Friday, 25 May 2012


I’m not the only one who simply doesn’t get it, who doesn’t understand why people fall for scams. Other people are also mystified.

At a recent event in Francistown the Commissioner of Police, Thebeyame Tsimako, is quoted as saying:
“I just do not understand if Batswana are slow to learn or they just do not want to learn that con-artists exist and they are there to rip them off of their hard earned cash and property”.
He went on to say that:
“Drama Programmes like Itshireletse on BTV are very informative as they always warn people against such cases, but it seems that some of the people just watch these programmes for entertainment and do not want to get the message.”
He has a point. Despite the educational efforts of the Police Service, banks and organizations like Consumer Watchdog people continue to fall for scams and con-artists.

Part of this is simply human nature. We’re all, to varying degrees, greedy and lazy. If someone, often a total stranger, approaches us with a way of making a quick buck without actually doing any work we fall for it. We want something for nothing. The trouble is that no matter how tempting this might be, it doesn’t make it true. What’s worse is these schemes DON’T actually involve us doing nothing to earn these wonderful rewards. Instead the thing they want us to do is hand over money, sometimes large quantities of it.

I confess that it keeps on surprising me that we are approached by people for advice about these issues. I can only assume that everyone who comes to us is a new victim, or hopefully just a potential victim. I can’t imagine that anyone who’s read about the scams and cons we’ve reported in Mmegi and on our blog and Facebook group can then fall for them. Doesn’t a distant memory of reading about something similar emerge when they receive that email, SMS or invitation from a gullible friend?

We were asked recently about a so-called “investment scheme” called Felmina Alliance. A reader had received an email out of the blue suggesting that she visit their web site and extolling the virtues of their scheme. The web site makes it clear that they really are offering some remarkable results. For instance they say that: “interest of 1.6% per business day is paid on all account principals from $5,000.00 and above.” An interest rate of 1.6% doesn’t sound much but that’s EVERY DAY. If this is true and you take their option of reinvesting the first day’s interest ($80) back into your “investment” the interested is “compounded”. The second day’s interest is then not based on $5,000 but $5,080 so the interest is bigger, $81, then $82 and so on. After just a month, if this is true, your daily interest will be $127 and your total “investment” will have increased to over $8,000. If this is true after 90 days you’ll have a pot of nearly $21,000. After the minimum investment period of 180 days you’ll have accumulated $87.000.

If it’s true.

Of course this ISN’T true. It’s all a lie, carefully crafted to part you from that initial $5,000.

Did I mention that at no point does this scheme explain how it might earn this sort of money and guarantee a fixed interest rate. In turbulent economic times how can any legitimate scheme offer this? Did I also mention that this company is registered in Panama and has directors who run a range of other such schemes?

It’s no surprise that all over the web there are posts from people who claim to be getting a return from Felmina Alliance. I found a site that has posts from people reporting that they invested the minimum amount of $100 and are getting a dollar back here, two dollars there. Of course this might all be true but even if it is they’re forgetting something. Felmina Alliance still has their $100. That’s the nature of a Ponzi scheme. All those $100 investments are used to pay the rewards of earlier investors who want a dollar here, two dollars there. If the organizers just pay out 50 $1 payments from each $100 investment they still have $50 to spend on booze and floozies. If only 1 in 10 of the “investors” posts a comment on the internet and only 1 in 10 of them attract one more customer the scammers are making money.

The saddest thing for me is not just that people are losing money from this sort of scheme, it’s that there are willing victims who are convinced it’s working. Felmina Alliance give contact details of people here in Botswana who are their local representatives. I contacted one and he couldn’t explain how the scheme works either. All he could do was direct me to other people, presumably more closely connected with the scheme, who offered a variety of incredibly vague explanations about how the scheme made money. Nothing specific, nothing detailed, nothing concrete. No genuine evidence at all that it works. Presumably because it doesn’t?

The thing that saddened me was the emotional commitment I could sense from this local representative. I made it perfectly clear what I thought of these “High Yield Investment Plans”, that they promise a great deal but without any actual evidence or foundation and sent him evidence to support this but he stills seems just as committed. It’s sad because there will, one day, come a point when he realizes he’s been wasting his time and money. He reminded me of the people I’ve met in the past who are members of a religious cult like the Scientologists. They construct a brick wall of self-justification to protect their self-confidence.

Curiously, despite being one of their national representatives, he has only been an investor with them for a matter weeks. How easy is it to earn such a role?

Perhaps this is a good lesson for us all about how easy it is to fall for a scam and then to keep convincing yourself that you couldn’t have been that silly? The real lesson is constant, unceasing and vigilant skepticism. It’s either that or disappointment, depression and debt.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I would like to ask why micro lenders when you ask for the balance of your loan they will give you a lesser amount than the settlement amount! My balance is P20,000 but when I called to say I want pay up the whole balance, they said the amount goes up! What is happening here! I thought when you pay up, even at furniture shops, the amount would rather decrease. Is this fair to the consumer?

Let’s begin with the basics. Micro-lenders don’t lend people money because they’re kind and charitable people. They do so solely so they can charge interest on the amounts borrowed, that’s what the business is all about. The same can even be said for furniture stores. Here’s a startling fact. Most furniture stores aren’t really furniture stores, they’re moneylenders. Furniture is just an excuse to lend money to people and earn lots of interest.

Micro-lenders want every thebe of interest they can charge you and if you try and stop them getting it you’ll certainly upset them. That’s why, when you’ve agreed to pay them interest and then try and change your mind, they’ll charge you a penalty for denying them that interest. You’ll probably find that it says this, or at least implies it, somewhere in the agreement you originally signed with the lender.

However there is a VERY strict rule regarding settlement amounts. The “in duplum rule” is a rule that courts may apply whenever a case relating to debt reaches them. It says that at the time of settlement of a debt the amount of interest charged may not exceed the capital amount outstanding. If you owe them P10,000 the court will not allow them to charge more than another P10,000 on top.

This rule has been used many times in our courts so the next time a micro-lender tries to charge you an outrageous amount for settling a debt you should demand he takes you to court. The irony is that in this sort of case you’re safest in court.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I have 2nd year credits at the University of South Africa and 6 to 7 years life and work experience in accounting. From your experience with lots of conversation and assistance with your clients, how does one go about getting a genuine and accredited University that converts life and work experience into a degree?

There are a few out there that are not bogus and accredited, but difficult to get them and be assured this is the right one. I have used my credits and experience to form a company for myself and now finding myself not getting enough time to complete my 3rd year.

Please assist me on this, if you know any genuine Institution, please inform me, it would highly be appreciated.

I'm sorry, I don't know where you got the idea that you can complete your degree with "life and work experience". This simply doesn't happen. There are no genuine universities that offer credit for such experience in completing courses. Real universities require coursework, exams, dissertations and research projects. They don’t just give away their degrees because you either ask them to, possess life experience or offer them money.

While I honestly respect your commitment to starting a business based on your experience, you cannot get qualifications this way.

Consumer Alert

We’ve heard from various people who asked about an “investment scheme” called Felmina Alliance. They’ve been told of amazing returns that can be made on modest initial investments. For instance they claim that you can earn 1.6% interest every day on an initial “investment” of $5,000.

That’s simply a lie. It doesn’t sound much but 1.6% per day, if it’s compounded, equals an annual interest rate of over 1,600%. There is no investment scheme in the world that can truthfully offer that, there never has been and there never will be. Anyone who says so is either a fool or a crook. Or both.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

TVI Express "busted" in Australia

The Australian authorities have taken firm action against local reps of the TVI Express pyramid scheme over there. The chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims said:
"Pyramid selling schemes are not legitimate businesses but scams promising the rewards of easy money that never arrives"

"People who are tempted to take part in pyramid selling should note the serious penalties they could face."
The fines levied against these crooks totalled AU$200,000, around P1,500,000.

If you don't believe that they're a pyramid scheme, take a look at this. It's enough of a clue.

[Thanks to Kasey Chang for the alert.]

Friday, 18 May 2012

I want a date

A couple of weeks ago we had a complaint from a reader about the service she had received from a local cash and carry operation. This is what she said:
“In December 2011 I sent an employee to a cash and carry to purchase stock for my store including blended fruit juices. She didn't realize they had expired in November of 2011. The staff at the cash and carry hadn’t noticed that their products had expired a month before my employee bought them.

Now the cash and carry management are claiming we purchased these products before December 2011 but we have invoices to prove we bought them in December 2011. We have an account with them so they can go through all our purchases to find out if indeed we bought them before December.

Recently a customer came back to us with flour which had worms in it which we had bought from the same cash and carry and were reluctant to take it back. We purchased it from them on 17th April this year and the product expiry date was the 23rd May this year also.

This cash and carry doesn't want to take the responsibility of selling products that are not in good condition. Please assist me on this area because I can't be having losses on my part due to a wholesale not selling products in good condition. There is nothing I can do with expired products I can't sell them.”
Of course the cash and carry store is behaving disgracefully. They deserve a severe slapping from the authorities and also from their customers. Firstly they breached almost all of the Consumer Protection Regulations. The stuff they sold wasn’t fit for purpose, they are operating without suitable care and skill, they lied about the nature of the product, they refused a refund, the list of breaches seems endless. More importantly they are selling products that could be injurious to public health. They’ve breached the Food Control Act and the Public Health Regulations, they might even have breached parts of the Penal Code. They’ve also pissed off Consumer Watchdog. Bad move.

Our suggestion to the reader was to make it perfectly clear, in writing, that she expected a no-nonsense refund as soon as possible. More than that they deserve a visit from every possible authority in town.

Expiry dates are there for a reason. They’re there to protect consumers from products, mainly foodstuffs, that are no longer either safe or of suitable quality. They’re there on the products that really matter, the ones like meat, fish and dairy products that can kill you if they’ve been stored for too long.

Often you’ll see two dates, particularly on perishable foods. The packaging will show a “Sell By” date and also a “Use By” date. That’s because we don’t use most foods that we buy for a day or more after we get them home. The difference might be a couple of days with fish or meat, longer with something like yoghurt or cheese. Other products like rice and flour should last a lot longer.

While this is all very useful there are some downsides to all this labelling. In the UK for instance there is a growing pressure to actually remove some of these dates from certain foodstuffs because of their overuse. The problem has been the staggering amount of food that is wasted in the UK. According to a BBC report last year the average British household throws over P7,000 worth of food in the bin each year. The report states that “according to the advisory body Waste and Resources Action Programme, households can end up binning up to a quarter of their weekly food and drink purchases.”

Much of this, the authorities reason, is a result of a combination of the “Use By” dates displayed on the food and a decline in basic food knowledge amongst the British public. Fewer and fewer Brits know about food, about how it’s produced and even how to use it. It seems they also don’t know how to store it and whether something is edible or not. It’s also a product of the increasing concentration in the food industry on perfection. It’s almost impossible these days to find a tomato, an apple or a lemon that isn’t of a regular shape and size and free of blemishes.

The result of this is that consumers this ignorant see a tomato beginning to look slightly wrinkly and they fling it in the bin instead of thinking of soup or sauce.

I think the problem is that some of us have lost, or perhaps never had, our natural sense of whether food is good or not any more. Can we not sense whether an apple, a banana or a tomato is still OK to eat? Can’t we use our own common consumer sense?

Of course I’m not denying how important the dates on food can be. They really do potentially save our lives, probably save our health and certainly save us money. More of us should look at them when we buy things but we also need to be more self-sufficient when we’re buying food.

A celebration

I want to celebrate the Non Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, NBFIRA. They recently made it clear to the micro-lending industry that regulation had arrived. The lenders were obliged to register with NBFIRA and shape up their working practices. The lenders then complained that they hadn’t been given enough time, some even begged for another year. NBFIRA recently published their response. Put simply it said stop moaning, you’ve had years to sort yourselves out, you knew about these regulations ages ago and some of you have complied. Those of you who haven’t face a choice. Shape up or ship out.

Well done to NBFIRA.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I need your advice on the following issue. I think a garage wants to take me for a ride.

I bought a car from a garage in 2008. I have been using this car regularly and now I am at 51,000km. It has now developed gear problems and I cannot engage in reverse gear. I took the car to the garage in May for repairs. I was told the car is under warranty but when I collected the car I was told that they had made some adjustment to the gear linkage bush but still it was not good enough. They claimed that they had tried to communicate with me earlier trying to find out if they should order the linkage, although when I phoned then they did not tell me that.

When I asked about the warranty issue I was told that my car is beyond that cover because it was now more than three years old. I am told the warranty says either 100,000 km or three years, whatever comes first.

If I am going to start repairing it at 51,000km one wonders what other repair will be next. Is this not poor workmanship on the part of the supplier? I have tried to reason with them but without success. What an inconvenience?

It appears the crime I am being alleged to have committed is my failure to blow up the mileage of 100,000km within the three years. What should I do??

Clearly the garage made a mistake when they initially told you that it was still under warranty after four years but you should really have known the length of the warranty you got with this vehicle. As you mention it was for three years or 100,000km, whichever came first. In your case the three years obviously came first.

I’m not a mechanic so I can’t comment on how long your gearbox should have lasted but it’s clear that it won’t be covered by the warranty. Sorry to have bad news.

Update: The reader contacted us again to ask whether the gearbox would be covered by his insurance policy. Sorry, I’m afraid not. Vehicle insurance usually just covers accidents and theft.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I need your advice. I borrowed a friend of mine my VW car in January and he was involved in an accident, the car is not insured it was badly damaged in the front. He had it repaired by a backyard panel-beaters who joined the back of my car to the front of an old VW.

I told him I can’t take the car back, as the car was a cut and join. I told him if this car was insured the insurance company was going to write it off. He is insisting that I must take the car but I don’t want it back like this. Please advise.

OK, I think we both know that it was a mistake not to have insurance, don’t we?

Unfortunately given these circumstances I suspect your only option is legal action against your friend to recover the value of your vehicle. Clearly the vehicle is now worthless, given that it’s now two busted cars welded together.

Update: the reader got back to us and mentioned that he had already instructed an attorney but that he was “waiting for judgment”. I’m not sure what that means but at least action has been taken.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #3

Of late there has been news going around about investing in one of the biggest trades abroad known as Eurex. I’m hesitant to invest with this company because am not sure if its real or a scam. Could you please help me by tracing them and give a true picture about their operation and the like.

I really would NOT advise anyone to "invest" in this scheme or any other "High Yield Investment Program". We’ve researched and commented on this particular company and others of their type in the past. They make unbelievable claims about the money you can make from these schemes but always publish disclaimers tucked away on their web site saying it’s not really going to happen.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Felmina Alliance, a Ponzi scheme?

In comes an email asking for advice. Is this a scam?

How are you today? I hope this message finds you in good health and spirit.

My name is Howard Jefferson. Marianne is my sister, we are investing together.

The company we have been investing with for a long time now is called Felmina Alliance. Their business is based on online trading in its various forms.

Being their customer for years now we've never had a delayed or canceled interest payment. This is in our view what makes this company different from the rest.

We've done my own due diligence on them. The company provided all the company incorporation files and other important documents related to their business. In addition to that, I've talked to them over the phone on numerous occasions. Their customer support representatives were always there to help me with anything.

Further, the safety of the investment is guaranteed by a reputable investment bank and a certificate of deposit is issued on all deposits of $500 or above.

Last but not least, there are no hidden or account maintenance fees nor any other catches.

Initially, I got in with a minimum investment of just $20 to test the waters, so to say. Now my
investment is 6 digits.

You can invest and withdraw your interest via direct bank wire transfer.

Please follow the link below to join:

If you are interested, simply open an account by filling out a simple form on their website and write back to me so that I could guide you through the rest of the setup process.

I can also send you a copy of my bank account statement to show you that Felmina does pay its customers.

You can leave me your phone number and the best time to call and I will be happy to call you back.

Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need help with anything.


Howard Jefferson"
You can see their web site for yourself here.

This is what they offer:

It sounds good, for an investment of $5,000 they offer you 1.6% interest per day, but what does that actually mean?

It means that after 180 days your initial amount of $5,000 has increased to a staggering total of $87,064. If you kept it with them for a year you would have $1,641,245. That's an annual return of nearly 33,000%.

Can you believe that? Is that possible?


If this was true then banks, pension schemes and the Greek government would be doing it.

This is probably a Ponzi scheme of some sort. No investment scheme in the history of investment schemes has offered that sort of return. That's because this is a straightforward lie. What they want is your $5,000. They plan to keep it.

See here for details of similar schemes we've covered and here for what the BBC had to say on the subject.

Monday, 14 May 2012

McGraw "University", another fake

We received an email today which asked:
"I am a bit confused, i am about registering trought MCGRAW University, Telephone number: 18664974901, is this a recognised University, and please let me know on how one can check international universities accreditation"
The same person had previously emailed us asking about "OLWA University", another fake.

Here's a simple tip. If a "university" says you can get a degree in 10 days without doing any exams, coursework or classes then they are liars, they're a fake university. I had the following conversation online with "McGraw University" this afternoon.
Please wait for a Student Counselor to respond.
You are now chatting with 'A.G.Murphy'
A.G.Murphy: hello
Me: hi
Me: How long does it take to get a degree from Mcgraw University?
A.G.Murphy: 10 days

Me: how can it be done so quickly?
A.G.Murphy: the objective of this program is to award a degree on the basis of your work/life experience and the knowledge that you already have
A.G.Murphy: without having to attend any classes or go through any exams, you may apply for your degree based on practical work/life experience that you have gained so far
A.G.Murphy: if you qualify, you become eligible to earn your fully accredited degree or diploma from University which has worldwide acceptance
How difficult is it to understand?

I get comments about the fake Woodfield University

My good friend "Anonymous" posted two comments about the entirely fake Woodfield University.
"Woodfield University has it's PhD program diplomas attested by the US Department of State with Seal and signature of the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who under oath swears to the legal status of the document.

Attestation by US Department of State signed under seal by Hillary R. Clinton, Secretary of State sworn under oth as to authentic an legal University PhD Diploma."
Oh come on!!! Hillary Clinton has nothing better to than sign degree attestations?

I think not. Didn't your mother teach you that it's wrong to lie?

Friday, 11 May 2012

Serious crime

I have a confession to make. I’ve been lying.

Don’t feel too bad for me, I don’t actually feel that guilty. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it because of who’s been on the receiving end of my lies and fabrications.

A scammer.

And not just the ordinary level of scammer, this one is the real thing. A real, 100%, unadulterated criminal, thief and crook.

A few days ago I received an email from an organization calling itself “The Stellios Foundation”. It went like this:
“Hello, We are Stellios Foundation, engaging in human development and training and developing prospective leaders in the aspect of human development. We send our specialized trainers to different corners of the world to train upcoming human developers. We would be glad to co-operate with you in the aspect of travel arrangement for our team to different parts of the world. Please get back to us on your booking procedures and terms.

Best Regards, Alexander Stellios”
The usual clues were there that this wasn’t genuine. There was the rather poor English in their email and on their web site and the fact that their web site was only created on 23rd April this year, despite them claiming that it was “Copyright 2008”. Also, there was the clue that the person who registered the web site also registered a site for another “Foundation” in February but this has now disappeared. Should I be suspicious that he registered it from Lagos, Nigeria?

However I was curious. What was this one about? How were they planning to steal my money?

Using one of my many fake identities (OK, just a Gmail account with an assumed name) I responded. Within minutes they replied, without seeming to notice that I had replied using an identity different to the one they initially used. They said:
“We are in need of travel arrangements. The most pressing right now is International flight booking for our trainees. Please advise how you can assist with the flight booking.”
I won’t bore you with the dozen emails we exchanged but I do now know what the scam is. It’s credit card fraud and this is how it works.

This fictitious foundation recruits people to act on their behalf in booking flights for their entirely fictitious staff. All I have to do is open the right sort of bank account here, a “merchant’s account” and they can then pay me using a credit card. A stolen credit card. Here’s the clever bit. Let’s say the flights cost $1,500. Just before they tell me to charge the cost of the flights to their credit card they’ll call me and ask me to add additional money on top of the flight cost. They might say it’s to cover spending money for the employees, a hotel bill that will need to be paid in cash or car hire, it could be anything. They’ll tell me just to add it onto the credit card charge, making it $2,000 in total. I won’t mind of course, it’s not my money, I’m taking money from them.

Of course the credit card details are stolen. Sooner or later the bank that issued the card, wherever they are in the world, will notice that it’s been used and will instruct the charge to be reversed. But that could take several days, perhaps even weeks. In that intervening period the scammer will be in touch with me again breaking the bad news that the trip has been cancelled. Whether the tickets have been paid for yet doesn’t matter, that can probably all be reversed and after all, it’s not my money, is it? However what matters to the scammer is that extra amount, the cash we added on top of the flights, the extra $500. He’ll very politely ask for that back. He might even ease my disappointment by telling me that I can keep some of the cost of the flights as compensation. Most importantly he’ll want the $500 sent back to him using some method other than a credit card. He’ll say, apologetically, that although he has a credit card, he can’t receive payments to it. That’s when, you’ve guessed it, they ask for it back using Western Union. That reverse payment of the extra money is what this is all about. I don’t know exactly how much this will be, but if you consider that they’re certainly running many scams concurrently you can imagine how much they’re making, even if they only get a few hundred dollars from each victim. But why would they stop at a few hundred? As far as the victim is concerned he’s got thousands from the credit card payment. The sky’s the limit.

It’s also not particularly expensive to get stolen credit card details. If you have the right contacts online you can buy stolen credit card details for $25, maybe $50 for a high value card. The economics of this are simple. That’s all he needs.

If the scammer’s lucky all of this can happen in the period between the payment appearing in my account and it being reversed by the bank.

Luckily I suspect that most potential victims of this particular fraud are going to find it too difficult and complicated to operate. They won’t be able to open the necessary merchant account necessary to receive the credit card payment, either because their bank will ask too many questions or they only have a personal account, not a company one. The likely target market here is small. But, as I’ve observed before, scammers operate within a free market. The fact that they are trading and are constantly coming up with new ideas to separate us from our money suggests that the basic idea is working. Otherwise they’d get a real job, probably selling second-hand cars.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I got a credit card somewhere in 2006, with a credit limit of P9,400. The bank kept on paying the agreed installment until I was in arrears and in 2010 they handed me to a debt collector. I arranged with them and kept on paying through them, they updated my debt and yesterday when I called enquiring about my debt so that I can clear the balance. They told me that the balance was P3,700. The following day they called me and informed me that the balance from the bank shows that I owe P7,300. I asked how bcoz I have been paying whilst they kept on giving me the balance. They said the bank people said that the card was active so they were adding interest.

Can u advise me on what to do in this situation?

You need to speak to the bank about this. You need to demand a full statement from them showing the debt, the payments you have made and the interest they have been charging. Then you need to check that it’s correct.

The bank is, of course, entitled to charge interest on money you’ve borrowed from them. And yes, a credit card IS a way of borrowing money from the bank. The interest they charge is how they make money from you.

I suggest you get that statement from them and check it thoroughly. Then you need to talk to them about a repayment plan that you can afford and stick to. Let me know how this goes and if we can help further.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

In December 2011 I sent an employee to a cash and carry to purchase stock for my store including blended fruit juices. She didn't realize they had expired in November of 2011. The staff at the cash and carry hadn’t noticed that their products had expired a month before my employee bought them.

Now the cash and carry management are claiming we purchased these products before December 2011 but we have invoices to prove we bought them in December 2011. We have an account with them so they can go through all our purchases to find out if indeed we bought them before December.

Recently a customer came back to us with flour which had worms in it which we had bought from the same cash and carry and were reluctant to take it back. We purchased it from them on 17th April this year and the product expiry date was the 23rd May this year also.

This cash and carry doesn't want to take the responsibility of selling products that are not in good condition. Please assist me on this area because I can't be having losses on my part due to a wholesale not selling products in good condition. There is nothing I can do with expired products I can't sell them.

This is disgraceful. If this company is indeed selling products that are not longer fit for sale they are going to end up in trouble.

I suggest that you write them a letter outlining your complaint. Make sure you give them the relevant dates and include copies (not the originals) of the receipts they gave you. Make it clear in your letter that you’re copying it to us, the City Council, the Consumer Protection Unit in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and The Voice. Give them a reasonable time, perhaps 5 working days, to give you a full refund for the purchases you made or you’ll take whatever legal action you need to recover your losses. You might even mention the Small Claims Court as well.

Please let me know how they respond.

A question

How do you think I should respond to this question that was emailed to us? It simply said: “Are there any authentic online nursing schools?”

Please forgive my intolerance but who in their right mind thinks you can study nursing online? Anyone who thinks this should please never, EVER consider a career in Nursing.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Stellios Foundation - are they on the run?

The fake "Stellios Foundation" that I mentioned here, who appear to be running a credit card scam, know we're onto them.

A few days ago their web domain was registered as follows:
Create Date: 2012-04-23 12:29:14
Update Date: 2012-04-26 11:01:34
Expire Date: 2013-04-23 12:29:14

Registrant Contact Information
Abolaji Akindejoye
3840 W Hillsboro Ste3919
Deerfield Beach, Florida 33442
phone: +1.9543248016
Since publishing that last Thursday they seem to have reacted. Their registration now reads:
Create Date: 2012-04-23 12:29:14
Update Date: 2012-04-26 11:01:34
Expire Date: 2013-04-23 12:29:14

Registrant Contact Information
Derek Stellios
Stellios Foundation
135 Bridge Street
Newton, Massachusetts 02458
phone: +1.9543248016 fax: +1.8665218407
Maybe they didn't like using the name of a Nigerian? Curious though that the phone number remains with a "954" area code. That's a Florida code, not Massachusetts.

Coincidentally, as I typed this, another email came in from them, identical to the first but from "Derek Stellios". At least they're persistent!

Persistently criminal.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

The diploma mill conspiracy

Looking back I find that I’ve written about fake universities and “diploma mills” in Mmegi, The Voice and on our blog 62 times over the last five years. Some might think I’m obsessed.

Actually it’s not an obsession but it IS a mission. I feel a missionary zeal driving me to expose these fake universities mainly because I know how much hard work goes into obtaining a real degree. I know many people who worked extremely hard to get their qualifications and the people who buy fakes one from web sites are an insult to the hard-working holders of genuine qualifications.

You might think that people don’t actually buy these degrees, at least not here in Botswana. It’s just a problem affecting people overseas isn’t it? Not true. I know of a handful of people in Botswana who got jobs or promotions because of degrees they bought online. These people are frauds. They obtained a financial benefit, such as employment or a promotion as the result of a deliberate lie. That’s called fraud. Nobody smart enough to use a credit card online is so stupid that they don’t realize they’re buying a fake. Just like some of us buy pirated DVDs from the cheap stores, we know when we’ve bought something bogus. The pirated DVD will be in a crummy box with a much photocopied paper insert showing the film’s title. The quality of the DVD will be bad and often have occasional messages saying it’s not for commercial distribution. Nobody can mistake them for the real thing.

It’s exactly the same with fake degrees. Anyone who has one knows it’s a fake.

The curious thing is that almost all of the fake web-based universities I’ve seen are all remarkably similar to each other. The colors vary, the typefaces differ and detailed layout might change but they all have that certain something, that indefinable quality that suggests they’re related. However it’s the wording that gives them away. Here’s an example.

Northern Port University” gives a "case study" of someone they claim is called "Jackie Dason". Jackie says:
"Getting my higher education degree from Northern Port was one of the best decisions of my life. Northern Port not only helped me hone my skills, but also guided me through ways to change my career without any hassles. Studying at Northern Port was an amazing experience, and now I believe quality education can be attained at a low cost."
Curiously, “Panworld University” also has a “case study” coincidentally also from "Jackie Dason" which says:
"Getting my higher education degree from Panworld was one of the best decisions of my life. Panworld not only helped me hone my skills, but also guided me through ways to change my career without any hassles. Studying at Panworld was an amazing experience, and now I believe quality education can be attained at a low cost."
That’s enough of a clue, surely? Another good clue is that anyone who “registers” with one of the bogus establishments will almost immediately start receiving emails from others. There really is enough evidence to think this is a major conspiracy.

I’m not usually a follower of conspiracy theories, mainly because the sort of person who believes in them also often turns out to be the sort of person who writes emails entirely in capital letters or writes letters in green ink. The same people who believe Barack Obama isn’t really American, that the moon-landings were faked and that we’re all descended from space alien gods.

However this time there’s evidence.

It seems that an organization in Karachi, Pakistan is behind them all. Almost all of the names I’ve mentioned in the past are part of a single operation called Organization for Global Learning Education, started by a crook called Salem Kureshi. The fake establishments in Kureshi’s bogus empire include Belford, Northern Port, Panworld, Headway, Corllins, Ashwood, Rochville, MUST, OLWA and McFord so-called “universities”.

It’s not just universities that Kureshi appears to have created, it’s also an impressive range of fake accreditation bodies that the fake universities claim have accredited them. it’s an extremely well thought out enterprise that clearly convinces the gullible and fraudulent.

What’s more the whole criminal enterprise is clearly working extremely well. According to (and this I admittedly outdated):
“Kureshi and his group of co-conspirators from Pakistan earn approximately $55 million per year from Americans and another $15 million per year from Europeans, Australians, and residents of all other countries combined.”
Various people and organizations have tried to stop this scam using legal action but they just face the inevitable problem. Even if someone in the USA does get an ruling ordering Kureshi and his criminal cronies to stop their scams who is going to enforce it? He lives and operates in Pakistan and, as Mmegi readers will know, the USA and Pakistan are hardly best buddies at the moment. The Americans are hardly going to helicopter in and “do a Bin Laden” on Kureshi, are they? The Pakistani authorities clearly can’t be bothered to intervene themselves.

The only weapon that can be used against him and the others like him that run bogus educational establishments is public education. The more people who know how to spot a fake university the better. They can spread the word and prevent people from throwing money away on these fraudulent qualifications.

Of course the other weapon is the exposure of the people who’ve gained some advantage from buying a fake degree. Must I really give their names to the Police? Should I? What do you think?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

Hi. I bought an electrical item at a furniture shop and it never worked. I took it back to them and they said they had repaired it but it never worked. Now I took it back after the guarantee had elapsed and they said they can’t help me. Please help me, is there anything I can do because I paid for something which never worked.

This might be difficult to get fixed. The problem is that you really must alert a store or a supplier to problems with something you’ve bought while it’s still covered by the warranty. Complaining after it’s expired is probably not going to work. However it’s possible the store will be reasonable if they have records that show that they failed to fix the problem initially. Did you tell them when they claimed to have fixed it that it was still giving you problems?

The other issue is that if something never works, from the day you bought it I think you had a right to a replacement. If things stop working after a while you can reasonably expect a repair but if it fails on Day 1 something is clearly very wrong and you deserve a replacement or a refund.

I suggest you explain to the store what you think happened and see if they’ll be reasonable. Also you can send us more details and we’ll get in touch with the store and see what they have to say.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

In September last year I took my broken MAG wheel for repair at a tyre company and after two weeks was told the MAG wheel was fine and it looked SUPER FINE and to my disappointment I travelled less 100km with it and I had a tyre burst.

I reported the matter to the manager of the work shop and he advised me to return the wheel for repair which I did. My MAG stayed almost 3 months at their workshop and later on I was told that they can’t find the piece of metal to fix it. I then demanded a refund which we agreed was the best solution. As of now from September I haven't received my MAG WHEEL and my refund and the most irritating part is a month before he was taking my calls and we agreed I come to the workshop to get my refund only to find him absent from the work shop and he told the workshop manager to give P100 as a refund whereas I have paid P350. I demanded a meeting with him but all attempts of meeting him got fruitless as he keeps ignoring my calls as of now.

I therefore appeal to your respective association to help me get my MAG wheel and my refund as they have drastically failed helping me.

I’m sorry to hear of your trouble. I suggest that you write this company a formal letter saying that they have breached their legal obligations by failing either to repair your tyre, to return it or to pay you the refund they promised. You should perhaps also mention in your letter that Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations 2001 requires an organization to deliver services “with reasonable care and skill”. Clearly they have not.

Give them 7 days to fix this or you’ll take them to the Small Claims Court.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Stellios Foundation - a scam

An email arrives from "Alexander Stellios" from the "Stellios Foundation" hinting at interesting things:

We are Stellios Foundation, engaging in human development and training and developing prospective leaders in the aspect of human development.

We send our specialized trainers to different corners of the world to train upcoming human developers.

We kindly refer you to our website for details:

We would be glad to co-operate with you in the aspect of travel arrangement for our team to different parts of the world.

Please get back to us on your booking procedures and terms.

Best Regards,

Alexander Stellios"
The clues are there that this is a scam in the making. The poor English in the email is repeated on their web site. They can't even spell their own name in their HTML header:

It carries on in the text on their web site:

Their web site is also a bit too "young" to be credible.
Domain ID:D165362709-LROR
Created On:23-Apr-2012 12:29:14 UTC
Last Updated On:26-Apr-2012 11:01:34 UTC
Registrant Name:Abolaji Akindejoye
It's curious that their web site makes a different claim:

This isn't the only "foundation" that "Abolaji Akindejoye" has registered. Someone with that name also registered "" from Lagos, Nigeria on 3rd February this year and it's already been suspended. I wonder why?

There is, of course, no record of this "foundation" or the "Dr Richards Foundation" ever doing anything, presumably because it's a scam.

Clearly they're trying to exploit the name of "Stelios" (the correct spelling), the founder of the Easy Group, most known for EasyJet, the British budget airline. Their founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, (understandably known to everyone simply as Stelios). His genuine philanthropic foundation can be seen at

If you receive this email or anything like it I suggest you just delete it.