Friday, 18 March 2011

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I am a Botswana citizen and was looking for an online school and came across the AIU (Atlantic International University). Now they want me to enroll with this one of the scams or what.

Your help will be appreciated?

Yes, Atlantic International University is CERTAINLY a fake university. We covered this in The Voice a few weeks ago. You can see the article on our blog and on The Voice web site.

Atlantic International University play quite a clever trick by claiming, truthfully, to be an accredited university. HOWEVER when you dig deeper you discover that this is a trick. In the small print they concede that they are “not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education”. They are, in fact, accredited by the “Accrediting Commission International (ACI)”. This is a fake accreditation body that even AIU confess is also “not regulated or approved by the US Department of Education”.

They’re a fake university accredited by a fake accreditation body.

Their web site is full of curious things. For instance the profiles of some of their senior staff appear to be false and others can’t be traced at all. Some of them seem to have awarded themselves their only qualifications from their own non-accredited university.

The problem for fake universities like Atlantic International is that more and more people are realizing that they are crooks. More and more employers are realizing this too. Please don’t run the risk of ruining your career by thinking you can improve it with a fake degree.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I received an email from the Russell Hotel in London saying that they wanted to hire workers. Is this true?

This is a scam.

The email says:
“Salary: is very attractive depending on experience to be found in applicant. Our salary and benefit which will be forwarded to you for your perusal.

The hotel management wants the whole thing settled in 45days time. If you can meet our requirement please reply for further procedures. The management will take care of your feeding, accommodation including your air ticket. We will provide all the relevant backup documents to enable the applicant get his or her visa at UK-Embassy in the applicant country.”
“Feeding”? Yes they clearly think of their victims as cattle.

Let’s face a few facts. Why would a hotel in London be recruiting total strangers from around the world and paying for their air ticket, food and accommodation? Why would they email from a free email address? They’re supposedly a hotel in central London so why can’t they string a sentence together in the Queen’s English?

You can bet they’ll yet another “advance fee” payable by Western Union as soon as you reply to them.

Green card scams

We’ve been contacted by many people over the last few weeks who received emails claiming they have won the US Diversity lottery. This is a genuine scheme that people can apply for but these scammers are exploiting people’s ignorance of how it really works to steal their money.

The emails typically offer an unbelievable amount of free accommodation, health care, education and a job. And guess what? They want about US$800, which they want to be paid via Western Union. Of course this seems too good to be true and that’s because it IS too good to be true. It’s a scam.

I’ve posted links to official US State Department web sites that describe the scam on our blog but whatever you do, please don’t respond to them and certainly don’t send them any money. You’ll never see it again.

See warnings from the US State Department, the Federal Trade CommissionWikipedia (look at the "Frauds and scams" section) and Consumer Fraud Reporting. See also this warning from the US Embassy in Botswana (courtesy of GabzFM).

VERY late bills

How long can a company wait before sending you a bill for their services?

A reader got in touch to tell us about the bill she just received from a major utility company here in Botswana. I won’t say which one but there aren’t that many to choose from so you might guess. It was for the magnificent total of P166.25. The letter she received went on to give her 14 days to pay up otherwise they would refer her to ITC.

The reader, being a honest consumer. had no problem in principle with paying her debts, but asked them what exactly it was for. They demanded that she come to their office where they presented her with a bill which they allege she incurred in 1998. Thirteen years ago!

She wanted to know if this was reasonable.

Of course it isn’t!!!!! It’s utterly absurd!

We checked with our friendly, neighbourhood lawyer and he confirmed what our understanding of the law says.

He said that a debt like this can only be enforced for “3 years from the date on which the debt fell due or the date on which the creditor could first reasonably have been expected to know the claim arose”.

See, we have some wonderful laws in Botswana. Sensible, just laws that genuinely protect you and me. It’s just a shame that some companies don’t know about them.

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