Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Global Tremors From China’s Real Estate Crisis Are Only Just Starting

In order to thoroughly enjoy anything, one must feel the absence of it at times.
— Laura Ingalls Wilder, born on in 1867

Negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount were either meant to improve affordability and failed – or their purpose was in fact the opposite

The New South Wales environment watchdog has raised concerns about mulch manufactured and sold between March and December last year that was not available for them to inspect when they visited the supplier of landscaping products which have since been found to contain asbestos.

Pandemic stimulus payments gave some Australians an “appetite to commit fraud”, the head of the Tax Office believes, which drove their involvement in a TikTok-fuelled scam that stole $2 billion from the nation’s taxpayers.
ATO commissioner Chris Jordan told a Senate hearing on Wednesday night that the fraud, in which at least 57,000 people took part, effectively overwhelmed the tax office’s fraud detection systems.
The Tax Office created Operation Protego in 2022 after banks, led by Westpac, noticed unusually large payments going into the accounts of its customers, particularly those whose main source of income was welfare payments.
The scheme started as videos on social media sites such as TikTok explaining how people could get the Tax Office to deliver money directly into their account. Facilitators then emerged who promised to help people gain the “free” cash by handing over personal details.
This was used to invent fake businesses with their own ABN, which then submitted fake business activity statements to claim GST refunds.
Up to 150 people with links to the ATO, either as contractors, former staff or current employees, were also involved in the scheme.
Jordan said it was extraordinary that so many people, most using their real names and addresses, had been involved in such a scam.
He said the ATO, which had stopped the fraud, had reflected on how it had happened and why so many people had become involved.
“Clearly, our system for identifying fraud at that scale was not fit for purpose. It was never, ever foreseen that within such a short period of time that 57,000 people using their own name, mostly, would attempt such a fraud,” he said.
“We’ve ... focused much more strongly [on] understanding the community’s appetite to commit fraud, post what was, we think, the stimulus package [with] the amount of money that was coming from government to individuals.”
“It appears [to be] an appetite to take money from government.”
More than 100 people have been arrested, with 16 convictions and $120 million in fines. The ATO estimates $2.7 billion in suspect GST refunds were stopped before payment.
People targeted by Operation Protego were suspected of fraudulently gaining GST refunds of between $38,900 and $2.4 million. Attempted fraudulent refunds ranged in size from $8100 to $32.3 million.
Jordan said while 150 people with links to the Tax Office had been caught up in the scam, just 12 were either current contractors or staff. Of this group, only three were ATO employees.
He said the overall issue had been a major problem.
“It is horrifyingly bad. It is very bad. This is terrible,” he said.
Jordan said the ATO had to get out GST refunds to businesses within 12 days, with a decision about whether to make a payment required within eight days. He said the tax office was seeking to change this.
“It’s just not enough [time], that’s why most GST fraud compliance actions happen after the money is paid,” he said.

Australian financial regulator says it referred crypto scheme to police for alleged ‘possible fraud’ and believed matter was under ‘active consideration’

Sunday’s Super Bowl set a viewership record

CBS Sports’ coverage of Super Bowl LVIII delivered the most-watched telecast in history with 123.4 million average viewers across all platforms

The Global Tremors From China’s Real Estate Crisis Are Only Just Starting.

Chinese investors and their creditors are putting up “For Sale” signs on real estate holdings across the globe as the need to raise cash amid a deepening property crisis at home trumps the risks of offloading into a falling market. The prices they get will help finally put hard numbers on just how much trouble the wider industry is in. 

The worldwide slump triggered by borrowing-cost hikes has already wiped more than $1 trillion off office property values alone, Starwood Capital Group Chairman Barry Sternlicht said last week. But the total damage is still unknown because so few assets have been sold, leaving appraisers with little recent data to go on. Completed commercial property deals globally sank to the lowest level in a decade last year, with owners unwilling to sell buildings at steep discounts.

Regulators and the market are nervous that this logjam could be concealing large, unrealized losses, spelling trouble both for banks, who pushed further into bricks and mortar lending during the cheap money era, and asset owners.

Dementia and sport: These rugby players represented their country in their 20s, by their 40s, they had early onset dementia CNN 

How I got scammed (permalink) I wuz robbed. More specifically, I was tricked by a phone-phisher pretending to be from my bank, and he convinced me to hand over my credit-card number, then did $8,000+ worth of fraud with it before I figured out what happened. And then he tried to do it again, a week later! Here’s what happened. Over the Christmas holiday, I traveled to New Orleans. The day we landed, I hit a Chase ATM in the French Quarter for some cash, but the machine declined the transaction. Later in the day, we passed a little credit-union’s ATM and I used that one instead (I bank with a one-branch credit union and generally there’s no fee to use another CU’s ATM). A couple days later, I got a call from my credit union. It was a weekend, during the holiday, and the guy who called was obviously working for my little CU’s after-hours fraud contractor. 
I’d dealt with these folks before – they service a ton of little credit unions, and generally the call quality isn’t great and the staff will often make mistakes like mispronouncing my credit union’s name. That’s what happened here – the guy was on a terrible VOIP line and I had to ask him to readjust his mic before I could even understand him. He mispronounced my bank’s name and then asked if I’d attempted to spend $1,000 at an Apple Store in NYC that day. No, I said, and groaned inwardly. What a pain in the ass. Obviously, I’d had my ATM card skimmed – either at the Chase ATM (maybe that was why the transaction failed), or at the other credit union’s ATM (it had been a very cheap looking system).
 I told the guy to block my card and we started going through the tedious business of running through recent transactions, verifying my identity, and so on. It dragged on and on. These were my last hours in New Orleans, and I’d left my family at home and gone out to see some of the pre-Mardi Gras krewe celebrations and get a muffalata, and I could tell that I was going to run out of time before I finished talking to this guy…[been there, done all of this…awful!]