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Indian-origin researchers propose new method for preventing pay-per-click fraud

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New York: Indian-origin researchers have proposed a new method for detecting fraud from the pay-per-click model – a pricing model used for online advertising.

“If somebody likes something, they can click on the ad and go directly to the site. Hopefully, that translates to a sale. No matter whether it does or not, the advertiser pays for these clicks. In the pay-per-click model, if people or bots are clicking fraudulently, then the advertiser is losing money,” said Suresh Radhakrishnan, professor at the University of Texas in the US.

The researchers have proposed a way to support technological improvements to check fraud which, they said, is affecting the advertising industry as a whole.

The study considers identifying click fraud as a three-stage process: the service provider — for example, Google or Yahoo — classifies clicks as fraudulent or not.

Then, the advertiser does the same, using his technology. If there is a disagreement, the service provider examines further and its conclusion is considered binding.

The problem with the new approach is intuitive. For a service provider, if he gets paid, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a valid click or a fraudulent.

But the advertiser would want to verify whether the click is fraudulent or not. Even if the click is valid, the advertiser may say that it’s fraudulent because of the pay-per-click cost, the researchers explained.

To solve the problem, the researchers suggested that an independent third party investigate and flag fraudulent clicks when a conflict arises between the advertiser and the service provider.

“In the long term, for the pay-per-click model to survive, you will need to make sure both parties are happy, so technologies will have to get to a point where click fraud is minimized,” Varghese Jacob, vice dean of the Naveen Jindal School of Management.

“People will have to invest in such improvements. Otherwise the pay-per-click model may not be sustainable,” Jacob noted.

The findings appeared in the journal Information Systems Research. (IANS) (Photo: http://www.lifehack.org)

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Indian American woman arrested for fraud in the name of fake blood cancer

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San Francisco: An Indian American woman was arrested on the charges of fraud for faking to be a blood cancer patient and raising funds through online fundraising sites like Giving Forward in San Francisco, media reports said.

Manisha Nagrani, 40, tried to raise funds by unwittingly linking her fake appeal to the fundraising site Giving Forward. It is not yet known how much money she siphoned off fundraising sites, the American Bazaar reported.

Hubculture.com — a global collaboration platform to expand collective consciousness — which had also pitched in for her by unwittingly linking her fake appeal to the fundraising site Giving Forward, reported that Nagrani has been working as a marketing consultant in San Francisco, and has worked across a number of PR and technology related fronts over the years.

Earlier in 2014, Nagrani on her Facebook page wrote, “Twenty days ago I received the news that no one wants to hear – my body is failing at its fight against the MDS (Myelodysplastic syndromes). I have received an ‘official’ expiration date.”

“If my doctors are right, I won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving again, I won’t see my God-children celebrate their next birthdays, I won’t have the chance to experience some beautiful dreams on my bucket list,” Nagrani wrote.(IANS)

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Company corruption increases under Modi sarkar

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New Delhi: Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repeated vows to reduce corruption in India, a recent report shows that the country has one of the largest fraud problems in the world.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by New York-based risk consultancy firm Kroll Inc., surveyed senior executives from around the world operating in a wide variety of sectors and functions in order to assess the current fraud environment.

The survey of 768 senior executives from a broad range of industries worldwide this year yielded some surprising insights. The overall picture is that fraud has continued to increase, leaving businesses feeling more vulnerable and at risk than ever before.

In the report, fraud includes corruption, bribery, and stealing of proprietary information among other things.

India has one of the largest fraud problems of any of the countries covered in the report, according to Kroll. In fact, in the past one year the number of companies affected by fraud has increased. According to the survey, 69% Indian companies were affected by fraud in 2013-14 while in 2014-16 the affected firms were 80%.

India report card
Courtesy: Kroll

Its 80% overall prevalence is third in this group compared to Colombia’s 83% and Sub-Saharan Africa’s 84%. It also has the highest national incidence of corruption (25% of companies), regulatory breach (20%) and IP theft (15%). It also ties for the highest national level of money laundering (8%).

The outlook for the future, the report says, is also worrying: 92% of Indian respondents reported that their firms had seen exposure to fraud increase in the past year, adding that for every fraud covered in the survey, respondents from India are more likely than average to report that their firms are highly or moderately vulnerable.

In particular, they have the highest proportion reporting this level of exposure to a vendor or procurement fraud (77%), corruption and bribery (73%) and regulatory or compliance breach (67%).

While companies in India are willing to spend to improve their level of anti-fraud protection, it appears that such funds are not being invested appropriately, the report opines. For respondents that had identified the perpetrator, 59% indicated that junior employees were leading players in at least one such crime.

Despite these vulnerabilities and the high proportion of fraud perpetrated by insiders, only 28% of companies in India invest in staff background screening and only 55% invest in vendor due diligence.

Greater attention to employees and reputation-focused due diligence might significantly bolster other fraud efforts at firms in India, the report opines.

Globally, 75% of companies experienced a fraud incident in the past year. 81% of companies affected by fraud reported insider perpetrators and Whistleblowers were responsible for exposing 41% of fraud incidents.

Reshmi Khurana, a Managing Director and head of Kroll’s India office, says that corporate governance in India is evolving in a positive way, and this is being led by a new generation of entrepreneurs.

“They have experienced the many benefits of following sound corporate governance practices, from being rewarded by investors to seeing firsthand how transparency in their financial reporting helps them make the right business decisions.

“The question is, once these businesses grow to a particular size and scale, will these entrepreneurs and the corporate governance foundation they are establishing be able to withstand the external pressures that often accompany growth?” she says.

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Style must accompany substance: A time for transformational leadership

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It is extraordinary how quickly we believe smart slogans. Advertising and marketing are based precisely on the ability to win subscribers and getting them hooked through language and packaging. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has understood this all too well.

When he spoke of ‘aache din’, he struck an immediate chord of empathy through the contrast with the previous four years. Similarly, his call for Swachh Bharat and Digital India resonated across socio-economic classes. People were hooked. This was political marketing at its best. His ‘Make in India’ was cast in a similar mould.

But marketing gurus are also aware that advertising is not a substitute for the product. Consumers look through gimmickry because man cannot live by slogans alone. The unexpected defeat of the Vajpayee government in 2004 that rode on the crest of the ‘India Shining’ wave ought to be a sobering reminder for the government.

After 18 months of Modi’s government, for most Indians, barring the very rich, happy days continue to be illusory. The economy, which is poised to overtake China, and notch 7.5 percent GDP growth rate, owes much to falling oil prices and to a slowing down of the Chinese economy than to any economic reforms that have eased doing business in India. Taxation policies remain opaque and unpredictable and, thus, a clear disincentive for foreign investors. Even the bizarre retrospective tax, promulgated by the previous government, is yet to be amended.

Furthermore, for the aam aadmi, food prices – whether of onions or pulses – continue to rise. Social sector spending has drastically fallen, especially in health and education. At an entirely different level, even the very social fabric of India stands threatened with ministers and political allies making hugely irresponsible statements and indulging in acts of gross intolerance towards minorities, Dalits and dissenters.

While the central government can, most certainly, take the plea that in a federal polity, it cannot be held accountable for everything that happens throughout the country, it ought to stir, if not shake, the government’s conscience, especially when President Pranab Mukherjee finds it necessary to publicly remind the nation of the idea of India.

Modi’s rise to the prime minister’s post has been dramatic and meteoric. The distinct lack of leadership in the Congress has been helpful and Modi is, undoubtedly, looking at a second term. To achieve that, he most certainly needs to combine vision with strategy and decision making. If he would like India to emerge as an economic powerhouse, he needs to outline the roadmap as to how this would be achieved.

Consider his flagship ‘Make in India’ programme, as an illustrative example. The shift from ‘made’ to ‘make’ was meant to woo foreign investors to make India a manufacturing base. But neither quality assurance nor skill development received the urgency that making in India requires. For foreign investors, this is clearly a major drawback. Nor indeed has the government outlined the tax incentives that foreign investors would enjoy should they decide to make in India. Ministries continue to be unclear on the contours of the programme because it is yet to be publicly outlined to establish that it is in conformity with global trade rules. Unless there is visible clarity, the programme is destined to become a slogan.

Consider, for instance, that Japan has offered a soft loan for $15 billion to finance India’s first bullet train on the condition that 30 percent of equipment, including coaches and locomotives, are bought from Japanese firms and manufactured in Japan. Japan and Singapore, similarly, are likely to be involved in developing Amravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh. Undoubtedly, the financial assistance Japan offers would be linked to purchase of equipment from Japanese companies. Mercedes recently announced that it is planning an expansion of its manufacturing facility in Pune but has asked the Maharashtra government for tax concessions. More interesting is the fact that the bronze cladding for the memorial to Sardar Patel would be manufactured in China. So, where precisely would the government draw the line on making in India?

Modi’s advocacy of transforming India into a manufacturing hub can be exciting and most certainly gets us all hooked. After all, if it could happen – and there is no reason as to why it cannot – jobs would be created, foreign investment would flow in and economic growth would receive a substantial boost.

There is, however, a legitimate ‘however’. None of the above is likely unless a clear and transparent policy framework is outlined. Furthermore, the government needs focus, clarity and speed of execution. Additionally, it is important for us to be candid in our assessment of quality assurance and skill availability in India at present. No international brand is likely to stake its reputation on poor manufacturing. The series of crashes of Indian manufactured Dhruv helicopters in Ecuador and subsequent bad press demonstrates that Indian manufacturing is yet to meet international benchmarks.

As a contrast, take the case of Vietnam. It has a clear strategy on how it ought to approach its comparative advantage of a young workforce and low wages to produce garments and sportswear for international brands. Over a dozen industrial parks have come up that have already attracted considerable foreign investment. It is only a matter of time before Vietnam emerges as the next manufacturing hub in the textile sector. Additionally, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, once ratified, is anticipated to further enhance Vietnam’s international appeal. Her secret is clarity and transparency in legislation coupled with urgency in governmental execution. In short, vision is followed up with strategy. This appears to be clearly lacking in India.

The ‘Make in India’ example illustrates how the government has not backed its slogans with action, or vision with strategy. Over the past 18 months, the quality of life has not improved. Indeed, many would say that there has been a perceptive decline, especially in governance. When senior ministers and party functionaries label dissent as being ‘manufactured’ or ‘selective’ or ‘pseudo-secularism’, it only diminishes the government and, worse, it attacks the very core of democracy itself.

Modi needs to urgently recognize that his persistent silence is likely to be construed either as utter disregard for alternate voices or an inability of getting his own voice heard by his party colleagues. He can protect the stature and dignity of his chair only through an unambiguous condemnation of the incidents that are dividing the people. To be perceived as a national leader, he needs to make the transition from Chief Minister to Prime Minister.

The next elections are not that distant. While the Congress is in disarray at present and bound to the apron strings of the Gandhi household, it is not inconceivable that elections could see the party split and the emergence of a new challenger.

Modi and his team would, undoubtedly, heed the lessons of the Vajpayee defeat that slogans might win elections the first time around but consumers learn to avoid a bad product when it fails to meet expectations. It is hoped that he will demonstrate genuine leadership and translate his promises into action.

His reputation is dramatically flagging, even in the international space. As The Economist brutally put it, his governance style can now be summed up with the words, ‘Lights, camera… inaction!’ Style matters only when accompanied by substance.

Mr Prime Minister, a huge mandate was given to you to realize the aspirations of the Indian people. It can happen only when you realize that you are Prime Minister of all Indians. This lies at the core of transformational thinking and thus, leadership. Many call it the tipping point.

(Amit Dasgupta is a former diplomat and author of “Lessons from Ruslana: In Search of Transformative Thinking”, published by Harper Collins. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at amit.dasgupta@spjain.org)