How can we protect ourselves in the age of Pegasus

James Sène, chairman of fintech 11Onze, shares his experience and insight on how we can address the challenges of cybersecurity in the age of Pegasus.

 

Tap and go, has become our latest mantra. Be it at a till in a shop, in a cafe or in a taxi, all we do these days is tap and go. What we do not think about is how this little tap could lead to paying for something we didn’t buy, losing all our savings to cyber criminals or worse, becoming a victim of identity theft. So far, the abuse of technology was limited to mainly monetary gains.

From national security to individual freedom, technology in the wrong hands is causing untold damage to our society. It is already robbing many of their savings and now threatening to steal our freedom.

The amount of money stolen by cyber criminals is staggering. To date, Americans have reported losing more than $469 million to pandemic-related fraud. In the U.K, businesses have lost over £6.2 million to cyber scams over the past year with a 31% increase in cases during the height of the pandemic.

In some European countries, cybercrime accounts for almost half of all crimes committed! Covid-19 has fanned the fire of cybercrimes by putting banks, fintechs and businesses across the globe on a backfoot. Infact, 2020 set the all-time-high record for cybercrime, fraud, and ID theft in the US and in Europe. No wonder 76 % of Europeans are increasingly worried about cybercrime!

Businesses big and small, and ordinary citizens young and old, have become victims of cybercrime. In the US, Colonial pipeline hit the headlines when it had shut down the entirety of its gasoline pipeline system in its 57-year history. Meanwhile, in Europe, some 800 Coop supermarket stores in Sweden were forced to close after point-of-sale tills and self-service checkouts stopped working. It was due to an ongoing cyber-attack affecting organisations around the world. The list goes on…

Cybercrime takes various forms. Hackers can steal your data, your identity to commit online fraud. You might end up paying a bill for something you never ordered. Everyday, thousands are bombarded by fake texts about online parcel deliveries “phishing” for bank details. Many lost their life savings to these criminal operations. Fake emails demanding bank details for tax refunds have become de rigueur. Even Covid-19 jabs related messaging is being used for cleaning out victims’ savings. “Authorised” fraud, where consumers are duped into transferring money to criminals, hit record levels in 2020, with £479m lost by nearly 150,000 victims.

Cybersecurity has become a national priority today. For banks and fintechs – who rely on offering a safe haven for financial security to their customers – it is imperative that they offer cyber security.

First and foremost, people have to be educated about cyber crimes and its various forms. Governments must take the lead here – like campaigns to cut obesity, they must run campaigns to educate people about cybercrime.

The European Union has developed a comprehensive cybersecurity policy which includes a cybersecurity law designed to enhance Europe’s cyber-resilience and a permanent EU Agency for cybersecurity.

Online fraud is a new event for most of us and they are much more difficult to avoid, especially for those who are not yet fully accustomed to the digital realm. How can we protect ourselves?

A few steps that we can take to avoid being victims of cybercrimes include keeping personal and private information secure on social media. Cybercriminals often get our personal information from a few data points, so the less information we share publicly, the better it is for us. It is best not to share information such as the name of our first school, pet or mother’s maiden name. Changing privacy settings on our social networks, for example, by setting the profile as private, or restricting the information that people that you have not added as contacts can see, helps.

Personal information theft can also occur when someone obtains your personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, again, typically for economic gain. You might be tricked into giving personal information over the internet, or a cybercriminal might steal your post to access account information mailed to you. That’s why it’s important to guard your personal data. A VPN can also help to protect the data you send and receive online, especially when accessing the internet on public Wi-Fi.

New technologies are always vulnerable. Biometric data stored by a service provider could be hacked. It is just as valuable a target for cybercriminals as a database containing usernames and passwords. A password you can change but a fingerprint is yours for life. Any security breach resulting in leakage of this information is likely to have much more serious consequences than the theft of a password.

Therefore, it’s important that people are informed about the way biometric data is used and held, and under what circumstances it might be passed on to other agencies. Also, this technology should be used as a secondary protection method that complements other security measures rather than replaces them completely, for obvious reasons.

I understand that fighting cybercrime is everyone’s business. For most people, that means following a few simple, common-sense steps to help keep yourself and your family safer.

But that doesn’t mean that banks and governments should not be held accountable for either misuse of power or a lack of investment in a robust security system. In the UK, a majority of banks have adopted a voluntary code to refund “no fault” victims of such crimes, but the number of victims who managed to get any money back can be as low as 30 percent in some banks! As technology moves and shifts, we too need to understand, adapt and ensure our safety.

It is inevitable that we will see more of Pegasus’ eroding our trust in technology but I believe we will also find our Bellerophons to combat the cyber criminals.

 

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At 11Onze we are not just creating a fintech. We are forging a community that will be key to achieving financial sovereignty, individually and collectively. “If we come together, we will be stronger,” says 11Onze CEO James Sène. We review with him what we mean by fincom and how it is key to empower ourselves.

 

We have invented a new term because we are doing something new, which did not exist until now: a financial community. “The word fincom comes from the contraction of fintech and community. We are starting a new model, but we are not doing it alone,” Sène begins. The idea, he goes on to explain, is inspired by a type of bank that is born around a community, especially in the United States, where they are known to bring together certain communities, such as African-Americans.

Inspired by these financial initiatives, however, the 11Onze community has gone further. The difference, Sène explains, lies in the ownership of the financial institution. “None of these community projects are driven by the community itself. In contrast, at 11Onze we expand the ownership of the institution as much as possible. We have more than 150 investors, and we are striving to reach as many people as possible. All of them will be the owners of 11Onze. And this is very important. In Catalonia we share a language, a lifetime, a culture, and now we want to help this community build its financial sovereignty,” he sums up.

A community that learns how to learn

The model is pioneering and necessary. In a globalised world, which is undergoing changes that will alter the world’s poles of influence in the coming years, citizens have to learn to build a strong social and cultural fabric, as well as an economic one. “Until now, there has been a very clear leadership of the United States, but all this is beginning to falter with competition from China and Asian countries. Europe is falling in the middle. There are no countries independent of each other. We need each other in order to protect our communities. That’s why the big question we ask ourselves in 11Onze: on whom do we want to depend, and how do we want to depend on them?

If Catalonia wants to answer this question, says Sène, it first needs to exercise the freedom, the right to choose “what we want to be and how we want to be it”. And this, consequently, has to do with how we manage our money, with how we achieve our financial sovereignty. Therefore, if 11Onze wants to be a useful tool, it has to build a community that is encouraged to learn how the market works and how to navigate, financially speaking. It is in this sense that we have created La Plaça, where there is a team of 11Onze agents who will attend to users 24 hours a day, and why we have created the El Canut application. Everything serves the same objective.

Sène sums it up bluntly: “We have a plan at the service of a vision that has to serve the needs of today, but also respond to what we expect to happen in the world in five years’ time. That is why we are thinking about the community, the financial application, and a marketplace, a place where people can not only exchange ideas, but also, in the end, exchange products. Ultimately, says Sène, “if we have a financial nexus, this will make us more competitive, individually and collectively”.

 

Revolutionising banking from the bottom up

Thus, says the president of 11Onze, “when we make a profit, part of this profit will go back to the community and the other part will go to the investors or members of this community”. To make this possible, it is essential, says Sène, “to have absolute control of our finances, that is to say, of money, but also of assets, shares, precious metals or cryptocurrencies”. That is why El Canut is a new technology created to revolutionise traditional banking. “Now, everyone has all these assets spread across different accounts. And we have created a wallet of wallets that will empower you to manage all your finances in a single place. You have to be able to manage them quickly, easily, and securely,” says Sène.

In view of the expectation generated by El Canut, the president of 11Onze, however, appeals for calm. At 11Onze we are well aware that most of the community are not experts in banking and that we will have to learn, little by little and together, the best way to give a return on everyone’s money. For this reason, El Canut will slowly announce and expand its services. “It is not expected that on 1 October, when we open the first 5,000 accounts, everyone will be able to operate all at once in an unknown financial market. We have to be patient,” argues Sène.

“We are here to ensure the financial well-being of the Catalan Countries and to promote Catalan culture. We are here to give individual financial independence in order to achieve collective financial independence”, the president of 11Onze reaffirms. In short, the time has come for people to learn how to manage their assets in the best possible way. 11Onze is the tool to do so; it is one of the pillars for exercising all freedoms.

 

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Mike Tyson used to say that “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” The Fintech revolution, spurred on by the 2008 crisis and the global pandemic of Covid-19, is shaking the pillars of traditional banking and forcing a paradigm shift in the world of finance. We analyse the entry of these new players into a sector of the economy that until recently seemed immutable.

 

The birth and popularity of e-commerce were followed by the development of payment technologies and platforms tailored to this new reality. Online payment processors, such as PayPal, global, secure, free, and offering multiple payment options, led a trend where new companies that combine technology and financial services generate an emerging economic sector and are gaining ground in an area dominated by traditional banking.

The figures speak for themselves, the global fintech market was valued at 5,504.13 million dollars in 2019 and is expected to grow by 23.58% in the coming years.

New technologies have entered the financial sector with force, and the so-called fintech, or financial technologies, are taking over a market that is especially young, ‘digital native’, hyper-connected, and that does not understand the complication, slowness, and exorbitant commissions we have come to expect from traditional banking.

What are the main differences?

  • Objectives: While traditional banks offer more products, and to a wider clientele, fintech specialise in products aimed at filling a gap in the market.
  • Customer experience: The central premise of a fintech is a good customer experience based on agility and virtual accessibility to its services, without the need for a physical presence, and the lengthy paperwork often associated with more process-oriented banks.
  • Technology: This is one of the main defining characteristics of fintech, extensive use of AI, machine learning, and automation to accelerate the introduction to the market of new products or processes that improve efficiency, free from a legacy infrastructure that limits interaction between multiple platforms and slows the launch of new products or services by traditional banks.

Renew or die

To meet the challenge presented by these new players, banks have also embraced new technologies, streamlining their procedures, or even creating their own fintech subsidiaries. But without forgetting their strengths, such as being subject to stricter regulation associated with lower financial risk, which still makes it possible to offer a wider range of services linked to this regulation.

These measures, together with the closure of physical branches and the reduction of staff levels to get closer to the most efficient customer-employee ratios, typical of fintech, are just some of the resources that traditional banks are using to win this second “round”. A fight that will go on for a while, but which already has a winner, the consumer, who has seen an increase in the range of more competitive financial services on offer, giving him or her more decision-making power in their personal finances.

 

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Homeowners, when they reach retirement age, can consider several options to keep their income level stable. We’ll explain the reverse mortgage option.

 

The reverse mortgage is, in short, a loan granted by a financial institution, which is guaranteed by a mortgage that normally falls on the client’s usual home. In an ordinary mortgage, the money is requested to acquire the house, and the debtor must return it periodically. However, in the reverse mortgage, the property is offered in exchange for receiving the loan also periodically, or in the agreed amount at once.

This product is intended for people over the age of sixty-five, those with a degree of disability equal to or greater than 33%, or who are severely dependent. The reverse mortgage on the home they own will provide them with an additional income, while the repayment of this loan will not be due to them until the time of their death.

We must consider that, unlike in a normal mortgage, the debt is not paid and decreases over time. On the contrary, it increases as benefits are received and until the holder dies, or until the maximum percentage is reached according to the appraised value agreed when the mortgage is signed. In this case, the heirs could choose to take charge of the return until the debt is extinguished, if they want to keep the property.

The benefits of a reverse mortgage

This product was born in the sixties in the United States and the United Kingdom, where it expanded under the idea of using a property to obtain financing. In Spain, it was adapted and is regulated by the Law 41/2007, in its first additional provision (1st DA). Later it was modified in article 5 of Law 1/2013, which strengthened the protection of debtors, among other details.

At the age of well-deserved retirement, it may be interesting for many people to take the alternative of the reverse mortgage, so as not to see their standard of living reduced when they stop working. In Catalonia there are factors such as a very high rate of homeowners, increased longevity, and not-so-good prospects for pensions or public benefits, which open the market for this product.

Another advantage is that ownership of the home is not transferred, but retained, so that the beneficiary receives the rent and can continue to live in their home, or even rent it out. However, it will be the heirs who, in order to maintain the property, when the death of the owner occurs, will have to decide whether to deal with the accumulated debt.

 

How income is calculated

The first thing to be established will be the amount of capital that will be offered as a loan on the mortgage. To do so, the entity will consider, first and foremost, the value of the property offered as collateral. Therefore, a correct assessment will be essential. The age of the owner, their life expectancy, or whether the home is their usual residence will also be taken into account.

The income received will be calculated based on the agreed capital of the loan and conditioned by how the holder decides to receive it. First, it can be done in a single full payment or on a regular basis (usually a monthly payment). Second, and if you opt for the periodic option, you can also choose it to be temporary or lifelong.

With the temporary option, payments will be received until the total agreed capital has been exhausted. The customer will no longer receive any income, but will also not have to deal with the debt until their death. Debt, of course, will continue to generate interest. The lifetime option enlarges the capital over the life of the customer, and therefore the amounts received will be inferior.

Finally, it should be noted that the income from the reverse mortgage is not taxed as income in the personal income tax, and presents exemptions in the payments of notarial documents and legal acts required to formalize it.

 

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The draft bill for the reform of the Spanish national security law foresees that, in the event of a serious crisis, citizens of legal age may be obliged to provide “personal services” to the state, which may also intervene, or provisionally requisition goods and capital that it deems necessary.

 

This is what is established in the draft bill published by the newspaper El País, which modifies the Law 36/2015 on National Security. These measures were already, in part, contemplated by the Law 17/2015 on the National Civil Protection System for cases of emergency, but are now extended to the field of national security.

 

Seizing assets and capital

One of the most controversial points that has generated the most criticism from the opposition, consternation on social media, and debate among legal experts, is the possibility, in extreme conditions, of the state having the power to seize or requisition our assets and capital. Nonetheless, with the right to be compensated for economic damages in the business activity, but without compensation for any obligation to make a personal service.

It should be noted that this is a draft that has not yet been approved and has to go through the Cortes. However, the ambiguity and lack of specificity give rise to different legal interpretations that create mistrust.

As Arcadi Sala-Planell, head of the Legal Department at 11Onze, explains, the draft bill is not very precise. “It is designed in such a way that the government can act with total freedom and discretion, thanks to the imprecision of the articles, which allows for a legal interpretation that is too broad”.

Former Constitutional Court lawyer Joaquín Urías believes that “the law must include mechanisms to prevent anyone from using it in the future for disproportionate or illegitimate purposes” and insists that the reform “must be as detailed as possible” and should include “a list of catastrophes or emergencies for which it could be applied, which authorities are qualified to guarantee compliance and even the development of a system of sanctions”.

 

Securing critical resources

It is clear that lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent declaration of a state of alarm have influenced the wording of this draft bill. Speculation as a result of excess demand and shortages of certain medical supplies such as masks or PPE led to extravagant price rises and dramatic scenes of medical staff working without adequate protective equipment.

In a context of extreme crisis, governments want to ensure that they have sufficient legal tools to guarantee critical resources. A concept that is not new and for which other countries, such as the US, already have similar laws that they have used during the pandemic to urge companies to collaborate with state authorities in overcoming the crisis.

That said, we are talking about an ordinary law, but one which, as jurists have pointed out, may affect our fundamental rights, and which will possibly be processed as an organic law in order to avoid legal issues and have all the legal guarantees. This procedure will have to be accompanied by more precise and detailed articles to guarantee that there can be no abuse of authority by the representatives of the executive branch of the State.

 

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What are the steps to make an inheritance? What taxes do I have to pay and what reductions do I have? What happens if I inherit a property? We solve all doubts in this quick guide to the inheritance process.

 

The first thing to keep in mind is that each case may have specific features depending on the hereditary estate, the family situation, or the autonomous community in which it is located, so it is convenient to seek personalized advice. However, it is necessary to know the steps to process an inheritance and take into account the following information before starting the procedure.

 

What documentation do you need?

You will have three documents that will accompany you throughout the procedure:

  • Death certificate, which indicates the dates of death and registration and the data of the causer. You can obtain it from the Civil Registry, either in person, by mail, or telematically from the Ministry of Justice. 
  • Certificate of last wishes. It is the document indicating whether the causer had issued a will or not, and if so, to which notary, therefore it must match the real will. It can be obtained from the territorial managements of the Ministry of Justice, by post, or from the Ministry’s web.

Testament. In the event that it has been made, it will be the basic document from which the heirs, the parts that correspond to them, and the assets to be inherited will be named. If no will exists, the intestate document is created, in which the inheritance is awarded by blood rank, as dictated by law.

Inheritance tax: how to calculate it?

First, you need to calculate the taxable value, that is, the actual value of the inheritance, and if there is any real estate, it will be valued at the current market price. Life insurance will also be included. Deductible debts and charges must be subtracted from the taxable value. In the case of real estate in Catalonia, it can be reduced up to 95% if the requirements by the Tax Agency of Catalonia are met, up to a maximum of 500,000 euros.

The taxable basis less the appropriate reductions will give the amount of the payable base, that is, the final amount to be paid. In Catalonia, the inheritance and donation tax ranges between 7% and 32%, depending on the amount inherited, and must be paid in a maximum of six months from the date of death. 

 

Are debts inherited as well?

Yes, debts are inherited, and so are mortgages. In the event of inheriting a property with a mortgage, the municipal property taxes and the monthly instalments corresponding to the loan must be added to the payment of inheritance tax. The change of mortgage ownership is free. Today, however, most mortgages and personal loans have a life insurance linked and, therefore, in the event of the death of the holder, the same insurance will pay the outstanding amount. In the event that the inherited mortgage has abusive clauses, the new holder may claim them to be cancelled.

 

Who can claim the legitime?

Article 425-9 of the Civil Code of Catalonia recognizes the right to the legitime, in which the descendants can claim 25% of the inheritance, regardless of the last wishes of the causer. In case of not having children, it will be the ascendants: the father or the mother. Even if a universal heir has been specified, they will only have access to 75% of the inheritance, unless the legitimators relinquish the legitimacy. 

 

What if you give up inheritance?

In the event that you cannot assume it (with or without a loan), the people who inherit have the option to waive it. A pure waiver has no cost beyond the inheritance tax that will be borne by the new inheritor. Depending on the relationship with the deceased, this tax will be more or less high. If you renounce in favour of someone else, then you must pay the inheritance tax, as the inheritance must be accepted in order to be able to transfer it.

For more specific information on the inheritance process and related taxes, you can consult the guide of the Tax Agency of Catalonia.

 

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Right now, having money in your current account has become a problem: a problem for banks and a problem for bank users. The level of bank fees imposed on money kept in current accounts is disproportionate. They are charging us for having the money deposited and the only way to avoid paying this commission is to invest in one of their financial products: an investment fund, a retirement product… This is happening at most banks across Europe. Will we go back to hiding the money under a tile or the mattress?

 

Why do banks charge for deposits?

The answer is because negative interest rates are hurting the banks’ income statement. Therefore, having customers deposit their money in the bank generates a cost and no benefit. 

Suppose we deposit €10,000 into our current account at the bank. The bank has to keep this money and have it available for you at all times. If there are 100 people who all deposit €10,000, the bank will have €1,000,000 in its hands. With this amount of money, the bank can do two things: either lend it, or keep it in cash. Lending it carries a risk, and keeping it in cash entails a number of costs, either due to the need for high-security storage, or the option of making a deposit with the European Central Bank.

Why do ECB deposits have a cost?

The deposit at the European Central Bank has a cost of -0.50% for banks. This means that, in order to deposit the million euros of the example, the financial institution would have to pay approximately €5,000 in cost.

The aim of the European Central Bank for maintaining negative interest rates is to push financial institutions to increase lending to businesses and consumers, and thus reactivate the consumer economy. The European Central Bank has also chosen to penalise savings with the aim of moving, investing, and spending money. The idea is to boost the economy and alleviate the continent’s meagre macroeconomic outlook.

However, due to the incidence of COVID-19, household savings have increased and, therefore, there has been an increase in liquidity, and the value of deposits has been increasing. Thus, due to negative interest rates, banks have had to pay large sums of money to deposit all this liquidity in the European Central Bank. 

As banks get negative returns on liquidity, they no longer want to raise more money, and have stopped offering fixed-term deposits and remuneration in their accounts. Far from our reach is the financial memory of 2008, when the EURIBOR was above 5% and there were deposits that gave you 10% or 11% APR a month. Or others, which gave 7.5% APR in three months; or 5-6% deposits in the medium and long term. If one day we have such deposits again, it will be because the EURIBOR will have risen again.

Are the tile or the mattress back?

However, the solution is not to keep money inside the mattress or under the tile, as the loss of the value of money, due to inflation, also reduces our purchasing power. Right now, the solution to all this mess is a pretty complicated equation about what I want to do with the money saved, how long I want to keep it off, and so on. These and other questions can guide us on what we can do about it. But that’s a horse of a different colour.

 

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From 10 April 2021, grants from the MOVES III Plan (or Moves Plan 2021) are available, which will run until 2023. This plan to help purchase electrified vehicles has an initial budget of €400 million, expandable up to €800 million, if the demand justifies it.

 

The budget for grants will be divided by autonomous communities, depending on their population. With this in mind, Andalusia would be the most benefited with €71.35 million, followed by Catalonia, with €65.79 million, the Community of Madrid, with €57.15 million, and the Valencian Community, with €42.63 million. Of course; it is not possible to submit applications until the Autonomous Communities have activated their plans

There are two types of grants:

  • For the purchase of plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles.
  • For the installation and development of recharging points throughout the territory — depending on the population, up to 80% of the total cost of the installation can be obtained.

In addition to cars, support is also provided for the purchase of vans, motorcycles, and quadricycles. Unlike the previous plan, MOVES II, trucks, buses, gas cars, and electric bicycles are excluded from this current plan.

Grants for individuals

For cars, grants can reach up to €7,000, as long as a car older than seven years is delivered for scrapping in return.

The types of vehicles that can benefit from the Plan are: 

  • 100% electric cars (EV or BEV) with an electric autonomy greater than 90 kilometres. For these, the maximum amount can reach €7,000. The requirements are:
    • Delivering a car over seven years old to be scrapped. Otherwise, the amount is reduced to €4,500.
    • The amount (excluding VAT) of the purchase of the new electric car cannot exceed €45,000, or €53,000 if it has 8 or 9 seats.
    • These same conditions apply to plug-in hybrids (PHEV) with more than 90 kilometres of approved autonomy (very few achieve this).
  • Plug-in hybrid cars (PHEV) with an electric autonomy of between 30 and 90 kilometres.
  • Cars with fuel cell technology (FCV or FCHV). The requirements are:
    • The maximum subsidy is €5,000, in exchange for a car older than seven years to be scrapped. Otherwise, the subsidy will be half, €2,500.
    • The purchase price cannot exceed €45,000 (excluding VAT).

Synthesis of the Plan for individuals, self-employed workers, and public administrations

Cars and SUVs are in the M1 category. N1 includes goods vehicles weighing less than 3.5 tons. L6e and L7e include quadricycles, and L3e, L4e, and L5e are motorcycles and tricycles.

Synthesis of the Plan for SMEs

Synthesis of the Plan for large companies

In order to prevent cities from concentrating most grants, the Spanish government is offering greater subsidies to municipalities with less than 5,000 inhabitants and their citizens. In these cases, it is 10% more of what is indicated in the tables above. However, the registration in this same municipality must be maintained for some years.

An increase of 10% is also granted to VTC services, taxis, and owners with disabilities.

The Spanish government expects that, with these grants, by 2023 there will be at least 250,000 electric vehicles in circulation. Also, a minimum of 100,000 recharging points (both public and private).

In the economic section, the government’s calculations predict that the Moves III Plan will involve an extra contribution of €2.9 billion to the Spanish GDP that will generate nearly 40,000 jobs along the entire value chain.

 

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Every year, there are millions of people around the world who suffer the effects of online scams. Digitalisation has accelerated this increasingly common type of digital crime, but how can we prevent and avoid the serious effects that result from it?

 

  • Physical and digital scams: what is the difference?

Scams have always been present in the daily lives of all of us. Who hasn’t felt cheated in discovering that a product wasn’t what they expected? Who hasn’t seen the need to keep a close eye on their belongings while watching a street show in crowded places like the Rambles in Barcelona? Online scams are these events, but focused on the digital realm, which involves the theft of our identity or our money through various shenanigans, just like in real life.

The fundamental reason why they are booming is that, in the face-to-face world, we have much more experience in avoiding them. We have been doing it all our lives, while online fraud is a new event for most of us and they are much more difficult to avoid, especially for those who are not yet fully accustomed to the digital realm. How can we protect ourselves?

  • Information is power

The key word is prevention. As the saying goes: no use crying over spilt milk. A phrase that, in the digital world, is a perfect fit. Unlike what happens in many physical scams, in online fraud it is very difficult to identify the author, so it is complicated to prosecute them and get them to return what they have stolen. Therefore, the best option is to take enough precautions so that it does not happen.

One of the most important is controlling the information we give about ourselves on the Net. And it is worth remembering that many virtual scammers take advantage of information that people may have left accessible in the cloud to try to make them fall into a trap: for example, receiving a message from a supposed messaging company the day you wait for a package can be the perfect setting to open a fake message and fall into the trap.

The best thing we can do, then, is to make things difficult for them and avoid sharing details on the internet that we don’t want strangers to know. That may mean changing privacy settings on our social networks, for example, by setting the profile as private, or restricting the information that people that you have not added as contacts can see. 

In addition, we should also be vigilant with the information we give to third parties. If in an email, message, or call they ask you for personal information or a password, check that the sender of the message is actually who they claim to be, for example, by comparing the sender of the email with the information on the sender’s official website.

  • Protect your account to protect yourself

The other aspect that we must not neglect is the level of protection of our accounts, whether those of our social networks, our e-mail, or the bank’s application. It is advisable to have a strong password, if possible, one that includes numbers, letters (both uppercase and lowercase), and some special characters, such as a question mark or quotation marks. 

Likewise, it is also recommended activating two-factor or two-step authentication on the pages where we can activate it. It is a security feature that activates two different user identification processes instead of one, so an outside person would need to have stolen much more personal information in order to access the account.

  • Protect yourself without becoming obsessed

More and more crimes are being committed online, but that doesn’t mean we have to become obsessed with security measures. As in real life, no matter how much care you take, sometimes you may be robbed, and the same goes for the digital realm: you may have protected yourself at a high level but, in every little detail, the possibility of a third person seeing it and taking advantage of it.   

All in all, enjoying social media and surfing the internet safely is possible, and following these tips will serve as a precautionary measure. Of course, we must always remember that the risk exists, and therefore it is not worth making us paranoid in this regard, as the results can be counterproductive. Common sense, the avoidance of all those practices that we believe are not convenient for us, and controlling our privacy will be key in this fight against online fraud.

 

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Accelerating digitalisation has been one of the most important challenges for SMEs during the pandemic. The data say that 70% of companies in Spain have been digitalised during the pandemic, according to the consulting firm IPG. This means that 7 out of 10 have opened an online store.

 

While many SMEs have been thinking about digitalisation for years and it was one of the outstanding issues, the pandemic has accelerated and made many companies go online in record time and, probably thanks to this, they have not had to close.  A company with less than 250 employees whose turnover does not exceed 5 million Euro is considered an SME.

  • The cost of digitalisation 

When an SME searches the internet for a way to go digital, it will probably come up with many offers and very cheap prices from companies that are dedicated to this task. It can even buy a domain, which will cost less, as you can have one for €10 a year. It can also find many pages that provide with templates and, if it is accompanied by images, it can make a website on its own.

But, as the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

There are many elements to consider when creating an e-commerce. It depends on the business you have, whether you have an extensive catalogue, whether you work internationally, or if you constantly have new products. The best thing to do when digitalising your business is to hire an agency to help you get this big project up and running. There are many things to keep in mind, and having a good  e-commerce that works perfectly and that does not have errors will be the key to success.

  • Things to keep in mind

Before launching an online store, keep in mind:

  1. Make an analysis of the competition: surf the internet (visit websites and social networks).
  2. Make an analysis of the own company: identify your own e-commerce. Decide if it can be done by the company’s staff or if external help is needed, for example, an agency specialising in web pages. 
  3. Take into account the stipulated time required to make a web page, as there may always be some surprise. Therefore, the launch date of the business must not be shared with the networks until it is 100% sure.
  4. Once the website is up and running, it needs to be constantly updated.
  5. You must be very fast: when a user asks about a product or service, you must answer as soon as possible because, otherwise, there is a risk that they may end up buying it elsewhere.

The pandemic has changed consumer habits, and it has also made it clear that if you want to keep the business going, you need to have an online site for potential customers to find and see what is offered.

We are in the age of omnichannelity, and you need to have the ability to satisfy both a customer who buys in the physical store and a customer who buys online, through a phone call, through an email, or even through the social media of the business.

  • The past 

Years ago, it was unthinkable that a company could earn customers with a website. Until then, the usual technique for getting buyers was having a sales team that, along with a marketing strategy, did what is called “cold calling”, that is, selling the product or service from scratch. This commercial task, on many occasions, could last for weeks or months. 

  • The present  

Today, when you open a business, even if services are offered, you need to have a website where potential customers can see what is being offered, what has been done, the team that makes up the company, and an essential thing, its business philosophy (mission and vision). With just this information, the potential customer can get an idea of who they are.

Apparently, it may seem much easier to reach the customer through a website than doing it with a sales team, but it’s not quite that good. It’s not all about having a website. Social media is another tool that must be kept in mind in today’s society, which is permanently connected.

During the pandemic, companies have had to digitalise their businesses. This has been the only way to earn income. The data tells us that 7 out of 10 companies that did not have an e-commerce before the confinement had to go digital if they didn’t want to close the business. The food, fashion, electronics, beauty, and household products sectors are the ones that have benefited the most from having taken this step.

 

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