Saturday, 10 September 2016

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is it a scam?

Richard please help me, I met a guy on a website his name is Edward Max and he said he sent me an iPhone and some other things. The thing is the courier company they sent me email like now saying I should pay the sum of 200USD through western union. I dont know if its a scam. Please help me before I regret sending money to them.

I’m really glad you got in touch before you sent any money because this is certainly a scam. In fact, this is a very common scam that I’m sure many Voice readers will have seen before. A woman, and yes, it’s almost always a woman, meets a guy either on Facebook or through a dating web site and they start a conversation that very rapidly becomes romantic. He always seems charming and has a good job. He sounds like a great catch. The guy soon says he’s in love with her and will sometimes even go as far as proposing marriage.

Then comes the shipment. He’ll say that he’s sending her a package containing all sorts of goodies. There’s always an iPhone but often also a laptop, jewelry, perfumes and even cash. Then the victim gets an email, apparently from the shipping company or even from customs in South Africa saying that because of some breach of customs rules, she has to pay them to “release” the shipment. Given that she thinks the shipment is full of valuables and cash she’s normally happy to send them a relatively small amount of money. It’s usually about P2,000, roughly what they’re asking you to pay. The victim obviously doesn’t think it’s odd that for a shipment from Europe or the USA to Botswana, she has to pay someone in South Africa. She also doesn’t think it odd that a shipping company don’t want the money paid directly into their account but want it sent using Western Union.

But that payment is what this is all about. There is no boyfriend, no shipment full of goodies, no shipping company. The only real thing I the money they are trying to get from her.

The real tragedy, the real crime is that these scammers do more than steal people’s money, they break people’s hearts. Some readers will be unsympathetic and say the victims are gullible but my view is that doesn’t matter. These scammers are emotional rapists. On at least one occasion that I know they are physical rapists as well, but that’s another story.

Just be very careful who meet online.

Must I pay to settle early?

Dear Consumer Watchdog

I have a loan with a microlender and wanted to clear my debt with them this month. My complaint is they are asking me to give them a 3 months notice lest they charge me P9,223 as an early settlement penalty

They are also not paying me anything as insurance refund. Please let me know if this is fair and if there is a way I may find assistance in this matter. Your anticipated cooperation will be highly appreciated.

I suspect this depends greatly on what it says in the loan agreement you signed with the lender. There’s nothing illegal about early settlement penalties but the lender MUST have included a warning about them in the agreement you signed, otherwise they can’t do it. They can’t just make up charges because they feel like doing so.

I suggest that the first thing you should do is find your copy of the loan agreement and see what it says. Micro-lenders are obliged to give you a copy of the agreement when you take out the loan and even if you’ve lost it they should give you a replacement copy without any fuss. Then, whether the agreement mentions the settlement penalty or not, call NBFIRA, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, who oversee the micro-lending industry. Ask them what they think about the fee and the agreement you signed.

You also need to ask about the insurance refund. My experience is that lenders such as banks do normally offer a partial refund of the insurance fees if you’ve paid any portion of them in advance.

Whatever happens with this lender, it’s critically important that you get a full statement of your account both before and after you settle the debt. That will confirm that you owe them nothing more. Please let me know how it goes.

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