Friday, April 3, 2009

Consumer Group Wants V/MC Profits Audited

Consumer group wants audit into credit card profits - Montreal Gazette
The federal government's financial regulator should audit the credit-card operations of Canada's banks to figure out whether their profit margins are tantamount to gouging, a leading consumer group testified Thursday at a parliamentary probe into the credit and debit markets.

A day after the Canadian Bankers Association declined to answer a pointed question from senators about how much banks make for every dollar invested in the credit-card business, the country's bank accountability coalition said it's time the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada or the auditor general is allowed to go in and get the answers.

"The solution is to empower the FCAC or auditor general to do an audit of actual costs and revenues and actual profit margins," said Duff Conacher, chairman of the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition. "Simply having a public report would cause fees and rates to come down the next day because I think there's ample evidence of gouging going on."

He cited unilateral increases of interest rates and extra fees charged on purchases made outside Canada as examples.

"Based on what? Who knows. That's why we need an audit. . . . The banks have all the figures and they can claim anything they want," said Conacher.

The FCAC, established by the government in 2001, enforces consumer-protection laws and monitors codes of conduct at banks and federally incorporated trust, loan and insurance companies.

Continue Reading at the Montreal Gazette

Hacker, 22, Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

Maple Grove hacker gets 5 years for stealing credit card data
Star Tribune

A previously convicted Maple Grove (Minnesota) computer hacker has been sentenced to five years in prison for stealing credit card information from thousands of victims to add to restaurant gift cards and then selling them on Craigslist.  (Editor's Note: It's about time some of these sentences starting getting a little harsher Mann.)

Zachary W. Mann, 22, sentenced Tuesday in Minneapolis, pleaded guilty in June to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to Mann's plea agreement, he stole credit card account information over the Internet from individuals over a three-month period early last year.

Mann obtained the credit card information from thousands of victims by hacking into an Internet-based order processing server. He then added to gift cards he bought for small amounts at restaurants. He then would sell the inflated gift cards on Craigslist.

According to the plea agreement, Mann committed these offenses while he was on supervised release in connection with a December 2006 federal conviction for conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft in Florida.

In that case, Mann admitted tapping personal information on actor Laurence Fishburne (Editor's Note: Within the fraud "Matrix"I couldn't help but notice how much more apropos it would be if they said Laurence was Phish-Burned by this Mann)  and other celebrities but denied that what he and his cohorts did was wrong. 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Social Responsibility - Priceless!

News: Mastercard lunches with Eden Project for first CSR campaign - Marketing Week
Mastercard announced earlier this week that it would run its first corporate social responsibility-themed Priceless ad campaign in the UK. The ads form part of a partnership between the credit card company and The Eden Prject organisation called The Big Lunch.

The Big Lunch is a social cohesion scheme aiming to get the whole of the UK to sit down with their neighbours on their street and have lunch on July 19, 2009. The Mastercard campaign for the initiative, which uses the tagline "Turning your street into a neighbourhood - priceless" launched in national print media on Tuesday. A TV campaign will follow in May, with social media elements added at a later date.

With the credit industry under scrutiny following the financial turmoil of the past few months, Master-card is hoping that advertising this partnership will help position the company as one that understands "what matters to people" in any economic environment.

Mastercard vice-president of marketing for the UK and Ireland Ben Rhodes says: "We're a brand that is in most people's pockets. We're a huge enabler of commerce in the UK so we can't pretend we don't exist just because there is a tricky economic climate. Now's when you have to be brave and stand up for what you believe are the right things."

As many corporate sponsorships are coming under fire from consumers (see cover story, page 16), Mastercard claims that focusing on social change is "the right thing" for 2009. Although the brand has long been a sponsor of sporting and music events, such as the UEFA Champions League and The Brits, its competitor Visa has been more involved with community projects through its Olympics sponsorship scheme.

Rhodes claims the company had been keen to boost its involvement in community areas for a long time but felt it didn't have "permission in the space to say: 'let's create social change'. We have a reputation tracker and one of the key drivers is about being seen to have a positive effect on society. But this wasn't something we could do on our own."

On board as a partner

Mastercard's involvement in the project began after The Eden Project's founder Tim Smit, and Paul Twivy, chief executive of The Big Lunch, approached the company back in the summer of 2008. While Royal Mail, EDF Energy and the Post Office signed up as "supporter" brands, Mastercard is the sole "partner" company for the initiative.

Aside from the consumer advertising campaign, Mastercard is pushing the initiative to its partner bank businesses. These banks make the decision whether consumers have the Visa or Mastercard logos on their cards, so it is vital for the brand to utilise any partnerships to push preference among the banks.

Rhodes adds: "One of the key roles and tenets of our marketing is to make sure we have assets that can be used, whether intellectual, reputation or sponsorship, that we can use to help drive our customers' businesses."

Continue Reading at MarketingWeek.

Twit This: Google to Buy Twitter?

April 3rd, 2009 · by David Bradley

UPDATE: Twitter is not negotiating a sale with Google, according to Kara Swisher. The AllThingsD journalist says acquisition talks are first touted by TechCrunch (see below) are inaccurate.

However, the two are in talks focused on “product-relateddiscussions”, Swisher reports, which makes more sense and confirms myearlier post about Google and Twitter being in cahoots.

It came a day late to be an April Fool’s but rumors are trendingacross the twitterhood, on the blogosphere, and just plain in the newsthat Google is in late stage talks to acquire microblogging siteTwitter for $250m cash, half what Facebook offered for the plugged incelebrity’s favorite web service.

TechCrunch claims it has confirmation from two independent sources close to the talks that a deal is imminent.

This ties in with my thoughts of a few days ago about cross-linkedactivity between Google SERPs and twitter changes. I tweeted how google and twitter were in cahooots well over a week ago.

There is quite a lot of discussionon Twitter itself regarding this putative acquisition, much of itsimply retweets of the TechCrunch link and remarkably few expletives sofar.

What such an assimilation will mean for millions of tweeps willremain to be seen, although you can get your bottom adword dollar thatone thing that will certainly change is that Google will slap itsAdSense program all over your tweets within weeks of the legal papersbeing deposited. Whether or not you see that as a good or a bad thingwill depend on whether you think making money from your online outputis a viable business model or a way to boost pocket money.

Old update: Yet another source says the acquisition discussions are stillfairly early stage, and the two companies are also considering workingtogether on a Google real time search engine.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Private Facebook Details are Public Information

Public Search Engines Mine Private Facebook Details - DarkReading

By Kelly Jackson Higgins

Another reason to be careful what you post on Facebook:

All it takes is a simple Google search, and phishers and marketers can glean a treasure trove of private information based on relationships among Facebook "friends," according to new research.

Researchers from the U.K.'s University of Cambridge recently published a paper (PDF) detailing a project in which they developed a software tool to correlate and map Facebook profiles they found via public search engines, such as Google, to build detailed maps of relationships among Facebook members.

Continue DarkReading

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Skimming, Cloning and Fraud in D.C.Restaurants

Washington D.C. Restaurants Become Credit Card Cloning Hot Spots | Threat Level from

By Kevin Poulsen

Four former servers at three upscale Washington D.C. restaurants blocks from the White House were arrested last week for allegedly using covert skimming devices to clone customer credit card data, in a year-long counterfeiting operation that's put $750,000 in fraudulent charges on the plastic of Washington's elite.

Servers at Clyde's of Gallery Place, M&S Grill, and 701 Restaurant, along with Maryland workers at Carrabba's Italian Grill and the Gaylord Hotel, allegedly stole the card numbers. According to the Secret Service, the data wound up in the hands of 28-year-old Joseph Artemus Bush, III, a Maryland man who was repeatedly caught on surveillance video using counterfeit cards with the skimmed account numbers.

Bush's alleged MO was to purchase American Express gift cards at area Target and Walmart stores, then redeem them at high-end shops like Barney's of New York and Gucci. Last week he was charged with credit card fraud, along with two alleged confederates, Erick V. Burton and Aaron Gilbert. The four servers charged are Lavelle Denise Payne, Shannon Eileen McLaughlin, Jamaal Snowden and Simone Carrie Diane Folk.

Skimmer With unobserved access to diner's credit cards, restaurant wait staff have long been the source of a steady stream of stolen magstripe data. It takes only a second to swipe a customer's card through a tiny skimming device purchasable over the internet, which is easily concealed in pocket or apron.

Corrupt servers are typically recruited by a ringleader who encodes the data -- like customer names and account numbers -- onto blank cards, in some cases turning out full blown replicas, complete with holograms. The servers often earn up to $50 per card if they work at an upscale eatery, down to just $10 each if, as in a recent Florida case, the cards were stolen from a Burger King.

The D.C. skimming ring was first spotted a year ago by Citibank, which noticed a froth of fraudulent transactions trailing legitimate card use at Clyde's, where cards skimmed by a single server wound up accounting for $107,000 in bogus charges.

The most prestigious, and recent, hot spot was 701 Restaurant, the clubby eatery where Hillary Clinton rang out her presidential campaign last June. Restaurant owner Ashok Bajaj says the Secret Service told him about the skimming earlier this month. According to court records, cash register logs tied $38,000 in fraudulent transactions to cards handled by server Lavelle Denise Payne from August 2008 until this month.

At the agency's request, Bajaj kept Payne on for another week while the government firmed up its case. "We watched her very carefully for that week," says Bajaj. "She was the nicest person. I don't know. Maybe this is a sign of the economy."

"It's very sad when people do these things," Bajaj adds. "I mean, she was making excellent money working at the restaurant. But I guess it's never enough."

Update March 31, 2009 | 12:30:00: A fifth server -- Vasha Monique Carter -- has been arrested in St. Augustine, Florida, and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Jacksonville on Wednesday. Like defendants McLaughlin and Folk, Carter is a former waitress at M&S Grill in D.C.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Blackberry Storm Boosts RIM's Results

Stock Surges Almost 23%
as 26 Million Devices Shipped in FY09
By Steve Evans -
Computer Business Review

Research in Motion (RIM) has revealed revenue for fourth quarter of fiscal 2009 of $3.46bn (£2.33bn), up 84% year on year. Net income for the quarter stood at $518.3m (£350m), up from $412.5m (£278m) the previous year.

Revenue for the financial year ended February 28, 2009 was $11.07bn (£7.45bn), up 84% from $6.01bn (£4.06bn) the previous year. Net income for the year came in at $1.89bn (£1.27bn), a 46.3% increase from the previous financial year.

During FY09 Q4, RIM shipped about 7.8 million devices while about 26 million were shipped during the financial year, boosted no doubt by the release of the BlackBerry Storm, RIM’s first touchscreen smartphone, released in October 2008 in direct competition to Apple’s iPhone.

The Storm has certainly impacted on RIM’s financial results. Approximately 83% of revenue generated during the quarter was from devices, 12% was through services, 2% came from software and the remainder from other means.

The company also added 3.9 million new accounts during the quarter and its subscriber base now stands at roughly 25 million.

Jim Balsillie, Co-CEO at RIM, said: “We are very pleased to report another record quarter with standout subscriber growth that speaks volumes about the early success and momentum of our new BlackBerry products.

“RIM experienced an extraordinary year in fiscal 2009, shipping our 50 millionth BlackBerry smartphone and generating $11bn in revenue. Looking ahead into fiscal 2010, we see exceptional opportunities for RIM and its partners to leverage the investments and success of the past year to continue growing market share and profitability.”

Guidance for FY10 Q1 suggested revenue in the region of $3.3-$3.5bn

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Disqus for ePayment News