Archive for July, 2019

Valentine’s Day: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission warns of online dating scams

22/07/2019

Dating and romance scams cost Australians a record $28 million last year, with hundreds of Victorians groomed and defrauded online.
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The consumer watchdog has warned the online dating community about scammers preying on vulnerable people, particularly at Valentines Day, after more than 1000 victims reported being swindled last year.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said $75,000 a day was lost to romance scams in 2014. There were more than 220 victims in Victoria, including 22 people ripped off more than $100,000 with total losses reaching $6.8 million.

Losses nationally to dating and romance-related fraud totalled $27.9 million, up from $25.3 million the previous year.

“We know these figures are only the tip of the iceberg as many victims are reluctant to admit to friends, family or authorities that they fell for a scam,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

Ms Rickard said the ACCC was working to contact suspected victims of romance fraud but that scammers were experts at preying on people’s weaknesses, spending months and even years grooming them online.

“Inevitably, the fraudster will spin a tall tale about why they suddenly need your financial help, ranging from medical emergencies to failed business ventures to needing to rebook flights to visit you,” she said. “Once victims realise that their admirer is actually a criminal, the emotional consequences can be devastating.”

The ACCC on Friday released the findings of its probe into major dating websites, carried out last year. It found that while two-thirds of the websites displayed scam warning messages only 23 per cent met the industry best practice. The ACCC also said contracts should be easier to cancel and that there should be better disclosure of fees across the industry.

SCAMwatch tips:

Never provide your financial details or send funds to someone you’ve met online

Run a Google Image search to check the authenticity of any photos provided as scammers often use fake photos they’ve found online

Be wary if you are moved off a dating website as scammers prefer to correspond through private emails or the phone to avoid detection

Don’t share photos or webcam of a private nature. The ACCC has received reports of scammers using this material to blackmail victims.

If you think you have fallen victim to a fraudster, contact your bank or financial institution immediately and report it to www.scamwatch.gov.au

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10 years of Google Maps: 10 ways it changed the world

22/07/2019

A Sydney phenomenon: Google Maps co-founder Noel Gordon. Photo: Tony Walters Popular foodie app Urbanspoon relies heavily on Google Maps. Photo: Screenshot: Urbanspoon
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Ten years is an awfully long time in tech but pioneer Google Maps has prevailed in the digital maps space, with over 1 billion monthly active users today.

Even Apple chief executive Tim Cook eventually had to concede his company’s maps product was a poor rival.

For its 10th birthday, we take a look at the many ways Google Maps has changed our lives.

1. It made sure we never get lost again

Long gone are the days when intrepid travellers got lost in the back streets of Bangkok, fumbling through their phrasebooks as they pumped locals for directions.

Unquestionably, the digital map has revolutionised the ease with which we can travel – whether it be by car, boat, plane, train or foot.

“We increasingly depend on technology for navigation, which takes some of the important serendipity out of the travel equation,” says tourism expert Ulrike Gretzel from the University of Queensland.

That dependence can also mean we’re left in the lurch if we’re ever required to navigate without the assistance of technology.

But it also frees us to be more flexible and spontaneous in our travel plans.

There are some areas of travel Google has yet to completely conquer, however. Professor Gretzel’s research shows tourists not only still ask for printed maps at visitor centres but ask questions like, “Google Maps told me to go this way, is this really the best way?” – suggesting that many people still trust a real person over an algorithm.

2. It nuked guide books and street directories

Once the backpacker’s best friend, iconic Australian brand Lonely Planet has suffered blow after blow to its bottom line.

Thanks to up-to-date digital travel tools like Google Maps and TripAdvisor, there’s no need to lug around a 2-inch thick brick any more.

And as for those getting around on four wheels, the humble street directory is also an endangered species. Sydney’s Gregory’s directory was swallowed whole by UBD in 2011.

While GPS devices are still popular, Google Maps’ Navigation tool gives anyone with a decent smartphone turn-by-turn instructions, free.

3. It enabled us to “beat the traffic” – even in peak hour

Punch “traffic” into your Google Maps search bar and you’ll see real-time traffic conditions for your area.

Or you could wait for the traffic update on the radio.

Don’t take the West Gate! Screenshot: Google Maps.

4. It put Australia on the map

Google Maps actually began in Australia as a fledgling start-up, run out of local engineer Noel Gordon’s spare room in Hunters Hill, Sydney.

Gordon and three others, including Danish brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen – Lars now works at Facebook – founded Where 2 Technologies in 2003. Google snapped it up the next year, with the founders staying on at Google. Noel is still there today.

In 2010 The Pearcey Foundation awarded the Rasmussens NSW’s Entrepreneurs of the Year award, hailing them as having “positioned Australia as a global leader in online services”.

Today Google’s Sydney office boasts some 900 local staff. They get free bacon and eggs for breakfast, clock up goodie points and trade them for massages, and get around the building – shared with Fairfax Media – on scooters. (Fairfax staff do not get to use the scooters, sadly.)

Check out these whiteboard scribbles from the early days, when the Where 2 team was working on a deal with Google founder Larry Page.

5. It revolutionised real estate

No more nasty surprises after travelling halfway across town to inspect the worst dump you’ve ever seen in your life.

With Google Maps’ Street View feature you can have a gander at the neighbourhood as if you were right there.

Maps is also super handy for checking how long it takes to walk to amenities such as local shops or public transport, with Google estimating walking and cycling times instantly and with relative accuracy.

Many estate agents and property search companies also use Google Maps to power their apps and websites, giving home-hunters a better user experience.

6. It took armchair travel to a whole new level

But why stop at the next suburb? With Street View you can roam the rues of Paris and the barrios of Barcelona. There are vast swaths of the world that aren’t even covered by Maps, let alone Street View (namely China, Russia, Iceland and the vast majority of Africa, Antarctica and the Middle East), but there’s plenty of content to keep even the most seasoned traveller entertained.

Google has also specially curated a number of “treks” for curious web-surfers, including the pyramids of Giza, the temples of Angkor Wat and even underwater experiences such as swimming through the Great Barrier Reef.

Crowd sourcing adds another layer of interactivity to the experience, with users invited to upload photographs and reviews of locations they’ve visited.

In 2012 the Indonesian government recognised the benefits of Google Maps to tourism, and partnered with the tech giant to bring Maps to its big cities.

7. It’s helping preserve environments and culture

By its very nature armchair tourism may encourage preservation of special destinations by satisfying travellers’ hunger without them having to trample the site in person.

“Putting a place on the map” also takes on new meaning when it comes to educating the public about our geographical heritage.

In 2011, indigenous communities living in Brazil’s expansive Amazon rainforest turned Street View into “river view” in a bid to show people where, and how, they lived – and why their habitat needed protection.

Last year it began mapping Australia’s national parks.

8. A million other apps might not exist without it

Urbanspoon, Uber, Airbnb, Expedia, WhatsApp – so many apps we know and love are based on the Google Maps application user interface (API).

Google says there are about 1 million third-party websites and apps actively using its technology.

9. It made detective work so much easier

Street View in particular – is a treasure trove of evidence for those who know what they’re looking for.

In 2013, Lithuanian authorities combed images for evidence of unauthorised property developments, as leads for potential instances of tax violation.

Police have used the tool as an aid in more grisly investigations, such as homing in on child porn rings.

Then there’s the delightful story of Saroo Brierley. He got lost on the streets of Calcutta at the age of five and was adopted by an Australian couple. Years later, as an adult, he tracked down his Indian birth mother with the help of Google Maps, and his memory. Brierley wrote a book about it – and now it’s being made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel.

10. But it also, regrettably, made stalking easier

Combine Google Maps’ speed and ease of use with the myriad other location-based apps (see 8) that people frequently use to broadcast their whereabouts – Tinder, Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook – and it’s a cyberstalker’s field day.

Maps may be watching you more covertly depending on your user settings. Much of its functionality requires the location settings on a user’s mobile device to be activated. Google collects that location data and stores it against a user’s account.

Google’s Coordinate app, made for businesses to keep track of workers while on the road was shut down in January with users directed to Maps for Work.

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ASIC puts Macquarie Private Wealth on probation for another year

22/07/2019

ASIC will keep probing a group of current and former advisers that provided deficient advice. Photo: Photo: BloombergThe corporate regulator has put Macquarie Group’s private wealth division on probation for another year as it seeks further compliance assurances, investigates current and former advisers and navigates a vast remediation program for aggrieved customers.
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The Australian Securities and Investments Commission said on Friday it would not continue a two-year enforceable undertaking at Macquarie Private Wealth. But at the same time, the regulator acknowledged more needed to be done by Macquarie to ensure changes in systems and processes were sustainable and that clients were receiving appropriate advice.

While it not pursuing action against those that cheated on adviser exams with the help of the so-called Penski file, ASIC will keep probing a group of current and former advisers that provided deficient advice or failed to meet compliance standards.

ASIC ordered Macquarie to do further work and continue reporting regularly, via KPMG, on how it is fixing compliance shortcomings and managing future risks.

The regulator slapped an enforceable undertaking on Macquarie in 2013. The group faced accusations of misclassification of clients, sloppy paperwork and rampant cheating on continuous professional development exams.

ASIC said Macquarie had now met the EU requirements although would need to conduct a “program of further work” over the next 12 months, to ensure the changes put in place under the undertaking were sustainable.

The regulator’s deputy chairman, Peter Kell, said while Macquarie would continue reporting to ASIC in the same way as required by the undertaking, he didn’t believe extending the EU was necessary.

“We are certainly satisfied that there has been significant improvement,” Mr Kell said of Macquarie. “There are still areas where further improvement is required … What we want to see is further evidence that their changes are sustainable.”

ASIC said KPMG would test whether Macquarie advisers were appropriately recording the advice they provided, had given enough information as to why they recommended particular strategies and products and gave consideration to other products beyond those recommended.

Mr Kell said the quality of advice was a top priority for ASIC and the option of a further enforceable undertaking for Macquarie was also possible if progress wasn’t made or additional deficiencies were uncovered during the 12 months.

“We have all the regulatory options open to us if we don’t see the improvements,” he said. “The whole sector remains an area where ASIC wants to see improvement and better outcomes for consumers overall.”

But despite saying Macquarie should continue work to compensate clients who were affected by compliance failings, shortcomings in record-keeping or poor advice, the ASIC’s statement provided little detail on the steps Macquarie was taking to remediate clients. Mr Kell did say Macquarie was firstly assessing remediation for clients of advisers deemed “higher-risk”. In the latter half of 2014, Macquarie sent about 189,000 letters to clients dating back to 2004 to inform them of a remediation process.

However, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal John Berrill was critical of Macquarie’s process, questioning why the company took 18 months to set up a formal mechanism for client redress.

He said the lion’s share of the 150 Macquarie clients in contact with his firm had faced delays of up to six months for responses and had difficulties in gaining access to their files. Mr Berrill also noted a narrow definition by Macquarie for participation in the remediation process.

“This Macquarie scheme is very similar to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia mark-one scheme which the Senate committee canned,” he said.

CBA was pressured last year to establish an independent panel to oversee remediation following a high-profile financial planning scandal. Macquarie also came under fire when a Senate committee report called for  ASIC to be “far more intrusive and less trusting” and recommended a royal commission on conflicted financial advice.

Asked about concerns former Macquarie advisers who were being investigated by ASIC may have been hired by other firms, Mr Kell said the regulator would often speak to the new employer to alert them of the matter.

“It’s something that licensees also need to consider carefully,” he said. However, Mr Kell was mindful the slated introduction of a financial adviser register would help in tracking movements between firms.

The adviser register and debate around a national competency exam for individuals operating in the industry are part of considerations of a Senate Economics committee’s inquiry into the scrutiny of financial advice.

Macquarie Private Wealth’s adviser numbers had dropped by 25 per per cent during the two-year period, but additional staff had been recruited to support advisers complying with their obligations, ASIC said.

Macquarie outlined last year it had spent $49 million on systems upgrades and improving processes. “Macquarie notes comments made in ASIC’s media release, in particular that all of the deliverables outlined in the EU implementation plan have been completed and there have been significant improvements in Macquarie’s retail financial advice business,” a spokeswoman said.This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Motley Fool: Making sense of earnings season spin

22/07/2019

Ah, earnings season. The two times each year when company investor relations staff really earn their money.
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Maybe you’ve heard the joke about accountants:

A businessman was interviewing job applicants for the position of manager of a large division. An accountant applied for the role. When he asked him what two plus two was, the accountant got up from his chair, went over to the door, closed it, came back and sat down. Leaning across the desk, he said in a low voice, “How much do you want it to be?” He got the job.

Like many jokes, it’s funny because it’s, well, if not true, at least plausible.

And if accountants have a bit of latitude when it comes to preparing financial statements, you just know the investor relations team is at least tempted to put the best spin on things.

Choose your own adventure

It’s tempting to choose the best profit figure to report. And there are plenty to choose from. Working backwards from the bottom line, there is NPAT (net profit after tax), NPBT (net profit before tax) EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) and EBIT (earnings before interest and tax). Because each of those can be impacted differently by various factors, it’s very possible to have strong EBIT growth (for example) and still see NPAT crash. Or the exact opposite can be true.

If that’s not enough, there are ‘management’ numbers, ‘underlying’ numbers and numbers for ‘continuing operations’ (that is, after allowing for the sale of one or more divisions of the company).

Now, if you’re a company accountant or investor relations executive reading this, don’t start burning me in effigy just yet. Even if many do the right thing, there are some in their respective fields who are giving them a bad name, just as bad financial planners give the good guys a bad rap.

And we’re far from cynical here at the Motley Fool. If we thought companies on the ASX were irredeemable, we’d be doing something else for a job — and investing our money elsewhere. The majority of companies and their financial and IR experts are doing the right thing.

It’s natural to want to present your company’s financials in the best possible light. Even some shareholders (mistakenly) want their managers to do just that. The best management teams resist the urge — and so they should.

So what can individual investors do to recognise corporate ‘spin’, and how can we cut through it?

Acknowledge that it happens

Be aware that some companies deliberately try to spin their results, and hard. Be aware that some companies don’t mean to spin, per se, but in their efforts to show how well they’ve done, they can end up being selective in their communications. Forewarned is forearmed, Fool!

Compare the numbers

Does the company change the metrics it reports every six months? Are they talking revenue one half, then NPAT, then underlying EBITDA? One company that subsequently got into financial trouble went so far as to highlight Gross Margin on their press release right before it spiralled out of control — that was the reddest of red flags!

Dig a little deeper

There are often good reasons for a company to report ‘underlying’ or ‘management’ earnings. But if management want to exclude so-called ‘one-off’ expenses that seem to happen every second year, you should treat them with absolute scepticism.

Read the management commentary

What is your CEO telling you? Is it all sweetness and light? Or is she admitting to problems, mistakes and challenges? If they’ll give it to you straight in the commentary, there’s much less chance that they’re dressing up the numbers.

Use the ‘sniff test’

This is one of my favourites, and a favoured management approach of some of my best bosses. It’s not always the case that common sense leads to the right outcome, but if the whole thing just seems a little ‘off’, it might just well be. Which leads me to…

If in doubt, leave it out

Maybe you’re judging too harshly. Maybe there are good reasons for management to report ‘underlying, management EBITDA before adjustments and selected changes’… but there probably aren’t. If you feel like something’s not right, if you’re not sure, or if the financials just seem too complex or opaque, just give that one a pass and move on. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Foolish takeaway

Lastly, be sceptical, but not cynical. It’s easy to paint CEOs, directors, CFOs and investor relations teams with a broad, negative brush. Some of them richly deserve it, but many don’t.

So yes, make sure you’re not having the wool pulled over your eyes, but don’t become so pessimistic and jaded that you start thinking that behind every corner lurks a CEO just waiting to mess with you. History — and experience — tells us that cautious optimism wins.

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Scott Phillips is a Motley Fool investment advisor. You can follow Scott on Twitter. The Motley Fool’s purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691).

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Where to eat in Bangkok, Thailand: Chef Gaggan Anand

22/07/2019

Gaggan Anand Photo: Yasin Wetchwittha Gaggan Anand Photo: Yasin Wetchwittha
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Gaggan Anand Photo: Yasin Wetchwittha

Gaggan Anand of Gaggan, Bangkok

Born in Kolkata and trained by Spanish genius Ferran Adria, Gaggan Anand’s eponymous modern Indian restaurant in Bangkok is ranked third among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, and seventeenth on the World’s 50 Best list. Gaggan will present a workshop on March 9 at the 2015 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Summit in Singapore. See theworlds50best南京夜网, eatatgaggan南京夜网. WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE TABLE IN BANGKOK?

Ginza Sushi Ichi, a fantastic Japanese restaurant. I really enjoy Japanese food, and here I can get my favourite sushi made from seafood that’s been freshly flown in direct from Tsukiji. It’s like eating in Japan. See sushichi南京夜网. YOUR BIGGEST LOCAL FOOD FIND OF THE PAST YEAR? 

The Eathai food court with a street food concept in the Central Embassy Mall. The food is offered from stalls and carts so it has elements of the culture and camaraderie of street food stalls, but in an upscale setting. See centralembassy南京夜网. WHAT IS BANGKOK’S BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET?

Those old ladies with big smiles selling som-tam (green papaya salad) on the streets. It’s humble street food, but personally I think no one can compete with them on taste. FAVOURITE INDULGENCE IN BANGKOK?

For great cocktails, I love Smalls bar in the Sathorn district.  For food and wine, I love this restaurant called Eat Me. To me it’s a soul food restaurant. After wrapping up for the day at my restaurant Gaggan, I can relax with my favourite Thai chili and basil pasta and a glass of wine. It helps that they’re open until late at night. See facebook南京夜网/smallsbkk; eatmerestaurant南京夜网. WHAT’S HOT IN THE AREA RIGHT NOW?

It’s “hot” but maybe a little overused – I see lots of “industrial chic” design themes in cafés, bars and gastropubs. BEST TIME TO VISIT AND WHY, FOOD-WISE?

Thailand is a 365-day country – we don’t have seasons so it’s always warm and all the food is good all year round. But personally I love the “winters” here. It’s just pleasant and not too hot. PLACE TO GO ON A DAY OFF?

Check out the local floating markets. Avoid the “tourist trap” ones and track down the authentic ones that are really worth seeing. Look for the Bang Nam Pheung floating markets, or as the locals call it, the talad nam bang nam phueng, if that helps. WHAT SHOULD A VISITOR AVOID, FOOD-WISE IN BANGKOK?

A tom yum kung pizza. As a concept it can be enticing, especially for people who love tom yum and pizza – but together, it’s a total disaster. If you don’t trust me, try it for yourself … but you will remember my advice.

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