Credit Monitoring – Paying for it & Doing it on your own

March 11, 2014

By Angie Moreschi

Credit monitoring is one of those things that you probably don’t think much about until something bad happens.  Well, bad things have been happening.  Ever since a few big security breaches at major retailers like Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels Craft Store this year, a lot of us are suddenly thinking about it.

Jillian Estes is among the millions of target shoppers whose private information was compromised in the recent, major security breach.  She knows every time she uses her credit card, there’s some risk, but actually finding out your information has been stolen, takes it to a whole new level.  “There’s an obvious sense of violation, because that’s our money.  That’s our account.  How far does this go? Really, how deep is this?  And we had to do something,” Estes said.

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Economic Predictions for 2014

January 2, 2014

Al Lewis

Our favorite economic prognosticator consulted his Magic 8 Ball to provide what is sure to be an accurate assessment of the year ahead.  Al Lewis, who pens the Tell It to Al business news blogs and a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal, is always good for a few laughs– and maybe a few tears, as we look ahead to what 2014 has in store for our checkbooks.

Take it away Al:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all these years of covering business, it’s that nobody knows the future any better than the Magic 8 Ball by Mattel.

At the end of each year, I consult with my little black globe to see what the next year will bring for the economy.

 

For 2013, it accurately predicted: new highs for the stock market but a bumpy year for the economy; oil prices below $100 a barrel for most of the year; gold prices not returning to their 2011 high; and an unimpressive recovery for housing.

 

Click here to see what it forecasts for 2014 in my column in The Wall Street Journal Sunday.

10 Worst Cars of 2013

January 2, 2014

Chevrolet Spark CVT

Every year, Consumer Reports tests cars on its own track to come up with the best of the year and the worst.

Here is the list of duds as rated by Consumer Reports:

1. Chevrolet Spark CVT

2. Honda Crosstour

3. Lexus IS 250

4. Lincoln MKS

5. Mercedes-Benz CLA

6. Mitsubishi Mirage

7. Mitsubishi Outlander

8.  Nissan Sentra

9. Nissan Versa sedan

10.  Scion tC

Click here to read more about each car on ConsumerReports.org.

 

 

New Study Shows Many Herbal Supplements Fake

November 6, 2013

Popular herbal supplements like echinacea, Ginko biloba, St. John’s Wart, and black cohosh are among dozens being called into question, in a new study that used DNA testing.  The study found many of these supplements don’t actually contain the herbs, at all.  Instead, they are little more than powdered rice and weeds.

Canadian researchers tested 44 bottles of popular herbal supplements sold by 12 companies.  A third of the pills actually contained none of the purported herb and 60-percent were diluted.

The New York Times reports on the controversy:

 Americans spend an estimated $5 billion a year on unproven herbal supplements that promise everything from fighting off colds to curbing hot flashes and boosting memory. But now there is a new reason for supplement buyers to beware: DNA tests show that many pills labeled as healing herbs are little more than powdered rice and weeds.

 

Using a test called DNA barcoding, a kind of genetic fingerprinting that has also been used to help uncover labeling fraud in the commercial seafood industry, Canadian researchers tested 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by 12 companies. They found that many were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice.

Click here to read more from the New York Times.

 

Who Buys Generic and Why

June 25, 2013

When you look at a generic product on the shelf, is there a little voice in the back of your head that says, ‘It must be a little bit inferior to the name brand‘?  That’s certainly what the name brands would like you to think, since they spend tons of money to get you to pick their product, but generally research shows most generics are almost identical to many name brands. And, of course, they cost a lot less.

So, who among us is smart enough to realize that and resist the urge to go for the well-advertised product, instead reaching for that blandly packaged generic?  According to a new study of shopping data by Nielson Co. people who work as nurses and chefs are among those who most often save the bucks and chose the generic.

Education appears to be a factor in choosing generics.  People who’ve gone to college are more likely to pick generic headache remedies than those who don’t.  The Wall Street Journal took an intriguing look at the new research.  You can read more here.

 

 

Does Your Doctor Get Money from Drug Companies?

May 30, 2013

It’s common practice for drug companies to compensate doctors as promotional speakers and advisers. The income some get can be quite substantial, creating potential conflicts of interest.  Critics worry that such substantial compensation can affect a doctor’s judgement on which drugs might be best for their patients.

The non-profit News Outlet ProPublica publishes an annual database that compiles payments from 15 pharmaceutical companies to doctors around the country. So far, more than $2 billion dollars in payments are accounted for since 2009. The Dollars for Docs database makes it very easy for you to search and find out if your doctor is receiving money from pharmaceutical companies.

Among the drug companies that gave the most from 2009 to 2012 were Pfizer at $538.2 million, GlaxoSmithKline at $238.6 million, and Merck at $224.3 million. Doctors from all over the country are recipients of drug company compensation, but the top earners were from just a handful of states– New York, Texas, California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Is your doctor on the list?  Click here to find out.

What Made Your Doctor Prescribe that Drug?

April 29, 2013

Could an all expenses paid fishing trip or dinner at a five star restaurant influence your doctor when it comes to which prescription to give you? It’s a serious concern which is the focus of attention again because the US Attorney in Manhattan filed suit against drug maker Novartis for allegedly paying kickbacks to increase its prescription-drug sales.

Whistleblower Case

A whistleblower first brought the case to light and now the federal government is putting its power behind the allegations with the filing of this federal lawsuit.  The Switzerland based drug-maker is accused of violating the Anti-Kickback Statute to increase sales of two hypertension drugs, Lotrel and Valturna.  US Attorney in the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara said in a statement, “Novartis reaped dramatically increased profits on these drugs, and Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health-care programs were left holding the bag.”

Pharmacy Kickbacks?

This suit against Novartis comes just days after the same US attorney’s office filed suit against the company for another alleged violation of the False Claims Act.  That suit claims Novartis paid kickbacks, disguised as rebates and discounts, to at least 20 pharmacies for switching patients to its drug Myfortic, which is an immuno-suppressant.

It’s not the first time Novartis has faced such allegations.  Just three years ago, the company settled criminal and civil charges that it illegally promoted drugs for off-label uses. Once again, the company was accused of providing illegal kickbacks to doctors through special junkets and entertainment.  Novartis paid $422.5 million to settle that case and signed a corporate integrity agreement to promise that its promotions would comply with federal anti-kickback laws.

Returning Money to Taxpayers

When whistleblowers working for pharmaceutical companies come forward to report suspected violations of these anti-kickback laws, it lays the groundwork for the government to recover what often amounts to millions of dollars in improper Medicare and Medicaid payments. That means money returned to the taxpayers.

Novartis denies wrongdoing in both of these most recent cases and vows to defend itself in court.

Fight Back! File a Complaint When You Have a Problem

April 9, 2013

If you’ve been ripped off or are fed up with the run around and bad service, fight back!  The head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants you to file a complaint when you have a consumer problem.  We often feel powerless as consumers to effect any change, but if you don’t take that extra few minutes to make people who CAN make change aware of a problem, nothing will ever improve.  CFPB Director Richard Cordray told TODAY.com he wants to hear from you.  Take him up on it!

The CFPB is already taking complaints about problems with credit cards, mortgages, banks and private student loans.  They’ve logged some 90,000 consumer complaintS, so far.  The CFPB will start taking complaints about debt collection later this year.  Cordray says the complaints make it possible to see patterns of problems so they can take action to do something about it.

Right now you can file complaints with the CFPB on these issues:

  • Bank account or service
  • Credit card
  • Credit reporting
  • Money transfer
  • Mortgage
  • Student loan
  • Vehicle or consumer loan

Click here to read more on Cordray’s interview with TODAY.com.

 

The Healthiest Foods You Can Eat

March 5, 2013

Staying healthy and fit can be a lot of work, but there are certain foods that can help.  Fitness Magazine profiled ten super foods that can do everything from help you lose weight to improve your memory and fight against cancer.  Here are the top five.  To read about the rest visit fitnessmagazine.com.

1. Lemons

  • Just one lemon has more than 100 percent of your daily intakeof vitamin C which may help increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels and strengthen bones.
  • Citrus flavonoids found in lemons may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells and act as an anti-inflammatory.

2.  Broccoli

  • One medium stalk of broccoli contains more than 100 percent of your daily vitamin K requirement and almost 200 percent of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C — two essential bone-building nutrients.
  •  The same serving also helps stave off numerous cancers.

3.  Dark Chocolate

  • Just one-fourth of an ounce daily can reduce blood pressure in otherwise healthy individuals.
  • Cocoa powder is rich in flavonoids, antioxidantsshown to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase “good” HDL levels.
  • A dark chocolate bar contains about 53.5 milligrams of flavonoids; a milk chocolate bar has fewer than 14.

4. Potatoes

  • One red potato contains 66 micrograms of cell-building folate — about the same amount found in one cup of spinach or broccoli.
  • One sweet potato has almost eight times the amount of cancer-fighting and immune-boosting vitamin A you need daily.

5.  Salmon

  • A great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to a reduced risk of depression, heart disease, and cancer.
  • A 3-ounce serving contains almost 50 percent of your daily dose of niacin, which may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.

Also on the list are walnuts, avocados, garlic, spinach and beans.  Click here to read more about their benefits from Fitness Magazine.

 

Go Red for Women! Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

February 1, 2013

If you’re a woman, you probably think the last thing that will happen to you is a heart attack. Think again. Heart disease is the number one killer of women.

Today is a day to raise your awareness on the warning signs. The American Heart Association developed its “Go Red for Women” campaign to help educate all women and those who love them about the warning signs of a heart attack. This video “It’s Just a Little Heart Attack” really hits home.   It’s a must see. Click here to check it out!

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