Skip to content

Scams

More Stanford Loveliness

The complaint against Pendergest-Holt said she failed to tell investigators she had served on the Antigua bank\’s investment committee and that the investment portfolio holding more than 80 per cent of its assets included a $1.6 billion loan to Stanford "Executive A" – evidently Stanford himself.

It said Pendergest-Holt also wrongly denied she had prepared with company officials before her SEC interview on Feb. 10 and said a Stanford attorney had sought to keep the top executives from being questioned.

The complaint details sometimes stormy preparation sessions for Pendergest-Holt in January and February during which the bank\’s shaky asset base became apparent to a wider circle of officials and to the lawyer – "Attorney A" – who later quit.

During those preparations, the complaint said, Pendergest-Holt and other officials learned of the $1.6 billion loan and that $541 million credited as a capital contribution in December 2008 consisted of assets already bought by the bank just months before for $88.5 million.

It described "Executive A" – Stanford – as "pounding the table" and insisting "the assets are there."

Did they really not know?

Snigger

Sir Allen:

Last night, US television channels reported that Stanford had attempted to leave the country by private jet from Houston to Antigua, but the plane leasing company refused his credit card.

Oh dear

There were also reports last night that five players in the victorious Stanford Super Series final side – Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Kieron Pollard, Sylvester Joseph and Dave Mohammed – had reinvested their personal winnings of $1m each with Stanford, and now risk losing it all.

I want my flying car now!

The \’Autovolantor\’ – based on a £200,000 Ferrari 599 GTB – is being developed by "Moller International".

It will have the ability to take off vertically and hover thanks to eight powerful thrusters which direct air down for take off. Vents then tilt so the car can fly forward.

The car is expected to be able to do 100mph on the ground and 150mph in the air.

The calculated airborne range is 75 miles and ground range is 150 miles.

Ermm, no. It won\’t fly and it won\’t be available.

Here at the Reg, a lot of us tech fancier Vultures are flying-car friendly. We want our personal aerial ride and we want it now. But we\’re getting a bit tired of Dr. Paul Moller and the way people keep breathlessly writing him up. (Even the Reg has fallen into his trap on occasion.)

The technology won\’t work as it hasn\’t for the past few decades.

Jeepers

The Department of Homeland Security is testing a type of body scanner that seeks out invisible clues that a person might be harbouring criminal intent, such as raised body temperature, pulse and breathing rate.

The system, called MALINTENT, uses a raft of "non-invasive" sensors and imagers to detect such factors remotely – subjects are not hooked up to anything. It also evaluates a person\’s facial expression to help to gauge whether they could be planning to commit an attack or crime.

The technology, developed by the Human Factors division of Homeland Security\’s directorate for Science and Technology, would be used at border checkpoints, airports and special events that require security screening.

Essentially they\’re building a lie detector that you walk through rather than being wired up to.

Given that lie detectors don\’t work….

Those Passport Chips

Bravo to The Times for this piece of research:

New microchipped passports designed to be foolproof against identity theft can be cloned and manipulated in minutes and accepted as genuine by the computer software recommended for use at international airports.

Tests for The Times exposed security flaws in the microchips introduced to protect against terrorism and organised crime. The flaws also undermine claims that 3,000 blank passports stolen last week were worthless because they could not be forged.

….

Using his own software, a publicly available programming code, a £40 card reader and two £10 RFID chips, Mr van Beek took less than an hour to clone and manipulate two passport chips to a level at which they were ready to be planted inside fake or stolen paper passports.

A baby boy’s passport chip was altered to contain an image of Osama bin Laden, and the passport of a 36-year-old woman was changed to feature a picture of Hiba Darghmeh, a Palestinian suicide bomber who killed three people in 2003. The unlikely identities were chosen so that there could be no suggestion that either Mr van Beek or The Times was faking viable travel documents.

No, they won\’t take the lesson from this and apply it to ID cards, of course they won\’t.

Ooops!

But technology has changed over the past few years. The infrastructure is now built on Microsoft’s Windows operating system, and the cash machines themselves can be remotely diagnosed and repaired online. Unfortunately, this means that PIN codes have started to “leak” along the way — suggesting that industry guidelines on encryption are not always being followed.

Umm, Bill?

Aye, Aye….

THE House of Commons has shredded more than 1m documents detailing expenses claims by MPs that were due to be revealed to the public.

The Commons authorities said last week they had destroyed all documents for MPs up to April 2004, even though official guidelines state that such records should be kept for six years.

No, we don\’t know whether this was expressly to cover up for some spivvy bastards: but that\’s the way many will take it to be whether true or not.

The Ultimate Entrepreneur Club

I\’m always a sucker for responding to get rich quick ads. I\’m always wondering whether anyone ever comes up with anything new, or whether it\’s just the same old, same old, tricked out with a few new words.

So when a man who claims to be Bernard Eley emails me with an introduction to the Ultimate Entrepreneur Club I\’m back in there subscribing like a shot.

So, just what is the Ultimate Entrepreneur Club?

" The Ultimate Entrepreneur Club was established 15 years
ago, and provides a practical, global financial educational
programme to help you learn how to legally avoid taxation,
protect your assets avoid the burdens of credit and debt
and make profits well above the norm.

The Ultimate Entrepreneur Club, is able to "pool", money
from their members, then invest the total amount into
Medium Term Notes, where past experience has shown that
members have doubled their investment in approximately 100
days, or 4 times in 12 months. That\’s around 1% compound
interest per day!"

My word, gosh, that\’s exciting! What are Medium Term Notes?

"Thank you for requesting more information on how you can
participate in an investment that can Double Your
Investment every 100 days by investing in "Medium Term
Notes".

This particular investment body, is normally reserved for
Banks and Large Corporate Companies, due to the minimum
investment being beyond the reach of most normal
individuals."

Hmm. That sounds amazingly like the Prime Bank Guarantee funds which were around in the 90s. And as a part of the come on I was told to listen to a conference call and yes, they were indeed exactly like those PBG funds.

You see, there\’s this special supper sekkret part of the financial system where only the very biggest players are allowed to gambol. Risk free returns of 1% per transaction and it\’s possible to complete a transaction in only a day, starting all over again the next!

But you, as an individual, can\’t take part: you\’ve got to band together with these fearless upholders of your right to make money so that you can gain such coveted access.

Now, I have to admit that I don\’t know whether this stunningly easy to turn down invitation really does come from Bernard Eley, although the email is indeed signed as follows:

Bernard Eley
Nibley House
North Nibley
Dursley
Glos
GL11 6DL

Tel 01453 542818
Mob 07793 942436

And there is indeed a Bernard Eley apparently living at that address.

Free Directory Enquiries 01453 542 818 B ELEY NIBLEY HOUSE FARM NORTH NIBLEY DURSLEY GLOUCESTERSHIRE GL116DL Map Photo More Info

Electoral Roll 2002 – 2007 Sign in or register and get credits to view full details Full Details BERNARD ELEY XXXXXX XXXXX XXX XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX DURSLEY XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX Age guide: 40-44 (?), other occupants JOSEPHINE ELEY

Director Report Sign in or register and get credits to view full details Full Details BERNARD MARTIN ELEY XXXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXXX DURSLEY XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX Age: 41

But let me just be clear here. In my opinion The Ultimate Entrepreneur Club is a scam, a fraud, it\’s of the type known as an advance fee fraud. You stick your money in and it never comes back as the fraudsters gallop over the horizon with the cash, in my opinion at least. It might also be described, again in my own opinion, as a Ponzi scheme.

Now of course, Bernard doesn\’t know that this is a fraud, he\’s an unwitting dupe of those behind the whole plan. But I would seriously suggest to Mr. Eley that he disassociate himself from this transparently fraudulent programme as fast as he can.

It\’s also possible that Bernard isn\’t even aware that his name is being used in this scam, in which case I suggest that he attempt to find out who is and gets them to stop using his name.

Because this is a scam and anyone who enters it will lose their money….in my opinion of course.

Update: having called Mr. Eley, yes, it is him and he is involved….and while I\’m not a perfect reader of people, it does sound like he doesn\’t understand what is going on. I\’m awaiting a phone call from the next person up the chain with bated breath!

" Hi Tim,
Thankyou for your email.
I have a colleague called Derek Higgins from The Ultimate Entrepreneur Club, who has already invested in the Medium Term Notes.
It would be good if you could speak to him as he will be able to explain more about the opportunity, how it works, and the application process etc."

Update II: So I get the call from Derek Higgins and he patches in "Nigel", a "Stage II Manager" for the UK (I think I\’ve got that right). Firstly I\’m told that Medium Term Notes do indeed exist (and indeed they do, I\’m referred to Close Brothers at: http://www.closebrothers.co.uk/mtn.asp to see a fairly standard commercial paper-ish programme). But no, you don\’t have to be part of an investment club to invest in them. No, there\’s no huge minimum investment necessary. In fact, if you want to invest in medium term notes I\’m pretty sure you can simply phone up a broker and buy some.

Now of course all of this is my opinion, a feeling in my waters if you wish. I simply do not believe that 0.5% to 1% returns daily are possible: I do indeed believe that the financial markets provide opportunities to do that occasionally, but I really don\’t that it\’s possible to make that sort of return day in and day out by trading in medium term notes: which are, after all, only a form of corporate borrowing, something between commercial paper and corporate bonds.

And I certainly don\’t think that if such an opportunity did exist that there would be a club with an upfront fee to join that would be the only way I could take part. At the very least the basic economics of the financial markets makes me think that the profit would have been competed away already (although acknowledging that $100 bills really do sometimes get found on the street).

Certainly, that when I talk to one member of the club, I\’m told that they\’ve only been in for a short time, then I\’m referred to the person who brought them in, who has (I think I\’ve rememberred this correctly) has put $10,000 in a month or two ago and then his backup is a much more aggressive gent who claims to have hundreds of clients in and he\’s been in for a year or more….nope, sounds to me like a pyramid there.

And I really, really, don\’t believe that 0.5% to 1% a day is possible, on a consistent basis, in any financial market.

I wouldn\’t touch it with a bargepole, although your view may differ.

A useful website for those who want further information. Note the similarity with some of the phrases in the proposal.

 

 

Vitamins are bad for you

No, really:

Popular vitamin supplements taken by millions of people in the hope of improving their health may do no good and could increase the risk of a premature death, researchers report today.

So, Linus Pauling was wrong then.

But Patrick Holford, a nutritionist who has formulated supplements for the company Biocare, said: "Antioxidants are not meant to be magic bullets and should not be expected to undo a lifetime of unhealthy habits.

"When used properly, in combination with a healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables, getting plenty of exercise and not smoking, antioxidant supplements can play an important role in maintaining and promoting overall health."

Yes Patrick darling, but if you\’re doing all of those things then antioxidants are hardly necessary, are they? But then sales would suffer, would they not?

 

Subsidies, Glorious Subsidies

The EU is being urged to take action to stop a biofuel trading scam that exploits US agricultural subsidies and undermines the fight against global warming.

Up to 10% of biofuel exports from the US to Europe are believed to be part of the rogue scheme reaping big profits for agricultural trading firms.

The "splash and dash" scam involves shipping biodiesel from Europe to the US where a dash of fuel is added, allowing traders to claim 11p a litre of US subsidy for the entire cargo. It is then shipped back and sold below domestic prices, undercutting Europe\’s biofuel industry.

Any and every system of subsidies for a specific product is vulnerable to these sorts of scams.

It should be noted that none of this is illegal either: it might not be what the planners had intended, but that\’s a rather different matter.

But what should actually be done about it?

The essentials of the situation are that the American taxpayer is subsidising, to the tune of 11 p per litre, the EU consumer. The correct reaction is therefore obvious.

Why, thank you very much you saps. Please send a few more shiploads.

 

Australian Bribery

The country really is upside down, you know?

A town planner has become embroiled in scandal after she allegedly demanded sex in exchange for approving millions of dollars of unlawful developments.

So, you\’re a developer, needing planning permission. 32 year old Aussie blonde female (not a bad looker, certainly not a munt) says, well, you can have the planning permission but only if you shag me.

Erm?

Pay-Ads.com

Just a short note to boost my post over at the other blog on the subject of Pay-Ads.com.

Anyone who would care to help get out the message about said Pay-Ads.com please do so by linking with Pay-Ads.com as your anchor text and linking to the post on the other blog.

 

AE Bullion

American Elements has launched something called AE Bullion. This post should be considered as a warning not to actually buy any of their products.

Los Angeles based American Elements announced today the launch of AE Bullion™. The new product group will mint certified high purity coins and bars from approximately sixty advanced, rare and less common metals for short and long term physical investment. Metals include rhodium, tellurium, indium, hafnium, scandium and the 14 rare earth elements; all metals which have experienced dramatic world price increases in 2007.

Coins and bars will be minted from assayed materials produced by American Elements\’ AE Metals™ high purity refining group. Coins will be available to hedge funds, currency reserves and exchange traded funds (ETFs) in order to establish tradable securities and to allow for exposure and controlled risk to commodity and industrial demand fluctuations. Also, private investors, collectors and hobbyists can now take direct physical title and possession to these metals with risk exposure equivalent to movements in the world spot price.

Portfolios of different elemental metal coins and bars may also be structured allowing for strategic risk allocation and indexing across a basket of metals. American Elements will offer bonded short and long term warehouse inventory services for AE Bullion™ coins to investors, funds and collectors who do not wish to take physical custody of the metal or lack secure storage or warehouse capabilities.

This is a terrible idea, seriously awful, from the investors point of view. The first and most important point is that these metals don\’t have liquid markets. Taking scandium for example: as regular readers will know I make my day job living dealing in the material. But in over a decade I\’ve never actually sold the metal itself to anyone. The oxide, yes, the oxide when made into a aluminium master alloy, yes, but not the metal. I would be astonished if the global market in 2007 was more than 1 kg of the metal in total. The same goes fo many of the rare earth metals (some do indeed have markets, others, ytterbium etc, not. I once had a piece of lutetium and the only thing I could manage to do with it was sell it to someone who prepared elements for collectors.). Further, even where there are markets fo them, no one ever buys them piecemeal. Long term supplpier contracts are the order of the day. Hafnium as coins and bars also strikes me as rather silly: a typical Hf metal purchase would be 500 kg to 5,000 kg. Piddling about with an ounce or two in a coin simply won\’t happen.

Rhodium is something that might be worth speculating in but there\’s already a mechanism to do that. Open an account at Johnson Matthey and get on with it.

This has overtones (and no, I\’m not making an accusation here of it being the same) of a program that went on a decade ago, with indium and germanium. An investment boiler house was selling these "vital electronic metals in short supply" by the ounce to impressionable retail investors in the US. They were paying $ hundreds an ounce to take physical possession of material worth, at that time, $10s per ounce. Usual hard core telephone sales techniques.

Prices did indeed rise but not enough to cover the marketing mark up: and anyway, with these metals it\’s an industrial market. Buyers are the big electronics companies and they pick up a tonne or two at a time.

The basic point is that these metals are really not for the private investor as there are no liquid markets. And even when there are, they\’re not in the sort of quantities that a private investor would be dealing in. With the exception of rhodium (where, as noted, there is already a mechanism) this just isn\’t a sensible place to go speculating.

Disclaimer: yes, I do deal, or have done, in several of these metals. Yes, I would benefit if a private market was created to speculate in them. Yes, I still think it\’s an extremely bad idea that you shouldn\’t go anywhere near.

There was in fact a scandium metals futures market in Moscow in the early-mid 1990s. It collapsed after about 50 trades as there was no terminal market. This idea will face very much the same problems.

 

 

Regulating Alternative Medicine

There\’s two things to be said about this idea:

Aromatherapy, homoeopathy and other popular complementary therapies are to be regulated for the first time under a government-backed scheme to be established this year.

Is the regulation going to be evidence backed? If so, does that mean we\’ll see Deepak Chopra struck off (ooooh, we can hope, can\’t we?)?

If it\’s not going to be evidence backed, if effectiveness is not tested, what is the point?

Which leads to the second thing, the actual point. Those who are regulated will be able to charge higher fees than those who are not. As Adam Smith pointed out, businessmen seldom gather together except to engage in a conspiracy against the public. It\’s professional protectionism.

Ben Goldacre Would Like This One

From a US judgement:

For the Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet, by contrast, all statements about how the product works—Q-Rays, ionization, enhancing the flow of bio-energy, and the like—are blather. Defendants might as well have said: “Beneficent creatures from the 17th Dimension use this bracelet as a beacon to locate people who need pain relief, and whisk them off to their homeworld every night to provide help in ways unknown to our science.”

President Kibaki

What is shocking about the rigged poll is not the fact of electoral manipulation, but its blatancy. President Kibaki\’s partisans barely troubled to cover their tracks.

So another African politician stole an election.

And?

Deepak Lal\’s view of governments, that they are simply robber barons leeching off the populace, is seen as somewhat extreme. However, for a large part of the world, it is true. The only interesting question is how much of it?

Tommy Sheridan

Well, yes, I think we\’ve all rather been waiting for the other shoe to drop, haven\’t we?

Tommy Sheridan, the flamboyant Scottish politician, was yesterday charged with perjury in relation to a £200,000 libel trial.

It\’s over the libel trial of course:

During the case the judge, Lord Turnbull, warned that a criminal investigation into perjury was "inevitable".

Tommy\’s reaction?

Police also searched his home in a north-western suburb of Glasgow. After he was released on bail, Mr Sheridan said he was the victim of a "political witchhunt" carried out by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News Corporation which publishes the News of the World.

"This whole farcical inquiry, which has used up an incredible amount of public resources, has been orchestrated and influenced by the powerful reach of the Murdoch empire," he said. "This battle is going on however long it takes to clear my name."

Well, actually, the allegation seems to be that you lied in court in order to make off with £200,000 Tommy. And if that is actually proved then any sentence will be the least of it. For (and I\’m reasonably certain of this) I think you\’ll end up owing the NotW their legal fees from that case: usually something north of £1 million for a high profile libel one.