"Facing slumping donations, United Way offers ‘poverty simulations’ to show its relevance" by Sacha Pfeiffer Globe Staff December 22, 2016
In real life, they are Bank of America employees with comfortable white-collar careers — a private client adviser, an estate settlement assistant, and a self-described data geek.
But they recently got a taste of an uncomfortable alternative reality.
Dale Edmunds of Wellesley pretended to be unemployed, evicted, and living in a motel with his family after being laid off from his $50,000-a-year manufacturing job.
He's lucky he found a room.
Kristine Millet of Concord, his fake stay-at-home wife, struggled to find work to replace Edmunds’ lost income and pay cellphone bills, car insurance, and overdue credit card debt.
Gene Poillucci of Boston played the part of their teenage son, upset that his parents may not be able to afford a restaurant meal for his birthday.
Together, this make-believe family navigated the world of food stamps, pawn shops, charities, and check-cashing agencies. At the end of the lunchtime skit, held in a conference room in a downtown Boston high-rise, they returned to their normal lives, but the experience had an emotional impact.
“I felt very stressed,” said Millet, a senior information officer. “I thought, wow, this has got to be so stressful for folks trying to stay on top of bills rolling in when you barely have enough to cover them.”
This so-called poverty simulation is one of several educational programs offered by the United Way as the nearly 130-year-old organization — long the dominant player in workplace charitable giving through automatic payroll deduction, but facing declining donations — strives to remain relevant in a changing philanthropic landscape.
This in a state with an allegedly great economy and with massive wealth inequality (of course, you do better here despite the high cost of living)!
For the hour or so they spent in this “Walk a Mile Experience,” Edmunds, Millet, and Poillucci got a glimpse of the everyday challenges faced by the working poor. Developed by the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, it’s a fast-moving, intentionally frenzied activity designed to convey the sense of chaos, confusion, and helplessness often endured by people living at or near the poverty line.
Not the same knowing you can go back to your "real" life.
“I was hoping it would give me a better appreciation for the daily struggles of those living in poverty, and I think it did,” added Edmunds, a managing director in the bank’s private wealth management division. “I feel like we live in a bubble, and I want to be a little more sensitive to these issues.”
Honestly, I'm sick of the banker's paper telling us how great they all are.
Bank of America 1st quarter profits up 40%
Bank of America boosts CEO Moynihan’s pay 25 percent, to $20 million
Happy New Year!
"Cybercrime ensnares Berkshire Bank, lawsuit claims" by Deirdre Fernandes Globe Staff December 22, 2016
Berkshire Bank was the alleged target of an increasingly common type of cyberheist this fall that bilked a longtime customer out of more than $1 million, according to a lawsuit filed this week.
Jim Jacobs, a Florida-based modern art dealer, filed suit in US District Court in Springfield alleging that the bank’s inadequate fraud detection systems allowed criminals to steal $1.4 million from his account and move the money to Hong Kong through two wire transfers in October.
Jacobs, who has ties to the Western Massachusetts art community, opened his personal account with Great Barrington Savings Bank in 1980, before it merged with what eventually became Berkshire Bank, now an $8 billion institution.
According to the lawsuit, over the years Jacobs’s account grew significantly, and he was assigned a personal banker at Berkshire Bank who handled his transactions — a common practice among financial institutions looking to cater to high-net-worth clients.
Over the course of a week in October, the personal banker fell for three fake, or spoofed, e-mails from somebody pretending to be Jacobs. The imposter directed the banker to transfer $580,000 and $826,000 into two separate banks in Hong Kong, suggesting the payments were related to the work of abstract painter Agnes Martin, according to the lawsuit.
I never even look at e-mail anymore, other than to check the delete all button.
Berkshire Bank failed to verify that Jacobs was actually making the requests, according to the lawsuit. The transactions should have raised red flags at Berkshire Bank because Jacobs had never done business with the companies receiving the money, nor their Hong Kong banks, in the past, according to the lawsuit.
Scams that use fake e-mail to target businesses are on the rise nationally, according to cybersecurity experts and law enforcement officials. In most cases, cybercriminals were able to glean enough information about employees in a company to create a fake e-mail from an executive that’s sent to accountants or financial officers instructing them to make wire transfers into accounts held by the thieves. These schemes have hit technology companies, small businesses, and real estate firms, said Michael Kelly, a supervisory special agent for the economic crime squad in the Boston FBI office.
Are you sure it wasn't an inside job?
And where the hell are the telecoms and NSA data collectors?
“If you make wire transfers on a regular basis, you’re going to be targeted,” Kelly said. “We are in a fast-paced business environment. We’re not used to doing things face-to-face anymore and this scheme takes advantage of it.”
Banks, which were targeted in the first wave of these scams, have deployed increasingly sophisticated algorithms to weed out potentially fraudulent wire transfer requests from their customers, Kelly said.
Jacobs learned of the unauthorized transfers when he returned from a European vacation in late October and spoke with the personal banker, who mentioned the transactions.
“Berkshire Bank, by failing to exercise the care of a reasonably prudent person in connection with sending and resending of wires to Hong Kong without authenticating the transfer orders, breached its fiduciary duty,” the lawsuit states.
Jacobs was not available for comment. His attorney, Lucy Prashker, declined to comment on the details of the case. However, she said the FBI is aware of the case.
The FBI declined to say whether it is investigating.
Berkshire Bank officials declined to comment on pending litigation. However, according to the lawsuit, the bank has argued that the banker was acting as Jacobs’s agent at the time and not as a Berkshire Bank employee.
Most banks have technology in place that flags unusual wire transfers, especially if they are for significant amounts or are being sent to bank accounts that a customer has never done business with before, said Seth Ruden, a senior fraud consultant with ACI Worldwide, a Florida-based payment systems company.
Some institutions can even detect whether customers are using their usual computer to send requests and whether it can be trusted, Ruden said.
“Banks do and should have anomaly [detecting] systems in place,” Ruden said. “If they don’t, they’re missing a key component.”
It’s unclear what procedures Berkshire Bank had in place for customers such as Jacobs.
According to the lawsuit, Berkshire Bank never provided Jacobs with security measures to protect his account from fraudulent wire transfers.
After the theft, recovering the money can be a challenge, officials said....
I know the first place I would look.
Also see: Barclays to face off against US over crisis-era loans
Related: Blowing the Whistle on Barclays