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Consumer Watchdog

Staff Writer
'Stupidity'

I'm sorry to be rude. OK, perhaps I'm not. Sometimes I'm afraid that my reactions are just spontaneously rude.There are times when "stupid" just seems to be exactly the right word to describe the situations I've encountered.

We heard from a consumer recently who bought an item of clothing at a well-known store. Unfortunately she made the mistake of buying the item without actually trying it on first. OK, we've probably all done that before so we can forgive her the oversight. Anyway, she had reason to expect the store to fix it. On the back of the receipt it clearly stated that the store offered an exchange or a refund. Clearly a good store, one you can trust to be intelligent and not stupid.

However, it wasn't that simple. She went back to the store to get the promised refund or exchange but you can imagine her shock when they said they only offered exchanges or vouchers and not refunds. She directed the store's attention to the receipt that she had so wisely kept but was told that that only referred to South Africa. "No this wasn't stated on the receipt." she exclaimed

When she wisely demanded to see the manager he told her that it hadn't been their job to explain that what was written on the receipt had been untrue. "You should have asked", she was told.

You don't need me to tell you that this is stupid, utterly stupid, do you? They gave her a written guarantee that a refund was available but then denied it? Can you imagine how much a judge would laugh if he or she heard that?

See if you can see the logical flaw (or just stupidity) in another story I heard recently. Cahoot, the internet division of Santander, one of Europe's largest banks, emailed a number of its clients asking them to confirm, guess what, their email addresses.

Understandably many of the customers were suspicious, thinking this was a "phishing" attempt but no, the bank do seem to be as stupid as it seems. Needless to say Cahoot is now the laughing stock of the European banking industry.

What about the stupidity of scammers? Does anyone object if I call them stupid? How can you object? Crooks don't deserve the respect you and I would pay each other.

Recently we've been researching what seems to be a new kind of scam. It's not the usual "my father died and left me a fortune and I need your help to get the money our of my war-torn country" scam. This is more complex. In fact, I don't even know how the scam works but trust me, it is one.

A reader got in touch to ask if we could help investigate a charitable foundation he was thinking of dealing with.They call themselves the "Fundaci—n Donaciones Humanitarias" which, given my extensive knowledge of Spanish (and the Google Translate facility) means the "Humanitarian Grants Foundation".

They claim to be "a humanitarian foundation connected synergistically to multiple non-profit and profit activities and organizations aiming to achieve our mission", whatever

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the hell that means. As proof of their existence they sent our reader a copy of a letter he was told had been submitted to the South African Government offering them a grant (not a loan) of, get this, US$800 billion. No, not millions, BILLIONS. That's more than the entire GDP of South Africa. It's roughly P5 TRILLION.

The staggering amount of money is enough of a clue that this is bogus. Couple that with free email addresses, cell numbers and there being no evidence of them ever donating anything to anyone and you'll understand why I'm suspicious.

They claim to be "affiliated" with the United Nations but I can't find any trace of that either. Nor can I find any confirmation of their emailed claim that "Interpol cleared the persons involved and also FDH".

However, here's the interesting bit. The person who wrote the letter offering this fortune is a real individual. I know, I've spoken to him. He is traceable. He runs a small business in South Africa.

So what's going on here? Well, it's obviously a scam. I spoke to the person this letter was addressed to (a senior manager in the South African National Treasury Department) and she confirms that it's a nonsense.

She also confirmed that investigations are underway by the relevant authorities in South Africa. The person being scammed is the local guy who wrote the letter on FDH's behalf. You can bet that sooner or later that he'll be asked to cough up some cash in anticipation of his share of the $800 Billion.

The person who seems to be behind this scam calls himself "Sir Edward Cooper" and he really exists too. Well, there is a human being calling himself that name but that's all a lie.

There's as much evidence that he exists as there is for FDH. When I spoke to "Sir Edward" all the way from Hawaii he claimed initially that his knighthood had been awarded by Queen Elizabeth but when I pointed out that she's never knighted anyone with that name he became a bit more slippery, claiming it's a Hawaiian knighthood. No, there's no such thing as that either.

As I said I don't know yet where the scam is here but there is evidence that "Sir Edward" was connected with a previous scam donor called the "Pureheart Foundation" that seemed to operate in the same way. You can see the details on the Consumer Watchdog blog.

So isn't "Sir Edward" a clever guy for running such a complex scam and for creating these fake identities? No. If I can expose him with minutes he's clearly pretty stupid like all the other scammers.

This week's stars

The manager at Spar at Kgale Shopping Centre. Our reader says he's the one with "the piercing blue eyes"!If you have any consumer issues please get in touch.  Email us at watchdog@bes.bw, by post to P. Box 403026, Gaborone or by phone on 3904582 or fax on 3911763.  Read the Consumer Watchdog blog at consumerwatchdogbw.blogspot.com and join our Facebook group called "Consumer Watchdog Botswana".



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