Monthly Archives: April 2016


‘I could put my money under the mattress’

Sabrina Barreiro thought her Commonwealth Bank account would keep her money safe, until her debit card was skimmed.

Sabrina Barreiro always thought keeping her money in a bank account was a safer option than under the mattress.

But after her debit card was skimmed and her bank account cleared of all funds, she began having second thoughts.

Sabrina Barreiro card scammed comw bank image

“My expectations were higher:” Sabrina Barreiro struggled to get her money back after her bank card was skimmed and used illegally. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Fresh from a four-day holiday on the Gold Coast, a five-months pregnant Ms Barreiro logged online to her Commonwealth Bank account to find the $1350 she had put aside  for medical bills had been withdrawn.

“First I checked my wallet to see if I had my card with me, and I did. So I panicked and called the bank,” said Ms Barreiro.

“I checked the transactions online and there had been three withdrawals from an ATM in Punchbowl, taken between the fourth and fifth of April, when I was on the Gold Coast.”

Upon calling the bank, Ms Barreiro, from Bondi, found the consumer process of reclaiming her money would not be as simple as she assumed. The experience left her distressed that she would be unable to pay medical expenses in the final months of her pregnancy.

“They told me they would open an investigation, which was going to take 45 days and I would have to wait until they finished the investigation to get any money back.

“I wasn’t asking for the whole [amount of] money, just give me $300 or something to pay my bills. It was everything I had.”

While unable to work due to health reasons, Ms Barreiro relied on her partner’s income for rent and medical payments.

Counterfeit or skimming transactions are those made with an altered or illegally reproduced card, based on details taken from an existing card. This includes when the information is copied directly from a card’s magnetic stripe.

Detective Acting Superintendent Dave Christey, from the NSW Police Force Fraud and Cybercrime Squad, said the frequency of card skimming had dropped since chip technology replaced the magnetic stripe.

“Over the last couple of years there has been a downward trend. You can put that down to better security measures. Where we are seeing it is occasionally on machines around the metro area and in taxis.”

According to the most recent statistics from the Australian Payments Clearing Association, released last year, counterfeit and skimming fraud dropped by 25 per cent in the six years from 2009.

In 2014, more than $650 billion worth of transactions were made on Australian payments cards, of which 0.06 per cent were fraudulent.

Ms Barreiro said that while she was concerned that her security had been compromised she was more upset about the bank’s response.

“I felt the bank was blaming me, because I didn’t look after my PIN,” she said. “They kept asking, who did you give the PIN  to? Of course I didn’t give it to anyone.

“I could put my money under the mattress, but instead I choose to put it in the Commonwealth Bank … my expectations were higher.”

A spokesperson from the Commonwealth Bank said it was concerned when any customer was the victim of fraudulent activity.


Henry Sapiecha

“Our process is to fully reimburse our customers when they have been legitimately defrauded and our aim is to do this as quickly as possible,” she said.

“On this occasion the correct process was not followed at the time the complaint was made, which led to unnecessary delays.”

After Fairfax Media contacted the Commonwealth Bank, it offered its apologies to Ms Barreiro and fully refunded the disputed charges, including any associated fees.

Alibaba is (officially) coming to Australia

Alibaba targets Australian sellers

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is about to set up an office in Australia, opening a giant opportunity for sellers.

When US internet giants mention Australia in passing – let alone actually visit the country or establish operations here – they are usually showered with media coverage.

But when China’s most valuable internet company, Alibaba, announced plans to open an office in Australia last week, it barely registered a whimper.

Alibaba, the e-commerce colossus that processed transactions worth $US149 billion in the December quarter alone, said at an event in Hangzhou last week it would open an Australian office “later this year”.

Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, is now worth an estimated $US23 billion image

Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, is now worth an estimated $US23 billion.

And Fairfax Media has learned it has already made one senior hire for that office: James Hudson, the chief executive of the NSW branch of the Australia-China Business Council, will join the business next month. John O’Loghlen, a New Zealand-born entrepreneur, has also joined the company, it said this week.

It is a significant development for the Australian retail sector. Yet as the Prime Minister and a 1000-strong business delegation swept through the world’s second-largest economy last week, far more trivial announcements, such as the Australian Football League’s plan to play a regular season game in the country next year, captured all the attention.

Alibaba, founded by entrepreneur Jack Ma and listed on the New York Stock Exchange with a market value of nearly $US200 billion, has had a senior executive, Maggie Zhou, in charge of the Australia and New Zealand region for at least two years. But she travels between China and Australia and has been based primarily in Hangzhou.

The company signalled that the move to establish an Australian office is designed to help local brands tap into the gigantic Chinese market, where Alibaba has 407 million active buyers on its platforms. However, the decision to establish a fully-fledged office in Australia will fuel speculation it sees an opportunity for Australian consumers to buy products on its sites.

“We see a lot of potential in the Australian market as Alibaba continues its globalisation efforts,” the company said in an emailed statement. It declined to provide any further details on its plans.

“We aim to have dedicated country operations to work closely with Australian merchants and partners, and it is our plan to establish an office in Australia in late 2016 to better help local brands and merchants to access to the Chinese consumer market.”

Australia ranked as the fifth top-selling country into China during the company’s global shopping festival last year, Alibaba said.

A number of Australian retailers, including Woolworths, Bellamy’s, Blackmores and Chemist Warehouse, have signed up to officially sell products on Tmall, Alibaba’s Chinese language platform used by businesses to sell goods to consumers on the mainland. Many well-known Australian products are sold on Alibaba properties by consumers to other consumers.

Last November, the company’s “Singles Day” promotion in China was blamed for creating a severe shortage of Australian baby formula products, including Bellamy’s.

Shadow networks of Chinese students and relatives, known as “daigou”, were said to be buying up organic baby formula at Australian supermarkets and reselling them at higher prices on Alibaba sites, forcing the likes of Woolworths to implement quotas.

The move also signals Alibaba’s intention to expand globally and assuage investor concerns over its international footprint. Alibaba shares are down 15 per cent since the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in late 2014, underperforming the 5 per cent rise in the broader US market over that period.

Last year the company said it would expand into France, Germany and Italy. It has already established a foothold in the US.


Henry Sapiecha

More Australians than ever will work past 70 as they are too poor to retire @ 65

What to do if the Budget cracks down on super tax breaks

It’s looking very possible that the Federal Government may take the axe to superannuation tax breaks in the upcoming Budget, so it’s time to look at your options.

More Australians than ever before intend to work beyond 70, as Generation X-ers and Baby Boomers fear they lack the financial security needed to retire any sooner.

The findings, which come as the Turnbull government weighs superannuation reform in the May budget, have sparked fresh concerns that a comfortable retirement is now “out of reach” for hundreds of thousands of low-income earners.

An analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows the number of over-45s who say they will not retire before turning 70 has dramatically increased, from 8 per cent to 23 per cent in a decade.

Childcare worker Kerrie Devir has worked for almost 35 years continuously, but has less than $100,000 in superannuation image

Childcare worker Kerrie Devir has worked for almost 35 years continuously, but has less than $100,000 in superannuation. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Seniors groups say the figures indicate people are ageing in a much healthier way and want to keep working, but also reveal deep “financial uncertainty” among older workers following a series of superannuation and pension changes

Retirement before 70 is “out of the question” for Melbourne woman Kerrie Devir, who has worked in childcare for 33 years.

“When I look into the possibility of retirement, it’s a financial train wreck of massive proportions,” she said.

abbott & turnbull together image

‘Incredibly cruel and short-sighted’: United Voice – the union representing some of the country’s lowest-paid workforces – said the findings were an indictment on former prime minister Tony Abbott’s decision to freeze an increase to employer super contributions. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“Because my wages have been so low and continue to be so low, superannuation just doesn’t build … Nine per cent of a very little amount is still a very little amount when you retire.”

Ms Devir said she had accumulated less than $100,000 in superannuation, despite having worked continuously since she was 17.

And with the rising national life expectancy, Ms Devir, a single woman, said she was worried she could be forced into poverty after she is no longer physically able to work.

old couple walk on path image

With Australians living longer, there are concerns about how much money is needed to fund a long retirement. Photo: Glenn Hunt

“On my mother’s side, I have longevity, on my dad’s side I don’t,” she said.

“I’m not sure that I want my mother’s longevity … that’s not going to play out very well for me.”

According to the ABS, the most common factor influencing people’s decisions on when to retire was financial security (40 per cent of men, 35 per cent of women).

This was followed by personal health and physical abilities (23 per cent of men and women) and reaching eligibility age for a pension (13 per cent of men and women).

United Voice – the union representing some of the country’s lowest-paid workforces – said the findings were an indictment on former prime minister Tony Abbott’s decision to freeze an increase to employer super contributions, which had been scheduled to reach 12 per cent by 2019.

“This was incredibly cruel and short-sighted and will have a devastating impact on workers,” union state secretary Jess Walsh said.

“It is no surprise that more and more people are delaying their retirement.”

Ms Walsh said the pension was clearly “not keeping up” and Australians were finding it harder to accumulate enough superannuation to top up the pension to a reasonable level.

She said the value of the minimum wage had gone backwards nearly 10 per cent in two decades, making it even harder to accumulate enough superannuation.

“Our members work hard, they pay their taxes, and yet they can’t afford to retire with dignity.”

National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said the new statistics revealed the “longevity penny has dropped” for people in their 50s and 60s, who were worried they won’t have enough money to fund a long retirement.

“People are saying, ‘I thought I was going to live until about 75, but now it looks like I could be living a lot longer than that … can I afford it?” Mr O’Neill said.

“Longevity has started to become a real issue.”

Mr O’Neill called on the federal government to provide “much greater clarity” about retirement income, including superannuation and the pension.

“People need certainty about what benefits will flow over time … and all the speculation around superannuation causes people uncertainty because they don’t know where it is going to land,” he said.

“And the government needs to stop talking down older Australians, and instead celebrate the fact that they are significant contributors and want to work longer.”

Henry Sapiecha