Verizon Unable To Shake Off Lawsuits Over Yahoo Data Breach

There’s some bad legal news for Verizon, new owner of the internet services and content portions of Yahoo. A federal judge in San Jose denied Verizon’s motion to dismiss lawsuits from Yahoo users whose accounts were part of a series of breaches that affected an unprecedented number of users.

Yahoo had moved to dismiss the case, claiming that plaintiffs did not show that the data breach had harmed them in specific enough ways, and that the harm could not be directly linked to the breach of their Yahoo accounts. While the judge agreed to dismiss parts of the case, her order [PDF] says that Yahoo users’ lawsuits can go forward.

The named plaintiffs in the case were from different states and even different countries, and represented different ways that customers had been harmed due to the data breach. Yahoo users who had credit card and banking statements alleged that the account breaches led to credit card fraud.

Another named plaintiff notes that he continues to pay for commercial identity theft protection, and another was a victim of U.S. tax return identity theft.

“All plaintiffs have alleged a risk of future identity theft, in addition to loss of value of their personal identification information,” U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh noted in her order.

That is a real risk in modern life, and users will need to keep in mind that their information could be floating around for the rest of their lives, and even after they’ve died.

One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers noted in an interview with Reuters that the Yahoo account breach is “the biggest data breach in the history of the world.” It meant that Verizon got a significant discount when it purchased the remains of Yahoo, but now Verizon still must face litigation.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Gambling Services Use Big Data To Target Recovering Gamblers, Low-Income Families

We’re becoming inured to seeing online ads that are targeted to our locations, our browsing histories, and maybe even our offline shopping behavior,, but is there a difference between advertising home theater systems to someone who has been searching for 80″ TVs and advertising online gambling services to people you’ve identified as having problems with gambling?

Narrowing it down

Gambling, like any other business, only works if you have customers. And, again like any other business, gambling outfits find customers through marketing.

But running ad campaigns can be expensive, with results that are scattershot at best. Facebook built its world-dominating business on hyper-targeted ads, after all, and by now basically every industry has turned to fine-tuned, highly-targeted advertising that tries to place itself in front of the most likely customers.

Why advertise to people who will never, ever be receptive to what you’re selling, the thought goes, when you can aim yourself directly at the most likely repeat customers?

That’s one thing when you’re, say, trying to sell shoes to people who bought your shoes before, or trying to sling something like cosmetics at a population like “women between 18 and 45 who live within 25 miles of New York City.”

But as the Guardian reports, it’s something else entirely when it means an industry like gambling can narrowly target a segment like recovering gamblers.

Data broker roulette

Just like every other industry, gambling outfits are using data brokers to learn what they want to know.

Information about potential customers comes from all corners and gets recombined in every possible way to narrow down the audience.

“Third-party data providers allowed us to target their email lists with precision,” a digital marketer told the Guardian. Low-income households in particular were susceptible to gambling houses’ advertising.

But advertisers can zero in on any demographic segment — “users who are on less than £25k a year [$32,000], own a credit card and have three kids,” as that same marketer told the paper — in order to increase the chances of a hit.

One of the segments gambling companies advertise to? People who have done it before but then stopped. Sure, some of those who no longer play may simply not have thought to — but some, as the Guardian notes, may well be recovering from a serious gambling problem and avoiding it on purpose.

The ads lapsed gamblers can receive are designed to hook them back in, the Guardian explains: sign up ads that get more enticing over time. One week, an ad might offer a £10 free bet, one industry source said, then up that to a £20 free bet in week two, £30 in week three, and ever onward. Those tacatics, a source told the Guardian, are “extremely effective.”

A global issue

While the Guardian specifically looked at advertising in the U.K. and British regulations, companies in the U.S. are almost certainly using similar tactics.

Related: Without internet privacy rules, how can I protect my data?

We are all basically walking dossiers of data points, at this stage; everything digital we interact with keeps a record, and most of those records are sold, traded, and repurposed in thousands of ways without our knowledge. Your “anonymous” data totally isn’t, and even when you don’t think you’re giving away any information, you still probably are.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Federal Disaster Loans Could Be Difficult To Obtain After Harvey

Around 80% of homeowners in areas devastated by flooding from Hurricane Harvey don’t have insurance policies that will cover much of the damage done to their properties. Federal disaster loans offer victims one pathway toward recovery, but obtaining that financing could be a difficult, drawn-out endeavor.

The full extent of damage from Harvey, which is still ravaging the Gulf Coast, has yet to be calculated, but there’s no doubt that affected homeowners in the region will face hefty bills just to make their houses inhabitable again.

Federal Disaster Loans

In an attempt to better handle these bills, the federal government has long provided eligible consumers with disaster relief loans.

These loans, issued by the Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Assistance, can be used to repair or replace the following items damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster: real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, and inventory and business assets.

Read More: If You’re Getting Robocalls About Flood Insurance, They’re Scams

The loans have assisted those affected by previous disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.

Politico reports that in the case of Katrina, SBA issued more than $11 billion in loans, while Sandy saw another $2 billion in loans issues.

There are two types of loans available to homeowners in Texas:

• Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 to repair/replace disaster damaged primary residence. The loans may not be used to upgrade homes or make additions, unless required by local building code.

• Homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 to repair/replace damaged personal property.

These loans will carry an interest rate of 4% if borrowers can not obtain credit elsewhere. For those who can obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate on the SBA loan will not exceed 8%.

Read More: Insurance Won’t Cover Damage To 80% Of Homes Flooded By Hurricane Harvey

In some cases, SBA can refinance all or part of a previous mortgage when the applicant does not have credit available elsewhere and has suffered substantial disaster damage not covered by insurance.

Consumers who make improvements that help prevent the risk of future property damage caused by a similar disaster, you may be eligible for up to a 20% loan amount increase above the real estate damage, as verified by the SBA.

A Tough Time

Obtaining these loans can be burdensome and difficult for homeowners.

SBA, which works with FEMA, creates Disaster and Business Recovery Centers in areas of natural disasters. At the centers, home and business owners can apply for loans or get counseling on their options.

Politico reports that in the past technical difficulties have affected consumers’ ability to obtain loans.

For instance, after Katrina and Sandy the agency didn’t have enough staff to keep up with the loan process, creating delays that lasted months.

One homeowner tells The New York Times that she applied for a SBA loan following Superstorm Sandy. The loan, she recalls, would have cost her more than $900/month to repay.

To make matters worse, because she had qualified for the loan she was no longer eligible for a FEMA grant. In the end, she received help from the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, but it took her two years to obtain the $36,000 relief.

In an effort to avoid a similar issues with delays, SBA has already called on temporary workers to assist with applications following Harvey.

So far, Politico reports the agency has received 1,210 applications.

“The SBA is prepared — for the long haul — to respond to the recovery needs of residents and business owners rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey,” a spokesperson for the agency said.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Mom Spots 2-Year-Old In Hot Car At Target, Alerts Police

Even though summer is winding down, temperatures can still be pretty hot, and it’s especially dangerous to leave children or pets behind in your car. That’s why it was fortunate that one shopper at an Ontario, CA, Target store happened to notice a small child in the backseat of a locked car in the store’s parking lot.

Fortunately, she knew exactly what to do. She called 9-1-1 and attempted to free the little girl herself, sticking her hands in the slightly-open window and attempting to break it.

“As a mom you want to prevent a tragedy,” she told CBS Los Angeles. (Warning: auto-play video at that link)

Local police arrived and freed the little girl, comforting her until her mother emerged from the Target store. The girl, whose father is currently out of the country, went with child protective services, and her mother was arrested.

The toddler was left alone for at least 15 minutes while her mother was inside the store shopping, and police say that the temperature inside reached 104 degrees.

“I just think I was in the right place at the right time and that was God,” the woman who noticed the child and called for help told reporters.

According to advocacy group Kids and Cars, an average of 37 children die every year after they’re locked in a hot car, often in a rear-facing child safety seat where a caregiver might not notice them when the family’s routine has been disrupted. That’s more than 800 child deaths since 1990, and some lawmakers are pushing to require automakers to include alert systems in new vehicles to prevent hot car tragedies.


Source: Consumer Reviews

16 USPS Workers Join Mail Carrier Hall Of Shame For Allegedly Taking Bribes To Deliver Drugs

It looks like The Mail Carrier Of Shame may soon have a slew of new members: Federal officials have accused 16 Atlanta-area U.S. Postal Service workers of accepting bribes in exchange for delivering cocaine along their routes.

Federal prosecutors say that 16 USPS employees working in locations around Atlanta have been charged with bribery in three separate federal indictments.

According to officials, these individuals allegedly gave special addresses to a person they believed to be a drug trafficker, who in turn could use those addresses to ship packages of cocaine. The mail carriers then intercepted those packages and delivered them to the purported drug trafficker, prosecutors allege.

Unbeknownst to them, the packages contained fake drugs and the drug trafficker wasn’t really a drug trafficker, but someone working with law enforcement as part of a sting operation.

Some employees are accused of going further and recruiting others to take part in the alleged criminal scheme, officials said, and took additional money for drug packages delivered by their recruits.

The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, and U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

“Postal employees are entrusted to perform a vital service as they travel through our communities, often visiting our homes and interacting personally with our citizens,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn. “The defendants in this case allegedly sold that trust out to someone they knew to be a drug dealer, and simply for cash in their pockets they were willing to endanger themselves and the residents on their routes and bring harmful drugs into the community.”

They all could be joining their brethren in The Mail Carrier Hall Of Shame:

July 2017: Florida mail carrier who admitted to taking bribes in exchange for delivering marijuana to a man along her route.

February 2017: A North Carolina USPS worker admitted to failing to deliver thousands of pieces of mail to residents over at least 14 years.

October 2016: USPS investigates an employee accused of dumping hundreds of pieces of mail into a ditch — while a local filmed the whole thing.

August 2016: USPS worker accused of chucking mail in a pizzeria’s trash bin.

December 2015: Authorities said a Queens mailman dumped more than 1,000 pieces of mail in the trash because he was “overwhelmed” by his heavy holiday mail load.

July 2015: A Philadelphia postal worker was accused of delivering 22,000 pieces of mail straight to his garage.

July 2015: A New York City mailman was accused of stealing more than $1 million in tax refunds in a scheme spanning years.

June 2015: Three Manhattan postal workers were in hot water after being accused of stealing from the “Operation Santa” program like a bunch of Grinches.

December 2014: USPS worker was accused of swiping as many as 2,000 pieces of mail she was supposed to deliver, out of sheer boredom in Detroit.

December 2014: Eight postal workers were accused of stealing packages filled with marijuana in Long Island.

June 2014: A 20-year veteran of the postal system was accused of stealing 20,000 pieces of mail, collecting credit cards, and stacks of DVDs.

April 2014: A mailman in western Kentucky was sentenced to six months in prison for failing to deliver 44,900 pieces of mail, because he wanted to speed up his route.

August 2012: A mail carrier in suburban Chicago pled guilty to pilfering $275,000 in donations that were heading to a charity on his route, after being charged for stealing more than 29,400 pieces of mail in the effort.

May 2012: A 15-year-veteran of the USPS was accused of stealing prescription painkillers mailed to war vets in her area, and then selling those drugs to others on her route.

October 2011: Authorities said a Missouri mail carrier stole 120 Netflix DVDs, which would be a feat now considering the decline in the DVD business. He was also accused of swiping gift cards and other mail that never reached their destination.

January 2006: Colorado police charged two postal workers for plucking Netflix DVDs from the mail, for a total of around 503 discs.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Trump Administration Won’t Commit To Putting Harriet Tubman On $20 Bill

Anyone expecting to someday see Harriet Tubman’s image grace the front of the $20 bill may be in for a long wait. In a new interview, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin hinted that the Trump administration may back off the planned change that would have had Tubman take Andrew Jackson’s place on the bill.

Speaking to CNBC today, Mnuchin would only say that the Treasury will “consider” whether or not to move forward with the change from Jackson to Tubman.

The $20 bill is up for a scheduled redesign in 2020, regardless of whose face is on the front. However, the former Goldman Sachs vice president turned movie producer said today that the main reason for making a change to currency is to make it more difficult to counterfeit, “So the issues of what we change will be primarily related to what we need to do for security purposes. I’ve received classified briefings on that. And that’s what I’m focused on for the most part.”

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump called abolitionist and suffragist Tubman “fantastic” but said he preferred to keep the seventh U.S. president on the $20 bill. At the time, Trump suggested putting Tubman on new currency, despite the fact that Americans are using cash less frequently and there is no apparent need for a new denomination.

Mnuchin seemed to echo Trump’s support for Jackson’s continued presence on the bill, telling CNBC “People have been on the bills for a long period of time… Right now, we’ve got a lot more important issues to focus on.”

The Treasury had originally planned on updating the $10 bill with a famous female figure from history, since that denomination was scheduled for an earlier re-design. Then came the Broadway musical Hamilton, which renewed the public’s interest in the country’s first Treasury Secretary, resulting in the decision to change the $20 bill instead.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is still years away from its slated redesign of the $20 bill so it remains to be seen whether Mnuchin’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for the change is a sign that Tubman will not replace Jackson, or if it’s just a matter of the redesign not being on his agenda at this point.

It’s been more than a century since any female figures have been printed on U.S. currency. In the 19th century, both Martha Washington and Pocahontas featured on bills issued by the Treasury. Since then, women have only appeared on coins in the U.S., and only in limited runs like the Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollar coins.


Source: Consumer Reviews

CVS Accused Of Revealing HIV Status Of 4,000 Ohio Customers

Days after insurance giant Aenta was accused of revealing the HIV medication use of 12,000 customers, CVS has found itself in a similar boat: The pharmacy giant allegedly sent letters to customers that inadvertently revealed their HIV status.

CVS Caremark confirmed to Consumerist that the company recently mailed pharmacy benefit information to approximately 4,000 members of Ohio’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Those letters visibly referenced HIV.

The mailing campaign has since been discontinued.

 

ADAP pays for HIV medication for low-income consumers without insurance, or whose insurance won’t cover the medication.

One envelope viewed by The Blade included the notation “PM 6402 HIV” above a customer’s name and address, visible through the window of the envelope.

A rep for CVS tells Consumerist that the reference code was intended to refer to the name of the program, not the customer’s health status.

“CVS Health places the highest priority on protecting the privacy of our patients and we take our responsibility to safeguard confidential patient information very seriously,” the rep said. “We immediately halted the mailings and are currently taking steps to eliminate the reference to the plan name in any future mailings.”

The AIDS activist who provided a copy of the mailing to The Blade urges customers affected by the letters to contact the state’s ADAP coordinator to report what he considers a breach of clients’ privacy.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Amazon Sued Over Allegedly Defective Eclipse Glasses

Before the nationwide solar eclipse earlier this month, experts, including some at NASA, warned that solar eclipse glasses on the market may not meet normal standards for eye protection that one should normally wear when staring at the sun. The decentralized nature of Amazon’s marketplace meant that the site was a popular source for potentially insufficient eclipse glasses, and now people who bought them have filed a class action lawsuit against Amazon.

A South Carolina couple accuses Amazon of selling “unfit” eclipse glasses that caused immediate headaches and made their eyes water, and later caused distorted and blurry vision in the days following the eclipse.

In their initial complaint [PDF], the couple argues that they only looked into the sky while wearing their glasses, and that their symptoms must have been caused by defective glasses.

“Defendant owed a duty of care to Plaintiffs and the proposed class to distribute and sell the Eclipse Glasses such that they were neither defective nor unreasonably dangerous when used as intended, to inspect and ensure the glasses that it provided were in fact safe, to warn of any post-sale defects discovered in its products, and recall dangerous products,” their attorneys argue in the case’s initial complaint.

About those eclipse glasses…

Warnings from astronomy experts about the possibility that some eclipse glasses on the market might be counterfeit or not offer enough protection began cicrulating more than a month before the solar event.

Amazon began to notify customers that it was recalling certain glasses sold on the site less than two weeks before the eclipse, with one message going out the weekend before, too late to order replacements online. Amazon has not stated how many vendors were involved in this recall, or how many pairs of unfit glasses were sold.

That left people who had planned ahead and ordered their glasses in advance scrambling at the last minute for protective eyewear made with certified lenses.

“Foreseeable and preventable harm”

The couple in South Carolina claims that they heard nothing at all from Amazon, the site where they bought the allegedly unfit glasses, before the event. The initial complaint in this class action acknowledges that Amazon sent a recall email two days before the eclipse, but doesn’t specify whether they received it.

“The inadequacy of Defendant’s efforts to recall the defective Eclipse Glasses resulted in foreseeable and preventable harm to customers including Plaintiffs,” they note in the initial complaint.

Depending on who officially sold allegedly defective glasses to the lead plaintiffs, Amazon may argue that the official merchant was one of its Marketplace sellers, and that responsibility for ensuring the safety of the glasses belonged with that seller, not with Amazon.

Consumerist contacted Amazon for comment, and will add what the company has to say when we hear back.

(via Reuters)


Source: Consumer Reviews

If You’re Getting Robocalls About Flood Insurance, They’re Scams

The world is full of really horrible, lazy people looking to steal your money while putting in the least amount of effort. Take, for example, the scammers who are blasting out automated, pre-recorded robocalls that try to scare people into believing they have to pay up or lose their flood insurance.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says that people in Texas have reported receiving robocalls with false alerts that their flood insurance premiums are past due. The fraudulent call then tells the homeowner that they must make a payment immediately in order to keep their insurance from lapsing.

There are a number of problems with this, says FEMA. First, companies that sell flood insurance don’t blast out robocalls to homeowners who are behind on their premiums. Second, these companies would never demand immediate payment without prior warnings.

If a homeowner with flood insurance does miss payments, FEMA says the insurer will contact them in writing, not via automated phone calls. Additionally, policyholders get multiple warnings from their insurer — at 90, 60, and 30 days before a policy expires.

Regardless of whether you have this insurance or your account status, hang up on one of these robocalls. If you are concerned that your insurance might be at risk, contact your insurer directly.

In addition to hanging up on the robocall, it would really help if you took some additional steps to help the feds catch these scammers. If you receive a bogus flood insurance robocall, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-720-5721. You should also report the robocall through the Federal Trade Commission’s online complaint portal.

Tracking down a robocall scammer is often a complex and drawn-out process; every bit of available information on these fraudsters helps in this hunt.


Source: Consumer Reviews

Uber, Mall Team Up To Offer Dedicated Pickup Spots, Human Customer Service Reps

In a move designed to lure shoppers back to brick-and-mortar stores, mall giant Westfield is patterning up with Uber to offer dedicated drop-off and pick-up spots in 33 shopping centers — and some will feature real live humans to help with customer service.

The new best friends announced a partnership today to create special areas for Uber customers to be dropped off or catch a ride home from their shopping trip. Starting this fall, these spots will appear on the map in the Uber app.

Each of the 33 U.S. shopping centers involved will get anywhere between one and 10 Uber stations, some of which will include kiosks with customer service employees available to help with any ride-hailing issues, as well as “brand ambassadors trained to engage with customers and facilitate their Uber experience.”

And at Westfield Century City shopping mall in Los Angeles, Uber will open a dedicated rider lounge so passengers can wait for their car while charging their phones, sipping a free beverage, or perusing free newspapers and magazines.

“The number one objective is that we need to be able to provide convenience,” Bill Hecht, Westfield’s COO in the U.S. told Business of Fashion. “We have a plethora of shops and restaurants in one location, we have technology in place for the search side of it, and now we are providing a way of being able to get to and from the shopping centre in a much easier, more ambient way.”


Source: Consumer Reviews