Status Update: Facebook Privacy Concerns, AGAIN

April 30, 2010

By Larry Wiezycki:

Our good ‘ole social networking friend, Facebook is up to something again. Never content to just let friends be friends, the free internet service that “helps you connect and share with the people in your life” now shares with people outside of your life!

As if we didn’t know it, Facebook loves to gather information on us. We’re motivated to provide that information in order to make stronger connections to friends, family, and others. But Facebook has other ideas. Click here to learn more and watch a CNN report on the latest privacy concern. Read more

Sadly, Antidepressants Don’t Work

April 26, 2010

A growing number of Americans are taking Antidepressants, but there’s serious concern about how well they actually work.  Depression is among the most common problems seen in primary-care medicine and soon will be the second leading cause of disability in this country.  But the very important question must be asked:  Are drugs the best answer?

Practicing physician  Dr. Mark Hyman writes a sobering, if not depressing, report for The Huffington Post, which explains the most recent study to support the growing evidence that pharmaceutical companies only release information that makes their drugs look good.  Consumer Warning Network has written about this unfortunate situation before.  Dr. Hyman explains this practice warps our view of antidepressants, leading us to think they do work.  Click here to read his article.

Dr. Hyman suggests that perhaps, instead of immediately taking an antidepressant, individuals might want to explore simpler, less invasive ways of treating mood concerns.  He suggests trying these steps:

Seven Steps to Treat Depression without Drugs

1. Try an anti-inflammatory elimination diet that gets rid of common food allergens. As I mentioned above, food allergies and the resultant inflammation have been connected with depression and other mood disorders.

2. Check for hypothyroidism. This unrecognized epidemic is a leading cause of depression. Make sure to have thorough thyroid exam if you are depressed.

3. Take vitamin D. Deficiency in this essential vitamin can lead to depression. Supplement with at least 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day.

4. Take omega-3 fats. Your brain is made of up this fat, and deficiency can lead to a host of problems. Supplement with 1,000 to 2,000 mg of purified fish oil a day.

5. Take adequate B12 (1,000 micrograms, or mcg, a day), B6 (25 mg) and folic acid (800 mcg). These vitamins are critical for metabolizing homocysteine, which can play a factor in depression.

6. Get checked for mercury. Heavy metal toxicity has been correlated with depression and other mood and neurological problems.

7. Exercise vigorously five times a week for 30 minutes. This increases levels of BDNF, a natural antidepressant in your brain.

How to Avoid Foreclosure Relief Scams

April 26, 2010

Scam artists are ready and waiting to take advantage of vulnerable people trying to save their homes from foreclosure.  Don’t let them take advantage of you.  Click here to watch this informative explanation of the most common foreclosure relief scams from CBS News Business Reporter Rebecca Jarvis.

Time for Handcuffs on Wall Street

April 23, 2010

By Angie Moreschi:

Consumer Warning Network Founder and former federal prosecutor Chris Hoyer has long said a $40 pair of handcuffs would go a long way in preventing future financial meltdowns by holding corporate titans accountable.  Turns out former federal prosecutors think a lot alike.  One of our favorite regular reads, Dow Jones Newswire Columnist Al Lewis’ blog, recently gave an old federal prosecutor a sounding board for a solution to the Wall Street mayhem.  66-year old Tony Accetta, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in New York, says it’s time to start indicting  mortgage fraudsters on criminal charges.

Fugetahbout these mamby pamby civil charges by the SEC, like those just filed against Goldman Sachs. “Wall Street actually knew the mortgages were bad,” Accetta told Al Lewis. “That’s the key. That’s the fine point that nobody understands. They knew the mortgages were bad and they put them into mortgage pools anyway. They actually committed crimes.”

So whatcha gonna do about it?  Click here to read more from Al’s story on Accetta.

Accetta has written a book.   You, the Jury: How Wall Street Cashed in on the American Dream, and Nearly Killed It. Al says it’s a compelling read, but Accetta has yet to find a publisher.

Congress & Staff Travel Lavishly on Your Dime

April 22, 2010

When your Congressman or one of his staffers travels overseas, guess what?  They get to travel business class on the taxpayer dime.  They don’t have to bother with being uncomfortable in the cheap seats, or amazingly, what they refer to as “voter class.”  If that makes you mad, click here to watch more from ABC News Correspondent Jonathan Karl’s investigation into how the government is traveling on your dime, no receipts necessary.

Read more

Hidden Credit & Debit Card Fees Cost Consumers Big Time

April 22, 2010

Every time you use your charge card or your debit card, the business pays a fee.  That may not be a big surprise, but just how much that business pays is more concerning.  In the United States, businesses pay a transaction fee of approximately 2 percent every time you use your card.  In other words, if  you spend $100, the store gets $98 and the credit card company gets two dollars.  That compares to other countries, like Australia, which only allow credit card companies to charge a 1/2 percent transaction fee.

Whom do you suppose the businesses pass those extra costs onto?  Hmm.  Could it be the consumer?  A recent Government Accountability Office report to Congress reveals, in fact, it costs consumers more than $48 billion a year in added costs.

In this time of recession and shrinking pocket books for middle class America, perhaps it’s time to take a look at the level of those hidden fees.  President of the American Antitrust Institute Albert A. Foer is calling on Congress to include new regulations on these fees as it works to pass financial reform legislationClick here to read his editorial in the New York Times.

Flea & Tick Products Could Be Harmful To Fido

April 20, 2010

By John Newcomer:

The “spot on” product used to control fleas and ticks is a miracle for most pet owners. A once a month application to Fido and fleas and ticks are gone.  No more dips, sprays, and frustrations.

One wee problem.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noticed a significant increase in adverse incidents and launched an investigation. Yes, the EPA is responsible for assuring that pesticides do not cause unreasonable risk, and flea products are a pesticide. The adverse incidents ranged from mild skin irritation in pets to death.

More is Not Better

The EPA did not single out any one manufacturer, but rather lumped all “spot on” flea products together.  The problem was not the product itself, but primarily a labeling and instruction issue.

The most affected dogs were the small breeds–Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Shih Tzus,Dachshunds, and Bichon Frise. But all breeds were affected. Cats, in particular, had severe adverse reactions.

Careful Not to Mix Up Products

The problem is pet owners put too much product on Fido (more is not always better—sometimes it is fatal).  This is why small dogs are more affected by the product.  Also, be careful to use the product for your type of pet.  “Spot on” flea control for dogs is not appropriate for cats!  Whiskers will have a serious reaction to Fido’s flea product.  You need to check the label. Cat and dog products are NOT inter-changeable.

Better Labeling Needed

The EPA will soon require improved labeling; clearer instructions to ensure proper dosage per pet weight; and clearer marking to differentiate between dog and cat products.

Bottom line – the miracle product that keeps Fido and your home free of fleas is safe.  You just have to be careful, and read the instructions.  Misuse of this product can and will make Fido and Whiskers very sick.

2010 Census Scams – Beware!

April 20, 2010

By Terry Smiljanich:

Now that the 2010 official census has started, consumers need to watch out for scam artists and their schemes to part you from your money.

By now, everyone should have gotten a census form in the mail and returned it to the government. Based on incomplete answers, or a complete failure to return the form at all, some followup visits by census employees will be necessary. That’s where the criminals can come into the picture.

Don’t Fall for Fakes

You may get an email from the “U.S. Census Bureau” asking for more information about your form, perhaps even asking for a social security number to “verify” your identity. You may get a telephone call from the “Census Bureau” (confirmed on your phone’s caller-ID) asking for more information. You may get a personal visit from a “Census Worker,” asking to come into your home to obtain further details for the Census Bureau. Don’t fall for these fraudulent tricks to obtain your private information. Before you know it, your bank account could be drained and your identity stolen.

The U.S. Constitution requires a population census every ten years. Your valid responses are required by law (Title 13), and the Census Bureau is required to keep your responses confidential and use them only for tabulations that do not reveal any personal data about individuals or households.  In fact, any census employee disclosing information from a census form is subject to a five year prison sentence and a fine of $25,000. Everyone should cooperate with the Census Bureau, but beware of those who see an opportunity to steal.

Internet Inquiries

Although the Census Bureau does not guarantee it will never communicate with you through the internet, it does not conduct the census through the internet, nor does it send emails about participation in the census. “If you get an email from the Census Bureau that says we want information, that’s not us,” says Kim Hunter, a media specialist for the Census Bureau. Do not respond by clicking on any links within the email or opening any attachments. It is easy for fraudsters to mimic email sites, making you think you are communicating with an official government agency when, in fact, you are in contact with a criminal out to steal your money or infect your computer.

If you do receive an email, ostensibly from the Census Bureau, the safest course is to call the local office in your area and never respond directly to the email, which is probably fake. The Census Bureau has a a special website set up for you to forward any suspicious emails.

Telephone Inquiries

If you get a call from the Census Bureau, do not trust the fact that your caller-ID identifies the caller as the government. Caller-ID’s can be manipulated to mimic official callers. The Census Bureau does not conduct the census through telephone calls. Moreover, it will NEVER:

  1. Ask for your social security number;
  2. Ask for money or a donation; or
  3. Ask for PIN’s, passwords, or other access information to bank accounts or credit cards.

Again, if you get a telephone call from “the Census Bureau,” your safest bet is to state that you will call back. Then, get the number for your regional office and determine that the inquiry is a legitimate one from the government.

Personal Visits

The Census Bureau has hired 800,000 part-time employees to assist with the census. Much of this manpower is needed for follow-up personal visits to locations that did not respond to the census.  If everyone mailed in their form as required, it would save the government $1.5 billion.

Official census workers will carry official government ID badges with an expiration date and the Department of Commerce watermark. They will also have carry bags with the Census logo. The visits will occur between May 1 and July 10. Census workers will never ask to come into your home and are trained to obtain their information from outside your house or apartment.

If you receive a visit from a census worker, you should take the following precautionary steps:

  1. Ask for a secondary ID to confirm the identity of the employee;
  2. Ask the worker for the name of his or her supervisor, and write down the information;
  3. If you are still suspicious, call your regional office before answering any questions;
  4. It is best not to invite the census worker into your home, and if he or she asks, definitely refuse to do so;
  5. Never answer any questions beyond the basic questions contained on the original form; and
  6. Never ever give out personal information regarding your social security number, accounts, etc.

No Donations

Census workers do not work for any political party, and are not there to collect for any charity, so never give them any money or donation. In fact, if they ask for any such thing, you should report them to their supervisor. You will probably discover that they are bogus employees.

The ten year census is important to you and your community. It determines the extent of your representation in Congress and your community’s share of government funding. Following these few simple rules will help to insure you are not taken advantage of by those who attempt to use the census to further their criminal schemes.

Fun Facts: The Great Recession’s Impact on Pets

April 20, 2010

Oh how we  love our pets. Even the “Great Recession” did not slow down the money we spend on our cats and dogs and parakeets. In 2007, Americans spent $41.2 billion on pet products and services, according to the American Pet Products Association.  This was followed by $43.2 billion in 2008; $45.5 billion in 2009; and an estimated $47.7 billion in 2010. We will spend $3.45 billion alone on just grooming and boarding our pets.

Just to put this spending into perspective–this is more than the  Gross Domestic Product (the value of all goods and services produced by a country) of Iceland, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Nicaragua combined.

Uncle Sam Wants Your Money Now!

April 15, 2010

The Grim Reaper has come to collect his due and no political action or mass protest will prevent the inevitable. Giving your hard earned money to the government to be mishandled and wasted on ridiculous earmarks can be painful to your wallet. Make it hurt less by watching Walter Updegrave of CNN Money give his advice on last minute tax tips.  Watch here for more.

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