Top bancos de Latinoamérica en Redes Sociales #infografia #infographic #socialmedia

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Honesty Pays Off With $11K Reward For Cabbie Who Returned Gambler’s Lost $300K

Just because it’s past December 25 doesn’t mean the Christmas spirit has left the proverbial building: An honest cabbie who turned in a bag stuffed with $300,000 in hundred-dollar bills will likely be making very merry after receiving an $11,000 reward for being a do-gooder.

The Las Vegas cab driver got a $5 tip from the poker player he drove from the Cosmopolitan to the Palms Place, but could’ve treated himself to a larger one when he found the brown paper bag with the cash inside, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

But instead, honesty won out and he spent the afternoon tracking down the money’s owner in order to return it to him, saying he didn’t want someone else’s money.

The grateful high-stakes player showed his appreciation for the act of decency with a $10,000 reward, while the cabbie’s employers said the company would chip in an extra $1,000 as well as a gift certificate worth $250 for dinner.

I’ve never been to Las Vegas but I imagine it’s the kind of town where there are lots of bags filled with cash and not so many nice people willing to return them when they’re lost, so this is especially heartwarming.

Cabbie who handed over $300,000 gets big reward [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Las acciones generadas en búsquedas móviles pasan pronto #infografia #infographic #marketing

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Is This Video Evidence That Walmart Grossly Over-Ordered For The Holidays?

walmartoverstock We’ve talked in the past about Walmart’s staffing and inventory issues, where some stores have empty shelves but full back rooms because there just aren’t enough employees around to deal with all the shelving. But a new video from an investment advisor firm claims to demonstrate that the nation’s largest retailer has so much leftover inventory from this holiday shopping season that it’s overflowing into the store.

The Vine video below was taken by the folks at Belus Capital Investors. According to the firm, this space with packed with loaded pallets is not the store room for a Walmart, but is actually the outdoor center of a store.

“[T]he company has stuffed its designated stockrooms too much with slow-moving inventory, for example large screen TVs, that a bit of creativity had to be tapped to store more truckloads of merchandise,” writes Belus. “Put all of this together and you get one read: higher than appreciated by the Street forward margin risk.”

This second video claims to show aisles still fully stocked with Christmas decorations days after the holiday:

Belus’ Brian Sozzi tells that Walmart likely purchased too much in the way of decorations and wrapping paper because the retailer is out of touch with its core, bargain-hunting customer.

“The Walmart mom is trying to figure out how to use the stuff from last year instead of buying new wrapping paper,” explains Sozzi.

In a bit of a silver lining for Walmart, Forbes predicts that the recent massive credit/debit card data breach at Target will result in Walmart, Costco and other competitors picking up shoppers who are either worried about visiting Target again or upset with the store for failing to keep their info secure.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Is EA Due For A Third Worst Company In America Crown?

eapoowinner We haven’t even begun to ask for nominations from readers for the next Worst Company In America tournament, but some are already making the case for once again giving the Golden Poo trophy to reigning two-time WCIA winner Electronic Arts.

In an article published over the weekend, the Motley Fool’s Kevin Noonan makes the argument that even while EA’s growth in recent years has been positive, the way the company treats its customer base may be dooming the video game publisher to another season the WCIA finals.

“With regard to quality control, it would be disingenuous to describe EA’s software output in 2013 in terms more flattering than ‘dismal,’” writes Noonan, citing the monstrous gaffe that was SimCity, a game that required the user to be online, but for which the company provided utterly inadequate server support, leaving many people unable to play.

And in spite of EA’s promise for better products and improved support, the company is currently still being publicly thrashed for the broken release of Battlefield 4, a game that was released with known disastrous glitches that have taken weeks to be resolved, and which has resulted in a lawsuit against the company.

But, points out Noonan, for all the griping about EA and its broken games and horrendous service, a large number of consumers are still willing to plunk down their money for EA products.

“[T]he market has yet to rebuke EA’s tendency to release incomplete games,” he writes, saying that from a business standpoint it was probably the right move for EA to unleash a cracked product to the market rather than wait to fix Battlefield 4 and miss the holiday shopping season.

Only a short time before the Battlefield boner, new EA CEO Andrew Wilson said his company’s two consecutive WCIA wins were a “wake-up call,” and promised to focus on providing the customer with a better gaming experience.

But perhaps what he really should have said was that the company’s decision to ignore those Golden Poos and continue releasing shoddy product should be a wake-up call to consumers, who should vote with their wallets and choose to not buy EA video games until the company learns to respect its customer base.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Butterfinger Challenging Reese’s Stranglehold On The Peanut Butter Cup Industry

When you think of peanut butter cups, you’re probably picturing a Reese’s version of the candy because really, the brand has got quite a lock on the candy in our collective consciousness. But lo, behold! A challenger is nigh and its name is Butterfinger.

While I’ve always thought that someone should start shilling The Princess Bride-branded Buttercup’s Buttercups, usually the only alternatives to Reese’s are smaller off-brand versions. But Nestle’s Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups are on the horizon, slated for a January 2014 arrival, reports the aptly named

As for the candy itself, it looks a heck of a lot like Reese’s. Because when there’s only one big name competitor, why stray from the familiar? Butterfinger’s version is shaped a bit different, with “an angle towards the top which means that the ratio of chocolate to filling changes at the perimeter versus the center.”

Ah, the knowledge of a candy blogger. Not a bad gig, if you can get it. Or you can just eat lots of candy and never write a word about it, but know in your heart you are a connoisseur.

“There are a lot of similarities between the Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups and the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It’s probably not a coincidence,” she explains.

For the whole review check out the source link, or wait to have your own peanut butter cup-off.

Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups []

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Coming Soon: Vending Machine Calorie Counts

The Affordable Care Act doesn’t just mean highly entertaining conversations over dessert amongst your relatives this holiday season. There’s one new requirement that’s been sort of overshadowed by health insurance exchanges and electronic medical records: companies that own more than 20 vending machines will have to post calorie counts for the items they sell.

Wait…don’t individually wrapped snack foods already have calorie counts? Sure, but those are on the back or side of the package, under glass. The new counts would have to be visible before you choose an item, helping consumers to make more sensible and less calorific choices. In theory.

The new requirements mean that about 5 million vending machines nationwide will display calorie information. That’s at a total cost to the industry of $25.8 million to set up machines, and $24 million per year to maintain and update the calorie counts.

The owner of one snack machine company interviewed by the Associated Press said that the new requirements would mean offering less variety in items as her five employees maintain the inventory and the nutrition information in hundreds of machines.

Still, if only a small percentage of snackers every day looked at those numbers and picked an item with 100 fewer calories, it could mean millions in savings for the country’s health care system. Not that this is all that comforting to the owners of vending machine companies, who complain that they have to make a large investment with nothing in it for their industry.

The Food and Drug Administration will draw up guidelines for the calorie-count program early in 2014, and they’ll roll out to machines after that.

Restaurants with more than 20 locations will have the same requirements, but many of them have a head start in posting calorie counts, spreading them nationwide after some municipalities started requiring them. Some soft drink companies already have a head start on posting stats on their vending machines, too.



Healthy Offerings Or No, Study Says Teens Will Pile On The Fast Food Calories Anyway

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Alleged Original iPhone Prototype Pops Up On eBay For $1,499

iphoneproto An eBay seller says his wife is making him part ways with some of the stuff he’s collected over the years, which is why he’s listed what he claims is an engineering prototype of the original Apple iPhone for sale for $1,499.

“These were used to test the iPhone’s various features,” reads the product description on the eBay page. “To do so, a special test software was installed, which is still running on the device perfectly.”

He points to the signal strength values etched into the device’s rear plating as evidence that this is a bona fide Apple article.

“I am collecting Apple products for ages and I know of only 5 such devices in existence,” he writes. “I saw another one a few weeks back on eBay, but the auction was stopped (possibly by Apple ).”

He even takes a jab at the infamous incident involving the iPhone 4 prototype that was lost at a bar and then sold to Gizmodo, saying about the original prototypes, “These come from a time, where prototypes were not ‘lost’ in bars or pubs.”

Because it still running the original testing operating system and not anything resembling the current version of iOS, the seller makes it clear that this is not a phone you can use to make calls with.

“It is a pure collectors item,” he explains, justifying the 4-digit price tag, which is more than seven times what you’d pay for a brand new iPhone 5S with a 2-year contract, and about twice what you’d pay for a new, unlocked 32GB iPhone 5S.

We just wonder if an armed robber would see the resale value in the prototype or if he’d treat it like a clunky old LG Quantum.

[via LA Times]

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Would You Pay $375 To Attend A New Year’s Eve Party At Applebee’s?

While you couldn’t pay me any amount of money on a normal day to go anywhere near Times Square, aka the neon wasteland colonized by wandering droves of tourists, Applebee’s is hoping the lure of the New Year’s Eve ball drop will entice diners to actually pay to venture to the area on its most crowded night. A whopping $375, to be exact.

Yes, you read that right: You can pay almost $400 for a dinner at Applebee’s, where a full meal can sometimes cost a paltry $10, served with a side of flair.

Two of the chain’s franchises in the Times Square area are hosting what Applebee’s calls “a night to remember” in this year’s annual offering, reports MarketWatch.

That hefty chunk of change covers four hours of partying with a buffet, an open bar (darn straight that bar better be open for $375), a DJ and food made by “some fairly sophisticated culinary people,” says the head of the New York area’s 38 restaurants.

But of course, all that is basically just extras. The real show will be the big ball drop at midnight, as well as watching through the windows as spectators try to figure out how to urinate into empty water bottles instead of trying to wiggle out of the morass.

While sure, it’d be nice to be able to sit down on a chair instead of squatting in the street until your feet lose all feeling, the reality is still paying $375 for a meal at Applebee’s. So is it worth it to be so close to the action?

$375-per-person New Year’s feast – at Applebee’s? [MarketWatch]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Armed Mugger Disappointed By Victim’s Old Phone, Returns It

LGQUANTUM Dear criminals of the world: Stealers can’t be choosers. If you’re going to go around indiscriminately robbing people of their phones in public, you can’t always expect to walk away with a spanking new Galaxy S4 or an iPhone 5S. No, sometimes you’re going to get a 3-year-old LG Windows phone that is so much of a letdown you’ll feel compelled to return it to your victim.

1010 WINS Radio in NYC reports that a couple of men were walking through Central Park on Saturday when a baddie pulled a gun on them and demanded their wallets, briefcase, and phones or, you know, he’d kill them.

But as the armed villain was surveying his take, he noticed that one of the stolen phones was a 2010 LG Quantum, complete with slide-out keyboard.

“He just took a look at it and he didn’t recognize it at all,” recalls the victim. “I just assumed that he couldn’t make any money off of it. So he handed it back to me and a minute later I was able to call 911 and get the whole thing started… It’s like, finally a pro for having something out of date.”

Presumably not wanting to get teased by the other members of the local thieves guild, the robber gave the phone back to his victim before fleeing off to his underground lair.


by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Up And At ‘Em, Easter Bunny: Chocolate Eggs Hit Shelves

This isn’t the earliest that we’ve ever seen it on the shelves, but we want to let our loyal readers know that Easter Candy is now available at selected grocery stores nationwide. How do we know this? Our loyal readers have spotted the displays and reported back.

Yes, the candy canes and Reese’s peanut butter Christmas trees have barely even gone on clearance sale, but here come the chocolate eggs.

Dessa spotted this Cadbury at QFC, a Kroger-owned chain. Our favorite part by far is the bottom sign, printed on Christmas-themed paper and promoting the eggs as great stocking stuffers. Which they are, we suppose. A few years ago, King Soopers, another arm of Kroger, said that their customers wanted Easter candy in their Christmas stockings.)


Sara took this rather blurry picture at a Stop & Shop in Connecticut:


Finally, Eric found this display at Kroger. Of course it was Kroger.


“Forget valentine’s candy, easter is here already!” he wrote.

Happy holidays! Every holiday. All at once.

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Maybe The Domino’s Delivery Guy Spotted In Taco Bell’s Drive-Thru Line Is Just Sick Of Pizza

Sometimes it's just taco time.

Sometimes it’s just taco time.

Let’s say you like pizza. Because really, who doesn’t? But perhaps if it’s your job to be around pizzas all the time, bringing them hither and thither and wherever paying customers want them delivered, you might kinda get sick of the pie scene. There’s no law saying you can’t patronize other fast food establishments, but it’s still pretty funny to see the Domino’s guy cruising through the Taco Bell drive-thru line.

Consumerist reader Chris snapped the above pic while waiting behind a Domino’s delivery guy — as evidenced by the brightly lit sign bearing the pizza company’s logo on top of his car — near Dayton, Ohio.

“Nothing like being behind a Domino’s delivery guy in the late night drive thru at Taco Bell line,” he writes.

Either this is one delivery dude who has eaten/seen enough pizzas to last him a lifetime, or he’s working on some kind of frankentacopizza combo. Which, come to think of it… hmm. Might not be so bad?

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

FDA Gives OK To New Coca-Cola-Backed Sweetener That Claims To Taste More Like Sugar

thatsteviacrap Because we all want sweet things but don’t want to accept that eating too many sweet things can make us fat, the world’s largest producer of stevia says it has gotten the go-ahead from the Food and Drug Administration to start using a new version of the sweetener that it developed with the folks at Coca-Cola.

According to stevia-makers PureCircle, the FDA has issued a “No Objection” letter regarding the use of Rebaudioside M (Reb M) as a general purpose sweetener for foods and beverages in the United States.

The company claims that high-purity Reb M (also known as Reb X) “has a closer taste to table sugar than previous stevia ingredients, allowing for deeper calorie reductions in food and beverage products, particularly those that have higher levels of sweetness.”

The development and release of this new sweetener resulted from a 5-year partnership agreement between PureCircle and Coca-Cola. The beverage biggie has already released a stevia-sweetened version of its cola in other parts of the world, starting with Argentina earlier this year.

Coca-Cola had previously worked with agri-giant Cargill to develop stevia-based Truvia, which has been used in several of the beverage company’s juice and flavored-water products. PepsiCo has its own brand of stevia sweetener, PureVia, which is used in its mid-calorie juices and other drinks. Pepsi has also released stevia-sweetened cola outside of the U.S., even though PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has publicly stated that stevia “does not work well in colas.”

A low/no-calorie sweetener that actually tastes like sugar (and does not make an alien head sprout from your shoulder) is the holy grail of the cola industry, but attempts at using everything from saccharine to aspartame to sucralose have failed to win over cola drinkers who can tell the real stuff from the pretenders.

And of course, we can’t mention stevia without thinking of Breaking Bad and (SPOILER ALERT for something that you should have watched months ago), poor Lydia Rodarte-Quayle:

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

eBay Bucks Makes Loyalty Program Changes, Annoys Loyal Customers

eBay Bucks is a rewards and loyalty program meant to keep buyers shopping on eBay and using PayPal to pay for their purchases. Seems like a nice idea: lots of stores have loyalty programs. Shoppers and sellers alike are angry at eBay, though, after learning about some big changes to the program that begin in the first quarter of 2014.

Program members earn 2% in “bucks” on each purchase. In an email to program members, eBay announced that customers will now forfeit their rewards balance for the quarter if they don’t earn more than $5. That means that in order to earn any rewards at all, customers have to spend more than $250 on eBay.

Ah, but not all eBay spending. Certain categories aren’t part of the program, and the company cut a few more as part of these changes. eBay has gradually removed big-ticket categories from the program. First they eliminated bullion, then business and industrial purchases. Now auto parts and accessories are no longer part of the program.

“I mostly sell in auto parts and people say that with the eBay bucks they feel like they are getting a really good deal,” one anonymous seller told eCommerceBytes. “I mostly buy in the same category. So there goes my little fun money.”

Why is eBay making these changes? So they don’t have to cut benefits, apparently. “In order to continue offering meaningful benefits,” they told customers in their announcement of the program changes, “we regularly look at the program’s performance to learn where changes are necessary.”

The word “greedy” came up a lot on user forums. “[I'm not] really sure what the meaningful benefit is of having my money forfeited versus is not being forfeited now,” program member Maurice wrote to Consumerist. “How is that a meaningful benefit? Are they playing their own customers as fools?”

Maybe what they mean is that letting rewards members with smaller balances keep their Bucks would mean cutting back the rewards rate for everyone. It sure doesn’t feel very rewarding when you’re losing your balance because you only spent $249.70 on eBay that quarter, though.

eBay Significantly Scales Back Loyalty Program [eCommerceBytes]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Wells Fargo To Pay Fannie Mae $541 Million Over Toxic Loans

All those mortgages that weren’t worth the cocktail napkins they were written on are continuing to sting big banks, with Wells Fargo announcing this morning that it had reached a $591 million deal with Fannie Mae to resolve the mortgage-backer’s claims that Wells sold it a pile of loans that the bank knew were toxic.

According to a statement from Well Fargo, the bank has already bought back some of these disputed loans, dropping the full amount it owes Fannie to $541 million.

In October, the bank reached a similar settlement with Freddie Mac, agreeing to pay out $780 million to the mortgage insurer.

Wells, like other lenders, had been accused of misleading Fannie and Freddie about the quality of the loans it bundled and re-sold as mortgage-backed securities during the housing boom. When those loans went south, the federal government was forced to step in and bail out both Fannie and Freddie.

While this settlement appears to resolve the issues between Fannie and Wells Fargo, the bank still faces allegations from the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development that the bank misled the Federal Housing Administration about the quality of FHA-insured loans.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Landscaper Finally Collects $1M From Lottery Ticket He Found Raking Leaves A Year Ago

As the saying goes, good things come to those who rake. Well, maybe it’s “wait” but in this case either one works for a guy who found a lottery ticket worth $1 million while cleaning up leaves in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy a year ago.

The 27-year-old man came upon the ticket a year ago, and not being one to leave a poor, defenseless bit of paper all on its own, adopted the orphaned lottery prize, reports the New York Post.

“My co-worker was blowing the leaves and I was collecting them when I saw the ticket hiding between wet leaves,” the lucky guy tells the Post. “I still don’t know what made me pick it up.”

Once he did he saw that all three numbers on the “Win $1,000 a Week for Life” scratch card were winners.

“Whoever threw it away probably didn’t realize there was a prize,” he explained. “I took it home and showed it to my mom but she didn’t believe it.”

After the New York Lottery customer service center reopened in the wake of power outages from Sandy, he finally turned in his ticket to get verified. The process of making sure he was well and truly a winner took so long, he says he forgot about it.

That is, until three weeks ago when he got a happy phone call that no one else had claimed the ticket, which meant he got to be the keeper.

“A standard and thorough internal security investigation found no reason to believe that the ticket wasn’t rightfully the property of [the man],” a spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission said. “There was no ­report of theft or of a ticket being misplaced.”

As for that long year in between when he found the ticket and now, the commission says a one-year waiting period is standard to make sure no one else shows up with a claim on the prize.

And while a million dollars (or $515,612 in a lump-sum payment after taxes) isn’t going to buy him swimming pools filled with gold, the money is nothing to sneeze at, either. He says he’ll buy a house and help his mom pay off repairs from Sandy damage.

“This won’t change the way I live my life,” he said. “I’m still going to keep working six days a week.”

Man finds $1M lotto winner in Hurricane Sandy leaves [New York Post]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Is It Too Soon For A Novelty Titanic Tea Infuser?

teatanicAs we learned when Spaghetti-Os sent a tweet commemorating the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor with a flag-waving noodle, some people take offense to the commercialization of tragedies that maybe their grandparents might remember. How soon is too soon to commercialize a tragedy? Does that extend to the tragedies of our great-grandparents’ time, too?

Worldwide fascination with the sinking of the Titanic has kept that particular tragedy fresh in everyone’s minds. That makes it particularly ripe for commercialization, but maybe also inappropriate.

That’s what a Consumerist reader named Laura who is not me thinks. She noticed this novelty tea infuser at Meijer, and found it inappropriate enough that she snapped a picture and sent it to us.


How unsinkable is it? Would playing with this infuser only be inappropriate if you smash sugar cubes into it?

“Wonder if Meijer will sell collapsible World Trade Center tea infusers in a hundred years or so?” Laura writes. “Yeesh!” No, it would need to be some other kind of food or beverage that collapses, but we see her point.

This is hardly the first whimsical piece of Titanic memorabilia, though. It might be the first sold at Meijer, but people have been cashing in on the wreck since it had barely reached the ocean floor.

Even modern, irreverent merch is hardly anything new. Titanic soap seems particularly inappropriate, especially when it comes with its own soap icebergs. Yet here it is.

Yes, Titanic merchandise is an entire industry. Does that mean that it belongs on the kitchen supplies shelf at Meijer?

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

New Jersey Suggests People Change Their Names To Fit With Antiquated Driver’s License System

The people of New Jersey represent just about every racial and ethnic group you could imagine, so not everyone is going to fit into the standard mold of first name/middle initial/last name. And even though state authorities are well aware of this fact, they would rather have drivers legally change their names than update the state’s outdated license database.

Consumerist’s Karin Price Mueller — herself a New Jersey resident and the proud owner of a non-standard name — has been writing about this problem for years in the Newark Star Ledger’s Bamboozled column.

When she first wrote about it in 2009, the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission’s suggestion for a man whose last name is Dello Russo — which the state’s computer spits out as D. Russo — was to have him spend $1,000 to legally have his last name changed so that it was one word. The MVC couldn’t even offer him the option of hyphenating the name. Ultimately, it agreed to squash the two halves of his last name into one, but now his license doesn’t exactly match his other forms of identification.

You would think that in nearly five years, the state might have improved something, but you’d be wrong. Just ask the woman who recently moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey only to find that her first name, Hao Ling, had been changed to “Hao L.” because in spite of all the Mary Ann’s and Ann Marie’s in New Jersey, the MVC’s computers still haven’t figured out that some people have two parts to their first names.

When the MVC clerk explained that the computers turn two-part first names into a first name and a middle initial, Hao Ling asked if they could just run the two halves together into one name for her license.

“She then went back and spoke to another lady and returned, insisting that I would have to get my name combined on my documentation in order for them to consider this as a first name,” she recalls. “In a post-9/11 world where everyone but NJ MVC seems to care about all legal documents matching names, I began to fret.”

Having no other recourse, she took the “Hao L.” license and left the MVC office.

Hao Ling then spoke to someone at a passport office about this naming issue. A clerk there gave her the U.S. State Department’s guidance on Cambodian names so she could show the MVC that Cambodian naming conventions don’t use middle names. But a rep for the MVC told her this was “not relevant” and she’d need to speak to immigration officials about getting her name legally changed to be a single word.

It’s worth noting that her concern wasn’t just a matter of having a license that accurately represented her name. Hao Ling had previously been the victim of ID theft, and because her name without the “Ling” is incredibly common, she had been accidentally linked to others with the same name and bad credit. Thus, it helps to have ID that exactly matches other forms of identification so you can prove to bureaucrats that you are who you claim to be.

And it’s not just people with hyphenated or two-part names that are limited by New Jersey’s horribly out of date system. The MVC database only allows for up to nine characters for a first name, so someone with my incredibly common first name of Christopher is shortened to “Christoph.” And anyone with a name like D’angelo has that apostrophe stripped right out to form “Dangelo.”

It’s like Ellis Island, but without the cute wool caps.

“We’re dealing with a database dating back to the 1980s,” a rep for the MVC actually admitted to Bamboozled, while adding that the agency is testing an update that would allow the database to eventually accept crazy things like spaces, hyphens and apostrophes. “If the planets all align, we’re hoping that by 2016 this should all be cleared up.”

Until then, we’re just going to refer to New Jersey as Newjersey.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Report Claims NSA Intercepted Computer Deliveries To Fit Electronics With Spyware

Another day, another claim that the National Security Agency has been dipping into things in ways that you might not expect: A German magazine report says that a special NSA team was in charge of boosting data in extra-sneaky ways, including intercepting computer deliveries in order to rig them with espionage hardware before they reached the customer/targets.

Der Spiegel ‘s report claims that the NSA division called Tailored Access Operations was in charge of the ungettable gets, the hardest targets that needed special hackers to crack tough cases. The report quotes an anonymous intelligence official as saying that TAO had gathered “some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen,” reports the Associated Press.

In what sounds like a story from a spy movie, the report claims that TAO used high-tech gadgetry like computer monitor cables that track what’s going onto the screen and USB sticks with special transmitters that could send data back to the NSA.

In order to get access to personal electronics like computers, the report says the NSA would grab electronics while they were on the way to their destinations and fit them with special espionage software in secret workshops, and then send them on to their intended recipients.

The report also says the NSA even spied on Microsoft, using its crash reports to help spies exploit weaknesses in computers that run Windows. The NSA seemed to have fun with this, the report alleges, replacing Microsoft’s usual error report message with: “This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint (signals intelligence) system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine.”

Makes you want to read those error messages a bit closer, eh? Meanwhile, Microsoft says any info customers send with those reports isn’t anything to worry about.

“Microsoft does not provide any government with direct or unfettered access to our customer’s data,” a company representative said.. “We would have significant concerns if the allegations about government actions are true.”

Report: NSA intercepts computer deliveries [Associated Press]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Starbucks Pay-It-Forward Chain Continues For 1,468 Customers

We were impressed when we learned that 450 Starbucks customers in Connecticut paid for the order of the next person in line in a multiple-day chain of generosity. Today, we learned that the chain ultimately continued for a thousand more drive-thru customers, spanning a few days after Christmas.

What kept the chain going was a sort of rolling fund that extra “donations” were added to, and that baristas used when someone rolled up to the window with no one behind them. Presumably, the fund also came into play when someone in line wasn’t interested in playing along.

“It means a lot people are still looking out for other people and being caring and bringing out the holiday spirit,” one customer who joined the chain told NBC Connecticut. (Warning: Auto-play video)

Customers who would break the chain aren’t all Grinches or cheapskates, by the way. One Consumerist reader confessed in our comments last week to breaking the chain…and we think that their reason was legitimate.

I had my free drink reward and no cash… when I got to the window the guy was all “The people in front of you already paid for your drink! Someone paid for theirs, so they paid for yours.”

I asked what the person behind us ordered, and they said “Four drinks.” I felt bad and said “Thanks! Have a great day!”

Starbucks Customers Paid it Forward for Days After Christmas [NBC Connecticut] (Warning: Auto-play video)

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist