Mail from Jail (2)

Often, we all talk about scam as it concerns basically what we have come to term ‘yahoo yahoo (internet scam). Only on few occasions do we make reference to the scam that is perpetrated by corporate bodies. In fact, it is often times unheard of that we talk about what I call corporate scam. When any reference is made to scam that concerns a corporate body, it is often a reference to an individual either defrauding the company, or using the company’s name to defraud other companies or people. But there is corporate scam, the type perpetrated by companies against the consumers of their products.

We shall focus primarily on the telecommunication industries in Nigeria and how they defraud their customers. As I am typing this essay, the writing I must say began a little earlier than I planned it. My first plan was to check my e-mails, then start writing. Unfortunately, since there is no light here ( and hasn’t been for more than two months now), I am using generator and must make sure every litre of fuel is properly used). Now, I have to start writing this essay first because Reltel( my internet service provider) has denied me access to the internet. Not that my subscription has expired. On the contrary, I still have more than two weeks before my subscription expires. Yet the recurrent response they are giving me as I try to connect is “Access denied because username/password is invalid on the domain”. This has been going on every morning for five days now. Indeed, even in between hours during the day and night, they will disconnect you, and tell you the same thing. Yet I had paid for twenty-four hours uninterrupted browsing. Any user of Reltel will tell you this story. It is more annoying that exactly on the day that your subscription would expire, they will cut you off without making up for the hours/days they had ‘stolen’ from you. This to me represents fraud of the highest order. Unfortunately, repeated visits to their office to lay complaints come to nothing.

Which reminds me, yesterday, my cousin had to rush down to Reltel office Port Harcourt, to pay for another subscription after repeatedly receiving this erroneous message of access denied. When he came to my place to recharge, I had to tell him to hold on first, let me check his status with them. Behold, he still has seven days remaining! The young man shouted that the money he used in purchasing the re-connection card was money he wanted to use for the weekend. Now he had to pass through the weekend, with no money since he does not use ATMs.

Reltel is not the only telecommunication industry here which has perfected the act of defrauding its customers. It seems that MTN is the champion of that. For MTN, theirs come in diverse ways. First, they will charge you consistently for several messages they know they cannot deliver because of network problem. Thus you will send messages, which return immediately as ‘failed’, yet they will deduct the normal amount for the message which their network could not send. This to me represents a carefully crafted plan at defrauding their customers.

There is another one. During their(MTN) just concluded South Africa 2010 promo, customers were expected to send a text to a certain number, then a question would be sent back to them. A correct answer they told us, equals to ‘one goal’ and ‘three goals’ give you a chance to participate in the draws. Well, I repeatedly sent the text messages, waiting for the questions so that I can answer and be part of the scheme. Yours sincerely did not get any question, yet I was charged fifty naira for each of the messages I sent! If this is not scam, tell me what is!

Then in the usual phone in program where you are expected to call such numbers as ‘33456’ to participate and win a prize, we are of course warned that every call attracts say fifty or one hundred naira. But when you call, your call (I guess because the lines are busy) will not go through. Rather all you will be hearing are beeps( busy beeps). If you are unaware of this trickery and hold on, hoping that your call will be picked, and that it is only when it is picked that you will lose the amount they stated, you are in for a surprise. The beeps we have found out take all the money in your phone away! Talk about corporate fraud that is so glaring yet no penalties are paid by the company.

Globacom is not left out. While those ones fail in service delivery in some areas like their brothers, they also are a party to this problem. I have just one example of theirs. This concerns the caller tunes thing they do. Now you are supposed to send a text to a certain number and your passcode will be sent to you. To choose your special caller tune, you were told to call a certain number(I have since thrown away my Glo line after this happened to me, so cannot extract those numbers. But every user of Glo should know this), or log on to their website then go to “callertunez”. I sent the text( and they of course took their one hundred naira for the month), got my passcode, then called the number they said I should call for more information. Unfortunately, the same people who asked me to call the number told me that ‘the number you have called is incorrect”! I logged on to their website, and could not find the ‘callertunez’ link they talked about. So I was left with the tune they had chosen for me “Time to rule your world…”. I felt that okay, I will let this run till the end of the month, then I will not have to re-subscribe. I never knew that at the end of the month, they will automatically deduct another one hundred naira from my account! I have no option than to consign that number to the dustbins!

For the other telecommunication companies in the country, I must say that I have no proof of their indulgence in corporate fraud. The reason is that I have never used their services. Zain of course is so busy looking for new names and owners that one wonders if these continuous changes are not scam motivated in the first place. I think they should finally settle for “Names Nigeria” and quit the search.

Indeed, it is disheartening that these telecommunication companies would continue to defraud us and nothing is done about it. We should have a means through which we can lay our complaints, and be sure of being listened to, and what has been taken away restored to us. As far as I am concerned, it is a collective insult to our intelligence. It makes us look helpless like children. Is it that these telecommunication companies are doing us a very big favour? I do not think so. Neither do I think we should let this be.

I think I forgot something; this is jail, and I am asking for rights! Anyway, let us take it that I am just trying to psychologically let off steam.

* “Mail from Jail” is our (all of us) forum. You can contribute your views by e-mailing me at If you have concrete examples of corporate fraud, let us discuss them here.

** It is 9.49 am, and I just finished this essay. Reltel has not yet granted me access. Talk of blatancy and boldness in fraud.

Written by
Nnaemeka Oruh
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