Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I received an email inviting me to a conference about Domestic violence to be held in Seattle in the USA and then in Birmingham in the UK. The email said that everything would be paid for me except for the hotel in Birmingham. Can this be true?

No. I think you know it’s a scam, don’t you?

This dual-venue scam has been going round for several years and it’s always the same story. A conference, always concerning something admirable, is announced and people start receiving invitations to attend with all costs paid by a worthy-sounding organisation far, far away. All the costs except one and it’s always the cost of a hotel stay. Once you accept the invitation you discover that it’s a hotel stay that requires a cash payment up front, not by bank transfer, not by credit card, not by debit card but, yes, you’ve guessed it, using Western Union.

That’s what this is all about, that “advance fee” that the scammer wants. The truth is that there is no conference, no generous foreign donor prepared to pay for anything, even the person emailing you is a fake. But then you knew that, didn’t you, when you saw that they emailed you from a Gmail address?

Rest assured that if you DID pay them any money you’d never see it again and worse still, you would then known throughout the scammer community as a “mugu”, the Nigerian word for a foolish victim or “idiot” and you’d be bombarded with enticements to lose even more money.

So just delete the email or if you’re feeling brave you could reply telling them that Botswana isn’t a nation of mugus? Remember that you don’t need to be polite with scammers!

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

A reader got in touch asking about a company called Express Finance that had emailed him at work offering to lend money at extraordinarily low rates. The email from “Mandy Louw” said:
“The Express Finance innovation has completely satisfied the financial credit act of South Africa. We offer guaranteed loan services at 2.5% interest rate per year. Do you have bad credit? Do you have unpaid bills? Have you been turned down by your bank? Are you in debt? Do you need to set up a business? Do you wish to expand your current business? Worry no more as we are here to offer you a low interest rate loan of 2.5% interest rate per annum. To be part of our loan offer, you are advice to email the below details to; Full Names, ID Number, Contact Tel No(work/cell), E-mail, Occupation, Monthly Salary: Via email to:”
The normal clues were there. The ridiculously low interest rate, the absence of a landline telephone number, the offer to lend money to people already in debt and with bad credit records, the poor English, they’re all warnings that this “company” can’t be trusted.

However, the interesting thing is that Express Finance is a real company, a real lender based in South Africa, but the emailed letter is a fake. I called the real Express Finance and their rather exasperated manager was very frustrated. Before I could fully explain he said "Was it from Mandy Louw?"

This is another advance fee scam. As with all other fake lenders who email strangers offering cheap loans there'll be a setup fee, a legal expense, an account-opening fee, something to get you to send money to the lender rather than him sending money to you.

Don’t fall for it. This isn’t how real lenders operate. All you’ll be doing is giving your money away, not borrowing anything.

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