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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to http://pennystockpaycheck.com for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Nationwide failed to act against identity fraudsters

Category : Business

Standing order scammers have taken £1,300 from my account, but Nationwide has not been helpful

I recently logged in to my online Nationwide account, only to discover that two unknown standing orders had cleared more than £1,300 out of my current account, leaving me with just £21. As I had had nothing to do with them – they were both to estate agents I had never heard of – I printed the statement and rushed to my local Nationwide branch. There was no manager available but a cashier cancelled the two standing orders. I asked whether I had signed the forms indicating I had consented to them being set up, and she said I hadn’t.

My card was stopped, and I was put in a cubicle and told to ring Nationwide HQ to sort out the problem. No one offered any support.

After lengthy waits and several more questions, I was told that once it was proved that I had not set up the standing orders, I would be refunded. Someone would ring me on Friday or Monday. When I arrived home, I had a message from a woman who worked for the Carlisle branch. She wanted to know if I had set up a standing order to Alpha Lettings. She said the signature very clearly did not match mine, so she had declined it.

Since then it has emerged that someone – or a group of people – has tried to set up a string of standing orders on my account, all to estate agents around the country. A second trip to a bigger branch wasn’t much good, either, and promised call-backs have not materialised. It seems to me that Nationwide doesn’t know what it’s doing when it comes to identity fraud of this kind. Can you please help? CB, south-west London

It’s clear from your letter that the building society hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory when dealing with this problem. The staff seemed to have no idea how stressful it was to discover £1,300 had gone from your bank account, and you should have been treated more sympathetically.

Standing order fraud is, according to our research, relatively rare, but your case has highlighted how easy it is to commit. You later realised that one of your bank statements failed to arrive around Christmas and, armed with this, the culprit probably set up the standing orders, relying on staff not looking at the signature too closely.

We suspect that although estate agent names were used, the money ended up in an unrelated, non-business account. For some reason, these frauds often seem to lead to a Barclays account at a branch in east London.

Nationwide accepts it should have handled the matter better. “While we have measures in place to prevent standing order fraud, and the overwhelming majority of attempts are prevented, it is clear we have let CB down on this occasion. It is important to note any innocent victim of fraud will always be refunded,” says a spokesman.

The money taken from your account has been returned, with an additional £200 to make up for the poor service.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at consumer.champions@guardian.co.uk or write to Bachelor & Brignall, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number

Rics calls for estate agent tests

Category : Business

Estate agents who are not members of a professional body currently do not have to meet minimum competency standards

First-time buyers would feel more confident when buying a home if estate agents had to pass compulsory tests to show they are up to scratch.

That was one of the findings of a study by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), which wants to see greater regulation of estate agents to make sure first-time buyers are not, in its words, “flying blind” through the “biggest purchase of their lives”.

At present, agents who are not members of a professional body do not have to meet minimum competency standards.

There have been signs recently that more first-time buyers are entering the market following government efforts to improve conditions and help people with smaller deposits get on to the property ladder. First-time buyers have consistently been making up around two-fifths of house purchases in recent months.

However, Rics said its research found that three in 10 (29%) first-time buyers said they did not have a good understanding of the sales process when buying a home. More than three-quarters (77%) believe consumers’ understanding would improve if compulsory regulation of estate agents was introduced, and 89% think buyers would be better protected.

Rics said that with the market showing signs of a pick-up and “seemingly over the very worst”, more must be done to ensure that agents are suitably qualified to advise their clients through the sales process.

Peter Bolton King, a Rics director, said: “I would recommend that anyone who is buying or selling a house checks that their agent is a regulated member of a professional body such as Rics, and has met minimum standards of competency and understanding.

“By using an unregulated estate agent, people are potentially dealing with someone who doesn’t understand the technicalities involved in buying a home, or their obligations to consumers.”

More than 1,000 people who had either bought a property or obtained a valuation in the past five years took part in the survey.

Partners Real Estate Investment Trust (PTSRF: OTC Link) | Management Discussion and Analysis

Category : Stocks

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 06:35 – Partners Real Estate Investment Trust (PTSRF: OTC Link) released their Management Discussion and Analysis. To read the complete report, please visit: https://www.otciq.com/otciq/ajax/showFinancialReportById.pdf?id=102967.

See the article here: Partners Real Estate Investment Trust (PTSRF: OTC Link) | Management Discussion and Analysis

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JC Penney’s most discounted item: Its bonds

Category : Stocks

The retailer’s bonds are trading at around 70 cents on the dollar, suggesting investors think it could be headed for bankruptcy. But the value of its real estate alone is higher than all of its debt.

Read more: JC Penney’s most discounted item: Its bonds

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LIG Assets, Inc. (LIGA: OTC Pink Current) | LIG Assets, Inc. Enters into Agreement for Hotel Properties in Texas

Category : Stocks

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LIG Assets, Inc. Enters into Agreement for Hotel Properties in Texas

PR Newswire

DALLAS, March 19, 2013

DALLAS, March 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — LIG Assets, Inc. (OTCPINK: LIGA), a Company focused on residential and commercial real estate, announces it has entered into an agreement with OM SHRI JJB, LLC to acquire properties in Texas for use as hotels.

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LIG Assets, Inc. (LIGA: OTC Link) | LIG Assets, Inc. Sells SuiteMagic, Inc. to Focus on Core Real Estate Business

Category : Stocks

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LIG Assets, Inc. Sells SuiteMagic, Inc. to Focus on Core Real Estate Business

PR Newswire

DALLAS, March 8, 2013

DALLAS, March 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ –

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Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust (CRXIF: OTC Link) | Venue Change

Category : World News

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 12:00 – Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust (CRXIF: OTC Link) – Venue Change – The symbol, CRXIF, no longer trades on Grey Market. As of Wed, Feb 27, 2013, CRXIF trades on OTC Link. You may find a complete list of venue changes at otcmarkets.com.

See the article here: Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust (CRXIF: OTC Link) | Venue Change

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McGuire Real Estate Welcomes Patrick Ferdon, Marie Ferdon, and Bronwyn Brunner to Its Marina Office

Category : Stocks

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwire – Feb 27, 2013) – Longtime San Francisco natives and real estate professionals Patrick Ferdon, Marie Ferdon, and Bronwyn Brunner are the newest members to join McGuire Real Estate’s flagship Marina Office.

Continue reading here: McGuire Real Estate Welcomes Patrick Ferdon, Marie Ferdon, and Bronwyn Brunner to Its Marina Office

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Town Center Bank (IL) (TCNB: OTC Link) | Town Center Bank Announces 2012 Results

Category : Stocks

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The Rio favela transformed into prime real estate

Category : Business

Wealthy buyers are snapping up plots of land in Vidigal after authorities pushed out drug gangs

Until recently, the most high-profile conflict in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas has been between rival gangs fighting turf wars: now it is European investors tussling over a piece of prime real estate.

High on the steep slopes of Vidigal, the panorama across Atlantic beaches and distant islands is among the most spectacular in Rio, but tourists are unlikely to find it listed in most guidebooks.

The hillside shanty town was dominated by drug traffickers and widely considered off-limits among middle-class people.

But the favela is undergoing a transformation as the police have taken control of the streets and investors have pushed up the price of the land.

With gangs no longer deciding who enters their territory, rental prices have surged more than threefold in three years. Wealthy buyers are snapping up the prime plots, real estate companies are opening offices and more outsiders are moving in.

Andreas Wielend, an Austrian engineer, bought a dilapidated home in 2009 and turned it into a hostel and nightclub. It is now famed for breathtaking views and holding dub and electronic music nights that attract several hundred customers to party until dawn. The change is dramatic, but not entirely for the better.

“When we first came here, there were 15 guys with heavy machine guns next door. It was like a war zone. There was no water or electricity,” he recalls. “Then the police came in and the house prices went up … It was more relaxed before because you didn’t constantly have real estate speculators approaching you all the time.”

His neighbourhood has suddenly become one of the most fashionable in Rio. Less than 100 metres away, a hotel is under construction, reportedly financed by two of the city’s wealthiest denizens.

A lawyer from São Paulo has snapped up three houses next door. Local gossip is thick with rumours that Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Joli have brought land nearby.

Wielend’s property cost him 34,000 reals (about £10,000). Now he says he is getting offers of a million reals to sell. The dramatic inflation of values has prompted a ownership battle between him and the German banker who sold him the land.

Last year, Wielend returned from an overseas trip to find the former owner had seized the house, changed the locks and denied that a sale had been made. Wieland has since persuaded the police that he is the rightful owner and taken legal action.

The strains are not unique to this one plot in Vidigal, he says. “Now there are many houses here where people are fighting for ownership, even among families.”

Take away the paramilitary campaign against the traffickers and what is happening is similar to the gentrification seen in cities such as New York, London, Berlin and Beijing.

Nicola Tadini, a researcher who is studying the process, said it was a mixed blessing for the community in Videgal, many of whom – as with most of Rio’s favelas – are from poor families that migrated from north-east Brazil.

“This is a long-term change. The World Cup and Olympics are pushing the process. People are investing. Locals can rent their rooms out for more than three times as much as they could three years ago. The little shops on the street are doing more business with tourist customers. Some people are selling their homes here and buying big properties back in the north-east,” said Tadini.

“For now, people are happy with the way things are going because they are making more money. But the gentrification will change this community. Instead of neighbour and neighbour, you are starting to see employer and employee.”

Among Rio’s thousand or so favelas, Vidigal was always somewhat special thanks to its spectacular views, long history and attraction for artists. But it is seen as an indicator of what could happen to the other 39 slums that have been “pacified”, or will be by 2014.

The average house price in Rio has increased by 165% over the past three years, according to the UN. Values have risen faster in favelas where the drug traffickers have been pushed out of sight. According to SecoviRio, an association of local real estate agents, property prices rose 50% in the first week after the initial three favelas were taken by police.

Changes are still at a very early stage and are different from favela to favela, as are the responses of locals to the armed police who patrol the roads and narrow alleys between their homes. While the majority of inhabitants that the Guardian spoke to were pleased about improved security and social services, several also expressed unease that they may be forcibly relocated or priced out of their homes.

Rocinha – Brazil’s biggest slum with at least 70,000 inhabitants – is still far from being gentrified. But a real estate agent, who declined to give his name, said the rental price for a two bedroom home had doubled in the past year to 900 reals a month because more outsiders were moving in.

The authorities have ambitious plans to improve life in the favela, but their priorities have been questioned.

Rocinha now has a new library, where residents can borrow books or watch DVDs on plasma screens, a half-completed eco-park, a tennis court that opened last year and a concrete bridge to the community’s sports centre that was designed by the country’s most famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer.

But nothing has been done about the stinking open sewers that run through the densely packed community and overflow whenever there is heavy rain. Education and public health provision are also at dire levels. Tuberculosis and dengue fever are rampant. Many people still live in rudimentary shacks with irregular or no water supplies.

“The library and bridge are all very well, but you have to ask if this is the best use of social resources when there are still kids playing in shit and piss,” said Lea Rekou, an co-ordinator of the Green My Favela NGO, which works with the local community to replace rubbish tips with vegetable gardens.

Instead of improving the environment for the sake of gentrification or beautification before the World Cup and Olympics, she says the most needed transformation is in attitudes.

“Pacification has opened up a space. You don’t need to be so wary. It’s easier to relax,” she said. “But my main interest is in changing the way the middle class see the favelas – that they need to be controlled and heavily policed.”

Additional research by Marcela Bial