Steven Mugglestone

The more I learn, the less I know

Posts Tagged ‘Social-Media

The Cons & Scams continue and we are all blissfully unaware

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We all know that we are in recession and prospects of     business growth remain challenging.  We also know that in economic times like this, we all have to be more imaginative and more creative in business ventures and ideas.

One area that does not diminish in a recession is fraud and scams.  In fact the willingness to lie, cheat and steal from the state, big and small businesses and people in general seems to grow unabated.  The imagination and brass neck cheek is sometimes astonishing, but we continue to live and learn.  According to BDO, reported fraud in the UK over the past 5 years has now topped £7bn, which is equivalent to what the UK spent online over Christmas 2012.

Social media, Facebook and Twitter campaigns encouraging us and our families to share campaigns and issues are now common place and are seen on an hourly basis.  In 2012, my own son purchased a wrist band to support the search and conviction of a notorious African warlord, Kony, along with many hundreds of thousands of well meaning teenagers, only to find that the so called charity behind the campaign was somewhat dubious, and the wristband only lasted a couple of weeks, before snapping anyway.

To act both as a warning and to give some insight into what fraud and scams look like, we have highlighted some of the more “popular” and “common” reported cases:

Clairvoyant benefit fraudster didn’t see it coming

A Welsh clairvoyant admitted to unlawfully claiming over £33,000 in income support, jobseekers allowance, housing benefit and council tax benefit whilst working as a telephone psychic reader and a sex chat-line operator. Dawn Pearson charged customers £1.53 a minute for psychic consultations, while claiming a wide range of state benefits for being too ill to work.

Inventing children is a little too obvious

Kerry Melia was jailed for eight months after ‘inventing’ 15 foster children to illegally claim more than £60,000 in benefits. Despite already being under investigation by HMRC for submitting false claims for 10 non-existent youngsters, Melia asked for help supporting a further five foster children before finally being taken to court.

Learning from James T Kirk does not help

A Chinese gymnastics official was charged with fraud after falsifying a score to help a compatriot win a gold medal at a major tournament. The International Gymnastics Federation found that Shao Bin had ‘altered an execution score prior to posting’ without telling event officials, resulting in a gold medal for gymnast Zhang Chenglong in the men’s floor exercise final at the Asian Games.

Learning from Jeremy Kyle does not help either

Amie Burn and Claire Hardy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice after attempting to falsify a paternity test. Burn had paid Hardy £100 to take her place at the court-ordered test in order to prove that her former boyfriend was not the father of her two-year-old son, thereby denying him access to the child.

Double booking at a minimum

Derren and Tracy Grant from Wincanton were jailed for 27 months and nine months respectively after being found guilty of advertising an occupied villa for rent in Spain. Some 300 holiday makers lost more than £100,000 in the fraud. In one incident, it was alleged that as many as 12 parties had been booked into the same property at the same time.

Vodka from meths and bleach

Kevin Eddishaw was jailed for seven years for manufacturing thousands of bottles of fake vodka using methylated spirits and bleach. Investigators estimated that 165,000 bottles of the falsely-branded Glen’s Vodka had been made before Eddishaw and his team were apprehended.

Shaggy dog insurance claims

Julie Pullman was failed for nine months after fraudulently claiming £37,000 to cover the cost of treating her non-existent pet dogs. Pullman had created fake vets’ bills in order to receive payment from her insurance company. Worryingly, there has been a growing number of reports of owners selling, abandoning or even killing pets in order to claim for early death.

A warning for HS2

The Chinese National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that 187 million yuan (around £20 million) was misappropriated by individuals or companies involved in building the 1,318-km Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway. The announcement followed the dismissal of railways minister Liu Zhijun.

PT Barnum and a sucker born every day lives on

Peter Gillespie, a chartered accountant from Windsor, was jailed for eight years for importing fake drugs from China and selling them as genuine medicines for cancer, heart conditions and mental illness. The medicines were used by pharmacies, hospitals and care homes, and it is believed that at least 100,000 doses ended up being given to patients. Gillespie was caught after a wholesaler spotted a mistake on the packaging.

Green fraud and carbon emissions

Six men were jailed in Germany for a 300 million euro (around £249 million) fraud involving carbon emission permits. Three Britons, two Germans and a Frenchman bought the permits overseas without paying any tax, then resold the permits to each other in order to fraudulently claim the tax back. The judge told the perpetrators that they had brought “the carbon market trading scheme into disrepute.”

Land banking (if it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true)

Rogue property developers selling land that they claim has great investment value, when there is little or no chance of it ever being developed, are on the rise. Investors who have purchased a stake in plots of land that turned out to be worthless have lost an estimated £200 million.  This involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.

The companies involved soon disappear with investors’ money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Money laundering by money mules

Cases of money mule fraud have soared during 2011, according to figures from CIFAS – the government’s fraud prevention agency – which show an increase in the number of both knowing accomplices and innocently duped individuals.

The misuse of facility fraud, which involves an account or policy that has been legitimately opened but is later used fraudulently, rose 12% in the first ten months of 2011. CIFAS reports that a large proportion of the frauds display the hallmarks of ‘money mule’ activity; where a fraudster recruits another (often innocent) party and uses their account to launder money on their behalf.

Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on. The ‘mules’ are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.

More Green and Carbon credit fraud

The Financial Services Authority have reported a ten-fold increase in carbon credit fraud, which lures investors in with the promise of steady returns and a tug on their eco-friendly conscious.  These claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.

A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable ‘government-backed’ scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn’t exist however – the truth investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense.

HMRC offering a tax repayment (obvious really – phishing scam)

Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, it is highly unlikely and is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.  HMRC sas confirmed that reports of fraudulent ‘phishing’ emails have risen by 300% over the last year. Almost 24,000 such emails were reported to HMRC in August alone and the office is currently helping to shut down around 100 scam websites a month.

The emails provide a “click-through link” to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details – all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.

HMRC warns anyone receiving an email claiming to be from them telling the taxpayer they are due a tax repayment not to follow the email’s instructions. HMRC says it will never email or telephone taxpayers about refunds and only write to inform by post.

The great disappearing loan scam

This scam targets vulnerable people who are in financial difficulty and unable to access credit through regular channels like overdrafts and credit cards. The fraudsters advertise loans and those that sign up are asked to pay an upfront ‘arrangement’ fee of around £60-£70 fee before the loan is approved. Borrowers pay the fee only for the ‘loan providers’ to disappear without a trace.

In truth, due to poor credit history or lack of income, the applicants are unlikely to be approved for a loan in the first place, but the fraudsters have no intent in pursuing the application anyway.

Crash for cash scams

While honest motorists battle rising insurance premiums, those to blame for the price hikes continue to undertake fraudulent claims. Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of ‘crash for cash’ scams this year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them. They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist’s insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.

Driving school scam or why I am such a bad driver

Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.

With research showing much lower pass rates among trainee instructors, they have cost learners over £1.7 million in additional test fees over the past 12 months, with millions more believed to have been spent on extra lessons needed to reach test standard.

The AA is lobbying ministers to introduce new rules requiring driving schools to tell learners, at the time they book lessons, if their instructor will be a trainee.

The thieving magpie/postman or the postman always steals twice

A Leicester postman stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.

It is reported that while his bosses thought he was a model employee as he arrived an hour early for work at the delivery office every day, he was actually looking for packages to steal.

Leicester Crown Court heard he then ensured the valuables, destined for other postal rounds, went into his own sack of mail. Patel was caught when investigators received an anonymous tip-off that a postman was selling a large number of games and electrical items to a store in the city centre, where they found a special previously marked X-box game, out of its wrapping, on sale for £1.50.

Smart energy meter scam (Caveat emptor)

The nationwide roll- out of smart meters is intended to help households save money by becoming more informed about their energy usage – but fraudsters have been quick to relieve people of their cash instead.

The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.

The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.

Thermal camera and ATM fraud (Sherlock Holmes would be proud)

As consumers become more savvy at cashpoints by covering the keypad when entering their PIN and avoiding any machines that look suspect – so do the the fraudsters in stepping up their game to grab our cash.  Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry-pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.

You have been warned!

 

Written by Steven Mugglestone

April 16, 2013 at 11:39 am

Posted in Fraud, Social-Media

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Midlands Accountants MGC Hayles Rank in UK Top 3 for Social Media Followers:

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Logo final In a recent survey, MGC Hayles, the midlands based Independent firm of Chartered Accountants and Advisers are ranked third in the UK when compared to social media Twitter followers.  The survey was carried out to see how the top 20 accountants in the UK are using social media for both communication with their clients and the public in general as well as using the media for publication of articles and announcements.

The survey shows that only international accountancy giants, PWC and Deloitte, have more followers for their UK Twitter sites than the firm which has offices in Birmingham, Nottingham and recently in Leicester.

 Firm UK Twitter account


Followers

 PWC PwC_UK

9,549

 Deloitte DeloitteUK

6,114

 MGC Hayles MGC_Hayles

6,008

 KPMG KPMG_UK_LLP

5,037

 BDO bdoaccountant

3,475

 Baker Tilley BakerTilley

2,359

 Kingston Smith kingstonsmith

1,913

 Ernst & Young EY_UKI

1,301

 PKF (UK) PKF_UK

1,053

 Haines Watts haineswatts

930

 Grant Thornton GrantThornton

922

 RSM Tenon RSMTenonPR

690

 UHY Hacker Young UHYHackerYoung

627

 Smitth & Williamson SmithWilliamson

597

 Moores Stephens UK MooreStephensUK

594

 Mazars Mazars_UK

501

 MacIntyre Hudson MHUpdates

271

 Begbies Traynor Begbies

154

* Three firms in top 20 Twitter accounts could not be found
 * Survery taken 3 March 2012 (followers change daily)

 

MGC Hayles utilise Twitter and a variety of blogs and articles to circulate information and updates for business and tax issues and see the media as a great platform to somewhat level the playing field when it comes to competing against the marketing budgets of large international companies.

MGC Hayles do see themselves as a new breed of entrepreneurial chartered accountants and business advisers are using both new technology and their senior team and partners’ wide and varied business experience to develop their business in the midlands region through a number of innovative ways.  They are working with social media and are also will to share their experiences in social media with their clients in a recent article.

Partner, Steven Mugglestone, who has worked within the top accountancy firms as well as a number of years as a finance director outlined, “Whilst we are very much a firm of accountants dedicated to owner managed businesses, we have also started to develop and channel both technology and our hands on business experience to create a number of ways that we can help support and grow SME businesses.

For start-up and small businesses, we have helped develop Squeeze,http://squeezeonline.co.uk/, together with leading accounting software providers Sage UK, http://www.sage.co.uk/, which is a very cost effective way for small businesses to maintain their entire bookkeeping and accounts up to date and online as well as their year-end accounts and tax returns, which is safe, secure and cheap.

We have also worked to develop Vivifi Growth Groups, http://vivifigrowthgroup.co.uk/, which acts as crucial support to growing businesses to help them grow as if there were a much larger organisation with support in sales, strategy, costs reduction, cash control, legal support and FD support, based around a monthly workshop programme and board meeting.

We work closely with Universities in the region and we are also building on our support activity for young entrepreneurs, from Young Enterprise onwards, as we see young business people, under the age of 35 as crucial to the future success of the region’s economy as well as the UK.  We see Squeeze as a key accounting support to the young entrepreneur and we are now working on mentoring support to help small and growing businesses develop, who we hope could eventually benefit from being part of a Vivifi business growth group.

We are also very keen to continue to work with both new technologies and businesses that are developing both alternative energy sources and are seeking to develop cleaner technologies and recycling technologies.”

MGC Hayles have a number of online activities, blogs and business support developments and these can be found at the sites below

https://twitter.com/MGC_Hayles
www.mgchayles.co.uk
http://squeezeonline.co.uk/
http://vivifigrowthgroup.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/JasonSeagrave
https://twitter.com/VivifiGrowth
https://twitter.com/Squeezeonline


Steven Mugglestone BA FCA
,
Finance Director Services
MGC Hayles, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
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Written by Steven Mugglestone

March 4, 2012 at 9:16 am

Our Lessons from Social Media and Sharing those with Our Clients:

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Our Lessons from Social Media and Sharing those with Our Clients

We are all growing up with social media and we as a business are no exception.  We have already thrown away “the mould” of a traditional accountant.  Some of our partners left the large practices and the “corporate” decision making, others left the traditional smaller practices with the traditional ways of doing things.  Some, like me, spent time within business and “got my hands dirty” with the ups and downs that brings.  The one lesson, that I learnt from the years spent within the business world, rather than attempting to advise it, is that accountants are a business and many challenges and solutions to our business are the same as many others.  We can learn lessons and share lessons with our clients about how we can take advantage of changes to the world we operate in.  We embrace social media, but we are all learning things as we go as well.

This year is predicted to be a smash-hit year for social websites. Facebook is predicted to be the biggest flotation of all time. LinkedIn has expanded through Asia. Twitter use has tripled users in Russia.  Social media spending was about 10-12% of total advertising budgets in 2011

Social media is here to stay and has rapidly become an integral part of all business marketing.  It cannot and should not be ignored.

Here are some of the lessons, we all need to consider to help us with an area that cannot be ignored:

Do you look and Listen

We are certainly in out infancy in respect of our responses, but we are looking and learning and developing our own strategies and systems.   Some of the developments below, we are taking very seriously as all businesses should:

  • Many big companies have appointed a Chief Listening Officer to both monitor and report what is being said about the business and where articles, adverts and discussions are being re-tweeted and/or listed.
  • Airline, KLM answers every customer Twitter message personally, within one hour, 24/7, in Dutch or English.
  • Some retail businesses are even deploying the whole senior shop staff with BlackBerrys to respond instantly, night or day, to any customer query anywhere, via Twitter.

Dell, famously has a Social Media Command Centre, as if like NASA.  The social media activities of Dell on Twitter alone allegedly have a greater reach than the combined circulation of the top 12 daily newspapers in the United States.   Michael Dell is quoted as saying, “It represents the next broad step in our efforts to stay connected to our customers around the globe.”

Social Media Campaigns are a never-ending cycle and are not just seasonal

Some leisure and hospitality businesses plan 13 week campaigns, every Monday arranging something 13 weeks away.  Professional sectors have worked on budget and government tax changes or planned seminars for legislation changes.  Manufacturers launch new products for a new year, the fashion industry work to seasonal designs and ranges.  Traditionally, these have been all seasonal strategies, following a plan, launch, wait, sell campaign cycle.  Social media is not like that at all, you can carry out similar campaigns, but social media demands that you are commanding attention 24/7 and 365, or for 2012, 366 days a year.

You get thousands or even millions of people to follow your fan page or Twitter page – and if you ever stop engaging with them or showing them new fun stuff, they’ll take offence. “It’s like inviting people to a party, and then leaving early,” is how one Facebook exec puts it.

Relentless search for good content

Good content is subjective – but you know it when you see it, because it just works, in the classic showbiz sense.  Perhaps we all need to have a bit of showbiz in us to ensure that the content is engaging.

Forbes Magazine has predicted that 2012 will be the year of content.  It is clear that the world is changing here, with the decline of newspaper/magazine circulation and advertising revenues, PR and advertising agencies are rapidly becoming content producers.  In the world of accountants, however, I would like to see more “stuff” written by those with real experiences of business and the issues faced, rather than relying on agency “tone of voice” style and pre-prepared releases and articles.

We are all now in it together, whether you are running a restaurant or a haulage company, or an accountancy practice, there is an important message that needs to be going on across all the iterations of your company online, and it need to all mesh.  Web agencies report global companies consolidating their web offers into single websites with single messages so as to wipe out content differences across sites.

We need to learn how to use the social bit

As everyone knows, you get a personalised experience from Amazon, suggesting things that you might like to buy.  Facebook and Linkedin, recommend friends and connections to connect with, which sometimes appears like witchcraft.  All of these sites can recommend books and music for you, not only utilising your past purchase history, but your connections recommendations as well.  Can the same be done with any company’s website?

An executive from Trip-Advisor was being interviewed by Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 the other week.  He discussed the real advantages of restaurants and hotels that engage with their customer reviews compared to the ones who do not. Friendly commentary from the management on critical client appraisals, done within the hour, makes all the difference. It shows that you care.

Perhaps your employment contracts need to embrace social media as well

Recent, headlines have reported Phone-Dog suing ex-employee Noah Kravitz for keeping the 17,000 Twitter followers he amassed while at the company.   The company argues the followers are actually worth specifically $2.50 each. The ex-employee argues he did all the legwork and actually gained them. The fact of the case existing at all suggests agreement all round that networking online means sales opportunities and value.  Does your business have a policy to deal with the ownership and rights to those who have Twitter accounts in your business name or using your business branding?

The evolution of the smart phone

People are just not talking on the phone as much any-more. The Economist reported that in 2002 the average Japanese mobile user spoke 181 minutes each month. By early 2009, it was down to 133 minutes.  The difference has been attributed to social media.

Another statistic in the UK is that half of all mobile phone users now have smart phones.  I also read recently that only 25% of smart phones have smart users.

Joking apart, perhaps we all need to continue on our learning curve.

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,
Finance Director Services

McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/stevenmugglestonefca/
http://twitter.com/McGsCorporate
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhC0wlglePE
http://www.mcgregorscorporate.co.uk/

T: 0845 519 5659                T: 0121 236 3317
steven@mcgregorsbirmingham.co.uk

Connect, call, talk, email, contact us, send a messenger pigeon and arrange a discussion, review and free meeting.

Written by Steven Mugglestone

January 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm