Amazing Non-Food Uses For The Stuff In Your Pantry

Your pantry is full of stuff, some of which you might even have looked at in the last year. What you may not know is that many of the simplest pantry staples have multiple uses around the house. Beyond cleaning with baking soda and cleaning your face with olive oil, there are some more unexpected uses for these items.

You’ll have to click through to Lifehacker to see the full list, but here we’ll feature what we think are the most unexpected uses for each pantry staple.

Olive oil: You can use olive oil to remove heat stains from wooden furniture. You know, that awful mark that showed up when you set a bowl of soup on the coffee table.

Baking soda: The combination of vinegar and baking soda isn’t just for awesome explosions: it can also revive the absorbency of your bath towels.

Cooking spray: Have gum stuck in your kid’s (or your) hair? Cooking spray can help loosen gum for smaller tangles. You can also spray the rubber seals of your car doors in order to prevent them from freezing shut.

Flour: Put an unripe avocado in a bag of flour, and it will become edible much faster. You can also sprinkle flour inside jar lids to keep them easier to open.

Cornstarch: It can help you loosen stubborn knots and clean the surface of well-loved stuffed animals.

Uncommon Uses for Common Pantry Items [Lifehacker]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

CFPB Alleges Mortgage Insurer Operated 15-Year-Long Kickback Scheme

phh The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has begun proceedings against PHH Corporation for its involvement in a 15-year-long mortgage insurance kickback scheme that collected hundreds of millions of dollars from homeowners.

The CFPB announced Wednesday that it is seeking a civil fine, an injunction to prevent future violations and victim restitution from PHH Corporation and its residential mortgage origination subsidiaries, PHH Mortgage Corporation and PHH Home Loans LLC, as well as it’s wholly-owned subsidiaries, Atrium Insurance Corporation and Atrium Reinsurance Corporation, for violating the Real Estate Settlements Procedures Act and harming consumers through a kickback scheme beginning as early as 1995 and continuing until at least 2009.

The New Jersey-based corporation and its affiliates are accused of:

  • Creating a system where it received as much as 40 percent of the premiums that consumers paid to mortgage insurers, collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks;

  • charging more money for loans to consumers who did not buy mortgage insurance from one of its kickback partners. In general, they charged these consumers additional percentage points on their loans;

  • pressuring mortgage insurers to “purchase” its reinsurance with the understanding or agreement that the insurers would then receive borrower referrals from PHH. PHH continued to steer business to its mortgage insurance partners even when it knew the prices its partners charged were higher than competitors’ prices.

An investigation by the CFPB showed that when PHH originated mortgages, it referred consumers to its mortgage insuring partners. In exchange for the referral, the insurers purchased reinsurance – a product that transfers risk to help mortgage insurers cover their own risk of unexpected losses – from PHH’s subsidiaries. As a result, consumers ended up paying more in mortgage insurance premiums.

Mortgage insurance, which is typically required on loans when homeowners borrow more than 80% of the value of their home, protects the lender against the risk of default.

Illegal kickbacks inflate the costs of insurance, which increases the burden on borrowers and increases the likelihood they will default on their mortgages. RESPA protects consumers by banning kickbacks and helps promote a level playing field by ensuring companies compete for business with fair and transparent terms.

The case will be tried by an Administrative Law Judge, who will hold hearings and make recommended decisions regarding the charges. No timeline has been set for a decision.

In recent months the CFPB has been cracking down on mortgage related fraud. In mid-January, the Bureau ordered Fidelity Mortgage Corporation, a Missouri mortgage lender, to pay $81,000 over an illegal kickback scheme.

The CFPB isn’t just going after corporations committing fraud, but taking step to better protect consumers, as well. Two weeks ago, the CFPB unveiled rules to protect mortgage borrowers, especially those who are military servicemembers,

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Takes Action Against PHH Corporation For Mortgage Insurance Kickbacks [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau]

by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist

Lenovo Agrees To Buy Motorola From Google For $3 Billion

Not even three years after Google bought wireless device biggie Motorola for $12.5 billion comes news that it’s made a deal with Lenovo to take the manufacturer off Google’s hands for a fraction of that amount.

Reuters originally reported that Beijing-based Lenovo is looking to pay $3 billion for the handset maker recently responsible for Google’s Moto X and Moto G smartphones.

Almost immediately thereafter, Lenovo confirmed the news via press release, saying the current purchase price is US$2.91 billion.

The deal means that Lenovo, which bought its way into the US computer market in 2005 by acquiring IBM’s PC business, will now control the Motorola brand, which includes recent product launches like the Moto X and Moto G smartphones.

Why is Google accepting so much less than it paid for Motorola?

According to Lenovo, Google will maintain ownership of the “vast majority of the Motorola Mobility patent portfolio, including current patent applications and invention disclosures.”

“The acquisition of such an iconic brand, innovative product portfolio and incredibly talented global team will immediately make Lenovo a strong global competitor in smartphones. We will immediately have the opportunity to become a strong global player in the fast-growing mobile space,” said Yang Yuanqing, chairman and CEO of Lenovo in a statement. “We are confident that we can bring together the best of both companies to deliver products customers will love and a strong, growing business.”

Adds Google’s Larry Page, “Lenovo has the expertise and track record to scale Motorola Mobility into a major player within the Android ecosystem. This move will enable Google to devote our energy to driving innovation across the Android ecosystem, for the benefit of smartphone users everywhere.”

Google’s purchase of Motorola, begun in 2011 and closed in spring of 2012, was an ill-fated attempt for the Internet giant to buy its way into the handset business in the hopes of going head-to-head with Apple.

Alas, while Google’s Android OS for smartphones and tablets continues to be very popular, the devices that were born out of the Motorola acquisition failed to catch fire with consumers.

Lenovo may have more luck with Motorola’s handset business, especially in China where the long-awaited release of Apple’s iPhone devices did not result in sales similar to what the company has seen elsewhere.

Likewise, the Motorola brand could help Lenovo crack the U.S. market, where it has virtually no market share among wireless users.

Motorola was founded more than 80 years ago in Chicago. The company, started as Galvin Manufacturing, created the Motorola brand of car radios and subsequently changed the company name to match.

Through the decades, it added televisions and set-top boxes for cable companies. 30 years ago, it launched its DynaTAC series of wireless phones, becoming the first manufacturer of commercially available cell phones.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Olive Garden Will Provide Free Babysitting If You’ll Eat Dinner There (One-Night Only)

Either Olive Garden is feeling helpful or just really, really wants customers to walk in its doors and sit down and eat. In any case, the casual dining chain is serving up free babysitting for any parents who eat dinner one of its participating locations around the country for free on Feb. 7.

The one-night only special is to promote its two-for$25 special but a spokeswoman assures potential diners that “guests are welcome to try other menu items during Parents’ Night Out as well,” reports the Orlando Sentinel.

And no, there isn’t a secret babysitting room at every Olive Garden — parents will be dropping off their tykes at one of 145 participating My Gym locations around the country.

You’ll want to check your local OG if you’re interested, as most of the events will run from 6 to 9 p.m. but it could vary by location.

And you’ll have to be quick to drop your kids off at your nearest My Gym, as space is limited that night to about 30 children at each location. You’ll have to pay a deposit up front (on your kids?) which will be refunded once you present your Olive Garden receipt upon collecting your offspring.

Your opinion on Olive Garden notwithstanding, it’s probably a pretty attractive BOGO deal for parents — buy one dinner (and evening away from your kids) and get one childcare session for free.

Planning a date night? Olive Garden will pick up the baby sitting tab [Orlando Sentinel]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

You Can Never Truly Vanquish Sweater Lint Pills

unsightly_little_ballsIf you like to wear sweaters, you’ve noticed the problem: pilling. I’ve lost some beautiful articles of clothing over the years to excess pilling, all of which I miss dearly. The problem is that there’s no way to prevent it, other than leaving all of your clothes on the shelf. Which is impractical.

It’s not the most serious problem facing consumers, but it’s an annoying one. The Wall Street Journal examined the problem and some of its possible solutions.

Pills form in spots where fabric rubs against itself or against anything. Your armpits where cloth rubs against cloth? Pills. The spot on your shoulder where your favorite messenger bag sits? Pills. The areas on your forearms that rub against your desk while you type? Pills.

You should be able to avoid the unsightly fiber blobs by purchasing better-quality knitwear, though, right? Not so fast. Fabric pills form when the ends of fibers in the yarn that forms your clothing are exposed to friction and tangle with each other. That means that fine fibers like cashmere and sheep wool are more likely to form pills than longer fibers, explaining the lint scourge on woolen winterwear like sweaters and coats.

In general, there are a few ways to sort of prevent the problem. Materials with longer fibers resist pilling better than than materials with shorter fibers. Constant price pressure in the clothing industry mean that companies use cheaper materials, which might generally have shorter fibers. Sometimes a pricey sweater only lasts a few washings before turning into a pill-laden mess.

The best solution: don’t wear your favorite items as often. Yes, that’s counter-intuitive, but when a garment is in constant use, the fibers are always experiencing friction and tangling up. Let your favorite items rest for at least 24 hours between wearings.

Other solutions include lint shavers, disposable razors, and combs. One expert explained to the Journal that all these methods do is cut the fibers, possibly causing even worse pilling. One promising method is using a Sweater Stone, a pumice stone that removes fiber balls from your sweaters instead of dead skin from your feet.

How to Prevent and Fight Sweater Pilling [Wall Street Journal] (may require subscription)

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Arby’s Restaurant Processes Six Months Worth Of Purchases In Single Night

You know how sometimes you’ll make a debit or credit card purchase and it doesn’t show up on your statement right away? Some businesses process their transactions in batches, so it’s just a matter of time until it pops up. But what about when there is a six-month delay on those transactions being processed?

Consumerist reader A. says he was looking at his bank statement the other day and noticed that there had been six consecutive small-dollar (under $25 each) transactions all attributed to something called “AZARB LLC.”

Since such purchases are generally an indicator that someone has stolen your ID and is enjoying a buying spree of some sort, A. contacted his bank to have a new card issued.

The mystery deepened when A. spoke to his wife and found she also had mystery charges from the same company — on two different cards.

Something was going on. An ID thief having access to one account is normal, but to three different accounts from two different people?

The picture got clearer when the AZARB name on their statements eventually changed to indicate a local Arby’s in Glendale.

But there was still a worrisome question — sure, A. and his wife had been to Arby’s but not nine or ten times in the last day.

So A. called the Arby’s in question where he was told that the store’s “computer” had apparently held on to six months’ worth of charges and then suddenly decided to finally process all those transactions in one night.

The person he spoke to apologized for the inconvenience, but A. is concerned that this glitch (or oversight or whatever it was) could affect an awful lot of people.

“I asked myself, how many hundreds of customers attend an Arby’s and pay with a credit card over six months?” writes A. “What about frequent customers, who might eat there almost every day? I only got hit for a couple hundred dollars, but some people might get hit with far more. It seemed a rather appalling business practice. I can imagine people finding cards maxed, or their checking accounts mysteriously drained, probably like me assuming some kind of fraud.”

We reached out to Arby’s Restaurant Group with the details of A.’s story and received the following statement in response:

We are currently investigating the situation and will take corrective action based on our findings. Based on preliminary information, this appears to be a processing issue isolated to one franchised restaurant in Glendale, Arizona. At this point, we are not aware of any breach of data security at this location.

Interestingly enough, though we didn’t share A’s name or contact info with Arby’s HQ, he tells us that after we contacted the company, he received a follow-up call from someone at the fast food chain.

“He told me to bring my account statements to the Arby’s and they would reimburse my expense related to this incident,” A. tells Consumerist. “I was both surprised and pleased.

A. says that when he shared his belief with this company rep that this glitch/oversight/goof may have affected many customers, the Arby’s rep told him, “Yes, quite a few.”

“I find it rare that a fast food franchise respond so swiftly and decisively to a consumer difficulty,” writes A.

We’re just curious how a fast food franchise doesn’t realize that it hasn’t processed credit and debit card payments for a week, let alone several months.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Is Greek Yogurt Still Greek If It’s Made In America?

It's all Greek-style to us.

It’s all Greek-style to us.

We label all sorts of products with country names — Italian ice, French dressing, Swedish meatballs — regardless of where they were made, or even if they have any actual ties to the country being name-checked. But a court in the UK has ruled that Chobani can’t label its product as “Greek Yogurt” because it is made in the U.S.

The ruling comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by Athens-based yogurt company Fage against Chobani, which is headquartered in New York.

The AP reports that Fage had long dominated the Greek yogurt market in the UK with its TOTAL brand, but that it began to lose customers to Chobani when it launched its product in Britain in 2012.

Last year, a UK court ruled that Chobani’s use of the phrase “Greek Yogurt” on its label was misleading to consumers who may then believe that it’s a product of Greece instead of Chenango County, NY. At the time, the judge issued an injunction prohibiting Chobani from using that descriptor on its products.

Chobani appealed that ruling, but earlier today an appeals court once again ruled against the U.S. yogurt company, upholding the lower court injunction against the use of the term “Greek Yogurt” to describe something made not in Greece.

Never to be daunted, especially when they have friends like hunky John Stamos, Chobani says it plans to take its case further up the UK appeals ladder.

“We remain of the view that the population of the U.K. know and understand Greek yogurt to be a product description regardless of where it is made,” said Chobani in a statement. “We remain committed to the U.K. market and to breaking the monopoly on the use of the term Greek yogurt enjoyed by Fage.”

It seems unlikely to us that this specific issue will end up being raised stateside, mostly because “Greek yogurt” is a relatively new item to many American consumers. As mentioned above, American shoppers are used to the idea of country names being used as adjectives to describe a style of food that may not necessarily be the source of that food product. After all, Philadelphia cream cheese was not created in Philadelphia nor is it made here.

Meanwhile, it hasn’t been a banner year for Chobani. Last fall, the company issued a recall of some of its products after complaints of moldy and exploding yogurt containers. At the time, the FDA said it knew of 89 illnesses believed to be related to the recalled yogurt.

Then in December came reports that high-priced grocery haven Whole Foods was going to phase out Chobani over concerns about possible genetically modified content in the yogurt.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Would You Ever Be Able To Forgo Using Toilet Paper?

Every time you wipe in the bathroom, you’re basically flushing money down the toilet, not to mention creating well, waste with your waste. But is there any way you could ever do away with the whole thing and not use toilet paper?

We know what you’re thinking — it sounds crazy, even laughable. It’s not like most American bathrooms come with a bidet or any other kind of splashy alternative for keeping clean.

But three anti-TP users who spoke on HuffPo Live this week say it’s really no big deal — they just use cut up sheets of old fabric and keep it in a box in the bathroom. Once you use it, it goes into a bucket with a lid and gets tossed in the laundry once a week.

While one woman admits during the program that she and her husband are 80/20 on it — meaning they’ll use regular toilet paper about 20% of the time if they’re out and about — for the most part it seems to be a pretty normal part of their hygiene routines.

HuffPo host Caitlyn Becker seems a bit skeptical about the whole thing, as admittedly many people would be. And if you don’t have a washer/dryer in your home, doing the “bathroom laundry” once a week might be a bit tougher.

So we want to know:

Yes, There Are People Who Don’t Use Toilet Paper [HuffPo Live]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

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Are Your Nightmares Lacking Realism? The Velociraptor Cage From ‘Jurassic Park’ Is On Sale

jurassicscary Are your dream workouts missing that extra bit of oomph? Maybe it’s just not real enough to you, you can’t believe that a carnivorous, smart and super fast velociraptor is about to chase you through a freaky dinosaur theme park. As luck would have it, the velociraptor’s cage from Jurassic Park is up for sale.

I can’t imagine anyone really trying to make their nightmares more terrifying, but if I owned the $100,000 cage that held the movie’s pair of hungry, hungry dinos, well let’s just say I wouldn’t sleep too well. And yes, I know they weren’t real. But still.

Theme Park Connection, an Orlando company that specializes in selling movie memorabilia, is auctioning off the cage from the opening scenes of the 1993 movie on eBay, with a current bid of $100,100.10. Bidding is still open for another week.

Maybe you’re still not terrified enough and would like to really scare yourself silly? A velociraptor prop from the film is also included in the sale so you can really lose sleep hurtling your body through the jungle away from that thing as fast as humanly possible, which we all know isn’t fast enough.

The popularity and rising price for the item is unexpected, the manager of the company says. He was “blown away” by the bidding, he tells USA Today. The current bid is the highest amount the company has ever sold a movie prop item for.

“We had no idea Jurassic Park had such a cult following,” he said, clearly not realizing that every time I see a glass of water shake I crawl inside myself and hide.

‘Jurassic Park’ velociraptor cage auctioned on eBay [USA Today]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Sony Starts Inviting Users To PlayStation Now Beta Test

The Sony demo of PS Now at CES in Jan. 2014.

The Sony demo of PS Now at CES in Jan. 2014.

Sony shook things up a few weeks ago at CES when it announced the impending launch of PlayStation Now, a cloud-based service that could give PS4 owners access to previous-generation games that won’t currently work on the new console and Sony says will eventually let users play PlayStation games without any console at all. This week, the company began sending out the first round of invites to users who registered to become beta testers for PS Now.

Polygon confirmed the news with Sony last night, though the company would not say how many people were part of this first round of invitees.

To take advantage of the invite, the user needs a PS3 and broadband connection with a minimum downstream speed of 5Mbps, which is in line with what Sony told Consumerist at CES.

When we got our hands on the PS Now demo at CES, it didn’t strike us as terribly different from playing a game on the console. The graphics were not quite as sharp, and it seemed slightly sluggish in a handful of spots. However, we were playing The Last of Us, which is visually a bit muddy in parts and has never been the smoothest, hitch-free performer on our home consoles.

If anyone among the beta-testers wants to share their hands-on experiences with Consumerist, let us know at We will not out your identity to Sony or anyone else.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Study: Putting Celebs In Ads Is Ineffective, But Everyone Loves Ellen DeGeneres

ellenad Turn on your TV during prime time and you’ll inevitably see a cavalcade of celebrity faces, ranging from Oscar winners to “Wasn’t that the guy in that show we watched that one time?” Attaching a star to your brand is something that advertisers have done since the first rock retailer made a cave drawing of Thutronk the Hunter carrying one of his store’s special stones. And yet, science says that people just don’t care, and that it may have a negative impact on your brand.

New research from the folks at ad analytics service Ace Metrix, who released a similar study in 2011, claims to confirm that celebrified ads do not generally perform as well as ads with unknown actors who hope to someday be celebrities.

In its expanded report, Ace looked at more than 1,200 ads featuring various celebrities from the worlds of TV, movies, music, and sports — they even included brand icons like that AFLAC duck in the study.

The results found that ads without celebrities continue to outscore star-studded ads in all seven facets of the Ace scoring system. It’s not a huge difference, with the overall average score for celeb ads virtually the same as regular non-celeb spots. But Ace says this underscores just how little a difference having a celebrity in your ad makes.

“Advertisers continue to invest heartily in celebrities as spokespersons or endorsers and more recently as ‘brand ambassadors’ hoping to reap financial and brand lift rewards by leveraging the popularity and social status of the public icon,” said Peter Daboll, Ace Metrix CEO. “But often advertisers ignore the risks such as the fleeting or narrow appeal of a particular celebrity. Our continuing research finds that celebrities fail to provide any meaningful impact in terms of effectiveness, as viewers often struggle with the relevance of the connection.”

That said, several celebrities fared much better than the average, with Ellen DeGeneres being one of the few celebrities that seemed to make a noticeably positive difference in consumers’ reaction to an ad.

Of course, you probably remember when the folks at One Million Moms tried to have the openly gay Ellen fired from her gig shilling for JCPenney. Guess those million moms weren’t part of the Ace study.

Next on the list, with slightly more than half the measured positive impact of Ellen, was Dean Winters, known to 30 Rock fans as Dennis “Beeper King/Subway Hero” Duffy but more popularly recognized as “Mayhem” from the series of Allstate insurance ads.

Other celebs with some value to an ad include handsome actor Paul Rudd, Super Bowl champ Ray Lewis, Green Bay Packer Greg Jennings, and actress/America’s girlfriend Emma Stone.

Interestingly enough, the bottom of the celeb ladder is occupied by a name that sells massive amounts of music, apparel, concert tickets and all manner of other items — Jay-Z. In spite of his huge and varied empire, the rapper and businessman had the lowest score of the celebs featured in ads. So people love his products but apparently just don’t want to see him mope his way through a TV ad.

In terms of individual ads that worked, the top-scorers on Ace’s study are not big-time box-office stars, but athletes, musicians and TV stars. In fact, three of the top-10 ads feature gymnast Jordyn Wieber. Other sports figures in this list are NBA star Dwyane Wade and yet another Green Bay Packer Aaron Rodgers.

Wade can now trash-talk his Miami Heat teammate LeBron James, whose Samsung ad was among the 10 lowest-scoring celeb ads in the Ace study. He was joined by fellow athletes Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, and Oakland Raider (and former Packer) Charles Woodson.

And while we’re on the topic of half-hearted celebrity endorsements:

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

12 Things You Should Keep In Your Car For Emergencies

Snowy, icy winters make for especially treacherous driving, so you usually see lists like this published when the first storms of the year hit. That’s not quite fair, though. Emergencies come up in any climate and at any time of year. You may not need all of them year-round, but here are a dozen things that can help you out in an emergency on the road.

Consumer Reports put together this list, which is focused on cold-weather needs like sand to dislodge a stuck car and

  • Hazard triangles (or flares)

  • Jumper cables

  • Flashlight

  • Roadside-assistance membership (which is not, strictly speaking, a thing, but it’s still important

  • Tow rope

  • Duct tape

  • Small shovel and bag of kitty litter or sand

  • Windshield scraper, emergency blanket, and hand warmers

Did they miss an item that you find indispensable? Share it in the comments, or let us know at Maybe in future we’ll post a Consumerist-Enhanced version of this list!

12 emergency items for the road [Consumer Reports]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Train Conductor Tasked With Keeping Beer From Freezing Probably Hates Winter More Than You

During these frosty, freezing days of winter, take a moment to appreciate that beer you’re raising to your lips, in all its unfrozen, unslushy glory. It’s not easy getting that brew from its factory to your door in the icy months, but rest easy — one train crew and its stalwart conductor are on the job.

When temperatures dip below freezing and get down to about 13 degrees Fahrenheit, beer likes to freeze. Well who knows if it likes it, but that is what it does. Crain’s Business got an inside peek at a day in the life of train crews responsible for getting loads of beer from one place to the next without letting it slushify.

The 56-year-old train conductor on the job for the Union Pacific Railroad Co. in an Illinois rail yard has been workign the rails for 37 years, with the last 12 devoted to delivering cars of Grupo Modelo S.A.B de C.V. beer — Corona, Modelo Especial, Pacifico and Victoria — coming up from Mexico and heading to a nearby “beer house,” or simply, a warehouse.

The colder it gets, the tougher his job is.

“As long as they keep moving they may get slushy, but they won’t freeze,” he says of his cars full of beer.

When it’s time to sort the cars of beer, it’s time to really suit up.

“It’s all about layers,” the conductor says. Layers indeed: There’s steel-toed boots wrapped in plastic bags before slipping them into massive rubber boots, windbreaker pants, a fleece, a quilted jacket, a hat with fleece-lined bill and earflaps, and of course, a seasonal beard.

“It really cuts the wind,” he says.

He and his team head out to sort the cars and move them through the yard. It can be tough going, especially in the months before Cinco de Mayo, when up to 80 cars of beer can be in the yard at one time.

The distributors who have their beer going through the yard are grateful for how quickly the team works, with Chicago-based Crown Imports’ manager of transportation praising the yard workers.

“They will always make an extra effort to move cars through the yard a little quicker when there is that opportunity for freezing beer,” he says.

After hours of moving the cars around and taking 16 loads of beer into the beer house, it’s 1 degree outside and the workers start unloading the beer. The more jostling, the better — the movement helps keep the beer from freezing.

“Just another rough night on the railroad,” the conductor says when all is said and done. And not one beer had frozen when it was unloaded in the morning. You’re welcome, everyone. Enjoy that beer and maybe pour some out for these guys.

This brew crew keeps trainloads of beer from freezing [Crain's Business]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Banks Say Target Hack Has Cost Them $153 Million In Replacement Cards

It’s not just Target’s sales figures that are feeling the sting of the massive data breach that affected more than 100 million customers at the height of the holiday shopping season. According to a group representing the nation’s retail banks, financial institutions have had to spend more than $153 million to replace credit and debit cards in the last six weeks.

Among banks, JPMorgan Chase and Citi are the two largest institutions that opted to proactively replace debit cards for customers whose accounts were affected by the Target breach. But they are only a sizable chunk of the 15.3 million cards the Consumer Bankers Association says have been replaced in the wake of the breach.

According to the CBA, the average cost of replacing a card is $10 per card. Included in that amount is the cost of the actual card, plus the expenses associated with informing consumers of the card being reissued, shipping and activating that new card, and any supplemental communications consumers have with the banks’ call centers about these replacement cards.

And so it calculates that the current total cost to its member banks is at least $153,903,440 and growing.

The CBA says these numbers reflect just the new cards that have been issued in direct response to the Target hack. It does not include any new cards handed out related to smaller breaches like the one at Neiman Marcus or the possible attack on the Michaels chain of craft stores.

Meanwhile, earlier today U.S. Attorney General confirmed at a Senate hearing that the Justice Department is indeed actively investigating the Target breach.

“While we generally do not discuss specific matters under investigation, I can confirm the Department is investigating the breach involving the U.S. retailer, Target,” said Holder.

Banks have replaced 15.3 million cards since Target breach []

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Officials Bust Two Men Accused Of Peddling Fake Premium Super Bowl Tickets

superbowlxlviiifake Whenever there’s a big event in town, people are going to start looking for any kind of deal they can score to get in. And when those people go searching, inevitably scammers find them and try to sell unsuspecting fans fake tickets. This year’s Super Bowl is no different, as officials say two men have been accused of shilling bogus tickets to the big game and fake passes for cushy parties in New York.

The two men — one from Queens, New York and the other from Philadelphia — were arrested after monthlong sting. During that month, officials say the twosome sold bogus tickets and passes to undercover cops, reports the New York Daily News.

“Individuals who bought tickets or passes through the Internet may be in for a rude awakening on game day,” warned Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

These weren’t nosebleed seats either, officials say: The bogus premium tickets to Sunday’s game at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey were especially tempting as they were sold for about half the price of a real premium seat. Those real tickets go for $2,100 to $7,400.

“They advertise the fact they’ll produce a ticket for anything,” a rep from the NYPD’s Organized Crime Investigations Division.

The fakes were of “very good” quality, including NFL logos and barcodes that could likely fool ticket scanners. The men are also accused of selling fake parking passes and tickets to fancy events like the NFL Commissioner’s Party, which will be Friday night at the Waldorf-Astoria.

The men have been charged with trademark counterfeiting and possession of a forged instrument.

Fake Super Bowl ticket sting leads to bust of two men [New York Daily News]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

Hacker Hijacks Website In Extortion Attempt, GoDaddy Refuses To Talk To Actual Owner

godaddy It’s the modern-day bureaucratic nightmare — Someone steals something that belongs to you, and the one party that could easily do something about it refuses to listen to you because its records show that the thief is the rightful owner. According to developer Naoki Hiroshima, someone lusted after his Twitter handle (@N) so badly that they went to great lengths, hijacking his personal website in a (sadly successful) extortion attempt.

Hiroshima writes about the ordeal in detail on [via TheNextWeb] but here are the basics of the red-tape nightmare that lost him a Twitter handle worth several thousands of dollars.

In fact, writes Hiroshima, he’d received numerous potentially lucrative offers for his @N handle since he’d scored that Twitter account way back in the Twitter stone age of 2007. He claims to have had as much as $50,000 dangled in front of him for the rare, single-letter account.

In addition to the legitimate purchase attempts, he says that hackers are constantly attempting to breach this account or any of this others in an effort to get control of the Twitter handle.

Then on Jan. 20, he received an “Account Settings Change Confirmation,” notice from GoDaddy, the company through which he’d registered his personal domain name.

“If these modifications were made without your consent, please log in to your account and update your security settings,” reads the e-mail, “If you are unable to log in to your account or if unauthorized changes have been made to domain names associated with the account, please contact our customer support team for assistance: or (480) 505-8877.”

Hiroshima was not able to log in and so he called the number, as per the instructions.

“The representative asked me the last 6 digits of my credit card number as a method of verification,” he writes. “This didn’t work because the credit card information had already been changed by an attacker. In fact, all of my information had been changed. I had no way to prove I was the real owner of the domain name.”

All the rep could do was tell him to file a case report, complete with his government ID info, with GoDaddy in an attempt to prove that he was who he claimed to be. Of course, this didn’t really help because his info was no longer associated with the account.

Meanwhile, the hacker who’d hijacked his site was able to control Hiroshima’s e-mail account.

He smartly changed the e-mail address associated with his Twitter account, making sure the hacker did not have access to that much-desired public feed.

The hacker persisted in attempting to get the Twitter account e-mail changed over, but to no avail. And so the hacker began e-mailing Hiroshima, making their extortion attempt quite clear.

Reads the e-mail from the hacker, who dubbed themselves “Social Media King”:

I’ve seen you spoke with an accomplice of mine, I would just like to inform you that you were correct, @N was the target. it appears extremely inactive, I would also like to inform you that your GoDaddy domains are in my possession, one fake purchase and they can be repossessed by godaddy and never seen again D:

I see you run quite a few nice websites so I have left those alone for now, all data on the sites has remained intact. Would you be willing to compromise? access to @N for about 5minutes while I swap the handle in exchange for your godaddy, and help securing your data?

Meanwhile, GoDaddy confirmed it could and would not help Hiroshima because he was no longer the current registrant. To us, this is like police telling a homeowner you can’t kick out squatters because they live in the house now.

Even a promised investigation by a GoDaddy exec (contacted by Hiroshima though a mutual acquaintance) has thus far resulted in nothing.

Realizing he’d rather cede his Twitter handle and go public with the whole ridiculous story, Hiroshima finally gave in to the extortionists demands and gave up the Twitter account he’d had for almost seven years.

After the hacker handed Hiroshima back the keys to his website, they provided the following explanation for how PayPal and GoDaddy facilitated the hijacking:

- I called paypal and used some very simple engineering tactics to obtain the last four of your card (avoid this by calling paypal and asking the agent to add a note to your account to not release any details via phone)

- I called godaddy and told them I had lost the card but I remembered the last four, the agent then allowed me to try a range of numbers (00-09 in your case) I have not found a way to heighten godaddy account security, however if you’d like me to recommend a more secure registrar i recommend: NameCheap or eNom (not network solutions but

Reps for PayPay, Twitter, and GoDaddy tell TheNextWeb that each of the companies is investigating the matter.

Meanwhile, Hiroshima has launched the new Twitter handle @N_is_stolen.

by Chris Morran via Consumerist

Cantaloupe Farmers Sentenced To Probation For Role In Deadly Listeria Outbreak

After pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges in October related to their role in the 2011 outbreak of listeria that killed about three dozen people, two cantaloupe farmers were sentenced to five years’ probation yesterday. That sentence includes six months in home detention.

The Jensen brothers of Jensen farms will also have to complete 100 hours of community service and pay $150,000 in restitution, reports CNN. Each of the men apologized in court to the families of the victims.

“My most sincere apologies and deepest regrets. I hope the victims’ meeting helped,” Ryan Jensen said. “I do know that much has been gained in food safety understanding both here and outside the country because of this.”

“This has been a huge tragedy. We are very, very sorry. We hope it leads to better understanding of food safety,” Eric Jensen said.

So why did they get probation? Prosecution pushed for that sentence because the brothers willingly cooperated and met with congressional investigators and relatives of their victims, Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a statement.

“No sentence of incarceration, restitution or financial penalty can undo the tragic damage done as a result of the contamination at Jensen Farms,” Walsh said. “Today’s sentence serves as a powerful reminder of farmers’ legal and moral responsibility for ensuring their product is safe. Because of the Jensen Farms case and this prosecution, changes have been made regarding how fruit is processed and transported across the country.”

The outbreak was the deadliest the U.S. has seen in 100 years, killing 33 people and sending 110 others across the country to the hospital after eating the tainted cantaloupes.

The FDA believed that puddled water and dirty packing equipment were to blame for the outbreak.

At sentencing, cantaloupe growers apologize for deadly listeria outbreak [CNN]

by Mary Beth Quirk via Consumerist

20 Years Later, Taco Bell Revives Bacon-Centric Menu… In The Philippines

bacontacoThe Taco Bell “First Meal” breakfast menu here in the United States is all right. It has donut holes filled with Cinnabon frosting, after all. Do you know what it doesn’t have at breakfast time? Bacon-filled tacos. To get those from a Taco Bell, you’re going to have to do some traveling. To the Philippines.

What are they serving up for bacon breakfast? That bacon soft taco (no tomatoes that we can see, though.) A bacon and cheese quesadilla. A bacon, cheese, and rice burrito. There’s also a bacon and cheese Roll Up, and bacon and cheese Fiesta Potatoes.

They’re just regular menu items that either have bacon added, or the bacon replaces the ground beef. It’s like the Cheesy Bacon Fest that KFC Philippines had not long ago, except we don’t see the word “baconized” anywhere in this ad. That should become a real word.

What’s going on here? We couldn’t find any news about a precipitous drop in pork prices in the Philippines or anywhere in Asia. The only possible answer is that a severe outbreak of deliciousness is now affecting American fast-food chains operating there.

Things could have been different for American fast food. Back in 1995, Taco Bell tried to give us the “Sizzlin’ Bacon Menu,” featuring a BLT taco. That menu went away, leaving the chain’s customer base to suffer…until now. Unfortunately, they’re only relieving that suffering in one country.

Sometimes experimental and limited-time items show up at fast food chains’ international outposts before they hit the larger supply chain in the United States. Maybe that’s what will happen with the Bacon Breakfast. They’re a few years late to the all-out bacon craze, but we suspect that no one will really mind.

Around the World: Taco Bell Philippines Offers Taco Filled with Bacon [Brand Eating]

by Laura Northrup via Consumerist

Alec Baldwin Backtracks After Mistakenly Ripping TSA Over Pat-Down Of Baby Daughter

baldwincaptain No one likes getting a pat-down at the airport (okay, maybe some of you do), but if you’re going to publicly vent about the horrors of airport security online, you should probably remember what country you’re in so that your fury is directed to the right agency.

This is a lesson learned earlier this week by Alec “No I’m Not Billy, or Steven, or Daniel, or James” Baldwin after he took to Twitter to express his anger about an airport security pat-down of his 5-month-old daughter Carmen Gabriela.

Al B. and his family were heading back from a visit to the Bahamas when airport security gave a little extra look-see at his infant daughter before letting them all head to their gate.

“Flying from Nassau, Bahamas 2 NY. TSA ‘random selects’ my 5 month old daughter 4 a pat down. I am not kidding. #travelinginUSisadisgrace,” Tweeted the 55-year-old actor.

Even if you agree with Baldwin that traveling in the U.S. is a disgrace, you probably noticed that his Tweet overlooked the fact that, well… he wasn’t in the U.S. when this happened. He might have missed this in Hollywood Hothead Academy, but the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a different country.

And as invasive as the TSA might be, they weren’t the ones patting his daughter down. That would have been the Nassau Airport Authority.

Ever the humble exceedingly wealthy actor, Baldwin once again took to Twitter to correct his earlier statement while still wagging a very convincing finger at the wrongly accused party.

“I wrote re security at Bahamas airport, US TSA or no, to highlight over- zealous practices,” explained Baldwin (we think; Twitter-speak is a language in which I’m not fluent).

He even took time to tut-tut the “brigade of geniuses,” like film critic Richard Roeper, who had publicly corrected his misdirected anger, thanking him “for your wealth of knowledge and understanding.”

You probably know this isn’t the first time the former 30 Rock star has raged against the air travel machine. Back in Dec. 2011, Baldwin was kicked off an American Airlines flight after he refused a flight attendant’s request to stop playing Words With Friends on his phone.

“I guess what I’m saying is: Traveling in the US is a pain in the … ass,” wrote Baldwin on Tuesday, who occasionally has to slum it in business class and sometimes has to wait a few minutes to be picked up by a town car at the airport.

RELATED: The Evolution Of Airport Security: From Carry-On Dynamite To No Liquids Allowed

Alec Baldwin blasts TSA over pat-down of his baby, then backtracks [L.A. Times]

by Chris Morran via Consumerist