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Money | Anorak - Part 94

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Money in the news and how you are going to pay and pay and pay

Don’t Bank On Justice: Illegal Overdraft Charges

overdraft.jpgWITH banks settling out of court left, right and centre over their infamous illegal overdraft charges, it seemed that finally, the big boys were getting what they deserved.

However, news that a claim against Lloyds TSB has been dismissed by a judge in Birmingham county court will no doubt cheer the banking industry and unfortunately make new claimants thing twice about going head to head with the financial titans.

In throwing Kevin Berwick’s claim for £2,545 out of court, Judge Cook said, “Having held that the charges complained of are not charges for breach of contract but part of the price of the services provided by the bank… he has not satisfied me that he has any ground in law for recovering from the bank the amount of any charges which he has paid to it,”

However, despite the ruling, MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis remains positive. Says he: “To all those reclaiming charges it’s a case of ‘don’t panic’. Across the country the banks are still paying out many tens of thousands of pounds a day and the weight of huge numbers of successful reclaims so far easily outweighs this one anomalous result. The banks seem to have got lucky with a sympathetic judge.”

A judge who, no doubt, doesn’t need an overdraft.

Posted: 16th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)


Watching You: Child Support Agency Spies

benefits.jpgIT seems that hardly a day goes by without some security bungle or other by a government agency.

This time it’s the Child Support Agency in the firing line after it was revealed that CSA staff have been allowed to carry out credit checks on friends and neighbours. Just for the hell of it.

According to the Mirror, inexperienced staff were allowed to utilise credit search agency Equifax to snoop on individuals’ personal finances.
According to an unnamed CSA source, “This is a scandal. They gave access to part-time and temp workers they knew nothing about. They could get info on anyone in the country with a credit history.”

While former Scotland Yard fraud office Tom Craig is also concerned. He says the “risk is colossal – it is a major data protection breach”.
What is all the more worrying is the news that CSA bosses were fully aware of the situation.

We might as well all just write our bank details on our foreheads in indelible ink.

Posted: 16th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)


Paid By The Inch: Chelsea’s Michael Ballack Wins

ballack-boot.jpgMICHAEL Ballack, Chelsea’s expensive makeweight is £35,000 better off.

No, Ballack, who earns around £130,000 a week at Chelsea, has not collected a bonus for being Chelsea’s most expensive flop of the season – that golden donkey goes to Andriy Shevchenko.

Ballack has won the money by way of legal settlement from the German sex-shop chain Beate Uhse.

Last year, the shops introduced its World Cup edition vibrator, in honour of their country’s captain.

Ballack was unimpressed with the vivid red, seven-inch vibrating plastic penis. So he commenced legal proceedings. And a court in Hamburg weighed up the evidence and found in his favour.

Judges ruled that the player’s rights had been breached.

And so it is that Ballack is £35,000 better off. Which works out at £5,000 an inch.

Which is just shy of what Ballack earns for walking about Stamford Bridge…

Posted: 15th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)


The Great £1 Property Giveaway

08blair2.JPGWHAT’S this? Has the property market collapsed overnight?

News is that if you have a solitary pound in your pocket you can bag yourself a swimming pool, or what about an old hospital or even a disused pub!

A new Government scheme means disused public buildings are to be sold to community groups for as little as £1 in an attempt to revive the nation’s ailing local facilities.

Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and Celebrity Opus-Dei member, will launch the new initiative in Sheffield, where she will announce a £30million fund to support the project (before consoling fans of relegated Sheffield United with six hours of prayer and self-mortification).

The scheme, which chimes with PM-in-waiting Gordon Brown’s desire for more community involvement in local decision-making, follows a report published by Lewisham Council bigwig Barry Quirk, which argued that communities are strengthened when public assets are handed back to them.

Up to 1,500 community organisations are predicted to benefit from the scheme. But a spokesman for the Local Government Association remains unconvinced. Says he: “Serious questions must be asked as to whether a prime piece of real estate that is owned by taxpayers should be sold for as little as £1.”

And how buildings funded by the taxpayer was allowed to fester…

Posted: 15th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)


The Bank That Likes To Say Yes: Halifax Fraud

A CUSTOMER adviser who worked at the Halifax bank in Bexleyheath has been jailed for four years after helping fraudsters steal £2.3 million from accounts.

Twenty-four-year-old Shana Campbell passed confidential bank details to criminal mastermind Olawasegun Adekunle. The cash funded his lavish lifestyle which included a luxury apartment overlooking the Thames and a £87,000 Bentley Continental.
Victims of the massive fraud include a vicar, pensioners, businessmen and even a Nigerian prince, while former BBC war-correspondent Rageh Omar had a lucky escape after a telephone caller posing as the journalist tried unsuccessfully to access his account.

Council janitor Steven Fabian was also convicted for money laundering while a number of car dealers involved in the dastardly plan were also sent down.

Campbell’s claims that she only acted under duress were dismissed by the judge who told her, “Yours was a sustained, determined dishonesty. In my judgment, you were enthusiastically dishonest, even taking work home with you.”

If only all bank staff were as eager to please.

Posted: 15th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)


Phish And Chips: Chip And Pin Readers For Home Shoppers

chip-and-pin.jpgIN the never-ending battle to thwart online fraudsters, high street banks such as Barclays and NatWest are sending out millions of Chip & Pin card-readers to online customers who want to transfer money over the web.

After inserting your card and entering your pin into the device, a randomly generated number will appear which you then type into your computer for authorisation.

With online fraud reaching near epidemic levels, the banking giants are hoping that the new system will scupper the uber-sophisticated fraudsters who dredge the net for unprotected money.

However, James Roper of online retail lobby group IMRG, is less than enthusiastic. Says he: “It’ll confuse people, it’ll be compromised and it’ll be out of date by the time it comes on the marketplace”. So there.

If the trial is successful, the gizmos, which are the size of a pocket calculator, could also be used for online shopping.

If it flops, you’ll have a piece of technological history which you can flog on eBay for £1.50.

Posted: 15th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Pretty Vacant: Lack Of Skilled Labour

COMPANIES in Britain are struggling to fill all their job vacancies, according to a report in the Guardian.

A survey by the snappily monikered Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and accountants KPMG found that 48% of employers are anticipating recruitment problems in the current quarter, a rise of two percentage points on the previous term.

While increased immigration has provided a healthy supply of labour in recent years, a number of white-collar industries are starting to struggle to fill all their vacancies.

The report also predicts pay rises will remain modest for the moment although the threat of higher pay inflation has increased.

So hold off on asking your boss for a raise.

Posted: 14th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Unpaid Old Bills: Police Want Their Money

THE Government has come under fire from police forces across the land for failing to cough up £7million owed to the nation’s law enforcers.

The Mirror reveals that police spent over £11.3million locking up prisoners to help ease overcrowding in the country’s jails, working almost 300,000 extra hours in guarding thousands of prisoners and even paying private security firms to take inmates.

However, so far, the new and rather Orwellian-sounding ‘Ministry of Justice’ has failed to pay up, angering the likes of the Metropolitan Police, who are apparently owed £2.7million and Greater Manchester Police who have received just £85,368 of its £576,173 bill.

Not surprisingly, the Police Federation have called the delays “unacceptable”.

Posted: 14th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Things Get Even Worse For Web Fraud Victims

WHAT could be worse than having your credit card details nicked? How about then being accused of being a paedophile?

According to the Daily Mail, hundreds of Britons fingered in the country’s biggest internet child pornography investigation were simply the victims of credit card fraud.

Police from the enquiry codenamed ‘Operation Ore’ have admitted that a number of people on the list of 7,200 suspects were nothing more than victims of card fraud although they claim that none of those innocents have been prosecuted.

Simon Bunce, who was accused of using one Texas-based child porn site before having all charges dropped, is understandably less than happy. Says he: “Thirty-nine people committed suicide after being accused of what I was accused of. I reacted in a different way. I investigated it diligently and I established I was the victim of credit card fraud.”

Perhaps the credit card issuer should now be charged for failing to protect a customer?

Posted: 11th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


The Dead Poole: Barclays Lay Off 1,100

barclays.jpgDESPITE making enormous profits of £7 billion last year, Barclays, those kings of the bank charge, have decided to axe over 1000 job yesterday from their offices in Poole, Dorset.

Barclays House, a landmark building in Dorset, housed an IT support team but will now be closed as the banking giants transfer most of the work overseas.

1,100 jobs will seem like a drop in the ocean, however, if Dutch bank ABN Amro complete their £45 billion takeover of Barclays. If that deal goes ahead, up to 30,000 workers will face the chop.

Not surprisingly, union officials such as Unite’s Steve Pantak are less than pleased. Says he: “ They’re (the bank workers) in a state of shock. There have been rumours that the building was going to close, but at least Barclays is planning to open another site nearby.”

So that’s alright then. Expect a new cash machine in Poole very soon…

Posted: 11th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (4)


Interest Rates On The Up And Up

bank-of-england.jpgTHOSE financial boffins at the Bank Of England just can’t stop fiddling with interest rates, can they? Yesterday’s quarter point increase to a six-year high 5.5 per cent is the fourth such hike since August and is yet another kick in the privates for the nation’s homeowners.

The increase, introduced to combat rising inflation, will add around £16 a month to a typical £100,000 mortgage bill, while homeowners with a £200,000 repayment mortgage have seen their repayments increase by over £1000 since last August.

Indeed, Adam Sampson of housing charity Shelter said that these latest rises could be “the final nail in the coffin for many borrowers hoping to keep their homes”.

He adds: “Thousands of families are already overstretching their finances to keep a roof over their heads”.

While some doom-mongers are predicting even more rate rises in the summer, CBI bigwig Ian McCafferty has a more rosy outlook. Says he: “While we fully accept the need for today’s rate rise, we see no reason for a further increase at present, as the impact of the 1% increase in rates since last August should be sufficient to keep inflation pressures into 2008 under control.”

Anyone believe that?

Posted: 11th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Immigrant Orange

tl-ihearttheorangerevolution.jpg“THEY come over here and take our jobs. And our homes. And our women. And our men”.

No matter how much immigrants contribute to the economy, state services and to the fabric of these islands, there will always be those loveable dissenters.

However, Orange is the latest company to welcome the new arrivals with open arms and view them as they do all of us – as another way to make money.

The phone company has now launched a cheap international phone service that will allow immigrants and foreign workers in Britain to call overseas from their mobiles at a cheaper rate than those offered by international phone cards.

With people forking out around £800 million on international call cards every year, the market is enormous and with Orange’s new service, customers won’t have to deal with the fiddly pin numbers, poor call quality and high costs.

Instead, they can purchase the “Orange Call Abroad” pay-as-you-go SIM card for £5 and call home, wherever home may be, from their mobile.

Posted: 10th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Pensions Mis-Sold To Over 100,000

pension.jpgTHE Financial Services Authority has revealed that around 120,000 people could be missing out on retirement money after being mis-sold pensions.

After a two-year investigation into transfers out of state earnings related pension schemes (Serps), the FSA has found that a large number of people who opted out of Serps in return for some of their National Insurance Contributions being rebated into personal pensions may have been wrongly advised to do so.

Approximately 1.5% of these people may have been too old to reap the benefits of moving out of Serps and are now out of pocket by around £7 per week.

However, the FSA said that it has found “no evidence” of widespread mis-selling.

So that’s alright then…

Posted: 10th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


The £4m A Day Insurance Scam

fenderbender1.jpgACCORDING to the Association of British Insurers, fraudulent insurance claims are costing the industry around £1.6billion a year – £4million a day.

The ABI, in its survey, also revealed that one in ten UK adults has admitted to cheating on an insurance claim.

Apparently, even fraud such as ‘bumping up’ the price of a damaged item costs insurers over £800million a year while overall almost £40 is added to the average premium in order to cover the costs to the industry caused by fraud.

ABI bigwig Nick Starling is not happy. Said he, “Honest customers should not have to pay for the cheats. Insurers are committed to reducing the fraud problem. We are devoting greater resources to weeding out the cheats and working together to detect and combat fraud”.

Lovely to hear such comforting words from such an honest and ethical industry…

Posted: 10th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Alan Ball Hit With Tax Bill

england_history.jpgWITH the Ball family still grieving the death of their ’66 World Cup hero Alan, the Mirror now reveals that the tax-man has decided to kick them when they are down, slapping a whopping £83,200 tax bill on the sale of the footballing legend’s World Cup Winner’s medal.

Ball sold his medal along with his England cap two years ago for £208,000 to help provide for his children after the death of their mother, Lesley.

However, with the cash subject to a 40 per cent inheritance tax bill as part of the England’s icon’s £1million plus estate, the family will now have to pay up.

Son Jimmy says: “I think the system needs looking at. That he was forced to sell the items that were very dear to him was bad enough but to have to pay tax on them was difficult for him to accept.”

At least it’s a situation the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard will never have to face – they’ll never win a World Cup.

Posted: 9th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Green Tax On Buy-To-Let

APPROXIMATELY 850,000 people in the UK are lucky enough to own a buy-to-let property, but now these canny mini-property-magnates are to be hit with a £200 green tax.

The Government is set to introduce compulsory energy performance certificates from next year, a key part of the much-debated Home Information Pack, with buy-to-let landlords forced to employ energy inspectors to examine and then give their property an energy rating between A and G.

With the cost of the overall Home Information Packs reaching up to £600, including the cost of the energy certificate, many homeowners are putting their properties on the market before the June 1st deadline.

However, despite the extra costs, market research organisation Mintel predict to the number of buy-to-let homeowners could double to around two million in the next three years.

Empty houses – very green…

Posted: 9th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)


Gordon Brown’s In The Red On Tax Credits

tr_ed_scotland_190107.pngHE may be about to finally get his wish and move into No. 10, but Gordon Brown is again facing widespread criticism, this time over his tax credits scheme.

According to reports, the Treasury is set to write off a ridiculous £2billion as uncollectable from the tax credits scheme, a figure four times higher than the Government disclosed a year ago – £5.8 billion has also been erroneously paid out to people who shouldn’t have received the money.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the system has also been dogged by widespread fraud with 42 Inland Revenue officials either facing criminal investigations or criminal charges.

Indeed, according to the Public Accounts select committee, the tax credits scheme has suffered the highest levels of fraud and error in the whole of the government.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne has, not surprisingly, been quick to stick his oar in. Says he: “Tax credits are in Gordon Brown’s empire and he cannot blame anyone else for the appalling levels of error and fraud. This is incompetence on an industrial scale and it is the low-paid in our society who are paying the highest price. The chancellor leaves the Treasury trying to hide the cost of his mistakes while his reputation for economic competence continues to unravel.”

Things can’t only get better.

Picture: Hack

Posted: 9th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)


Capital Gains: London Property Most Expensive in World

buckingham-palace.JPGLISTEN closely and you’ll probably hear the joyous sound of champagne corks popping across London today, as property developers celebrate the news that the nations’ capital now houses the most expensive residential property in the world.

A new report, by estate agency Knight Frank along with Citi Private Bank, reveals that the average cost of central London property is a whopping £2,300 per square foot. This compares to a cheap-as-chips £2,190 in Monaco and a practically free £1,600 in New York.

Topping the list of London’s most expensive ‘super-prime’ areas are the humble environs of Belgravia and Knightsbridge where prices can exceed £3,000 per square foot.

This year, 59 per cent of prime London sales have come from wealthy foreigners, mainly from Russia, America and the Middle East.

One doubts that they’ll have any problems with immigration.

Posted: 8th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Repossession, Repossession, Repossession

shed-pent-lg.jpgACCORDING to new official figures released yesterday, it now costs a ridiculous seven times the average yearly wage to afford an average home.

It has also emerged that house prices are at their least affordable level for a generation while mortgages are taking around 45 per cent of the average salary.

With interest rates set to rise again and council tax and general household bills going up, more and more homeowners will face the horror of repossession.

The Bank of England is predicted to raise interest rates by at least 0.25 per cent to 5.5 per cent on Thursday which will increase the pressure on homeowners even more.

Let’s see if the likes of Kirsty and Phil and Sarah Beeny can help us out of this one.

Posted: 8th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Paypass And Go

paypass.jpgWE have already seen that the humble chequebook is about to get the heave-ho, but now it appears that even the existence of cash is under threat.

A new swipe-and-go pay card called Paypass, which is being introduced in September, will allow shoppers to pay for their goods (under £10 pounds) by simply tapping the card on an oval pad. With no need to enter a PIN number or give a signature, the system is set to significantly cut queues.

The system will also be added to new bank and credit cards when they expire but with the new Paypass system coming only four years after shops and restaurants had to pay for chip and pin, independent business could now have to spend over £15 million (or £50 each) to get an upgrade.

Does this mean that beggars will have to upgrade their outstretched hands too?

Posted: 8th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Blankety-Blank For The Cheque Book

ALONG with analog TV, smoking in pubs and belief in the British political system, it now seems that the humble chequebook is set to be consigned to history.

With high street chemist Boots joining the likes of Shell, Next and PC World in deciding to stop accepting cheques at around 1,5000 of their stores nationwide and with Tesco pondering a similar move with a number of trials in some of its supermarkets, the end may well be nigh for a form of payment that dates all the way back to 1642.

Apacs, the UK payments association, has found that people write less than two cheques a month and receive less than seven a year.

The Federation of Small Businesses, however, insist that cheques are still widely used to pay the likes of plumbers and builders while Help The Aged are concerned that the changes will hit pensioners who feel comfortable using cheques rather than chip and pin technology.

Still, expect a revival in ‘retro’ ‘old skool’ chequebooks amongst the uber-trendy in the coming years.

Posted: 7th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comments (2)


Home Work To Rule

home-worker.jpgNO commuting chaos, no need to change out of your pyjamas, indeed, no need to do much work at all. It’s no wonder that more and more people want to work from home.

According to a survey by the Skipton Building Society, half of the workers claim that they could do a better job from home.

With the average commuter spending £17,515 on petrol and £4,000 in parking fees (surely that’s unfair for people who travel by train and bus?), the cost of travel was cited by 16 per cent of people in the survey as the main reason why working from home would their preferred choice.

But what about the famed office ‘banter’, chatting about Big Brother over the water cooler, mindlessly surfing the web, getting a plastic sandwich from Sainsbury’s for your lunch and listening to the incessant ‘wackiness’ of the office ‘clown’?…

Sod it, I’m staying at home today.

Posted: 4th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


£80,000 Hedge Dispute

hedge.JPGIT’S a story that has been played out through history, neighbours who struggle to live in harmony, from ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland to the conflict in Israel and Palestine. However, in Bury Road, Rochdale, the cause of the rift wasn’t years and years of historical and cultural complexities, but rather a simple hedge.

Barbara Buckley faces court costs of almost £80,000 after a dispute over a pruned bush escalated into a High Court defamation action.

Buckley sued next-door neighbours James and Melanie Dalziel after Melanie Dalziel had originally complained to the police of their neighbours’ pruning of the vegetation which divided the two houses.

Buckley, who claimed that she only trimmed the branches which were overhanging into her garden, accused Mrs Dalziel of “nagging” the police and that the couple were being malicious.

However, with the case being thrown out, Buckley now must pay her own court costs of £50,000 along with the £27,000 bill incurred by the Dalziels, who are now planning to move.

I wonder if Blair and Brown had the same problems on Downing Street?

Posted: 4th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


Paying Through The London Eye: UK Is A Rip Off

THE UK may still be a major holiday destination but according to the Telegraph, the high prices charged by the country’s biggest attractions could discourage tourists from visiting Britain.

London Zoo, for instance, charges £51.50 for a family ticket, almost three times the price of a visit to Berlin Zoo. The London Eye, one of London’s most popular attractions, is three times the price of a trip on Vienna’s Riesenrad ferris wheel and 50 per cent more costly than a jaunt up New York’s Empire State Building.

Indeed, only Britain’s museums, which are free to enter, compare favourably.

Holiday Which? is also critical of British theme parks for overcharging families – “We feel the prices are particularly unfair, since apart from Legoland, children over the age of 12 have to pay full adult prices.”

But not to worry. Some thing in London are cheap. You can buy any number of drugs at a discount. Sure they are illegal but you are on holiday. When in Rome and all that…

Posted: 4th, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment


The Grey Pound: Over 50s Worth £5trillion

RESEARCH by Abbey has found that the personal wealth of the over 50s in Britain has increased by almost 50% in the past five years and now stands at a whopping £5 trillion.

Although only 34% of the population is over 50, they own nearly 75% of the total wealth of the country, a percentage which is set to increase to 43% in the next 25 years.

While younger people are struggling with enormous mortgages and inflated house prices, the golden oldies have benefited from decades of rising house prices as well as the then free higher education system.

Head of savings at Abbey, Reza Attar-Zadeh, says: “If personal wealth and population continue to grow at current rates, the 50-plus demographic will become even more dominant”.

So let’s take back their free bus passes and make them pay like everybody else. And make sure gorgeous/vivacious etc. granny’s will is up to date…

Posted: 3rd, May 2007 | In: Money | Comment (1)