Archive for January, 2015

Virginia panel quickly kills proposal to limit high-rate loans

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Like a credit card, but unlike other loans from mortgages to car loans to payday loans these so-called open end credits dont have a set repayment schedule. They require minimum monthly payments, often equivalent to a large fraction of the amount borrowed. But those minimum payments all go to interest and service charges and do not pay down the principal amount borrowed.

Dana Wiggins, of the Virginia Poverty Law Center, told the committee of one Northern Virginian who faced paying a $250 a month minimum on $1,000 loan. That monthly payment just kept her current, but did not reduce the amount owed. She was able to repay the lender when she borrowed the sum from a church-affiliated group that asked her to make monthly payments of $30. She has since repaid that sum in full, Wiggins said.

The center also represented James Lam, a Hanover County resident, when he sued Allied Cash Advance in federal court over his line of credit. Lam complained he had borrowed $2,000 from Allied, paid the company $16,000 and still owed the $2,000 sum he borrowed in the first place. The company settled out of court and terms are confidential.

Later, the committee moved on to kill Yanceys bill to bar employers from firing or demoting victims of domestic abuse if they take time from work to talk to police, prosecutors, a lawyer or a counselor about their case.

There was no discussion, just a motion to kill the measure and a voice vote, while Yancey was at another committee meeting.

The committee also killed two bills that would have set higher minimum wages for Virginia, a measure requiring employers give people paid sick days about 1.4 million Virginians work for firms that do not and one that would have increased the damages people can claim if they can prove they were paid less than others because of their sex.

Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem, said the measure would have no effect because such discrimination cases are covered by federal law.

He said the aim appeared to be to embarrass Republican legislators when they run for election in November.

Ress can be reached by telephone at 757-247-4535.

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Jim Prentice Pledges To Fast-Track 2013 Flood Claims

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

The rebuilding of this community is an inspiration to all of us in Alberta and this is a time when Alberta needs inspiration, said Prentice.

Its our intent by this summer the vast majority of the remaining claims will be resolved. Only the most difficult and complex files will remain open and even in those cases its our intent to get those cases closed as quickly as possible.

Prentice said the government is adding an additional 15 temporary caseworkers to assist with file management.

In addition, he says those seeking to complete repairs on their homes will be able to receive a cash advance of 90 per cent of funding they are eligible to receive.

Previously, those looking for cash up front were only eligible for 50 per cent.

Once repairs have been completed, applicants can submit receipts to receive the final 10 per cent in funding.

Prentice said there is no plan at this point to free up extra money for homeowners in High Rivers hard hit Hamptons neighbourhood who are asking for further compensation to get rid of black mould. He said they can apply under the current relief program.

Were aware of the circumstances in the Hamptons with black mould. This 90 per cent rule, if you will, will work for all claimants but it will work in particular for those who are affected by black mould, Prentice said.

If theyve now discovered black mould in their home theres an opportunity, on a one-time basis, to make a decision for remediation. Theyre eligible for the 90 per cent.

High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass had been advocating for additional assistance from the province with those dealing with the mould problem. He said the premier has been thoroughly briefed and is encouraged.

Its moving in the right direction to get it dealt with…absolutely.

The Disaster Recover Program received more than 10,500 applications after the June, 2013 floods. More than 8,400 cases have been closed and nearly $110 million in financial aid provided.

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter


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Consumer group issues car title scam alert

Friday, January 30th, 2015

So here are simple steps to protect yourself from two versions of this scam.

Title Kiting” Scam

If a used car dealer sells you a car this way, it’s a scam known as “title kiting.” 

The shady dealership claims the title is on the way, and that you will get it in a few days or weeks.  But it never shows up, making it impossible for you to get legal plates for the vehicle.

In most cases, the used car lot never had the title in the first place, because a lien holder still has it, and legally still owns the car.  This can happen when the car was totaled, was repossessed from the previous owner, or sold illegally before it was fully paid off.

A Cincinnati-area chain of used car lots, Hebron Auto Sales, was sued and shut down over this practice back in 2006. 

Several years later, many buyers still had no title and no refund for cars they bought with the promise that “the title is on the way.”

Craigslist Car Title Scam

A second version of this scam involves individuals selling used cars on Craigslist. 

They sell you their car for a great price, typically under Kelley Blue Book value.  And the car is in great shape. 

The catch?  They don’t currently have the title in hand, but promise they will get it to you within a week, once they get it from their bank or dealer.

What they fail to tell you is that they handed over the title to a Payday Loan or Title Loan store, where they took out a cash advance, with their car as collateral.

Just like with the dealership title kiting scam, the Craigslist scam involves a car that the seller does not legally own.

 It turns out the Payday Loan office or Title Loan office now owns the car, and they won’t hand you the title until you pay off the previous owners loan, which can sometimes be for the full value of the car.

How to Protect Yourself

Bottom line: never buy a used car without getting an official state-issued title with it.  And make sure the title is not a copy, and does not have the stamp of a lien holder on it.

If you are not sure what a title looks like, it is a watermarked document (like a dollar bill), typically with a raised stamp from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. 

Still suspicious?  Ask someone you trust, or a lawyer or Sheriff’s deputy, to look at it before you hand over the cash.

The one exception is when buying a new car from a dealer. Typically they send the title directly to your bank or other lender, so that you never actually see it. This is fine when it is a new vehicle. 

If it is a used car, we are on your side with some simple steps to take to protect yourself:

  • Make sure you see the title before handing over money and signing the Bill of Sale (Not sure its real? See a lawyer or Sheriffs deputy)
  • Be sure the VIN on the title matches the VIN under the window on the dashboard. 
  • Then run a Carfax or similar report to make sure the records on the car match the actual car you are buying.  

One added bonus: by running a Carfax report, you’ll find out if it was in any serious wrecks involving a police report.

And that way you don’t waste your money.


Dont Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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A Guide to Choosing the Right Small Business Loan

Friday, January 30th, 2015

  • What do you need the money for?
  • How much money do you need?
  • How long will it take you to pay it back?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • What is the current financial shape of your business?
  • How much collateral, if any, do you have to put up for the loan?
  • How quickly do you need the money?

Answering these questions will help determine if you should pursue a government-backed SBA loan, a loan or line of credit through a bank or other financial institution, a cash advance from a merchant services provider, or a loan from an online alternative lender. All offer types of loans that you can use for an array of purposes, such as smaller working capital loans for day-to-day expenses, or larger loans to buy new equipment or real estate. Each type of loan varies greatly in how much interest is required, how much money you can get and how quickly it needs to be paid back.

Once you know how much money you need and how it will be used, you have to figure out the best place to get it from.

Editors Note: Considering applying for a small business loan? If youre looking for information to help you choose the one thats right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, Buyer Zone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

Small Business Administration

One of the first places small businesses often turn to for capital is the government for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. The SBA offers several loan programsdesigned to meet key financing needs for a wide range of business types.

The most important thing to understand with these loans is that the government isnt directly lending small businesses money. Instead, the SBA sets guidelines for loans that are made by its partners, which include banks, community development organizations and microlending institutions. Businesses have a variety of loan types to choose from when pursuing an SBA loan, each of which comes with its own parameters and stipulations on how the money can be used and when it must be repaid.

Javier Marin, a consultant with the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida, said the biggest positive of SBA loans are the government guarantees that come with them.

The SBA provides a guarantee that enables the bank to extend credit it would have otherwise declined, Marin told Business News Daily. This is true for startups, companies with a tight cash flow stream, and business owners with borderline, not bad, credit scores.

That government guarantee, which typically covers between 75 and 90 percent of the loan, eliminates much of the risk for the lender, said Lynette Newman, president of Newman Business Loan Consultants Inc.

Thebusiness works with the [lender] and then the [lender] asks the government to guarantee or co-sign with thebusiness for the loan, Newman said.If the business fails to repay the loan, the lender handles [it] like any other type of defaulted loan.

Its only after unsuccessful attempts to recover the amount owed, either by collecting on collateral or personal guaranties, that the lender will ask the government to honor the guaranty.

The [lender] will then take a loss on the unguaranteed portion, Newman said.The US government, of which SBA is a part, can then attempt further recovery, generally by a tax refund offset.

The terms of an SBA loan also tend be more favorable to borrowers, Newman said.

If the SBA guarantee is applied, the bank/lenders can lend more, or perhaps with less collateral, Newman said. It may also not need as much cash injection, or may have longer repayment terms than it could without a guaranty in place.

Marin said another positive of SBA loans is that the repayment terms are longer than non-government-backed loans. SBA loans are extended to 10 years for certain types of loans and 20 years for others, giving the business more time to pay if needed. Additionally, there is no prepayment penalty on loan terms under 15 years.

SBA loans arent without any downsides, however. Since the government is involved, you can expect the process of applying for an SBA loan to be much more complex than when applying for a conventional loan through a bank or an alternative lender.

Newman said there is additional paperwork to be filed and there are extra fees that need to be paid. The length of time it takes to get approved, or denied, is also lengthier, she said.

It takes longer to have a guaranty placed on a business loan than a non-guaranteed loan would take, Newman said.

When applying for an SBA loan, small business owners are required to fill out forms and documents for the specific loan they are trying to get. In addition, the SBA encourages borrowers to gather some basic information that all lenders will ask for, regardless of the loan type. Among the required items are:

  • Personal background and financial statements
  • Business financial statements
  • Profit and loss statement
  • Projected financial statements
  • Ownership and affiliations
  • Business certificate/license
  • Loan application history
  • Income tax returns
  • Resumes
  • Business overview and history
  • Business lease

The SBA also advises small businesses applying for a loan to be prepared to answer several questions, including:

  • Why are you applying for this loan?
  • How will the loan proceeds be used?
  • What assets need to be purchased, and who are your suppliers?
  • What other business debt do you have, and who are your creditors?
  • Who are the members of your management team?

Small business owners can find SBA loan applications on theSBA website.


While banks are often the sources of SBA loans, they also are lenders of conventional loans. The biggest difference between SBA bank loans and non-SBA conventional loans is that the government isnt guaranteeing that the bank will get its money back.

Conventional bank loans also give you a little more freedom on what you can do with the money. While a specific plan is still needed to get approval, bank loans dont come with such stringent use terms that each of the SBA loans do.

Rohit Arora, CEO and co-founder of Biz2Credit, said there are a number of reasons a conventional non-SBA bank loan is a good choice for small businesses in need of funding.

Conventional bank loans come at good interest rates, and because a federal agency is not involved, the approval process can be a little faster, Arora said.

Just like the other lending sources, there are some negatives to pursuing a conventional bank loan. Marin said bank loans typically include shorter repayment times than SBA loans and often include balloon payments. This can force small business borrowers to refinance the loan in 3 or 5 years because the money is due.

Additionally, Arora said its often difficult to get approved for a conventional bank loan.

Even though approval rates have increased, big banks approve [only] slightly more than 20 percent of the loan requests they receive, Arora said. Smaller banks approve a little less than half of the loan applications they receive.

When applying for a bank loan, youll be required to share all of your financial details. Youll need to provide your lender with all the financial background on your company, future growth plans and often your personal financial information. This allows a bank to gain an understanding of your complete financial situation.

The more information you have to illustrate that youve run your business well gives banks the confidence they need to invest in you for the future. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for your loan officer to get your loan approved.

In addition to proving that you wont have trouble paying back the loan, you will also need to show details on how you plan to spend the money. Dont skimp on specifics with banks. Show exactly how you will use the requested funds and how much you need to accomplish your goals.

Lenders appreciate attention to detail and preparedness when it comes to the facts. For example, if you are looking to purchase a new piece of equipment, provide quotes on the exact costs, how much capital you need to facilitate this purchase, and specifically how the new equipment will help grow your business.

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Exposed: Ghosts pay ghosts at AG dept.

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Officially, about 600,000 workers are on the payroll of the Government of Ghana, consuming over 74% of the revenue generated by the state. Evidence is, however, emerging that not all of these workers are in active service, and that the figure might have been bloated through machinations.

KPMG, an internationally acclaimed auditing firm contracted by the government, had already blown the cover of most of these fraudulent activities. Among them are workers who are a hundred years old and above, but are still on the payroll and receiving monthly salaries. Some of the workers too have suspicious account numbers such as ‘0’, ‘+’ which defy modern accounting.

The latest revelation, The Chronicle can report, is that some unscrupulous people at the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) were inputting data into the IPPD2 payroll software, formerly used by the government, without leaving any auditing trail. In short, the data fed into the system did not contain information about who put that data in, and when it was entered.

In a letter to the Controller and Accountant General, dated February 12, 2010, a copy of which has been sighted by The Chronicle, SOFTtribe, an Information Communication Technology (ICT) firm contracted by the government to develop a new payroll software, warned of the dire consequences if the practice was not halted.

The letter, which was signed by its Chief Executive Officer, Tetteh Antonio, noted: “In the event that fraudulent data is entered into the system, nobody can be held accountable. (Ghost names, undue allowances…).

“Hypothetically, if it was shown that in the IPPD2 system, certain staff were being promoted before the payroll run, paid accordingly to their new higher grade, and then brought back to their true grade after the payroll run; all this could happen without a hope of ever catching the responsible user, unless by sheer luck.

“Essentially, as things stand today, if payroll fraud is identified and can be demonstrated to have originated from the computer system, there would be no way to pinpoint the culprit, and, therefore, no staff member can be indicted for the crime. The guilty party will essentially be walking away scot-free.”

It was also detected that the original amount of loans taken by workers are not kept, therefore, no loan history is available. This means that: a) “Loans may not be recovered fully, (b) In the event of a loan dispute with a staff member, there is no basis for the GoG to counter the staff member’s refusal to repay the loan. (c) Additionally, loans payments can be paid out against non-existent loans, and the payment records destroyed after the fact,” the ICT firm warned.

SOFTtribe also detected that sometimes the amount on the pay slip of the worker did not match the actual cash going to the banks. To SOFTtribe; “this is a very strong indicator of system malfunction or the presence of fraudulent activities, and should trigger alarm bells every time it happens.”

The Chronicle also established that some of the active staff on the payroll were not being paid. SOFTtribe, in its initial report, concluded that: “It is more likely these individuals were left on the system after termination, but this issue may provide opportunity for fraud, as an unscrupulous user can reactivate payment, which results in new ghost names.”

Sources at the Ministry of Finance told The Chronicle that it was based on some of these fraudulent activities on the payroll that the former Minister of Finance, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, wrote a letter to the Controller and Accountant General’s Department, advising it to migrate all workers onto the new ‘Akatua’ software, which was fraud-proof, to save money for the state, but his letter was overlooked.

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Province paying an extra $20 million to help flood victims

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

A little relief for those still suffering from the floods that hit Southern Alberta in 2013.

Premier Jim Prentice announced an extra $20 million to fast track claims that are still unresolved from close to 2,000 applicants.

“Our intention is that applicants will have their dollars in hand by this summer and I would stress that our intent is to accelerate payment, to accelerate reconstruction and at the same time to be responsible with the expenditure of taxpayers dollars” says Prentice.

There were over 10,000 flood victims that applied for disaster aid with the province paying out nearly $110 million thus far. One frustrated resident, Aaron Watson feels that the province has been dragging its feet on mitigation.

I would want them to ensure that theyll do something permanent to take care of this flood problem, because thats what needs to be done. A permanent solution so High River wont flood again, Watson says.

That river could come up twice as much next time, he adds. Everybody thinks oh its not going to happen again. Well it is going to happen again. Its happened four or five times in the last 15 years. 2013 was the most that it ever flooded.

Prentice also announced that the people still seeking to complete home repairs will be able to receive a cash advance of 90 per cent of eligible funding.


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FBI, local authorities warn of jury duty phone scam

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Authorities are warning East Texas residents of an ongoing jury duty telephone scam.

The FBI’s office in Dallas recently received multiple reports from East Texans where a scammer, posing as a law enforcement officer or court official, calls a victim to advise they are delinquent from serving federal jury duty, but can avoid arrest by paying a fine over the phone.

“The scammer provides information like titles and badge numbers of legitimate law enforcement officers or court officials; names of federal judges; courtroom numbers; and addresses in an attempt to make the scam credible,” said Katherine Chaumont, a spokeswoman with the FBI field office in Dallas. “The public is reminded that this is not protocol of the federal court system. This is a scam. The public should not provide personal identifying information or payment over the phone without independently verifying the credentials of any caller.”

Those believing they may be a victim of the jury duty scam, identity theft or other scheme and wish to report it to law enforcement, can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at and local law enforcement agencies.

“People need to realize there’s all kinds of scams,” Angelina County Sheriff Greg Sanches said. “They need to realize that law enforcement never calls anybody and tells them to pay over the phone. Don’t give any credit card or financial information over the phone to pay for fines. That’s not the way law enforcement conducts its business.”

Poising as a government official is one way scammers attempt to steal from consumers and businesses, as well as through multiple data breaches or fake invoice schemes, according to officials with the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB announced its top ten list of scams in 2014 this week.

In no particular order, the Top Ten scams were:

? Data breaches

Hackers are getting into computer systems that store financial and personal data then using it for fraud. Affected companies are obligated by law to notify customers about breaches. Although you cannot avoid a data breach itself, you can prepare yourself for what may follow once your personal information has been stolen.

Scam protection: Keep track of your finances. Check credit card statements. Sign up for card usage notifications. Check your accounts online. Call your bank or credit card company if something seems suspicious on your statements.

? Internal Revenue Service imposters

Calls from scammers claiming to be IRS officials were widespread throughout East Texas in 2014. Thousands of calls were made to individuals threatening jail, deportation and loss of property if payment was not made. Consumers were left voicemails saying they need to call the IRS immediately to avoid legal consequences.

Scam protection: Hang up if you receive one of these calls. Do not provide any personal information. Contact the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission.

? Click-bait schemes

Sensational or provocative content, especially on social media, attracts attention and draws visitors to a particular web page. In 2014, these stories were often used to trick consumers into clicking on links that go to fraudulent websites. When clicked on, malware is installed on your computer or smartphone.

Scam protection: Don’t click on videos or photos that claim to be “exclusive,” “shocking” or “sensational.” Delete social media messages or emails that raise red flags in your mind. Take a moment to hover over a link to see its true destination.

? Fake utility bills

This summer, scammers targeted individual consumers and businesses with false claims that their utility bills were delinquent and their services were in danger of being disconnected. Many got calls from scammers who demanded that they immediately pay their alleged delinquent accounts.

Scam protection: If you receive one of these calls, do not provide any personal or financial information. Make sure to call your utility service provider directly and verify if a call was made.

? Pre-paid cards

Pre-paid debit cards such as GreenDot Money Cards, Walmart MoneyCard and Western Union MoneyWise became a risk for consumers in 2014. Scammers, posing as “support reps” for these companies, tell consumers they need a refund for the money on the card and request a person’s credit and checking account numbers. This information gives scammers access to the prepaid card and your financial accounts.

Scam protection: Never give out financial information to someone you don’t know. To verify the request, call the card company at the phone number listed on the card or the company’s general number.

? Tech support scams

This fall, there was a surge in reports of consumers receiving calls from individuals claiming that Microsoft has been notified of errors or viruses on their computers that need removal. The scammer persuades the victim to download a program which allows remote access to their computer. Once access is gained, the scammer shows typical computer errors, which are still enough to convince the owner there is a problem. They then offer to fix the problems for anywhere from $200 to $400.

Scam protection: Never give control of your computer to a third party unless it is a support team with whom you are a customer and can confirm that they are legitimate. To verify the request, call the company at the business’ general number listed in official documentation.

? Advance fee loans

Also known as short-term high-rate loans, cash advance loans, check advance loans, payday loans or title loans, advance fee loans are very expensive forms of credit. Consumers are solicited by telemarketers, contacted by email or see offers in classified sections of newspapers and magazines or on the Internet. Many times consumers never receive their loan, in spite of paying up-front fees.

Scam protection: Check on a business beforehand. Read the fine print. Get everything in writing. These are important steps to avoid being taken advantage of with advance fee loans.

? Fake lottery and sweepstakes

Lottery and sweepstakes scams usually begin with a phone call or an email. The consumers are told they won a large sum of money but they must first pay fees and taxes. Victims wire this money, but never get their “winnings” or get back the money they sent.

Scam protection: Consumers need to keep in mind that when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you never entered a contest, you can’t win. And you should never pay to claim a prize.

? Office supplies/school supply scams

In 2014, a company falsely sent invoices to schools and school districts. Districts were billed for bulk purchase of textbooks that were never requested or received. This technique is also used on businesses for amounts that are a few hundred dollars. Inquiries received no responses; calls to a phone number routes to a series of voice mail boxes or mail drops.

Scam Protection: Always cross check invoices with purchase orders. Check out new vendors or suppliers with the Better Business Bureau.

? Phishing scams

Scams using email were more common in 2014. Cyber-criminals pose as legitimate businesses to get financial information via emails. Links in the email can put a virus on your computer that hunts for your personal and financial information to use for identity theft or other illegal activities.

Scam protection: Be cautious of clicking on links in unexpected emails. If you are expecting a confirmation receipt, log into your account and check for confirmation there. Be wary of emails that contain attached files. Don’t respond to unsolicited emails. Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails.

Steve Knight’s email address is

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BNP Paribas Bank: a network of innovators

Monday, January 26th, 2015
  • CENTRIC / Regional Legal Documents amp; My Accounts – Corporate amp; Investment Banking (CIB) France, UK, China and Singapore. CENTRIC is an e-Banking platform that offers Corporates a comprehensive solution – FX, cash management, trade, investment, etc. CIB’s digital flow banking suite incorporates ‘Regional Legal Documents’ and ‘My Accounts’, tools designed for efficient opening and managing of accounts.
  • Hello bank! – Personal Investors / BNP Paribas Fortis / FRB / BNL / Retail Development amp; Innovation, France, Belgium, Italy and Germany. Hello bank! is a 100% native mobile European bank, Hello bank! offers a new approach to banking, designed to meet the needs of customers who are looking for a service that is fast, easy to use, always available and connected.
  • Business accelerators
    • TEB Startup Business Banking and Business House Service Model – International Retail Banking, Turkey. An incubation centre which offers both financial and non-financial solutions specifically for startups.
    • TEB Private Business Angels Platform – Wealth Management, Turkey. The TEB Özel private platform complements the initiative, putting startups and our investor clients in contact.
    • Intrapreneurship Programme – BGL BNP Paribas, Luxembourg. The BGL Intrapreneurship Programme, assists both in-house company personnel and external staff in setting up their own in-company business project.
  • Habit@t – BNP Paribas Cardif, Italy. Habit@t is a new generation home insurance product, with a monitoring and alert insurance ‘box’ using connected sensors.
  • Social Entrepreneurship Project – FRB / BNP Paribas Fortis / BNL / Group Risk Management / CSR, France, Italy and Belgium. Support social entrepreneurs in the Group’s various domestic markets.
  • BNL Via Web Identification – Group Legal Affairs / BNL, France, Italy. The fully-secure ‘Via Web Identification’ digital solution enables customers to open an account in Italy remotely.
  • Ethical Europe Equity Index / the SRI Note – CIB / BNP Paribas Fortis, France and Belgium. The Ethical Europe Equity Index provides ratings on the basis of responsible investment criteria.
  • IGotowka: Digital Cash Loan – BNP Paribas Personal Finance / International Retail Banking, Poland. iGotowka is the number one online loan application on the Polish market. It is 100% digital and works on all mobile devices, incorporating electronic signature and responsive web design technology.
  • SIXDOTS – BNP Paribas Fortis, Belgium. Sixdots is the only Internet and mobile payments solution on the Belgian market that enables people to shop differently.
  • TEB Cetelem iPad Innovation for car financing – BNP Paribas Personal Finance, Turkey. TEB Cetelem’s iPad solution represents a real innovation in BNP Paribas’ car financing services in Turkey, using a simple online procedure, QR codes, and online identification.

In addition to the ten 2014 winners, the Group Selection Committee has awarded a special prize, designed to stimulate and recognise transversal Innovation initiatives across the Group:

  • Hall of Next – Retail Banking / IS / CIB / Group HR / Group Communication / L’Atelier BNP Paribas, France. Hall of Next, internal Innovation ‘trade fair’, highlighted 140 customer-oriented innovations from all Group businesses and geographies, presented by some 60 BNP Paribas coaches.

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First ombudsman decisions in pension liberation cases show need for a change …

Monday, January 26th, 2015

The ombudsman, who is responsible for investigating complaints against pension providers, has now resolved four of more than 80 outstanding cases relating to suspected pension liberation schemes. Pension liberation arrangements market themselves as a means of giving pension scheme members access to their savings before they reach retirement age, but can put members savings at risk. In addition, unauthorised payments from pension schemes can result in heavy tax penalties.

Two of the complaints, against Zurich and AVIVA, were dismissed entirely by the ombudsman; while another, against the Standard Life Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP), was partly dismissed. However Ben Fairhead, an expert in pension liberation cases at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said that the ombudsmans determinations were not necessarily good news for pension providers.

The ombudsman has focused on the law governing statutory transfers, which unfortunately does not protect members from pension scams, he said. And the ombudsmans focus on the law does not tie in particularly well with the Pensions Regulators pragmatic approach, which is aimed at trying to ensure that as few individuals as possible end up being scammed.

What these determinations show is that it is time for a change in the law. Providers and trustees should be allowed to refuse to pay over any transfer to a scheme that they reasonably suspect may be involved in a scam. In the meantime, providers and trustees will have to review their processes to ensure they fall in with the ombudsmans approach, he said.

Fairhead said, however, that it was still early days, with dozens more determinations due from the ombudsman.

Rules governing pension schemes prevent an individual from claiming pension benefits until they reach the age of 55, unless doing so on ill-health grounds. Tax charges on any unauthorised payment can be as much as 55% of the value of that payment. A pension liberation arrangement is designed to get around these restrictions by transferring money representing a savers pension rights out of their existing scheme into a new scheme, which is often of an exotic, unregulated structure and based offshore, and then making the money available wholly or partly as a cash loan back to the saver.

In each of the three cases, the ombudsman had been asked to determine whether the pension scheme members had a statutory right to transfer funds out of the complained-of schemes to different schemes, each of which claimed to be an occupational pension scheme registered with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The 1993 Pension Schemes Act gives pension scheme members the right to transfer savings to another registered pension scheme, and requires the original pension provider to make any transfer within six months of the request being made.

In the cases against Zurich and AVIVA, the ombudsman found that the scheme members did not have a statutory right to a transfer as the intended receiving schemes were not occupational pension schemes as defined by the 1993 Act. The intended receiving scheme in the Standard Life case did meet the statutory definition but the scheme member, Gregory Stobie, was not an earner in relation to it, the ombudsman said. However, the ombudsman also found that Standard Life had not correctly exercised its discretion under the scheme rules to make the payment even where there was no statutory right.

The ombudsman said that although there was no statutory right to a transfer in any of the cases, none of the providers had carried out enough analysis to establish that this was the case. He admitted that the strict interpretation of the law meant that schemes and pension providers find themselves in a highly unenviable position, but added that a transfer could only be withheld beyond the six-month period for payment if there was no right to make that transfer.

In a statement, the ombudsman said that the latest determinations would not help schemes that may offer dubious freedoms; and would not serve as authority for genuine pension schemes to bar transfers on the grounds of mere suspicion or undisclosed information.

They will provide some encouragement to schemes asked to pay a transfer value that have followed the regulatory guidance, obtained as much evidence as they can and made a reasoned decision about whether there is a right to transfer or not, he said.

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Cash Advance Robbery College Station

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

College Station Police are looking for the man who robbed a business at gun point Monday morning.

Workers at the Advance America Cash Advance on Texas Avenue say the suspect walked in holding a handgun and demanded money.

He was able to get away with cash… but theyre not sure how much.

The suspect was last seen on foot through the parking lot in this area. Hes being described as a male, wearing gray pants and a black hoodie, a black back pack. He was armed with a handgun. Approx 5 foot 10. Thin build. said Lt. Chuck Fleeger.

If you know anything about this crime or know where this man may be,youre asked to call College Station Police.

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