Friday, 23 April 2010

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice

We got an email last week from a reader who had registered with an online au pair agency. Shortly afterwards she received an email from someone claiming to be a journalist in the USA who needed an au pair to take care of her daughter. They email went like this (I haven’t changed or corrected a single character):
“I am Mercy Scolt living in United State of America (7652 CartillA Ave, Califonia). I am looking for an aupair to take care of my only Daughter Jenny. Jenny is 4 years old, intelligent and Smart. I will like to know if you are available to work as aupair/nanny with my family. I am a Jounalist and i travel alot due to my preffession and that is why i always hire aupair to take care of my child while i am not around. Your duty is just to take care of Jenny and make her happy always, you will take her to school every morning and also pick her from school after school hour. I need someone that can start working immediately, so i will like to know if you are available to start working immediately. Hence, get back to me with your bio data including pictures and other relevant details about yourself if you are interested in the job and i will also send you more details about my family and the job as soon as i hear from you. Here is my email:”
Suspicious yet? Look at the clues. She claims to be a journalist but can’t spell certain key words (“United State of America”, “Jounalist”, “preffession” and “Califonia”)?

If you do a little more research you can quite quickly establish that the address she gives in “Califonia” doesn’t exist. She also gave a phone number that doesn’t exist, her only means of communication seems to be her email address. Ask a Voice journalist if they can survive without working phones and they’ll just laugh at you.

Shortly afterwards she got another email, claiming to be from the agency she used to hire au pairs. Curiously for someone supposedly in the USA the agency had an email address in Turkey. Yet another clue.

Their email said:
“We have been informed by your host family regarding you travel arrangment and we are to get your papers ready soon as your host family informed us that you have to start working with her family soon. Hence, we require your maximum Co-operation to enable us complete your travel arrangement soon.”
They then requested a variety of personal details, copies of passports and school leaving certificates. And one final thing:
“Travel documents processing fee of $929”
Now I know you’re suspicious.

This is simply NOT how au pairs are recruited, it never has been, it never will be. Other than possible, very minor application fees, recruitment companies don’t charge the person they are recruiting, they charge the person or company who DOES the recruiting. If I’m trying to find an employee it’s ME that pays the recruitment company, not the applicants. That’s just how it works.

This is yet another “advance fee” scam. That $929 is what they’re looking for. Once you pay them that amount, and I BET they’ll need you to use Western Union to make the payment, that’s the common link with almost all scams we’ve ever encountered, you’ll probably never hear from them again. Unfortunately there have been cases where victims who have been scammed are then scammed yet again by the very same scammers. They realise that they have already found someone naïve and they continue to scam them for more and more money. Presumably the repeat victims are either startlingly gullible or they are desperately clinging to some hope that they’ll get their money back somehow.

One final clue. If you do a Google search for “Mercy Scolt” you get only 3 results (strange if she’s a journalist), two of which identify that name as being involved in 419 scams.

That’s our key recommendation whenever you receive an unsolicited email like this. Do some Google searching and see of the internet can help you. And of course you can always come to Consumer Watchdog as well!

Micro IT update

In December last year we reported on a consumer who bought a laptop from Micro IT. Very shortly after buying it he noticed a crack in the screen. Micro IT refused to repair it, claiming that the consumer himself must have broken it. When he insisted he hadn’t done this Micro IT said they would send it away for analysis. Later they told him that the report clearly proved that he had indeed caused the damage. Very strangely, Micro IT have refused to give the consumer a copy of this “evidence”. Do they have something to hide?

We suggested that the consumer write to Micro IT explaining that Section 15 (1) (b) of the Consumer Protection Regulations forbids a company from quoting "scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated". They MUST show him the report, assuming of course that it exists.

The latest update is that Micro IT don’t give a damn. They also say they don’t like the fact that he reported them to us and their awful service was covered in The Voice. That’s curious because they have a history of media coverage, most notably when they were prosecuted in February last year for software piracy. Surely they’re used to being in the papers by now?

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