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We truly live by our promise. As a result majority of our professional tax preparers have been with us for many years. And because the company is built on trust, those who are newly hired must pass our rigorous testing process and have multiple years experience in the preparation of tax returns. More »

 

Hass and Associates Accounting: Cyanogen Ready to take on Google’s Android

The mobile OS-maker Cyanogen has just raised USD 80 million in its Series C funding round with backing from Twitter, Rupert Murdoch and Qualcomm, making its goal of taking Android from Google all the more possible.

The people behind Cyanogen have consistently expressed their vision to make Android a more “open” ecosystem and OS. “We’re committed to creating an open computing platform that fundamentally empowers the entire mobile ecosystem from developers to hardware makers, and most importantly, consumers around the world. We’re excited to have the backing of an amazingly diverse group of strategic investors who are supporting us in building a truly open Android,” said Kirt McMaster, Cyanogen’s CEO.

Other notable investors in the most recent round include Telefonica, Access Industries, Smartfren Telecom, Vivi Nevo and Index Ventures. In Cyanogen’s previous funding rounds, they got USD 30 million from Tencent, Redpoint Ventures, Benchmark and Andreessen Horowitz. This particular round which left the startup with a total of USD 110 million was led by India’s Azim Premji PremjiInvest, as reported by Hass and Associates Accounting.

Horowitz’s partner, Peter Levine, who invested in the second round of funding said, “App and chip vendors are very worried about Google controlling the entire experience.” He also admitted that at first he did not think “a startup could come in and create a new OS”.

A number of other tech giants have already tried to crack a shot at the mobile OS market such as Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia, Blackberry, Intel, Palm and Mozilla. McMaster admitted he’s well aware of the big risk and that’s precisely why he thinks using Android is the only way to effectively take on Google. By making available to the public the code of Cyanogen, he’s expecting to gain support from app developers who wants to have another option aside from the limited ones currently provided by Google and Apple. For instance, a payment solutions provider could create a highly customized payment system that can work better than Apple Pay or Google Wallet.

Sandesh Patnam of Premji Invest said, “We invested in Cyanogen because we’re big proponents of what they’re doing in opening up Android and supporting global and local ecosystem players. Cyanogen is well-positioned to become the third leading mobile OS, and we’re excited to back them in growing their business on a global scale.”

Formed 6 years ago as CyanogenMod Project, it started with 40-year old programmer Steve Kondik tinkering with Android code to maximize its performance. Soon enough, online forums have started to pick up on his customizable version which led to other programmers joining him. Hass and Associates Accounting’s report says that as early as 2011, a million mobile phones have Cyanogen installed in it.

To date, around 50 million handsets are running Cyanogen, most of those underwent flashing and rebooting. Considering that one has to take time and effort in erasing the current OS of the phone before installing Cyanogen, it’s not a stretch to say that there is indeed a demand for a highly-customizable OS.

Credit Cards and Holiday Shopping

If you’re a hacker planning to launch a campaign against unsuspecting internet users, when would be the best time for you to get the maximum results? That’s right, the holiday season.

Just by reading the tech news every day, it is enough to scare any sensible person from using the internet in conducting business. In fact, most people seem to be too accustomed already to such security threats that it almost sounds like they’re resigned to the fact that becoming a victim is unavoidable.

So before you continue your ‘convenient’ online shopping this holiday season, read on for reasons why you should use your credit card instead of your debit cards from Hass and Associates Accounting.

Credit card is obviously the better choice when it comes to cashless shopping. Aside from having better security on your data, it is also relatively easier to dispute charges made on a it compared to debit card. On the surface, both can protect you from bogus charges, however, the critical difference is this: charges to a debit card readily removes money from your bank account while those made on a credit card can still be disputed before any fund gets removed.

Moreover, according to the Fair Credit Billing Act in the US, credit-card users should be protected against failure to deliver services or products agreed upon. This means that if an online seller failed to deliver, the buyer can still ask for a refund or a chargeback from the card company. On the other hand, using a debit card is not covered by this federal law as it effectively means that you have authorized your bank to release money even though the goods did not reach you.

As reported by Hass and Associates Accounting, many credit card companies are now providing purchase-protection policies, albeit limited ones, in order to cover damage or theft. For instance, you may avail of a policy that covers loss or damage 100 days after your purchase but only insured up to USD 500.

Hass Associates Accounting Financial fraud in 25 years: A virtual Madoff at lightning speed

From the very moment that people started using money, perhaps, some have uncovered ways of stealing it. And so, as sure as there will still be money after 25 years — or in some other form — corporate fraudsters will still be plying their trade. But innovative technologies could produce an environment where, as one retired law-enforcement official warns, “There will be no boundaries in relation to what fraud can be perpetrated.”

Crime investigators state that the crimes per se do not completely change. From our common frauds and Ponzi schemes to intricate security breaches, tax avoidance and money laundering, there are still various ways a criminal can make a dirty buck. When CNBC began in 1989, junk bond king Michael Milken was being accused of securities fraud charges in a sensational investigation. After 25 years, a new Wall Street insider-trading investigation — this time centering on hedge funds — has victimized 79 people, perhaps, more.

Imagine a world where an inside-trader can obtain his information not from an insider who works in a firm but from a hacker working outside and stealing data from the organization’s data systems in the cloud. He shares the data to others through a bunch of intricately encrypted, untraceable instant messages. The unlawful act is done in nanoseconds. The money is disbursed through virtual currency. And the criminals thrive happily plying their trade and stealing from other victims any new day.

And imagine a Ponzi schemer — a future-generation Bernie Madoff – except that he is not human at all but a poser for a rogue nation with the ability to rob you, spend your money and stash it away in a split second.

Enter the world of white-collar crime, 2039.

“Simply use your imagination as to the form of fraud you wish to perpetrate,” said Thomas G.A. Brown, who assisted in launching cyber investigations in the U.S. Attorney’s Complex Frauds Unit in Manhattan.

Brown, presently a senior managing director at FTI Consulting, said the future white-collar criminal will be quicker and more highly invisible than before — allowing the possibility for “nearly the perfect crime.”

In truth, cybercriminals can already perform some of those heists today.

“Crime in cyberspace is not merely the coming trend of the future; it is here with us now,” said E. Danya Perry, also a former senior deputy in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, now practicing privately. “I believe we will be seeing more of how this chameleon will evolve into a raging dragon.”

Cyberspace crimes already cost the U.S. economy about $120 billion yearly and the entire globe about $1 trillion, as revealed by a study published in 2013 by McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And all that in a crime onslaught that is comparatively only new.

Prosecutors obtained a view of what the future will look like from last year’s taking down of Silk Road — a clandestine website which officials authorities claimed was “the most advanced and widespread illegal marketplace online.”

Although Silk Road specialized on the lucrative prohibited drug trafficking, Brown of FTI Consulting reported that agents uncovered methods that could “skyrocket financial crime’s spread.”

Virtual stash

The primary technique among several promising tools is the new virtual currency called bitcoin, which is already changing the face of the global payment structure.

“Bitcoin is so hard to manage,” Brown said.

In the Silk Road case, which Brown built with others, the federal government has captured an amount of over $33 million bitcoin money from the computers of the site’s accused founder, Ross William Ulbricht. However, that amount is a small part the $1.2 billion in sales the system allegedly generated within less than three years of operation. And detecting where the rest of the money is located is almost impossible.

“Imagine every bitcoin as being a gold bar,” Brown said. No one knows where that gold bar originated, and anyone can readily sell it for cash. “Anyone can steal it and run away with it.”

Even if agents can locate bitcoin in a certain account, that clue will not mean the owner can be traced. “No one is required to register a bitcoin account in a genuine name,” Brown said.

There exist other virtual currencies aside from Bitcoin. Back in 2013 as well, a federal grand jury in New York charged Liberty Reserve for trafficking in the currency referred to as LR. Officials captured five Internet domains and charged 35 currency-trading websites in what was billed by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as one of the biggest global money-laundering cases in legal history.

The implications of the virtual money revolution on white-collar crime are vast. At the bottom, Brown said, the virtual cash could make tax avoidance become easier than before.

“I can enter into any kind of deal I want to derive income without paying taxes since no one is aware of what I’m doing,” Brown said.

“The financial rewards are going to be very compelling for any person to want to trespass the law ,” Perry said.

Exactly how regulators and law enforcers will clamp down on those tempting baits — and what government agencies will head the move — remains unresolved.

In March, the Internal Revenue Service released its first advisory on virtual currencies such as LR and bitcoin.

“Virtual money is considered as property for U.S. federal tax purposes,” the IRS stated in a March 25 announcement. “A disbursement with virtual cash is covered by information reporting within the same limitations imposed upon any other disbursement made in property,” the announcement stated.

Yet, in our world where financial crimes are perpetrated by faceless people, where do we point an accusing finger?

Fraudsters anonymous

“Locating people in an environment of uncertain identities is a difficult task,” said Perry. “When you have a place where you can make deals incognito, this sort of problem will keep going.”

In the Silk Road investigation, officials say numerous drug dealers and over 100,000 of their customers covered their identities by utilizing what are called tumblers, which jumbled their personal identity information to produce anonymous transactions.

Cybercriminals now also often use a technology called Tor — formerly the acronym for The Onion Router, for its multi-layered complexity — to hide their online tracks.

Tor software, which is free online, lets the user to hide his PC’s IP address — its virtual fingerprint — as well as every server’s IP address to which the PC connects.

“Imagine a gigantic pinball machine,” Brown said, where your PC is the silver ball bouncing around. Each time the ball touches a bumper, its identity — or IP address — changes and so with the bumper, making it “functionally impossible” to trace the traffic.

Aside from making illegal deals and underground websites invisible, Tor provides criminals —whether the financial kind or otherwise — a means to interact and pass on data more easily than before.

“Traditionally, you have to identify ‘Harry from Bensonhurst’ or ‘Johnny from the block’ to round up a robbery group,” Brown said.

Today, with their virtual masks covering their faces using all the new technology, white-collar criminals, hackers and identity robbers can assemble and exchange information without fear in so-called carding venues. For such bandits, chat rooms are not merely for socializing. They are sources of stolen identities, software code and even cash beyond the scope of authorities.

“A savvy crook utilizing effective functional security is almost impossible to locate,” said Brown.

Falling prey to the schemes of tomorrow’s crook, he said, are firms that are already forced to share more and more of their valuable information in the web and in the cloud so their workers and clients can readily get that information — a signal for hackers to prowl for victims.

“Many firms concentrate on merely the collecting and using of the information instead of securing that information,” Brown clarified.

Fighting back

The future white-collar cybercriminal may not be a single person. It could actually be a whole country. Brown is apprehensive of the coming “nation-state” in financial crime. “Much of this is not talked about extensively, if at all, due to its confidential nature,” he said.

 

The Wall Street Journal Pines for the Return of Liar’s Loans

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff (WSJ) disparages the Dodd-Frank Act and the leaders of the financial regulatory bureaus. I agree with many of those criticisms; but I distance myself from them on their horrified stance against the Act, saying that: “The regulation micromanages bank decisions down to the type and nature of loan.” The Dodd-Frank Act prohibits a “type” of loan according to the innately deceptive “nature of [the] loan.” The Act disallows liar’s loans. The WSJ believes this ban so atrocious, so evidently an infringement of the divine right of banks, that it calls it “micromanage[ment]” and presumes that the word establishes the irrationality of prohibiting liar’s loans.

As I have been discussing for more than twenty years, no truthful lender would make liar’s loans. Here is George Akerlof and Paul Romer’s clarification of the analytics in their well-known 1993 article in which they specifically alluded to my explanation. Notice the creepy manner in which they explain the explicit underwriting failures that characterized liar’s loans ten years later.

“[An officer] who is betting that his frugality might in reality create a profit would never operate the way many thrifts did, with total disregard for even the most essential tenets of lending: keeping sensible records about loans, safeguarding against external fraud and abuse, counter-checking data on loan documentations, even striving to have applicants fill out loan forms for applications. 5

5. Black (1993b) vigorously makes this point” (1993: 4 & n. 5).
When a lender fails to observe “even the most elementary guidelines of lending” it will incur grave losses. The controlling officers, however, will be made rich by making sloppy loans. Indeed, Akerlof and Romer emphasized that accounting control fraud is a “sure thing” (1993: 5).

Here are the five most notable warnings of the mortgage industry’s anti-scam unit (MARI) that the Mortgage Bankers Association sent to practically all significant mortgage lenders as early as the start of 2006:

  • Stated income loans “are open invitations to con artists”
  • Study: fraud occurrence is “90 percent”
  • “[T]he stated income loan deserves the label utilized by many people in the industry, the ‘liar’s loan.’”
  • “Apparently, many people in the industry have little … understanding of the mess produced by low-doc/no-doc products that were in fashion in the early 1990s. Those loans created hundreds of millions of dollars in losses….”
  • “Federal regulators of insured financial agencies have voiced out concerns about safety and soundness regarding these loans….”

    Even Ben Bernanke, the Nation’s chief anti-regulator, used the Fed’s distinctive statutory power under the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) of 1994 to proscribe liar’s loans in mid-2008. Bernanke deferred the effective date of the rule by 15 months because one would not want to give a deceitful lender a hard time.

    Alan Greenspan disregarded Fed Member Gramlich’s popular warnings about non-prime loans and also rejected his plea that Greenspan send the Fed’s analysts into the bank holding company affiliates to uncover the real story. The Fed’s supervisors were subjugated to the menial role of asking the systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) what kind of loans they were making (a procedure that would definitely lead to significant understatement by the SDIs).

    “Sabeth Siddique, [queried] large banks in 2005 …how many of which types of loans they were originating. Siddique discovered the data he obtained “very alarming,” [N]ontraditional loans comprised 59 percent of originations at Countrywide, 58 percent at Wells Fargo, 51 at National City, 31% at Washington Mutual, 28.3% at Bank of America, and 26.5% at CitiFinancial.

  • Find an Apartment with Bad Credits

    There is one more painful than the ability to get a loan it is having bad credits. As a consequence the ability to get a good job and ultimately, the ability to rent a decent apartment is affected.

    Here are ways how, so don’t give up just yet.

    Month to Month- this style permits the landlord and the tenant much more leniency, which is why many apartment owners have gone to this month to month style. As compared to those who signed for a year lease month to month as landlords are not so concerned with poor credits. And to tenants with bad credit, they find apartments to rent with month to month leases great.

    Clear Debts- Pay off debts that might be a hindrance, work on clearing your debts before apartment hunting. Even up to seven years some things stay on a credit report. But even so it is always better and looks better to have a past due debt that has been paid than to have a bad debt that is not paid or there has been no effort to pay it. Most landlords will look at paid off late debts as an attempt to be responsible. And may be you key to get your new apartment.

    References- References are very significant and can be sufficient to convince a landlord to make you rent his apartment even with bad credit that is why landlords always ask for them. The landlord might be willing to move forward with a lease if someone with a good reputation is willing to give a good reference to the landlord.

    Avoid Real Estate Agents- it may be hard for a landlord to let a person with bad credits rent the apartment but there is a good chance that he still will but a real estate agent rarely will though. Shun eyeing at apartments a real estate agent is managing. Real estate agents strictly verify backgrounds and credit reports. There is slim hope of finding a good apartment through a real estate agent if you have bad credits.

    Bad credit does not prevent people from renting an apartment and if you want, the greatest chance of a decent apartment on bad credit is a month to month lease. This makes both the landlord and tenant feel more comfortable in the situation plus it is an easier payment terms.