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Consumer Daily Reports


Trusted reliable news sources from around the web. We offer special news reports, topic news videos, and related content stories. Truly a birds eye view on news.

Consumer News: Why do we have to file a tax return, Congressman/CPA asks

PhotoDid you ever wonder why you have to file a tax return? After all, the IRS already knows how much you made from the W-2 and 1099 forms filed by your employer and others. It knows how many dependents you have, as well as other routine information from your previous returns.

So, unless you itemize your deductions, why doesn't the IRS just calculate your tax for you?

Good question, and one that Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a CPA, seeks to answer with a bill he has introduced in Congress. Sherman's Tax Filing Simplification Act of 2017, would direct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to develop a new program to provide taxpayers with a pre-prepared tax return with their income tax liability or refund amount already calculated.

“Under the Tax Filing Simplification Act, most Americans would receive a tax return already prepared by the IRS. They could hit ‘submit’ and they’re done.  Or they could make changes and then hit ‘submit’,” said Rep. Sherman. “Or they could simply ignore the IRS pre-prepared return and submit their returns just as they do now.”

The bill would also require the IRS to create new software to allow all taxpayers to prepare and file their taxes directly through the IRS. 

Additionally, the bill would allow taxpayers to download information the IRS already has (like their W-2 and 1099 forms) directly from the IRS’s website.

Co-sponsors of the measure include Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Grace Napolitano (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Tom Suozzi (D-NY). 

The bill is based on legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Read more...

Consumer News: Making time-saving purchases increases happiness in consumers

PhotoWe’ve all heard the saying that money can’t buy you happiness, but a new study from the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School suggests that might not actually be the case.

After surveying over 6,000 people from the U.S., Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands, the researchers found that consumers were happier when they used their money to buy themselves extra personal time. While some people may balk at the idea of hiring a person to do their laundry, mow their grass, or take care of other chores and errands, lead author Ashley Whilans says that the reduced stress leads to greater happiness.

“People who hire a housecleaner or pay the kid next door to mow the lawn might feel like they’re being lazy,” she said. “But our results suggest that buying time has similar benefits for happiness as having more money.”

Greater life satisfaction

To further their findings, the researchers performed a field test that randomly asked some participants to spend $40 on a time saving purchase and $40 on a material purchase on consecutive weekends. Responses indicated that participants felt happier after spending money on the time saving purchase rather than the material purchase.

When asked to elaborate, respondents indicated that making purchases that saved time tended to increase life satisfaction, regardless of how much income they had to work with. The finding surprised researchers, who initially thought that only those with more disposable income would benefit from time saving purchases.

“The benefits of buying time aren’t just for wealthy people,” said senior author Elizabeth Dunn. “We thought the effects might only hold up for people with quite a bit of disposable income, but to our surprise, we found the same effects across the income spectrum.”

Buying out of unpleasant experiences

While the study indicates that spending money to save time is beneficial, the researchers point out that consumers rarely make these kinds of purchases on their own. An additional survey of 98 working adults found that only 2% would use an unexpected $40 windfall on a purchase that saved them time.

“Although buying time can serve as a buffer against the time pressures of daily life, few people are doing it even when they can afford it,” said Dunn. “Lots of research has shown that people benefit from buying their way into pleasant experiences, but our research suggests people should also consider buying their way out of unpleasant experiences.”

The full study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more...

Consumer News: How to guard against identity theft and bank fraud

PhotoReports of data breaches involving credit card networks at stores and hotels seem to be increasing. So maybe it's not surprising that consumers are worrying more about it happening to them, and what it might mean.

FICO, an analytics software company, reports that its latest research shows 44% of consumers rank identity theft and bank fraud as their top concern. That's more than double the percentage who said they worried about a terrorist attack.

Eighty-six percent of consumers were concerned about the theft of their Social Security number, followed by 76% who worry about their bank account information being stolen.

"Human beings hate to lose," said Bob Shiflet, vice president of FICO's fraud business line. "The survey confirms the psychology of loss aversion, especially when it comes to money and the likelihood of an event happening to us. The loss of your personal information or money from your account cuts deep, it is a violation, and people now know it's much more likely to happen to them."

Big jump in identity theft

Consumers worry about these things for good reason. A report by Javelin Strategy & Research found a record number of consumers -- 15.4 million -- were hit with some form of identity fraud in 2016.

Fortunately, there are some ways to protect yourself. When it comes to credit cards, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises consumers to make a record of all credit card account numbers, their expiration dates and the phone number to report fraud. Keep that list handy in case a card is lost or stolen, or you notice an unauthorized charge on the account.

This might sound obvious, but the FTC says you shouldn't lend your card to anyone, even your kids. Shred all statements and bills that have your account information.

Careful with cards

The biggest increase in credit card fraud last year came from cases where a charge was made when the card was not physically present -- charges made online or not on the phone. You should make online purchases only from trusted sites and never give your card information to anyone who calls you, unsolicited, to sell you something.

Identity theft can not only lead to financial loss, it can be very expensive and time consuming to resolve. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) urges consumers to be extremely careful with personally identifiable information, such as Social Security number, date of birth, and mother's maiden name.

"Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly online and asks for your personal information," FDIC warns on its website. "It doesn’t matter how legitimate the e-mail or website may look. Only open e-mails that look like they are from people or organizations you know, and even then, be cautious if they look questionable. Be especially wary of fraudulent e-mails or websites that have typos or other obvious mistakes."

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Consumer News: How difficult is it to resolve a problem with your cellphone company?

PhotoIf you are the typical cellphone customer, you're generally happy with your carrier's coverage and service plans.

In fact, you're pretty content -- until a problem crops up. And if you're the typical cellphone customer, that's when you tend to lose your patience.

A new report by J.D. Power finds that customers' biggest complaint about cellphone companies is they make the customer work too hard to solve a problem. Automated phone trees are a huge bone of contention.

Getting a human on the line

The survey asked consumers if it requires a lot of effort to speak with a live representative. When consumers "strongly" or "somewhat" agreed, J.D. Power found consumers' satisfaction level dropped by 210 points.

Also, the survey found that average hold time and time spent on the line have a lot to do with customers' perceptions of their wireless provider. The shorter the average hold time, the more likely consumers were to give the wireless company higher marks for the way it resolved problems.

When consumers were left hanging from 10 to 21 minutes, on average, there were much more likely to say it required a lot of effort to resolve a problem with their wireless carrier.

Getting it right the first time

Consumers also lose patience when their wireless provider can't resolve the problem on the first attempt. The consumers who were able to get satisfaction 85% of the time on their first try were much more likely to give their carrier high marks than those who had to make repeated efforts.

The survey also uncovered this interesting fact -- consumers who post reviews on sites like ConsumerAffairs and social media end up experiencing much higher levels of satisfaction than consumers who do not.

Peter Cunningham, technology, media & telecommunications practice lead at J.D. Power, says consumers don't want to spend a lot of time dealing with an issue that they shouldn't have had in the first place.

"Customers believe carriers have a ways to go when it comes to reducing the amount of effort involved in problem resolution," he said.

By focusing more effort on problem resolution, the report concludes that wireless companies can not only make their customers happier, but reduce the number of defections to other companies.

Read more...

Consumer News: Researchers say we're still taking too many antibiotics

PhotoBacteria are getting stronger and more resistant to the miracle drugs that have fought infection and saved millions of lives over the last few decades.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has blamed the prevalence of antibiotics in the environment, with doctors overprescribing the drugs and livestock producers using too many of them in animals. Some healthcare providers may have cut back on the use of the drugs, but two studies suggest there's room for improvement.

Researchers at the University of Georgia have identified sinus infections as the biggest reason doctors write a prescription for antibiotics. They contend, however, that bacteria cause only about a third of sinus infections, so many patients are taking the drugs unnecessarily.

Bacterial vs. viral

“A lot of the signs and symptoms of a bacterial sinus infection can be similar to those of a viral respiratory infection,” said University of Georgia researcher Mark Ebell. “It can be difficult to distinguish between the two just using individual signs and symptoms.”

So Ebell developed new rules for diagnosing sinus infections, or acute rhinosinusitis. The rules integrate patient symptoms and lab tests to accurately detect when bacteria is the cause of the infection.

“We need to give physicians better tools to support their decision-making, and that can include clinical decision rules and point of care tests,” Ebell said. “Using these kinds of tools, we can hopefully reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.”

When patients are prescribed antibiotics, they are instructed to take all of the pills as directed, even if their symptoms disappear and they are feeling better. That's been the standard for decades.

Researchers writing in the British Medical Journal suggest that's a misguided policy that might be contributing to antibiotic resistance.

Reducing unnecessary use

"The relation between antibiotic exposure and antibiotic resistance is unambiguous both at the population level and in individual patients," the authors write. "Reducing unnecessary antibiotic use is therefore essential to mitigate antibiotic resistance."

The study suggests stopping antibiotic treatment before the entire amount of medication has been taken does not appear to increase antibiotic resistance. On the other hand, they say taking antibiotics for a longer period than necessary could contribute to the problem. Patients prescribed antibiotics, however, should continue to follow their doctor's instructions.

The WHO says antibiotic resistance is "one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today." It has found that a growing number of infections, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea have become harder to treat because they are becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Read more...

Consumer News: Polaris recalls RZR 170 off-highway vehicles

PhotoPolaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 16,800 RZR 170 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

The fuel tank neck can crack or the wiring harness can overheat or short circuit, posing fuel leak and fire hazards.

The company has received 102 reports of cracked fuel tank necks and 28 reports of burning, smoking, melted and/or shorted wires, including four reports of fires. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves all model year 2015 through 2017 youth RZR 170 ROVs. The recalled ROVs have two seats and were sold in red, blue and white.

For model year 2015 ROVs, “Polaris” is printed on the front grill, “RZR” is printed on the rear panel, and “170” is printed on the front panel.

For model year 2016 and 2017 ROVs, “Polaris” is printed on the front grill and on the rear panel, and “RZR” is printed on the front panel. The VIN is printed on the frame on the driver’s side front wheel well.

Year

Model

Description

2015

R15YAV17AA

RZR 170 EFI RED

2015

R15YAV17AF

RZR 170 EFI BLUE

2015

R15YAV17BA

RZR 170 EFI RED

2015

R15YAV17BF

RZR 170 EFI BLUE

2016

Z16YAV17AB

RZR 170 WHITE

2016

Z16YAV17AF

RZR 170 BLUE

2016

Z16YAV1CAB

RZR 170 WHITE

2016

Z16YAV1CAF

RZR 170 BLUE

2017

Z17YAV17A2

RZR 170 WHITE

2017

Z17YAV17A5

RZR 170 BLUE

The ROVs, manufactured in Taiwan, were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from February 2015 through July 2017 for between $4,600 and $4,800.

What to do

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact Polaris to schedule a free repair. Polaris is contacting all known purchasers directly.

Consumers may contact Polaris at 800-765-2747 from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off Road Safety Recalls” for more information. 

Read more...

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