All posts by Paul Zagoridis

Scammer Phone Numbers

I’m putting a list of phone numbers used by scammers to call me. Note this list is for people who’s offers seem too good to be true, or breach Australian cold-calling, do-not-call or solicitation laws.

Telemarketers are on the Telemarketer Phone Numbers list.

+61 2 8206 9200
02 8206 9200 – Free iPhone promotion

These numbers are used by the FTOCapital.com scam
03 9077 1873
03 9071 1891

These numbers are used by the HQBroker.com scam:

+1 647-989-8384
+27 (11) 068-6391‬
‭+27 (11) 362-1989‬
‭+27 (11) 710-1561‬
+44 20 2892 9411
+44 20 3140 4223
+44 20 3169 9197
+44 20 3235 5067
+44 20 3341 2365
+44 20 3403 9281
+44 20 3438 6555
+44 20 3816 5690
+44 20 3817 4627
+44 20 3932 7940
+44 20 3953 7863
+44 22 0296 9287
+61 409 464 294
+61 403 434 285
+61 402 602 207
+85 20 0064 3148‭

These numbers are used by Mandarin Speaker’s Phone Scam covered by this excellent Scammer Reveals All SBS Viceland documentary and investigation.

0417 141 083
0417 018 451

Comment below with the numbers that have called you. You don’t need to create an account to make a comment, but you do need an email address to post a comment (I keep that data hidden). If you really don’t want to use an email address, please use bugmenot.com or even a long text or number string (like the phone number you’re reporting) @wealthesteem.org

HQBroker.com scam

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): HQ Brokers is a scam. Even ASIC (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) thinks so.

I just got a cold call from +44 22 0296 9287 claiming to be from HQBroker. They claimed to allow trading in “international markets” including “the big four – Stocks, Currencies, Commodities and Indexes”. I asked on which exchanges can I trade and they seemed to be confused by that question. NYSE, ASX, NASDAQ, LSE who knows.

They claimed that 20% of their clients were in Australia. More on that later.

They claim they are “regulated” and “licensed” but when I challenged that claim they started naming large American financial institutions that provide “liquidity guarantees” to them. Their website states they are licensed in Poland [updated 4 June 2018]. Without an Australian Financial Services (AFS) Licence, I pointed out that they were making an illegal brokering solicitation in Australia. They said that opening an Australian office is difficult but that as soon as they have 1000 active traders they will do it.

Aside: If 20% of their clients is less than 1000 traders then they have less than 5000 clients, right?

The “securities manager” I was now talking to said they were a large “international company” trading in “international markets”, surely their IP address would be blocked if they were not regulated and licensed in Australia. I pointed out that Australia currently only blocks piracy sites.

While unlicensed, cold-call, broking solicitation is illegal in Australia, that wasn’t where it got really scary.

The zinger? HQBroker offered “software with 100% successful record that monitors the market 20 times a second, 5 days a week, 24 hours a day”. Even forex markets are closed once the New York market closes on Friday afternoon (local time) until Sydney opens on Monday morning (local time). In reality that means there is about a day and a half that we can’t trade retail forex. Interbank forex is manned 24/7 but retail investors can’t access that market.

I honed in on that 100% success claim. Nobody (and no AI) hits on every trade, some trades just don’t pay off. But they wouldn’t budge, they proudly said “risk free”, then “money back guarantee” if I tried their three day trial on a $250USD account opening deposit. After 3 days I could withdraw my original deposit and any gains-if there were any losses they’d refund the deposit in full.

This mysterious software not only gives trade signals but actually opens and closes trades on their international markets. It uses “mathematical models” to automatically trade for you.

Again, I expressed my skepticism at the 100% successful trade claim. “Impossible!” I exclaimed. The system has “automatic stop loss and take profit”. Stop loss? Aha! So losses are possible. “No,” he said, “because trading pairs move in sync like USD/Gold. When one is falling the other is rising.” So now HQBroker is back to pitching binary options trading as fool-proof, no-risk, guaranteed triple-digit-percentage returns.

At that point I’d finished my lunch and wanted to get back to working so I hung up, I’d wasted 48 minutes of their time while eating my lunch. A pleasant distraction.

A quick google search will show HQBroker is very poorly reviewed, with it’s corporate structure best described as “murky”.

Update: 4 April 2018 10:24 AEST: The comments section is getting some traction so I’ll leave it as a bit of a free-for-all for now. There is rudimentary anti-spam checking but that’s it. I cannot confirm identity of any or all commentators below.

Remember: On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

Update: 10 May 2018 Got a call with the exact same MO today from 03 9077 1873 but this time promoting Financials Trading Online which is listed as a scam on ASIC’s MoneySmart website. Either H Q Brokers are moving on or it’s a variation on the same scam.

Big update: 4 June 2018

[1]  Capzone Ltd (and A.K.A Hokkaido Investments Sp) is now listed on ASIC’s MoneySmart website, with the Marshall Island’s address but HQBroker email and website. Those links open MoneySmart’s website.

[2] The company behind HQBroker is Capzone Ltd originally listed as in the Marshall Islands and/or Poland, now claiming to be in Hong Kong. So they’ve started the shell game of changing structures. They give Capzone Ltd  “operational address” as 7/F, Low Block, Grand Millennium Plaza, 181 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong. No registered office or other legal domicile.

[3] The digital marketing and spin doctoring has begun:

  1. They brag about a “3 star” review on FXEmpire with a self-created award wreath but don’t link to it. I’ve linked to it and add your review to let people know.
  2.  They brag about a “3 star Premium Quality” at Finance Magnates with a self-created seal. But Finance Magnates don’t provide reviews. They only have a “directory listing” called a review and the “contact us directly” form goes straight to HQBrokers. People could report the listing to Finance Magnates using the form on the home page.
  3. Digital Marketing Services are provided by Pure Marketing Corp Ltd (I can’t find them yet).
  4. Their website now has instant message chat.

[4] H Q Brokers now does not offer services in USA, France and Hong Kong. Further evidence of avoiding prosecution at “home” and in aggressive jurisdiction that will prosecute foreign companies without a presence in those jurisdictions.

Update 21 June 2018

We received an Official letter from HQBroker and an Official Letter from BSD Administration. Check them out and let me know what you think on those posts.

There are also 2 comments pending with glowing reviews but fake email addresses and fake IP addresses. I’m waiting for the authors to confirm their email addresses before approving the comments. They still haven’t confirmed.

Update 27 June 2018

BSD Trade Services is possibly reduced its work due to recent police raids on similar BPO’s, but their sibling organisation GWU Marketing Corp has picked up the slack and is operating out of Clark CFEZ Philippines. Specific commentary on GWU and BSD will be on their linked posts. Please post any news about GWU or BSD there.

Update 3 July 2018

After the BSD & GWU updates with photos of key staff on Thursday, the server was attacked with 108,954 visitors over 4 days. That’s 1000 viewers per hour! Not really that much traffic and the server hummed along. You can see the analytics of the attack here https://bitly.com/2lHeI0c+

Entrepreneurship is an Art, Not a Science

Street Lights 2 photo
Street Lights 2 photo by Michael Lorenzo, Pasig, Philippines

The earliest reference I can find is by Paul Willax from 1 July 1996

Entrepreneurship is an art, not a science. The Greeks recognized that there were techniques (“techne”) that could not be explained in words, but learned only through apprenticeship and experience.

My search was not extensive, but I’m happy that the quote has been around for at least 17 years.

This is why competing advice is possible and can lead to failure and success. Even more importantly, this is why Entrepreneurship is learnt and perfected by experience.

There are subject matter experts who can teach or manage accounting, marketing, logistics, customer service, manufacturing, supply chain, procurement, finance, human resources, leadership and development, training, quality control and assurance, risk management, legal affairs, decision support, corporate governance, and even sales. However the unique mix of problems and opportunities that every business faces do not work in a reductionist, reproducible manner. What experience teaches is to be comfortable with uncertainty.

Actually experienced has taught me that when the going gets tough how to pivot and fight for revenue. I know I don’t have all the answers, I don’t even know all the questions.

Experience is a proxy for flexibility and insight. Some people, particularly those who have had success early often mistake that experience for wisdom. Nothing is more painful than thinking your previous business or entrepreneurial experience is applicable in the current circumstances only to discover that this situation is different. Successful people pick themselves up from under that misapprehension, dust themselves off and learn from the experience.

Some people learn to avoid risk altogether after a failure. While I feel a little sad for them, I totally understand where they are coming from. Failure batters the ego. That is why I celebrate the people with multiple successes. They almost certainly have failed forward along the way. That’s also why I admire successful, experienced sports people. I don’t really spend time wondering about the lucky few for whom success comes easily. I want to hear about people looking at themselves late at night, with no one else around, and deciding to get up one more time after being knocked over. That’s a cliched statement, but it’s a story I never tire of.

Problems Facing the Film Industry

Red Curtain
Red Curtain by djnorway http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1374248

There is a lot of gnashing of teeth about the future of the film industry given that “Between 2007 and 2011, pre-tax profits of the five studios controlled by large media conglomerates fell by around 40%”.

The business of film making (as opposed to TV) will change. The Internet has disrupted theatrical distribution, home video and home entertainment.

Hollywood has responded to the threat to their business model by pursuing tentpole releases. Big event movies that prop up the bottom line the way a pole props up a tent at the circus. That’s still a broken business model which sees the studios make fewer movies which each carry a greater share of the risk. $300 million USD to make and another $50-100 million to market. Now in the world on mega corporations those numbers are not significant.

The problem is that the large media conglomerates are too big. If they had a movie that cost $25 million to make and market, and it made $75 million that’s a great result. But it doesn’t mean a drop in the ocean for conglomerates that big.

In the long run I expect the film production business will be a big but not huge business. Mature competitive markets eventually generate zero abnormal profits. In the long run mature markets can be measured by return on equity (ROE pr ROCE). I don’t see something as bespoke as film production becoming that reliable. Television drama with it’s focus on reaching 100 episodes can produce a product range over 3 or 4 years.

Public ownership of movie production companies is not a good fit for the model. Smaller companies and smaller movies will always find a way to make money in a smaller market.

Interestingly, are there any publicly listed Art production companies? No, but that doesn’t stop artists from creating work, and the most successful of them making a very good living at it.

Why I moved from Anti-NBN to Pro-NBN

NBN Co National Broadband Network logoI am now a supporter of the NBN despite the price tag, politically motivated slow rollout, poor ROI and political lies.

The National Broadband Network is a hugely expensive ($40B), fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), wholesale network that will reach 93% of the Australian population over 10 years. Oh! And paid for by the taxpayers.

The Gillard Government has some numbers claiming that it will pay for itself in the long run. I don’t believe it will ever reach its return on investment of 7% if those numbers are ever audited in the same way private enterprise auditors operate.

I used to see it as a massive waste of money, that Fibre-To-The-Node (FTTN) was a more affordable but almost as good solution for one-third to one-quarter of the cost. I thought that Rob Oakshot and Tony Windsor held the nation hostage in order to get good internet in the bush first – a lower order national policy outcome.

I wasn’t wrong on any of those points. But I have a new perspective that makes them irrelevant.

  1. $40 Billion over 10 years is a drop in the bucket when it comes to the Gillard (and Labor) Government’s waste. In comparison, the Greens in 2011 stated that Australia’s offshore detention and border protection would cost over $2B in the next year alone. Those are the best numbers I’ve found on a quick search, but other media outlets published similar numbers.
  2. The copper network is obsolete. Patchwork repairs (like those over the last 30 years) will never see copper achieving anything close to the theoretical and technical optimums. There is no incentive nor financial return to Telstra to refresh the copper network.
  3. If you live in a multi-unit-dwelling or more than 500 metres from an exchange in a major city, and you want the fastest currently available broadband you already know the difference between the broadband speed you are sold and what you can consistently achieve. For those that haven’t tried it yet, it’s an intermittent and variable painful game of random chance.

Therefore if what we have is currently unusable, it doesn’t matter if we can save even $30billion by going FTTN, because the last mile of internet connectivity relies on the copper network which will never be fixed.

Worse for multi-unit-dwellings there is currently the endless game of pass-the-buck where the ISP blames the Telstra copper or your building wiring and nobody is responsible for providing your service. The NBN removes this debate for a significant and growing proportion of the population.

If you don’t believe governments are wasteful then the cost debate doesn’t matter. If you do believe governments are wasteful then the waste on the NBN is justifiable given the national productivity and long term infrastructure arguments.

What do you think?

Optus Fail on Customer Service

Always be coolWhen my mobile phone service came off contract I wanted to go month to month while I waited for the new iPhone’s to come out this year. Optus at the time were running some compelling prepaid deals. So I signed up.

I converted to a post paid accout and accepted a dealer’s offer for a shiny new iPhone 4S. That’s when the nightmare started.

The dealer ordered a white iPhone 4S when I asked for a black one. The dealer cancelled the order for the white and raised a new order for the black. Optus meanwhile cancelled my pre-paid service and with the cancellation of the white iPhone, my number suddenly became unlinked to any services and went into limbo.

Suddenly Optus claimed I could no longer keep my number. The number that I’d had since the mid 1990’s when GSM phones were introduced. This is a number everyone had. As I’m not famous enough to be overly harassed by people trying to do deals with me, I therefore want to be found. Changing phone numbers is a bad thing.

Aside: should I ever be successful or famous enough that I need a gatekeeper, I will keep that number, but give it to a PA to filter calls. People who I’ve worked with or known in the past will be able to reach me.

Optus prepaid and post-paid customer support escalated my problem but post-paid CS claimed I didn’t have an account (yet) and the prepaid CS had zero influence. After all prepaid mobile services weren’t worth keeping were they? Despite the fact that the call rates on pre-paid are highest and there is no bad debt or accounts receivable problems. Sounds like a great business to be in.

It finally took a call to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman to get the issue to someone powerful enough in Optus to fix my problem. In the meanwhile I’d lost a client worth $12,000 p.a. as they had an urgent problem and couldn’t get through to me. Lesson: Always have two phone numbers a client can reach you on especially if your primary number is a mobile.

Optus’s TIO contact asked me to quantify the client loss and raise a claim. I was angry enough to do it at first. But after I’d calmed down I realised I’d contributed to the loss at least a bit. Better to spend my energy building my business than raising claims against well protected telco’s. Chalk it up to experience and move on.

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

As I prepare to set goals for 2012, I came across this brilliant post 30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself. It reminds me to clear the decks mentally, emotionally and spiritually before trying to drive through to new or old goals.

Effective planning or goal setting starts with an understanding of where we’re at now. I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to “apply myself more diligently” or “redouble my effort” without looking at what I needed to get rid of to reach my goals.

Every human being is doing the best they can right now. They may be happy or unhappy with their outcomes, but in order to have a different outcome, they must change something in their life. The important word is “change” as in transform, not add to. They may need to transform their knowledge or understanding before they change how or what they spend their time on.

I made a plan to review the list of 30 every day for 30 days. That is how habits are made. People have varying lengths of time for how long it takes to form or break a habit. Repetition of the idea is key.

How badly do you want success?

Sports are often a metaphor for success. Often it’s a stretch to make the connection, as sports aren’t about life and death and sports have highly artificial rules to increase the stakes.

That said, success in life isn’t always about life and death either. It’s about mediocrity and extraordinary. So often the metaphor is right.

This video is about the focus required to succeed. I agree with it.

Niche Retailer TrollAndToad.Com Makes Inc. 5000 Again

Clicks and mortar retailer TrollAndToad.com came in at #1063 in the Inc. 5000  fastest growing private companies in America for the second year with 285% revenue growth over the last three years. TrollAndToad.com is a the world’s largest retailer of collectible games. That is the very definition of niche.

So these guys are successful retailers. They are even more successful story tellers to attract customers, press buzz and decent management talent to the company.

Their website encourages sharing across the range of social media networks their customers may like. They have dedicated themselves to getting their story out.

I’m impressed because they get it. Sadly many companies do not. So the message is

  1. execute the business
  2. tell the world to attract customers, staff and media.

Successful businesses must do both, well.

TrollAndToad.Com’s also credit their growth and success to  acquiring the most talented people in the industry to oversee its growing divisions.  In an effort to rapidly expand its brick-and-mortar retail endeavors, the company has brought hobby retail store veteran Marcus King on board to chart and direct the course for this initiative.

King was a Board Member of the GAMA Retail Division (GRD) for many years. He also served as Vice President of the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) Board of Directors, helping to oversee all the activities of that body.  “I will be working with, and in, the newly opened Richmond, Kentucky store,” King explained, “and opening more Troll And Toad Retail and Tournament Centers — first in Kentucky, then across the nation.”

So they hired an expert. Some  companies try to do everything in-house especially when they are not good at it.

I knew a CEO who wanted to write every press release despite being a poor writer. I mean bad grammar, limited vocabulary and shocking spelling. He was smart, but had no talent with words. This industrial company boasted they put 20 press releases out in their best year. They needed to put 2000 releases out and engage with journalists in covering industries. Instead they worried about cost. What did it cost for the CEO to spend two hours on a press release? If he doesn’t add $400+ per hour in value, fire him.