This is the title of an article in The Sunday Times.
It talks about an App called Blackshades, that can be bought for three hundred pounds, that enables a thief to seize control of a victim’s computer and steal their passwords.
Hopefully, I’m protected but it’s a frightening concept. My passwords aren’t stored on the computer, but in my Mark 1, 1947-vintage core store, which is the safest place for them.
It also says that infiltrating a smart-phone or tablet can be easier than targetting desktops, saying that many criminals set up malicious hotspots in public places.
For that reason, I only use wi-fi in trusted locations and usually have it switched off on my smart phone. I never use wi-fi that wants my e-mail address as giving it usually ensures, I’ll get marketing e-mails, which I class as spam.
I also check my bank account and credit cards every day or so, so that if I’m robbed, I know it first.
From what I can ascertain, I think that contactless payments are pretty safe, especially in London, where there are billions of transactions because of public transport.
So I use contctless wherever I can locally!
Yesterday and today, I received two letters from Santander, correctly addressed to someone I’d never heard of at my address.
I should say, that I get a lot of junk mail addressed to previous tenants and I’d never seen the name before.
These are the two letters.
I suspect that if I’d been dishonest, I could have got access to their money, so they are now safely in a letter to Santander.
I have other reasons for not banking with Santander, like the fact that I will not bank with an organisation, that is not domiciled in the UK and preferably England.
But after this, I wouldn’t trust them to keep a brass farthing safe!
I think what is more important here, is that surely a bank would check you lived at the address you gave. Or at least had permission to collect mail from there!
Because I had a couple of my cards cloned, if I’m at home, I usually check them every morning.
As someone, who made millions by writing good reports for computer users, only one of my cards and banks has a proper reporting system, that you can use however you want.
And that is American Express!
For a start, when you look at recent transactions, they are shown by default on AMEX with the last transaction first. However all my other cards and statements are shown with the most recent last. So as one card is used a lot for small transactions, I have to scroll down to the bottom to check the transactions.
Also on AMEX, you can change the order to what you want, so perhaps if you want to locate a transaction at say Virgin Trains, you can put the descriptions in order and then scroll to V.
Why do Banks and Credit Csrd companies treat us with such contempt?
Some are a total disgrace!
If AMEX can do it, why can’t the others?
Because they don’t care about customers!
So if you’re thinking about changing your bank, make sure you have a run through the reporting of the new bank first.
In my experience most are total crap!
My Google Alert for Zopa picked up this article from Yahoo, who got it from the Telegraph.
The title of this post and the Yahoo article says it all.
If pension pots end up in Zopa and the other sound peer-to-peer lenders, just what is this going to do for banks, as it will probably mean that all the decent personal loan business in their hands will go to the peer-to-peer lenders.
I wouldn’t think bank shares look to be a good long term investment.
The growth of Zopa might have an interesting side effect. Imagine a group of friends having a quiet drink in a pub and one of their number turns up in a shiny new car. On discussing the purchase, the buyer reveals they bought it with a Zopa loan, that they got at a good rate, because they have a good credit rating. So will their jealous friends, decide to do something about their dodgy finance, so they too, can have a decent set of wheels.
Peer pressure can work in mysterious ways.
If it does encourage people to clean up their finances, Zopa will have achieved something, that financial commentators and politicians have been trying to do for years!
I think too, that Zopa, which has just lent its billionth pound, is now getting too big for politicians to stop or even nationalise. Which probably means that money in Zopa is even more secure.
Banks don’t often copy the sort of marketing ideas used by the disruptive companies like Zopa and OVO Energy.
Both these companies pay users a bonus for introducing new customers.
Now Nationwide are saying that if you recommend a friend and they switch to the Bank, you’ll both get £100.
Nationwide does all I need from a money-transfer company. I should say that I don’t use any of their other services except for free travel insurance and a credit card, which is one that is recommended by various financial pundits, as it is very good in its use abroad.
This sounds like a good deal all round, for those who have simple banking needs like I do.
So if you’re thinking of changing your bank and Nationwide is on your list, get a friend to recommend you and you’ll both be quids in.
I’ve only one regret about my investment in Zopa and that is that I didn’t invest earlier. I could only have invested a few months earlier, as the financial web site hadn’t been created.
Recently, I’ve seen mention of Atom Bank in the press and this afternoon I went to have a dig around the Internet at what has been trailed as a new form of digital bank.
I found this article on the Finanser web site, which is an interview with Mark Mullen, who is the CEO of Atom Bank.
The interview contains a lot of sensible and surprising facts.
They are creating the whole digital bank from scratch and Mullen has a refreshingly blunt attitude to consultants (He doesn’t use them!), which I wholly agree with. So much so, if I was developing a bank with my old Chairman at Metier,we’d probably do it the same way.
As an example of Mullen’s thinking, I’ll copy his reasons for basing the bank in Durham.
There is a lot to be said for being outside London, not least because it’s an expensive place to base a business. If you don’t need to be in London it doesn’t make sense to place a business where the ground rents and employment costs are so high, and where the markets are so massively competitive. Durham is appealing as the real estate is less expensive; but cheap land gets you nowhere when you’re building a high end company. So as importantly there are also fabulous universities; a huge population catchment area; and the city is well connected by trains to north and south. Equally, there is actually not that much in the way of alternative financial institutions, so we are offering an alternative employment proposition in the local market. That’s quite an attractive thing to do.
I shall be watching Atom Bank with interest.
When I log in to my bank, I get an advert saying I can get a wonderful rate of two percent, if I lock money away with them for two years.
At present I have a sum of money invested in Zopa and my current return to date this year is just around five percent. Admittedly, I pay tax on that so it’s effectively a rate of three percent. With Zopa’s Safeguarding promises, that money is guaranteed.
So I’m getting an effective rate that is half as good again, as I would with the best banks.
But the big advantage of Zopa has shown itself this month.
I have the last Tax bill to pay concerning the sale of my house in Suffolk and also the bill for the handrails for my staircase, which as they were custom-made weren’t cheap. Couple that with other expenses and I have a lot of bills to pay at the end of this month.
But due to the churn in Zopa, every month, I get access to about six percent of the money I have deposited in the system, as borrowers repay capital, pay interest and end their loans early. So instead of reinvesting this money as I do normally, I have withdrawn most of the money to my Current Account, so I can pay my bills.
I have a feeling that I have actually withdrawn a couple of thousand too much. But no matter, when all the bills are paid it’ll go back into Zopa. All I’ve lost is three percent gross on £2,000 for a month or a fiver.
So why do people put so much faith in the Banks, as they rip us off?
My Current Account at Nationwide is mainly just a means to transfer money to and from other accounts.
What other benefits do I get?
1. At the Angel, there is an inside ATM, that I use when it’s pouring with rain. There are also seats, so if I’m drawing out a larger amount of cash, I can sit down and put everything away properly.
2. I have a Credit Card, which is recommended by many, that if I use abroad, charges me nothing extra for the currency conversion.
3. I have an on-line bank account, that to access from anywhere in the world, only needs to have information stored in the brain, I was born with.
4. I get a basic travel insurance, which covers me for everything but medical expenses. So if easyJet or whoever, were to lose my baggage on the way to wherever I’m covered.
On the other hand, I get the following annoyances.
1. The dreaded Verified by Visa, when I use the debit or credit card on-line.
2. No contactless service on the Credit Card, which means I have to carry another credit card that does, in case I lose my Freedom Pass.
Nationwide should be pleased that I’m not thinking of leaving yet!
This is said in this article in The Independent.
Tax on income from savings will be abolished for millions of people in the Budget today as George Osborne woos pensioners and “hard-working taxpayers” ahead of the May general election,The Independent has learnt.
So is the paper right?
It would make a lot of sense.
1, It would certainly encourage saving.
2. Encouraging saving may mean that more money will go into peer-to-peer lending, which will help lower interest rates for borrowers and give the banks a bit of a kicking. So a by-product of abolishing tax on savings interest could be better availability of finance for individuals and businesses.
3. I can see those who provide homes for savings like banks, building societies and peer-to-peer lenders getting increasingly innovate in finding ways to create high-interest, instant-access accounts.
4. It could put a lot of financial advisers out of business, as if say you had a lump sum to invest, you could easily work out what would be the best savings account, to keep the money until you need it.
5. But surely, the biggest benefit will be that as savings will now be held in an account, that doesn’t carry any tax, it will simplify tax accounting and returns for banks, building societies and savers alike.
If he does do it, then just imagine how any party who put it back would fare in an election!
On a personal note, if it does happen, I’ll be putting more of my money into Zopa!
I’m publishing these figures, as in my view, they are very indicative of a mature Zopa account.
Remember that I started investing in 2008, so some of the money is possibly on its third loan.
I have added to the pot over the years, when I have spare money left over at the end of the month. I’ve also repatriated money at times, when because of circumstances, I have some large bills to pay.
At the start of the year I had £147,000 invested and at the year end that had risen to £156,000.
Over the year, I’ve actually taken out £16,700 and paid in £18,500, so I haven’t really paid anything into the pot.
Interest and repayments to my holding account in Zopa has been almost £96,000, which conveniently works out at £8,000 a month. So I could bring up to this sum into my bank account for paying bills every month. As these payments usually occur around the beginning of each month, it is very easy to juggle them with my approved overdraft limit to avoid paying the wunch, excess fees I don’t need to.
Over the last year, the amount of money I’ve earned works out as a return of five percent before tax.
Because most of my money has been lent out in the last couple of years or so, I suspect that a high proportion of my Zopa money is covered by their Safeguard scheme.
The downsides are that I could earn more with more risky peer-to-peer lenders and I have to pay tax on my earnings.
I never give financial investment advice, but I have found Zopa to be the ideal mattress to put my spare money in a place, where I can access it reasonably quickly. It certainly pays a better interest rate.