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Equifax to offer free credit freezes for life, new CEO says

Published: Thursday, September 28, 2017 @ 3:42 PM

143 Million Could Be Affected by Equifax Data Breach

Equifax’s new interim chief executive said the company is planning to offer a new life-long credit freeze service for free by the end of January.

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Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., who was named the company’s new CEO on Tuesday, announced that move Thursday, along with other efforts to improve its problem-plagued response to a massive data theft affecting 143 million Americans.

“On behalf of Equifax, I want to express my sincere and total apology to every consumer affected by our recent data breach,” Barros said in an op-ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. “People across the country and around the world, including our friends and family members, put their trust in our company. We didn’t live up to expectations.” 

According to a news report, Barros’ op-ed was not initially available on Equifax’s website on the security breach, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, but the site now has a link to it.

>> Related: Equifax apologizes for sending people to fake company website

In a move that could put pressure on the other two major credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, to offer similar life-long freezes, Barros said Equifax plans to offer a free service by Jan. 31 that will “let consumers easily lock and unlock access to their Equifax credit files. You will be able to do this at will.”

With the service, he said, “the cybercrime business will become a lot more difficult.”

Equifax’s efforts come as the Atlanta credit-tracking firm faces a storm surge of investigations, lawsuits and consumer complaints about its handling of the hacking scandal, one of the worst any company in the U.S. has faced.

Next week, former Equifax CEO Rick Smith is expected to be grilled before Senate and House committees looking into the breach.

>> Related: Report: Equifax hacked months earlier than previously admitted

Some lawmakers are calling for “clawbacks” of Equifax executives’ pay. Smith, who retired Tuesday, leaves the company with at least $48.9 million in stock awards and benefits accumulated during his 12-year tenure at the company.

Barros said the company is also extending the deadlines to the end of January for the free credit freezes and credit monitoring services it offered in the wake of the hacking incident. The company initially set up a one-month sign-up window after the data theft was disclosed on Sept. 7.

>> Related: Clark Howard: 10 things you need to know about the Equifax data breach

Afterwards, panicked consumers swamped Equifax's call center and website. Many said they weren't able to sign up, or Equifax's employees couldn't answer some questions. Thursday, Equifax's website indicated the problems continue.

“We are currently experiencing difficulties with our TrustedID website. As a result, the site may be unavailable periodically, and we are working hard to help reduce interruptions,” the company said on its website.

Barros said the company is working on fixing its website and adding more call center employees and additional training.

“We have to see this breach as a turning point — not just for Equifax, but for everyone interested in protecting personal data,” he said.

This Saturday, July 21, 2012, photo shows the Equifax Inc. headquarters in Atlanta. On Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, credit reporting agency Equifax ousted CEO Richard Smith in an effort to clean up the mess left by a damaging data breach that exposed highly sensitive information about 143 million Americans. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)(Mike Stewart/AP)
 

Amazon Prime: What holiday shoppers need to know

Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 @ 11:09 AM

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Amazon

While Amazon is not doing drone deliveries as part of the package just yet, Amazon Prime is an alluring online service for shoppers. It's tough to compare it to other companies, because who else offers a single package that includes free shipping, videos, music, Kindle reading and photo storage?

Still, the multitude of features and perks doesn't mean the yearly outlay will pay off for every shopper. Here's a quick-hit list of the benefits of investing in a Prime account, along with areas to consider carefully if you’re thinking of joining Prime.

Cost: For $99 a year, consumers receive free two-day shipping for eligible purchases, unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Prime Video and book-borrowing privileges from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library for $99 a year. Those who only shop heavily a few months a year might want to consider the same benefits for $10.99 a month, which adds about $32 to the annual price if you keep it for 12 months.

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 Cost-benefit ratio: If you typically have a total order required for free standard shipping from Amazon, or constantly need (or want) items within two days, the savings in shipping and time-opportunity cost can quickly offset your investment. A free trial membership available through the Amazon website will also give you an idea of how many of the items you need or like that qualify for Prime and how often you might use the service. Just be careful to cancel the membership after the free trial period if you don’t want it, since a credit card is required.
 
More Amazon Prime shipping benefits: To truly maximize the shipping benefits of a Prime membership, you must live in one of the more than 7,000 cities and towns that receive free same-day or one-day shipping on more than a million qualifying items (and orders over $35). To see if you qualify, check out your zip code on the Amazon website.

Tapping those shipping benefits is a matter of looking for the Prime FREE Same-Day or Prime FREE One-Day logo when you're shopping on the site, or using that filter in search. At check-out, make sure to choose the same-day or one-day option.

You also have to order in the morning, typically before noon, to receive items by 9 p.m. that day or order in the afternoon for qualified free one-day shipping to arrive the next day by 9 p.m.

Prime Early Access: Bargain hunters and those who genuinely enjoy online shopping will revel in the Amazon Prime member benefit of a 30-minute early access to Lightning Deals on Amazon.com.
 
Sharing benefits with household members: If you're a happy shopping family, Prime membership costs can be divided. Prime members can allow others adults in their Amazon Household to share Prime benefits at no extra cost by linking their regular Amazon account to the Household service and agreeing to share payments. Shared benefits include shipping, video, vault for photo storage, other digital benefits and exclusive offers.
 
More must-know facts about Amazon Prime benefits and features:

  • Large items sold or fulfilled by Amazon don't qualify for free two-day shipping though large item shipping is still free.
  • If you're expecting the two-day delivery on time, you must carefully note both the order cut-off time on each item's detail page and the proper shipping selection at checkout.
  • Saturdays and Sundays are not considered business days in calculating free two-day shipping for Prime. The shipping methods apply to business days only, not weekends or holidays.
  • Orders that cost more than $1,300 may require a signature for delivery.
 
This Christmas: An Amazon Prime membership makes a great gift for a family or couple just getting started with establishing a household, or who could really use the entertainment options along with the speedy shipping.

To purchase other gifts for guaranteed Christmas delivery from Amazon via Prime, be aware that gift orders on Amazon.com must be completed online by Dec. 18 to be shipped with free standard shipping and by Dec. 22 for the free Prime two-day shipping. The select cities that offer free one-day shipping for Prime orders require orders complete by 9:30 a.m. local time on Dec. 24.
 
Oh, and about those drones. Amazon does have a separate Prime Air delivery service in the works. It would deliver packages up to five pounds in under 30 minutes using small drones. As of Dec. 7, 2017, Amazon said it would start offering Prime Air as an option "when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision. We’re excited about this technology and one day using it to deliver packages to customers around the world."

McDonald’s dollar menu replacement is coming to restaurants in 2018

Published: Wednesday, October 25, 2017 @ 7:06 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 10:54 AM

New Value-Priced Menu Coming To McDonald's

After upsetting a number of consumers with the end of its dollar menu in 2014, McDonald’s is offering a value-priced replacement next year.

Bloomberg reported that McDonald’s announced on Oct. 24 that  it will have a new line up of $1, $2 and $3 items on a value menu in 2018.

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“We know that customers motivated primarily by value and deals come more often and spend more,” McDonald’s Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook said in a call with analysts, according to Fox Business.

“We weren’t as competitive as we needed to be on value,” McDonald’s USA President Chris Kempczinski said.

Money Magazine reported that the restaurants old dollar menu wasn’t popular with franchise owners, who said it affected profit margins. The new menu appears to be a happy medium.

A $1 sausage burrito, a $2 bacon McDouble and a $3 Happy Meal are among the new items on the menu, The Associated Press reported.

The $1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu will be a permanent part of the McDonald’s menu Jan. 4.

McDonald's is bringing back menu items for a dollar next year.(Joe Raedle/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Kroger recalls bottled water for babies after mold complaints

Published: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 3:56 AM

VIDEO: Kroger Recalls Baby Bottled Water After Mold Complaints

The Kroger Co. is recalling bottled water for infants after customers complained they found mold in the product.

According to a news release on the Food and Drug Administration website, the recall is for 1-gallon bottles of Comforts FOR BABY Purified Water With Fluoride Added with sell-by dates from April 26, 2018, to Oct. 10, 2018. The bottles are labeled with UPC code 0 41260 37597 2, plant code 51-4140 and the text "DISTRIBUTED BY THE KROGER CO, CINCINNATI, OHIO 45202."

Kroger said the product tested positive for Talaromyces penicillium, which can spark allergic reactions.

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"Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rash," the release said. "Allergic reactions to molds are common and can happen immediately after touching or inhaling mold spores, or later. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are also allergic to mold. Molds can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, even in people who aren’t allergic to them."

Babies with HIV or immune-compromising conditions are particularly at risk, the release said.

The water was distributed to Kroger stores – including Food 4 Less, Jay C, Jay C Food Plus, Kroger, Kroger Marketplace, Owen’s, Payless Super Market and Ruler – in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, the release said. The company has told stores to remove the recalled bottles from their shelves.

If you bought the bottled water, you can return it to the store for a refund, the release said. Do not drink it.

For more information, read the release on the FDA website or call 1-888-SAFEFOOD from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

Ikea reissues dresser recall after 8th child fatality

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 11:32 AM

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 28, 2016, file photo, with two Ikea dressers displayed at right, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Elliot Kaye speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. Ikea is relaunching a recall of 29 million chests and dressers after the death of a seventh child attributed to one of the dressers tipping over. Ikea CEO Lars Petersson said the company wants to increase awareness of the recall campaign, first announced in June 2016, for several types of chest and dressers that can easily tip over if not properly anchored to a wall.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File/AP
FILE - In this Tuesday, June 28, 2016, file photo, with two Ikea dressers displayed at right, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Elliot Kaye speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. Ikea is relaunching a recall of 29 million chests and dressers after the death of a seventh child attributed to one of the dressers tipping over. Ikea CEO Lars Petersson said the company wants to increase awareness of the recall campaign, first announced in June 2016, for several types of chest and dressers that can easily tip over if not properly anchored to a wall.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File/AP)

Those who own an Ikea Malm dresser should immediately stop using it if it isn't anchored to the wall, Ikea officials said Tuesday.

The recalled chests and dressers pose a serious tip-over and entrapment danger that has killed eight children so far, according to a news release. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission posted about the re-announced recall Tuesday.

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Consumers can contact Ikea for a refund or a free wall-anchoring kit. Ikea will pick up the recalled dresser for free, or will provide a free in-come wall-anchoring service. 

Due to another child dying because of the dresser, Ikea is re-issuing the recall

So far, Ikea has received 186 reports of “tip-over” incidents involving the chests and dressers, 91 of which injured children. About 17.3 million units have been made.

Related: IKEA recalls millions of drawers after third child is killed

There have been eight reports of children dying due to the chest and dressers tipping over, the most recent one being a 2-year-old boy in California who was trapped under an unanchored MALM three-drawer dressed that tipped over.

A list of recalled chest and dresser models can be found at Ikea.com. For more information, customers can contact Ikea at Ikea-USA.com/secureitkits or by calling 888-966-4532.