Monthly Archives: September 2014

2014
09/30

Category:
Credit Cards

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Medical records worth more to hackers than credit cards

NEW YORK/BOSTON — Your medical information is worth 10 times more than your credit card number on the black market.

Last month, the FBI warned healthcare providers to guard against cyber attacks after one of the largest US hospital operators, Community Health Systems Inc, said Chinese hackers had broken into its computer network and stolen the personal information of 4.5 million patients.

Security experts say cyber criminals are increasingly targeting the $3 trillion US healthcare industry, which has many companies still reliant on aging computer systems that do not use the latest security features.

“As attackers discover new methods to make money, the healthcare industry is becoming a much riper target because of the ability to sell large batches of personal data for profit,” said Dave Kennedy, an expert on healthcare security and CEO of TrustedSEC LLC. “Hospitals have low security, so it’s relatively easy for these hackers to get a large amount of personal data for medical fraud.”

Interviews with nearly a dozen healthcare executives, cybersecurity investigators and fraud experts provide a detailed account of the underground market for stolen patient data.

The data for sale includes names, birth dates, policy numbers, diagnosis codes and billing information. Fraudsters use this data to create fake IDs to buy medical equipment or drugs that can be resold, or they combine a patient number with a false provider number and file made-up claims with insurers, according to experts who have investigated cyber attacks on healthcare organizations.

Medical identity theft is often not immediately identified by a patient or their provider, giving criminals years to milk such credentials. That makes medical data more valuable than credit cards, which tend to be quickly canceled by banks once fraud is detected.

Stolen health credentials can go for $10 each, about 10 or 20 times the value of a US credit card number, according to Don Jackson, director of threat intelligence at PhishLabs, a cyber crime protection company. He obtained the data by monitoring underground exchanges where hackers sell the information.

ATTACKS ON THE RISE

The percentage of healthcare organizations that have reported a criminal cyber attack has risen to 40 percent in 2013 from 20 percent in 2009, according to an annual survey by the Ponemon Institute think tank on data protection policy.

Founder Larry Ponemon, who is privy to details of attacks on healthcare firms that have not been made public, said he has seen an increase this year in both the number of cyber attacks and number of records stolen in those breaches.

Fueling that increase is a shift to electronic medical records by a majority of US healthcare providers.

Marc Probst, chief information officer of Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, said his hospital system fends off thousands of attempts to penetrate its network each week. So far it is not aware of a successful attack.

“The only reason to buy that data is so they can fraudulently bill,” Probst said.

Healthcare providers and insurers must publicly disclose data breaches affecting more than 500 people, but there are no laws requiring criminal prosecution. As a result, the total cost of cyber attacks on the healthcare system is difficult to pin down. Insurance industry experts say they are one of many expenses ultimately passed onto Americans as part of rising health insurance premiums.

Consumers sometimes discover their credentials have been stolen only after fraudsters use their personal medical ID to impersonate them and obtain health services. When the unpaid bills are sent on to debt collectors, they track down the fraud victims and seek payment.

Ponemon cited a case last year in which one patient learned that his records at a major hospital chain were compromised after he started receiving bills related to a heart procedure he had not undergone. The man’s credentials were also used to buy a mobility scooter and several pieces of medical equipment, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in total fraud.

MEDICARE FRAUD

The government’s efforts to combat Medicare fraud have focused on traditional types of scams that involve provider billing and over billing. Fraud involving the Medicare program for seniors and the disabled totaled more than $6 billion in the last two years, according to a database maintained by Medical Identity Fraud Alliance.

“Healthcare providers and hospitals are just some of the easiest networks to break into,” said Jeff Horne, vice president at cybersecurity firm Accuvant, which is majority-owned by private equity firm Blackstone Group.

“When I’ve looked at hospitals, and when I’ve talked to other people inside of a breach, they are using very old legacy systems – Windows systems that are 10 plus years old that have not seen a patch.”

KPMG partner Michael Ebert said security has been an afterthought for many medical providers – whether it is building encryption into software used to create electronic patient records or in setting budgets.

“Are you going to put money into a brand new MRI machine or laser surgery or are you going to put money into a new firewall?” he said. (Additional reporting by Susan Kelly in Chicago; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Tiffany Wu)

2014
09/30

Category:
Repairing Credit

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3 Crucial Steps Toward Credit Repair

If your credit is bad, or not as good as you would like, there is no time like the present to get things moving on the right path. After all, your credit report and score are fluid, meaning that they simply indicate how strong your creditworthiness is now. What they look like in the future is up to you.

There are some credit repair steps you can take now, and with a little effort, you could begin to notice your credit improve very soon.

Know where you stand
You cant really start fixing your credit unless you know whats wrong. Fortunately, by law, you are entitled to a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) absolutely free of charge once a year.

2014
09/29

Category:
Pay Day Loans

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Personal debt levels higher in Northern Ireland says charity

Levels of personal debt in Northern Ireland are 20% higher than the rest of the UK, according to a charity report.

StepChange, a nationwide debt advice service, said its clients owed around £18,400 on credit cards and unsecured loans. The UK average is £15,300.

In the first six months of 2014 the charity helped almost 2,000 people in Northern Ireland, where it has an office in Limavady.

It said there was a move towards high interest debts such as pay day loans.

In recent years the types of debt held by clients in Northern Ireland have gradually, but significantly changed, said the charity.

Debt owed on pay day loans and to shopping catalogue companies – both high interest – has increased radically.

It suggested this is because banks have applied stricter lending criteria post credit-crunch.

People are turning to other forms of credit to plug the gap in their finances, the charity added.

StepChange said unemployment and reduced working hours were the primary drivers of the local debt problem.

It added a particularly worrying trend was among self-employed people who had average debts of £36,000.

2014
09/28

Category:
Revenue

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Revenue will miss target

The governments revenue collection for this fiscal year ending next Tuesday could fall 200 billion baht short of target as recent political turmoil and slower-than-expected global economic recovery take their toll.

But the expected shortfall will not hurt public spending in the next fiscal year due to high Treasury reserves, said Finance Minister Sommai Phasee.

The reserves amounted to 346 billion baht for the first 10 months of this fiscal year.

In the first 11 months of fiscal 2014, revenue collection was 168 billion baht or 8.2% off target.A combined 1.88 trillion baht was collected.

The Revenue Departments revenue collection missed the target by 129 billion baht, the Excise Department was short by 72.3 billion and the Customs Department was shy by 21.8 billion.

But state enterprises contribution and revenue collected from other state agencies beat the target and helped offset the lower-than-targeted tax revenue.

The government has set revenue collection for this fiscal year at 2.275 trillion baht and expenditure at 2.525 trillion, leaving a budget deficit of 250 billion.

Mr Sommai, however, believes the governments revenue stream could achieve its target of 2.325 trillion baht in fiscal 2015.

I would like to see people have confidence in the governments financial position, he said.

Mr Sommai instructed the three tax-collecting agencies, which normally contribute 90% of government revenue, to improve efficiency in collecting taxes.

The Finance Ministry is requesting all state agencies to accelerate their budget disbursement during the final month of this fiscal year, he said.

The ministry is also preparing for disbursement of the fiscal-2015 budget with the aim of pushing public spending to drive economic growth as exports, tourism and domestic consumption remain lacklustre.

The Fiscal Policy Office recently raised its budget disbursement target for the first quarter of fiscal 2015 to 35% from the usual 25% to spur growth.

Mr Sommai said the country would not slip into an economic crisis, as the governments financial position remained strong and the baht stable.

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2014
09/28

Category:
Revenue

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How to Increase Revenue Without Actually Selling

For some reason, many companies believe that marketing ends once a prospect becomes a customer. However, this should never be the case. If you think about it, marketing to potential customers is a series of actions that a company performsto gain the customers trust and show them the value of the company. So, why on earth would you stop doing this after theyve given you their business?

In fact, I would argue that marketing should increase in quality once the client is firmly in your camp. The reason to do so is to create brand evangelists, or theclients that love your product so much they discuss it with everyone.

Related:6 Ways to Keep Clients Happy

The inverted funnel

Almost everyone has seen a sales funnel. Its arepresentation that shows lots of leads coming into the top and a smaller number of customers dripping out the bottom.

But where do those customers go once they drip out of the bottom? Most companies just put them into a customer-relationship management platformand will occasionally blast them with a newsletter or try to upsell them when sales are slow. This is not the way to go, as valuable dollars remain on the line.

Isuggest that there should be an inverted funnel that is just as critical as the sales funnel:The client nurturing funnel.

This funnel focuses on nurturing your clients into brand evangelists. When done correctly, this funnel can actually generate more revenue –and higher quality revenue –than the traditional sales funnel.

Related:Create an Unforgettable Customer Experience With These 5 Tips

Here is why.

Offering Value

Ive discussed in other articles how you should be generating high quality content to share with your potential customers. That same content should have just as much value to your currentclient base. It may require you to modify the verbiage or graphics slightly, but the message should hold value for your contacts,whether theyre a potential client or an existing client. It should solve a problem for your clients and potential clients.It should build your expertise and give value whether they use your services or not.

A few tools to accomplish this:

eBooks. These can be shared via email with your existing customer base and go a long way in building the relationship with your clients and making them view you as an authority.

Webinars. These are one of the best tools for endearing your company to your customer base. Not only do they get to put a face to the company, but youre sharing with them valuable information and allowing them to interact with you through a Qamp;A format.

Related:Treat Your Customers Like You Love Them (Why Wouldnt You?)

Social chats. Allowing prospective and existing clients to ask you questions via social media is a great way to generate leads and nurture your customer base. You can perform these on Twitter by telling everyone to use a certain hashtag when they ask a question. On Facebook and LinkedIn, this can be performed with post comments back and forth.

These tactics (and others) help with client nurturing. The goal of this sort of relationship is to make your product an essential part of your clients work day: They should find it impossible to live without your product or service.This could eventually lead to a brand evangelist, a loyal customer that will use your product anywhere and everywhere. And telling everyone about it.

Theyll sell them on the benefits and value without ever having to consult you. And before you know it, youll begin receiving unsolicited sales calls from these organizations. The potential client will know all about you and the time to close the sale will be shortened dramatically.

Client nurturing doesnt require a large commitment to capital or content. Much of the content that youll be using should already be created for your outbound marketing. All you need to do is tweak it to focus on your existing customers. And to get the word out, you can utilize a marketing automation tool that allows you to create and schedule email campaigns.Some options for this are:HubSpot,Infusionsoft, andDrip.

Related:Not Closing Sales? Look to These 5 Mistakes.

2014
09/28

Category:
Credit Cards

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Apple Pay Might Take Bite Out Of Credit Cards

New details are out on how Apple Pay, Apples (NASDAQ:AAPL) new mobile payment solution debuting with the iPhone 6, could both benefit and potentially take a bite out of the credit card industry.

In a note Tuesday highlighting a meeting with Visa (NYSE:V), Cowen amp; Co. analyst Moshe Katri said Visa believes card issuers are seen as essential partners to Apple Pays success. But it remains to be seen if Apple demands and gets a portion of the merchant acquiring fee.

A merchant acquiring fee is one kind of payment that merchants such as stores owe to their processing services for the work of handling a card transaction. Some of the largest merchant acquirers are arms of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and First Data.

Apple Pay uses a technology called near field communication — or NFC — for contactless payments, such as while standing near a cash register.

Merchants are accelerating investments in NFC-enabled terminals, Katri said in his research note.

Although Apple Pay introduces a frictionless mobile payments solution, he added, the most important metrics to watch are consumer adoption and the ability to convert traditional cash users to card users.

Apple will generate fees from card issuers for including their card on its digital wallet, he added. Furthermore, NFC-enabled transactions at the (point of sale) will be facilitated via the roughly 800 million iTunes accounts which are already pegged to a card.

In its Apple Pay announcement on Sept. 9, Apple noted that hundreds of millions of users can simply add their credit or debit card on file from their iTunes Store account.

Katri says private label cards will likely be included (at a later stage) in Apples digital wallet, which should benefit companies such as Alliance Data Systems (NYSE:ADS), whose services include credit card processing for private-label retailers.

In a report issued last week, Sterne Agee analyst Thomas McCrohan initiated coverage on both Visa and MasterCard (NYSE:MA) with buy ratings, saying the two credit card companies should benefit from growth in cashless transactions worldwide as well as a rise in mobile payment options.

Visa, the No. 1 card company by market cap, is well positioned to benefit from the global secular shift to electronic-based forms of payments, McCrohan added.

Katri said in his note that at the outset, Apple Pay will likely be a neutral event for the networks, while it remains uncertain if merchant acquirers will be impacted.

Related:

How Apple Pay Helps Mastercard, Visa One-Up Merchants.

2014
09/27

Category:
Revenue

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Colorado pot tax revenue is expected to stay flat

The state of Colorados revenue from the sale of marijuana is predicted to stay relatively flat over the next three years after shooting up between fiscal 2013-2014 and fiscal 2014-2015, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast, assembled by the Colorado Legislative Council Staff, shows that preliminary tax revenue from the marijuana industry for fiscal 2013-2014, which ended June 30, was $30 million. Sales of recreational marijuana became legal halfway through the fiscal year on Jan. 1.

The first full year of recreational sales, fiscal 2014-2015, is predicted to bring in $47.7 million in tax revenue for the state.

2014
09/27

Category:
Revenue

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Vail Resorts reports income down, but record revenue and pass sales

Katz told analysts that the net revenue and EBITDA from resort operations in fiscal 2014 marked a record. That record was fueled by a 10.2 percent increase in skier visits, which reached 7.7 million despite a 16.2 decline in visits to its three resorts in the drought-stricken region of Lake Tahoe in California. The companys net revenue from lodging grew 14.8 percent to $242.3 million for fiscal 2014. Its EBITDA from that revenue grew 37.5 percent to $16.7 million for the fiscal year.

The company saw lift-ticket revenue increase 14.4 percent in fiscal 2014, fueled by a 20.1 percent jump in season-pass sales. Through the beginning of this week, Vail Resorts increased annual sales of its popular Epic Pass by 14 percent in units and 18 percent in dollars. Katz said pass sales surged when Vail Resorts announced the acquisition of Park City Mountain Resort.

The $182.5 million Park City deal included 687,000 square feet of residential, commercial and lodging space in Park City at the base of the ski area. Katz said there are development opportunities that Vail Resorts will pursue on some of that land, possibly with a partner. He said the base area at Canyons which the company does not own also will benefit from combining the two ski areas into a single resort.

Summer business in Park City represents another opportunity for growth for Vail Resorts, which has launched aggressive summer recreation development at its Vail, Breckenridge and Heavenly ski areas.

We think the summer piece is big, Katz said.

Vail Resorts expects Park City Mountain Resort to deliver about $35 million in earnings to its resort operations. That would bump the companys 2015 expectations for resort earnings to somewhere between $340 million and $360 million, with net income ranging from $75.5 million to $100.5 million for fiscal 2015.

Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, jblevins@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jasonblevins

2014
09/26

Category:
Revenue

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Aging Tech Giants Like EMC Look to Deals to Help Bolster Revenue

Investors expected a noisy fight over breaking up the EMC computer storage company when the hedge fund Elliott Management surfaced in July as the company’s big new shareholder.

What Elliott instead found was a technology stalwart already exploring its strategic options, including potential sales to some of its large rivals.

The revelation of EMC’s talks with the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Cisco and Oracle about a range of possible transactions — including some that could lead to an outright merger — highlight the continuing problem with aging technology giants pursuing growth and relevance.

The pressure recently has seemed especially acute on EMC, a leader in computer storage products that has found itself hobbled by the move away from traditional servers and into cloud services that host data on an array of far-flung systems. Elliott’s entrance helped spur questions about whether the company would take drastic steps like selling or spinning off its 80 percent stake in VMware, the hugely successful leader in virtualization software.

But questions about the huge shift have also dogged other longtime leaders like HP and Cisco, both of which have also sought to prove themselves capable of adapting to the new reality.

Across the technology industry, companies that make a significant amount of their revenue from sales of hardware devices are facing tough going. Spending on information technology has slowed significantly in recent years, crimping these businesses’ growth engines.

“For the tech sector as a whole, and particularly for larger companies, the challenge has principally been topline growth,” said A. M. Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “We have had a challenging IT spending environment.”

That has raised the possibility of acquisitions to shore up promising operations. But even analysts were surprised by the potential blockbuster deals that could reshape the industry.

One such transaction could have been the union of EMC and HP, in what would have been billed a merger of equals that would create a nearly $130 billion technology titan. People briefed on the matter said that talks had been on and off for almost a year, but recently floundered on what one person said were difficult issues, including financial terms.

EMC has considered other deals as well, like a potential sale to Cisco, another of these people said. It is unclear when EMC will announce a deal — if it does at all — but this person said that a decision is likely to come sooner rather than later.

Representatives of the companies and Elliott declined to comment.

Shares in EMC rose slightly on Monday, to $29.68, while those in HP and Cisco each fell by less than 1 percent, after The Wall Street Journal reported the talks.

Some analysts said that a deal between EMC and HP would have made some sense, since it would have created a company with a broad array of technology offerings but with a strong focus on storage.

Under Meg Whitman, HP has stabilized, especially as it has come back from a number of ill-starred decisions like the disastrous acquisition of the corporate software provider Autonomy. But while HP has continued to publicly promote its commitment to enterprise solutions, it has yet to make great strides in moving away from more commoditized offerings like personal computers and printers.

“They’re playing second or third or fourth to another industry leader in most of their markets,” said Jayson Noland, an analyst at Robert W. Baird. “As an analyst, you’d rather have a company that’s really, really good at one or two things.”

Still, analysts like Mr. Noland and Mr. Sacconaghi said that a tie-up of EMC and HP would have had issues like overlapping product offerings, particularly in storage products.

Mr. Noland noted other megadeals in the tech industry that proved complex and posed serious problems for acquirers, including the merger of Alcatel and Lucent and HP’s takeovers of Autonomy and EDS.

A union with the networking giant Cisco, on the other hand, would be cleaner, according to Mr. Sacconaghi. Cisco has little in the way of storage business, and EMC’s products could fit more obviously in its offerings. Moreover, the two already have a four-year-old joint venture dedicated to integrating their technologies.

Such a tie-up has an added benefit, since their chief executives — Joseph M. Tucci for EMC and John T. Chambers at Cisco — have known each other for a long time, one of these people added.

Mr. Chambers has benefited from being in a stronger business position than either Mr. Tucci or Ms. Whitman, as networking continues to be a steadier business. Yet Cisco, too, has been anxious to declare itself in the cloud business, even as data centers delivered just 6 percent of its fiscal 2014 revenue. Mainstay routing and switching for networks contributed 46 percent.

But the spotlight has been on EMC in recent months, with Elliott’s emergence highlighting investor skepticism about the company’s fundamental business model as its stock has lagged those of competitors over the last three years. The company is built around what it calls a “federation” of operations: storage, the Pivotal software development unit and the RSA network security services provider.

“We believe that there are real synergies and real benefits, hard-dollar benefits, in having VMware, EMC and Pivotal and RSA in the same company,” David I. Goulden, the head of EMC’s information infrastructure unit, said at a recent conference.

Yet the biggest contributor to the company’s $60 billion market value is the 80 percent stake in VMware, whose software mimics other computer programs. The analyst community has long questioned whether EMC would ever be moved to part with the stake, to which Mr. Tucci has long responded with definitive statements like “Never.”

Mr. Tucci and other EMC executives have expressed a desire to try to keep together many of the businesses that the company has assembled over time, one of the people briefed on the matter said. But a big deal could do that almost as well as staying independent and pushing for smaller measures to bolster returns for investors.

“EMC has said, ‘We think we’re better together, but we’re trying to create value for shareholders,’ ” Mr. Sacconaghi said. “EMC may be entertaining other such options.”

2014
09/26

Category:
Revenue

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Utah’s tourism tax revenue exceeded $1 billion in 2013

SALT LAKE CITY Utah is fast becoming a popular destination for international travelers looking to experience the great outdoors, and many are leaving behind big bucks to fill state and local coffers.

According to the Utah Office of Tourism, Film and Global Branding, total direct state and local taxes generated by traveler spending was $1.02 billion in 2013. The state government portion was $592.1 million, while the local government draw was $424.7 million. For the year, tourists spent $7.5 billion.

Vicki Varela, managing director of the state tourism office, said the major driver for the states tourist economy has been interest in Utahs natural splendor, including the ski industry, five national parks and 43 state parks.

The brand that Utah is developing is an outdoor recreation mecca, Varela said Wednesday, speaking from the Utah Tourism Conference in Ogden.

The annual three-day conference is co-sponsored by the Utah Tourism Industry Association and the Utah Office of Tourism.

Revenues from the transient room tax, or hotel tax, grew by a little more than 10 percent last year, Varela said, while the restaurant and car rental tax rose 9.8 percent in 2013.

The last several years has reflected a spectacular economic recovery, and Utah has led the nation, she said.

Though it would be beneficial to continue that pace, economically speaking, such growth is not especially sustainable over the long term, Varela noted.

Therefore, she said, her office has projected tax revenue growth from tourism to be around 3 percent this year and in 2015.

We know that we are going to continue to grow, Varela said. As part of our growth strategy, we have expanded dramatically what we are doing internationally.

Last year, more than half of international tourism spending came from Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The new marketing program will include hiring representatives in target countries to organize Utah group vacation packages, visits by travel writers and promoting Utah in their home countries.

For example, some of Londons iconic black taxis will be wrapped in Utah red rock images, while in Berlin, the Greatest Snow on Earth will blanket German travel agency websites, and travelers in Shanghai can schedule a Utah vacation with interactive planning tools.

We have a number of different strategies playing out all over the world (in order) to get international visitation up, Varela said.

China in particular is a major emerging tourist market for Utah, she said.

Last year alone, Temple Square had 2,000 tour buses full of Chinese visitors, Varela said. So this year, were making a big play in the Chinese market. Its a huge market for us.

Building the states tourism economy is spectacular economic development for our state, she added.

Among the other economic benefits of state tourism include 132,000 people who were employed with tourism-related occupations, with wages totaling $3.7 billion, explained Utah Office of Tourism spokeswoman Emily Moench.

Utah hosted 4.2 million skier visits in 2013, along with 6.3 million visits to Utahs national parks, and 5.2 million visits to prominent national monuments, recreation areas and historical sites, Moench said. Additionally, the state hosted more than 4.1 million visits to Utah state parks.

Looking ahead, Varela said, the goal of the states tourism marketing campaign is to elevate Utahs global profile to attract more foreign visitors to the Beehive State.

Our strategy is working. We have more international tourists spending more money in Utah, she said. We are becoming a bucket-list destination.

Email: jlee@deseretnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1