Friday, August 8, 2014

The Country Club - Total Mall Scam

 

This week I was the target of a scam run by The Country Club and Total Mall. The scam runs in various malls across India, but in my case, I was targeted at Total Mall on Old Airport Road. After searching about this on the net, I now realize I luckily (or smartly) escaped from this well planned scam targeting innocent shoppers.

So last week, we were happily shopping at Total Mall; now usually I cautiously stay away from big malls, preferring to shop only at smaller stores, but I had to buy something which was available only at some meat stores. I knew the meat store at Total Mall had it, so off I went. On the way back, we saw these young 20-something sales boys going around telling customers about their lucky draw program. Country Club (the guy with the thumbs up) and Total Mall was organizing this draw, and winners would get exciting gifts ! All we had to do was to fill in our detail in their foms. I was sceptical, but thought of trying it out just to see where it goes. Both me and my wife filled out only first names, and phone numbers in the forms, leaving everything else blank. Both of us entered MY cell number, so that I would get the call no matter who’s form was selected. Nothing else was entered. We forgot the whole matter.

Two days later, I get a call from an unknown Bangalore number, to confirm my identity. They asked me my monthly salary, which I refused to reveal. I added the caller’s number to my phones black list, so that they could never call me again from that number.The scam had started !

And then today, at about 3pm, I get this call from another unknown number. It sounded like another 20-something guy, who wanted to inform me that I had just won one of their elusive prizes ! Worth 30,000 Rs /- Wow ! He tried to sound enthusiastic, but I could sense the tiredness in his voice. He told me that 30 couples had been selected from 2000 families, and we were the luck ones to win the prize. A travel prize of 25,000, a one day something pass of 1000 , and a kitchen set of 4000! Inorder to claim the prize, both of us had to attend their function at 9pm at Outer Ring Road. I thanked him, and said I would attend.

This is the message I got from them via SMS:

Total mall convention hall , BEFOR Intel Cmpny, near to new horizon engineering college  DEVARBESANALI stop B'lore
After coming here it will take maximum  30 to 45 min to collect your gifts
manoj 9686618685

The call came from : ‍+914066050000.

 

 

I was outside, so when I cam back to office, I tried simply googling up Total Mall Country Club Prize. Then I started seeing pages of pages of complaints, consumer complaints. People before me had unknowingly fallen for the scam and had lost lakhs of rupees !

Basically, this is how the scam worked:

    1. Couples would get fill in their details in forms run by these scammers.
    2. They would then get a phone call a week later, saying they have won the prize. Inorder to claim the prize, they had to attend the function as a couple together.
    3. The function would be at 8pm onwards, during which the poor attendees would be subjected to a hour long presentation from Country Club, about how their life would improve if they would join the club. Annual vacations abroad, using their club…blah blah..blah. Some tea and biscuits would be provided.
    4. The salemen would make the deal sound like a once in a life time offer, and convince the couples to sign on. The amount is in the range of 75,000/- to 1.5 lakhs rupees. They would be given a cheap kitchen set, which can be bought outside for some hundreds of rupees.
    5. The rest of the prizes including the vacation prize, they say, would be mailed later.
    6. Poor couples who have just lost some lakhs, go home waiting for the remaining prize, which never comes ! If they call country club up, the support guys give bullshit like call some other numbers, blah blah…
    7. The poor couples have now paid lakhs for a vacation, which can be had for a few thousands.

I did not attend the function. The next day, I got a call from that guy Manoj again, asking why I did not come. I told him to f** off, and that I would never fall for their marketing scam.

 

The Indian Consumer is a breed very susceptible to fraudulent marketing schemes. Poor (not money poor) Indians are always looking for discounts and free prizes, they would buy even poison if it is on a 50% sale ! Such fraud scams thrive on the money of such people, worsened by the fact that they don’t think twice, or know of their rights as a consumer.

Always be careful when you hand out your personal details to strangers outside.

Why I did not fall for it: I have heard of such scams in the past, and I make it a point to double check every form I put my sign on and hand out. And nowadays, due to cheap internet, any information can be had easily. So I make sure I search on such things before I jump in joy at the thought of winning a free prize ! As a rule, I do not answer calls from unknown numbers, staying away from such hunters.

 

Be an alert customer ! Happy Shopping !

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