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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Be Warned

We would just like to inform readers/travel agents etc. of an incident that happened at our offices yesterday.

We received a phone call from a potential client who asked if he could come and see us to talk to us regarding a booking for 20 executive businessmen from Oracle Corporation based in the USA. He told us his boss in Zambia has asked him to book Varden Safaris as he had been to Mavuradonha before and the executives wanted to hold a workshop before the launch of a new company.

When he arrived (in a taxi) he was well spoken and knew all about the travel industry, down to the group would be going from Varden to Gweru by private charter (Solenta) and then onto the Falls and back to Harare and that the budget was unlimited.

He was very plausible and not for an instant did we suspect he was a con artist. He said his name was Howard. While he was waiting for us to complete the quote, he started talking about his son who was 12 and was presently having a blood transfusion. He was speaking to his wife on the phone and phoned his "business partner" in Zambia whilst in our office. He then received a call from his wife telling him they would not give his son more blood unless they received $83.00. He then said he would go back to his office, collect the cash and go to the hospital. Then he asked if by any chance we had the $83 and he would leave his laptop here as guarantee that he would come back. It was all so plausible that we gave him the $83.00 and instead of leaving his laptop, could he leave his cell phone instead. He told us his server was down and he needed his laptop when he got to his office to sort it out. He told us to try and email him but it would probably bounce back however, his Zambian boss would be able to receive it.

Needless to say both emails bounced back, the cell phone had the SIM card removed and it was old and battered, the company numbers he gave us just rang and there is no Oracle Corporation in Zimbabwe. The taxi driver phoned us later in the day to ask us if "Howard" had come back to our office. He used the taxi to take him all over Harare for the day and then told the driver to wait at the bank while he organised some cash to pay him and then gave the taxi driver the slip - never to be seen again - owing the taxi $70.00!

Easy in hindsight to see all the flaws but a very accomplished and intelligent Con Man who absolutely knows about the tourism industry.

Varden Safaris

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