Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Never return a missed call from a weird number

This scam has been around for ages, where people give missed calls from 'premium' numbers in Nigeria, UK, Pakistan, China etc, and then when unwary customers politely return those calls, they are charged @ premium rates(for example Rs 10/minute in India where average tariffs do not exceed Rs 1/minute), or worse the scammer uses their own talk time to try hoodwink them into another scam like the infamous lottery one etc. Therefore, before dialing back a number which is unfamiliar, take the effort to Google it once(or call only after you have done so). The results may astound you, since some customer out there would have flagged this number after getting scammed. For example-+923057636540.

Your telecom operator will most likely not do anything, because nothing illegal can be proven and then you DID make the call out of your own free will. So take care

Myntra's unethical advertising of Rs 500/1000 credits

For nearly 2months now, Myntra has been advertising that it gives Rs 250-1000 on signup, to be applied against the first purchase. However, the fineprint is that the coupons are split into two, valid only on a minimum order size AND expire very early. Below is the description reproduced from their site
Register with Myntra to instantly earn Rs 500. This will be added to your Mynt Club account as two credits of Rs 250 each, valid for 2 days, on purchases of Rs 1,000 and above. Alternatively, you could register with Myntra using "Connect with Facebook" option, and instantly earn Rs.500. This will be added to your Mynt Club account as two credits of Rs 250 each, valid for 2 days and on purchases of Rs 1,000 and above. Please note that you would be getting the benefit based on the method you use to sign up on Myntra for the first time. 

I understand that retailers must make a profit, but having such deceptive advertising when they are otherwise so transparent(returns, pricing, shipping) is baffling to me. The Rs 1250 credits on introducing a customer, works in a similar fashion as well.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

10 ways how auto/taxi drivers cheat you

While I do have sympathy for those who earn their daily bread through manual sweat and toil(sympathy to the extent that I do not usually bargain), that does not extend to those who exploit/cheat their customers. Having dealt with auto/taxi drivers in 3 metros and 2 other state capitals, below are some ways where the unwary can be fooled. Some ways are well known, while others are not. There is, however, no substitute for asking a friend/other resident of the city about how the system works, so that you are not fleeced.
  1. Forged Tariff Cards-fake tariff cards are prepared for those customers who imagine that they will only play by the book!
  2. Rigged Meters-this is the most standard practice, sometimes even in Mumbai.
  3. Stating the meter reading instead of the fare, in the hope that passenger will pay it-A joke goes as follows, 'A person enters the opticians shop and asks the price of a specs. The optician tells him Rs 200...and then seeing no reaction..says for the 'lens'..and then seeing no reaction..says 'each' and so on! So sometimes, the driver bends the rules a bit and hopes the passenger is price insensitive and will pay the meter reading without converting it to rupees! This is true for cities like Ahmedabad also.
  4. Taking longer routes than necessary-sometimes if the driver feels the passenger does not know the route, he may take a longer route to ensure higher meter reading(remember the meter is well over marginal cost!)
  5. 'No Change'-Driver pretends that he does not have change, this is usually done for small amounts(say 10% of the fare) so that the customer will not feel like taking so much effort for getting it back.
  6. Charging night fare beyond the timings-Some drivers charge fare even for journeys starting before/after the night time window as declared by the Road Transport Office(RTO). Ensure you know the timings before agreeing to pay more.
  7. Appeal to sympathy as 'boni'/'first fare of day'(for non metered fares):-Unlike other vendors who give a reasonable rate during boni, these guys use it as an excuse to loot. That is why I am adamant against paying boni, as many drivers are fluent liars.
  8. Charging for luggage/waiting:-There are specific tariff rules for those cases, so ensure you know that. Mostly, luggage is NOT charged extra in taxi/auto.
  9. Taking 'sharing passengers' after charging entire fare from you-I have nothing against better capacity utilization if it does not make me uncomfortable, but ensure that you reduce the price you offer the driver accordingly. This happens at airports mostly when the supply constraint holds.
  10. Not dropping you at doorstep after negotiated fare:-This is especially true for complexes etc where drivers may not want to go inside. But if they decide to halt at the gate(even though the society rules permit them to enter), deduct some amount accordingly for the added inconvenience/distance you are facing, IF the driver has refused to go inside. 
Customers can fight back by
  1. Using services like G-Auto of Ahmedabad which have minimal service charges and allow booking by phone also
  2. Finding out approximate fare, and negotiating it-stay firm despite any emotional pleas etc. 
  3. Not succumbing to tactics like 'fare recently changed'etc. 

Why is it so difficult to detect/prevent frauds?

While reading up on information security audit, I noticed some interesting explanations in the ICAI 100hr ITT material on the difficulties in fraud management( pg 346) and thought I would expand on that
  1. Big Data:-Though firms like Opera Solutions and McK Global Research Institute are waking up the the opportunities and challenges in analyzing huge data volumes, companies and Bschools are yet to wake up to that. Frauds can be invisibly concealed in the mass of big data, if analytics is not developed enough to investigate trends, outliers etc.
  2. Complexity of Systems:-As butterfly effect/Chaos theory would show, it is difficult to predict the path of complex systems(which most organizations are), and thus predicting all leaks is difficult
  3. Changing User behavior:-Be it social mores(breakdown of lifelong employment social contract), use of personal computing devices in workplace, social engineering etc, employee behavior is changing and fraud management must keep up.
  4. Continuous evolution of fraud:- Similar to computer viruses, frauds can never be totally removed unless of course you have a closed system like that of Apple's Mac. There is always a cat and mouse game between fraud detection('anti virus') and fraudsters, and indeed auditors can learn a lot from the antivirus industry in terms of updates/learning on frauds etc
  5. Risk of false alarms:- Unlike the famed Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan who was rumoured to kill several suspects to avoid the guilty going unpunished, modern judicial systems in most developed countries presume a person innocent unless proven otherwise. And given that fraud accusations are not 'routine', false alarms could lead to the employee quitting or suing the company for defamation. 
  6. Privacy/Discrimination:- Since fraud prevention needs extensive data analysis and setting up behavioral profiles, that could be challenged and lead to adverse PR if the news leaks out. For instance, certain PIN codes(zip codes in USA parlance) could be fraud prone as could certain demographic groups in lending default. But fairness in lending/other rules usually demand giving rationale in certain cases, and that would need quantifiable data instead of merely suspicion. 
The above is NOT an excuse, and indeed the new tech savvy generation of auditors, IT Dept and controllers is fighting back. Still, it is important for the public to appreciate the above facts