Saturday 7 November 2015

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is this one of those scams?

Dear Watchdog

I received a mail from the Coca-Cola promotion. The mail states that my mail has been randomly picked by a powered newsletter software operated by a legally registered US freelance tech Coca-Cola rewards prize of 1,000,000 Great British Pounds Sterling in the ongoing Coca-Cola 128th anniversary celebrations promo in UK. It goes on to say for claims, please submit name, age, telephone and address to: Mr Edward Barker through E- mail: From cocacola promo secretary: Skivu Eru

I’m looking forward for your out standing support in educating Batswana Consumers on such issues. Is this real or its a one of those scams?

I think you know already, don’t you? This is undoubtedly a scam. Companies like Coca Cola don’t give enormous prizes to randomly selected strangers whose name they don’t even know. I bet the email you received didn’t use your name, right?

The fact is that there is no Coca-Cola 128th anniversary prize or competition. There never has been and I really doubt that there ever will be. Also, real companies don’t use free email addresses from Yahoo (like this one), Hotmail or Gmail. Don’t you think it’s strange that they emailed you from a Yahoo in Hong Kong when they claim to be offering a prize in “Great British Pounds Sterling”?

As with all the scams we’ve covered before it’s all about an “advance fee”. The scammers will pretend that there’s a legal fee, an attorney to be paid, an account opening fee or some such nonsense and they’ll demand you send it to them (probably using Western Union) before you get the fictitious money they’re promising you. That’s what the whole thing is about, that advance fee. The lesson from this is very simple. If it seems too good to be true then it IS too good to be true. I suggest that you delete the email and, whatever else you do, don’t send them any money. You’ll never see it again because scammers don’t offer refunds!

Are they being fair?

I was in a motshelo with 4 other people at the beginning of this year in January we contributed P600. We took turns to borrow the money which was P3,000. In June and July I couldn't pay my interest as required due to my financial status. Normally contributions are submitted around 5th of every month. So I submitted P1,000 the same time to the secretary. Then a day after I received a call from one of the members that I am removed from motshelo I should come and collect my contribution (P1000). A meeting was then held thereafter and I told the same story by the other 3 members. They told me that I was never present for meetings when in actual fact there was not even a single one called. So when I asked them to at least bring my interest as the money was also borrowed to outsiders they refused again. Please advise on this one whether I will be in a position to claim my money back or not. The society was not even registered.

I’m always a bit suspicious of Motshelo schemes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with informal lending schemes, it’s just that I’ve heard so many stories of them going wrong and people ending up poorer rather than richer because they joined such a scheme.

In principle there’s nothing wrong with a group of people gathering together to save an agreed amount each month and then take loans from the collective pot of money when they have a need. Critically, the borrower pays interest into the pot which boosts the amount the scheme has to lend to its members. These schemes are certainly popular. A recent survey suggested that perhaps 230,000 people in Botswana are currently members of at least one Motshelo scheme.

However the problem is that while these schemes are created with the best intentions they are often established without any rules, without legal paperwork and without any financial expertise. They are often exploited by one unscrupulous person in the group and it’s very easy for the accumulated money to be abused.

Luckily Motshelo schemes are regulated by NBFIRA, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority and I think they are the best people to advise you about this. Give them a call on 3102595 and explain your situation to them. I’m sure they’ll be helpful.

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