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FRAUD

Banks need to change, UBS tells UK politicians

The banking sector "needs to change" after it became "too arrogant" in the run-up to the infamous Libor rate-rigging scandal, the head of the investment bank division of UBS told British lawmakers in London on Wednesday.

Banks need to change, UBS tells UK politicians
Andrea Orcel, CEO of UBS Investment Bank. Photo: UBS

"We all got probably too arrogant, too self-convinced that things were correct the way they were. I think the industry needs to change," Andrea Orcel told the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which was set up to examine the Libor crisis.

"There are certainly elements of our cultures which are negative and that we need to root out," he told the commission, which is a scrutiny panel composed of lawmakers from parliament's upper and lower houses.

"We are in the process of rooting out."

The Commission, established by British finance minister George Osborne, is looking into banking standards and culture in the wake of the Libor rate-rigging scandal that has rocked Barclays and UBS.

US, British and Swiss authorities last month hit Switzerland's largest bank with $1.5 billion in fines — the second-largest banking penalty ever — for massive misconduct in the setting of the Libor rate.

"We are very focused on recovering the honour and standing the organization had in the past," said Orcel, an Italian who was appointed to head UBS's investment bank last fall.

"I am convinced that we have made a lot of progress," he said.

"I am also convinced that we still need to do more."

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, though the misconduct is believed to have occurred elsewhere as well.

The crisis erupted last June after British bank Barclays was fined £290 million ($470 million) by British and US regulators for attempted manipulation of Libor and Euribor interbank rates between 2005 and 2009.
 
Libor is calculated daily, using estimates from banks of their own rates.

However, the system has been found to be open to abuse, with some traders lying about borrowing costs to boost trading positions or make their bank seem more secure.
   
The London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) is a flagship instrument used all over the world, affecting what banks, businesses and individuals pay to borrow money.

Euribor is the eurozone equivalent.

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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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