Category Archives: Psychology of the Deal

Investment psychology

FTOCapital.com Scam

I received a call today from 03 9077 1873 claiming to be from  Financials Trading Online with a pitch exactly the same as HQ Brokers.  I’m not sure if H Q Brokers have pivoted to a new name or a different scammer driving this call.

It was obviously a Filipino boiler shop, but they claimed to be located in London. The caller stuck to the script like glue. I could trade “forex, commodities, stocks like Apple and Coke and even bitcoin.” Every interruption saw him back up to the top of the paragraph and continue reading like nothing happened.

I asked how they got my details and he said:

Surfing the internet you get popups for bitcoin or forex. You’ve seen them right? Well you accidentally click on them and we have your name, email and phone number.

Now I don’t accidentally click on popups or POP-unders because my browser is locked up so tight that I never see that stuff anymore. So that’s a lie but I don’t doubt they actively remarket and retarget anyone with investing interests (hello Facebook and Google). I also think they’ve got the BitCoinTalk forum user database and other hacked forums’ user-lists and cross-referenced emails to phone numbers. Plus a bot could do Facebook phone number lookups until two weeks ago to match numbers to names.

FTO Capital’s script really focuses on confirming past trading experience which I do. I think this is supposed to get me nodding in agreement with what they are saying as well as reinforce their expertise (?) as a trading platform. I could open an account with a deposit of $200USD. Aha! Now I see the reward the boiler-room is working for.

Their website is at FTOCapital[dot]com and they try to get you to create an account and make an opening deposit straight away.

Asking about regulatory compliance and licensing, I was quickly escalated to the Senior Account Manager Dale Davis. Dale promised me that my very own Senior Account Manager would teach me how to trade using their MetaTrader 4 platform to trade forex, commodities, stocks and even bitcoin.

But Dale is a Senior Account Manager right, why do I need another? It turns out Dale is only for onboarding new accounts. What sort of things will I learn at FTO Capital from my personal Senior Account Manager? I’d learn “How to read price and signals”.  Really?!?!

By now I was bored, but I persevered for you, dear reader.

I asked Dale, If I have a trading account why would I change to FTOCapital? He says I “May want to give it a shot”, which is the most low-pressure answer I’ve ever heard in a high-pressure sales call.

Back to basics. Are they regulated, and in what jurisdictions?  Dale says FTO Capital are physically located in London, operating in Australia & New Zealand for two years, South Africa longer, some Asian and some European countries too.

That didn’t answer my regulation question. Dale said Financials Trading Online are regulated in Canada, USA, France and Cyprus. And despite being located in London, FTO Capital is not regulated in the UK. In what jurisdictions is FTOCapital actually licensed? Dale said he’ll send all that info to my email address right now, put me on hold and 60 seconds later the call dropped out.

I didn’t believe any of that for a second but I wasn’t challenging anything FTO claimed on this call. Normally if I have the time to string these guys along I play hardball. Today I played coy for 19 minutes so they weren’t trying to scam someone else.

FTO Capital are listed on ASIC’s MoneySmart website. ASIC advises this company could be involved in a scam. Do not deal with this business as it is unlicensed in Australia.

The FTOCapital website mentions other company and brand names

  • Nona Marketing Ltd,
  • Financials Trading Online, and
  • Albius Ltd.

Red Flags from the website:

  • All references to companies and brands are pictures of text facilitating the easy swapping out of corporate entities and making it hard for search engines to link the context of the text.
  • The privacy policy does not name the company it applies to merely (“The Company”) hereafter the “Company”,
  • Terms & Conditions does not name the company or incorporation jurisdiction. It  merely states The Company is a brand owned and operated by(“The Company”) incorporated in the; and it peters out there.
  • Anti Money Laundering (AML) policy of for Nona Marketing Ltd with no reference to brands, subsidiaries or related entities. It is also a generic cut and paste AML that offers broad responsibilities of “the board” and “senior staff”

Addresses for this group are

  • Nona Marketing Ltd Ajeltake Road, Ajeltake Island, Majuro, Republic of  Marshall Islands
  • Albius Ltd, 53-55 Totlben Blvd. Sophia, Bulgaria
  • 4th Floor, Holden House, 57 Rathbone Place, WIT IJU, London UK
  • Lincoln House 296-302 High Holborn WC1V 7JH, UK

Phone numbers

+44 208 068 2565

Share your experiences in the comments below.

Fired on Your Birthday

My daughter heard that a coworker was let go on her 18th birthday.  Her message to me was in ALL CAPS and full of umbrage. The worst was the boss knew it was the kid’s birthday and FIRED HER ANYWAY!!!

That reaction was natural and wonderful. I am so proud of her empathy and humility.

Now, let’s look at the situation. They are all young, casual, employees in retail, customer-service roles. A manager decided a specific employee must be fired and not for theft, fraud or illegal behaviour.

Would it have been better to wait and make the worker come in on another day just to terminate them? Should the manager have made a phone call tomorrow and fire over the phone? What about firing by email or SMS?

Another way I’ve seen this done is merely not roster them for the next few weeks, with a gutless understanding that “they’ll get the message”.

No, there is nothing to be gained from avoiding doing it, in person, as soon as the decision is made. All other options extend the pain and drag the ugly feelings on.

It’s harsh but fairest to get it over with.

I’m sure the Manager took no pleasure in the firing. Managers who don’t feel bad letting someone go need to be fired themselves by their bosses. Managers who cannot feel empathy destroy a business.

And for the record, the Manager did not know it was the former employee’s birthday, but was saddened by the timing and shocked that the rumour-mill works so fast.

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
+85 20 0064 3148‭

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

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. 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 take time to confirm identity of 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.

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.

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.