Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Consumer Alert - PFI Digital and Vortex Profits

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

17th July 2018

Consumer Alert: PFI Digital and Vortex Profits


Consumer Watchdog would like to alert consumers about a scam that targets the victims of a previous  scam, Vortex Profits.

Background

Vortex Profits claimed to be “a remarkable investment platform … with an outstanding track record of 2 years for delivering best of class investment solutions and endless income-generating opportunity”. They suggested that investors could earn returns of between 2.5% and 4% every day by investing through Vortex Profits in Bitcoin, gold or oil.

Many people in Botswana paid significant amounts to join this obvious Ponzi scheme. They all lost.

PFI Digital

Recently, advertisements have been posted on social media suggesting that a company calling itself "PFI Digital" can assist victims of Vortex Profits to reclaim their lost money. These advertisements invite victims to complete a complaint form and submit it to the company. They suggest that there will be "a criminal investigation" and that the directors of Vortex Profits will "be brought to justice".


In order for this to take place, the advertisement states that victims must send $25 to the organisers by Western Union or Moneygram.

This is a scam. Despite suggesting that this is a company registered in the UK "PFI Digital (UK)" no such company of that name is currently registered in the United Kingdom.

Furthermore, they can offer no more than a Gmail address and a cellphone number. The address they give, "56 Whetstone Lane, Birkenhead" in the UK is actually the address of a YMCA building.

Image c/o Google Maps
All of these facts confirm that this is a particularly shameless scam that is trying to exploit the victims of the previous Vortex Profits scam. Consumers are urged not to send any money to these scammers.

Monday, 16 July 2018

A phishing attack

In comes an email to the Consumer Watchdog email address, warning about a crisis, demanding that we must sign in to our online email account by clicking on a link to "unlock your account".


However, things are not as they seem. Hover the mouse over the link and you see where the link actually goes.

No, I didn't click on the link because that would just have confirmed that the email address was both valid and in use, inviting more of these attempts. Instead I made up a fake email address and used that instead. This is what came up next (after my computer warned me of the danger).


This is what it's all about, getting the password for this email address. The crooks can them sign in to the real account and who knows what will happen next? You can bet it'll be something bad.

The lesson? It's simple. Don't EVER click on links in emails unless you are CERTAIN you know where the link will take you.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Consumer Alert - WC Connect

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

15th July 2018

Consumer Alert: WC Connect


Consumer Watchdog would like to alert consumers about WC Connect, a pyramid scheme currently trying to recruit victims in Botswana.

The WC Connect web site describes the business as "an empowerment based membership program" and says that their:
"vision is to empower our members and through them we empower people around them by just introducing them to WC CONNECT".
However, there appears to be no product at the heart of their business model and recruitment is the only activity required. Their web site (which is registered to an address in Gboko in northern Nigeria) describes very clearly how this supposed business operates.

They claim that there's "NO BUYING" and "NO SELLING" and that it is:
"easy for its members to own houses, cars, laptops, mobile phones and many more without paying a coin. Its all free from WC CONNECT.You stand a chance to own a Brand new bungalow worth 140,000USD, at level 6 etc"
Messages posted in various WhatsApp groups were even clearer. They describe their business model like this.



The way they suggest recruits make money is very simple.




The obvious question was:


And the reaction was predictable:


There's no product, no buying and selling, no activity other than just recruiting other people into the scheme. It's a pyramid scheme.

You have been warned.

Friday, 13 July 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should I join Bitcoin?

Hello Sir I am interested in joining Bitcoin but I need someone who can explain so I understand better. There is this other gal who tried to explain but I really don’t understand her. May you kindly be of help, especially mining the bitcoins.

Bitcoin is a currency, like the Pula, the Rand, the US Dollar and Euro but unlike these conventional currencies, Bitcoin is a “cryptocurrency”. Cryptocurrencies aren’t currencies that you can carry in your pocket, purse or wallet. There are no coins or notes, they exist in cyberspace.

That’s one reason why Bitcoin should never be seen as an investment. Currencies aren’t investments, they’re things we use to trade with, to buy and sell things and the people who trade between currencies are speculators, not investors. They’re more like gamblers.

Data source: Coindesk
Another reason why Bitcoin shouldn’t be seen as an investment is that like all cryptocurrencies, they’re enormously volatile and unpredictable. Their values can go up and down remarkably quickly, much more than real investments and conventional currencies. Bitcoin advocates will often tell you that Bitcoin’s value increased enormously in 2017 and that’s true but what they often fail to explain is that its value then dropped by two thirds. Anyone who “invested” in December last year would have since lost two thirds of their money today.

Consumers should also know that unlike conventional currencies, there are no protections, no safeguards, no regulators overseeing Bitcoin. There’s nobody to turn to if something goes wrong. Nobody at all.

You asked about Bitcoin mining and that’s a complicated issue. Every time someone buys, sells or transfers using Bitcoin, that transaction has to be verified by computers around the world that hold the “blockchain”, the "distributed ledger" of all transactions. That’s basically what Bitcoin mining is and the people running those computers can earn Bitcoins themselves as a result. However, the computing power needed to do this is enormous and huge “server farms” are required to do it. It’s something way beyond you or me.

Perhaps the greatest danger is that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are surrounded by a huge range of scams, pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes.


Ask anyone who encourages you to join a scheme, how does it benefit them? You’ll soon see that it’s all about recruitment and nothing to do with Bitcoin.

Should I inform them?

I want to ask what happens when all along I have been paying an instalment at furnisher shop, and all of a sudden my contract is terminated and I struggle to pay. It was an instalment of about 14k, and during the period I was working I really pushed to reach half of the sum. Am now owing 7k, and unfortunately our contracts ended.

Should I go to the furnisher shop with letters showing them am still unemployed so that they stop putting more interest in my debt? Am willing to settle the remaining balance, but am still called by finance people reminding me to come pay though am not working. What should I do?

Unfortunately I don’t think I can give you any good news. Very often hire purchase agreements include an insurance policy that covers you for unexpected retrenchment but that’s not what happened to you. From what you say, it seems like you came to the end of your contract and I guess that was something you knew was going to happen? Even if you didn’t know in advance, you presumably knew that your contract could have been terminated like this? Personally, I think that the store should have checked this before they accepted your business. They should have asked you to prove your employment was permanent and not fixed-term or liable to be terminated like this. Before you enter into any financial arrangement you need to be 100% certain that you’ll be able to pay for it all. You need to know that you’ll have income to support the payments you’ll need to make.

What you absolutely must do is exactly what you suggested. Go to the store and explain to them that you are now unemployed and that you’re going to have some difficulties making the remaining instalments. See if you can agree a repayment plan that you can stick to. With luck they’ll be helpful.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Nexus Global for real?

I was invited to a presentation by them and they say we can P13,000 in a week. Is this true?

I think you know the answer to this question already, don’t you? I suspect that many readers of The Voice can predict my answer already.

Yes, this is certainly a scam. Several people have asked me about Nexus Global and it didn’t take much investigation to discover the truth. They say in their advertisements on Facebook that if you attend their presentations you can “learn how to turn P800 into P13000”. They also suggest that their scheme is based on “Bitcoin mining" but there’s no evidence that this is remotely true. In fact, when I asked the people actively recruiting people into the scheme how money was made they offered a very different explanation. One stated that the money can easily be made "but you need to recruit people" in order to do so. Another confirmed that the best way to make money was simply to recruit other people.

Nexus Global is nothing more than a pyramid scheme as these comments demonstrate but there are other clues that should raise our suspicions. The web site for the company was only registered in February of 2018 and the founder of the scheme, one Christian Michel Scheibener, has a past connection to another very suspicious scheme called Omnia Tech. Yes, when it comes to shady pyramid schemes you CAN judge someone by their past.

I urge everyone to avoid Nexus Global because, as I’ve said many times before, all pyramid schemes eventually collapse and when they do, the only people left with any money are the crooks that started them. And that money came from the victims who gave it to them.

How can I persuade my friend?

I was recently contacted by a lady named Katarina based in Manila. She works with Alliance In Motion Global, a colleague of mine referred me to her as a possible “investor”. So from reading the messages she sent me I just felt it was a pyramid scheme. I’ve decided I’m not going to put my money on this scam obviously, but how do I tell my friend that he has “invested” in a pyramid scheme? Because he has already paid them and is awaiting the products to arrive in Gabz.

This is always a very hard question to answer. When we see a friend or relative investing their time, effort and money in a pyramid scheme or even one of their slightly less awful cousins, a multi-level marketing scheme, our first impulse is to warn them but that’s not always easy. These pyramid schemes are like religious cults, the victims invest so much emotional energy in them it’s very hard to persuade them that they’re being abused.

AIM Global is most certainly a pyramid scheme and they don’t seem shy about talking about it. They talk non-stop about the need to recruit multiple levels of people beneath you and then about how much money you can make when you start recruiting other people. However, the really dangerous aspect of AIM Global is the product range they offer. They claim that their “C247” product can help with 100 different serious medical conditions including asthma, beri-beri, cirrhosis, bone fracture, deafness, endometriosis, epilepsy, hypertension, hepatitis, “toxins in the body”, stroke, migraine and even cancer and “immunodeficiency”. Not only are they extremely dangerous claims to make, it’s also illegal in Botswana to make them.


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

In my experience all you can do to support your friend is not to give up. Maybe ask him this. What one thing would persuade you that AIM Global is a scam? Then let me know what he says and we’ll do our best to give him the information he needs to realise the truth. Meanwhile, perhaps you can help spread the word about this dangerous, illegal scam.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 2nd July 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. How can I help my friend?
“I was recently contacted by a lady named Katarina based in Manila. She works with Alliance In Motion Global, a colleague of mine referred me to her as a possible 'investor'. From reading the messages she sent me I just felt it was a pyramid scheme. I’ve decided I’m not going to put my money on this scam obviously, but how do I tell my friend that he has “invested” in a pyramid scheme? Because he has already paid them and is awaiting the products to arrive in Gabz.”
Alliance In Motion Global is a pyramid scheme. Their own promotional material makes that abundantly clear.


Exponential recruitment and promises of millions in income? That's a pyramid scheme. However, they're smart enough to suggest that the business is actually about a range of products, the most striking of which is their "C247" product that they claim can be used to treat 100 different medical conditions, including asthma, beri-beri, cirrhosis, bone fracture, deafness, endometriosis, epilepsy, hypertension, hepatitis, “toxins in the body”, stroke, migraine and even cancer and “immunodeficiency”.


Any product that could do just a fraction of this would have led to someone being awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and probably the prize for Peace as well.

But that's not all. Their distributors make some surprising claims.

Lies. Simple as that. Illegal lies. As simple as that as well.

The question was how can she help her friend who seems to have fallen victim to the scheme. My experience is simple. If you want to persuade someone of something, attack never works. Instead ask the friend this. "What single thing would persuade you that you are mistaken?" When they answer, you know where to begin.

2. Best before vs Expiry dates. What do they mean?

The Labelling Of Pre-packaged Foods Regulations say that:
“The expiry date shall be treated as the date after which food shall not be regarded as marketable or fit for human consumption”
and that the "best before date" is:
"the date which signifies the end of the period under any stated storage conditions during which the product will remain fully marketable and will retain any specific qualities for which tacit or express claims have been made"
It goes on to say that:
“No person shall import, distribute, sell or offer for sale, any food … whose expiry date has lapsed, whose expiry date, best before date, or sell by date has been obliterated or forged, whose label has been altered, obliterated or removed”
It doesn't mention Best Before dates in the same way. The facts are these. "Expiry" dates matter but "Best Before" dates are just advisory.

Meanwhile millions of years of evolution have left us with senses that should be trusted. Trust your sense of smell when it comes to food. Trust your experience. Be very careful with meat, dairy products and seafood. Be very careful how you store cooked food. Be very careful how you transport the food you've bought before it gets home. Remember that perhaps the commonest source of food poisoning isn't the producer of the food, the trucks that transported it or the store that sold it, it's you and me. Most often we poison ourselves. So be careful!

3. Pyramid schemes vs MLMs

What’s the difference between a pyramid scheme and a Multi-Level Marketing scheme?

It's all about products.

Section 9 of our new Consumer Protection Act defines a pyramid scheme as a scheme:
“where participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants”
The key word is "primarily". Even if the scheme claims to have products, and even if it does have products, if most of the promised income comes from recruitment then it's a pyramid scheme.

The Act goes on to say that:
“A person shall not directly or indirectly promote, or knowingly join, enter or participate, or cause any other person to promote, join, enter or participate in… (a) A pyramid scheme, (b) A multiplication scheme, (c) A chain letter scheme”
and that:
“A person who participates in an arrangement, agreement, practice or scheme under subsection 2 commits an offence and shall be liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding P100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both.”
Recently, recruiters for AIM Global, Nexus Global and Jamalife have all told me that it's about recruitment. They've said things like:
“We make money by recruiting other people to join Jamalife with P100 joining fee. We don’t buy and sell. We earn by recruiting.”
They're all pyramid schemes and it's them telling us this.

However, none of this means that Multi-Level Marketing schemes are much better. I have my suspicions about whether they are "primarily" about recruitment or the sale fo products but let's assume they're about products.

The news is almost as bad. Hardly anyone makes any money from joining them. Amway's income statements are sad. Herbalife's are the same.

4. Be careful what you post!

A statement from our friends at the Botswana Police Service.

“EXCHANGE OR DISTRIBUTION OF OBSCENE MATERIALS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

The Botswana Police Service (BPS) is concerned about the growing trend in which some individuals or groups publish, exchange, distribute pornographic or obscene materials on social media.

Of great concern is the exchange or distribution of realistic images of scenes of crime, fatal road accidents and other immoral activities.

The BPS has also identified some culprits that are involved in these activities. Amazingly, the suspects that were arrested claimed that they did not know that the exchange or distribution of obscene material through the internet constitutes an offence punishable by law.
The BPS would therefore like to warn the public that it is a serious offence under the Cybercrime and Computer Related Act.

The public is therefore urged to desist from such practices and to report anyone they suspect to be engaged in such immoral acts. Such irresponsible behaviour has more often caused unbearable trauma to the parents and relatives of the victims or the victims themselves.
We further urge, particularly those who are obsessed with publishing and distributing such images on social media that they should exercise humility, courtesy and respect for others regardless of their status in life.

We have also observed that such acts has the potential of tarnishing the good image of the country.”
Before anyone panics, this isn't a curtailment of freedom of expression, it's just a plea, that we fully support, for people to exercise a little restraint when posting things on Facebook and other social media. It's no different to expressing yourself in a bar, your workplace or the mall. Think for a moment before you shout something out load. Just think.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Radio show notes - week beginning 25th June 2018

Source: Wikipedia
1. Tender scams

We've heard from several people who received invitations to supply goods apparently from various parts of the Government of Botswana or from parastatals such as BPC, Botswana Railways and PPADB. The most recent one seemed to come from MMEWR.

The documents attached are very professional looking with the right sort of language, often naming real people in the organisations and with authentic-looking signatures.

The documents then give a link to a supplier of the necessary goods in South Africa. This has a respectable-looking web site and what appear to be genuine contact details. When the victim contacts this apparent supplier they are asked to send a deposit to secure the relevant goods. That's what this is all about. It's actually an advance fee scam. The supplier is fake, the address either unknown or for someone else, the web site often created just a few days beforehand and the only number that works is a cellphone number.

So we've heard from victims before they sent the "deposit" but we heard of one victim who had sent P200,000 and was now desperately trying to get his bank to reverse the transaction. I suspect he's too late.

There are clues if you look carefully. This isn't actually how government or parastatals procure things. They don't approach total strangers giving them business. The web sites are too new. The only working numbers are cellphone numbers. In at least one case the email domain that sent the documents wasn't correct.

If you receive one fo these emails the first thing you should do is contact the Ministry or parastatal's procurement department (using the landline number in the phonebook, not the one given in the documents emailed to you) and ask them if it's true. But it won't be.

2. Nexus Global – another pyramid scheme (again)

Ads are appearing on Facebook for Nexus Global suggesting that if you attend their presentations at hotel in Mogoditshane every week you'll "Learn how to turn P800 into P13,000 every Monday".

They suggest that this is something to do with "Botswana Bitcoin Mining" but when I contacted some of the people shown in the advertisement the story was a little different.

I asked whether it's "really possible to make P13,000 from just P800 every week? How does it work?"

"Thato" responded by saying "Yes it's possible but you need to recruit people".


"Nelson" told me that "There is too much money to be made in recruiting people! We have the Binary system whereby you recruit and start earning 10% commission to your wallet immediately.”


Section 9 of our new Consumer Protection Act, 2018 defines a pyramid scheme as a scheme "where participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants".

Nexus Global are a self-defined pyramid scheme.

3. Can this be true?

In comes a message:
"For the past two weeks I’ve been getting calls from a lady claiming to be in UK. She says I must deposit P3,500 pula and earn 200% through Forex. Is it a scam Richard Harriman? Their number isn't answered."
Section 9 of the the new Consumer Protection Act, 2018 says that:
"A person shall not directly or indirectly promote, or knowingly join, enter or participate, or cause any other person to promote, join, enter or participate in… a multiplication scheme."
A multiplication scheme is defined as:
“an arrangement, agreement, practice or scheme where a person offers, promises or guarantees to a participant an effective annual interest rate that is above the market rate”
The calls came from a company calling itself Finmarket and gave a phone number starting with +44 which suggests it's in the UK. However, the company is actually based in Cyprus where the numbers start with +357.

Finmarket's web site warns people that:
"Trading carries risk and could result in the loss of your entire capital. You should not risk more than you are prepared to lose."
Given the high pressure sales approach, the fact that forex trading is a VERY high risk pastime, I'd suggest you give Finmarket a miss.