- Created on 12 September 2013
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) From e-mails promising huge sums of money (in exchange for an initial fee) to callers offering too good to be true investments, fraudsters are on the prowl and many Americans are falling prey to them.
More than 8 in 10 consumers have received a "potentially fraudulent offer," according to a FINRA Investor Education Foundation survey of 2,000 people released Thursday.
Of those targeted, about 11% said they lost "a significant amount of money" by falling for a scam. But because people often fail to report financial fraud -- either because they don't know who to report it to or because they're too embarrassed -- this number is likely a lot higher, FINRA said.
Elderly respondents were 34% more likely to have lost money than people in their 40s, men were targeted more often than women and the likelihood of being solicited by a scammer increased with income and education level, the survey found.
And these losses can really add up -- with the most recent estimate available putting total financial fraud at a whopping $50 billion per year.
Here are the five most common scams out there:
E-mails from abroad: Most people have heard about the so-called "Nigerian scam" by now, where someone claiming to be a deposed prince from Nigeria says he has millions of dollars and wants to transfer it all to you ... he just needs your bank account information first.
There are now many versions of this scam being perpetrated, with emails often opening with a line like, 'Hello kind stranger,'" says FINRA Investor Education Foundation president Gerri Walsh.
"They say, 'Here's some easy money -- I'm going to transfer $10 million to your bank account and all you have to do is pay the wire transfer fees,'" said Walsh. "But really they're just taking your bank account information so they can impersonate you and wipe out your account."
'Free' lunch: Fraudsters also lure victims with invitations to free luncheons where they pitch fraudulent investments to them. They'll promise triple-digit returns or advertise investments that don't even exist, and they'll never be seen again once they get your money.
"The idea is that someone does something nice for you by inviting you to a free meal seminar and giving you information so you feel you have to give back," said Walsh.
You won the lottery!: Of course, you want to believe that you're so lucky you won a lottery that you never even bought a ticket for. But don't fall for it. This is a scheme that's been used for years, where scammers notify people that they have won a lottery -- often a lottery abroad, say in Canada or Ireland.
The catch is that in order to claim your prize, you have to first pay hundreds of dollars in fees -- for customs or processing, or some other creative fee that the scammer creates.
Penny stocks: Penny stocks are notorious for being rife with fraud, Walsh says. Scammers will flock to message boards, blogs and e-mail, advertising these low-price, thinly traded securities. They find something that sounds tempting, like marijuana stocks, clean energy and gold, and tout them as the "next big thing." Once the securities are artificially pumped up by all the advertising, the scammers sell their shares and take the money, leaving the investors with nothing when the price plummets.
Cold calls: Don't befriend the stranger on the phone. Walsh says scammers often cold call their victims and know how to build friendships by not being too aggressive in their sales pitches and calling often -- pitching everything from gold coins to penny stocks to roof repair.
"It comes down to the dangling of phantom riches -- they say, 'don't you want to double your money? Don't you want to have a nice nest egg to pass on to your heirs?' And then they say if you don't buy it now it's going to go away ... that's what is supposed to get you salivating," says Walsh.
Protect your Achilles' heel: Fraudsters are getting increasingly creative, latching on to whatever big theme is in the news. Some other schemes people have fallen for involve fraudsters claiming to have access to private pre-IPO shares of big companies about to go public. Oil and gas scams are also common -- where you think you're investing in an oil and gas company but the "company" doesn't even have oil and gas wells or equipment.
Walsh says you should always verify that the person pitching you financial investments or products is licensed, and never rush into anything.
"Fraudsters are experts at identifying the Achilles' heels of the people they're targeting," she said. "They push you from a logical state to an emotional state, and when you're pushed into an emotional state you want to act now and you don't want to give up opportunity."
- Created on 11 September 2013
In this Aug. 15, 2013, photo taken in Chicago, Jerome Byers, the head of small business banking at Citigroup poses in his office. Byers, a former small business owner himself, is working to change the impression that Citigroup caters to just big corporate and international clients. (AP Photo / /M. Spencer Green)
NEW YORK (AP) — When small business owners hear the name Citigroup, they're more likely to think of a bank that caters to big corporate and international clients, not one that will serve their needs.
Jerome Byers, head of Citi's small business banking operations — and a former small business owner himself — is trying to change that impression.
"We have to tell our story better," he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Citi hasn't let small business owners know how much the bank can do for them, said Byers, who has been in his current role since June of last year. Under his leadership, the bank has increased its lending to small companies in the past year by 24 percent to $7.9 billion.
Byers came to Citi in 2009 from Wells Fargo & Co., a bank that does have a reputation as a small business lender. In the second quarter, Wells Fargo was the top provider of small business loans, with $456 million. Citi was No. 32, with $27 million. Wells also has more branches, 9,000 compared with Citi's 1,000, making it more visible and accessible to many small businesses.
Byers once owned a hair salon, so he has seen the small business-banker relationship from both sides. Here are some excerpts from his interview with the AP, edited for clarity and brevity:
Q. There is a perception that Citi isn't a small business banker. How do you correct that impression?
A. In the small business area, we need to show the value that Citi brings. We know how to lend money. We have talented bankers. We need to tell our story better.
I think it's fair to say that based on our branch network here in the U.S., we're not going to be in every city and town. We have to accept that. We need to be the best small business adviser in the cities that we're in — the major cities that we're in.
We have a 1,000-branch network in the United States that last year lent $7.9 billion to small business owners. That's a great story. There are 260,000-plus customers in that network. We need to talk a little bit more about that. We have some raving fans and owners. The best way to tell your story is to create more raving fans and let them be your promoter.
That (previous) reputation was earned, probably from customers who didn't get what they needed at some point.
Q. How do you get this done when Citi has been cutting staff? (Citigroup had 253,000 employees as of June 30, down from 261,000 a year earlier).
A. If you ask small business owners who is the person they most like to deal with, they'll say, the branch manager. I have 1,000 branch managers plus 2,000 or 3,000 salespeople who can talk to small business owners. There are some small businesses that are growing and need more sophisticated advice. I took probably the best 100 or so small business bankers I had, and continued to invest in their training to provide that advice.
Q. What can small business customers get from Citi that they won't get elsewhere?
A. We can connect small business owners in 150 of the largest cities in the world. We also have behind us the most talented and probably most revered investment banks in the world and we can leverage those resources. In the categories of trade and cash management, we are probably unique to small business owners. If I brought it down to a local market, you have a local branch person that has the knowledge, again from the most powerful and dynamic financial institutions in the world. Our next step is to bring our technology enhancements down to small businesses.
Q. What is Citi doing to increase the number of loans to small businesses?
A. You've got to look for ways to help get capital into the system. So while we have bankers out on street, we're also working through our foundation and other partners to go to areas and say, let's figure out unique ways to do micro lending, let's figure out unique ways to work with veterans, to jumpstart companies. You've got to look for niches in the segment where there's opportunity to lend. But they need a little bit extra from their banker or their partner.
In this economy, small business banking isn't just the lending, it's doing the things you can do to provide seed money, to give advice to jumpstart the smallest of small businesses, to help small businesses to become medium-sized businesses, to become big businesses.
Q. What do your bankers do to help a small business when it's turned down for a loan?
A. I don't use the words "turned down." What a banker should be saying to a business owner is, "here's what we need to do to be able to lend you the money and help you grow." Before we say, "we can't lend you the money now," we'll see if there are alternative ways to finance — alternatives like Small Business Administration loans — and see if there's a way we can partner with SBA to give that money. If that doesn't work, then it becomes an advice discussion — let us advise you on what your business needs to look like to expand the way you'd like to. I don't like to use "turn down" as much as I like to use "advice."
Q. What is your take on the state of small business today?
A. Slowly we've seen their confidence in the economy come back. I would say now that primarily they are confident that the economy is going to grow in the next few years. And they're starting to act in that entrepreneurial spirit.
At the same time, we're in a period of evolution, from a global standpoint and a technology standpoint. The world is shrinking and the competitive landscape, even for small businesses, is becoming more clouded by globalization and the technology advances. I think the way that small businesses have to think is changing.
Q. So, you've been a small business owner yourself. What was that like?
A. I owned a barber and beauty salon and it was a very interesting learning experience for me. When I was in college, I was a barber, so I bought something I knew. I didn't cut hair in the salon, I just owned it. As a banker, I understood the balance sheet and the income statement. As an owner, truthfully, I rarely looked at the balance sheet and the income statement, because I spent my time on customers and employees.
- Created on 11 September 2013
According to numerous reports surrounding women and our relationships with money, one suggestion appears to be a main stay across most reports. It has been suggested for years that women, and our lack of confidence and risk aversion when dealing with money, are not up to par with men's negotiating for and understanding stock and retirement benefits. However, as many women are now competing with men in regards to positions with increased pay and benefits, the tide may be changing in this area.
As reported in a 2012 Forbes.com article, the following are key differences in attitudes about money between the sexes:
1) Women avoid risk more than men, which can prove damaging in the long haul. As women tend to mitigate risks more than men, it is suggested that we do not take full advantage of all of the rewards that may be reaped from investing in the sometimes volatile stock market.
2) Women worry more about the effect of money on relationships. According to a survey by Campden Wealth and Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, 79% of younger "ultra wealthy" women are concerned that their wealth will complicate relationships with spouses, friends and colleagues. It was assumed in this article that the same conclusions can be drawn for women and men in all income and net worth brackets.
3) Women worry more about their financial health but lag in decision-making and self-confidence. An LPL Financial "WomenInvest White Paper" survey shows that 67% women want an equal role in financial decision making and only approximately 20% want their husbands to make all the decisions. Only 29% of women are confident their investments are "allocated appropriately between cash, bonds and stocks." By comparison, 45% of men are confident in this area.
4) Women may expect different things from advisors than men. Financial "peace of mind" is seven times more important to women than wealth accumulation.
Though some of the previously mentioned sentiments may ring some sort of truth, there are several others who are seeking to debunk these "myths" about women and money.
It is safe to say that regardless of past assumptions, myths and findings about the relationship between women and money, as professional women with increasing pay and offered benefits, it is imperative to remain 100 percent aware and in full control of our financial futures, which may call for a reassessment of antiquated thinking and fears.
- Created on 10 September 2013
Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, speaks on stage during the introduction of the new iPhone 5c in Cupertino, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. (AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez)
CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — Apple's latest iPhones will come in a bevy of colors and two distinct designs, a cheaper one made of plastic and another that aims to be "the gold standard of smartphones" and reads your fingerprint.
Apple unveiled the latest iPhone models, available on Sept. 20, during an event at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. The new iPhones arrive at a time when rival phones from Samsung and other manufacturers are challenging Apple in the competitive smartphone market. Research firm Gartner Inc. estimates that Apple had a 14.4 percent share of the world's smartphone market in the second quarter of this year, No. 2 behind Samsung's 31.7 percent.
The lower-cost iPhone 5C will be available in five colors — green, blue, yellow, pink and white. CEO Tim Cook calls it "more fun and colorful" than any other iPhone. The 5C has a 4-inch Retina display and is powered by Apple's A6 chip. It also has an 8 megapixel camera, live photo filters and a rear cover that lights up.
The iPhone 5C will cost $99 for a 16 gigabyte model and $199 for a 32 gigabyte model with a two-year wireless contract. The phone is expected to help Apple boost sales in China and other areas where people don't have as much money to spend on new gadgets as they do in the U.S. and Europe.
The second phone, the 5S, is "the most forward-looking phone we have ever created," said Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple. It will come in silver, gold and "space gray" and run a new chip, the A7 that is up to twice as fast as the A6.
Schiller said the new phone can run more health and fitness applications. These apps have become increasingly popular as more people use them to track exercise routines, calorie intake and even sleep patterns.
The camera in the 5S received some major upgrades, including several automatic features designed to produce better photos. It has a larger pixels and a larger aperture, which helps capture more light. The phone also has a "true-tone" flash feature that is designed not to clash with the colors in the room or a person's skin color — something Schiller said has not been done on a phone before.
The camera, called iSight, has "auto image stabilization," which helps avoid blurry pictures, and a slow-motion camera for video. A "burst mode" can take 10 frames per second as long as you hold your finger on the shutter, then find the best one in your camera roll.
The 5S also includes "Touch ID," which reads fingerprints at a "detailed level," Schiller said. He said it is "fun and easy" to teach the 5S about your fingerprint and once you do, you can just touch the home button to unlock the phone. The company said fingerprints will not be stored on its servers.
Tying the fingerprint scanner to payments could also open new revenue channels for Apple.
Both models will be on sale on Sept. 20 in the U.S., Australia, China, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore and U.K. Apple said this is the first time that a new phone has been available right away in China — a sign of the growing importance of that market to the company. People will be able to order the 5C in advance on Friday, but not the 5S.
For buyers entering a two-year contract with a wireless carrier, the phone will cost $199 for 16 gigabytes of memory, $299 for 32 and $399 for 64.
Apple also said its next mobile operating system, iOS 7, will be available as a free download on Sept. 18.
Craig Federighi, head of software at Apple Inc., said at an event at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters that "downloading iOS 7 is like getting an all new device."
The new system can be downloaded on the iPhone 4 and later models, as well as on the tablets beginning with the iPad 2.
Apple also said that it expects to ship its 700 millionth iOS device next month. Apple CEO Tim Cook predicts that iOS 7 will become the most popular mobile operating system in the world.
Investors seemed unimpressed. Apple's stock price fell $3.17 to $503.10 during the event, which also featured Elvis Costello. The singer performed a new song from a record coming out next week.