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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: New version of Chrome warns users if their password was exposed in a data breach

PhotoOn Tuesday evening, Google rolled out a new version of its Chrome browser. Version 79 of the browser includes a feature that alerts users if their password was stolen in a data breach. 

The feature was previously available as a browser extension, but Google has made it a default feature in the latest version of Chrome. If a user’s password was stolen, Google will suggest changing their login credentials. 

“When you type your credentials into a website, Chrome will now warn you if your username and password have been compromised in a data breach on some site or app,” the tech giant wrote in a blog post. “It will suggest that you change them everywhere they were used.”

Google sees login information in encrypted format

When Google released the feature as an extension earlier this year, it said it was designed with privacy in mind. The company said it’s able to alert users if their password was stolen by scanning its database of information that has been compromised in data breaches and cross-referencing that information with a users’ login information. 

Google said its Password Checkup feature “never reports any identifying information about your accounts, passwords, or device.” It only reports “anonymous information about the number of lookups that surface an unsafe credential, whether an alert leads to a password change, and the domain involved for improving site coverage.”

Chrome users can control the new feature in Chrome Settings under Sync and Google Services.

Read more ...

Consumer News: FAA says Boeing 737 MAX was more prone to crashes than indicated

PhotoAn internal review carried out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the wake of the fatal Lion Air crash last October found that Boeing 737 MAX jets were far more likely to be involved in future crashes than Boeing regulators stated publicly, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

The FAA concluded last fall that additional crashes of the jets could have averaged one every two or three years, or 15 similar incidents globally in the next 30 to 45 years, if the plane didn’t undergo certain design changes. 

The prediction was included in a document released Wednesday at a House Transportation Committee hearing, which is investigating the FAA’s oversight of Boeing and the Max. 

Safety issues 

Despite knowing about the presence of an unsafe condition in a critical automated flight-control system, regulators declined to ground the aircraft after the first deadly crash. 

It wasn’t until a crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet occurred in March that regulators decided to ground the aircraft worldwide. All told, the crashes claimed 346 lives.

“The FAA rolled the dice on the safety of the traveling public and let the Max continue to fly until Boeing could overhaul its MCAS software,” said Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the chairman of the committee. The agency “failed to do its job,” he added. “It failed to provide the regulatory oversight necessary to ensure the safety of the flying public.”

The planes remain grounded today, with no timeline for a return to service. Regulators must still complete several additional steps before the plane is deemed safe to be reintroduced to flight schedules. The grounding is expected to continue into next year.

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Consumer News: California announces $3.6 million fine against CVS

PhotoCVS Pharmacy is facing a potential fine of $3.6 million for not following California’s recycling laws. 

An investigation by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (known as CalRecycle) found that 81 of the drugstore giant’s more than 800 locations in California failed to collect recyclable materials. 

CalRecycle said Monday that the investigation also found that CVS didn’t pay the 5-cent and 10-cent redemption fees due to consumers who brought in containers with a CA CRV symbol. 

Under the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, retailers located in places without a conveniently located recycling center are required to redeem eligible containers in-store or pay a $100 per day fee. The retailer has neglected to pay $1.8 million in fees as a result of its failure to comply with the law, according to regulators. 

“Today’s action sends a message that we will hold retailers accountable for refunding consumers their nickel and dime recycling deposits,” Jared Blumenfeld, California Secretary for Environmental Protection, said in a statement. “Everyone must do their part as we work to protect our environment and ensure that all Californians have convenient access to recycling.”

Largest fine ever

The proposed fine would be the largest ever to be levied against a retailer for failing to redeem recyclables, according to CalRecycle spokesman Lance Klug. 

He added that the enforcement action is “part of a larger effort” to crack down on failures to comply with state recycling laws in the wake of the closure of rePlanet, California’s largest bottle and can recycling center chain. When rePlanet closed last August, it “increased the obligation on a lot of retailers,” Klug said. “We prioritized collection against retailers that owed the most.”

“This action comes after multiple contacts with CVS failed to resolve the issue,” Klug told The Los Angeles Times.

In a statement, CVS said it is reviewing California’s filing and that it is “committed to contributing to healthier, more sustainable communities.” The retailer is allowed to seek a hearing if it decides to contest the enforcement penalty. 

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Consumer News: Millions of consumers are still paying off last year’s holiday debt

PhotoConsumers appear to be spending heavily this holiday season, which is good for the economy. But if they’re putting too much of that spending on credit cards, that can be a problem.

YouGov, an international polling and market research company, reports that 9 percent of consumers are still paying off last Christmas’ debt. Among millennials, the percentage is 14 percent.

Bruce McClary, a vice president at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), says it’s much easier to get into debt than to get out of it, especially at this time of year.

“It’s tough to climb out from under it, especially if you got into debt without a plan,” McClary told ConsumerAffairs.

Planning is actually a key step in maintaining a stable financial life. Before spending money, consumers should keep track of how much they’ve already put on a credit card and have a plan for paying it back.

Many consumers, however, may just be waking up to the fact that they’ve already exceeded their holiday spending limit. Earlier this month, a LendingTree survey found that 61 percent of consumers dread the holidays because of the financial pressures they bring.

Don’t put it off

McClary urges consumers to act quickly if they feel the debt burden piling up so they can begin paying it off. Again, one of the most important first steps is planning.

“It requires sitting down and looking at both your spending and income and figuring out where you can free up extra money to go toward credit card balances because making the minimum payments clearly doesn’t cut it,” McClary said. “We’ve seen that from the number of people still carrying debt from last holiday season.”

Credit counselors often suggest two options for speeding up debt payments. The “snowball” method prioritizes paying off the lowest credit card balance first. Once that card is paid off, the money that would otherwise go to that payment can then be applied to the next-lowest balance until it is paid off, and so on.

The “avalanche” method is similar, but instead of prioritizing the account with the lowest balance, you focus on paying off the card with the highest interest rate. McClary said using a balance transfer credit card -- transferring a high-interest balance to a card providing 12 or more months of 0 percent interest -- can be a useful tool for power-paying a balance.

“But keep in mind these reduced rates or 0 percent offers are time-limited, so you’ll need to plan to pay off the balances before the introductory period expires,” McClary said.

Boosting your credit score

ConsumerAffairs has collected information about some of the best balance transfer cards here.

But you’ll notice that most are for consumers with good to excellent credit scores. If your credit score needs some work in order to qualify, McClary says the new year is a good time to take steps to improve how you look to lenders. 

“First, pull a copy of your credit report at all three agencies,” he said. “Go to annualcreditreport.com and download the free copies you are entitled to once a year. Then you can see for yourself exactly how your creditors are reporting your payment activity.”

McClary says you should also look closely at the credit reports for accuracy. Incorrect negative information will pull down your credit score. If you find it, you can contest it with the credit bureau.

Finally, it’s important that you pay all of your bills on time every month. Timely debt payment makes up about a third of your credit score.

NFCC represents non-profit credit counselors across the U.S. They charge a small fee but deliver unbiased advice and can help consumers develop and plan for getting out of debt and staying that way.

Read more ...

Consumer News: University of Phoenix to pay $191 million to settle charges that it deceived students

PhotoThe University of Phoenix (UOP) and its parent company Apollo Education Group have reached a record $191 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which accused the for-profit college of deceiving students.

As part of the settlement, students deemed to have been harmed by the school’s advertising will have their student loans wiped out, with $141 million of the settlement being set aside for that purpose.

The FTC alleges that UOP sought to attract students by misrepresenting that it had relationships with large employers such as Microsoft and could help students get jobs after graduation. The agency said these ads were specifically targeted at people in the military, veterans, and military spouses.

Largest settlement against a for-profit school

UOP and Apollo Education agreed to the settlement without admitting to any wrongdoing. Under the terms of the settlement, UOP will pay $50 million to the FTC, which will be used for consumer redress. The remaining $141 million will cancel student loan debts owed by former students who enrolled during the time period covered by the settlement.

"This is the largest settlement the Commission has obtained in a case against a for-profit school,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Students making important decisions about their education need the facts, not fantasy job opportunities that do not exist."

For-profit colleges grew rapidly in the years following the Great Recession when jobs were scarce and a college degree seemed to be the only ticket to life in the middle class. In 2015, Corinthian Colleges was fined $30 million for misrepresenting job placement rates. The action came shortly before the institution closed its doors, leaving many students with student loan debt and no degree.

The practice of touting employment connections appears to have been widespread during the last decade. In 2017, The New Century Foundation (TCF) said it had obtained data from the U.S. Department of Education showing nearly 100,000 student loan borrowers claimed that they have been defrauded or misled by federally approved colleges and universities.

Student reviews

Students posting reviews of UOP at ConsumerAffairs present a mixed picture, giving the school a rating of only two out of five stars overall. However, Pat of Wahiawa, Hawaii, gives UOP a five-star rating and says her experience has been different from a lot of the others posting reviews.

“What a lot of folks fail to understand is if you are a student, seeking employment for a specific job, you need to do some homework,” Pat wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “I am currently a UOPX student, working on a MA in education. I called my home state DOE to ensure the degree I was seeking leads to obtaining a teaching license in the state. I spoke with teachers I know and they said I am good to go.”

You can read other University of Phoenix reviews here.

Read more ...

Consumer News: Are you ready for holiday travel? The airlines say they are

PhotoLet’s start with this perspective: you and the entire population of Iraq, Poland, Spain, or Canada all going somewhere at the same time. That sounds like a lot of people, right? Well, that’s what it’s going to be like for air travelers this holiday season.

Airlines for America (A4A), a trade association and lobbying group that represents major North American airlines, is forecasting that 47.5 million consumers will take to the air on U.S.-based airlines between December 19 and January 5, 2020.

A4A projects that as many as 3 million passengers will board airplanes each day in that 18-day span, an increase of 3 percent from this time last year.

Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of seats

Travelers shouldn’t be quick to throw the airlines any shade because they believe that the flights are going to be oversold and people are going to get bumped right and left. U.S. airlines have probably taken enough heat about that over their collective greed, and many companies have decided it’s time to flip the scenario. To jumpstart that flip, airlines will offer 88,000 additional seats and an extra 884 flights per day.

"Throughout this year we've seen steady gains in air travel demand, and this winter will be no exception," said John Heimlich, Vice President and Chief Economist for Airlines for America. "Buoyed by a healthy economy and plentiful, affordable air service, travelers once again are expected to take to the skies in record numbers."

And shorter times going through security, too

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is also on the case. On December 1, the busiest day during the recent Thanksgiving break -- not to mention the busiest day ever -- nearly 3 million travelers passed through TSA checkpoints across the U.S. 

Despite that squeeze, 99.8 percent of all passengers skated through security in less than 30 minutes, and 99.2 percent of passengers who were in a TSA Pre✓® lane waited less than 10 minutes. 

Haven’t booked your flight, yet?

If you’re kvetching about the cost of flying over the holidays, there are still some decent prices to be had. When ConsumerAffairs checked GoogleFlights for the days that A4A projects as the lightest travel days -- Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve -- we found that sample routes from St. Louis to San Diego, Savannah to Detroit, Cleveland to Dallas, Seattle to Indianapolis, and Denver to Sarasota were as much as 114 percent lower than the other travel days A4A tracked. Your own personal hither and yon might have some good fares on those days, as well.

And, while U.S. airlines are still trying to get the same love the international carriers do, don’t forget that there are things you can do on your end to make life easier the next time you fly regardless of what airline you’re on. ConsumerAffairs has put together a guide on what add-ons might make sense the next time you buy an airline ticket. A few more dollars for checked bags and more legroom might be worth the investment.

Read more ...

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