Kokusai Kogyo Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of leading solar and green community developer Japan Asia Group (JAG), jointly with Yamaman Co., Ltd. has launched a new service that helps customers, in this case residents of Yukarigaoka1 with home energy management systems (HEMS) 2, find the cheapest and/or most suitable electricity supplier for their needs. This service was launched in June 2015 and comes as Japan is readying itself for deregulation of the electricity supply market. Proprietary technology of Kokusai Kogyo (patent no. 5717113), the service utilizes the actual energy consumption data obtained by the HEMS to pinpoint which power utility will provide the optimal service. While other companies provide similar services, so far, it seems, these are only based on monitoring via interview surveys.
Yukarigaoka developer, Yamaman, with the help of Kokusai Kogyo, is now providing its customers, who purchased houses with HEMS at Yukarigaoka (since 2011), with detailed diagnostic results about which electricity utility plan will be most economical for their circumstances, based on their actual energy usage data obtained via the HEMS. This after-sales support service is one way Yamaman is striving to maximize the effectiveness of its home energy management systems.
In April 2016, Japan will deregulate retail of electricity to households and small-scale business operators, a 7.5 trillion yen (approximately US 61 billion dollar) market. Opening up of this market—which when combined with the already liberalized retail electricity market to large-scale users, equates to a market of over 20 trillion yen—to new entrants is expected to lead to severe competition for customers. This is also expected to further increase competition in the large-scale user electricity retail market and the renewable energy generation market.
At Japan Asia Group, and Kokusai Kogyo in particular, we are investing significant effort to strengthen our range of renewable energy, energy saving, and electricity retail market-focused services and solutions to ensure we can make the most of the opportunity presented by this market liberalization. Of course, one aspect of this effort will be investigating how best to expand this initiative at Yurigaoka based on actual field trials over the next two months—to the wider market.
Banks may face formal inquiry into whether they can refuse to reimburse victims conned into transferring money into fraudsters' accounts
UK banks should do more to protect customers tricked into transferring money to fraudsters, according to a consumer body that has lodged a “supercomplaint” with financial regulators. The move by Which? means banks could now face a formal investigation into whether they can continue refusing to reimburse victims.
The organisation submitted its first supercomplaint this year in the same week that official data revealed that fraud in the UK payments industry had soared by 53% as criminals develop increasingly sophisticated tactics to steal bank customers' cash.
Which? said banks should “shoulder more responsibility” when someone is conned into transferring money to another person's account, just as they reimburse customers who lose money due to scams involving debit and credit cards or fraudulent account activity.
Some customers have lost considerable sums. In March this year the Guardian featured the case of Sarah and David Fisher, who were conned out of £25,000 after a fraudster posed as their builder and emailed them a fake invoice that was virtually identical to the one they were expecting.
The explosion in online and mobile banking means UK consumers now make more than 70m bank transfers a month, compared with just over 100m in a whole year just a decade ago. Which? claims that “protections have not kept up”.
Using its legal powers, the organisation has submitted a supercomplaint to the Payment Systems Regulator, the watchdog for the UK's £75tn payment systems industry, which must now respond within 90 days.
There are many financial frauds that directly target customers, such as phishing emails and phone- and text-based scams. However, among the biggest growth areas are impersonation and deception scams where fraudsters hack into someone's email account and then pose as the builder, solicitor, landscape gardener or other tradesperson that the consumer has legitimately employed. Typically, the victim receives an invoice via email, which does not rouse suspicion because they were expecting it. It looks authentic and is usually for the correct amount – however, unbeknown to the consumer, the bank account number and sort code have been changed to those of the fraudster.
This is what happened to the Fishers, from north-west London. Last October they received a genuine invoice for building work that was being carried out, then what appeared to be a follow-up email from the same firm with a fresh invoice attached that included “our new banking details”. The couple duly paid the requested £25,000, and while it quickly emerged they had been scammed, by the time the bank that operated the account used to accept their money was alerted, the cash had been withdrawn.
Almost a year after the incident, they have yet to recover a penny of their money. Sarah Fisher, a record label manager, told the Guardian this week that the police had identified the fraudster as someone living in Denmark. As a result, the case was “not being progressed” and had effectively come to a halt.
She added: “We took it to the financial ombudsman, who said that Barclays [which operated the account] had not behaved improperly.” However, she said their MP, Tulip Siddiq, had said the case raised important issues and intended to pursue the matter in parliament.
Victims conned in this way currently have no legal right to get their money back from their bank, said Which?. Banks typically refuse to refund customers on the basis that they made the payment voluntarily. However, Which? said: “Consumers can only protect themselves so far. People cannot be expected to detect complex scams pressuring them to transfer money immediately, or lookalike bills from their solicitor or builder.”
The organisation said banks had invested in security systems to detect and prevent fraud where they were liable to reimburse the victim, but added: “There aren't sufficient checks if someone is tricked into transferring money directly to another person's account.”
Which? said it wanted the regulators to formally investigate the scale of bank transfer fraud and how much it was costing consumers, and propose new measures and greater liability for banks to ensure consumers are better protected.
The Payment Systems Regulator confirmed that it had received the supercomplaint and said it would examine the evidence Which? had supplied and gather its own, “to build a clearer picture of the issue and decide a course of action”.
Possible outcomes might include regulatory action, a review or a referral of the complaint to another body.
From April through June 2016, the 10 top brands across different industries were identified and analysed across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. A total of 4,840 brands were found to be associated with these companies – almost a fifth (19 per cent) were fraudulent.
Social media is reportedly a prime platform for fraud. Used as a corporate marketing and communications tool, it can be hijacked with malicious intent such as spamming users and misrepresenting the brand.
Of the 902 fraudulent accounts associated with 10 top brands, nearly 30 per cent were scams or offers for counterfeit products and services. Furthermore, four per cent of these were either phishing for user information, looking to install malware, protesting against the company in question or parodying it – which it claimed could harm the reputation of the brands.
These were BMW, Capital One, Chanel, Amazon, DirecTV, Nike, Samsung, Shell, Sony, Starbucks as selected by the Brand Directory list of top brands for 2015.
The report said: “Many unauthorised accounts are fake brand accounts. They are created solely to defraud your customers or undermine your brand. Bad actors create these accounts for financial gain or to protest your company and create negative brand sentiment.
“Other fraudsters prey on customers who try to engage with your brand. They target customers using fake customer service accounts, phony sweepstakes, and more. Some are motivated by a political agenda and create fraudulent accounts to attack a brand's image. Most often, they closely imitate the brand to make fun of the company or its customers. These protest accounts diminish brand value and create a negative or even hostile experience for customers.”
The most common fraud practices included offering free gifts or discounts, or posing as customer support or software updates.
A flaw was also identified with Facebook and Twitter verification which can help with capturing the spammers – while the seal is viewable on the profile it is not always readily viewable on individual tweets and posts.
Social media phishing is the fastest-growing social media threat, increasing 150 per cent from 2015 to 2016.
Fast-growing Schutz Shoes upgrades its fraud detection software to slash manual reviews and improve order processing.
Online orders were flowing into shoe e-retailer Schutz Shoes, the U.S. division of Brazilian-based shoe retailer Arezzo & Co., but the small team spent an increasing amount of time checking whether an order was fraudulent. When one employee on a staff of seven has to manually review the legitimacy of an online order, that's time away from customers and other business, says Kimberly Gort, e-commerce manager for Schutz.
Schutz Shoes started selling online in 2014 operating its e-commerce site in the basement of its New York City store. That first year, Schutz had about $350,000 in online sales. In 2015, about half of its product catalog was available online and sales grew to $1.5 million. Now, with all of its products available online, Schutz Shoes projects about $3 million in online sales for 2016, Gort says. The retailer also opened a store in Los Angeles.
With triple-digit percentage growth comes growing pains. When the e-retailer received a modest five online orders a day, using the free tool from its e-commerce platform provider (Shopify Inc.) worked fine, Gort says. The plugin would flag orders that might be fraudulent, and the retailer decided to approve or decline such orders. For example, the tool flagged an order if the credit card and shipping addresses didn't match, so a Schutz employee had to call the customer and determine if it was a legitimate order. Deciding what was and wasn't fraudulent often was difficult, Gort says.
“There's always a risk,” she says. “It was like we were playing roulette.”
The situation frustrated the retailer and the shopper, as some shoppers were blocked from placing an order or their order was delayed or they had to deal with a phone call from the retailer. Schutz was missing out on orders, devoting almost a full employee to manually check the orders and seek out consumers to verify information. As order volume and sales grew, the manual-review model no longer worked, Gort says.
In July, Schutz Shoes decided to integrate fraud detection software provider ClearSale onto its platform, choosing the vendor because it was used by parent company Arezzo. It took about two weeks to integrate the technology onto Schutz's site, Gort says.
ClearSale factors in about 100 variables to approve or deny orders, and then has its 500-person team to dig deeper on flagged orders, says Rafael Lourenco, vice president of operations at ClearSale. Orders can be approved within three seconds, while an order that requires manual review will take 24-48 hours, he says.
The impact of adding ClearSale was almost immediate, Gort says, as Schutz Shoes was no longer on the hook to manually check flagged orders. The e-retailer now approves 94-96% of its orders, which is about a 5% increase from when it relied on its free plugin, Gort says.
ClearSale charges per transaction and takes a 0.4-1.5% cut of the sale. The commission is worth it, Gort says, as more sales are approved. In August, Schutz Shoes paid ClearSale $1,500. The retailer processed 1,200 online orders that month, 1,002 of which ClearSale reviewed in some capacity; of those 1,002 orders, 973 (97.1%) were approved.
ClearSale has about 2,000 clients, and more than 90% are retailers, Lourenco says. Across all of its clients, 93.5% of orders are automatically approved, Lourenco says.
Recently, ClearSale updated its formula with another variable to approve or deny orders. The feature factors in how long a consumer is on the website before she purchases. The shorter it is, the more suspect. However, this is only one variable and a short time between landing on the site and purchasing will not automatically flag an order, Lourenco says. The new feature increased ClearSale's average approval rate by 1%, he says.
There has been a notable escalation in phishing attacks in 2016, according to a new report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG). It noted that there have been more phishing attacks during the the first quarter of this year, “than at any other time in history”.
There was a huge spike in phishing activity between October 2015 and March 2016, with incidents rising by a massive 250%, the study highlighted.
“We always see a surge in phishing during the holiday season, but the number of phishing sites kept going up from December into the spring of 2016,” commented Greg Aaron, a senior research fellow at APWG and vice-president of the iThreat Cyber Group.
“The sustained increase into 2016 shows phishers launching more sites, and is cause for concern.”
Phishing is a tactic used by cybercriminals and fraudsters to secure sensitive information from people. Deceptive emails, texts and instant messaging alerts – to name but a few – are sent to potential victims encouraging them to hand over their data.
The fraudulent messaging often looks and sounds authentic. Interestingly, as the authors of the paper state, phishing attacks are increasingly more aggressive. For example, keyloggers have been a notable feature in attacks in 2016, used to “target specific information and organizations”.
The authors of the report also touched upon the growing threat posed by ransomware. As with phishing, the attacks have demonstrated a more aggressive streak.
“The threat space continues to expand despite the best efforts of industry, government and law enforcement,” observed Peter Cassidy, co-founder and secretary general of the APWG.