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You Can Buy The Vice President’s Old Cadillac, Signature Biden Jokes Not Included

Wed, 2014-04-16 18:06

(Craigslist)

(Craigslist)

Whenever I think of Vice President Joe Biden, I imagine him either on a train or telling a somewhat awkward joke in a totally inappropriate setting. But it turns out he also drives cars on occasion, along with his usual train riding and jokemaking duties (and also being VP, etc), one of which is now reportedly for sale by its most recent owner. No jokes are included in the deal though, so you’ll have to provide your own.

The 2005 Cadillac STS is listed on the Delaware Craigslist as of this writing for $15,000. And it sounds exactly like a car that could’ve been owned by anyone, much less the second guy in line for the Oval Office:

Joe Biden caddy sts v8 North Star engine 4×4. Total package everything included. Push start tweeter speakers, Bose, heated and cool seats front and black. Inside and out in good condition. Needs shocks and suspension and minor engine work. Air filter, fan belt… $15,000. Need to sell make an offer. Need to sell before end of the month.

He tells Delaware Online he bought the car after Biden’s lease ended when he became veep. He didn’t realize it was Biden’s until he noticed some very recognizable names programmed into the car’s system.

“At first I didn’t know,” he said, “until the Bluetooth in the car had Beau, Hunter and Jill’s Washington, Philadelphia and other important numbers in it.”

He abstained from dialing up the Biden folks, he says, which would’ve been difficult for many a prank loving American. Heck, Biden would probably think it’s funny too.

There’s no apparent confirmation from the White House whether or not it’s really Biden’s Caddy, however, so buyer beware.

VP Joe Biden’s former Cadillac can be yours [Delaware Online]

15 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Disability Insurance

Wed, 2014-04-16 17:30

(DCvision2006)

(DCvision2006)

This is the fifth and final post in a “How To Not Suck…” series on insurance. Previous posts looked at auto insurance, homeowner’s coverage, and life insurance, and long-term care policies.

Now that we’ve talked about insurance for your car, your home, your life and your long-term care, it’s time to consider how to protect your paycheck when something bad happens.

Most of us need our paychecks. And most of us, if we ever became ill or injured and couldn’t work, don’t have enough money in an emergency fund to cover our expenses for very long.

That’s where disability insurance comes in.

Before you say you don’t need disability insurance, consider this: A quarter of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled at some point before they retire, according to the Social Security Administration.

And how about this, from the Council for Disability Awareness:

A 35-year-old woman — 5’4″, 125 pounds, a non-smoker who works an office job with some outdoor physical responsibilities — has a 24% chance of becoming disabled for three months or longer during her working career. There’s a 38% chance the disability would last five years or longer. If the same woman was a smoker and weighed 160 pounds, the risk of a disability that lasts three months or longer goes up to 41%.

And take a 35-year-old man — 5’10″, 170 pounds, a non-smoker who works an office job with some outdoor physical responsibilities. He has a 21% chance of becoming disabled for three months or longer during his working career, and there’s a 38% chance the disability would last five years or longer. As a smoker and at 210 pounds, the chance of a disability that lasts at least three months goes up to 45%.

Convinced yet? Even if you’re not, there are certain things everyone needs to know about disability insurance before choosing a policy:

1. You can’t count on worker’s compensation.
Even though it’s required in all states, worker’s comp is only helpful in certain situations. According to the National Safety Council, nearly 75% of long-term disabilities are not from a work-related cause. If you do qualify, you’d generally get about two-thirds of your income.

2. Some states have you covered… for a while.
If you live in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, California or Hawaii, the state will provide some short-term disability benefits, generally up to six months’ worth. You already pay for this through payroll deduction. If you live in one of the other 45 states, you’re out of luck.

3. There’s Social Security coverage, but it’s not for everyone.
Social Security has a disability insurance program, which on average paid $1,130 per month for beneficiaries in 2012. But the agency says 65% of those who apply are denied, at least upon the initial application.

4. You may already have disability insurance.
Take some time to visit your HR department to find out what coverage your company has. It might be a short-term policy that would cover a percentage of your income for up to three months, or it could be a long-term policy that generally pays between 40-60% of your pre-tax income for a longer time period. The bonus here is that because it’s a group plan, you won’t be denied coverage, and many employers foot the bill.

5. Your employer may also offer additional coverage that you’d pay for.
If your boss offers a policy, check it out because it’s probably less expensive than one you’d buy on your own. The negative is that if you leave or lose your job, you lose your coverage.

6. There are other, non-work sources for group policies.
If you belong to a professional organization or an alumni group, you may be eligible for coverage, and policies are probably cheaper than individual ones.

7. Your credit cards may offer disability insurance… but beware.
If your card issuer offers disability coverage, the initial premiums will seem super-cheap compared to individual policies. But you’ll also find the benefits are limited, and may only pay enough to pay off your credit card balance. Don’t bother.

8. Buying your own policy, while the most expensive option, is also the most flexible.
Unlike employer policies, the insurance will stay with you as long as you pay the premiums. Most plans will cover 40 to 65% of your income, and if you pay the premiums with after-tax dollars, the payouts when you’re disabled are tax-free.

9. There are two main types of disability coverage.
“Own occupation” pays if you’re unable to work at your own occupation, while “any occupation” will cover you if you’re unable to work at all. This is an important difference. Say you’re a waiter and you lose your leg in an accident. You can’t easily be a waiter — your own occupation — but you could take a desk job somewhere. If the waiter had “any occupation” coverage, the policy wouldn’t pay. If he had the “own occupation” policy, it would pay. Of course the “own occupation” coverage is more costly.

Items 10 through 15 are terms that anyone looking to buy disability coverage should become familiar with:

10. “Benefit level”/”Benefit period”
The benefit level is how much of your pre-disability income the policy will pay. Generally this will be from 40 to 65% of your income. The benefit period is how long the policy will pay out to you. Typically, you can choose between one and five years, or for a more expensive premium, until age 65.

11. “Elimination period”/”Waiting period”
This is how long you have to wait after a disability happens before the policy starts paying benefits, usually between 30 and 90 days. If you want a lower premium (and you have a healthy emergency fund to get you through), consider a 180-day elimination period.

12. “Guaranteed renewable”/”Non-cancelable”
It may cost more, but you want a policy that’s both guaranteed renewable and non-cancelable. That means they can’t cancel your policy as long as you pay the premiums, and the premiums will not change. If your policy is only guaranteed renewable, the policy can’t be cancelled, but premiums can be raised if your state approves a rate hike for all policies of your type.

13. “Inflation protection”
This will also cost more, but it’s a very important addition to any disability policy, which you’re likely to have as long as you’re working. The inflation clause, or rider, is basically a cost-of-living adjustment so you if you collect, your benefits will rise as costs rise.

14. “Presumptive disability”
This means you are presumed completely disabled — even if you can perform certain tasks, and even if you can do your regular job — if you suffer certain conditions, such as the loss of a limb, hearing, eyesight or speech.

15. “Exclusions”
Make sure you understand any exclusions or limits. You might find disabilities caused by pre-existing conditions could be excluded, as could mental illness or stress-related disabilities, and chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia. Also look for exclusions related to disabilities caused by so-called dangerous hobbies.

Have a topic you’d like to see covered in How To Not Suck? Or maybe you’re an expert who would like to share your insight with Consumerist readers? Send us a note at notsuck@consumerist.com.

You can read Karin Price Mueller’s stories for The Star-Ledger at NJ.com, follow her on Facebook, and on Twitter @kpmueller.

PREVIOUSLY ON HOW TO NOT SUCK:
15 Things People Of All Ages Need To Know About Long-Term Care Insurance
15 Things You Need To Know About Life Insurance
15 Things Everyone (Including Renters) Should Know About Homeowner’s Insurance
15 Things You Need To Know About Buying Auto Insurance
How To Not Suck… At Going To Small Claims Court
How To Not Suck… At Buying In Bulk
How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 5: Spending Your Wedding Cash
How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 4: The Honeymoon
How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 3: The Costly Little Extras
How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 2: The Stuff People Pay Too Much For
How To Not Suck At Planning Your Wedding, Part 1: The Most Expensive Steps
How To Not Suck… At Teaching Your Kids About Money
How To Not Suck… At Valentine’s Day Gifts
How To Not Suck… At Merging Your Money When You Marry
How To Not Suck… At Borrowing For College
How To Not Suck… At Saving For College
How To Not Suck… At Pre-Paying For Your Funeral
How To Not Suck… At Making Financial New Year’s Resolutions
How To Not Suck… At Last-Minute Christmas Gifting
How To Not Suck… At Saving For The Holidays
How To Not Suck… At Charitable Giving
How To Not Suck… At Disputing Credit Report Errors
How To Not Suck… At Lowering Your Utility Bills
How To Not Suck… At Home Inspections
How To Not Suck… At Understanding Credit Card Rewards
How To Not Suck… At Getting Ready For Tax Season
How To Not Suck… At Picking A Retirement Plan
How To Not Suck… At Deciding When To DIY
How To Not Suck… At Getting Out Of Debt
How To Not Suck… At First Year College Budgets

DISCLAIMER: Any websites, services, retailers, or brands mentioned in the story above are only intended as some of many options available to consumers, and do not constitute an endorsement by Consumerist, Consumerist Media LLC (CML) or its staff. Per Consumerist’s No Commercial Use Policy, such information may not be used by others in advertising or to promote a company’s product or service. In addition, this policy precludes any commercial use of any of CML’s published information in any form, or of the names of Consumers Union®, Consumer Media, Consumer Reports®, The Consumerist, consumerist.com or any other of CU or CML’s publications or services without CU or CML’s express written permission.

Michigan Town Foots The Bill To Send Students To State Universities, Community Colleges

Wed, 2014-04-16 17:17

(HerArtSheLoves)

(HerArtSheLoves)

Community is defined as a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. For one Michigan city that characteristic would be generosity, as in the $50 million anonymous donors have spent to send the town’s high school graduates to college.

Finding the funds to pay for increasing tuition costs, wading through financial aid paperwork and being stuck with mountains of school loan debt aren’t things recent graduates in Kalamazoo, MI, have to worry about thanks to a program that takes aims to give each student the shot at getting a college education, NPR reports.

Since being launched by anonymous donors in 2005, the Kalamazoo Promise has spent about $50 million assisting more than 3,000 student pay for college.

The program aims to pay the tuition for most students who graduate from the district’s high schools who wish to attend any of Michigan’s public universities or community colleges.

One benefactor of the program, who recently graduated from Michigan State University, says that Promise lets students know they’re worthy of having an education.

“The stipulations for the Promise are not, you have to have a 3.5 GPA and all these extracurricular activities,” she tells NPR. “You have to just have the willpower to do it, and that’s pretty much it. And I just think that that’s an amazing blessing, that somebody or a group of people put that much faith in this community.”

The program has also done a lot to change the mindset for students and educators alike.

Before the program was announced there was little emphasis put on exploring specific higher education plans in the future, the graduate says. Now, students as young as elementary school have college-going expectations.

Michelle Miller-Adams, who wrote a book about the program, says Kalamazoo Promise has given students an outlet, and opportunity, to follow their passions.

“We see a great deal of freedom that students are experiencing in being able to follow their passion and, most importantly, graduating with either no or very low levels of debt,” she says. “And that opens up a huge range of possibilities. That opens up the possibility of graduate school for a lot of students. So the impacts are really pretty subtle and nuanced.”

Even with a future void of college debt, the program has seen students drop out at the same rate they would if they were paying for college themselves. But proponents of the program say that statistic is likely to change since the program is only in its eighth year of eligible classes.

“The reality is that if you have things going on in your life, either academically or more importantly in your home life, that are keeping you from being successful in school … the Kalamazoo Promise does not change those things,” Miller-Adams says. “The reality is that we are still a very high-poverty district in a high-poverty city.”

How One Michigan City Is Sending Kids To College Tuition-Free [NPR]

Victoria’s Secret Worker Accused Of Stealing, Selling Customers’ Credit Card Information

Wed, 2014-04-16 17:00

(Mary T.)

(Mary T.)

While you might be on the lookout for credit card skimmers installed at the ATM, a gas station pump or even a public transit kiosk, you likely wouldn’t expect a retail associate to wield such a weapon against customers. But police say one Victoria’s Secret store clerk did just that, skimming information from unsuspecting patrons and selling it to an alleged cohort.

Federal prosecutors are on the case down in Orlando, where authorities say a clerk would hide a credit card skimmer underneath her clothing and swipe customers’ cards on that device before she ran them through for the actual purchase, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Officials say the worker was paid $500 whenever another man, a felon, would allegedly pick up the skimmer once a week for several months and download the card numbers from it.

He allegedly wanted his accused accomplice to focus on a certain type of customer, likely to avoid detection.

“I forgot to tell u i really only want foreigners and tourists,” he texted the woman, according to court documents.

Yet another reason the point-of-sale systems that don’t require you to hand over your card and instead allow customers to do their own swiping are so handy.

Victoria’s Secret clerk stole tourists’ credit-card information, cops say [Orlando Sentinel]

DiGiorno Thinks We Want To Design Our Own Frozen Pizzas

Wed, 2014-04-16 16:43

designapizza

I always thought that the point of frozen pizzas was that you could shove them in the oven and chomp on pizza with a minimum of effort and spending, without having to leave the house. Yet DiGiorno thinks that Americans are up for expending more effort in our frozen pizza consumption, not less. Their new product has modular toppings.

This could be fun for kids, or for people who want to arrange their toppings in a special pattern, or who generally complain about there not being enough toppings on their pizzas.

The Impulsive Buy

The Impulsive Buy

There are three varieties: these photos show the pepperoni and sausage with peppers and onions variety and the Spinach, Tomato & Red Onion with Pepperoni variety. There’s also a Chicken, Green Peppers & Red Onions with Pepperoni version. The lesson that we take home from this is that people really like putting pepperoni on things themselves.

Missing Child Found Playing Inside Claw Machine Is Safe, Probably Bummed To Be Rescued

Wed, 2014-04-16 16:00
(KLN TV)

(KLN TV)

As a child, one of the great wonders of life is witnessed the first time you press your face up to that thick plastic, eyes agog as a great claw appears from the sky to descend upon a mountain of toy delight and delicately pluck its chosen prize, to carry it triumphantly aloft and deliver it to eagerly waiting hands. And we all totally wished we could be inside that big plastic box filled with toys.

Alas, inside a transparent treasure chest is no place for a child. But that didn’t stop a three-year-old Nebraska boy who went missing Monday night from wandering across the street from his home and crawling into the bowling alley’s claw machine. He then settled down to do what else? He played his little heart out, reports KLN-TV.

His mother called 9-1-1 when she realized he was gone and he was soon found in the machine, which he would’ve had to enter through the prize delivery hole without anyone seeing him.

“You have to weave your way in and out so he had to work pretty hard to get in there,” the machine’s owner explained. “I had heard about this happening in other parts of the country, it’s kind of a rarity.”

And it sounds like he was pretty happy in there while the fun lasted.

“I really don’t think he noticed any of us outside the machine because he was just picking up stuffed animals and putting them down where they come out of,” says the bowling alley’s bartender.

There’s another way to get out of the machine, luckily, as the owner supplied the key to the machine and the boy was rescued. He’s uninjured and his mother isn’t in any trouble for letting him get in there in the first place, as cops say she reacted quickly in reporting him missing.

Even better? The kid didn’t leave that wonderland empty-handed, because that would be totally cruel. He went home with a new plush toy, a story that none of his friends will ever be able to rival at any party in his adult life, and the envy of millions of American kids for years to come.

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Missing boy found safe playing inside toy claw machine [KLNTV.com]

Health Advocates Say Joe’s Crab Shack Is Breaking Its “No Trans Fat” Promise

Wed, 2014-04-16 15:10

The Joe's Crab Shack menu states that no trans fats are used, but the CSPI claims that some locations are using margarine that contains high amounts of the controversial ingredient.

The Joe’s Crab Shack menu states that no trans fats are used, but the CSPI claims that some locations are using margarine that contains high amounts of the controversial ingredient.

Seven years ago, the new owners of the 130-location Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant chain promised to completely stop using controversial artificial trans fats in the cooking of its menu items. But the folks at the Center for Science in the Public Interest say Joe’s is breaking this promise by serving up heaps of trans fat-heavy margarine on some dishes.

According to CSPI, the “Joe’s Pasta-laya,” which contains shrimp and andouille sausage “cooked in a garlic butter sauce full of mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes and onions,” contains 14 grams of trans fat, which is around the weekly limit for trans fat consumption recommended by the American Heart Association.

Similarly, the Joe’s Crab Cake Dinner turned up 14g of trans fat while the Redfish Pontchartrain contained 16g of the ingredient that has already been banned in California, New York City and elsewhere.

Even worse are the chain’s Steampots, which serve up sides of dipping “butter” containing upwards of 25g of trans fats.

As you can see by the above scan of a Joe’s menu, the company makes a “zero trans fat oil” claim to the public. To the CSPI, this puts the chain in a legal corner.

“Joe’s Crab Shack is serving up a ready-made class action lawsuit on a silver platter to America’s trial lawyers,” claims CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner.

The chain does appear to be abiding by its promise in areas where the use of trans fats are restricted. When a CSPI nutritionist went to a Joe’s Crab Shack in Montgomery County, MD, where restaurants’ use of trans fats is limited by local laws, she found that the restaurant was indeed using real butter.

But at other locations without such restrictions, the kitchens are allegedly using a margarine with a high level of trans fats.

“Joe’s Crab Shack knows it has safer alternatives, and uses them where required — but only where required,” said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson. “The behavior of Joe’s and other irresponsible companies shows why the FDA needs to finish its work to eliminate partially hydrogenated oil from the food supply once and for all.”

Dish To Refund $2 Million To Washington State Customers Over Sketchy Surcharge

Wed, 2014-04-16 13:38

(Jim Ellwanger)

(Jim Ellwanger)

In May 2012, Dish customers in Washington state began seeing an additional item on their bills — a mysterious “Washington Surcharge” of between $1.00 and $1.09 a month. The satellite provider stopped this surcharge later that year after the state’s attorney general’s office began investigating, and yesterday it agreed to issue a full refund to customers who’d been hit with the questionable fee.

Dish’s intent in adding this surcharge was to recoup money lost by a recent increase in the state’s business and occupation tax. Listing it as a surcharge allowed the satellite company to effectively raise rates without actually raising the advertised rates.

So a $59.99/month package would still be listed as such, even though no one in Washington would actually see that rate because of the surcharge.

This didn’t sit well with consumers or with the attorney general’s office, which believed that the surcharge was not only misleading but that it also gave Dish an unfair advantage over competitors that raised their rates in response to the tax increase.

Yesterday, AG Bob Ferguson and Dish announced that a deal had been reached. Dish will issue a full refund of $2 million to affected customers and pay an additional penalty of around $570,000 to the state.

Current Dish customers who were hit with the surcharge back in 2012 will see their refunds in the form of bill credits. Those who are no longer Dish customers will receive a check in the mail from the company.

There is an additional possible benefit for Washington residents who are still Dish subscribers. These consumers have the option of a $10 credit, two free pay-per-view movies, or two months of free access to the Epix movie channel.

To get the additional benefits, affected customers will need to go to a site, WaDishSettlement.com (it’s not active yet, but will be later this month) and file a claim.

As is to be expected in these sorts of settlements, Dish still maintains that it did nothing wrong and only settled to avoid a costly legal battle.

“When the state burdens businesses operating in Washington — and indirectly, Washington consumers — with a tax hike, we believe that the state should allow businesses to truthfully communicate with their customers about the burdens imposed by the state,” the company’s general counsel explains to the Seattle Times.

Sprint Store Manager Accused Of Mailing $327,000 In Refund Checks To Himself

Wed, 2014-04-16 13:14

(Consumerist)

(Consumerist)

A former manager of a Sprint store in Queens, NY, has been arrested for allegedly helping himself to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of rebate checks that should have gone to customers.

The NY Daily News reports that between 2007 and 2010, the manager copied customer information from receipts and then used it to fill in rebate claim forms. He would then have these checks, ranging in value from $50 to $100 each, sent to rented post office boxes he’d set up locally and as far away as Richmond, VA.

It wasn’t until a customer complained to Sprint HQ in 2010 that she’d never received a rebate check. When Sprint investigated, it found that the check had been cashed and that it had been mailed to a P.O. box in Queens. That’s when they noticed that more than 600 checks had been sent to this same address without setting off any red flags at Sprint.

In total, the man is accused of stealing $326,944 worth of rebate checks. He has been charged with mail fraud and released on $75,000 bond.

The big question is: What the heck did he do with the money?

He’s no longer working at Sprint, and it’s not like he took the cash and fled to Costa Rica or anything. Instead, he’s been working at a Chinese food restaurant in Virginia.

“If there was a spending spree, I don’t know when that took place because my understanding is he works seven days a week in the restaurant,” says his lawyer.

Game Of Thrones Episode Breaks Record, With 193K BitTorrent Users Share Single File At Same Time

Wed, 2014-04-16 12:30

Apparently people couldn't wait to see the blessed nuptials of Joffrey and Margaery... May their love and reign be fruitful and long.

Apparently people couldn’t wait to see the blessed nuptials of Joffrey and Margaery… May their love and reign be fruitful and long.

The new season of HBO’s Game of Thrones is doing well in the TV ratings for the premium network, but it’s also gaining popularity with pirates who don’t feel like subscribing to the channel (or whichever premium stations air the show in other parts of the world) or waiting until it’s available to buy or rent legally. In fact, the most recent episode of the series has shattered a record for the number of people simultaneously sharing a single file via BitTorrent.

According to TorrentFreak, some 1.5 million people had already shared pirated files of this past Sunday’s GoT episode within the first day after it aired. One particular file had more than 193,000 users actively sharing at once.

This is a record for a single torrent swarm, claims the site. The previous record had also been held by a Thrones episode, when one pirated version of last season’s finale drew more than 171,000 people to a single swarm.

Interestingly, the largest swarm for season premiere of the fantasy series based on the bestselling Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin only reached 144,000 users at its peak. This may be due to the fact that the premiere episode aired during a weekend on which many cable providers offered HBO access for free.

The rush to share the second episode might also have something to do with a huge plot development. It’s hardly a spoiler to anyone even vaguely familiar with the series, but surprise surprise, someone dies. This news immediately hit Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets on Sunday night, perhaps pushing curious folks to jump onto the best available torrent.

U.S. Airways: We’re Not Firing Staffer Who Tweeted Toy Plane Porn

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:35

Some much more innocent toy planes that were not involved. (JoelZimmer)

Some very innocent toy planes that were not involved. (JoelZimmer)

This week got off to a hilarious start if you like corporate social media gaffes. US Airways is awfully embarrassed about the incident where they responded to a customer complaint with a photograph of a nude woman posed with a model plane lodged in her jetway. Contrary to our predictions, the airline says that posting the photo was “an honest mistake” and no one is getting fired. Someone might want to throw away that toy plane, though.

As a classy establishment, we aren’t going to post the blurred or un-blurred versions of the photo in question: there are plenty of other sites that have preserved the image, and you can satisfy your curiosity within a few clicks.

The airline told the New York Daily News that this was all a pretty innocent mistake. A spokesman explained to the New York Daily News that a random Twitter user had publicly tweeted the image at the airline, and one of the company Twitterers copied the URL in order to report the offending image. In a horrific computer clipboard mixup, they added the picture’s address to a tweet sent to a frustrated customer instead.

The US Airways spokesperson says that the person responsible will not be fired for the mixup: they were originally out to protect the company from being associated with such filth.

US Airways’ pornographic tweet was ‘an honest mistake’ by employee, won’t lead to firing: airline [New York Daily News]

Read more:

LaCie Admits Customer Data Was Breached For A Year

Wed, 2014-04-16 00:11

(Checo Che)

(Checo Che)

You may be familiar with LaCie, a French company that makes computer hard drives. They’re now owned by Seagate, and maintain their own online storefront, which was one of many hit by hackers in a recent credit card data breach. This time, the baddies exploited vulnerabilities in the Web application platform ColdFusion. This breach has been ongoing for almost an entire year.

LaCie claims that they’ve contacted affected customers that they’ve been able to identify, but that anyone who has used a payment card on their site between March 27, 2013 and March 10, 2014. They believe that customers’ names and addresses and possibly usernames and passwords were also affected by the breach, and reset all passwords on the site as a precaution.

Shadowy but usually reliable sources told the site Krebs on Security that the people behind these smaller breaches might be the very same outfit that stole as many as 150 million customer records from Adobe in 2013, and information from major data brokers like LexisNexis and Dun & Bradstreet earlier that same year.

Hardware Giant LaCie Acknowledges Year-Long Credit Card Breach [Krebs on Security]
LaCie Incident Notification [LaCie]

Microsoft Sends E-mail To Make Sure You Don’t Want E-mail From Microsoft

Tue, 2014-04-15 23:31

You don’t get it, Microsoft. Your customers tried to be nice about it: they don’t want to get e-mail from you. They unsubscribed from all of your news and webcast announcements. They don’t want to hear about your product trials. They don’t want to get e-mail from you. So what did you do? You e-mailed them to find out whether they’ve maybe changed their minds.

micro_stalker

Readers who work in the information technology biz and recently quit mailing lists from Microsoft report receiving this message. It’s not even a hint, Microsoft: these people specifically said that they no longer want to receive messages from you.

We sent a message to Microsoft asking what they might have been thinking here, but don’t expect a response.

Senate Investigates Publishers Clearing House Amid Allegations Of Deceptive Marketing

Tue, 2014-04-15 23:08

pchFor years the friendly faces at Publishers Clearing House have been giving consumers hope that they’ve won or are about to win a fabulous prize. But does the company mislead consumers with deceptive sweepstakes promotions? In some instances, yes, a new report has found.

A Senate Special Committee on Aging investigation [PDF] found numerous examples of how Publishers Clearing House solicitations appear to “push the limits” of federal law and settlement agreements reached with state Attorneys Generals over the last 20 years.

“I’m all for folks winning prizes but it concerns me when seniors still report they’re being misled by Publishers Clearing House,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, of Florida, said in a news release. “If people are concluding that they have to buy something to enter or win the sweepstakes, then we need to make sure that gets corrected.”

The investigation began after the committee received reports of senior citizens who make frequent purchases from PCH.

In one case, an elderly man from Pennsylvania was convinced he was about to win a big price from PCH. He called his son to be on hand for the giveaway. Later, the son discovered that his father had spent more than $2,600 on PCH merchandise over two years in the hopes it would improve his chance of winning.

The crux of the issue lies in whether or not the company mislead consumers by giving them the impression they had won or were close to winning a prize, or that buying products or subscriptions increases their odds of winning. The use of such misleading solicitations would be in violation of the settlement agreements and of a law that regulates sweepstakes mailing.

In 1999, the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ hearing on deceptive sweepstakes mailings and promotions led to the enactment of the Deceptive Mailing Prevention and Enforcement Act. The law requires mailings to include the odds of winning a prize, rules of the contest, and a statement that no purchase was necessary.

In 2000, PCH agreed to pay $18 million, including $15.9 million in restitution to consumers after settling with 23 states and the District of Columbia over allegations that it misled consumers into believing they were close to winning a prize, and that ordering magazines and other merchandise would increase their chances. Ultimately, the company did not admit to any wrong doing.

The same issue was settled in 2001 with 26 states leading the company to pay another $34 million in restitution and fines. In 2010, the company settled with 33 states and the District of Columbia over allegations it violated the 1999 agreements; the case was settled for $3.5 million.

During the most recent investigation the Committee on Aging found the following solicitations to be potentially misleading:

  • Solicitations that incorporated maps of the recipient’s neighborhood, along with a statement that a prize is “approved for delivery.”
  • Letters accompanied by “Stay Rich Tips for New Winners” inserts which tell recipients to “buy and spend smart” and to “contact a reputable accountant or financial advisor.”
  • Envelopes used for mailing in sweepstakes entries that include detachable notices that read: “OOPS! Did you forget to place an order?”
  • Various warnings that appear when a consumer is entering a sweepstakes online, including “Order History Review: No Order Ever Placed” and “Wait!  We See That You Are Not Placing an Order!”

Additionally, the committee reviewed a number of consumer complaints against the company, many of which detailed the exact messages previous settlements sought to eliminate.

The report concludes that new legislation may be needed to better protect consumers from email and online sweepstakes promotions.

Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes Solicitations Under Scrutiny [Senate Committee on Aging]

Lawsuit: Magically Slimming Underwear Didn’t Do Any Magical Slimming

Tue, 2014-04-15 23:00

(gurms)

(gurms)

Why would you buy a slimming garment? Because you want it to make you slim, obviously. So when two Massachusetts women bought special skivvies marketed based on their weight-reducing ingredients and felt that no such weight reduction happened, they decided to sue.

The two women filed a civil lawsuit in federal court today against Maidenform and Wacoal America, claiming deceptive advertising of products like iPant and Instant Slimmer tricked them into buying the garments, reports the Boston Business Journal.

They’re seeking class action status, saying the garments made by both companies use a fabric that is marketed as being “constructed with minerals and nutrients that are absorbed by the skin and can permanently change women’s body shape and skin tone.”

Those apparently magical ingredients “prey upon women’s insecurities about their body images,” because the companies are aware that the shapewear industry is a very profitable one in the U.S.

The plaintiffs claim they paid up premiums of up to 50% to buy the garments to get the benefits of these advertised special bpowers

The plaintiffs were harmed, the suit states, because they paid as much as 50 percent premiums to buy undergarments falsely advertised as having these apparently special powers.

If I could give my underwear a special power it would be to turn into cash when I need it. Great party trick.

Massachusetts women sue undergarment makers over slimming claims [Boston Business Journal]

CFPB Proposes Rule Change So Banks Can Send Your Money Overseas

Tue, 2014-04-15 22:16

(Rich)

(Rich)

You should not send money overseas to an exiled prince who promises to split his fortune with you. That is likely a scam. But if for some reason you do need to send funds overseas for legitimate reasons, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed rule change could help get your money where it needs to be.

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a revision [PDF] to its international money transfer rule that would give banks and credit unions more time to implement consumer protections related to disclosures about fees and exchange rates for overseas money transfers.

The CFPB remittance rule creates comprehensive consumer protections for international money transfers, including the requirement of banks to disclose third-party fees and any exchange rate fees that may apply. Currently, an exception, set to expire in July 2015, allows federally insured financial institutions to estimate fees and exchange rates when providing remittance transfers to accountholders when they cannot determine the exact amounts for reasons beyond their control. 

Today’s rule revision would extend the exception until July 2020 and allow insured institutions to continue facilitating transfers across the world. Officials with the CFPB say that if the exception were to expire in 2015, some insured institutions would find it nearly impossible to know the exact fees and exchange rates associated and, therefore, would not be able to send transfers to certain parts of the world.

The CFPB says the extension would give insured institutions additional time to develop reasonable ways to provide consumers with exact fees and exchange rates for all remittance disclosures.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Proposes Revision To Rule Protecting Consumers Sending Money Internationally [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]

It’s Totally Unfair That This Hilarious ‘Newsroom’ Fast Food Parody Isn’t A Real Show

Tue, 2014-04-15 21:58

Not really created by Aaron Sorkin. Hence, parody.

Not really created by Aaron Sorkin. Hence, parody.

Walk with me. You should know there’s no love lost between some members of the Consumerist team and Aaron Sorkin. Not now, not ever. But doesn’t this country stand for something, something more than those who like West Wing and Newsroom and those who think it’s too much fast talking while walking, dammit? That’s why there are Sorkin parodies that are better than the real thing. Because this is America. We need to get this post up, damn it. We owe it to ourselves.

In America’s fast food restaurants, there is no room for apple slices. Not in the McDalmond’s of Amy Schumer’s imagination, where the manager has to fight back against the healthy revolution using the only skills he has — serving up Angus Bangers and French fries.

“You tell corporate I’m not putting apple slices on my menu,” retorts the always lovely Josh Charles when the word comes down that things have to change.

The parody nails the Sorkinesque dialogue, the rapid walking-and-talking-this-is-how-effective-people-do-things so effectively that it almost makes me want to actually watch Newsroom. Okay, maybe not that, but I’m willing to give the West Wing a try. On a rainy Sunday. When I have nothing else to do. And a jug of fruit wine. Those are my conditions, Sorkin.

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I Give Up: How Do I File For An Extension On My Tax Return?

Tue, 2014-04-15 21:57
(Krysten Newby)

(Krysten Newby)

Humans are a procrastinating bunch. Sure, many punctual and responsible people have already filed their federal and state tax returns, especially people who are owed a refund. Not you. You’re missing an important document or are too confused about all of this stuff to stay up doing the e-filing equivalent of running inside the post office door at 11:57 PM. You give up. This post is for you.

The catch is that the extension until August isn’t an extension on paying your taxes. It’s an extension on filing the return and refining the final figure for your adjusted gross income and how much you owe in taxes.

Form 4868 isn’t scary, unless you owe a lot of money. It’s really as close as you can get to doing back-of-the-envelope calculations on an important government form. You can fill it out on paper and drop it in the mailbox (along with a check, if you owe money)

income_tax

You can also take care of this without leaving this Web browser: all of the companies that allow you to e-file a basic tax return for free also give you the option to file your extension and make your preliminary payment online. Go to the Free File Alliance listings on the IRS site and simply look for programs that offer “Free Extensions” as an option.

When You’ve Gotta Go, Don’t Do It On The Alamo — Unless You Like Jail

Tue, 2014-04-15 21:45

(sallyvillarreal)

(sallyvillarreal)

We’ve all been there — that pressing urge like no other, where your bladder might as well be the Goodyear blimp, insisting you pay attention to its large size and presence and go ahead and micturate already. But don’t drain it on a national landmark, or you’ll be aiming that stream in a prison toilet, as one very bad consumer recently found out.

After an April 2012 incident where a man was arrested for peeing on the Alamo — the site of a huge turning point in the Texas Revolution, a battle we all are told to remember — a judge just sentenced a tourist to 18 months in state jail for his crime, reports KSAT.

He pleaded guilty earlier this year to felony criminal mischief under a deal that would cap his jailtime at –you guessed it — 18 months. Usually you could serve up to two years for such a potty crime. Not petty, of course, because puns.

He also has to pay $4,000 in restitution to repair the damge his urine did to the face of the 250-year-old building. Not to mention the shame it must have felt and being unable to run away.

Man gets 18 months in jail for urinating on Alamo [KSAT]

Report: There’s Something About The Waffle Taco — Taco Bell Breakfast Beats Out McDonald’s

Tue, 2014-04-15 21:17

waffle tacoAll those Ronald McDonald’s must know what they’re talking about when it comes to the new Taco Bell breakfast menu. According to a new report, consumers have latched on to the concept of the Waffle Taco and catapulted Taco Bell to the top of the so-called breakfast wars.

The Waffle Taco, A.M. Crunchwrap and other breakfast fare at Taco Bell have added significant sales and traffic to the fast-food chain and consumers seem to like what they’re feasting on, Business Insider reports.

According to a recent Citi Research survey, 33% of consumers prefer Taco Bell’s new morning offerings over McDonald’s traditional breakfast. Free coffee didn’t seem to help the golden arches, which was only preferred by 24% of consumers. However, nearly 43% of consumers said they would eat their first meal at either fast food joint.

So what’s the favorite breakfast item at Taco Bell? Survey says: the Breakfast Burrito, of course. The burrito was preferred by 36% of consumers, while the Waffle Taco was a close second with 31% of consumers saying it was their favorite.

breakfast

“The initial indications are positive for Taco Bell,” Citi Research analysts wrote. “While this development is clearly not a positive for McDonald’s, it is still early and it may be possible for both McDonald’s and Taco Bell to continue to grow at breakfast at the expense of other competitors.”

And that could be just the case. The survey found that the newfound love of breakfast won’t slowing down, as 61% of consumers who preferred Taco Bell say they plan visit the restaurant once a week for their breakfast fix.

Customers Prefer Taco Bell Breakfast Over McDonald’s [Business Insider]

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