean we’ll CALL him a crook. With a phone call, a text message, an email or a fax. Get ready for some phone calls to 419, lottery and investment scammers telling them that we know they’re crooks and scumbags. Be ready for recordings of calls to charlatan, so-called “traditional doctors” who are offering the desperate fake cures that kill people or harm them permanently.

Yes, we will also putting these recording on our web site so you can download them and listen to them on your iPod or cellphone.

Who knows, if you volunteer, we might even invite you to come over and call some scammers, or traditional healers yourself, charging it all to our phone bill!

Perhaps, and it’s perhaps a remote chance, if more and more of us take the battle back to crooks, scammers and charlatans, Botswana will develop a reputation as a country that crooks should avoid. That we’re a country of skeptics who don’t fall for their crappy scams?

And finally, we’ll be celebrating more than before. Please, PLEASE send us your celebrations so they can appear here every week. It’s very tempting to be negative and I know there’s enough to complain about but I also know that there’s plenty to celebrate, plenty of individuals and companies who deserve a pat on the back.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A "romantic" scam

Yet another "romantic" advance fee scam. The victim met a guy on a dating web site and over the next three weeks he flirts and "seduces" her and she develops real feelings for him.  He calls himself "Smith Dent" and claims to be a British engineer working for a mining company and sends over some pictures of himself. (The pictures have, of course, been lifted from the web. The guy pictured is an innocent person presumably with no knowledge that his pictures have been stolen.)

As a gesture of his affection and love he then claims to have sent the victim a package containing a gold necklace, a watch, an iPhone and £7,500 in cash.

Then she gets an email from "Mrs Helen Esenado" from "Sky Delivery Services" in Malaysia which says (my emphasis):
I am pleased to inform you that your package is in possession of the Authority awaiting clearance due to the money detected in your package when your parcels is going through scanning there we detected that some currency is there.

To expedite the process of releasing your package please locate and do payment through Western Union Money Tranfer with the name and information appear below due to time frame so that you will get your parcel today

NAME OF ACCOUNT'S OFFICER / RECEIVER to the sum of RM1,889.79 Equivelant to $650

Name: Mario Da Costa
Address: Tmn Setia Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Amount: RM1,889.79 Equivelant to $650
That, of course is what the whole thing is about, the $650 the fake shipping company require.  The shopping company doesn't actually exist and neither does "Smith Dent". I called the scammer and told him that we'd exposed him and he wasn't too happy. He even said he'll be reporting me but couldn't tell me who to.

Scammer busted. If you feel like insulting him by SMS, his phone number is +44 703 185274. He's a scammer remember, he doesn't deserve respect or courtesy!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Warning - Zbrowen Mattress

Don't fall victim to an unsolicited email from a fake company calling itself "Zbrowen Mattress".  They say that they are "are in the midst of prominent Bed Sheets Manufacturers and cushion covers exporters, incepted in Malta and Australia", whatever that means.  They then make an offer:
We are currently recruiting workers that will work as middle man between our customers and the company. This individual's duty is receive payments from customers that make purchases and direct the payment to the company, basically within Africa, Asia (India, Malaysia, Brunei, Bahrain), United Arab Emirates, Europe, North and Central America and the Middle East Region
Curiously, when you reply to the email it will be addressed to a well known scammer email address. Do you feel an advance fee scam coming on?

If you get an email from "Zbrowen Mattress" I suggets you delete it immediately!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

World Business Guide - victim's comments

These are just some of the comments we've had from victims of the World Business Guide scam. I emailed over 300 victims on Christmas Eve asking for their experiences. Can you spot the pattern? It's a scam!
“Yes, I was conned into signing as I thought it was free. Six months later I received a bill, which I refused to pay. I then received a letter from a so-called lawyer in the post. I refused to pay.”

“I tracked them down to an office in Amsterdam. As I travel to Belgium frequently, I offered to meet them, together with my European attorney's, at their offices in Amsterdam in order to sort out this issue. They declined to meet. I then resorted to "bully" tactics and told them that if I receive one more payment demand from them, I will report their fraudulent activities to the Dutch police and Interpol. I have not heard a word from them since.”

“I yes I was duped into signing up thinking it was free. I Googled them and found out I was not alone. The advise given was to write to them and explain that it was an error as I had thought it was a free listing and then ignore any further correspondence from them, which is what I have done.”

“This is a most unscrupulous company! … I’m sure lots of people get caught and actually feel pressured into paying. I would love to see this scam dealt with.”

“Indeed I was misled as well.”

“Yes, this company has caught us and have been hounding us for two years, even putting us in the directory a second year. … We let them know that this type of strategy constitutes a scam and we will definitely not pay over anything to them.”

“I mistakenly thought that this was an update to a guide I had previously placed information on some years before. … I have not paid any of the invoices presented, and certainly will not do so willingly. … My view is that the form requesting "updated details" was a misrepresentation of the actual purpose of the request, which was of course hidden in fine print.”

“You are quite right in your assumptions about World Business Guide they are unethical in their business relationship. … I and many others in South Africa have not paid their Invoice despite numerous threats of legal action. Advise your customers not to pay and ignore all their persuasive threats of legal action”

“Yes, you are correct, our information was placed there deceptively and they have on numerous occasions threatened us with legal action.”

“I was caught in this trap but have refused to pay and told them to remove my company from their listing. Last year they telephoned me and have sent me letters of demand from a collection agency. I have told them I will not pay the account and will see them in court and that I do not believe that any court will uphold their claim based on a deliberately miss-leading document. This year they have again invoiced me but I tear up all correspondence from them and delete all email without opening them. I don't believe they will bring anything to court as that would mean exposing themselves.”

“Yes, we responded to the ad as it was stated that insertion or updating was free. We were then invoiced for over 1000 euro’s. We asked to be removed from this guide as soon as we discovered that were being charged. We have been fighting with them ever since, we have refused to pay.”

“You are 100% right. They keep on harassing us for payment, but we haven’t paid for our first 2 years of placement as we were not aware how much it costs. In the beginning, I even called them to take our details out of the WBG, but they never reply, they just keep on threatening us.”

“I confirm that I too have been deceived and they continuously harass me for money. This after I wrote to them on several occasions and explained their deceptive advertising and my understanding that the registration was for free.”

“I was also enticed to place a free listing at WBG. Since then I’ve been getting bills and threats of action if I don’t pay the ridiculous amount, the details I have at the office. They also sent me a CD. I’ve not paid anything yet.”

“I have put it in the unfair trading drawer and communicated a few things back to them but then I ignored their ridicules requests and fake lawyer letters. The silly thing is that they renewed it in the 2nd year and ask for another Euro 995.”

“Just checking out your blog makes my blood boil once again. To say that we have been deceived is putting it mildly. These people are not only a bunch of crooks, they need to be stopped in one way or the other and if I can somehow play a role in stopping them, I would be very happy. Anyway, I hope they take it further so I can take on these faceless crooks.”

“We were conned into thinking we were helping them and not placing an advert for a huge sum of money.”

“I’m glad you are investigating this “company” as I have definitely had an attempt by them to deceptively receive money from me. I received an application form from them asking if I would like to have my business listed on their directory, as this application made no reference to payment, I listed my company details and sent it back to them. I then received numerous emails from them asking for payment (I seem to remember it being about 1,000 euro). When payment was not made, I received threats of legal action, to which I did not respond.”

“This event occurred through a process which can only be described as ambush marketing. When they invoiced us and we objected, they stated that we had signed a valid agreement. When I stated that we would never have entered into an agreement had we been honestly informed as to the costs. They said too late, it is in black and white. When I said please cancel our listing, they said that, in terms of the agreement, we had signed for a minimum of 3 years and are “bound” by the agreement which we signed.”

“Their email requesting you to advertise your company is misleading it clearly states free advertisement I was under the impression that it was for free that is why I responded to them to place my company details on the CD only to get an acc with it. I immediately started to send threatening mails detailing penalties if we did not pay within a certain dead lines. Incidentally the CD they sent me was blank. They are now threatening to take legal action if I miss the next payment details, I have spoken to our legal dept and they feel that the mail shot is misleading and that we will have a strong case if it were to go to court. I believe that there modus operandi is to get you to agree to place the advertisement with them and then harass you with threatening emails to the extent that a person would be are intimidated and then pay.”

“They give me a heart attack one day, they e-mail, phone, send faxes and even threaten with legal actions. Yes it is true, they hide the costs or they even fake the contract and they ignore if you cancel. I got contacted by an attorney from cape town, they found us in this directory and wanted to know our experience, because they got also complaints.”