Category Archives: Big Business

TJX Settles with FTC Over Biggest Data Breach In History

TJX has settled under charges that they had insufficient computer security protecting their systems, but the only thing TJX must do under the settlement is upgrade their security. Woo.

And this:

"By now, the message should be clear: companies that collect sensitive consumer information have a responsibility to keep it secure," said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. "Information security is a priority for the FTC, as it should be for every business in America."

B.S.. Here's a clear message for you Chairwoman Platt Majoras, those words coming out of your mouth are nothing but hipocrasy.

The Golden Rule of Cables: There’s No Difference So Buy Cheap

The Consumerist was taking heat recently for posting articles about how Monster brand cables are no better than any other even though they cost so much more. Now Popular Science is joining the action with their article explaining that all high end cables are a ripoff.

The electronics industry’s dirty little secret is that they have extremely thin margins on gear, so they make up the cost difference by up-selling you on extended warranties and incredibly marked-up cables.

This is completely true. When I worked at a big named retailer, I could buy a 30 dollar cable for about $6 with my employee discount. Things like extended warranties, add on-services, and accessories are all the same.

Watch For Cramming on Your Phone Bill

Josh discovered a mysterious $13 fee on his parents' phone bill, and as he tracked down the source of the bogus charge, he learned a lot about cramming. The FCC describes it as "the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill" by third party companies, who bank on you being too confused/distracted/annoyed by your hard-to-read bill to notice.

Read his story here.

My main reason for digging this besides warning (or reminding) you about this practice was the first comment after the article:

Just another example of the disparity between corporations and people. Corporations freely get away doing things that people would go to jail for.

Amen.

Small Town Kicks Out Payday Lenders

Though the Virgina legislature examined payday lending, they only solution they brought forth was to limit them as far as interest rates and repayment periods. However, at least one small town has kicked out payday lenders via zoning laws. While this may not rate "big news" it is good news and caught my attention for this alone:

The sole proponent of amending the zoning was Randy Phelps, manager of the Advance America lending store in a nearby town. His company, whose Web site says it operates 2,800 stores nationwide, was seeking to open a cash advance store in a new strip shopping center, part of the town's new Wal-Mart complex.

"We're not evil people," Phelps protested to the council. "We provide a needed service."

"We're not evil people"…. Doesn't that give you chills? If pretending to hold a hand out in friendship while stabbing someone in the back with the other hand isn't evil I don't know what is. Of course, he could be oblivious to his own evil just like some other people.

Recover Stolen Purchases

If just-bought items are stolen out of your car in the parking lot, don't give up hope. The couple in this story went back to the store the items were bought from and warned them that someone would probably try to return them for cash later. That "someone" did and that "someone" was caught and arrested. The couple got their items back too 🙂

How to Deal With Customer Retention Employees

Ever tried to cancel a service only to be drawn and quartered by the employees who's job it is to prevent you from canceling? It doesn't seem fair really, all you want to do is cancel a service, but if you do so successfully, some shmuck on the other end gets a negative mark on his/her record. Well, that's not really your problem so use the advice in the Consumerists "9 Confessions of a Retentions Representative" to make your way through the process with minimal effort (inlcuding advice about getting out of an early termination fee).

People Avoiding Doctors and Insurance Companies When Getting DNA Tests

Because of fears of data sharing, data loss, and inappropriate disclosure, people are circumventing their doctors and insurance companies when getting DNA tests. Smart people.

Can and would they use your DNA results against you? Do credit card companies raise your rates according to unrelated things on your credit report? Do insurance companies raise your rates due to traffic tickets that have little to do with telling how good or safe a driver you are?

Like I said, avoiding a record of your DNA is a smart idea.

By the way, Gattica is a great movie that describes what a future of DNA discrimination would look like.

Lifelock Sucks

I can't stand these companies that take advantage of a problem to make some money. Lifelock is that company where the CEO posted his Social Security Number with a challenge to take his identity (which someone promptly did). If you've been considering getting the service, wait. First realize what you're paying for.

If you were to go to their site and read through what they actually do, you'll find that you're not getting much for your money.

  1. They place fraud alerts. The problem is, fraud alerts are worthless and do absolutely nothing to protect you from ID theft.
  2. They renew the fraud alerts every 90 days. Note that this isn't actually a separate benefit, but they sure seemed to want to have six benefits to their service instead of just five.
  3. They remove your name from pre-screened credit card offers. You can do it yourself, freely, and quickly at optoutprescreen.com. Also note that Lifelock fails to mention that this is a one time benefit and not something that you should be paying monthly for.
  4. They order your credit reports once per year which is easy for them becuase they can use the free annual credit report you are due by law. The bad part here is that if you wanted to use the very clever advice of getting your report from one of the companies every four months so you can keep a semi-constant tab on your credit, you can't. Lifelock blew your free coupons all at once.
  5. They'll keep a list of the companies you have credit cards and such with so you can quickly call them if your wallet is stolen. The FDIC has a great guide about how to do this yourself including the advice to carry a bare-minimum of cards and information and to make your own call-down list.
  6. Lastly, insurance.

The ONLY way to actually prevent ID theft is with a Credit Freeze
So to sum up, they give you useless fraud alerts and will renew said useless alerts on a regular basis. They'll order your federally mandated free credit reports for you saving you a whopping 20 minutes of time per year. They put you on a list that prevents many pre-screened offers which is a one-time 5 minute cost to them. They'll keep a list of all the companies you should contact if you lose your wallet though if you have so many to contact that it's that hard for you to do yourself, I'd be more concerned about the number of credit cards you have. And of course, they're an insurance provider.

When all is said and done, Lifelock is nothing more than credit theft insurance with little more benefit. And rather than pay a monthly fee for insurance, you are far better off getting a Credit Freeze which actually does protect against ID theft rather than just try to clean it up after the fact. Factor in that a freeze is a fraction of the cost of insurance (and free in some cases), Lifelock just doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Let's hope the hype dies down soon and we can watch Lifelock drift into business oblivion. The sooner the better.

Update

Lifelock has added another "real" service that scans the web for your data to notify you if there's activity associated with your name/address etc. I haven't seen any information for HOW they do this or what happens when they notice something, but this smacks of an actual service.

Note that if you have a credit freeze, Lifelock is still not worth the money. The only thing that would make them worth anything is if they took me up on my open challenge.

Scammers Poised and Ready for Stimulus Package

It should be no surprise to anyone that enterprising scumbags everywhere are using the hopes of the economic stimulus package to scam people out of their information.

"They're calling people on the phone and asking for their personal information, and the people are thinking they're going to get some money quicker than they normally would," Special Agent Jeff Lanza, spokesman with the FBI Bureau in Kansas City, told WDAF-TV.

Remember simple safety: don't give out information over the phone especially to someone who calls you.

FTC Approves Google Merger Despite Conflict of Interests. Accountability, Where Are You?

Even though the chair of the FTC has clear financial interests in the merger of Google and Doubleclick AND she was on the board deciding if the deal could go through AND she refused to recluse herself, the merger has been approved and there's no sign of any accountability on the way.

But it wasn't a unanimous decision. The Register tells of at least one dissenting member of the FTC who sees vast privacy implications in the future. No kidding.

Add Deborah Platt-Majores to the list of "Enemies of American Freedom" right up there with Bush and his people.

Best Buy Tries to Snuff Coverage of News By Bloggers

In a colossally stupid move, Best Buy triggers the Streisand Effect by issuing a take-down notice to a blogger who wrote about something they didn't like.

It turns out that this group called Improve Anywhere did a funny prank where they got about 80 people to dress in khakis and blue shirts and had them all enter a Best Buy and stand around. I heard about the prank last year sometime (and I saw the video).

Now they are selling joke t-shirts based on their famous stunt and Best Buy (not surprisingly) doesn't like it. Whether they have a real claim or not, I don't know (or care), but they've issued a take-down notice to the guys over at the Laughing Squid. Who's that? Well, the Laughing Squid is a blog, not unlike many other blogs online and the key issue here is that Best Buy is trying to surpress the blogger's right to cover information by saying that he's "promoting" the shirts.

Here's one for you Best Buy, I'm covering all his articles, and the original story, plus I'm promoting blogging! Oh horrors. I wonder what they'll do now.

(H/T to The Consumerist for the link)

Update 2007/12/13

Well, that didn't take long. Best Buy has sent an apology letter to Laughing Squid.

Use ResellerRatings.com To prevent Yourself from Getting Scammed

My poor wife went to a website that I directed her to to buy something for me for Christmas. It turns out that website is a front where they take your money and give no product. If we had known about resellerratings-com, we'd have saved ourselves the hassle, but now we have to cancel the order and possibly get a new credit card issued.

Well, you can bet we'll be checking a site's rating before purchasing directly through a non-major site again.

Anyway, I'm ticked and I'm going to do everything I can to make life miserable for this slimeball. First I'm going to dispute the charges with my credit card and ask if they have any means of prosecution/persecution. Second, I'm going to try and get his hosting, domain name, and merchant accounts canceled (with no domain name, no hosting for his site, and no merchant account to take credit cards, I'm guessing it will be harder to scam people in the future). And, if I can, I'm going to see what agency is responsible for this kind of fraud and see what they can do about it.

I'll post updates here if I manage to get any of this accomplished.

2007.12.08 – With a whois check, I found out that their hosting is through www.123CheapDomains.com and their domain registration is with tucows.com. I've sent an e-mail to The Consumerist to see if they can help before I contact anyone else because they have a lot more clout than I do. I'll still call my bank to have the charges reversed later. While I'm on the phone with them, I'll see if I can find out who their merchant account is through.

Use Caution When Buying Extended Warranties

Consumeraffairs.com has an article today about extended warranties. With the way they present it, I wonder why anyone would ever buy one.

It turns out that I mostly agree with them. I sold extended warranties for a long time and I can guarantee that you'll get your money's worth in some specific cases, but unless you know your rights very well and push for them in the face of opposition from the store and the company, you probably will never recoup your costs.

If you don't have the tenacity to fight for your warranty terms, you're better off avoiding the expense.

Surf Online, Get Tracked Like an Animal

A depressing report from a few California universities shows that most people have no idea to what extent their online activities are tracked and used against them. This report doesn't offer any solutions other than to try to opt-out of tracking (if it's even possible to do so) though they also state that many companies find clever ways of circumventing promises not to track and do it anyway.

If you don't want to be tracked, make sure to use adblocking software and turn off images in your e-mail. This removes many of the techniques used to track you.

(H/T to The Consumerist for the link)

Seagate Finally Gets Nailed for Dishonest Marketing

Have you ever bought a hard drive that didn't seem as large as was advertised? Why is my 80 gigabyte hard drive showing less than 75 actual gigabytes?

The reason is that companies like Seagate define their gigabytes by a standard that no one but hard drive manufacturers use which is this:

Hard drive manufacturers – 1 GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes
The rest of the world – 1 GB = 1,073,741,824 bytes

The first, while semantically correct, has no bearing on computing terms at all and is highly misleading. Though the term "giga" technically means 1 billion, in computing terms 1 gigabyte is 1024 megabytes which translates to the second number you see there. For a hard drive manufacturer to play with numbers like that, I say they deserve some retribution.

In this case, they've settled on a class action lawsuit (without admitting any fault of course). Customers of Seagate will be able to get a 5% refund on Hard drives they've purchased… assuming they find out about the settlement of course.

That said, to see the settlement information, go to this site.

AT&T’s New Spying Program

In an attempt to remove all doubt that AT&T is a evil-infested, garbage-brained, scum-sucking, low-life, mucus-eating sot of a company, it has been recently discovered that they built a custom algorithm to: "crunch through tens of millions of long distance phone records a night to draw up what AT&T calls "communities of interest" — i.e., calling circles that show who is talking to whom".