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Singapore warns of scammers taking advantage of fears

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Visitors wear protective face masks at the Marina Bay waterfront in Singapore on January 26, 2020.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

The Singapore government is warning of scams made under the pretext of investigations linked to confirmed cases of coronavirus, as the city-state seeks to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

Scammers have reportedly been calling people to ask for financial details under the pretext of “contact tracing” — the process of identifying those with close contact with infected patients. People who have been identified are closely monitored for symptoms and tests for signs of infection.

Singapore has set up teams working to call people and establish if anyone has had prolonged physical contact with coronavirus patients. It is a way of limiting the spread of the infection, which has killed more than 1,000 people in China.

As of Thursday noon, Singapore confirmed 58 known cases of the coronavirus strain, recently named the COVID-19. The Ministry of Health (MOH) said 15 people have so far been discharged.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health said in a Facebook post last week that it would never ask for financial details during the calls.

“MOH is conducting contact tracing to identify individuals who had close contact with the confirmed cases of novel coronavirus. Please note that we do not ask for any financial details during our call to you,” said the health authority.

The city-state’s police force reinforced the message in another Facebook post.

“No government agency will request for personal details or transfer of money over the phone or through automated voice machines,” said the Singapore Police Force.

At least one bank has warned users of possible scams. United Overseas Bank, one of the major banks in Singapore, sent alerts to its customers that warned: “Beware of scammers pretending to be from the MOH conducting contact tracing. UOB or the government agencies will never ask for your banking details.”

The new strain of coronavirus, which emerged in late December last year, is believed to have originated from the city of Wuhan in central China.

Last Friday, Singapore raised its risk assessment of the outbreak to the second highest level of alert as the number of confirmed cases continued to climb daily.

The Southeast Asian nation — with a population of 5.7 million — has one of the highest numbers of cases outside China.

On Friday, a Singapore official told CNBC the nation must be prepared that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases could climb in the coming weeks.

“I think it’s really too early to talk about a peak. Cases are coming in on a daily basis and you have to have the expectation there are going to be more cases over the next few weeks,” Janil Puthucheary, senior minister of state at Singapore’s Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Communications and Information.

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General Motors (GM) retreats from Australia, New Zealand and Thailand

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Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors.

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

General Motors is continuing a years-long global restructuring to concentrate on high-profit markets such as North America and China.

The Detroit automaker said Sunday that it will “wind down” its sales, design and engineering operations in Australia and New Zealand and discontinue its Holden brand in the region by 2021.

GM also announced plans to exit Thailand, including withdrawing Chevrolet by the end of this year and selling a plant to Chinese automaker Great Wall Motors.

GM said it expects to take $1.1 billion in charges mostly in the first quarter as a result of the actions, including $300 million in cash.

Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said the actions are part of the automaker’s global restructuring, which was initially announced in 2015, to concentrate on profitable markets and prioritize investment on driving “growth in the future of mobility,” especially in all-electric and autonomous vehicles.

“I’ve often said that we will do the right thing, even when it’s hard, and this is one of those times,” Barra said in a release.

The announcement comes more than two years after GM ended vehicle manufacturing in Australia, a place the automaker used as a proving ground for up-and-coming executives, including GM President Mark Reuss.

Reuss, in the release, said the company explored a range of options to continue Holden operations, but “none could overcome the challenges of the investments needed for the highly fragmented right-hand-drive market, the economics to support growing the brand, and delivering an appropriate return on investment.”

“At the highest levels of our company we have the deepest respect for Holden’s heritage and contribution to our company and to the countries of Australia and New Zealand,” Reuss said.

The market exits add to unprecedented actions by GM to retreat from underperforming markets in recent years, most notably selling its European operations to French automaker PSA Group in 2017. It also restructured its operations in South Korea and ended or limited operations in Russia, Australia, India and Thailand.

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Here’s what I learned from self-made millionaire Gary Vaynerchuk

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Gary Vaynerchuk wears many hats: serial entrepreneur, investor, and CEO.

While juggling all those roles, he’s also a social media wizzard regularly speaking in videos on Instagram and YouTube, encouraging people to start a side hustle, build their business and grow their social media presence.

The co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia often speaks directly to his audience on online platforms, and I was curious to see what it’s like to be “Gary Vee” as he’s known — and find out if he’s as energetic as he appears to be online.

I had the opportunity to shadow him and his team at National Achievers Congress, an event teaching people how to maximize their personal and professional life. The event, held in Dubai, was put on by Success Resources in which Gary spoke onstage to teach and inspire entrepreneurs.

Here are seven things I learned from my afternoon with him:

1. Gary doesn’t get jetlag, but he needs adequate sleep

Gary flew in from London on the day he arrived in Dubai to speak. The 6.5-hour flight was too short for him to get enough sleep. He said that he never typically suffers from jetlag, but that he does need an adequate amount of sleep.

Even though, he is often advocating people hustle hard and work late nights, he also advises people get between six to eight hours of sleep.

During a sit-down interview he had with Channel4 Dubai, he joked, “You want the cameras and the lights, you got to pay the price.”

Gary Vaynerchuk onstage at National Achievers Congress tour in Dubai

Uptin Saiidi | CNBC

2. Self-critique, but don’t judge yourself

Gary doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the famous quote from America’s founding father Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Before speaking on stage, Gary said he didn’t know what he was going to talk about.

That’s probably fair considering he’s done more speaking engagements than he can count, and is regularly giving entrepreneurial advice in meetings and podcasts.

As he came off stage after about an hour of speaking, I asked him what goes through his mind once he gets off.

“I usually critique. Some days are sharper than others,” he said. “I try to think about what really just hit, I put it in my head one more time. I felt it up there, but I think one more time.”

And even though he critiques himself, he says he doesn’t judge himself. While answering a question from the audience about whether he ever felt stuck, he responded: “Nope. Because I don’t judge myself.”

3. Ask questions before giving answers

While many celebrities are adorned with praise by fans, Gary is often asked questions by his.

In most of his interactions, rather than immediately responding to a question, he asks them a question instead. That way, it not only ensures that he understood what they were asking, but also conveys that he was truly listening. He even often responds with a question to some reporters’ questions.

4. Remember the ‘four-second interaction’

Gary told me the importance of paying attention to those short moments of meeting people, referring to them as “4-second interactions.”

“I have great visualization. The fact that I can visualize us sitting in that booth in Asia,” he said referencing my CNBC interview I conducted with him a few years ago in Hong Kong. “That’s my strength, that’s my strength, but you can’t do that unless you actually pay attention.”

Gary Vaynerchuk meets with media backstage at National Achievers Congress tour in Dubai

Uptin Saiidi | CNBC

He owes this rule to his own humble beginnings of remembering what it was like to meet an idol.

“I’m so grateful and so in tune at the ‘four-second interaction’ I had with a Jets football player or at a baseball card show,” he said. “The fact, that I’m on the other side now — it’s intense.”

5. Be concise in your words

Gary is very deliberate in his choice of words and as a result, he often conveys what’s on his mind through an example or visual image. Here are some examples from him:

  1. The best thing you can do is listen. Communicate your truth and let whatever happens happen.
  2. You take compliments too high and pushback too deep. People who are winning don’t take either that seriously. He said that when people tell him, “You suck,” or “You are a god,” he doesn’t care much about either.
  3. Too many people put money on a pedestal. Do you know how many millionaires who are miserable?
  4. Success is the ability to do what he wants, when he wants.

6. Truly present in every interaction

I was surprised to see that even when an attendee without proper credentials approached him backstage, he didn’t get annoyed and answered her questions intently while speaking with her.

He said that at the core of what he does for a living is to pay attention to people, “I’m super focused on actually focusing on the people who are here.”

7. See change as a constant

Despite being the expert in the room, Gary is quick to admit how much of his advice changes.

For example, in his book, “Crushing It,” published two years ago, he didn’t mention the importance of China’s popular video sharing app TikTok and professional networking site LinkedIn.

Now, however, he finds them imperative and even highlights the fact that his advice changes as it’s important to remain fluid.

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China PBOC cuts rate for medium-term loans to support virus-hit economy

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Pedestrians walk past the People’s Bank of China headquarters in Beijing, China, on January 7, 2019.

Giulia Marchi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

China’s central bank cut the interest rate on its medium term loans on Monday as policymakers try to reduce the economic shock from a coronavirus outbreak that is severely disrupting business activity.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said it was lowering the rate on 200 billion yuan ($28.65 billion) worth of one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) loans to financial institutions by 10 basis points (bps) to 3.15% from 3.25% previously.

No MLF loans had been set to mature on Monday.

Earlier this month, as the virus outbreak escalated, the PBOC unexpectedly lowered the interest rates on reverse repurchase agreements by 10 bps.

Monday’s move is expected to pave the way for a cut in the country’s benchmark loan prime rate (LPR), which will be announced on Thursday.

The PBOC also said in the statement that it injected 100 billion yuan of reverse repos to financial institutions on Monday, when a total of one trillion yuan worth of reverse repos are due to expire.

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