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FRAUD

Hong Kong probes UBS over further rate fraud

Hong Kong's de facto central bank on Thursday said it would probe UBS over possible rigging of the financial hub's interbank rate, a day after the Swiss giant agreed to pay a huge fine over the Libor scandal.

Hong Kong probes UBS over further rate fraud

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said it has received information from overseas regulators about "possible misconduct" by UBS involving submissions for the city's interbank offered rate, known as Hibor, and other reference rates in Asia.
 
 "The HKMA has commenced an investigation with a view to ascertaining any misconduct committed by the bank in relation to Hibor submissions," it said.
 
The HKMA added that it would assess whether the potential misconduct had any material impact on the Hibor rate, which is considered a key benchmark interest rate in the wider Asian economies.
 
It also said that it would work with overseas regulatory authorities to gather information and "consider further actions that need to be taken" pending the findings of the investigation.
 
"We continue to work closely with various regulatory authorities to resolve issues relating to the setting of certain global benchmark interest rates," a Hong Kong-based spokesman for UBS said jn an emailed statement to AFP.
 
"As we are currently in active discussions with these authorities, we cannot comment further."
 
UBS agreed on Wednesday to pay $1.5 billion in fines — the second-largest banking fine ever — to national regulators in three countries to settle accusations that it tried to manipulate interest rates.
 
The probes by Swiss, British and US regulators revealed evidence of massive misconduct in the setting of the London interbank offered rate (Libor), a global reference that affects products from student loans to mortgages.
 
UBS said that the settlement, equivalent to almost 1.2 billion euros, would likely push it into a net loss of between 2.0-2.5 billion francs ($2.2-$2.7 billion) in the fourth quarter.
 
 Two former UBS traders were also charged with conspiracy by US authorities.
   
The deepening Libor scandal threatens over a dozen other banks, with British bank Barclays agreeing in June to pay £290 million ($471 million) to
British and US regulators to settle charges related to manipulation of rates.

Several other banks are reportedly in talks with regulators, including Royal Bank of Scotland and Deutsche Bank.

"It's time for them to clean up their act," analyst Francis Lun from Hong Kong financial services firm Lyncean Holdings told AFP on the latest investigation against UBS.

"Everyone now knows that all the major banks actually manipulated the interbank (Libor) rates," he added, saying that financial regulators are under increasing responsibility to scrutinize the banks.

The Libor rate is used as a benchmark for global financial contracts worth about $300 trillion, and revelations that it had been rigged have harmed the reputation of the City of London financial centre, although the misconduct is also alleged to have occurred elsewhere.

The UBS fine is the second highest to hit a bank, after HSBC paid $1.92 billion earlier this month to US authorities to settle allegations of money laundering.

UBS was the first bank to reveal problems in the rate-setting process of the Libor, which is compiled by selected banks that provide information on the rates they offer to other banks.

Regulators found UBS employees had manipulated the information to benefit the bank's trading position and influence the image of UBS's creditworthiness during the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

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FRAUD

How to avoid the most common online scams in Switzerland

Swiss authorities are warning the public against the most common current online, telephone and postal scams and issuing useful advice on how to avoid these shady schemes.

How to avoid the most common online scams in Switzerland
Beware of scams circulating in Switzerland. Photo by Greg Baker / AFP

The number of attempts to extort money from unsuspecting individuals is on the rise in Switzerland, and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), as well as other authorities, are advising the public to be vigilant of any scheme asking for bank account or credit card numbers.

These are some of the most common scams that should ring alarm bells:

Tax arrears

Geneva officials have alerted taxpayers not to fall victim to telephone scams where the callers identify themselves as employees of the cantonal tax office. The person is told that he or she owes money for unpaid taxes, and callers demand the number of the bank account to withdraw the amount owed.

In case the taxpayer refuses, fake employees threaten the victim with a 200,000-franc fine. If the person is elderly — often the most vulnerable victim — the scammers exert pressure by saying their social security payments will be suspended until payment is made.   

Geneva authorities urge the public to inform the police if they receive such a phone call.

READ MORE: Switzerland: Zug residents receive fake letters telling them to quarantine

Package delivery against payment

You may receive an email, supposedly from well-known parcel delivery services, notifying you that a package addressed to you will be delivered once payment is made.

The parcel notification email contains a link to a page asking for credit card details or to activate a service on the mobile phone by sending a text message.

IT support

A caller pretending to be an employee of Microsoft or another IT company tells you that your computer is infected with a virus and new software has to be installed.

The aim of these cyber-attackers is to trick you into downloading a program that will give them access to your computer. 

In most cases, the callers will also try to sell you software licence or another service by asking for your credit card information.

Competitions and prizes

You may get emails, allegedly from well-known Swiss retailers, promising you vouchers for expensive prizes. But in order to receive them, personal data such as credit card details, name, email address, and mobile phone number have to be entered on a fake website.

The fee is immediately charged to your credit card and, unbeknownst to you, you will take out an expensive long-term subscription to a product or service you may or may not get.

The list of all the current scams in Switzerland is here.

If you receive any of the above or similar messages by post, email or phone, the NCSC advises to:

  • Ignore these messages by hanging up the phone and / or deleting emails, moving them to the Spam folder
  • Never give out your credit card number or bank account information to people you don’t know
  • If you did give your card number, contact your credit card company immediately to have the card blocked. Likewise, if you gave out your banking details, get in touch with your bank.
  • In the event of financial loss, the NCSC recommends filing a criminal complaint with the cantonal prosecution authorities. You can search for police stations in your area and their telephone numbers on the Police website.

A good rule to remember is that if an offer or a deal sound too good to be true, or if threats and pressure are involved, they are more than likely scams.

READ MORE: Swiss public warned about fake emails sent from banks and police

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