Saturday, April 28, 2012

Unsafe driving habit of taxi driver

Dear Mr. Tan,

I was shocked to come across this post by a taxi driver on a taxi driver's forum. According to the taxi driver, he got into an early morning accident by hitting the back of a cement mixer at 4.50am on the PIE. From the pictures he posted, the cab was severely damaged. Yet according to his account, the taxi company did not question the nature of his accident or driving. According to him, they "immediately" proceeded to assign him a new cab.

There has been much debate online about which taxi company is lax in sorting out their reckless drivers and taking them off the road. I believe this incident serves as an indication of how lax or stringent some companies are. We should look into how to control and eliminate such driving and administrative practices, not let them continue. 

On another note, recently the LTA has decided to raise the maximum age of taxi drivers to 75. I believe this was "suggested" by one of Presidential contenders during the race last year.

From a concerned member of the public

High cost of car ownership

Owning a car can impoverish a Singaporean by millions of ringgit
by the time he retires.

Song from Malaysia - for the Bersih Rally

Hi Mr Tan,
Although this is from Malaysia, I thought you will find it interesting because your broad interest in politics and music.

I personally think that it is an incredible song with an incredible story. It is produced independently (meaning not linked to any political parties or the Bersih organization itself) by a lady from Johor. She was not able to make it to the Bersih rally last year because she has to take care of her paralyzed father, and to make up for it she produced this song with the help from many many volunteers. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Difficult to use DBS internet banking (IDEAL)

I find it so difficult to use DBS IDEAL system for internet banking payments that I will write cheques and drop them into the quick cheque deposit box (for payments to DBS payees). The IDEAL system is for business users and is extremely complicated and difficult to use. With so much trouble, it is likely to lead to costly mistakes, e.g. entering the wrong account code. I do not understand how DBS could design such a convoluted system. It is unimaginable. 

Similar types of cheating

According to this report , the Police are looking for a woman who was alleged to have cheated some people by soliciting money from them on the pretext that her husband had been hospitalized. Presumably, she was telling a lie. She collected sums varying form $50 to $450 from sympathizers. I do not know how much was involved, but it was probably less than $5,000 in total. I wonder why the Police would be so keen to take action on this case.

There is another person who has been advertising for many years that he is an expert in forex trading and is able to teach the trainees on the techniques of trading that are guaranteed to make profit.

These claims are not true, but there are enough trainees who believe the statements to fill up a class each month. Each trainee paid a few thousand dollars for three days of training. The total amount collected in training fees over the years must have amounted to several million dollars. Although several complaints were made to the Police, the activity of this trainer was not investigated.

It is clear to me that the untruths and misrepresentations told by the forex trainer were of the same kind as those told by the woman, and the amounts were several hundred times larger. When someone tells an untruth, and collect money from a person who was misled by the untruth, the perpetrator is "cheating" the victim. The same investigative action should be applied to both situations.

It would have been a simple matter for the Police to call the forex trainer and ask him to provide evidence to back up his advertising claims, and to show that he is not misleading or cheating the trainees. A simple interview would probably convince the forex trainer to stop or minimize the questionable activity. This would have saved the victims a lot of lost money not only in the training fees, but in actual losses on the forex transactions.

Tan Kin Lian

FISCA Talk on Investments

This event will be held on Saturday. Register now. You can pay the fee on the spot. The next talk will be held a few months later. 

The best investments for consumers is to invest in ETF and REITS. This is explained in the FISCA talk on investments, scheduled for Saturday 2 t0 5 pm at Singapore Management University. This talk is free to FISCA members. The fee for non-members is $30. The public can join as FISCA members on the spot and pay $36 cash, and enjoy membership benefits for 1 year.

More details can be found here:
Register here:

Eldershield - long term care insurance

Eldershield is a long term care insurance introduced by the Ministry of Health in Singapore and managed by private insurers. The benefits are indequate, as stated by Professor Phua Kai Hong. Here is a report

The journalist asked for my views about what can be done to promote Eldershield. Here is my full reply (of which only a small portion was mentioned in the article).

Statement by Tan Kin Lian

For long term care insurance to work, it is important for the Government to take the lead and also to set the framework to ensure that the consumers are treated fairly.

In the case of life insurance, it is easy to determine the eligibility for a claim, based on the certificate of death. The eligibility for a long term care claim can be subject to dispute between the claimant or his family and the insurance company. The definition of eligibility for a long term care payment depends on the inability to perform at least 3 out of the specified 6 activities of daily living - washing, dressing, feeding, toileting, mobility and transferring. As you can see from the definition, each of these disability may be difficult to define.

If there is no Government involvement to set the framework to determine the eligibility for a claim, the insurance company can be quite strict in interpreting the eligibility to the detriment of the consumer, and the consumer will usually not have the financial means to challenge the decision of the insurance company. Due to lack of clarity and transparency, it is likely that consumers will not trust the insurance company or the long term care insurance product.

The involvement of the Government goes beyond the framework for approval of the claims. The Government should also carry out audits to ensure that the insurance companies are pricing the insurance product fairly and are not making excessive profits by over-charging the consumers, or are reckless in under-pricing their product and hence face the prospect of insolvency.

The Government should also consider giving some tax or fiscal incentives to encourage consumers to buy the long term care insurance. At present, the Government allows the Medisave savings to be used to buy the insurance product. This is helpful but is not sufficient. 

It will be more useful if the Government decides to bear 30% (say) of the cost of the long term care insurance, so that consumers need only to pay 70% of the actual cost. This will encourage consumers to buy the long term care product and make it attractive for insurance companies to compete for this attractive market. 

In many countries, the Government has found that some form of tax or fiscal incentives is helpful to develop the insurance market and to overcome the resistance of consumers to set aside money for their future needs. Singapore should follow the experience of these countries, in order to get our citizens to plan for their future needs.


Tan Kin Lian was the former chief executive of NTUC Income. He is now the director of a consultancy and software development company called Tan Kin Lian & Associates Pte ltd. He is also the Founder and President of the Financial Services Consumer Association (FISCA), an organisation with the aim of educating consumers on financial planning, insurance and investments, and to promote the interest of consumers. (

Ponzi scheme in the making

I have posted this article about a possible ponzi scheme that may blow up in the near future:

One reader, who has made large investment in the gold bar scheme, told me that the chance of loss is small, as the investor has a certificate that can be used to withdraw the physical gold that has been deposited with a reputable depository bank. If the gold price keeps its value, the investor will not lose out, even if the promoter does not honor the buy back guarantee.

This is likely to be a fallacy. It is possible for the promoter to be issuing duplicate certificates for the same physical gold. If the promoter collapses, many people may be holding the certificates to the same bar of physical gold. I do not know if the certificate is issued by the depository bank and if there is any chance of duplicates being made. The investor should check this possibility.

A ponzi scheme can continue as long as it keeps growing. This is likely to be the case, as the investor loves the 2% interest per month and will keep their investment to earn this high rate of interest. They are likely to put in more money and to encourage their friends to join this attractive scheme. The growth of a ponzi scheme is exponential. This is the behavior of most ponzi schemes in the past. It will not be different this time.

The investor also asked - if this is really a ponzi scheme, why is the Monetary Authority of Singapore or the Commercial Affairs Department not taking any action to stop it?

Do not be lulled by the lack of action by our authority. The MAS has already put an alert on their website and asked the public to lodge a complaint with CAD, if they suspect any fraud. I do not know why MAS expects the public to do the investigation. It is quite easy for MAS to engage an investigator, at the cost of the Government, to see if there is any risk of a fraud, rather than wait for it to happen.

My remark also applies to the Commercial Affairs Department. They have the power, authority and the resources to carry out an investigation. They only need to have reasonable grounds to make an investigation into a potential ponzi scheme. I do not know why they hold the view that there is inadequate evidence to start an investigation. If they do not think that an investigation is warranted, why not just make an enquiry?

My remark is also directed at our Government Ministers who might have some of their underlings to monitor my blog. Do not sit idly and wait for the potential ponzi scheme to grow bigger and cause more people to lose their hard earned savings. Just make an enquiry now with the promoter and make sure that they have sufficient gold bar and money to back all the deposits that they have collected from the public. And when they are talking to the promoter, do find out how much money has been invested by the people of Singapore in this attractive investment scheme that pays 2% interest a month.

My request is specially directed to our Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, who should in charge of the Commercial Affairs Department.

Tan Kin Lian

PS: If the authority does make an enquiry and find that my suspicious are groundless, do tell me about it, so that I will stop "crying wolf".

Decision makers should take public transport

This writer requests that decision makers should take public transport and understand the problem on the ground. I agree.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A ponzi scheme in gold bars

Read this article about what may happen one day, that will cause tens or hundreds of millions of losses to unwary and gullible investors in Singapore.

Great careers for older workers

Hi Tan,
I recently discovered your blog, and I have become a frequent reader. We recently published an article “8 Great Careers for Older Workers” that dovetails well with your audience, Perhaps you would be interested in sharing with them.

Here's the link to the article if you would like to take a quick look for yourself: (

Roxanne McAnn

Contact Singapore Management University

I searched for the contact information of Singapore Management University. I could find the "Contact Us" button at their home page. Although small, it was not difficult to find. That button brought me to a webpage that the following information. I was delighted that they provide an email address and a telephone number!

I wish to encourage all corporations (business and government) to provide this type of useful information for the public to contact them. I encourage them to use the services provided by this Corporate Portal,

"Bersih" rally in Kuala Lumpur

It is interesting to watch the forthcoming happening of the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur. A similar rally last year was tightly controlled by the Police. This year's rally will happen in a more relaxed atmosphere. It reflects the confidence of Prime Minister Najib in opening up the political environment in Malaysia. I hope that the rally, which called for "free and fair elections", goes on peacefully and well.

If so, this could lead to similar developments in Singapore. We can also learn from Malaysia.

Complicated arrangement between LTA and SMRT

According to this news report, the SMRT will be spending $900 million for the maintenance and repair of the MRT system. Part of the cost will be borne by the Government, through the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

This seemed to be a complicated arrangement and has ethical issues. SMRT is a listed company owned by shareholders and has the aim to maximise its profits, subject to service standards stipulated by the LTA and fare oversight by the Public Transport Council. The LTA is an agency funded by the Government and eventually the taxpayers.

The taxpayers are not told how the complicated financial arrangement is being decided. In my view, the considerations for the cost sharing, should be publicized for public scrutiny.

It is better to remove all these complicated arrangements and adopt a new model, i.e. let the train service be operated by a public corporation, i.e. one that is owned 100% by the state. The public corporation should decide on the fares, capacity, routes and schedules. The operations can be contracted out to a contractor like the SMRT.

I read that this was the model used by London Transport for the buses. I am not sure how their Underground system, similar to our MRT, is being managed.

It is likely that the London model will not be considered in Singapore, as our ministers and top civil servants are quite comfortable in the Singapore model of "no responsibility". They prefer to outsource all the problems entirely to the "market", so they do not have to decide on fares and operational issues.

As they have now learnt to their embarrassment, the problems do not go away. They come back to hit them in a bigger way. With so many train breakdowns and other operational and financial issues, perhaps our ministers will now re-think the London model?

Tan Kin Lian

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Social model is the solution, not the problem

I agree with the views expressed by this writer,-not-its-problem

I will give my reasons separately.

Avoid Land Banking

Dear Mr. Tan 
Do you have any information about A2A land banking in Canada.

I do not have any information about this product. I advise consumers to avoid all types of land banking products. You can attend my talk on Financial Planning organised by FISCA.
Tan Kin Lian

Statement from one of the accused in the sex scandal

Dear Sir

I would like to add that I hope that you can help disseminate the following legal points of course with appropriate verification as some recent commentary on your blog posting have not fully grasped the law and the extent to which its drafting defers from that of the United Kingdom and its equivalent the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Many commentators have noted the fact that the "onus" is on the man to check, Many do not know or fail to mention , that even after making all reasonable efforts to "check', the law in this case has a conclusive presumption WHICH does not allow for any defense except only in mitigation.  If it is as true more senior lawyers emerge who should and would know the law better, the difficulty it places on men and not allowing them any defense is all the more apparent.

a. For many who will be convicted the clincher will be the very issue of not being able to offer a defense that we did not or could not have reasonably, rationally, on the predominance of evidence known that she was under 18. The only defense left thus is that we did not do it, or we paid for her company and not sex. No intent or means has to be proven just the act and no defense can be offered.

b. That presumption applies in the UK, but it kicks in at a fairer age and for a more serious offense, i.e sex with a minor and at 13

c. As far as I can remember within the Singapore Penal Code. There are two sorts of presumption. A presumption which shift the burden of proof, but it means that you can offer a defense i.e in Drug Trafficking. and a presumption which does not allow a defense. which as far as I know exists only within the " Fire Arms Act" for unlawful discharge of a firearm, commercial sex with a minor defined at 18 and sex with a minor under 16 which would be statutory rape.   Is the offense that serious as to merit a removal of due process and equal treatment under the law and a right to a fair trial ?

d. Please note that sex with a minor is treated more seriously under a count of statutory rape with sentences including caning as an example. If any of us had deliberately had sex with an under 16 we would be facing an infinitely more serious charge and more serious consequences, something which none of the 48 would have wanted.

e. So thus comes the logical illogic, If a 17 year old can legally have sex, but she cannot legally sell herself for sex and if she is caught selling sex its her customers who face the music. Yet the customers are limited in their defense even if they can proof she lied to them, showed them a fake ID, showed the pimp a fake ID, none of it legally at the end of the day matters because the very act is sufficient for conviction]

f. I would like to add finally that prostitution crudely put on a retail level has many aspects.   The mass market , street level prostitution encompasses a large degree of human trafficking, human slavery of the worst kind.   As many have grasped a social escort which offers "luxury" pricing and with a database of alleged well of individuals cannot by any stretch of logic encompass the worst and most inhumane aspects of prostitution and human trafficking.

Sincerely Yours


Monday, April 23, 2012

Bad sales practice of bank

A consumer showed me a complicated product. It involved placing a fixed deposit of $30,000 with a bank to earn a special promotion interest rate. To qualify for this promotion, the consumer had to place some money in a 15 year product, with the promise that it carried no investment risk.

This 15 year product turned out to be a life insurance policy with an annual premium of $10,000. This is shocking. The wealth manager of the bank, that promoted the product, did not give the consumer any benefit illustration for the life insurance policy and did not tell the consumer, who is an elderly housewife, that the life insurance policy required an annual premium to be paid for 15 years. How is the housewife going to afford paying this annual premium?
The wealth manager did not tell the consumer that if she could not pay the annual premium, the life insurance policy could lapse and she would lose all of her savings during the first two years. If she lapse the policy after two years, the cash value could be much less than the premiums paid. She also did not tell the consumer that the life insurance policy could take away more than one year of savings as distribution cost.

I find it a deplorable practice for a reputable bank to be pushing a life insurance product under misleading circumstances. There is a wide scope for such misleading sales practices in this manner, especially when it is packaged with a bank product.

I will be asking the Financial Advisory Industry Review (FAIR) panel to consider banning  banks from packaging life insurance products with the traditional bank products, to prevent this type of rampant mis-selling.

Lasting power of attorney

This is an interesting new service, which is useful for consumers.

My friend told me that there are practical problems in finding a certificate issuer, but I think that this problem can be overcomed.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Finding a job for older people

Many older people lost their jobs and found it difficult to get a new job. My friend, who has suffered this episode, gave this suggestion on how to get a new job:

a) Be ready to try a new way to get a job. Do not just stick to the old, way, i.e. respond to a job advertisement, as your chance are lower compared to younger people competing for the same job. Some HR managers have a prejudice against older people.

b) Look for a temporary job near your home and be prepared to accept a modest salary, or even an hourly rate for part time work. Many firms need people for short term projects, e.g. to replace another worker who has resigned recently. The firm may not be willing to take you for a full time job, but they might be willing to try you on a temporary or part time job.

c) If this is a job that you are not familiar with, be willing to work for a few days without any pay. After all, this is what training is about. If you go for formal training in a school, you have to pay the school fees. If the firm take you in for training, you do not have to pay this fee. The firm might be willing to give you an allowance.

d) If you do the temporary job and is able to demonstrate a responsible attitude and ability to contribute better, based on your experience, the firm is likely to invite you for a full time job. If you find the firm or the job to be not suitable, it is all right to move to another job after completing the project.

He has tried this approach and it worked for him. He like to share this experience to encourage other people to give it a try.

Abuse of computer

Many people may not be aware that it is a crime to impersonate another person fraudulently, or to steal another person's identity to commit fraud.

An impersonator is someone who imitates or copies the behavior or actions of another. There are many reasons for someone to be an impersonator, some common ones being as follows:
Legally: An entertainer impersonates a celebrity, generally for entertainment, and makes fun of their recent scandals or known behavior patterns. Especially popular objects of impersonation are Elvis (see Elvis impersonator), Abraham Lincoln, and Lenin. Entertainers who impersonate multiple celebrities as part of their act, can be sorted into impressionists and celebrity impersonators.
Illegally: As part of a criminal act such as identity theft. This is usually where the criminal is trying to assume the identity of another, in order to commit fraud, such as accessing confidential information, or to gain property not belonging to them. Also known as social engineering and impostors.
Political decoy, used as a form of protection for political and military figures. This involves an impersonator who is employed (or forced) to perform during public appearances, to mislead observers.
Causing people to fight, or dislike each other for social, business or political gain.



Identity theft is a form of stealing someone's identity in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person's identity, typically in order to access resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person's name. The victim of identity theft (here meaning the person whose identity has been assumed by the identity thief) can suffer adverse consequences if they are held accountable for the perpetrator's actions. Organizations and individuals who are duped or defrauded by the identity thief can also suffer adverse consequences and losses, and to that extent are also victims.
The term identity theft was coined in 1964 however it is not literally possible to steal an identity—less ambiguous terms are identity fraud or impersonation.


The Computer Misuse Act 1990 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, introduced partly in response to the decision in R v Gold & Schifreen (1988) 1 AC 1063 (see below). Critics of the bill complained that it was introduced hastily and was poorly thought out. Intention, they said, was often difficult to prove, and that the bill inadequately differentiated "joyriding" hackers like Gold and Schifreen from serious computer criminals. The Act has nonetheless become a model from which several other countries, including Canada and the Republic of Ireland, have drawn inspiration when subsequently drafting their own information security laws, as it is seen "as a robust and flexible piece of legislation in terms of dealing with cybercrime”.



Unauthorised access to computer material
.... any person who knowingly causes a computer to perform any function for the purpose of securing access without authority to any program or data held in any computer shall be guilty of an offence .....

Unauthorised modification of computer material
.... any person who does any act which he knows will cause an unauthorised modification of the contents of any computer

Unauthorised use or intersection of computer services
any person who knowingly secures access without authority to any computer for the purpose of obtaining,
directly or indirectly, any computer service; intercepts or causes to be intercepted without authority, directly or indirectly, any function of a computer by means of an electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or
other device  ....

Unauthorised obstruction of use of computer
....  Any person who, knowingly and without authority or lawful excuse -- interferes with, or interrupts or obstructs the lawful use of, a computer; or impedes or prevents access to, or impairs the usefulness or effectiveness of, any program or data stored in a computer,

Unauthorised disclosure of access code
 .... Any person who, knowingly and without authority, discloses any password, access code or any other means of gaining access to any program or data held in any computer shall be guilty of an offence if he did so for any wrongful gain; for any unlawful purpose; or knowing that it is likely to cause wrongful loss to any person.


18 April 2012
Forum Page
Straits Times

I was recently in China to handle a business transaction. I opened a bank account, received money into the account, made a ATM withdrawal and transfer some money to Singapore. I was impressed with the efficiency of the banking system in China. All the transactions were handled electronically with a bank card and a PIN. There was no need to verify my signature on the transactions, and no need to write any check.

My first experience with the banks in China was 20 years ago and the system then was backward.  China has made a lot of progress in the banking system since.

In contrast, the progress and development have been slow in Singapore. We are still using checks for many business payments. There is still a heavy reliance on signatures and documents that have to be sent in hard copy by post to the banks. I still receive many notifications from banks and other financial institutions by post which are often missed among the junk mail that flood my letter box.

I have my personal and business accounts with DBS Bank and can attest to the difficulty of using their internet banking facilities. It is so troublesome to make a payment electronically that I had to resort to writing checks quite often.

To make a electronic payment through my business account using the DBS IDEAL system, I have to enter 5 codes and go through 6 webpages to create a payment transaction and enter 3 codes and go through 2 webpages to authorize it. DBS Bank explained that this system was useful to make it easy for large companies to use batch processing to make many payments daily. They seem to forget that small companies also need to make payments and should not be required to go through this complicated process.

They also told me that there is a committee looking into the New Generation Payment System that will address the issues that I have raised. I recall reading about this project a few years ago and there is still no news about the implementation of this system. Does it have to take several years to streamline our payment system?

Tan Kin Lian

Fair distribution of wages

Lucky Tan writes about the need for a fairer distribution of wages. His story about the public transport strike in Los Angeles is insightful. The commuters of LA supports the demand of bus drivers for higher wages, as they are part of the community. We need to emulate the American's concern for their fellow men, rather than adopt the Singaporean attitude of being self-centered.

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