What began as a routine cellphone purchase from an established business has uncovered a possible scam, the source of which remains uncertain.
A Barbadian male, who requested anonymity, told Barbados TODAY that after purchasing what he thought was a new cellphone from the popular electronics store Electronics on Edge four months ago, a recent trip to the United States revealed the phone had actually been reported stolen to US carrier T-Mobile since January 30, 2015.
However, lawyer for Electronics on Edge Satcha Kissoon has strongly denied any wrongdoing on the part of the company, stating that the phone was delivered by one of their many suppliers out of New York.
The agitated buyer said his issues began last December when he bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 from the store’s Sheraton, Christ Church branch.
After returning from a trip to the US three-weeks later, he experienced network issues, which he reported to Electronics on Edge.
The company assured it would be repaired and in the ensuing period gave him up to four “new” replacements, each of which exhibited similar problems.
“All of the cellphones were doing the same thing. Actually, one cellphone was not even working because when I turned it on, it was just blank,” he recalled.
Tired and fed up, the disgruntled customer said he asked for a refund but was offered a Note Edge in exchange on March 9.
Two months later, while on a business trip to Houston, Texas, he attempted to use a T-Mobile sim card in his latest phone. What happened after that left him dumbfounded.
“When I travelled to the US I had a T-Mobile sim card from a friend . . . . [Since] the phone was a T-Mobile phone, I figured everything would be very compatible, but when I inserted the sim card, the phone would not work,” he told Barbados TODAY.
The St James resident said he called a T-Mobile outlet to report the problem and received the shocking news that the phone had been reported stolen since January, and had been blocked by all US carriers.
“The T-Mobile agent asked me for the phone’s IMEI [International Mobile Station Equipment Identity] number and the sim card number which my friend had given to me. The agent then returned and told me that phone was reported stolen to T-Mobile since January 30, 2015.
“I was asking her if she was 100 per cent sure and she told me, ‘yes, the IMEI number which you gave me has been reported stolen, hence the reason you cannot get any network service on the phone because T-Mobile has blocked all network access once it’s in US airspace,’” he said.
The man was unable to secure a written report from the phone company, so after he returned home he called the US carrier again and recorded the conversation.
Barbados TODAY obtained a copy of the recording in which the agent is heard saying T-Mobile US had blocked the device because it was reported stolen.
“So I don’t know who sold that to you but it’s definitely not a professional type of thing you are dealing with here,” the woman could be heard telling the Barbadian man.
Barbados TODAY also obtained a copy of the receipt given to the man when he purchased the phone, and the IMEI number matched the one referred to in the recorded conversation.
When Barbados TODAY first spoke to Kissoon he denied the phone was stolen, arguing that this could only be verified if the customer returned it and allowed the company to carry out their own investigations.
The lawyer claimed at the time that the company had offered the purchaser “adequate compensation” but he had refused to return the questionable device.
“We were trying to get hold of the directors of the supplier because the information which has been shared with us is still inconsistent . . . in terms of how you determine whether or not the phone is in the category of stolen. They said you can’t use the IMEI number just by itself, that they need the physical phone,” Kissoon said in the initial conversation.
“Electronics on Edge has numerous suppliers. They get [phones] directly from Samsung and from suppliers in the USA depending on the type of processors people want in their phone. The supplier sells them as brand new phones and there is no direct linkage between my client and the supplier. They are independent suppliers like anyone else.
“Until we can get back that phone, and until my client can determine the accuracy of the statements, all indications are that his complaint is untrue,” Kissoon maintained.
After listening to the recording, Barbados TODAY rang Kissoon again, who later called back to report that he had spoken with the supplier who revealed that T-Mobile had in fact verified that the phone was blacklisted but did not say why.
When contacted, Public Relations Officer of the Royal Barbados Police Force Acting Assistant Superintendent of Police David Welch told Barbados TODAY he was unaware of any reports of customers receiving stolen US phones, as no complaints had been lodged.