Sunday, 24 January 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should I pay them?

Help! I received an email saying that I had visited pornographic web sites and that a hacker had installed malware on my computer and they had used the camera and the microphone without me knowing to record me while I watched pornography.

The email said that they had also installed a hidden application which had a second function to extract all my contacts from social media, phonebook list and emails.

The man said I must pay him $500 using Bitcoin or the video of me watching pornography will be sent to all of my contacts.

What must I do? I don't have Bitcoins and don't want to be exposed. 

Don't panic. Nothing is going to happen to you. You're safe. 

Despite the threats included in the email, you can feel safe that this is nothing more than a threat. The so-called hacker hasn't hacked your computer, they didn't record you watching porn and they didn't steal your contact details. They are not going to expose you and not humiliate you in front of your family, friends and contacts. This is just a scam designed to exploit the lack of knowledge people have about computers, the internet, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and technology in general. They rely on people either having a guilty conscience, or being terrified of being embarrassed. Or both. They rely on emailing thousands, if not millions of potential victims and hoping that just a few people will respond by paying them.

I can reassure you that they are emailing huge numbers of people because the very same day you emailed me, I got the same threatening email. I bet many readers of The Voice received the same email.

Just delete the email, add the sender to your Junk mail file and move on.

And finally, just to be safe, make sure your computer's firewall is switched on and any antivirus tools are up to date. These don't need to cost you any money and despite what a new laptop might tell you, there are plenty of free options.

Must I take the tablet to be repaired?

Good day Mr Harriman. I need your help, I bought a tablet for my son in Molepolole on the 16 December 2020. After 2 days of opening it it wasn't working and they took it for fixing. I got it back on 6 January 2021 but by evening it wasn't working. I went to them on 7th January they are suggesting I use my own expenses to take it back to their technician because there is nothing they can do. Please help what can I do?

You can explain to them that in 2018 the Government of Botswana introduced the new Consumer Protection Act. This replaced the older version of the Act and it reaffirmed a simple fact. If a supplier sells goods that don't work, they have three options. They can choose to replace the item, repair it or offer the customer a refund. It's their choice to decide which option they select but they MUST select one of them. They can't choose none of them. I suggest you tell them that it's Section 16 (3) of the Act they need to read, understand and remember. They need to stop making up stories about it being the responsibility of customers to help fix problems that are the supplier's job to fix.

You should also tell them that the next section of the Act, 16 (4), says that of the same problem happens again within three months of them repairing it, they don't get another chance. Then they only have two choices, a replacement or a refund. Given that they've already used up their one opportunity to repair the tablet, their options are now much more limited.

Ask them which they prefer, a replacement or a refund because those are the only options left open to them.

If they still argue, tell them that for a small fee I'll educate them on their obligations under the Consumer Protection Act. Correction, make that a large fee.

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