I am an IBMer…

As I indicated earlier, I left Intel to pursue an outstanding opportunity in the same space. I know I kept this as a surprise while I went on vacation and didn’t write much, which led to some speculation on where I was going…so here it is. I am going back to IBM after being away for four years – a (sweet) homecoming of sorts :).

When I left Intel, I was seriously considering another opportunity, equally good. But I got to talk to some of my old pals at IBM and learned that they were looking for someone with my skills. Couldn’t hurt, I thought, talking to them. Well, now I am an IBMer!

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Not with Intel Any More…

You might have read my recent blog about Kin Lane. I didn’t realize that I would have to make a decision of my own when I wrote that blog. Though our situations were entirely different, it is always tough to call it right when you are faced with multiple choices, especially when all of them seem like the right answer. In any case, I have decided to move on from my position at Intel in pursuit of other opportunities.

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New normal?

Why can’t they be normal like I was when I was 15?, pimple faced and chasing girls. All jokes aside, these kids are amazing. Just imagine, if they can do this now what will they do when they grow up?.

Congratulations to all the winners. Keep dreaming and executing on your dreams. I am so amazed by these guys and proud to be working for a company that brings out the best in these youngsters.

And take a look at the link below at the winners amazing accomplishment. This youngster created a solution that is 28 x faster, 28 x cheaper, and 100 x more sensitive than the deep pocket corporations spending gazillion dollars on these solutions, WOW!!!

http://newsroom.intel.com/community/intel_newsroom/blog/2012/05/18/fifteen-year-old-creates-non-invasive-pancreatic-cancer-detection-tool

(Is it just me or the guy on the right looks like young Bill Gates 🙂 )

My humbling moment

Last month I had such a moment. My son, who is in middle school, came to me and asked me to donate his entire monthly allowances to a specific charity (http://www.charitywater.org/donate/). I pride myself as a person who does a fair bit of research, especially when it comes to donating money and have a holy list of specific charities that I donate to on a regular basis. I was not aware of this one, so I did some research. Wow, did he hit it out of the park by choosing such a noble cause.

Living in such an advanced country we tend to take things for granted. For example, getting clean water (not to mention the plastic trash we create in the name of bottled water), healthy food (not the Mcdonald’s type), safe place to live, etc. But imagine you live in a place where you can’t even get clean water to drink and you have to walk miles and miles get a pail of clean water. This charity is specifically doing work with a mission to bring clean water to the needy in the poor countries.

 

Some of the catchy things about this charity:

  1. You can look at their website map for the specific projects using a satellite view and drill down to a specific project to see how your $$$ work. http://www.charitywater.org/projects/map/
  2. 100% of all the public donations go directly to water project costs. That is because they have couple of generous donors (the guy who is the founder of UK facebook equivalent supports this) who will take care of operational costs, salaries and other over head expenses. So every penny you give them is spent wisely.
  3. They are 501c3 which means you can claim them as charitable donations in your tax return.
  4. They are rated very high by Charity Navigator .  The score of 93% is actually higher than my favorite charities RedCross and UNICEF (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=12548).
  5. A mere $5000 can provide water for a whole village, forever.
  6. The kids can go to school instead of walking miles (and hours) to get water for family on a daily basis.

So if you are donating kind I urge you to check it out and donate to help the needy. It is on top of my list and I am sure if you check this out it will be on yours too.

Tax man cometh – Whose Identity is it anyways?

If you are like me, I am sure you waited until the very last minute, milking every second of it, before you filed your taxes last week. Now that it is all taken care of, I want to talk about a video that I happen
to watch on CNBC about how an innovative tax scam is evolving. This is about how any individual who is filing tax can be scammed, so you better read up. (No I don’t have a solution that I want to sell you and make money; just being a good citizen educating others who follow my blog).

First of all, I was sitting there and watching on how that is done, CNBC was pretty much giving away step by step instructions on how to do it and wondering; so why is CNBC broadcasting it to the whole world. Much same way as Discovery channel would broadcast our weapons capabilities to our enemies. Anyways, this simple scheme works like this.

The Identity thieves are getting bolder and smarter these days. They gave up on applying for credit cards and loans using your name now that you can freeze your credit or have an alert set notifying you when suspicious activity happens using your name. Unfortunately, they are going after the IRS inefficiencies and lack of security verification, using their easy exploitation that occurs once each year.

What is shocking is that IRS requires you to have ONLY Name, SS#, DOB to file a tax return. That is it, mama mia!. They don’t check if the filing address was same as last year (or years), why your filing status has changed suddenly, why you don’t have proper W2 filing information, why your dependents have changed, etc. Maybe it is just me but when I see a tax return with every information from last year has changed shouldn’t that flag something for them?. Thieves have people working for them where they pick up this information such as hospitals, car dealerships, etc., but of course these are easy pieces of information that you can even buy as a list from online sources. Worst thing is that if they target the dead, active military service personnel, or people abroad then it can be months or years before anyone can find out. The thieves then make up income, withholding taxes, and deductions and have the refund wired to a pre-paid debit card that can be used in retail stores and banks to cash out. Contrary to what people think IRS takes days, or months before they verify/ match up the income stated in your tax return. At that time, neither IRS nor you have means to trace these guys. What is worse IRS thinks you owe them that money as they supposedly paid it out to you, ouch!

According to IRS, they stopped about 200,000 returns worth $1.15 B with questionable return submissions. Imagine how much slipped through. This is all because of IRS inability to verify the Identity. Identity is the main cause for this fraud. Wow!. Fair enough that IRS has to process about 145 million tax returns with about 110 million refund for requests, but come on, with about 75% of the population filing electronically how difficult it is to do a colon search on the rest 25%?. (BTW, if you file electronically they ask you for information from last year tax returns before they accept it. But the problem is if yours was already filed by an Identity thief as a paper return you can’t file at this point, so you are scrutinized but they are not – double whammy huh?).

Why is it so easy for the Identity thieves to do this.

Hard to detect, Easy to cheat, Takes months before the issue is found, Thieves know the loop holes in our system.

Fix: Have a government mandated universal identity system with bullet proof detection. (ya right, like that is going to happen).

Right now it is done mostly by small time scammers, just imagine if a well organized crime gang or a foreign government funded group picks this up. We will all be screwed.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/16/2752607/tax-fraud-by-identity-theft-a.html
http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/20/us/tax-refund-scam/index.html http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/20/us/tax-refund-scam/index.htmlhttp://www.cnn.com/2012/03/20/us/tax-refund-scam/index.htmlvvv

How this could be fixed?. Well very simple,
1. In Tax returns ask for something from last year only you would know – such as your AGI, your total deductions or even your refund amount.
2. Mail the check to the address as of last year’s return. If the address given is other than last years then put them on suspend.
3. Debit only to last year’s bank account and stop fly by night refund activities such as debit card scheme.

Unfortunately, IRS is not doing any of this. I can think of a roundabout way this can be prevented, but would love to hear from you all, if there is a way we all can benefit by stopping these identity thieves.

Let me know your thoughts and save the fellow geeks from losing their hard earned money.

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