Tuesday, November 4, 2008

HomeATM and Universal Air Travel Plan

UATP Offers Payment Option Challenging the High Cost of Other Credit Card Options - MarketWatch

UATP Offers Payment Option Challenging the High Cost of Other Credit Card Options

UATP Offers Airlines/Corporations Option to SAVE!
Last update: 1:14 p.m. EST Nov. 4, 2008

Universal Air Travel Plan, Inc., (UATP), offers a travel payment option that helps to mitigate the high cost corporate credit cards in the market today, while offering revenue streams for Issuers and a low merchant service fee to all Merchants.

Responding to the recent American Express announcement (30 October 2008) of moving forward with "pricing initiatives designed to generate significant additional revenue next year," on some business cards, UATP President and CEO, Ralph Kaiser commented, "The airline industry is already facing a challenging market and, with the global economic forecast, now is not the time to be raising prices and generating revenue at customer expense."

Kaiser added, "While we hope that the airlines and corporations won't be negatively affected by American Express' pricing initiatives, UATP offers a viable option."  UATP's core product is a low cost corporate charge card that airlines Issue globally to corporate account holders. The key benefits of UATP cards include:

For Merchants
  •   Low Merchant Service Fees
  •   New Revenue Streams via Additional Flown Revenue
For Corporations

  •   Centralized Billing for Improved Cost Control
  •   Level III Data
  •   No International or Currency Conversion Fees
  •   No Membership or Annual Dues
"UATP continues its vision of offering the best payment option at the lowest possible cost," Kaiser continued. "We are on track to generate more than (US$) 12 billion dollars in charge volume this year and expect further growth in 2009."

In addition to its core corporate travel product, UATP has expanded its offering by utilizing the UATP Network to facilitate alternative forms of payment for current partners  HomeATM, PayPal,  BillMeLater, gift card partner Stored Value Systems and others.

During 2009, UATP expects to continue growing its partnership base and adding new Merchants and Issuers to the UATP Network.

UATP Corporate Communications
Wendy Ward, wward@uatp.com
+1 202 626 4077

SOURCE Universal Air Travel Plan, Inc.

Copyright (C) 2008 PR Newswire. All rights reserved

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Transit Visa Needed To Get Around L.A.

Visa Inc.Image via Wikipedia
Visa to Improve Payment Experience for Commuters in Los Angeles and Paris; Working with Transit Operators to Enable Visa Payment at the Fare Gate - MarketWatch

PARIS & SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 04, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Visa Inc.

Visa today announced it is working with the Los Angeles transit authority to allow train, subway and bus riders to speed through turnstiles and past fare boxes with a simple wave of their Visa payWave-enabled contactless card.

Los Angeles pilot

In Los Angeles, Visa is working with the LA Metro system to offer special Visa payWave cards that also incorporate the transit system's "TAP" fare application. These dual-use, prepaid Visa cards will let riders pay their fares and purchase fare products using their Visa account, while also allowing cardholders to make purchases anywhere Visa debit is accepted.

Two types of cards will be available through the pilot:

  • Ride, pay and reload cards -- sold through automated ReadySTATION kiosks within the LA Metro system, these cards will be active and ready to use immediately for both transit fares and Visa purchases everywhere Visa debit is accepted. Riders will be able to add up to $500 in value at the kiosks.

  • Ride, pay, reload and ATM cash access cards -- these are personalized cards with a maximum value limit of $10,000 which are ordered online or over the phone. Beyond a larger value limit the personalized cards have the added feature of a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for obtaining cash at ATMs. It will also function as a standard Visa prepaid card for purchases outside the transit system. In addition, cardholders will be eligible for free direct deposit of their paychecks directly to the Visa prepaid card account, providing added convenience and security over payment alternatives like checks and cash, for those riders without traditional banking relationships.
"Combining TAP and Visa payWave on a single contactless card is a great idea and delivers convenience and speed at bus fare boxes and rail station validators for LA transit riders," said Roger Snoble, Chief Executive Officer, at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "It also provides commuters with an easy way to reload and manage their LA transit accounts, while providing them with a Visa prepaid card that is accepted at any Visa debit acceptance location or ATM."

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Chasing Alternative Payments

Chase Eyes Alternative Payments

Digital Transaction News writes that "the bank-owned Chase Paymentech will focus on alternative payments and geographic expansion with its 51% share of the former joint venture’s assets, but it’s unclear what First Data will do with its 49% share.  According to the article, Chase will take a closer look at the "Alternative Payments" space."

Bank card processing will remain the core service, but alternative payments, both online and physical, will get a lot of development attention, according to Chase. “That’s what the customer wants,” noting that in some European and Asian countries, online alternatives rival traditional card payments in volume."

Click Here to Read the Article in Full

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Debit Talks and Credit Walks

The US braces for next crisis: Credit cards

Editor's Note:  Many posts over the last few months have been dedicated to the idea that debit card usage will continue to grow leaps and bounds while credit card usage will stagnate.  Here's an article further supporting that belief...

Reports indicate that a substantial portion of of the 158 million US card holders using 1.5 billion cards have started defaulting and banks had to write of approx $21 billion in bad credit loans in the first six months of this year and expect a further loss of $55 billion in the next 12 months.

For years, consumers in the US have become ever more dependent on credit cards with American Express, the largest credit card issuer in the US coined the famous by line ''Never leave home without it.'' Now an average American does not leave home without at least 10 credit cards and a whole host of other supermarket credit cards in his wallet.  Five big financial companies, Discover Financial Services, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Capital One Financial issue around 80 per cent of all US credit cards.


How deep is the problem?

According to Federal Reserve figures, in the US alone more than $850 billion in unpaid credit card balances is at stake and fast approaching $1 trillion, roughly the same amount as in the subprime market.  CNN reported that worldwide, consumers have racked up more than $2.2 trillion in purchases and cash advances on major credit cards in the last year.
  • The unpaid debt portion of this with US consumers is $68 billion, thus increasing credit card debt by 7.8 per cent, the largest increase in seven years.

  • Even as they spent, consumers had been going into default at a stunning rate with delinquent credit card accounts this year hitting a six-year high of 4.9 per cent and the charge-offs -when banks give up on collecting debt, have reached a all time high of 5.5 per cent in the second quarter, as per the latest data available with the US Federal Reserve.

  • Since last year, major banks were setting aside billions as reserves for credit card loan loss and anticipating an increase of 20 per cent in non payments over the next two to four quarters.

  • Capital One, one of the biggest credit card banks, was forced to write off $1.9 billion in bad debt in the last quarter of 2007 and serious delinquencies among some of the biggest lenders rose by 50 per cent or more in the value of accounts that were at least 90 days delinquent.

  • Just like the mortgage debt which created a financial havoc worldwide, credit card debt is pooled and then resold to investment houses, other banks and institutional investors.

  • US credit card debt grew by 435 per cent from 2002 to year-end 2007, from $211 billion to approx $915 billion.

  • About 45 per cent of this $915 billion in credit card debt has been packaged into these pools, which not only creates a risk to a few banks but many other institutions as well who will be forced out of business due to credit card debt write offs.

  • The national savings rate was 10 to 11 per cent in the l980s and since 2005, Americans have saved less than 1 per cent of their disposable incomes with a negative saving rate as of March this year, making an average America broke, and credit cards played a major role in getting them there.

  • Currently, the losses on credit card debt which stands at 5.5 per cent could rise to 7.9 per cent and the industry will stand to lose $55 billion this year, as the financial crisis has seen companies laying off thousand of workers all over the US. People will add up to the credit card debt as the unemployment rate has increased by about 2 million people in the last 12 months.
The US Department of Labour reported that the US shed 1,59,000 jobs in September and the list of companies which have announced a cut in jobs read like a Who's Who of corporate America: Merck, Yahoo, General Electric, Xerox, Pratt & Whitney, Goldman Sachs, Whirlpool, Bank of America, Pepsi, Hewlett Packard, Alcoa, Coca-Cola, the three big Detroit auto manufacturers, leading newspapers, banks and financial institutions and nearly all the airlines.

To solve the ever increasing credit card defaults, banks and consumer groups are lobbying US regulators to forgive 40 per cent of the debt of most financially stressed consumers who are close to bankruptcy and they could pay off their remaining card debt, interest free in five years.Banks could begin with this test scheme on 50,000 consumers, in hopes of expanding it to tens of thousands of others.

Editor's Note:  Looks like Debit Talks and Credit Walks and Debit Transactions will continue with it's exorbitant growth while credit transactions will stagnate.

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Cybercriminals...Crisis? What Crisis?

Economic Crisis May Be Boon For Cybercriminals, Experts Say
How the global financial crisis is affecting organized cybercrime

By Kelly Jackson Higgins, DarkReading

URL: http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=211601123

One industry sector is actually happy about the current state of the global economy: cybercriminals.

"One thing we've seen is financially based cybercrime is recession-proof," says Darren Mott, supervisory special agent for the FBI's Cyber Division. "With [this] changing economy, the only thing that changes is the way they go about obtaining their information."

Organized cybercrime has already begun capitalizing on the global financial crisis, cybercrime experts say, with targeted phishing attacks on customers whose banks have folded, and attacks that scam consumers who may be shopping less online, but are now spending more time at home. With fewer business and consumer targets available, the bad guys are redirecting their efforts to adapt to the market. For example, credit cards are out; debit cards are in.

"The crisis is good for cybercrime because people become more desperate for 'good deals.' It is bad for cybercrime in that they will continue operations much like they do now, but have to move around more often," says security expert Gadi Evron.

And they are already on the move: A wave of targeted phishing attacks on doomed banks and brokerages has been spotted by The Shadowserver Foundation during the past few weeks. "They were crafted a little better, mentioning the affected banks," as well as some that posed as the Better Business Bureau, says Andre' DiMino, co-founder and director of Shadowserver. "They are almost preying on how people are trying to be more savvy in what they buy and what they are doing as they are more careful in where they spend."

One attack used Citigroup's attempted takeover of Wachovia as a premise for stealing Wachovia customers' credentials. (Wells Fargo eventually outbid Citigroup for Wachovia). "There's been a surge in phishing, telling customers that due to the new takeover, they need new credentials," says Ori Eisen, founder and chief innovation officer for 41st Parameter. If the victim hands over his old credentials to "set" his new ones, it's game over for his bank account information.

Socially engineered attacks are typically a lucrative ploy by seasoned attackers. The FBI is seeing more spear phishing aimed at businesses that were hit hard by the economic downturn. "There has been an increase in attacks on specific individuals, such as CEOs and CFOs, because a lot of businesses are going under...that gives them more directed targets," the FBI's Mott says. The attackers lure them with promises of financial assistance, for instance, and some even pretend to be subpoenas from the Justice Department. One attack via e-mail urged bidders who had lost out on a government contract to resubmit their bids and, thus, spill sensitive contact and other information.

Bad guys continue to go after "hot items," such as online banking credentials and online shopping accounts, security experts say. "People are tending to be more focused on their finances and the economic situation than they are in securing their networks" and systems, Shadowserver's DiMino says. "They are logging into their banking and brokerage accounts more frequently, and malware [planted on their systems] will wake up when" they visit these sites, he says.

In the past two months, researchers at Finjan have found three times the number of servers with stolen data. "Before that, we'd see five or six servers in a single month, or one every week or so. Now we're seeing four or five servers a week," says Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CTO of Finjan. "Increased phishing attacks might be the reason, and a combination of both corporate and consumer [victims]."

Other researchers have cited a direct correlation between the stock market's nosedive and an increase in cybercrime activity.  Ryan Sherstobitoff, chief corporate evangelist for PandaLabs says he and his team first noticed a jump in overall malware on Sept. 16 when stocks started to dip significantly. Panda discovered a 5 to 30 percent increase in malware that day related to the recent wave of rogue antivirus adware attacks. "If the stock market is crashing, there's not a lot of confidence," Sherstobitoff says. And phony antivirus popups warning that your system-may-be-infected-so-you'd-better-run-this-scan preyed on fears, he says.

Meanwhile, law enforcement and cybercrime experts say more malicious Web sites posing as economic or financial advisory services will start to emerge in this jittery financial climate. "'Have you been victimized by your bank's closing? Check us out,'" is the type of lure the bad guys may use with these sites, DiMino says.

That means a reverse in the trend from the past few months of cybercriminals' silently infecting legitimate sites. "Expect to see malicious sites crop up that are geared to information-stealing, malware-dropping, pharming, and phishing rather than compromising legitimate site," he says.

And just as street crime increases in times of financial stress, more novice attackers and script kiddies are likely to perform an online version of shoplifting and bank robbery. "You're going to see more quick-hit script kiddies, like street crime," DiMino says.

It's simple enough for these amateur hackers to get into the business -- there's plenty of off-the-shelf software that automates phishing. All it takes is a Web server. "We know [when] it's an amateur because they are leaving their servers completely open and unprotected," Yuval Ben-Itzhak says.

The insider threat, too, will likely also intensify as layoffs spread in the corporate world. "You're going to see insider attacks and less direct hacks," Shadowserver's DiMino says. "There will be more of an attempt to infiltrate from inside, with botnets and SQL injection."

With potentially fewer overall enterprise targets, cybercrime organizations could end up fighting over turf. "In general, cybercrime is nothing more than a new form of organized crime," the FBI's Mott says. "You may see more online cybercrime 'violence.' DDoS attacks may go up."

Still, the bottom line is that the crisis hasn't hurt the cybercriminal's bottom line. Nor has it slowed any activity in the bustling online black market, at least thus far. "Right now, there's no observable effect. We still see the same trading activity on IRC channels," says Guillaume Lovet, senior manager for Fortinet's Threat Response Team.

Copyright © 2007 CMP Media LLC

Cloud Computing Zombies for $299 Month...

Editor's Note:  File this under "A Perfect Storm is Brewing and HomeATM is Perfectly Placed"

Cloud-computing zombies for $299 per month | Tech News on ZDNet

Cloud-computing crimeware means networks of zombie machines can be hired to steal online-banking details for as little as $299 per month.

'Fraud as a service' is opening up computer crime to people with no technical expertise, warned Uri Rivner, head of new technology at security company RSA.

Speaking at the RSA Conference Europe 2008 in London, Rivner laid the pricing bare, revealing how fraudsters offer botnet networks as a subscription service, with patching and upgrades thrown in.

These networks could be tailored to infect other users' computers with malware, or to launch massive distributed denial-of-service attacks designed to take down computer systems.

Rivner said: "This is the danger with making this technology open to the mass market.   Anybody can become a high-end online fraudster."

Malware is also being sold for both the high-end and budget markets, from the $1,000 Zeus Trojan, a sophisticated Trojan that harvests data and entrenches itself in the system, down to $350 for the Limbo Trojan. 

Rivner said the fraudsters usually split their roles between the "harvester", the hacker who writes and deploys the malware to steal the details, and a "cash-out" criminal who will handle the money.

Cash-out fraudsters use "money mules", who are often unwittingly recruited as "finance officers" working from home, to have the dirty money laundered through their account.

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