Friday, 20 October 2017

It'll never go away! (Facebook I mean)

A relative once told me, when I was a child, “it is always better to think before you speak, than to speak before you think.”

It was true then and it’s true now but maybe it needs to be modified? It is better to think before you post, than to post before you think. Substitute the word “tweet” for “post” if Twitter is your preferred social media platform.

The problem with communication these days is that so much of it is done online. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with online communication. In fact, I think it’s one of the greatest developments in modern history. The ease with which we can converse, keep in touch with friends and relatives in faraway places, do business internationally and inform ourselves of global and local developments is wonderful. But it comes at a price.

Let’s take the example of Facebook. Much as I love Facebook and the way it allows us to communicate, learn and share information, Facebook is scary. It’s like a bar on a Friday night. Like most people in a bar, people on Facebook are a little noisier than in normal life, a lot more affectionate and flirty, a lot more likely to make fools of themselves and feel deep remorse the following morning. Also, there seems to be something about Facebook that produces a reaction in some people like a minority have to alcohol when they’re in a bar. They turn nasty. Most of us who’ve spent time in bars on Friday nights will have known someone who in normal life is the nicest, gentlest, kindest of characters but when they have their third drink, they turn into psychopathic monsters desperate to pick a fight. The same thing happens on Facebook. Nice people can turn nasty as soon as that blue and white screen appears, asking you to share “What’s on your mind?”

Another problem with Facebook and the internet in general is that everything you post is permanent. It doesn’t matter how quickly you delete the comment you posted that you realised was offensive or stupid, you can be certain that someone, somewhere will have taken a screen shot of it and either saved it or reposted it. You should always assume that everything you ever post on Facebook or elsewhere on the internet will be discoverable for the rest of human history.

Unfortunately, not every person or organisation understands this. I know of several individuals who have either been forced, or decided of their own volition, to leave Facebook completely after they posted something they later regretted. One young woman contacted us for advice when the rather embarrassing, very revealing picture she posted in what she thought was a private place on the internet turned out to be very public. Everyone who knows her now knows a great deal about her tattoos and where they can be found. All of them.

Another, much less sympathetically, posted a comment in our Facebook group that included “the K word”. Given that the person posting it was a white South African, not someone using the word ironically or in some way “reclaiming” the word, you can imagine how inappropriate it was. The firestorm that erupted was astonishing. By the time I’d seen the post, there were three hundred subsequent comments from other members of the group expressing their outrage. When the woman who had caused all the offence later apologised, she got more than 500 responses, not all of them sympathetic and supportive. Even though I deleted the post because of the rage it had caused, the bad news for the person who posted this inflammatory message is that it’s never going to go away. I know many members of the group took screenshots of the offending post and I took screenshots of every comment that was made, in case the issue ever reappears.

More recently we’ve seen a restaurant, just a matter of days after the tragedy at the National Stadium when a young woman was crushed to death and scores of people were injured, post an invitation to their restaurant to “everyone who managed to survive GIMC”. However, and to their credit, the management of the restaurant very quickly published a profound apology for the bad taste and promised that “an issue of this nature will never occur again”. But some damage was done and it will take a while for their reputation to fully recover.

Another example of how social media can escalate an issue out of control is when the leadership of a private school sent out advice on the school’s uniform code. This included various instructions on the length of skirts, shirts being tucked in and regarding the tidiness of hair, the words “No afros are allowed”.

Once most of us calmed down I think we could imagine what the principal of the school MEANT to say, probably something about length and tidiness but that’s not what DID say. He said that afros were banned. And that’s when Facebook as well as the conventional media exploded. But there’s a difference between the two channels that’s important to understand. I bet you don’t have a copy of the newspaper articles covered the story, do you? But the story is still available online and on Facebook and it always will be. Nothing online is ever lost. Not ever. Even when you delete it, someone somewhere will have a copy. A copy that will last forever.

The lessons are simple, but they are nevertheless serious. Don’t post things on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. Just don’t. Not until you’ve engaged your brain, checked that you haven’t consumed too much caffeine or alcohol, and that you’re not feeling over-excited, angry, depressed, excessively “romantic” or outraged. And then again, even after you’ve typed your message, take another moment before you press Post. Ask yourself what you might think of your post on Monday morning when you get to work. Ask yourself what your boss, your mother or your children would think about the comment you posted.

And then think again. Do you really want this post to remain associated with your name for the rest of your life?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Hotel Express International (yet again!)

I received a call on my landline phone from people who said they were from Hotel Express International,who told me that I have been offered a membership card for discount from some particular hotels.

I asked them repeatedly if I have to pay for it but I was told that is free. They had my 14 digits bank card number but they only wanted to confirm if they are true. Surprisingly, I asked where they got those numbers from and they told me that they got my details and recommendations from the previous hotel I used. I was later surprised to find that my money was missing.

I did not have any agreement of any sort with those people. What can I do to get my money back?

This is the seventeenth time we’ve written about Hotel Express International since 2010 and I doubt it will be the last time. Every single time the story has been the same.

Someone like you gets a call from one of their agents who explains their travel discount scheme, offering you discounts on hotels, car hires and flights. They normally explain that there’s a cost to join the scheme, usually just under R3,000. The experience in the past has been that they ask for your credit or debit card details telling you that this is to check either if you’re eligible to join or to see if you’re entitled to some special level of membership. Many of the victims who’ve contacted us have claimed that they didn’t give explicit permission for money to be deducted from their accounts but that’s exactly what happened. Without explicit permission they’ve been enrolled and their account is charged without, they claim, their consent.


Your story is different and even more worrying. The fact that they already had your card details worries me greatly. If what they said is true, someone in a hotel has given away, sold or perhaps even stolen your card details and that’s grossly improper, perhaps even illegal. I suggest that you call your bank immediately and explain that your card security has been compromised and your card was misused. Demand that they investigate.

Meanwhile there’s another issue. Why would anyone want to pay to join a scheme that offers discounts that you can get elsewhere for free? You don’t ever have to pay the full rate in a hotel. There are endless special offers and discounted rates available for you to choose from. Just a few weeks ago I stayed in a hotel in Johannesburg and do you think I paid the full rate? No, of course not. I saw a special offer online that gave me a luxury hotel room at about half of the normal rate. Did I need to pay to join a discount scheme to get this special rate? No.

We’ll get in touch with Hotel Express International in South Africa on your behalf and see what can be done. Don’t be optimistic though.

Given the number of times we’ve heard from Hotel Express International victims telling similar stories our advice is simple. If ever Hotel Express International call you, just hang up immediately. They can’t be trusted.

Must they reimburse me?

I’m writing about a problem I had with an air trip I recently undertook.

My plea is I want to be reimbursed for the over inflated air ticket I was forced to buy when I stopped over in Israel since I was not allowed to travel back home on allegations that I was told I needed to buy a connection flight from Johannesburg to Gaborone because I am not a citizen of South Africa! I ended up spending 3 extra days in Israel and I would like that money back from the airline. Can I get it back?

I suspect this might be more difficult than you might initially think. The first problem is that airlines are very anxious about flying people to countries in which they don’t have a right of residence, in your case South Africa. International flying regulations say that if a passenger is denied entry into a country for reasons that the airline could have anticipated then the airline is responsible for the cost of repatriating them. The airline would then be forced to pay for you to fly out of South Africa.

However, this doesn’t normally apply if you’re just in transit at the airport so I suspect you didn’t have a “connecting ticket”? That way the airline would have seen that you weren’t actually going to enter SA, just travel through it, not even leaving the airport. Even if it costs you a little more a connecting ticket is always a useful thing to have. Send us the details and we’ll investigate a bit further.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The current threats

What’s threatening the consumers of Botswana at the moment?

One calls itself Questra or alternatively Atlantic Global Asset Management, which they say is the company that represents Questra. One of their local representatives posted some photos of himself doing his best to recruit people into the scheme and a message which included the suggestion that you should “invest as little as P1300.00 to buy an annual package of €90 that will yield 4-7% interest every week, payable to ur account on Fridays for the whole year”.

There’s your first clue. “4-7% interest every week”? Those numbers might not seem terribly high to you. Aren’t they similar to the interest rates offered by banks? Well, that’s true, but with a bank you might get that sort of return after a year. This guy says you can earn it “every week”. Let’s assume for a moment that this is true. I’ve done the maths. If you give them the minimum of P1,300 that they suggest and you then get a €90 package (about P1,080) that will earn 4% per week, after a year your P1,080 will have grown to P7,222, a total return of 569% per year. If you were luckier and you get the 7% they suggest, your money will have grown to P36,423, an annual return of 3,273%.

That’s impossible and I hope everyone realises that. If you don’t, ask yourself this. If it was possible, don’t you think the Bank of Botswana will be investing? And all the commercial banks, pension funds and professional investors as well? I think it’s safe to assume that if they’re not doing so, then neither should we.

Another clue is something you often see with pyramid and Ponzi schemes. They very rarely give any clue about how you will earn the profits they promise. They don’t mention stocks and shares, derivatives, futures or any other mysterious financial terminology that sounds impressive.

A final clue came later in this guy’s claim. He said that there are “No Joining fees, No monthly payments, You invest n see ur money making u money without lifting a finger.”

So you can earn over 3,000% interest in a year without even lifting a finger? This is such an obvious scam, no other clues are needed.

But there are nevertheless several other clues. They’re the warnings that have been issued by the authorities in Belgium, Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Liechtenstein, Poland, Spain and the UK. The Belgian Financial Services and Markets Authority said that Questra “clearly resembles that of a pyramid scheme or, at the very least, a Ponzi fraud."

There’s a final curiosity about Questra, or rather about the guy who was busily recruiting people. In 2010 the same person was trying to recruit people in to TVI Express, another pyramid scheme that collapsed leaving people poor. Then in 2015 he was again busy, this time recruiting people into the pyramid scheme selling Xtreme Fuel Treatment, a fake fuel efficiency enhancer. Clearly he’s a serial pyramid scheme recruiter.

Even busier than this guy are the hordes of Filipinos and their local recruits desperately trying to recruit people into AIM Global.

One of these recruiters posted that “We are looking for the next distributor that would like to start making P200 to P3,200 daily working just to share information about Aim Global business opportunity every day using your Mobile Phone?”, “JOIN US NOW and be the next Millionaire in your Country”.


Just like the evangelist selling Questra, at no point do the people desperately trying to seduce people into joining AIM Global say what the product that this scheme sells might be. They give no idea how you can earn that P3,200 every day. It must be magic.

In fact there is a product lurking behind AIM Global and it really does seem like a magical product. Their “C247” product can, so they claim, help with 100 different serious medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, cirrhosis, bone fracture, deafness, endometriosis, epilepsy, heart diseases, hypertension, low sperm count, “toxins in the body”, stroke, migraine and even cancer and “immunodeficiency”.

Any product that could do all these things truly would be magical. And just like all other magic tricks, it’s a deception, and an illegal one too. Sections 396-399 of the Penal Code specifically forbid anyone from advertising such claims. So it’s a criminal product that has not, despite what many of the people selling the scheme claim, been “approved” by either the Ministry or Health of the Botswana Bureau of Standards. A criminal product sold by liars running a pyramid scheme.

But Questra and AIM Global aren’t the only threats. World Ventures, a pyramid scheme selling holiday discounts, is still going strong despite authorities around the world warning people that it’s nothing more than a pyramid scheme. Whether they call themselves World Ventures, or their new name, Dream Trips, it doesn’t matter. Their own figures from the USA for 2015 show clearly that more than three-quarters of their American recruits made no money at all from the scheme. Not a single cent. Of the small proportion that did make any money, more than two thirds of all the income is earned by the 3.7% at the top of the pyramid.

In fact, the median income level, the best illustration of what the typical American World Ventures recruits earned in 2015, was a meagre P1,500 per year. And that’s just income. It takes no account of the money the recruits must spend on travel, their phone and internet bills and the alcohol they probably need to drink to drown their sorrows when they finally realise that all their hard work has done is to feed the people at the top of the pyramid.

There’s also the TLC scheme, “Total Life Changes”, that sell a miracle tea that they claim can help you lose 2.5kg in weight in a week and can also “reduce stress, reduce the risk of cancer, prevent cardiovascular diseases”. It also “mitigates HIV”. “prevents high blood pressure” and protects against “poisoning”. The recruiters will also tell you that it’s possible to make money from TLC just by recruiting other people, just like any other pyramid scheme.

The lesson, as always, is simple. People desperate to recruit you into schemes like TLC, Questra, World Ventures or AIM Global are desperate to make money from you, not with you.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay the school?

I need advice on an issue concerning my contract with a school that my daughter used to attend in Phikwe. I was transferred from Phikwe as my employer was closing our office there and I had a contract a school which had a clause on serving notice if a student is transferred from their school.

I notified the principal verbally in March 2017 as soon as I was notified of the office closure, that I will be transferring my daughter to Gaborone as soon as I got a date for the indefinite closure. I was advised to write a letter by the school head, and I delayed, ultimately my moving date came and I failed to make time to go to the school. The school head called me and informed that I have to pay a full term notice to them. I tried to talk to her and make her understand that my relocation was not an intentional move by me, it was a decision taken by my employer and I had no control over it. She was adamant about this. I however moved to Gaborone without making a payment to the school.

In May the school head called me and threatened that I write a commitment letter to make payments and I did but failed to commit as per the letter. I have since been summoned to court in Phikwe to answer for a debt of the full term fees to the school. I need advice or a legal person you can refer me to as I feel I am being treated unfairly.

Firstly, I should state that I’m not an attorney so obviously I can’t offer legal advice. However, simply as a layperson I suspect you have no excuse. Firstly, you signed a contract with the school which explained what would happen if you withdraw your child. The contract includes a clause which says that you “understood that a full term written notice is required when withdrawing a child at any level from the school and that failure to do this will place me liable for an entire terms notice”. You admit that you didn’t do this.

Secondly you later signed a commitment letter saying that you would pay this fee and again you failed to do this. The school was within its rights then to go to court to get an order against you to pay the debt you’ve twice admitted in writing you owe but have still failed to pay.

I suggest that you contact the school and come to some agreement about paying the debt you owe them. However, given that you’ve twice failed to abide by such an agreement, don’t expect them to be very flexible!

Can they strip-search or punish me?

Sir does a security guard have the right to search me on suspicion of theft in a shop or do they have the right to order me to undress. Does the shop owner have permission to punish me even if they have caught me with a stolen item? 

No, they certainly do NOT have the right to search you. And they certainly don’t have the right to make you undress or to “punish” you, no matter what the situation. Any store or guard who does that has abused you and has grossly overstepped their powers.

The only right that a store has, and this includes security guards, is the same right that any private person has, and that’s to arrest someone that they believe has, or might have committed, a serious crime. That includes theft. But that’s all they can do. They can’t search you or your belongings regardless of the circumstances. Only a police officer can do that. All a store or an individual can do is detain you until the police arrive.

In a case a few years ago, a brave woman who had been forced to submit to a search of her bags as she was leaving a store took the security company who had abused her to court and won her case. She was then awarded P60,000 in compensation from the security company. The judge explained that she deserved this, ”considering the humiliation embarrassment and impairment of her dignity as an honest member of society”.

It actually doesn’t matter whether you’re “an honest member of society” or a criminal, either way you have rights and those rights cannot be abused.

Friday, 6 October 2017

People power

We have good laws in Botswana. They’re not perfect, some of them need updating and there are certainly some gaps but we do rather well.

We’re always quoting the Consumer Protection Regulations but also the regulations covering packaged goods, food hygiene, the marking of goods and standards. We’re also often consulting one of the most important pieces of law we have. The Penal Code.

In particular, I’m very fond of Section 195 of the Penal Code which, while discussing defamation, says that a defamatory publication is not unlawful if “the matter is true and it was for the public benefit that it should be published”. That’s helped us considerably when companies have threatened to take us to court for saying bad (but true) things about them. All we’ve needed to do was remind them, or their extremely expensive attorneys, that what we said was true and that clearly the public needed to know it. Every single time they’ve then left us alone.

However, a much more important section of the Penal Code is at its very end. Sections 396-399 talk about what are called “prohibited advertisements”. It says that “Any person shall be guilty of an offence who as principal, agent or servant, publishes or causes or assists to be published any prohibited advertisement.”

So what exactly is a “prohibited advertisement”? The Penal Code says that it’s “any advertisement of any medicine … as being effective for any of the following purposes”.

Those purposes include
  • “the cure of venereal diseases”, 
  • “the prevention, relief or cure of cancer, tuberculosis, leprosy, diabetes, epilepsy”, “the cure of arteriosclerosis, septicaemia, diphtheria, gallstones, kidney stones and bladder stones, heart disease, tetanus, pleurisy, pneumonia, scarlet-fever, smallpox, amenorrhoea, hernia, blindness”, and
  • “the cure of any habit associated with sexual indulgence, or of any ailment associated with those habits or for the promotion of sexual virility, desire or fertility or for the restoration or stimulation of the mental faculties”.
So why is this important? Are there really any people or companies advertising treatments for “the prevention, relief or cure of cancer”? Or for heart disease? Or sexually transmitted diseases, or as the law calls them using a rather old-fashioned term, “venereal diseases”?

Yes, unfortunately there are.

If you’re on Facebook (and I know many of you are), you will have seen messages recently from a variety of people offering a range of “opportunities”. One I saw recently, from an enterprising Filipino, said:
“HELLO BOTSWANA! We are looking for the next distributor that would like to start making P200 to P3,200 daily working just to share information about Aim Global business opportunity every day using your Mobile Phone? DOING IT PART TIME and AT HOME. Just comment "HOW" below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. First 10 person will be prioritized!!!! HURRY!! Let Do this 7 heads INVESTMENT. JOIN US NOW and be the next Millionaire in your Country”
Did you notice something curious about that advertisement? It doesn’t mention what the product is. What is it that can earn you up to P3,200 each day? That’s always a clue that you’ve met someone trying to recruit you into either a pyramid scheme or a Ponzi scheme. Any legitimate business will tell you immediately what products they sell. They’ll be proud of them. A company that seems to hide what their products might be clearly has something to hide.

If you dig deep enough you can discover the product the they’re selling. But first, who are they?

Their company is “Alliance in Motion Global”, a Filipino multi-level marketing scheme that sells nutritional supplements. I should point out that there’s nothing illegal or wrong about food supplements, they’re just entirely unnecessary for almost all of us. With very few exceptions none of us need to take them. A reasonably balanced diet involving plenty of fruit and vegetables will give us all the nutrients a normal person will ever need. Supplements are an expensive waste of money.

However, the supplement that AIM Global sell is a different matter. It’s not just a vitamin pill, it’s something dangerous. They call it C247 and they make some extraordinary claims. They claim that “C247” can help with 100 different serious medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, cirrhosis, bone fracture, deafness, endometriosis, epilepsy, heart diseases, hypertension, low sperm count, “toxins in the body”, stroke, migraine and even cancer and “immunodeficiency”.

We know what that last one means, don’t we? They mean that their product can help people with AIDS. Add to that their claim that the product can help with cancer, diabetes and sexually transmitted diseases and you have what is clearly a series of prohibited advertisements, don’t you think? Isn’t this exactly what Sections 396-399 of the Penal Code forbid?

You might be asking yourself whether this is actually a real concern. So what if some fools sign up for a pyramid scheme and lose some money or some other people buy their ridiculous product that they claim can treat every disease you can imagine? So what? It’s harmless, you might suggest.

I beg to differ. My fear is that someone who is unwell, perhaps battling cancer or fighting AIDS will be seduced by the claims of these peddlers of lies and will stop taking their real medication, perhaps throw away their ARVs and take AIM Global’s product instead. You might think this doesn’t happen but I can introduce you to doctors who’ve told me that it does. They can tell you about their patients, desperate for a miracle cure who have done exactly this and have paid the ultimate price. They died as a result of taking a product like C247 that they were promised could perform miracles.

Luckily, we have a weapon against them. The law. The question is who is prepared to use it?

Perhaps more effective is for people like you and me to take action to stop them peddling this dangerous product. Let’s comment every time we see their advertisements on Facebook, telling them that their advertisements are illegal and their scheme is too suspicious. Who needs the law when you have people power?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Double deductions?

I am emailing on behalf of my father who has an issue with a deduction made from his bank account for his car loan. He had a car loan through the bank and was in arrears by 2 months. He received a call from reminding him about the arrears and the week after the call, he cleared the outstanding balance.

1 or 2 weeks later he saw a deduction of P1900 from his account. When he made a query regarding this deduction, he was told it was done by the car loan division. He was charged P1900 for the telephonic reminder regarding his arrears from their legal department.

He contacted the bank branch manager and even the manager said it was not correct for them to make a deduction like this. He said he will try and sort out the matter but unfortunately till date we have not been able to get assistance. It's been more than a month.

What can be done in this situation? Your assistance would be highly appreciated.


Your father deserves to be given the facts. Yes, he was in arrears by 2 months and that was an obvious breach of his loan agreement. I’m sure we all agree that he shouldn’t have been in arrears. But that’s life. Bad things happen and when they do we should expect the people to whom we owe money to behave decently. Yes, there probably is a clause in the loan agreement saying that they could penalise him, charge him a penalty fee, record his debt with a credit reference agency and seize his children and sell them to recover their losses.

Ok, I admit I made up that last bit. I suggest you advise your father to contact the Managing Director of the bank and ask for a full statement of his account so he can check whether they can do arithmetic correctly. Please don’t contact anyone else about this, only the MD is sufficient. Please also advise your father that whatever the bank might say, he can ignore their official complaints procedure. It’s 2017, the age of Facebook and consumer power. He can complain to whoever he pleases. He’s in charge.

Where’s my leather?

I bought sofas at from a store last July after being told by the shop owner that they were made of leather. In May this year the sofas started cracking and I called and told the owner about the problem and he immediately sent his employees to go and fetch the sofas. He then changed his story that the sofas were coated with leatherette on the sides that is why they are cracking and I told him that if he could have told me the truth, I wouldn’t have bought the sofas. He then promised me that he will remove the leatherette and replace it with leather where the cracking was occurring. To my surprise he did only one sofa and I immediately called him that the other sofa was cracking and I sent him the pictures again. He did not respond and I went to see him in person. He again promised me that I should call again to check if the leather was available because he was expecting it soon. I checked him again about the issue and he told me that there is nothing he can assist me with because he can’t keep on fixing the sofas time and again and that their warranty has elapsed. I then told him that the problem started when the sofas were on warranty and he was unable to give a satisfying answer. 


Enough.

The store owner has breached almost every one of the Consumer Protection Regulations as well as treating you with contempt. There’s no point in listing the regulations he’s broken, I think you should go back to him and give him a letter saying that he has comprehensively abused your rights as a consumer and demanding a solution within 14 days. List the various dates and feeble excuses he’s given you and tell him in the letter that if he fails to fix the sofas within the time you’ve given him you’ll take whatever form of legal action you think necessary against him and his store.

You must also make it very clear in your letter that he was informed of his failure to honour your rights within the warranty period and that his excuse about the warranty having now expired is nothing more than nonsense and a distraction. Let’s see how that works!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Will we ever learn?

Why do we keep falling for scams? Why, as a nation, are we serial victims to scammers?

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe people only ever fall for a scam once and then they learn their lesson. Maybe each scam that hits Botswana only affects people who have never seen a scam before. Maybe each time it’s a new set of victims?

If only it was that simple. Yes, each time a new scam arrives it finds some new victims but very often it’s the same people who fall for them over and over again. Some of us really are serial victims.

Anyone in our Facebook group or who listens to us on radio will have heard us warning people about what appeared to be a suspicious recruitment exercise being undertaken by a company calling itself Voxcom Voice and Data Solutions. A letter from this company started with the following bizarre statement: “The world has never been a place where peasants have held power”. It then continued to welcome each “Prospective Employee” “to the Voxcom family” and confirmed that the recipient had been successful in their “application for a weeks training”. So far so good, you might think.


But no, not good. The letter continued by asking people to “Kindly note that your training fee of P750 has been duly noted.”

And then it got even stranger. According to the letter there was a formal dress code for the training. It insisted that “during training full company uniform must be worn, ie, black pants/skirt and jacket paired with a white shirt/blouse.”

Stop and think about that. A company that is offering a job to people (“Prospective Employee”) demands that they pay to be trained how to do the job while wearing particular clothes? Is that normal? Is that how recruitment works?

No, it’s not. It most certainly is NOT how real businesses hire people.

But it’s stranger. The logo on this letter was quite distinctive and with just a few seconds work on Google I’d found a company called Voxcom Voice and Data Solutions with exactly the same logo based in Maryland, USA. So I called them and asked if they knew anything about a company running a recruitment exercise in Botswana using their name and logo. No, they told me, they knew nothing about this.

The real Voxcom's logo

So now there’s a very good reason to be suspicious.

After we posted and broadcast warnings several people got in touch to defend the program, saying that they had willingly paid the P750 because they were going to get jobs earning P2,500 in a call center that this company was establishing in Francistown. Some even sent pictures of the trainees proudly holding certificates they’d been given following the training. So was it perhaps genuine and just a bit strange? Was it all actually legitimate?

No.

Let’s not forget the issue of theft. The people running this program had stolen the logo and name of a company in a foreign country and while that might seem like a minor thing I think it tells you a lot about someone.

But then the whistle-blowers got in touch.

The first said:
“I saw your post warning us about Voxcom and I am one of the affected. We have been conned out of our P750 with promises of jobs. We went there every morning till month end and now the company is dodging to pay us our salaries as per our agreement.”
Another told me:
“This is totally a scam and people are kept there with so many unfulfilled promises. There is nothing going on, no furniture, no permanent offices, people are there without contracts. The so called investor has long gone and made promises that he is coming back but they keep postponing his arrival. The company’s account is at zero while the investor is busy saying he is transferring millions.”
They went to say that:
“100 people paid during my time there and went through customer service training and I did hear they trained some batch. The 1st batch was trained and got certificates. The 2nd batch didn't get their certificate.”
Yet another whistle-blower was able to offer a wealth of insider information about the finances of this strange scheme, about the troubles the organiser was having crossing the border from South Africa, and even the politicians he was trying to seduce into endorsing his business. They also confirmed the story from the others that the organiser:
“had promised the employees that they will get paid but he kept postponing dates when they will be paid and up to this day they still haven't been paid. He lies all the time about him being on his way to Botswana everyday.”
This person said that the:
“most disheartening thing is that some of the people that were promised jobs are people who had other jobs only to quit hoping for greener pastures. And to this date they are still registering more people getting P750 from them. I am of the knowledge that 50 employees have since been fired because they are said to be under 21 but you wonder why it wasn't stated in the beginning that they are unemployable yet their P750s were still taken.”
They concluded by reporting that
“When employees complain or ask when they are getting paid they get threatened that they will be fired. All in all this is a scam and its continuing. I don't know how these people can be stopped.”
The good news is that this scam has already collapsed. The bad news is that the organiser appears to have stolen at least P75,000 from people, probably a lot more. The worst news is that we’ve fallen for a scam yet again and I don’t see an end to it any time soon.

So when will we learn to be less gullible? When will we truly understand that there are many people out there whose only objective is to steal our money? When will we become a nation of skeptics? It needs to be soon!