Saturday 30 July 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Should he send the money?

My cousin was sent some gifts from UK through a company called Cargo Trade. So they are saying they demand P3,500 so that they can give us those gifts and the phone number is not going through. They don't reply to us. The are busy saying we should sent P3,500 before we receive the gifts. We asked where is the office located so we can take them. They are busy saying no just send some money. I have the number of that person who claims to be the manager of the company?

This is a scam.

Firstly, there is no company registered under that name in Botswana and I can find no trace of any business using that name. Secondly, the cell phone number you sent me for the company also seems to be unanswered, unknown and untraceable.

More importantly, this is exactly the same story we've heard many times before. Typically a victim befriends someone on a social media channel, often Facebook but also Instagram and Twitter. Quite often that friendship develops into something much deeper, in the minds of the victims it even transforms into romantic attachments. It might seem hard to believe but the victims often consider themselves in love with their scammer.

Then what happens is that the scammer offers to send their victim a package. Often they'll claim it contains a laptop, high-end cellphone, jewellery and even cash. A few days later the victim, like your cousin, gets a call from someone claiming to represent the shipping company saying that there's a fee to pay. Sometimes they'll say it's a clearance fee, other times they'll say it's a tax or duty. Whatever they claim, that's what this scam is all about, the fake fee they claim you must pay to receive your package.

The clever thing about this scam is that it sounds plausible. If you've ever had something shipped to Botswana from overseas you'll know, as I do, that the shipping company won't deliver the package until you've paid BURS for any duty that might be owed. But in this case BURS isn't involved. This is just a scammer making up stories to steal your cousin's money.

Chatting with a scammer

We've been warning people recently about the various scams that are actively recruiting new victims. Most exploit our ignorance about cryptocurrencies and forex trading, promising that we can make vast profits on our 'investments' if we sign up. One of the ways I've been researching this is by talking to scammers and pretending to be a possible victim. However, sooner or later I've lost patience and accused them of being scammers. That's when they go silent or block me.

But last week something remarkable happened.

I persuaded a scammer to confess and tell the truth. It was fascinating. He didn't give me his name but confirmed he was in Nigeria and "I'm a final year student studying biological sciences currently I'm at home because our universities are on strike, our government is bad after school no work so we had to struggle by scamming".

He also told me that the scammers he works with are serious criminals. Their business isn't just scamming people, it also "involves killing of beloved ones and others". He claimed he wasn't involved in the contract killing side of the business and he was just "on legitimate scamming". One of the things that surprised me was how little he said he'd earned from scamming. Just $1,500 over 3½ years. That's just P4,300 each year. However, the good news is that he spent it all on his school fees. At least he's concentrating on his education.

Most of what he told me we all know already. These scammers take over the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram accounts of real people and then use their identities to recruit victims. But how do they persuade people to do this? It's simple. With money. He told me he pays people "10-30 dollars depending on the country facebook account".

He also shared with me the scripts they are told to use when recruiting people, the stories they tell to potential victims. I didn't learn much from this scammer that I didn't know already but it was fascinating to hear from a real scammer how he worked. And how guilty he sometimes felt. Too bad. If he feels guilty, he deserves it.

Sunday 24 July 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get a receipt?

Hello Sir. I was buying eye glasses using medical aid. The glasses cost P1600 but medical aid covered me with P1100 so I topped up with P500.

After telling them that I need a receipt for the glasses so as to be refunded at work they said they will only do it for P500 not the cost of the glasses which is P1600.

I thought I have to be refunded what I have spent.

Is it fair and ok Sir?

Yes, I think this is perfectly fair. In fact, this is exactly how it should work.

Firstly, you're paying your medical aid to cover the costs of any medical issues you face. Medical aid providers cover the cost of our medical bills although they often require the member to pay some of the bills. Sometimes it's 10%, other times it's the VAT, with some it's a higher percentage for certain things like glasses.

In your case you have a very generous employer who covers the shortfall. Even though you paid the P500, you can claim that back from the company you work for. That's why the optician if giving you a receipt for just P500. That's the amount you claim from your employer. You weren't thinking of claiming the full P1,600 from them, were you?

I want a working fridge!

I am kindly asking for advice on the following matter. I purchased a fridge from a store in Francistown in February 2021. A few months into using it the fridge began giving me problems and I contacted the store about the matter. After weeks of being given the run around a technician finally came to see the fridge and initially he said the problem can not be fixed and he will write a report for me to get a new fridge.

Weeks later I was told that the company found a replacement door for the freezer, which apparently was the source of the problem. The door came months later only to realise that it was for a wrong model. The technician and the store then told me that they are going back to the initial idea of me getting a replacement fridge. They then told me that the model that I have has been replaced by new model and that I need to top up to get the new model.

I was told that after transporting the fridge to the store (at my own costs by the way) I would have the new fridge in about 4 hours. Hours after having returned my fridge I called to find out if the new fridge is ready for collection, only to be told that I have to wait for the fridge to reach the supplier in Gaborone and that the process can take up to 2 weeks. The shop failed to give me answers as to what will happen to my groceries in the weeks that I will be waiting. Long story short, I am currently without a fridge.

Kindly advice me accordingly

Why can't they make a decision? I don't think this store knows about customer service or about the Consumer Protection Act.

Their customer service failures are simple. Why are they treating you with so much disrespect? Why are they ignoring your needs and putting themselves first?

Their ignorance of the Consumer Protection Act is also surprising. You are under no obligation to pay for a more expensive fridge when it's their responsibility to give you a fridge that works. The fact that the model you had no longer exists is their job to manage, not yours. If they need to replace the faulty fridge with a slightly better one then they need to pay for it, not you.

Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when a store:
"undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … timely performance and completion of those services (and) timely notice of any unavoidable delay". 
I don't think this store understands that either.

I'll contact them and see if they can perhaps go a little faster.

Saturday 16 July 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my car?

Hello Mr Harriman. I kindly need your advise and most importantly your help. I paid one guy to purchase a car for me from Durban in January. No document was made we just made verbal agreements because I had thought he would deliver it just like my first car. I paid 80k cash and I have at least the proof of payments. He had promised that I would have my car in 4 weeks but there's nothing up to today. He bought my first car and he delivered it well on time the problem is this second car. It's been 6 months and his phones are not going through nothing whatsoever.

Please Mr Harriman how can you help me. I can't even sleep when I think of my hard earned money please sir. I'd really appreciate it if you helped.

I wish I had some good news for you. Unfortunately, I don't. Not yet.

The bad news is that you made a mistake by not getting something in writing with this guy. A written agreement would be a very good starting place if you wanted to start legal action against him. A sale agreement doesn't need to be a complicated thing, it just needs to be a written agreement that says he's buying a car on your behalf, stating the relevant dates, conditions and the payments required. You don't need an attorney to write it for you. It can be very simple. All it then needs is your signatures and those of some witnesses.

However, all is not lost. I suspect that the proofs of payment are better than nothing. So would any SMS or WhatsApp conversations you might have had with him.

Back to the bad news. He's disappeared. None of the numbers you have for him are working and he doesn't appear to exist on Facebook. This is going to be a challenge. It might be worth contacting the Police to see if they know anything about him. Perhaps other people have complained about him as well?

Update: The company he was operating was deregistered in 2020. If he was using that company name to sell you a car in 2022 he's in deep trouble. We should both alert the authorities.

Is it real?

Good day. I have applied for an online loan at Norton Finance and Swoosh Finance in South Africa and was approved. Thereafter I was asked to pay legal fees for the insurance but to date they are not sending the loan as agreed on the contract. I was asked to pay transfer duty but still I can't get the loan. Cancellation too calls for money equivalent to what I have paid so far.

I sent the money through Mukuru. Their phones are still going through and are still asking me to pay the last fee for tax charged by Reserve Bank.

How can you assist me?

I'm sorry. Much as I'd like to be of help, I can't. You're the victim of a scam.

I think it's worth highlighting some of the clues about these fake lenders. Firstly, no legitimate lender lends money across borders. No South African lender will lend money to someone who lives in a different legal jurisdiction. Secondly, I bet they operate from a free email address and a cellphone number? I bet they've never called you from a landline or emailed you from a domain similar to the company names they claimed?

I also predict that they offered you loans at incredibly low interest rates, just a fraction of what your bank would have offered. I predict they also offered to lend you enormous amounts.

This is how all these fake lender scams work. They make loan offers to people who have been turned down by their bank or who can't afford the amounts charged by conventional lenders. They're appealing to the desperate.

Finally, and I'm sure you know this now, but real lenders don't demand money from the people they're lending to. Real lenders don't charge their customers money. They certainly don't charge you legal fees, insurance and cancellation fees. It's all lies.

The worst news is that there's nothing you can do to get your money back. Scammers don't offer refunds.

Saturday 9 July 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can they repair it three times?

I bought an iPhone last month and I used it for 4 days and then it lost network. They took it back and they said they are fixing it. I got it back on Tuesday and I used it for hours then the problem starts again. When I tell them the refund they refuse they say I let them fix it and they won't refund.

We've explained this many times before but it's worth stating again what the law says.

Section 16 (2) of the Consumer Protection Act says that even without a warranty, a consumer
"may return goods to a supplier in their merchantable or original state, within six months after the delivery of the goods … if the goods fail to satisfy the requirements and standards" (required by the Act).
It then says that the store must either repair the item, replace it or refund the consumer their money. 

It goes on to say that once something has been repaired, if
"within three months the same problem recurs in the goods, the supplier shall … replace the goods or refund the consumer the amount paid by the consumer".
I explained this to the reader and then something remarkable occurred. They told the store manager that they knew their rights but this didn't work very well. The store's argument was that the phone was actually refurbished, it was second-hand. So they felt the law didn't apply to them. In fact they decided to be very creative about what the law said. They messaged the consumer saying:
"I guess you were mis informed. That law only applies to brand new phones. Second hand phones one is given 3 attempts".
Unfortunately, there's no polite way to describe this comment. It's a lie. An untruth. It's made up. The law says nothing of the sort. I confronted the store manager about this and he admitted he knew it wasn't true.

He told me the phone would be repaired within a few days. Let's wait and see if this was another lie?

Scam warning (again)

I've been asked again to warn people about the scams using the name of the Yellow Card cryptocurrency exchange. These scammers, who offer enormous profits just pretend to be connected with Yellow Card when in fact there's no connection at all. They're faking it, just like they fake the payment notifications they claim as proof that people can make money from their fake scheme. One of the things these scammers do is to hijack other people's Facebook, WhatsApp and cellphone accounts so they can seem to be real people with real profiles, perhaps even people we know. But how do they do this? How do they gain control over other people's accounts?

It's very simple. We give them our passwords. A member of our Facebook group sent me screenshots from a conversation he'd had with a scammer. The scammer approached him saying he represented a clothing company that was running "a giveaway of p2000 to the first 50 people". In order to get this "giveaway" he was required to give them his name, date of birth, "state/province", country and occupation. Already I think you can sense this is suspicious, can't you? Someone offering money in Pula want to know his "state/province"? But then it became really interesting. They also wanted his "Facebook phone number" and "Facebook password".

This is how they hijack our accounts. The scammers are given access to these accounts by the account owners themselves and they then use these genuine accounts to steal money from further victims.

The same goes for their bank accounts. These scammers often ask for money, the so-called 'investment' to be paid into legitimate bank accounts here in Botswana. These accounts are usually the accounts of other victims who've been told they'll get a percentage if they share their bank details.

The bad news is that sooner or later the bank account holder will realise they've been scammed but it'll be too late. Who knows what the criminals will have done with their account? The victim might then face the ordeal of explaining to the bank or even to the Police why they were willing accomplices to a crime.

The lesson is very simple. Never, under any circumstances, give your Facebook, WhatsApp, cellphone or bank details to anyone who asks for them. The only people who will ever ask for these things are criminals. Do you think you can trust criminals with your identity?

Saturday 2 July 2022

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my fridge?

Hello Richard, I need your assistance. I bought a fridge in December 2020 from a furniture store in Gaborone station. It was a combined fridge for gas and electric I wanted to use it for gas but it was not working. I did tell the furniture shop that it is not working and they did come to attend it but they attended the electric side, I went back again to report again and they told me they were not aware that I am complaining of which part of the fridge so they are going back to the office they will come back again.

They never came back and I decided to take the fridge on my expense back to the shop in August last year. They told me they will call me, but they never did. From the time that I was complaining about the fridge I stopped paying because ever since I bought the fridge it was never used. They started calling me this month this year saying they are going to list me with ITC and ended up doing that. The fridge is with them and now I want to get a loan and I can't because I am listed. I would like you to assist recover my instalments fee and be removed from ITC listing as I have never used the fridge. I have incurred more cost every time having to explain and call their bosses without resolution.

Normally my advice when thinks like this happen is NEVER to stop paying your hire purchase instalments. That's because when you stop paying your instalments the store can refuse to honour the warranty you got when you bought the items.

But in this case, I think we can overlook that. This is a situation where I think the store must ignore their contract and do the right thing. They let you down repeatedly, firstly by selling you something that failed and then by repeatedly failing to fix the fridge.

I've emailed them and asked then to take a look and politely suggested that they consider how well they've treated you. Let's hope they can do the right thing.

Is it legit?

Hi Richard. Please tell me about these guys who are offering loans from outside the country like South Africa at 3 percent. How legit are they?

How legit are they? The answer is simple. They're not. They're scams.

We've been warning people about scam lenders like this for several years and the pattern is always the same. They always offer loans across borders, almost always from South Africa. That's the first clue. Genuine lenders don't lend money to people in other countries. It just doesn't happen. Would you lend money to a total stranger in another country, someone you'd never met? Of course not.

The next clue is how cheap these loans appear to be. The interest rates they claim to charge are much, much lower than what real lender like a bank would offer. That's simply unbelievable. How could they afford to offer such low rates?

They also offer huge amounts of money. They often say they can lend many millions. Remember that they're saying they'll lend these amounts at incredibly low interest rates to people they've never met in foreign countries.

The final clue is how easy it is to get one of these fake loans. You give them just a few personal details and they say they'll send the money. Anyone who has ever borrowed money from a real lender will know this isn't how things work. Real loans take time.

One of the tricks these scammers play is that they'll often use the name of legitimate, registered lenders based in South Africa. They'll even quote the registration number and the web site of the real company, pretending it's theirs. I've spoken to the owners of the legitimate companies and they say it's incredibly damaging to their genuine lending businesses.

The truth is that everything you hear from these fake lenders is a lie. Just before they say you're going to receive the loan, they'll invent a reason why you need to pay them for something. They might say it's an account opening fee, lawyers' costs, a transaction charge, whatever it is, that's what this scam is all about. The whole story was made up to get that money from you. That's what the scam is all about.