Scammers are the big topic right now. I've started to receive phone calls on my mobile from strangers telling me that they were simply returning my call.
This is puzzling, because these people aren't criminals, they are simply responding to what they thought was a phone call from me.
My question is, how can scammers make a phone call using my number as the originating number? That's a serious worry.
It got worse I received a text purporting to be from Paypal, telling me that a payment for $1199.10 appeared to be fraudulent, and asking me to ring a number which was highlighted in blue.
This was a red flag to me, because there have been warnings recently about texts asking people to click on links that insert malware into your phone.
But I figured it could be important, so to protect myself I dialled the number without clicking on the phone link in the text. A foreign voice answered promptly, "Good morning, Paypal," and the conversation started.
It didn't take him long to establish his credentials: he was able to read me the last 10 transactions on my PayPal account, and then told me my correct address and asked me to confirm it. He then said that, to prove his bona fides, Paypal would text me a six-digit authentication number, which I was to read back to him. This duly happened.
Then the conversation turned to credit cards. He claimed a fraudulent transaction had been made on my Virgin credit card. He said the number he had on file started with 4724, and asked me for the other digits on the card, plus the expiry date and the security number on the back.
He then told me he was in contact with Virgin Money, because it was their credit card which had been compromised, but Virgin needed me to authenticate the communication and to do this would text me a six-digit number. This quickly arrived from Virgin, and I read the number to him. This process was repeated several times because, "their computers are slow today."
A while after the call ended, I got a niggling feeling that something hadn't been right, and redialled the number he had been phoning me from. The message was, "that number is not connected."
I became busy with other things, but another red flag was raised when we went out with friends to dinner that night and my Virgin card was declined.
I rang Virgin immediately, who identified me using voice recognition - a blessing given the amount of time I'd been on the phone during the day - and they told me there had been six attempted unauthorised transactions on my card during the day.
The reason that my caller had been asking me to give him the authenticating numbers from the Virgin texts was to authenticate the fraudulent transactions he was trying to make! Virgin had prevented each one, but of course in stopping them, my credit card got stopped too.
When I reported this whole incident to Paypal, they told me that Paypal never sends texts to anybody - all their communications are by email.
It's getting scary out there.
First of all, how can people make calls that show up as my mobile number, and second, how can people make scam calls to me already knowing my PayPal transactions, my home address and other private information?
Be on your guard - the bad guys are getting smarter.
Noel answers your money questions
I am 70 and receive an account-based super pension from a government pension fund. If I was to roll over this fund to a fund with higher returns, would I have to pay tax on the untaxed portion of my funds?
It is my understanding that any untaxed component would be taxed at 15 per cent in the receiving fund on roll over.
You may also be subject to tax on any excess untaxed rollover amount - that is any amount that exceeds the relevant cap.
This is a minefield so proceed with care. You should ask both your current fund and your destination fund to advise you what their position is if you adopt the strategy you mention. Also, just beware of choosing a fund purely on last year's returns.
We have two properties - one is our main house, the other is a rental. We want to move into the rental. To minimise capital gains tax, do we sell the main and move to rental - or do we move to rental and rent out the main?
If you sell your home after you move out it should be free of capital gains tax, but if you rent it out you will be liable for CGT on any increase in value from the date it was rented out.
When you move into the rental it will become your principal place of residence and CGT when sold will be apportioned on a time basis, so keep receipts even while you are living there.
There is a lot more to this discussion than just minimizing tax.
You also will need to think seriously about the potential of your current home - it may be better to take a tax-free capital gain now, use the proceeds to buy the new home debt-free and then borrow to buy another investment.
I am about to turn 72 and I am still working. I want to retire very soon and am about to sell my mother's unit, which should sell for about $340,000. I will be using some of this money to carry out repairs and updates, (kitchen and bathroom) in my own home. My question is, will I be assessed on the selling price on the unit, or what is left after repairs to my home?
Once you receive the money you will need to advise Centrelink of a change in circumstances. However, any money spent on improving your own home is not assessable, so once you have spent the money on your property, just advise Centrelink of the reduction in your assets and the situation should be restored.
We are downsizing from our family home to an apartment, liquidating $300,000 which we want to share with our three adult children to purchase their first home. If we give $100,000 to each child, will it be taxed as assessable income, and if so, what can we do to minimise their tax burden?
When they purchase a property, what is the best way for them to ensure that any current or future partners do not have a claim on half of their new home? Does lending them the money solve both issues?
These amounts will certainly not be treated as taxable income, but if the children choose to invest them, the earnings on the investment will be part of their own taxable income.
The question of whether it should be a loan or a gift is a challenging one. If you are receiving, or propose to receive, a Centrelink benefit such as an age pension, if you make it a gift, Centrelink will deem you still have most of the money for at least five years afterwards even though you've given it away.
As a loan it would be an asset of yours and affected by the assets and income tests.
So far as ex-partners are concerned, it would be more beneficial to your children to make it a loan. That way, if their marriage breaks down, the money will be a debt owing to you and not part of the matrimonial assets, as it would be if it was a gift.
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Beware, however, of ensuring you document any loan and the strict legal time limits that apply to recovering loans which are repayable on demand, as most loans to children are.
The time limit to seek to recover the loan is six years from when you lent the money not from when you make the demand.
- Noel Whittaker is the author of Retirement Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org