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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.
Photo (c) Frantic 00 - Getty Images
Salt lovers might not like this news, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to give food producers the permission to use salt substitutes instead of the real thing. The agency is heralding this move as a way for us all to improve nutrition and reduce the possibility of disease.

The proposed rule – "Use of Salt Substitutes to Reduce the Sodium Content in Standardized Foods” – is part of the Biden administration's strategy on hunger, nutrition, and health designed to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030. The FDA is standing firmly behind its decision, too.

"Most people in the U.S. consume too much sodium. The majority of sodium consumed comes from processed, packaged and prepared foods, not from salt people add to their food when cooking or eating," said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. 

How much is too much? If you consider yourself an “average” consumer, FDA statistics say that you consume an average of 3,400 mg of sodium per day — 47% more than the 2,300 mg currently recommended.

"This effort, combined with the FDA's voluntary sodium reduction targets, is part of the agency's overall nutrition strategy to create a healthier food supply, provide consumers with information to choose healthier foods and improve the health and wellness of our nation," Mayne said.

What changes consumers will see

To make things perfectly clear, this rule would not force manufacturers to reformulate items but merely gives them the flexibility to change the formula on products that have salt or brine listed in their standards of identity (SOI). 

If the FDA’s wish gets granted, the short-term target will apply to 160-plus categories of packaged and restaurant-prepared food. These short-term targets are based on a reduction of average sodium intake from current levels of 3,400 mg/day to 3,000 mg/day, and they serve as initial benchmarks for a broad and gradual reduction of sodium in the food supply.

Here’s a partial list of those products the FDA shared in its proposed rule:

  • Acidified milk and cultured milk

  • Acidified and regular sour cream 

  • Bread, rolls, and buns

  • Cane, table, maple, and sorghum syrup

  • Canned products like applesauce, corn, figs, green beans, mushrooms, oysters, peas, Pacific salmon, tomatoes, tuna

  • Eggnog 

  • Frozen peas 

  • Fruit butter like apple butter

  • Ketchup

  • Macaroni and noodle products 

  • Margarine 

  • Mayonnaise 

  • Milk chocolate, sweet chocolate, white chocolate, and breakfast cocoa

  • Salad dressing 

  • Self-rising flour and white cornmeal

  • Tomato concentrates and tomato juice

Photo (c) Giselle Flissak - Getty Images
As we head into the year’s busiest travel season, consumers might want to slow down on their mouse-clicking. The latest yearly data on travel-related scams shows that American consumers were conned out of more than $95 million thanks to travel-related scams.

And, according to the experts at Proxyrack, those scams are tied to a garden variety of unsecured websites, social media ads, and common sloppiness on the part of the consumer. And with over 80% of U.S adults booking vacations online, no one can be too careful, especially now when demand is high and availability is limited.

“Fraudsters rely on urgency, often using deals and discounts to lure in potential victims alongside limited-time language to convince travelers to pay quickly,” Arianna Bago, fraud analyst, at Proxyrack told ConsumerAffairs. She said that it may sound enticing to score a larger discount, but it would be much worse to find out the deal was a scam.

Steps travelers should take to protect against fraud

One scam Bago said that’s becoming increasingly hard to spot are fake online shopping websites that look exactly like the real thing – something we can thank artificial intelligence for.

“These sites are set up in order to obtain the payment card details of victims and steal their money, so consumers need to closely analyze the website's URL before submitting any valuable personal information,” she added.

And there are more safety precautions, too. ConsumerAffairs asked Proxyrack’s researchers and other travel experts to share their suggestions on things that a traveler should think about before they click on a “buy” button and wind up a victim of fraud. Those include:

Cover your steps. One suggestion ConsumerAffairs hasn’t seen before is when you make any online booking, always call the company afterward to confirm. “If there is no record of your booking, it’s better to know sooner rather than later,” Proxyrack’s team said. “You’ll be able to alert your banking company, report the fraud, and still have time to book alternative reservations with the real deal.”

Be skeptical about "free" offers… Scott Lieberman at Touchdown Money says that anytime you see the word “free,” you might want to run for cover. “Especially when you aren't given details about the travel! For example, a scammer might say you've won a free cruise, but they won’t name the cruise line or ship name so you can confirm it,” he said.

PayPal or Venmo is a “no go.” “If the site is requesting that you Venmo or PayPal them via a personal email account, that is likely very suspect,” said Philip Ballard, chief communications officer and travel expert at Hotel Planner, adding that if it’s a reputable or legitimate travel-related e-commerce site, it should be using a well-known payment processor like Stripe.

Check for “junk fees.” The White House is trying to put the clamps on undisclosed or hidden fees that both airlines and booking sites are notorious for, but nothing’s been done so far, so consumers are on their own. Edyta Satchell, the founder & CEO at Satchelle Global, says every traveler booking online should check to see if the site charges a service fee and how much the fee is.

“Some websites don't disclose service fee information. If they don't, then you should not book,” she said. “You will end up paying a service fee that may be higher than the air ticket price, so don't get scammed by a low ticket price. Check the airline website, if the ticket price is too good to be true then it is not true.”

Airbnb steps up its fraud protection, too

In Scam World, no one is safe so you can't make assumptions based on familiarity with a platform.

“Even major online booking platforms like Airbnb and VRBO can fall victim to fraudulent postings,” Brandon Ezra, CEO of Grand Welcome told us. He said that third-party scams are becoming increasingly common where bad actors attempt to lure travelers to websites that are completely unrelated to Airbnb. 

“They may claim that the accommodation is managed by Airbnb, and mock up what appears to be an Airbnb webpage or send a fake Airbnb receipt in order to legitimize their scams,” he said.

“These bad actors can offer deals that seem too good to be true and try to put pressure on guests to book quickly, then ask unsuspecting travelers to send money directly, such as by wire transfer, to book the reservation. In reality, the page is fake and the listing does not exist, but by the time the consumer realizes this, their money is gone.”

Thankfully, Airbnb has amped up its efforts to curtail fraud. A spokesperson for the company told ConsumerAffairs that, as Ezra suggested, consumers should avoid third-party sites like the plague.

“Consumers can keep themselves, their payments, and their personal information protected by staying on our secure platform throughout the entire process—from communication to booking and payment. Airbnb will never ask guests to pay for a stay somewhere other than on the Airbnb platform. When looking for listings, travelers should always start directly on or the Airbnb app,” the company said.

Another layer of protection that Airbnb is affording a traveler is withholding payment from a host until 24 hours after the guest’s check-in time, which gives the guest time on arrival to ensure everything is as it should be or to report any issues to the company.

“We also regularly remind guests to stay on Airbnb to communicate, book and pay for a stay, and never to go off platform,” the spokesperson said. And if a guest suspects a host may be trying to scam them via the message thread, such as by encouraging them to go off platform to pay for the booking, they should immediately report the message to the company.

Photo (c) Kerem Yucel - Getty Images
The banking crisis set off by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has had an unexpected result. The value of Bitcoin, which had sunk below $20,000, is surging again.

That, in turn, has led to a revival of cryptocurrency scams. During two weeks in March Bitcoin’s value rose nearly 34%. Scam operators have stepped up their efforts to lure potential victims who hope to cash in.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that the criminals behind crypto scams usually promise you can “make lots of money” with “zero risk.” A sophisticated investor knows investments never fall into that category.

Lately, these scams have begun on dating apps. The scammer establishes a romantic relationship with his victim before offering to let them in on the “can’t miss” investments. The FTC says that in these scams, crypto is central in two ways: it can be both the investment and the payment.

Here’s how it plays out

According to the FTC, here are some of the way crypto scams can unfold:

  • You get a call, out of the blue, from someone claiming to be an “investment adviser. They promise to grow your money — but only if you buy a cryptocurrency and transfer it into their online account. The investment website may appear legit but it’s fake. Your money is gone. 

  • The scammer might pose as a celebrity who contacts you through social media with a “great opportunity.” But wait a minute – why would a celebrity contact you? If you click on an unexpected link they send or send cryptocurrency to a so-called celebrity’s QR code, that money will go straight to a scammer and it’ll be gone.

  • Scammers might guarantee that you’ll make money or promise big payouts with guaranteed returns. Again, remember that no investments offer a no risk, guaranteed return. The closest thing there is to that is a Treasury bond or CD. And there’s nothing “low risk” about cryptocurrency investments. So if a company or person promises you’ll make a profit, that’s a scam. 

  • Scammers promise free money. They’ll promise free cash or cryptocurrency, but free money promises are always fake, the FTC says. 

  • Scammers make big claims without details or explanations. No matter what the investment, find out how it works and ask questions about where your money is going. Honest investment managers or advisors want to share that information and will back it up with details.

The FTC suggests that before you make any investment in crypto, search online for the name of the company or person and the cryptocurrency name, plus words like “review,” “scam,” or “complaint.” See what others are saying.

Photo (c) River North Photography - Getty Images
Warehouse membership clubs like Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club typically offer consumers bulk items at a lower price than traditional grocery stores. 
Now, Sam’s Club is announcing its latest discount offer: gift cards. Sam’s Club members can get gift cards from some of the biggest brands at the store for lower prices. 

Save on flights, movies, and restaurants

The discounts on gift cards cover several major industries, including: restaurants, movie tickets, airlines, and video games. These deals are part of the store’s spring promotional sales, and the company says they will be offered for a limited time.

Some of the biggest discounts include:  


  • $50 in Krispy Kreme gift cards for $37.50

  • $50 in IHOP gift cards for $37.50

  • $30 in Cold Stone gift cards for $21

  • $50 in Bob Evans gift cards for $40

  • $50 in White Castle gift cards for $40

  • $50 DoorDash e-gift cards for $42.50

  • $100 Panera e-gift cards for $85

  • $50 in Chuck E. Cheese gift cards for $37.50

  • $50 in Golden Corral gift cards for $40

Movie Tickets: 
  • Two Regal movie tickets in Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. for $21

  • Two AMC Black movie tickets in New Jersey, California, and New York for $22

  • $50 gift card to for $37.50

  • Two Regal Cinema movie tickets for $19

  • $500 Southwest Airlines gift for $450

  • This promotion has a limit of three gift cards per Sam’s Club membership. However, one member can save up to $150 on air travel. 

Video Games: 
  • $100 in XBox gift cards for $90

  • Savings on a $100 Steam gift card

  • $100 in Nintendo eShop gift cards for $90

  • $30 in Roblox gift cards (plus free virtual item) for $26 

Membership cost is cut in half 

For those considering becoming a Sam’s Club member, the company is also offering a discount on yearly memberships. Annual memberships currently cost $25 – half of what they usually cost. Members also get discounts on other store items, including groceries, appliances, and electronics, as well as regular savings on gas. 

A year of a Sam’s Club Plus membership is currently $70, and this tier usually costs $110. This membership level also comes with early access to sales, 20% off eyeglasses, free shipping on online orders, 2% cash back on purchases (up to $500 back each year), certain generic prescriptions for free, and free curbside pickup. 

Photo (c) Designer 491 - Getty Images
When a company racks up more than 20,000 complaints at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over a five-year period, you can imagine all sorts of alarms go off.

This week the Bureau got tired of that ringing in its ears and ordered repeat offender Portfolio Recovery Associates (PRA) to pay more than $24 million for continued allegedly illegal debt collection practices and consumer reporting violations.

PRA is one of the largest debt collectors in the nation, pulling in an estimated $183 million just two years ago through its debt collection practices. But, it’s not the amount of money the company made that got CFPB's attention.

The agency says the company violated a 2015 CFPB order and engaged in other violations of law such as suing or threatening legal action against consumers without offering or possessing required documentation, and suing to collect on debt outside the statute of limitations.

The Bureau charged Portfolio Recovery Associates with failing to properly investigate and resolve consumer disputes about the company's credit reporting. The majority of those reports from the CFPB’s complaint database describe attempts to collect debt not owed, no written notification about debt, incorrect information on someone’s report, and questionable communication tactics.

“After getting caught red-handed in 2015, Portfolio Recovery Associates continued violating the law through intimidation, deception, and illegal debt collection tactics and lawsuits,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “CFPB orders are not suggestions, and companies cannot ignore them simply because they are large or dominant in the market.”

PRA responds

In an email to ConsumerAffairs, a PRA spokesperson said, “Our company was founded on the principles of treating customers with fairness and respect. We have resolved this matter with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), admitting to no wrongdoing as part of this resolution, and remain committed to strict compliance with consumer protection law, and to providing the highest standards of customer service.”

99.96% of ConsumerAffairs reviewers gave PRA only 1-star

You can count many ConsumerAffairs readers among those who think PRA was unfair to them – one foretelling that a day like this would come.

“They have called multiple times a day from bogus numbers, texted me, and threatened me regarding a fictitious payday loan they say I took out 14 years ago for the last 10+ years even going so far as to mail me fake legal documents requesting a settlement payment,” Lisa of Morongo Valley, Calif., wrote in 2018.

Enforcement Action

Under the Consumer Financial Protection Act, the CFPB has full authority to go after any institution that it believes is violating consumer financial laws – engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. 

If entered by the court, the order against Portfolio Recovery Associates will be costly. For one thing, it would have to pay harmed consumers at least $12 million and add another $12 million penalty which would be deposited into the CFPB’s victims relief fund

It would also be required to verify a debt that a consumer actually owes, and if it doesn’t, the company can’t attempt to collect the debt. It’ll also have to fix its failures to properly respond to consumers by improving response time and follow-through.

The CFPB wants your help in stopping things like this

Last December, the CFPB proposed a new registry designed to help detect and deter repeat offenders like Portfolio Recovery Associates. To help the Bureau make that registry a real thing, it’s asking the public to submit comments on the proposal by March 31, 2023.

If any consumer is being hassled by a debt collector, the CFPB says it can offer some help on how to protect your legal rights.

Photo (c) Santiago Urquijo - Getty Images
As anyone who’s ever tried to snag a great deal on a vacation knows, it’s all about timing.

And if you have your heart set on going somewhere this summer, one travel expert says that timing can’t be too far before a flight, but not last minute, either – something called the Goldilocks Window. And you'll be happy to know there are no bears or porridge involved, either.’s Scott Keyes’ Goldilocks theory suggests that for peak travel times like summer, three to seven months in advance of domestic flights and typically four to eight months in advance of international flights are the sweet spots. In other words – now! 

“The best time for you to snag a cheap flight for summer was actually back in January, but without a time machine the second best time is now—before the dates get any closer. Over the next month, the likelihood of cheap June flights is set to drop precipitously,” Keyes told ConsumerAffairs.

Keyes remarked that the important thing to remember about the Goldilocks Window is that it’s the time when you’re most likely to find the best deal, but not the only time you can find a deal.”

“Think of it like a bell curve—when you’re in the Goldilocks Window at the top of the bell there could be many great deals available to you, but on either side of that bell, the number of deals goes way, way down. It’s not impossible to snag a great fare outside of the Goldilocks Window, but it is a lot less likely.”

When Keyes was asked to lay out what he’d personally do to find a late summer fare deal, he said that if you’re planning a trip for late August or even into early September, you have a bit more time, but by Memorial Day, your chances of finding a cheap flight will go downhill quickly. 

Some of the recent deals’s fare researchers found for summer travel include:

  • $148 roundtrip from Nashville to New York City for June-Aug.

  • $448-$524 roundtrip from San Franisco, DC, Boston, or Los Angeles to London for limited summer dates

  • $1,626 roundtrip from Chicago to Lima in business class for May-Aug.

The 'Greek Islands Trick?'

If you’re in the Goldilocks Window and prices are higher than you’d like, Keyes suggests trying the Greek Islands Trick.

“If prices are proving too expensive for the place you want to visit, using the Greek Islands Trick can help you save. The gist is that if you can get a killer deal on a long-haul international flight to the continent you want to visit, you can pair that with a cheap regional flight (or even a train or bus ride) to get to your final destination,” Keyes said, then gave what he thinks are the best steps to pull off that trick:

Step one is booking one ticket for the cheapest international fare to the continent you want to visit. The next step is to book a second ticket on a budget local carrier. For example, in Europe, that could be RyanAir or EasyJet, but Keyes also suggests a train or bus to get where you want to be, as well.  

Breaking that down to a real-life situation, the Greek Islands technique would look like this:

“Let’s say you live in San Francisco and want to visit Inverness, Scotland, it's likely cheaper to snag a deal from SFO to London and then hop a local low-cost carrier from London to Inverness. If you live in Atlanta and want to visit Peru, you could snag a cheap flight from Miami to Lima and take a cheap local flight from Atlanta to Miami to catch that international flight,” he explained.

But, he says that this will take some coordination, so if that’s too complicated or it’s only going to save you a few dollars, it may not be worth the effort.

“Sometimes the savings can be in the hundreds per person, though, especially if the place you want to visit has limited routes from your home airport,” he said.