Tuesday 28 February 2012

Consumer Alert: "Three Link Connection"

This "investment scheme", apparently offering 100% profits within 4 weeks is a scam. Previously called “Young Stars Investments” the organizers were investigated and shut down in South Africa but have reincarnated themselves. You have been warned.

Saturday 25 February 2012


Do you think you’re stressed? Apparently we all do these days and it’s worse here in Botswana than almost anywhere else.

According to a recently released report by Grant Thornton, an accounting and consultancy firm that has offices all over the world, and as reported in this esteemed paper, Botswana ranked “seventh out of 38 countries with high stress in the workplace”. What’s more “Botswana is the top African country, following countries such as main land China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Peru and Mexico.”

I beg to differ.

Firstly I need to be pedantic and picky. The survey did NOT actually measure levels of stress. It measured the self-reported, perceived increases or decreases in the levels of stress reported by the people that Grant Thornton chose. They didn’t ask people how stressed they were, they just asked them whether they were more or less stressed than last year. I don’t know how they chose these highly stressed people, it certainly wasn’t anyone I know.

First things first. How many people do you know who’ll confess that they’re less stressed now than last year? I bet it’s none. Here’s a profound psychological observation for you to consider. We forget distress. How else do you think women have second children? How do you think people marry for the second time? How else do you think that people start second companies after their first failed? It’s because we forget how bad things felt in the past. We remember intellectually but we forget the pain. In the same way we forget all the irritations and stresses from last year and only remember what bothered us yesterday and today.

I genuinely don’t think we are much more stressed than we were last year, we’ve just forgotten how difficult last year was. I have a habit of asking anyone I meet in business how their business is going. Everyone agrees that the last couple of years was difficult but that this year is looking up a bit. Maybe the prospect of better business is getting them down?

What about another profound psychological insight? Stress is a good thing, not a bad thing. Stress, despite what some people will tell you, is what keeps you alive, what keeps you excited, what keeps you ambitious. Do you want proof of this? Think back just a few weeks to the Zebra’s performance at Afcon. We all sat on the edge of our seats as we watched the matches. Deep down we knew we stood little chance of going very far but we hoped against all the odds that we’d do well. Watching the matches and seeing our team’s performance we were incredibly stressed. As we began to understand that we were going to be beaten we were even more stressed. When we finally lost we were probably despondent. But ask yourself this. Does anyone think we should never compete again? Should we give up football? Of course not. The stress we went through was a learning experience. In fact it was good for us, it made us more ambitious, it made us want to try harder. It strengthened us.

Maybe our economy is a bit like the football. We’ll always be stressed and that’s just the nature of competition. Maybe it’s something that will enable our economy to grow?

However, despite my skepticism about this perceived increase in levels of stress there might be some truth to it. Not much, but a little.

The experts from Grant Thornton suggest that the increased stress “could be led by a reduction in government spending, thereby causing a fear of lower economic activity”.

I don’t think that’s the problem, if the problem exists at all. Yes, I know our economy is partly dependent upon government spending but are we all so reliant up on it that we are stressed when Government tightens it’s belt?

In fact I suspect it’s because suppliers in Botswana are more and more aware that their customers are becoming increasingly assertive. Readers of Mmegi are more likely this year than last year to complain, to stick up for their rights and to demand decent and respectful service. There’s more and more competition and consumers are more willing to switch to a company’s competitors than just put up with crappy service. For too long many suppliers here have been able to get away with treating us badly. That has now changed. At Consumer Watchdog we’re getting more and more messages from consumers telling us how they sorted out their own problems by being assertive, by sticking up for their rights and showing some backbone. Consumers are becoming more demanding and I think you can see from these results that companies, stores and supplier in general are feeling the stress as a result.

And my feelings towards these suppliers, these companies who are feeling the strain and are suffering as a result?

Grow up, you wimps. Welcome to the real world. For too long you’ve been able to get away with your misdemeanors because we consumers didn’t have the backbone to stand up to you. No more. Your stress levels are only going to get higher and higher from now on. If you can’t cope then close your business right now and lock yourself in your bedroom with your teddy bear. Ask your Mummy for a nice comforting hug.

If competition is too much for you then you shouldn’t be in business. If, as they say, you can’t stand the heat then stay out of the kitchen. With the few miserable exceptions of a couple of parastatal utility companies there’s nobody left in Botswana who doesn’t have someone desperate to take their business away from them. Bring it on, along with the stress levels.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

On the 14th February I bought a pair of trousers for my husband at a store at Rail Park Mall in Gaborone. Unfortunately when I got home he found out that they were a bit small for him, so the following morning I took them back. I told the security man at their entrance that I wanted to exchange the trousers for a bigger size and he gave me an exchange sticker. I took another pair from the store for an exchange only to be told by the shop attendant that they do not exchange goods which are on sale. I told her that I did not know and was never told about it, and she told me that she cannot help me.

I asked for her Supervisor and I told her my story and she told me the same thing the teller has told me. I asked her that whose fault was it since I was never told about this before and even on their receipt of purchase there was nothing about this issue. She told me that they cannot write everything on the receipt as they will need to do it in a book form. She also said such things were usually said out verbally but I was never told otherwise I would not have taken the trousers in the first place as I was suspicious that it may be small.

I appeal for your assistance in this matter as I believe it was their fault and not mine and also their conditions give them too much power over us the consumers!

I think this store needs some education on the law and, perhaps more importantly, good customer service.

Let’s begin with the Consumer Protection Regulations. Section 17 (1) (d) forbids “deceptive methods”, specifically “causing a probability of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the legal rights, obligations, or remedies of a party to a transaction”. By coming up with this business about the goods being on sale they are trying to confuse you. If it’s true that they were on sale, and that the store wasn’t prepared to exchange such items then they should have made that perfectly clear to you in advance, before they took your money. What’s more, Section 17 (1) (f) forbids a store from requiring you to waive your rights “unless the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it”.

I think it’s simple. If the store wanted you to waive your rights to return unsatisfactory goods then they should have asked you to sign something to that effect. They didn’t so your rights remain exactly as they should be. So long as you haven’t damaged the trousers then you have a right to a replacement of the correct size. If they can’t find the right size then it’s time for your money to be refunded. Simple as that.

As for their customer service, do they really want people to learn that this is how they treat their customers?

I’ll get in touch with the store and see what they have to say for themselves.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I received an email from someone called Susan Shabangu saying she was a Minister in the SA government, telling me that her husband had died and asking me to help her get $30.5 million belonging to him out of South Africa. She says that I can keep 20% of the money for myself. Can I believe her? Is this real?

No, it’s certainly not real. It’s a scam.

Susan Shabangu is indeed the Minister of Mineral Resources in the South African Government. She is also a widow. However that’s where the truth ends. This email is nothing to do with her and it’s nothing more than an advance fee scam. You can assume that if you respond to the email there will sooner or later be a demand for you to pay the “advance fee” that the scammers are really seeking. It will probably be a lawyer’s fee or a charge to open a bank account. Of course it will all be nonsense but by that stage the victim will be so keen to get his hands on this fictitious money that he’ll pay it. That’s when the scammers will disappear, laughing their heads off and spending the money.

I suggest that you either delete the email or reply telling him what you think of him. Don’t feel any need to be polite!

Monday 20 February 2012

OLWA University - another fake university

Yet another cloned fake university, this time calling itself "OLWA University. It claims accreditation from the "Global Accreditation Council for Online Academia" which, you've guessed, isn't a recognized accreditation body.

They claim to have existed, entirely online, for 17 years:
"Me: hi
Sam Clark: How may I help you?
Me: can you tell me about OLWA university? i've not heard of it before
Sam Clark: What do you want to know?
Me: does it have a campus or is it just online?
Sam Clark: Online
Me: how long has it existed?
Sam Clark: 17 years
Me: it's always been online at olwauniversity.com?
Sam Clark: Yes
Me: so why was the domain only registered on 26 May 2010?
Chat session has been terminated by the site operator."
So they lie. The domain "olwauniversity.com" was only registered 2 years ago:
Registered through: Go Daddy
Created on: 26-May-10
Expires on: 26-May-12
Last Updated on: 19-May-11
Another fake to add to the list!

Friday 17 February 2012


I really, REALLY like it when people take the time to email me. Even if they’re critical of something I’ve written it’s welcome. Of course I know in these circumstances that I’m right and they’re not but they have a fundamental human right to be wrong.

Some feedback however is just stupid. Most of the silly feedback comes from our blog site on the web, presumably because these articles come up when someone in the world Googles a specific word or phrase.

For instance someone calling himself "Thomas R. Reich" (although someone claiming to be the "real Thomas R Reich" got in touch claiming to know nothing about this) commented on one of my posts about a fake online “university” called Belford University (which Thomas can't spell correctly), saying:
"Stop this slanderous attack on Billford, obviously you are a person of low esteem, who did not qualify for a Life Experience Degree, and are disgruntled!"
Actually my self-esteem was quite high and I consider myself perfectly gruntled. Particularly when people supporting fake universities can’t spell correctly.

That does seem to be a pattern. Just a few days ago I received a comment regarding another fake, non-accredited university calling itself “Northern Port University”. Their alumnus, who decided to remain anonymous, said:
“its real university , i pay 7000 euro and please avoid such silly comments about ir”
Someone else who lacked the courage to give a name, also calling him or herself "Anonymous" responded to my comments about Herbalife products, saying:
"Have you actually tried the product yourself? It bugs me when people have never tried something and they are quick to judge. If you have, and it didn't work for your then I can understand. I have heard and seen it work for alot of people."
My post in this case was about the criminal claims by a Herbalife distributor here in Botswana called Ignatious that he could "cure" heart conditions with Herbalife Products. I don't need to try a herbal "cure" for heart problems to know it's nonsense. Particularly when Herbalife themselves are careful to explain that they make no such claim.

Also, don’t you think it’s curious that "Anonymous" says "I have heard and seen it work for alot of people" when I didn't mention a particular product?

Someone called "behg" didn't like my comments on the "Fundación Donaciones Humanitarias" scam and the equally non-existent "Sir Edward Cooper" running it. This is a funding scam that offered, for instance, the South African government a $800 billion grant. Not a loan, a grant of more than the entire country’s wealth last year. It’s clearly nonsense.

He or she said:
"Unfortunately you are very wrong about this individual and group. Blessed is he who believes but cannot see. Its called vision, little man."
My first reaction was to reflect that a person who "believes but cannot see" maybe called "blessed" but is also called blind.

"Alexi" also commented on another post about the FDH, saying:
"What silly and childish little comments you have to add to such important accusations from your side. Clearly this is way above your pay grade/level of comprehension. If only you would look outside your world of blogs, you would be quite amazed at what goes on. It's a pity that people like you who are bored little men can sit and write about issues you have no understanding about. Your immature attitude is beyond me and don't deserve anymore attention from anyone regarding this matter. Maybe you should focus on where the "consumer" can buy fruit at a better price from."
In the past I’ve been critical of a variety of fake miracle cures. In response to my criticism of one of these, a small, circular block of glass called the BioDisc” and the “Questnet” scheme distributing it, yet another person called “Anonymous" said:
"Get your facts right on the bio disc and qnet company and stop jumping into hasty conclusions and deceiving the public. Ignorance is no excuse. The bio disc works whether you believe it or not. also Qnet does not demand ANY registration fee from customers unless a person wants to be an independent representative of the company."
The same day "AJUBY" also commented:
"Richard, you had better research very well about Questnet and its activities rather than jump into hasty conclusions on the bio disc. POINT OF CORRECTION, QNET DOES NOT OPERATE a pyramid scheme, and two, they dont demand any registration fee from customers before buying the product. You only pay registration fee when you want to be part of QNET as an independent representative of the company. PLEASE GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT AND STOP DECEIVING THE PULBIC. AJUBY."
So maybe that gives you a flavor of the feedback we get. Fortunately not one of these ridiculous comments came from within Botswana, which perhaps suggests that we’re not quite as insane, crooked or naïve as some other people surfing the web all day. Luckily almost all the feedback we get form home is constructive, critical (in the best way) or supportive.

You can see all of the comments I made and the responses on our blog site. You can also join in the fun by joining our Facebook group. Please keep sending in the comments!

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1
I received an email saying there were vacancies at the Harrington Hall Hotel in London. I have never worked in a hotel before. Is this a scam?

Yes, it most certainly IS a scam. The hotel mentioned is real and is perfectly respectable but the email has nothing to do with them. Hotels simply don’t recruit people this way. This is a fairly standard “advance fee” scam. If you respond to them I bet that they’d soon require you to send them money using Western Union. That’s what they’re really after. I suggest you just delete the email and don’t reply.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

We bought a bedroom suite on 30th December 2011 for P6,999 cash but we only collected in January because they were about to close for New Year. The salesperson advised that it would be quicker if we collected it ourselves. When we tried to collect it, the shop realized that most of the suites were damaged and they had to arrange another branch to give us the suite and they opted to give us the one which was already assembled in the store.

When they were packing the suite the store removed the drawers from the headboard, I believe to make it lighter to load. When we got home we realized that the drawers would not go in. The shop assistants came to attend to the problem and they realized that there were screws missing and they assured us that they will assist. We were later told that it was our fault that they were missing. The shop manager says there is nothing they can do because we lost the screws.

I think that the store should not have dismantled the suite because the drawers are difficult to put back. Isn’t it negligence on their side not to educate their staff?

Is it our responsibility to ensure we have all necessary parts of the suite before we left the shop?

I think this is quite simple. If staff from the store dismantled the goods and lost something then clearly it’s the store’s fault. Surely that’s quite simple for them to understand? What’s more it’s only a couple of screws, isn’t it? How difficult can this be to fix?

I suggest that you write the store manager a letter saying that they have failed to sell you goods that are of merchantable quality as required by Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations. Furthermore they’ve failed to deliver their services with reasonable care and skill as required by Section 15 (1) (a) of those Regulations. Finally they’ve delivered products and services in a deeply silly way as forbidden by me.

Give them 7 days to fix the problem entirely to your satisfaction or you’ll cancel the entire deal, return the goods and demand a full refund. If they give you any problems let them know that you’ll see them either in the Small Claims Court or the pages of The Voice. Which would they prefer?


Last week I reported on a complaint where a customer had paid for 2 chairs on 20th December but they still hadn’t been delivered, despite endless phone calls and broken promises from the store. Her demand for a refund was refused by the store despite her right to do exactly that. They just told her to wait even longer.

We spoke to the MD of the company concerned and he got personally involved. The consumer received a full refund and an apology.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Who can they be referring to?

Who can the Northern Ireland Institute of Business and Technology (British) be referring to with this notice?

They can't mean me, can they?

All I did was state that they're not British, they aren't registered as a company in the UK and they aren't really in Northern Ireland, other than at an accommodation address ("20 Adelaide St., Belfast BT2 8GD, Northern Ireland, UK" which you can see on the right).

I also said that they aren't accredited by a recognized accreditation body and their academic staff don't seem to exist.

That's when they SAID they were reporting me to Interpol and the FBI and suing me for US$ 6 million. But they didn't.

I wonder why?

Consumer alert - Global Resettlement Agency

There's no such agency as the "Global Resettlement Agency". It's a scam.

They claim to be "a body of collective international non-profit,relief and development organization", whatever that means. In fact its the usual scammer's dreadful English.

It's not hard to discover that it's a scam.

For instance this is who they say is "Barrister Leslie Coker" who will help you get a visa to enter the USA. Let's ignore the fact that Americans don't call their lawyers "Barristers". That's a term more often used in the UK and former British colonies such as, and this is just a random example, Nigeria?

In fact I think this is more likely to be Don Manzullo who is a Republican congressman from Illinois.

Then there are the usual clues. Free email addresses, fake physical addresses, dreadful English and a demand for payment up-front via, yes, you've guessed it, Western Union.

If you get a message from them, please feel free to ask them about their unnatural interest in farmyard animals.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Scam alert - Harrington Hall Hotel in London

In comes an email offering work in a hotel in London. See how many clues you can spot that this might be a scam. I should stress that the hotel is genuine.
"We are delighted to bring to your notice in refer to the current employment vacancies in our reputable Hotel. These vacancies were created as a result of the temporary onward relocation of our foreign expatriates staffs that will go for further training, while others were sent on compulsory retirement due to there official retirement period. As a result of this, the Hotel Management hereby wishes to replace these vacancies with suitably qualified employees in every of our outlets in (UNITED KINGDOM, USA, CANADA, AUSTRALIA, SWITZERLAND and GERMANY). Below are the vacancy and payment. Monthly salaries are paid in UK local currency (British Pounds Sterling's). PERIOD OF WORK - 8 HOURS A DAY and the

CONDITION OF SERVICE are as follows:

* You must be 18 years and above
* Must be able to communicate in English Language and any other International Language.
* Must be hardworking, work without supervision, honest, reliable and trustworthy.
* Must be law-abiding and adhere strictly to the rules and regulations guiding the operations of the Hotel.
*Those seeking for higher position such as Human Resource managers, Assistant Manager e.g. must have obtained qualifications and working experiences which could be relevant to the position being sort for.

If you wish to apply for any position kindly forward your application letter/CV to the recruitment desk with the following email address for urgent and prompt response to your application also for further details: Email (nh_harringtonhallhotel_london@london.com) for standard application and procedures. Kindly re-submit your application letter with your CV with directives stated if we have not acknowledged your application within 48 hours.

Thank you and awaiting your prompt response,
Ms. Regina SPENCER (Recruitment Officer)
5-25 Harrington Gardens,
South Kensington,
London SW7 4JW,

Friday 10 February 2012

I get another email

Following my earlier comments about the almost identical web sites of the scam "Northern Port" and "Panworld" universities, another email arrives regarding Northern Port.

Anonymous (yes, it's him or her again) says:
"its real university , i pay 7000 euro and please avoid such silly comments about ir"
So "Anonymous" wants me to think he or she went to a real university?

I get email. You can be the judge.

I get email from my good friend "Anonymous". I had suggested that two scam "universities", Northern Port and Panworld were probably the same organization because their web sites appeared almost identical.

Anonymous said:
"I visited both websites and it seems like you are wrong about both of them being similar they are quite different in terms of copy, and design."
You should be the judge of this. Take a look for yourself, either at the links above or spot the differences below.

Their home pages:

The headers:

The footers:

The crap in the middle:

And what about the "Case Study" they each give of a successful previous student?

Are these really two independent scams or just one?

Thursday 9 February 2012

Just desserts

Do people ever get the fate they deserve? I know I find it frustrating when I see someone, or perhaps a company, that I know to be either corrupt, contemptuous or just fundamentally devoid of talent making a success. I know I shouldn’t but I do. I have a primitive feeling that good people should do best and bad people should not. But life isn’t fair.

But there ARE examples of people getting what they deserve. For instance there’s a very well-known spicy chicken outlet at Game City, I’m sure you know the one. The one that doesn’t deep-fry everything. OK, it’s Nandos. They employed a waitress called Beverly who several people celebrated. She’s forever cheerful, energetic, happy to see customers and incredibly attentive. On the 1st December last year she was promoted and is now a manager there. She’s still exactly the same person, she’s walking around the branch, checking that people are being served and fixing things before they become problems but now she’s in charge and it’s her job to ensure that everyone else works as well as she does. Beverly got exactly what she deserved. She’s one of those people you know will go far.

Some years ago at the same shopping center there was a waitress called Candy who worked at Milky Lane. Candy was another of those people who seem to be so full of joy and happiness at work. No matter how stressful work was, she was the one always smiling and laughing with customers. She was the one who made going there even more fun than just a tub of ice-cream. Candy eventually left to study hotel management in the UK and I’m sure one day you’ll find her running a major hotel somewhere in the world and making herself lots of money. She too got what she deserved.

Several years ago we celebrated a young guy (see, they’re not all women, just most of them) called Otsile who worked at KFC. We even gave him a prize at a party we hosted to publicly acknowledge our service stars. As he walked off the stage having been celebrated by our former President he was accosted by a senior manager from a major bank. Next week, he was told, you work for us. His pay increased dramatically and his new job was to run around that bank cheering up customers, making sure they were being welcomed and dealt with properly. His hard work as a waiter got him the job of his dreams.

One of my colleagues told me about a similar case from Swaziland. She’d found a real star working in a local bank who also had that special glow about her. She was the one always smiling, welcoming customers and making them feel good about even the most boring of banking tasks. She was the one who said she wanted to learn more about service, who had a genuine drive to succeed. She was the one who was almost immediately promoted to be a branch administrator, just one step away from being a branch manager.

It’s not just in the private sector that driven and committed people can progress. I can think of two people in particular that I’ve known for many years, who have risen through the ranks of the public service and who are both now at very, very senior levels. These are the people who might just transform the public service into an organization that cares.

All of these people have made progress the old-fashioned way. They studied hard, worked hard and focused on impressing their colleagues, their bosses and, above all, their customers. They got their just desserts.

It’s not just the good guys that get what they deserve. Occasionally the bad guys get what they deserve as well. The crooks and naïve involved in running pyramid schemes like TVI Express will eventually see the error of their ways. All pyramid schemes eventually fail. The tragedy is that more often than not the founders, the crooks, have long gone with all the cash and it’s just the naïve left to pick up the pieces.

The problem with crooks is that they’re like cockroaches or ticks. No matter how many times you hit them they always seem to be able to crawl under a rock and appear somewhere else later. It delights me when I find out that a particular crook has gone out of business but I know he’ll be back again soon using a different name but still up to his old tricks.

A couple of years ago we did our best to expose a fake university calling itself the “University of SouthCentral Los Angeles”. Of course no such university actually exists, it was all a scam to sell fake qualifications. They’ve now disappeared but you can bet that whoever was behind it is now doing the same thing with another fake university web site, stealing money from the naïve and lazy.

We also covered a fake financial services company calling itself “First Morgan Capital” which did its best to steal people’s money. They also have gone offline but again I’m sure that the crooks are still out there plotting a new scam.

One day soon perhaps we’ll see this happening locally. Maybe the day isn’t far off when loan sharks, stores that sell on credit and the dodgy investment companies will genuinely be in fear of their livelihood as a result of real regulators who aren’t afraid to get their hands a bit dirty. We can hope. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see some crooks getting exactly what they deserve?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I reside in Serowe. I have a problem that I wish u could help me resolve. I bought a TV set on credit with a furniture store that I had to take back to them due to some social problems. Initially I paid the installments until I had financial problems and had to take it back to them since I couldn’t afford it. Later last year I realized they had taken my name to the credit bureau - ITC. I am shocked as da tv set is with them and have to pay for it yet not in my possession. I need your help.

I’m really sorry to hear about your problem. However I’m not sure there’s much we can do to help. The store was within its rights to do this.

Just because you returned the TV, that doesn’t mean your debt has gone away. When you returned the TV the store probably sold it to the highest bidder and the money the store got for what was then a second-hand, used TV, was put towards the amount you owed them.

However this isn’t going to pay off your debt. How much do you think they’ll get for a second-hand TV? Who can guarantee that they’ll even get a fair price for it? I know of a situation where repossessed items were sold to the staff of the store at a massive discount as a sort of bonus. Can you trust the store to get the best deal for you? Certainly not.

Unfortunately the store hasn’t actually done anything wrong. It’s not their fault that you had financial problems. Nevertheless I’ll get in touch with the store on your behalf but to be honest I wouldn’t be optimistic.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I would like you to help me in my situation in which I paid for chairs last year on the 20th December and they failed to deliver my chairs. The whole of December I was calling their office. On the 4th January I went to ask for a refund because they fail to deliver my chairs and up to today they are refusing to pay back my money. I went there once and call the manager twice after the 4th January. The response that I am getting from them is that I should wait until they call. The amount that I paid is P1000.

This seems very simple to me. The store has had almost two months to deliver your chairs. While I’m sure we all understand that Christmas and the New Year were busy times for everyone that’s over now. I suggest that you write them a letter and hand it to the store manager. In the letter say that your patience has run out. Tell them that you are cancelling your order with immediate effect and that, as required by Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations, they must return to you the down-payment you gave them.

I suspect that as soon as you give them the letter they’ll promise a delivery within hours but then I think it’s up to you to decide whether you still want the chairs. Let me know how it goes?

Update: I heard from the store yesterday that the customer has been given a full refund.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #3

I saw an advert for a vacant house so I met with the guy who claimed to be the caretaker of the house. He said I should pay for the house to secure it. I paid him the sum of P1,600, P800 as deposit and first month payment. The day I was supposed to move to the house I got to the place but he was not there and the people I found there told me that they didn’t know him. I called him on his mobile and when we were supposed to meet he kept postponing and making excuses.

I reported the case to the police in 2010 and even today they have not been able to assist me. What can I do?

I think you need to be a lot more assertive with the Police. He’s stolen your money and even though we all agree this isn’t as serious as murder and rape he’s nevertheless a thief and a scammer and he deserves to face the consequences. Go back to the police station and ask to see the Station Commander and explain the situation to him or her. Meanwhile we’ll see what we can do to trace him!

Monday 6 February 2012

Traditional murderers

I’m not a big believer in regulation. Generally speaking I believe that the vast majority of people and businesses do best for themselves, their families, neighbors and customers when they are left alone as much as possible. Of course there are exceptions. A few people are bad neighbors and refuse to obey the basic rules of conduct (don’t murder, rape, steal or drive like a combi driver). Similarly a few companies refuse to play the game according to the rules and they disrespect, abuse and show contempt for their customers. There are even governments, like those of Burma and North Korea, that refuse to play by the international rules of good conduct. All of these deserve to be criticized and perhaps even to have action taken against them.

One particular exception to my rule about leaving people alone is when public safety is at stake. Yes, of course the cops can stop you if you drive through a red light, if you exceed the speed limit or just drive like a combi driver. In fact I think they should do all these things much more often because lives are at risk.

But what about things you write, perhaps in a newspaper article like this or in an advertisement? Aren’t they protected by our nation’s traditions and laws regarding free speech? Yes, but only to an extent. You and I can’t go around saying and writing things that are a danger to the public.

That’s where we need some regulation. Someone has to step up and take action when people or businesses say or do something that is genuinely likely to hurt someone.

Before you over-react, I don’t mean hurting someone’s feelings. I think I have a right to hurt someone’s feelings if their conduct deserves it. So here goes. Prepare to have your feelings profoundly hurt.

If you’re a so-called “traditional doctor”.

We’ve all seen the advertisements. Many newspapers carry them although, to their credit, never in Mmegi. Most of what they offer is just silly. “Dr” Wango for instance offers “enlargement” of between 10-30cm within 2 days. “Drs” Shukuran, Khamisa, Katembo and Kachule offer the same impressive level of growth. However you have to feel a bit sorry for “Dr” Nkoko who can only offer a 19cm growth. Perhaps his muti isn’t as strong as the others?

Just as silly are the romantic services they offer. “Dr” Rashid can get my lost lover back, as can “Drs” Issah, Saidi, Sankho and “Proffessor” Mabo. It’s a shame he doesn’t have a special herb from the mountains of East Africa that teaches him how to spell his own title. Almost all of these fraudsters offer a mixture of jobs, promotions, financial and political success and wins at the casino. The list of wonders they can perform seems almost endless.

Of course some of these things are illegal. The Witchcraft Act, which describes itself as “An Act to suppress the imputation or practice of pretended witchcraft” outlaws “professing a knowledge of so-called witchcraft or the use of charms”. What’s more, the Penal Code outlaws anyone who “undertakes to tell fortunes, or pretends from his skill or knowledge in any occult science to discover where or in what manner anything supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found”.

But here’s the bad bit. Here’s the bit where I think they cross the line, then another line and then all the other lines you can think of. They offer to kill people.

I sent text messages to all of the “doctors” who advertised in the papers last week. I asked this: “I have a big court case. Can you make the other party go away, to disappear forever?”

Several of them responded just with the word “Yes”. However, just to make sure that neither they nor I had misunderstood I replied by saying “Is it possible to make her disappear, so she’s never seen again?”

“Dr” Shaba Wa Shaba said “Yes”. “Dr” Katembo said “Yes”. The only one offering these services not to call him or herself “Dr”, just “Iwen” said “Its wt I said ys she cn go 4 gud nd nt seen on earth again”.

I confess I entrapped these quacks, I know I did, but let’s be realistic. They’re lying. They’re not really going to have someone killed with their magic potions, herbs or spells, it’s all complete hogwash. But despite this they still offered to have someone killed. They conspired with me, a party unknown to them, to have a party to a court case disappear and “go 4 gud nd nt seen on earth again”.

Section 221 of The Penal Code says that:
“Any person who conspires with any other person to kill any person whether such person is in Botswana or elsewhere, is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.”
These fake “doctors” are a menace to our society. They offer services that are illegal, that pose a threat to our health and wealth and that are based on lies and superstition. The sooner we round them up and prosecute them for their actions the better. The sooner we deport any who are here illegally the safer we’ll be. The sooner they’re run out of town the better.

One last point. We currently have a Health Professionals Council that registers health professionals and people that offer health services, don’t we? Why aren’t they stepping in to stop this silliness? In fact the law that established the Council says that “No practitioner shall advertise himself or his professional services”. That’s why you never see ads from real doctors. Perhaps the BHPC should flex a bit of muscle?

Thursday 2 February 2012

MUST University - another fake

Another fake university offering degrees for money calls itself "MUST University" and claims to be "the world's largest university". I think not.

While they claim to be legitimate and have even managed to get a press release published on Yahoo, that doesn't actually make them real. What's more they claim to be accredited by the "International Accreditation Organization", itself a fake accreditation body.

I think you can judge them best if you read the following transcript of an online conversation I had with one of their "advisors".
You are now chatting with 'David Boyle'
David Boyle: Hello
Me: I got an email saying I could apply for a scholarship
Me: does this mean i can get a degree?
David Boyle: Yes
Me: how quickly can i get a degree?
David Boyle: this is self pace study
David Boyle: so depends on your pace and progress how soon and quick you wish to complete

Me: i want to get a degree as soon as possible
Me: i need to get a better job
David Boyle: Ok
David Boyle: and how much you can afford to pay

Me: how much would it be to get a degree as quickly as possible?
David Boyle: Pay $1700 rite Now
David Boyle: and that will be your Full and Final Fee
David Boyle: but that you have to pay in one time payment

Me: and how soon can i get the degree?
David Boyle: in 25 working days
Me: can i choose which subject?
David Boyle: Yes
David Boyle: which one you get

Me: including nursing?
David Boyle: Yes you can do that as well
Me: do i need to send you anything else or just the money?
David Boyle: I will complete your application and then you have to Pay $1700 using Credit or Debit Card
Me: and once i've done that i get the degree in nursing?
David Boyle: yes
All I need to do is cough up some cash and I get a Nursing degree. Suspicious enough?

The FDH turn up in Namibia. And get shown the door.

You may recall we dealt with a ridiculous attempted scam calling itself the "Fundación Donaciones Humanitarias". They claim to be:
"a humanitarian foundation connected synergistically to multiple non-profit and profit activities and organizations aiming to achieve our mission"
In fact they're a scam.

Their scam is based around the offer of a grant or donation to a developing nation. Through an innocent intermediary they approached the South African Government offering them a grant (not a loan) of, get this, US$800 billion. No, not millions, BILLIONS. That’s more than the entire GDP of South Africa. It's roughly P5 TRILLION.

The staggering amount of money is enough of a clue that this is bogus. Couple that with free email addresses, cell numbers and there being no evidence of them ever donating anything to anyone and you'll understand why I'm suspicious. They claim to be "affiliated" with the United Nations but there's no trace of that either. Nor can I find any evidence to support their claim to be "Interpol cleared the persons involved and also FDH". No, Interpol DO NOT "clear" companies, that's just another lie. I know, I spoke to Interpol.

The scam seems to be operated by the self-styled "Sir Edward Cooper" who I think operates from Hawaii. He is not, in any sense of the word, a knight. Or even a gentleman. He's a scammer.

Now they've been exposed in Namibia as well. A story (in Afrikaans, you might have to use Google Translate) in the yesterday's Republikein newspaper reported that the Namibian Government had rejected this fake donation. They even showed the letter the Namibian Ministry of Finance sent to the FDH's newest patsy.

I think it's very funny.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

Early this year my mum enrolled my sister in an English medium school to do her Form 4. The school fee was P5,000 per term and there was a registration fee of P100. My mum paid P3,100 up front.

The first day my sister went to school she was surprised to discover that there were only 3 of them in a class and for some subjects like Setswana she was alone and there was no teacher to teach her. She went to school for 3 days and then my Mum withdrew her.

My mum went to see the head teacher but they gave her the runabout. She found out that they only employ about 7 people some of them being teachers, the board members and the head teacher. The asked her to pay the outstanding balance even though my sister was no longer schooling there, they also told her that they cannot refund her because she was supposed to tell them a term in advance that her child will be withdrawing from school.

Is it fair to demand she pays for a service that she is not using? Are there any rules governing refunds? What should I do about this?

From what you say I think it’s clear that the school has let you down. While small class sizes are great there are limits. Having only 3 kids in a class is ridiculously small and I can’t see how they can justify that. However, the real clincher is having a class with no teacher. That’s completely unacceptable and I think they’ve failed in their obligations to you as a customer.

I suggest that you write to them saying that they have failed to honour their agreement with you to deliver adequate educational services, that the quality of what they did offer was inadequate and that as a result you require a refund from them. Mention that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that if an agreement is “rescinded, cancelled, or otherwise terminated” then you are entitled to a refund. You might also suggest that their service was “not rendered with reasonable care and skill”, which breaches Section 15 (1) (a) of the Regulations.

We’ll get in touch with them as well and find out what they have to say for themselves.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

Last November I hired a carpentry company to fit my bedroom wardrobes and kitchen. They gave me a quotation for everything for P16,500 and they offered a 24 months guarantee. I then entered into a verbal contract with this company based on the quotation they gave me.

I also agreed that I would give them a deposit of P10,000 for them to buy materials to start the work.

As the work continued they asked for another P5,000 as they said the material was short and they needed to get the rest of it, and they told me that their labour would now be P1,500 as they had exhausted P15,000 already.

In December they stopped work because they hadn’t collected all the materials from the supplier but they said they would collect in January when the supplier opens again. January came and this company did not contact me concerning when they will come and finish my house. They even changed their telephone numbers and claimed they had lost their phone. Upon getting the new number they use now, this company now tells me that they cannot finish the works in my house as the money I gave them has been exhausted, so they claim they do not owe me anything at all.

My house now stands unfinished and they did not bring the rest of the materials to finish my house and they refuse now to come and finish my house. Is there anything you can do to assist me with this problem?

This is tricky. The problem lies with your phrase “verbal contract”. What does that mean? What did this verbal agreement say? Who will a court believe, you or the carpenter, because I bet the carpenter will make up a story about you agreeing to this?

Probably the best thing you can do is to send over the contact details you have for the carpenter and we’ll give them a call to see if they can’t come up with a solution.

The lesson is always to put things like this in writing and to get everyone concerned to commit to it with a signature.