Friday 7 November 2008

Lying to scammers

I know lying is bad but I’m sure everyone will forgive us because many of the victims of our misbehaviour have themselves been lying, cheating criminals.

Firstly there was a pyramid scheme.  

Many people will have seen these leaflets given out at traffic lights in Gaborone recently.  

One of the Consumer Watchdog team called the number on the note and she was invited to a presentation about “Success University”, a classic pyramid-selling scheme.  They encourage you to buy motivational materials but, and this is the critical clue that it's a pyramid scheme, it offers you the opportunity to sell Success University yourself.  Their web site even has a link that says "Learn and Earn".

At least MLM companies like Amway have products to sell.  Success University has no product other than some worthless mass-produced DVDs.  Consumers should just throw these leaflets away and not waste their time responding to them.

Ask yourself why a total stranger would offer you an opportunity to make a fortune rather than doing so himself unless the plan is based on exploitation?  Why would anyone try to recruit people at traffic lights?  Why would a legitimate business operate from a Hotmail address?

Then we had the email lottery scammers.  We’ve received a dozen emails in the last month saying either we’d won cash or a car in a lottery we never entered or we’d been awarded a grant by the United Nations or some such organisation.  Let’s just get this straight.  Nobody in the history of the world has ever won a lottery that they hadn’t entered.  No international organisation is going to give cash to a total stranger.  Never.

We called some of these scammers to get a taste of their methods.  Please don’t bother doing this yourself, don’t waste your money on an international phone call because we’ve done it for you already.  If you go to our web site you can hear recordings of some of our calls.

The scammers are good at their job.  When you phone them to learn more about your win they are full of enthusiasm and energy.  However this is all just a cover for two things they want from you.  Firstly they want your identity.  In order to get your hands on your fictitious winnings you have to send them your full name, address and copies of your ID documents.  Before long you’ll receive credit card bills and invoices from a range of exotic locations.  The second thing they want is much simpler.  They want your money.  In all these scams, once they’ve suckered you into believing the unbelievable and just before your imaginary LandCruiser or your non-existent fortune has reached you, there’ll be a snag.  Oh, they’ll say, there’s just the matter of the customs fee or the import duty or the legal fees. One of the crooks we called told us that to receive our lottery win we must open an offshore bank account.  OK, that’s plausible, but why would we have to pay a fee of between €1,000 and €2,000 to the scammer to open the account?

That’s all they’re after: your ID and that last-minute fee.  Give them these two things and you can rest assured you’ll never hear from them again.

Then there are the ones I think are the worst of all the scammers, the ones that do things worse than steal your money and your identity.  The ones that can kill you.

We called a number of the so-called “traditional doctors” that advertise in the newspapers.  The ones that offer cures for everything from asthma to love problems, the ones that also offer solutions to problems with your immune system.  The things they offered were startling.  Did you know that they can offer herbs to put in your bath that will guarantee you the lover of your choice?  I assume they exclude Hollywood stars and The President.

Did you know that they can solve fertility problems before even establishing that it is the woman who is infertile and not her husband?  Did you also know that they can improve your CD4 count?  They can do away with the ravages of imminent AIDS.  

Finally did you know that they can offer to have your enemies fall victim to a sudden death?  We called one who said that it was “no problem” to have someone die suddenly.

Of course he’s talking supernatural mumbo-jumbo.  He has no more ability to control someone’s fate than I do.  It’s a bit like hiring a contract killer who doesn’t actually own a gun.  But the critical thing is that he was offering to do so, regardless of his ability to achieve it.  What matters is the intent and the conspiracy to kill.  Section 221 of the Penal Code says that “Any person who conspires with any other person to kill any person… is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years”.  The conspiracy is enough.

Let’s put this to the test.  This “doctor” can presumably use his supernatural abilities to identify me.  He presumably knows I have a recording of him saying he can have someone killed.  He presumably knows that next week I plan to name him in Mmegi and give his details to the Police.  He only has 7 days left to have ME killed.

This week’s stars!
  • Suresh and his family at Knack at Kgale Hill Shopping Centre for his personal and extremely friendly service.
  • Mark at Barloworld Motors for coming up with a solution to a consumer’s problem.
  • Letiro from The A Team builders for being charming.

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