Monday, July 19, 2010

A new Amazon based scam

The scammers of the world keep coming up with more innovative ways to trick people. I received a number of emails today the contents of which were similar to this: logo your account

Thanks for your order,

Did you know you can view and edit your orders online, 24 hours a day? Visit Your Account.

Order Information:

E-mail Address:
Order Grand Total: $ 41.99

Earn 3% rewards on your orders with the Amazon Visa Card. Learn More

Order Summary:
Order #: D25-6587444-2958008
Subtotal of items: $ 66.99
Total before tax: $ 32.99
Sales Tax: $ 0.00
Total for this Order: $ 75.99

The following item was ordered:
Click here and see items, Price: $ 80.99
By: Click here
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

The charge for this order will appear on your credit card statement from the merchant 'AMZN Payment Services.'

You can review your orders in Your Account. If you've explored the links on that page but still have a question, please visit our online Help Department.

Please note: This e-mail was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply to this message.

Thanks again for shopping with us.
Earth's Biggest Selection

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It looks quite genuine when it appears on the email. Even the senders address "(" looks quite genuine.

What set me on alert was the fact that the email I received it on is not the account I have registered with Amazon. A closer look at the numbers shows they don't add up - whether this was a part of scam - to get people to follow the links to correct the "wrong" order or simply a slip-up is uncertain.

I did go and check my Amazon accounts just in case (they were clear, with no unknown orders), but it could trap the unwary, so beware.

ps This site gives a good image of the spam mail and a more technical explanation.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Responding to the loss of GSP+

The EU has temporarily suspended the GSP+ concessions. The Government response has been to promise measures to counter this, hinting at a possible devaluation of the currency and to suggest that the factories concerned look to improving productivity.

There is however a fairly simple measure that can help reduce production cost while raising employee satisfaction. What is this measure? A suspension of EPF and ETF payments for a specified period of time.

Employers are required to contribute 12% of salaries paid to the EPF and a further 3% to the ETF, a total of 15% of salaries. Employees are required to contribute 8% towards EPF.

My suggestion is that the Government suspend EPF and ETF payments for a fixed period of time, perhaps a year, until the EU concessions can be renegotiated. Under the arrangement that I propose the company would not have to contribute the 15% while the 8% would no longer be deducted from the salaries of employees. Thus there is an immediate saving of 15% on the ages bill, which is very significant, while the employees get a bonus in the form of an 8% pay hike. The GSP+ concessions reportedly worked out to a 10% saving on cost, I'm not sure how much a 15% saving on payroll costs translates to conversion cost but it is significant.

Food for thought, perhaps?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Some excitement at last

I don't follow sport so all the excitement surrounding the football world cup, the tennis at Wimbledon and even the racing at Ascot has not touched me.

Life was looking rather boring, with a full 22 working days this month and a further 17 days slog next month before the next long weekend. Very boring, that is until Comrade Wimal spiced it up for me with this.

He had originally called for the UN to be surrounded and the staff taken hostage, so we shall await further developments.

Ban Ki Moon should have known who he was dealing with.

All along we thought the Comrade had 'gone native', joined the government and tempered his revolutionary ways. Luckily we find that he has not lost it at all, but given us something that we can proud of. Let the Yankees beware.

Budget blues

The opposition is attacking the 'policy budget' presented by the Government for all the wrong reasons. In an attempt to cater to the average man, the budget is being condemned as an "IMF budget", a cunning plot to stimulate exports of countries that fund the IMF or a market fundamentalist budget.

In terms of policy, what has been unveiled is prudent and necessary. The biggest problem was the fiscal deficit and serious attempts to contain this at 8% is commendable. The problem in practice is slippage: revenues tend to be overestimated and expenditure underestimated, so we need to see how things actually turn out, but there is no problem with the targets themselves.

The measures aimed at reducing the deficit: consumption based taxes, on dry rations, milk, gas, wheat and the like are also positive as further taxes on industry are likely to be counterproductive, leading to a further contraction in growth. The reduction of duties on vehicles and consumer durables is a revenue generating measure (demand grows as the taxes are reduced and the government will collect a greater absolute amount of duties, although the duty percentage has fallen) For example government revenue from vehicle duties had fallen from Rs.18bn to Rs.3bn over the last three years. The duty reduction will also stimulate trade and finance as people start buying more of these and use a certain amount of debt (more affordable due to lower interest rates) to finance these.

What then, is the problem? Fundamentally, nothing; except the size of the government expenditure. I am a believer in a minimal or 'Nightwatchman' state, the current state apparatus is huge and shows every sign of growing larger.

The deficit can equally well be controlled by reducing state expenditure which in turn may be achieved by scaling back the size of the state (privatisations for instance), efficiency improvements or administrative restructuring (simple measures such as moving the clocks forward by an hour is a painless method of achieving significant savings in power consumption; combining the ETF and ETF into one body (under the ETF, the smaller of the two)will immediately eliminate the cost of running the EPF). The lack of transparency ensures that a lot of waste and inefficiency goes unnoticed. Publishing monthly statistics on the CEB: the units of power generated, the units billed, the debts outstanding by sectors, the cost of generation by the various types of (power hydro, oil etc) will put the management of the CEB under a lot of pressure as people will begin to ask why they need to pay so much. The other problem is corruption, something that is again helped by the lack of transparency, the cost of which is ultimately visited upon the people in the form of taxes.

Therefore, there is no problem per se with the policy targets, the only problem lies in the expenditure. The people must remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If they clamour for state sector jobs (and 300,000 new staff have been recruited to the state in the last five years) the bill needs to be paid; if they do not support greater transparency in public affairs, then waste and corruption will thrive.