How criminals are skimming your bank cards

A recent MyBroadband article warned users to be on the lookout for ATM card skimming devices (see Beware of these card skimming devices at ATMs), but this is only one way in which criminals are gathering card information.

There are various scams and social engineering tactics that card fraud perpetrators use to dupe unsuspecting ATM users, with the sole purpose of skimming their bank cards.

This article serves to warn people about the card skimming scams, and how to recognise them.

Social engineering and card skimming

One of the common scams, the South African Banking Information Centre (Sabric) warns, is a person claiming to work for a bank approaching unsuspecting ATM users while they are standing in an ATM queue.

The criminal then advises them to ‘re-activate’ their card by swiping it through a ‘card re-activating device’.

“Unbeknown to the victim, the device in the perpetrators possession is not a ‘card reactivating device’ but a hand held skimming device,” Sabric warns.

Incidents of this nature can happen either prior to the victim performing their transaction at the ATM, or after.

“Often there would be a second or even third person (accomplices) loitering around the ATM, shoulder surfing for the customer PINs,” Sabric said.

“The perpetrators would then use the information stolen through the skimming of the card to manufacture a counterfeit card, which, when matched with the customer PINs, is used to make fraudulent transactions.”

Here are some of the common hand held card skimming devices used by criminals in South Africa.


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Chaka Fattah Jr.’s former business partner pleads guilty to obtaining bank …

In a wide-ranging indictment of Fattah, prosecutors allege that he defrauded banks and the IRS of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and stole money intended for Philadelphia schools. Hes also accused of obtaining business loans and using them for personal expenses.

In the Amato matter, Fattah is accused of knowingly inducing Amato to obtain the loans and turn the money over to Fattah. Fattah has been outspoken in denying all charges against him.

Amato claimed to be doing business as Chaka Fattah, Jr. Associates and even told PNC that he was the sole proprietor and CEO of the business, court documents said. He claimed the business made $139,000 in revenue, but it was not even an existing business entity, prosecutors said.

We found no documentation that such an entity existed, no banking records or registrations or anything like that, said Assistant United States Attorney Paul L. Gray.

Gray said Amato is likely to cooperate in the case against Fattah and any other cases related to his actions.

US District Judge Harvey Bartle 3d set Amatos sentencing hearing for Nov. 12.

Jared Shelly is the digital producer of the Philadelphia Business Journal.


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Is A Crowdfunding Business Loan Right For You?

In my last column I introduced the concept of crowdfunding — the new word and online methods of fundraising and capitalization. The two crowdfunding examples I described were contributions and business transactions doubling as fundraising.

Let’s continue with the third type, which is, crowdfunding structured for loans.

Crowdfunding debt, AKA peer-to-peer and social lending, is like traditional borrowing: a request for funds comes with the promise of repayment with interest over a specific term. But the former is done online, and the latter is not. Individuals use crowdfunding for personal loans, but our focus here is for business borrowing, which typically involve four crowds:

1. Business borrowers

2. An online crowdfunding platform aggregating loan requests

3. A funding and underwriting source, likely a hedge fund

4. Individuals who invest with #3, knowing it’s for loans to small businesses

Remember the innumerable and anonymous crowdfunding factors from the previous column? These two are also in play with crowdfunding debt, because a large crowd is required to provide a pool of loan funds and dilute the risk, and investors are only known to the funding source aggregator.

Regardless of the funding source, crowdfunding or traditional, small business loans are expensive for the borrower because this sector is considered high risk for two primary reasons:

1. Most small businesses are undercapitalized and operate on a thin survival margin

2. Too many small business owners don’t track financial performance well enough to know how they’re really doing.

And since crowdfunding loans are unsecured, taking the risk to an even higher level, crowdfunding business loans are doubly expensive.

So is a crowdfunding business loan right for you? Here’s some context: If you can borrow from your bank, this year you’ll probably pay an average of about 6% annual interest rate. A crowdfunding loan APR will likely be 15% or more. Any questions?

Crowdfunding business lending has achieved some level of critical mass and is growing. As I’ve said before, the future of small business capitalization will look a lot different than it does today largely due to this emerging alternative.

Next time we’ll wrap up this series with a tour of the good, bad, and improbable of investor equity crowdfunding. And more tough love.

Write this on a rock…If you can borrow money from a bank, don’t borrow from a crowd

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”


‘Skywalker’ signature rejected by passport officials

We have a duty to ensure the reputation of the UK passport is not called into question or disrepute, a spokesman said.

Ms Matthews, who lives in Southend, said she had never encountered problems with her middle name or signature before.

Its on my driving licence, my bank cards, everything. Everyone else is happy with that signature apart from passport office, she said.

Adding the name – which made her Laura Elizabeth Skywalker Matthews – came about after a conversation with friends.

Despite the recent problems with her passport, she does not regret her decision.

She has been told she might have to submit a new passport form with her old signature, but would be able to keep her new name on the document.


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Audit reveals most BRA small business loans overdue

The lending division of the Boston Redevelopment Authority has allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars in small business loans to go uncollected, with most of its loans seriously delinquent, according to an internal audit.

In a story in today’s Boston Globe, the audit, obtained through a public records request, found that 51 percent of the total amount borrowed has been delinquent for 90 days or longer. The typical ratio for delinquent loans at most banks is in the 1 percent range.

“At some point it’s no longer a loan,” said Matthew A. Cahill, executive director of the Boston Finance Commission, the city’s fiscal watchdog, told the Globe. “If the loan isn’t getting paid back, you’re giving someone money.”

The audit of the BRA lending arm, a taxpayer-funded nonprofit called the Boston Local Development Corp., is separate from a broader audit of the BRA last month, which found that the authority failed to collect millions of dollars in fees and lease payments from developers.

Nick Martin, a BRA spokesman, said the audit is done annually by Daniel Dennis Co. of Boston. The time period covered by the Globe story included audits for fiscal year 2012 and 2013. The most recent audit was provided to the Walsh administration in the spring.


Habitat for Humanity gets to work on Women Build 2014

MADISON HEIGHTS The idea of home construction usually evokes imagery of rugged men working in the sun, but early in the morning Aug. 11, it was pure girl power getting ready to raise the walls of a brand-new home.

The build-in-progress at 576 E. Kalama in Madison Heights, is done by Women Build 2014, through Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that operates under the motto, A hand up, not a handout. They help deserving individuals and their families to build sustainable homes. The recipients do their share by investing 300 hours of sweat equity, which includes taking classes in home finance, maintenance and more.

Habitat Oakland is no stranger to Madison Heights, where theyve done numerous builds over the years. But the one at 576 E. Kalama is unique.

This is because its the first Women Build that Habitat has had in nearly a decade. Here, women are leading the project and funding it. Female CEOs, managers, financial experts and more were volunteering their time, showing up in pink T-shirts and donning hardhats, nail aprons and goggles before getting to work.

Today, you are all builders, said Tim Ruggles, CEO of Habitat Oakland, as the crowd cheered. Not only on this home, but youre also builders of community, and builders of hope, and builders of memories. Hopefully, by the end of the day, youll have all that in your hearts, as youre tired and dirty and sweaty, remembering you did something special today. So have fun, and be safe!

Johnna Struck, president of Changing Places Moving, in Waterford, and volunteer chair of Women Builds steering committee, said shes been involved in Habitat builds at various phases, but never on a build from the ground up like this one the first ground-up build in several years, rather than the usual rehab of an existing home.

The three-bedroom, one-bath ranch, being built on a city-donated lot that had been vacant for several years, already had its foundation in place and underground plumbing completed by the time the volunteers arrived Aug. 11. Other specialists will step in to help with electrical and other matters. But the bulk of the carpentry work will be done by the volunteers in pink shirts, under the guidance of experts wearing green.

Im not tool-handy at all, said Struck. I sit behind a desk all day; Im an accountant business owner. And theres really no training here; you watch a video to get a feel for the project, but its the crew in green shirts, the ones who have experience, who are guiding us. Theyre leading the blind, and when I say were blind, were blind. But they have the knowledge and patience. Theyre so great!

She said theyre still raising money for the build, even as they work on it, and people can contribute donations at www.habitatoak land.org by clicking on Women Build.

Were looking for simple grassroots donations: $10, $25, $50 anything. You dont need to do anything special, Struck said. Youre investing in a couple, two hardworking individuals, and now theyll have their dream of safe, affordable housing. Youre also investing in the community; housing values will improve, and if theyre successful living in a home, imagine how many businesses they will support here in Madison Heights. Its a huge ripple effect. The net casts so much wider than the project.

The recipients are an engaged couple, Dennis Etheridge and Cynthia McLinden. McLinden has some mobility limitations by way of cerebral palsy, a nonprogressive movement disorder she has had since birth. She hasnt let it hinder her, however, earning a masters degree in social work through Wayne State University.

Still, the medical bills cause some strain, along with the extra cost of replacing her handicap-accessible van when it was hit and destroyed by a drunken driver last year. Thanks to Habitat Oakland, she and her fiance will soon have a home where they can raise a family together, and out of which Etheridge, a technician for Belle Tire, plans to start his own business as a certified electrician.

Etheridge and McLinden, both 28, have been together since the fall of 2011. Etheridge lived in Alabama at the time and was visiting his brother back home in Michigan when he met McLinden and immediately felt a special connection. He moved back here to be close to her, living with his mother in Madison Heights, one block north of where their new home will be located. Etheridge and McLinden got engaged in 2012, with a wedding date set for this September.

Etheridges mom also has a Habitat home. Even though it wasnt built to be handicap-accessible, McLinden finds it easy to get around there. Having her own Habitat home built around her needs will make matters even easier. The new home will include doorways that are level with the ground outside, a walk-in shower, and wider hallways.

The couple was in awe at the flurry of activity Aug. 11.

Theyre working to have all the walls raised today, Etheridge said. Its awesome.

Its hard to find a house thats handicap-accessible, McLinden said. Its also costly to modify one, so this will help. hellip; Its overwhelming now, to see the walls being built.

Before, it was a completely empty lot, Etheridge said over the constant hammering. Were hoping well be moved in right around Christmas.

Kim Howard, who has been with Habitat Oakland for four years now, and currently serves as their manager of partnerships, volunteers and youth programs, said she has seen many builds over the years, but the thrill never gets old.

Its a wonderful thing, Howard said. Each family is unique, with their own reasons and their own motivations for doing this. This is an opportunity that means a lot to them.

Philip Pierce, on the board of directors for Habitat Oakland, said the homes help keep families and future families together by providing stability that minimizes tension and offers a positive environment for children, creating a strong sense of self-worth.

And whats more, when you see the walls of your house going up, and you participate in it yourself, youll take a lot of care in it, Pierce said. You will truly have pride of ownership.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County, including how you can donate to Women Build 2014, visit www.habitatoakland.org.

You can reach C amp; G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.


Pro: Why I Support Pennies for Parks

The intention was to jump start the facilities so the parks department and the volunteers could host tournaments, which will in turn bring revenue to Hernando. Hernando needs a lot of improvements in its parks facilities to meet the demand of people, and to keep pace with our neighboring cities, but building out Renasant Park is a long-term item that needs careful consideration that a three-year tax will not fund.

3. This will hurt the restaurants and People will pass Hernando to eat in Southaven or Senatobia

According to City of Southaven public records, over 30 restaurants have opened, zero have closed, and three are listed as inactive in Southaven since December 1, 2011, when Southavens Penny tax went into effect. Over half of them are locally-owned restaurants.

If people drive by Hernando to eat somewhere else, theyll be paying the tax elsewhere. Would you rather those people help to build our neighboring cities parks or our parks in Hernando? Here is a partial list of cities in North Mississippi that have a tourism tax, such as the one proposed. Next time you visit these towns take a look at their facilities: Batesville, Columbus, Corinth, New Albany, Oxford, Southaven, Starkville, and Tupelo. Our neighbor to the south, Senatobia, just instituted the exact amount Hernando is proposing on July 1, 2014.

The tax is for PREPARED FOOD ONLY. It will show up on your bill when you eat out in Hernando. It wont show up on the restaurants bill when they buy ingredients to prepare your meal. You will be paying the tax, NOT the restaurant.

4. People cant afford to pay two percent more.

According to the US Census Bureau, Hernandos median household income in 2012 was $59,632 compared to the Mississippi average of $37,095. That ranks in the top five in the state. Southaven (which has a median income of $51,632) is building eight baseball fields, five soccer fields, five indoor tennis courts, a water spray park and a skate park at Snowden Grove, a Senior Citizen Building, and upgrading Snowden Grove Amphitheater with the proceeds from its Penny tax, according to the resolution passed on April 1, 2014. It certainly seems the citizens of Southaven could afford the extra tax they voted in.

The Pennies tax in Southaven successfully increased revenue for the town and has provided the city with the ability to build the aforementioned facilities debt free. The facilities will enhance long-term revenue from sports tournaments, and give them an even better parks system. By the way, it is estimated that 62 percent of the revenue from the Southaven penny tax was generated from families that came from outside of Southaven to play in tournaments there.

5. Why dont we just fund with private dollars? Why dont we volunteer?

A lot of private dollars have been raised in Hernando to support parks already. The Hernando Parks and Recreation Foundation is a not-for-profit that raises funds for Hernando Parks and Recreation exclusively. This group has worked hard to raise money and have had success with fundraisers such as Christmas in Hernando in which the Germantown Symphony was featured. The event raised a few thousand dollars which was utilized by Hernando Soccer Association, Friends of Hernando Baseball, and other umbrella organizations and donated to city parks capital improvements projects.

People have volunteered, and will continue to volunteer, but to hold tournaments at this point with the current staff limitations, many more volunteers are needed.

6. City leaders are doing a terrible job and will misappropriate this money or there is no plan.

Our city has about $8 million in debt, which is only about 30 percent of what it is legally allowed to carry. Thats equivalent to a person being approved by his bank for a $100,000 mortgage, but buying a $30,000 house, and carrying no other automobile, credit card or other personal debt. In other words, our city is in a very healthy financial position on the liability side of the balance sheet. The problem is the income statement is suffering from lack of revenue.

The funds from this tax are required to be segregated into a separate account and the account will be audited by Williams, Pitts, and Beard CPA. If one penny of that money is not spent on what Senate Bill 2964 designated the funds for, the alderman and the mayor are personally liable.

Also, did you know that our millage rate per $1,000 is the second lowest in the county? Only Walls, where each household pays $23.00 is lower than Hernandos of $31.75. Horn Lake and Southavens are $42.00 and $43.73 respectively. The fact is; our taxes could be much higher!

Mayor Johnson and the Board of Aldermen have expressed that this is a pay as you collect revenue item. Once the funds are collected, the city will follow law by submitting bids and paying for the projects, without debt. The city couldnt borrow against the funds received from the tax anyway because the tax expires in 2017 which is too short of a time frame to borrow against.

I agree that democracy is by the people and for the people, and I am perplexed that the very people that are against current leadership are telling the same leadership to give us a plan, when the leaders have said publicly you can be involved in the plan!

7. Hernando Parks and Recreation Department is not doing a good job

Our parks department has a full time staff of 7 and one temporary employee. The department mows 130 acres of grass with a maintenance staff of 3; some of that grass includes cemeteries. The department does not have the capacity on its staff to hold tournaments which will grow the revenue for their budget. There have been several suggestions that the current budget is more than enough to operate on or we should have nice facilities and pristine grass with that budget. These comments are being made without basis or study of the city budget, and without any knowledge of what it takes to build a great parks system. Do you know that your HPR department operates 28 programs at a cost of $1.13 per week, per household in Hernando? Thats correct; it costs each household $58.76 per year in taxes to have a parks system in Hernando! I am embarrassed for people that criticize others in public about a subject they know nothing about. It does make one question their motiveshellip;

Hernando Parks and Recreation generates a significant portion of its budget through user fees, and some have suggested raising them. But, doing so causes participation to decline, either totally or by the user going to a neighboring city to pay user fees, buy gas, eat at restaurants etc. Even if we doubled user fees in Hernando and participation remained static, the revenue generated wouldnt support the improvements that are needed in the next ten years.

Additionally, the Parks Department and others in city government have done a great job getting grants to help increase our budget for parks and recreation. Grants help, but more is needed to shape our parks and recreation future.

8. People dont know about the vote

The city followed the law and posted public notice of the vote in the DeSoto Times-Tribune on June 26th, July 1st, and July 8th, of 2014.

I have been involved with Hernando Parks and Recreation as a volunteer since 2009, specifically helping grow the soccer program. I have met with city leaders over lunch and talked to them on the phone several times. I have attended several of the City Council meetings, asked questions at those meetings, and have even debated with them about how to improve Hernando as it faces obvious growth when I-269 is complete. The October 2011 Hernando Parks Citizens Survey Results, conducted for the city by The University of Mississippi Park and Recreation Management Program, indicated that citizens would be willing to pay for improvements to parks through a bond issue or a small tax increase.

The citizens who went to the city and state leaders to request a vote, did so after spending hours of time volunteering, studying city budgets, talking with city leaders, and raising private funds for facilities, only to realize that it would take much more to meet the demand for improvements and amenities in our Parks Department that the citizens were voicing opinions about in public. We believe it will take private and public dollars to do that, so here we are, as a city, with the opportunity to democratically choose to increase our revenue to improve our Parks in Hernando.

Blindly casting aspersions or complaining without facts about your city and its leaders or employees, especially to others in a public forum like Facebook, is divisive. For instance, people have been critical of the recent police car purchase and the cost of it. I called an alderman and asked him to provide details of the purchase and why it was done. The cost/benefit analysis, according to the city, indicated the savings of leasing new Ford Explorers for five years was greater than the current trend of constantly repairing the used Ford Crown Victorias that were purchased from the Missouri Highway Patrol. When have you engaged your city leaders, attended a city council meeting, or actually attended the annual Hernando City Council Budget hearing? If you will go to City Council meetings (the schedule is posted on the city website as is the agenda for each meeting) you might find out that our leaders are doing a pretty good job given our low tax base.

Hernando grew about 116 percent from 2000 to 2012. Hernando has done a superb job balancing the explosive growth while maintaining its small town charm. Through solid leadership, our fair city has managed to keep the commercial district conducive to business growth and protect the integrity and tradition of the historic district. Sport tournament tourism is the single best way to boost revenue while not imposing any compromise to our small town charm. Families come into our city, stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and then go home. Parks and Recreation is a pretty good place to start building a future that we all can continue to be proud of for Hernando.

Lastly, I want to encourage each of you reading this letter to get involved in your city. Public and private sectors working together will make any community great. Do your research and if you find issues are unexplained, ask your leaders about them and hold them accountable. It will take more than a 2-percent increase in your entertainment budget to improve our parks and recreation facilities in Hernando. It also takes people working together and encouraging each other instead of criticizing without substantiation or fact. Dont complain because the baseball fields dont drain water fast enough to fit your weekend schedule or that there are mole burrows in the soccer fields. Get a shovel, and ask Hernando Parks amp; Recreation department how you can help.

(Scott Sartor is an active volunteer for the Friends of Hernando Soccer and a Board of Directors member for the Hernando Parks and Recreation Foundation Board.)

Reference links:

Hernando Taxes are Lower http:///www.desotocounty.com/index.php/econ_dev/taxes

Mississippi Cities with a Restaurant/Hotel/Tourism Tax http://www.dor.ms.gov/taxareas/sales.SpecialTourismTax.html

City Data http://www.city-data.com/city/Hernando-Mississippi.html

http://www.mississippi-demographics.com/hernando-demographics

Senate Bill 2964 http://legiscan.com/MS/text/SB2964/2014

Southavens plans for Pennies money (Page 39) http://southaven.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/479


Common scams sadly still a threat

She didnt have the money so she called one of her daughters, who bought Green Dot MoneyPak cards to pay the caller over the phone.

Ive heard plenty of unfortunate tales like that. What struck me about this one was that the woman said she was aware of the ruse, commonly known as the grandparent scam. She said shed probably even read about it in one of my Watchdog columns.

Yet she still got duped. Thats why these scams are so damaging, and why scams against the elderly were named the worst complaint in a national survey of state and local consumer protection agencies that was released Wednesday.

I could only think I want to get him home, I want to get him to a hospital or doctor to see if hes OK, the Whitehall woman told me. Meanwhile, a thought would come into my head this isnt right.

While scams like this have been publicized again and again, her experience shows it cant hurt to put the word out again to reinforce the message.

Even if youre dealing with a very alert older person, these con artists are very skillful at what they do and they will literally take the last dime of an older persons savings without any qualms whatsoever, Susan Grant, consumer protection director at the Consumer Federation of America, said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters to announce the survey results.

Forty agencies in 23 states participated in this years survey, done in conjunction with the North American Consumer Protection Investigators. The lone participant from Pennsylvania was the Bucks County Consumer Protection, Weights and Measures Office, which noted the grandparent scam as being a threat.

Scams against the elderly were named the worst complaint not based on their volume, but due to factors including the amount of money that was lost, the impact they had on a vulnerable population, and just the outrageousness of the situation, Grant said.

The top complaints based on volume didnt change from last years survey.

First was automobile issues, including misrepresentations in advertising or sales, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes. Second was contractors who did shoddy work or no work. Third was issues with credit and debt including billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services, predatory lending, illegal or abusive debt collection tactics.

The report notes some new or increasing types of complaints. Ive run across several of them, including event tickets purchased online that werent valid and false promises of savings from deregulated electricity suppliers.


CCTV appeal after bank cards stolen from handbag in Bath pub

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Police have released a CCTV image of a woman they would like to speak to in connection with a theft and fraud case.

Bank cards were stolen from a handbag in The Westgate pub in Bath on June 26, and then used to withdraw cash from banks in north Bristol.

The woman in the picture is described as white, aged between 20 and 30, with long brown hair, slim build and wearing sunglasses on her head.

She has also been seen wearing a white and red horizontal striped top, blue jeans, white and blue trainers and carrying a brown handbag with a shoulder strap.


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Compensation lifeline for customers who lost thousands after Burton finance …

FSCS works to help victims claw back some of what has been lost.

It said claims against the company totalled more than £500,000, though the true figure of lost cash was unknown.

On average, people who lost out are seeking to claim back around £30,000 each.

A FSCS spokesman said: The current estimated number of claims against MWM Investments Limited is 17, and the estimated value of these claims is £510,000.

As the firm has only just been declared in default this number could fluctuate.

FSCS said it was possible that there were still more people who had invested in MWM who had yet to come forward.

MWM Investments Ltd was established in 2004 and, according to business directories, worked solely in the interests of it clients.

Head of communications Mark Oakes urged anyone who fears they may be entitled to compensation to contact them.

He said: FSCS was established to protect consumers when authorised financial services firms go bust.

It protects your deposits, investments, home finance and insurance.

If anyone believes they may be owed money as a result of their dealings with any of these firms, please get in touch with FSCS, as we may be able to help you.

The company is one of six from the West Midlands that FSCS is currently handling compensation claims for after being declared in default.

Since being set up in 2001, it has secured more than £26 billion from customers that lost out after firms went bust.

Anyone who has had dealings with MWM Investments Ltd and believes they are owed money should contact FSCS on 0800 678 1100 or 0207 741 4100.


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