Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

This week we had a series of emails about scams. There really is an epidemic of email scams hitting us at the moment. Some are more obvious than others, some might not even be scams but they are suspicious enough that you shouldn’t have anything to do with them.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I was offered a scholarship by a school called FUNDESEM Business School. The scholarship is called International Business Program and their website is

The scholarship request said that I had to write a motivation letter as to why I felt I deserved this scholarship, so I wrote in and I emailed it to the given email address. Soon after, they told me that I’d been shortlisted. They told me that I needed to send $100 for my admission interview which would be conducted via video conferencing. They said that the money is so they can see if my profile is appropriate. Do you think this is a legitimate reason and should I pay the money or could it be a scheme to rob me off $100 and leave me wondering?

I do await your advice as the contact person keeps reminding me that the deadline for submission of monies and other stuff is coming up real soon.

This is a very interesting one. The first impression you get of FUNDESEM when you visit their web site is that they look OK but I would NOT trust an educational establishment that demands money to interview you. You should be really suspicious of any organisation requires money from you BEFORE doing what they offer. $100 is also a lot of money for conducting a quick interview. Did they explain how this video conference was going to take place? Are you required to have a webcam to do this? Why do they want to see you anyway?

You also have to ask why, if they are based in Spain, they want payment in US dollars and not Euros?

It’s all too suspicious. We’ll dig around some more and let you know what we find. Meanwhile don’t give them your money!

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I got an email saying I “have won a prize money of Three Hundred, Twenty Thousand Pounds(£320,000,00.) for the month of May 2009, Prize promotion which is organized by YAHOO AWARDS & WINDOWS LIVE.YAHOO/GMAIL”.

Can this be true?

No, it can’t. This is a complete scam, no doubt about it. There are several clues when you read the email. Firstly there is no way that Yahoo, Microsoft and Gmail would collaborate on this sort of thing. Secondly big companies do not give away money like this to total strangers like you and me. Next, look at the quality of the English. It’s appalling. Don’t you think that companies like that employ some people who can write a proper sentence in English?

Finally, and this is the most obvious clue. It’s stupid!!! We’ll put the full email from these scammers on our web site so you can see the full stupidity of it.

Total strangers do not contact you offering you money. Never. Not ever. The only sensible thing to do with these emails is to delete them.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #3

I received an email from the Botswana Trade Commission offering me a “B2B Export Import Worldwide Selling Solution”. It said that they offered:

“a one-stop free trade service for buyers and sellers around the world. an online business platform providing a process covering every phase of the international supply chain with the objective of promoting export-import trade in particular. List all your products, place sale offers and sale leads, connect your product and services to the whole world...... all for free.”

I run a small business and I need to advertise. Do you think I should respond to this email?

No, certainly not. The main reason is that there is no such organisation as the “Botswana Trade Commission”. That’s a good clue, don’t you think?

You could also argue that the verbal rubbish they talk is a clue but then I have to confess a lot of real businesses and all management consultants talk this sort of nonsense as well so we should overlook that.

The other clues are that the web site links they give don’t work. Then there’s the final clue. Their email offers you the opportunity to:

“Open your Botswanan Products”.

Need I say more? Would anyone in Botswana have made that mistake?

Final lessons

Let’s face it. Life doesn’t work this way. Total strangers just don’t make contact with us, totally out of the blue, offering us jobs, education, money or opportunities for business. It simply doesn’t happen.

I can’t say for sure that the first issue is fraud but it’s very suspicious. Both the others are clearly attempts to get you to part with your cash in return for nothing. The danger is that in these uncertain financial times these scams are going to look more and more attractive to people who are feeling desperate. More and more crooks are going to emerge because they too are going to need money, our money. They’re not going to want to work for it, they’ll want to steal it from us.

That’s why we all need to become increasingly suspicious about the claims people make, particularly when we don’t know who they are.

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