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Goodbye signatures? Credit card firms make big change

Don’t take this too hard: Your autograph isn’t worth what it once was.

>> Read more trending news

American ExpressMastercard and Discover have each announced that, starting in April, they will no longer require signatures on any U.S. and Canadian credit card purchases.(Actually, American Express is making the change for all its transactions worldwide.)

Visa hasn’t announced any plans to do the same. But there’s speculation it may eventually do so.

That pretty much would fully evaporate what may be the most common reason U.S. consumers still bother writing signatures, which were once the most prominent symbol of our financial integrity and proof of our identity (It’s also another blow to the general use of cursive writing, for those who remember what that is.)

“Signatures may be going the way of the lava lamp,” said William McCracken, the president of Phoenix Synergistics, a metro Atlanta-based consumer market research company focused on financial services.

“They will not be part of Gen Z. Signatures won’t be part of their stored memories.”

The shift away from signatures also hints at the fantasy we all pretended to believe: that signatures actually proved something.

“The industry’s unspoken secret is that signatures on a credit card receipt are relatively worthless from a security standpoint,” McCracken said.

Thieves only had to look at the signature on the back of a credit card, practice it a few times and come up with a fake good enough to pass.

But even that involves some quaint thinking. Because almost no one in places where we shop or dine is even glancing at signatures these days, whether you signed on paper or a glitchy electronic pad using a faulty stylus or your finger.

That would seem to explain why I’ve never been flagged for using my finger to draw a line across checkout signature pads.

Signatures are still used on plenty of legal property documents, government-issued IDs, artwork, acknowledgments of medical privacy notifications, cards to grandma and anything fans can ask celebrities to scribble on.

Yet, in other ways signatures have been slipping from the economy.

Instead of putting his “signature” on new dollar bills earlier this year, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used a handwritten mix of upper- and lower-case block letters that could have been thumbed out on a smartphone.

Signatures became less necessary as check writing shrank. And while credit card use continues to grow — there were more than 37 billion U.S. transactions last year totaling $3.27 trillion dollars — most of that is going unsigned.

John Hancocks aren’t required on typical online purchases.

And credit card firms already scaled back signature requirements on small transactions. More than 75 percent of face-to-face Visa card transactions in North America don’t require people to sign their name, according to a Visa spokesman.

Thar is just as well.

Who hasn’t gone to sign for a credit card purchase using a pen that doesn’t work and “you just scribble anyway,” said Kim Sullivan, the senior director of payments solutions for Georgia-based transactions technology giant NCR.

Dropping signature requirements should speed up lines at retailers, Sullivan said, which is exactly what store owners are seeking.

“It’s going to improve the experience” for merchants and consumers, she said.

“It’s all about faster and frictionless,” she said.

Sullivan guesstimated that eliminating signatures might save an average of three seconds on each credit card transaction. So retailers can increase the number of customers they serve and generate more money, she said.

Some customers may feel a little unsettled with the idea that purchases of hundreds or even thousands of dollars could be made without signing anything.

Security is already the biggest concern people have about using credit cards, said McCracken from Synergistics.

For now, there has been no widespread rush to require use of PIN codes with credit card transactions in the United States. And some consumers are creeped out about the idea of entrusting credit card companies with personal biometric data that could help verify their identity.

Other security measures are already in place, such as checking the cards’ three- or four-digit CVV number, asking consumers for their billing ZIP code, adding computer chips to more cards and monitoring for unusual purchasing activity.

But the cruelest reality of saying goodbye to our signatures is this: apparently they already have so little value there isn’t a sweeping rush to replace them with something new.

Aldi, Kroger recalls some apples due to possible listeria contamination

Low-cost grocery store chain Aldi and supermarket Kroger have issued voluntary recalls of some of its apples.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, which posts voluntary recalls, Jack Brown Produce, Inc., based in Sparta, Michigan, is recalling Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious apples because of listeria concerns.

>> Read more trending news 

“In cooperation with Jack Brown Produce Inc., and out of an abundance of caution, Aldi has voluntarily recalled an assortment of apples that were available for purchase in stores starting  on December 13, 2017, due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination,” Aldi said in a news release Tuesday.

The recall came after one of Jack Brown Produce’s suppliers, Nyblad Orchards Inc., notified the businesses of the affected products.

The affected products were sold at some Aldi stores in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina and North Carolina. 

“To date, no illnesses related to these products have been reported. No other Aldi products are affected by this,” the company said.

Kroger said it recalled lunchbox-size Fuji and Galas sold between Dec. 12 and Tuesday, according to USA Today.

The products affected are sold under the brand name “Apple Ridge” and are as follows: 

  • Honeycrisp apples in 2-pound clear plastic bags;
  • Gala, Fuji, and Golden Delicious apples in 3-pound clear plastic bags;
  • Fuji and Gala apples in 5-pound red-netted mesh bags; and
  • Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp apples that were tray-packed/individually sold.

Products that may be affected can be identified by the following lot numbers printed on the bag label or the bag-closure clip:

Fuji: NOI 163, 165, 167, 169, 174

Honeycrisp: NOI 159, 160, 173 Golden Delicious: NOI 168 Gala: NOI 164, 166 on either the product labels and/or bag-closure clip

Affected customers should immediately discard the products or return them to a local store for a full refund. Customers with questions can callJack Brown Produce Inc. at 616-887-9568, Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

How to avoid FedEx, UPS, USPS email scams targeting some customers

An email scam affecting FedEx, UPS and U.S. Postal Service customers is taking advantage of an increase in package shipments during the holiday season.

KMOV reported that the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center is warning consumers about a fraudulent email scam.

The emails claim to be from one of the three organizations and say that a package cannot be delivered. The messages contain a link that users are prompted to click in order to get an invoice to pick up the package, but the link is spoofed and goes to a website set up to steal the user’s information, according to FBI officials.

>> Read more trending news 

According to the FedEx Customer Protection Center, customers who get fraudulent emails or who come across suspicious websites should forward them to abuse@fedex.com. It also recommends immediately contacting your bank if interaction with fraudulent sites or emails have led of financial loss.

More information on how to report fraud to the company can be found on the FedEx website.

USPS customers can report a phishing attempt by not clicking on any links and forwarding the message to the CyberSecurity Operations Center at CyberSafe@usps.gov. The suspicious message should be deleted right after.

Suspicious emails purporting to be from UPS should be deleted, according to the UPS website. Customers should not follow any links or click any attachments.

“If you’ve accidentally selected a link, you should run a virus scan immediately,” the site said.

Examples of suspicious UPS emails are available on the UPS website.

Reports of exploding sunroofs on the rise

Sunroofs are shattering above people as they drive down roads.

>> Watch the news report here

A new Consumer Reports investigation says the problem is more common than first thought.

The group says the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration received at least 859 complaints over the last two decades, and most complaints are from the last few years.

They say part of the problem could be the type of glass in sunroofs.

Sunroofs are often made with tempered glass, not laminated glass.

"The glass in these sunroofs is not what's being used in your windshield, where if a rock hits it, it doesn't shatter,” said David Friedman with the Consumer's Union.

>> Read more trending news 

KIRO-TV’s Jesse Jones investigated the problem in 2015. He spoke with a man, Tyler Moody, who was driving when his sunroof exploded.

“I literally thought there was a gunshot,” Moody recalled. “Glass just shattered. The front right here kind of fell down and hit me in the head.”

Mood is one of many people who’ve had the sunroof of their Hyundai Veloster shatter spontaneously. 

Currently, Hyundai tops the list of vehicles with complaints. Ford and Nissan round out the top three.

Consumer Reports found many complaints involve sunroofs that cover a vehicle's entire roof.

There have only been minor injuries with the shattered sunroofs, but experts think more needs to be done to make sure vehicles are safe.

Reported data breach at Sonic Drive-In could impact ‘millions’

A reported data breach at Sonic Drive-In fast food chain could impact “millions” of credit cards used by customers.

A reported 5 million credit and debit card accounts went on sale on an illicit website last week, according to journalist Jordan Krebs, who reports on data breaches. The leaked financial information could include cards from nearly all states across the country.

» RELATED: Local startup grows in cyber security industry

“Our credit card processor informed us last week of unusual activity regarding credit cards used at SONIC,” reads a statement the company issued to Krebs. “The security of our guests’ information is very important to SONIC. We are working to understand the nature and scope of this issue, as we know how important this is to our guests. We immediately engaged third-party forensic experts and law enforcement when we heard from our processor. While law enforcement limits the information we can share, we will communicate additional information as we are able.”

Sonic, which operates thousands of locations across 45 states, including locations in Kettering, West Carrollton, Beavercreek, Dayton, Huber Heights, Englewood, Xenia, Franklin, Eaton, Springfield, West Chester, Hamilton and Cincinnati.

The fast food chain has not issued a public statement about what locations were specifically impacted.

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• Bob Evans Farms has been sold for $1.5B

Bob Evans Farms has been sold for $1.5B

Post Holdings, Inc. will acquire Bob Evans Farms, Inc. for $1.5 billion, the companies announced today.

Post Holdings and Bob Evans Farms have entered into a definitive agreement in which Post will acquire Bob Evans for $77.00 per share. The deal will “significantly strengthen Post’s portfolio of brands, expand choices for customers and increase Post’s presence in higher growth categories of the packaged food market,” the company said in a statement.

» Bob Evans CEO: Restaurants will remain open

Bob Evans, which was founded in 1948 in Ohio, produces and distributes refrigerated potato, pasta and vegetable-based side dishes, pork sausage, and a variety of refrigerated and frozen convenience food items under the Bob Evans, Owens, Country Creek and Pineland Farms brands.

“We have enormous respect for Bob Evans’ success and are excited about the growth opportunities this combination will create,” said Rob Vitale, president and chief executive officer of Post Holdings. “Combining with Bob Evans expands our portfolio of top brands and gives Post a leading position in the perimeter of the store. We look forward to welcoming the talented Bob Evans team to Post and working to create a successful future together.”

» RELATED: 5 things to know about Bob Evans selling restaurants

After the acquisition, Post expects to combine its existing refrigerated retail egg, potato and cheese business with Bob Evans, establishing a refrigerated retail business within Post. That business will be led by Mike Townsley, Bob Evans’ current President and CEO. Jim Dwyer will continue in his current role as President and CEO of the Michael Foods Group, managing the commercial foodservice egg, potato and pasta businesses. That will include the Bob Evans foodservice business.

» RELATED: Bobs Evans restaurants officially sold

Bob Evans Farms Inc. has a major presence in Springfield, with a transportation center at AirparkOhio. The company opened its first distribution center at AirparkOhio in 2002, according to the park website.

» RELATED: Bob Evans sells Springfield plant

» RELATED: Bob Evans 100 adds jobs, truck center

The acquistion comes after Bob Evans Farms Inc. sold its Bob Evans Restaurants to Golden Gate Capital in May. Bob Evans sold its restaurant to the private equity firm for $565 million. Golden Gate Capital has bought the restaurant chain, and will retain the Bob Evans leadership team to guide the transition as it takes part of the company private, the company said. Net proceeds are expected to be between $475 million and $485 million, according to a company statement.

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Equifax breach: You can sue if your data was exposed; here's how

Two class-action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of customers affected by a massive breach at Equifax.

>> Watch the news report here

Officials with the Atlanta-based credit reporting and technology company said a “cyber security incident” may have exposed the personal information of 143 million U.S. consumers.

The data that might have been accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses.

>> Equifax reports massive data breach that could affect 143 million in U.S.

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes has partnered with a Florida firm for a class-action lawsuit. 

"This is not a windfall thing. These are real damages and real fears that folks have," he said. "There's no telling, but I guarantee you most of this information was auctioned off in just a matter of hours."

>> Equifax data breach: What to know

Barnes said that if you've been compromised, you are automatically a part of the class-action suit unless you opt out.

"You don't have to do anything. We have class representatives and there will come a time when we'll contact folks," he said. 

>> Equifax cyberattack: How to get a free credit report, protect your identity

He said he is going after what it takes to make things right. 

"What the money should be is what is necessary to hire someone to straighten out your credit so that you don't disrupt your life forever," he said. "And some money for the fact that (Equifax) negligently, and in violation of several federal statutes, allowed for this information to get out."

>> Read more trending news

Barnes said among many demands is that Equifax have its security audited, tested and trained and that the company purges information it doesn't need. 

WSB-TV's Nicole Carr visited the Clark Howard Consumer Action Center, where volunteers have received nearly three times their normal call volume with concerns about Equifax.

Volunteers said more than 500 calls came in Wednesday and 99 percent of them were about Equifax.

"I've been here for 20 years. This is the busiest day we've had," said Consumer Action Center volunteer Lori Silverman. 

She said volunteers are working to ease fears about the data breach. 

"Because 140 million people are trying to freeze their credit, the sites are crashing and they're unable to thaw their credit. That's a difficult situation to be in," she said. "We're recommending (everyone) hang tight. Hopefully, all of the hysteria will slowly go away and within the next couple of weeks you'll be able to freeze your credit."

The Consumer Action Center recommends you freeze your credit through Credit Karma. Equifax has rescinded fine print that kept consumers from suing them if they signed up for their free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. 

"Now they say they're backing off of that, but I would advise everybody: Do not interact with Equifax right now," Barnes said. 

Click here for Barnes' advice on what you should do.

Prost! Cincinnati ranked best Oktoberfest city in U.S.

You don’t have to travel too far to go to one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the world.

WalletHub ranked Cincinnati as the top city in the U.S. for Oktoberfest, the beer-drinking German tradition that often lasts from mid-September to the first Sunday in October. The celebration originated from early 19th century Munich, and the event has since evolved into the world’s biggest “people’s festival.”

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Munich’s Oktoberfest attracts more than 6 million people from around the globe, who drink nearly 2 million gallon of beer each year. Oktoberfest in Munich brings in about $1.54 million in economic impact for the city.

The top U.S. cities for Oktoberfest celebrations include: Cincinnati, New York City, Portland, Philadelphia, Denver, St. Louis, Madison, Orlando, Pittsburgh and Columbus.

Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest — or Oktoberfest Zinzinnati — is this weekend on Second and Third streets, between Walnut and Elm streets — and the part attracts more than 500,000 people each year. There are private and public parking garages downtown within walking distance to the festival.

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Equifax cyberattack: How to get a free credit report, protect your identity

Credit reporting juggernaut Equifax announced Thursday that its information was compromised in a major cyberattack affecting 143 million Americans – or two-thirds of people with credit reports.

>> Read more trending news

Hackers were able to get birth dates, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and addresses, according to Equifax, leaving some to wonder how they can protect themselves.

Here are some tips for ensuring your information is secure:

Find out whether you were affected by the hack through Equifax’s website. The site asks for a person’s last name and the last six digits of their Social Security number in order to determine whether the person was caught in the breach.

Don’t bother with Equifax’s monitoring serviceClark.com reported, noting that the company offering the service is the same one that was hacked.

“The only way to truly protect yourself is with a credit freeze,” Clark.com reported, recommending that people freeze their credit files with all three of America’s major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Doing so does not affect whether or not a person can use already existing lines of credit.

>> Read more information on freezing your credit on Clark.com

Review your credit report and put a fraud alert on it if you are affected, Popular Mechanics suggested. A fraud alert will make it necessary for banks and credit companies to jump through extra hoops to confirm your identity. The magazine noted that a fraud alert filed with any one of America’s three credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and Transunion -- will be shared between the three.

>> Read more information on fraud alerts from the Federal Trade Commission

Whether or not you decide to put a fraud alert on your credit file, you can still obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the credit bureaus. The reports can be obtained through annualcreditreport.com or by completing and mailing an annual credit report request form, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

>> Read more information on obtaining free credit reports from the Federal Trade Commission

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time. The law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

Should You Cash That Convenience Check?

MoneyTipsBy Ben LuthiIt's not every day that you get a blank check in the mail, but when you do, think twice before filling it out. Credit card companies often send out these "convenience checks" ­ tied to your credit card account to encourage you to spend more. But should you use them? How convenience checks work When you need to make a purchase, fill in the blank check with the amount, and sign it. When the merchant cashes your check, the amount is charged to your credit card. Some banks allow you to request convenience checks, but they mostly show up unannounced. You may get several checks on one card account and never receive any on others; it's all up to the banks. Convenience checks often offer a 0% APR promotion lasting 6-18 months. You can use the check to pay off another credit card, buy something or just deposit it in your checking account. Situations where doing this would make sense include: You want to pay off a credit card with a balance transfer but don't want to apply for a new card. You're paying for a product or service but the merchant doesn't accept credit cards. You need to finance a large purchase but can't or don't want to pay it off immediately. The checks typically expire after a month or two, and there may be a cap on how much of your credit limit you can use. If it doesn't list a maximum, your cap would be whatever available credit you have up to the credit limit on your card. When you use a check, you'll see the transaction show up on your credit card account as usual. If there's a fee tied to the check, then that will show up separately. Convenience checks do not generate rewards like regular purchases. Check the terms Before you write the check, understand what you're getting yourself into. While you may be getting a 0% APR deal, that feature usually doesn't come free. Often, the credit card issuer will charge a fee based on the check amount ­– anywhere from 1 to 5 percent. The paperwork that comes with the checks should also let you know whether it's a true 0% APR offer or a deferred-interest offer. For example, it's deferred interest if the terms say, "pay no interest if paid in full." If it is deferred interest, you have to pay off the full balance before the promotion is over. Otherwise, you'll get charged interest on the full original balance. With true 0% APR offers, you'll only get charged interest on the balance left over after the promotion ends. When Using Credit Card Convenience Checks is a good idea "If used to pay off debt, convenience checks that come with low promotional rates work similarly to a balance transfer," says Matt Freeman, Head of Credit Card Products at Navy Federal Credit Union. "However, similar to balance transfers, consumers need to keep an eye on any transaction fees." Doing a balance transfer works best if you have the means to pay it off in full before the promotional period ends. It's also a good idea to have an established emergency fund in case something unexpected comes up. If you plan to use the convenience checks to make a large purchase, do so only if you need the item now and will have the cash to pay it off soon. When Using Credit Card Convenience Checks is a bad idea Even if you do have a goal to pay off the balance in full before the promotion ends, an unexpected expense can derail your plan. If you don't have an established emergency fund, you're taking a big risk. Using a convenience check is also a bad idea if it doesn't offer a true 0% APR promotion. Deferred-interest promotions are expensive if you don't pay the balance in full by the end. It's also not a good idea to use a convenience check if the transaction fee is high or you don't have a clear plan to pay it off before the promotional period ends. Keep your credit in mind Like any purchase or balance transfer, a convenience check uses up some of your available credit on the card. If you use too much, it could spike your credit utilization and drop your credit score. "Credit utilization ratio accounts for about 30 percent of your total credit score," says Freeman. "If you use a convenience check to pay down existing credit card balances, it should have little to no impact. However, if you use it to pay for a large ticket item, you're raising your credit utilization ratio and ultimately lowering your credit score." Experts recommend keeping your credit utilization below 30 percent to avoid a negative credit impact. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips. Should you use your convenience checks? If the terms are favorable and you have a payoff plan, convenience checks can be a great tool to help you pay off high-interest debt or make a large purchase. If the terms aren't good – for example, deferred interest, no 0% APR period or a high fee – you may want to consider some alternatives. A balance transfer card can help you pay down high-interest debt, and a personal loan can help cover a large purchase. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/cstar55 Originally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/should-you-cash-that-convenience-checkDoes Your Credit Card Limit Measure UpWhat Happens When You Go Over Your Credit Limit?Why Are Millennials Avoiding Credit Cards?
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