Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. 2017
  4. October

News in October 2017

Browse by year

2017

Browse by month

Get trending consumer news and recalls

    By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

    Gasoline prices near 2017 highs

    Rising oil prices may keep gas prices higher than last year, despite the switch to winter grade fuel

    Gasoline prices are moving higher at a time when they normally move lower. The summer driving season is over and refineries are producing cheaper winter gr..

    Relish Foods recalls frozen tuna loins

    The product may be contaminated with Salmonella

    Relish Foods of Culver City, Calif., is recalling frozen Newport brand tuna loins that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

    The recalled product was sold in Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona between August 15, 2017, and September 25, 2017, through food service operations, retail stores, and restaurants.

    It was distributed to the following retail locations and may have been sold in an unbranded form:

    RetailerCityState
    BASHA'S #71TUCSONAZ
    BASHA'S #66CAREFREEAZ
    BASHA'S #47FOUNTAIN HILLSAZ
    RANDALS FINE MEATSFLAGSTAFFAZ
    YOKES FRESH MKT #07DEER PARKWA
    YOKES FRESH MKT #10MEADWA
    YOKES FRESH MKT #13KENNEWICKWA
    YOKES FRESH MKT #11SPOKANEWA
    YOKES FRESH MKT #05KELLOGGID
    YOKES FRESH MKT #15RICHLANDWA
    YOKES FRESH MKT #16LIBERTY LAKEWA
    YOKES FRESH MKT #17POST FALLSID
    YOKES FRESH MKT #20CHENEYWA
    CAL MARTCALISTOGACA
    RALEY'S #103 SEAFOODRENONV
    RALEY'S #106 SEAFOODRENONV
    RALEY'S #108 SEAFOODRENONV
    RALEY'S #109 SEAFOODGARDNERVILLENV
    RALEY'S #110 SEAFOODSPARKSNV
    RALEY'S #113 SEAFOODINCLINENV
    RALEY'S #114 SEAFOODCARSON CITYNV
    RALEY'S #119 SEAFOODSO. LAKE TAHOECA
    RALEY'S #127 SEAFOODSO. LAKE TAHOECA
    RALEY'S #213 SEAFOODGRASS VALLEYCA
    RALEY'S #229 SEAFOODAUBURNCA
    RALEY'S #317 SEAFOODTRACYCA
    RALEY'S #319 SEAFOODNAPACA
    RALEY'S #331 SEAFOODFAIRFIELDCA
    RALEY'S #332 SEAFOODFAIRFIELDCA
    RALEY'S #343 SEAFOODBENICIACA
    RALEY'S #410 SEAFOODFOLSOMCA
    RALEY'S #412 SEAFOODGRANITE BAYCA
    RALEY'S #417 SEAFOODFAIR OAKSCA
    RALEY'S #421 SEAFOODFAIR OAKSCA
    RALEY'S #422 SEAFOODPLACERVILLECA
    RALEY'S #426 SEAFOODJACKSONCA
    RALEY'S #440 SEAFOODRANCHO CORDOVACA
    CONCORD PRODUCE MRKTCONCORDCA
    RALEY'S #338 SEAFOODOAKDALECA
    RALEY'S #339 SEAFOODMODESTOCA
    RALEY'S #329 SEAFOODPETALUMACA
    BEL AIR MKT #501 SEAFOODSACRAMENTOCA
    BEL AIR MKT #502 SEAFOODSACRAMENTOCA
    BEL AIR MKT #509 SEAFOODROSEVILLECA
    BEL AIR MKT #514 SEAFOODSACRAMENTOCA
    BEL AIR MKT #516 SEAFOODELK GROVECA
    BEL AIR MKT #517 SEAFOODAUBURNCA
    BEL AIR MKT #519 SEAFOODSACRAMENTOCA
    BEL AIR MKT #521 SEAFOODYUBA CITYCA
    BEL AIR MKT #522 SEAFOODGOLD RIVERCA
    BEL AIR MKT #524 SEAFOODFOLSOMCA
    BEL AIR MKT #528 SEAFOODSACRAMENTOCA
    SPD MARKET #1NEVADA CITYCA
    NOB HILL #602 SEAFOODGILROYCA
    NOB HILL #603 SEAFOODMORGAN HILLCA
    NOB HILL #605 SEAFOODHOLLISTERCA
    NOB HILL #615 SEAFOODCAPITOLACA
    NOB HILL #617 SEAFOODWATSONVILLECA
    NOB HILL #620 SEAFOODSCOTTS VALLEYCA
    NOB HILL #621 SEAFOODMARTINEZCA
    NOB HILL #623 SEAFOODNAPACA
    NOB HILL #635 SEAFOODSAN JOSECA

    The product from the recalled lots will have been displayed in the seafood departments of the stores where they sold, and is likely to have been sold as steak loins or pieces of loins on a tray with clear plastic wrap cover.

    It also may have been sold out of the fresh case and wrapped in "butcher paper" to the customer's order.

    What to do

    Customers concerned about whether the tuna they purchased may contain the recalled tuna loin product should check with the store where they purchased the tuna. That store will be able to determine if it used the recalled product to prepare the tuna.

    Consumers who purchased the recalled product should return it to the distributor for a full refund.

    Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-888-730-3875, Mondays through Fridays, 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. (PDT).

    Relish Foods of Culver City, Calif., is recalling frozen Newport brand tuna loins that may be contaminated with Salmonella.The recalled product was sol...
    Read lessRead more

    Get trending consumer news and recalls

      By entering your email, you agree to sign up for consumer news, tips and giveaways from ConsumerAffairs. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.

      Study finds over one-third of tanning salons serve minors, despite state bans

      Researchers say adhering to the restrictions could save thousands of lives and millions of dollars

      A new study has found that over one-third of U.S. tanning salons (37.2 percent) violate state regulations banning access to indoor tanning for minors.

      Researchers from Loyola University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Marshfield Clinic say the noncompliance puts young people at risk, pointing to previous findings that have connected indoor tanning with increased risk of cancer.

      “The US Food and Drug Administration has classified tanning beds as carcinogenic,” the researchers said. “Compliance with state legislation aimed at limiting tanning bed use among U.S. minors is unsatisfactory, indicating that additional efforts to enforce the laws and education of the harmful effects of UV tanning are necessary.”

      Over one-third noncompliant

      The researchers came to their conclusions after conducting a cross-sectional telephone survey in 42 states and the District of Columbia – all of which have passed legislation that prohibit minors from using indoor tanning services.

      Three researchers posed as minors and called a total of 427 tanning salons to request tanning services before an alleged family vacation. In each call, the researchers recorded whether employees would allow tanning services to be administered and the reason why the establishment was noncompliant.

      The results showed that 159 of the 427 tanning salons contacted were noncompliant with their state’s laws. In particular, the researchers found that tanning salons in South and in rural areas – as well as independently owned establishments – were the most likely to have decreased compliance rates.

      Tanning salons were most likely to be noncompliant if the calling “minor” had parental consent, despite the fact that such consent does not override state bans.

      Thousands of deaths and millions in treatment costs

      This isn’t the first study to showcase tanning salons’ widespread noncompliance in serving minors. In June, a separate study found that one-fifth of tanning salons still served minors despite state bans.

      Researchers from that study also found that many establishments provided false or misleading health information to clients, including that tanning increases vitamin D production, improves the skin cosmetically, and can serve as a treatment for skin diseases.

      Researchers from the most recent study point out that proper adherence to state laws – as well as a full and comprehensive ban on indoor tanning for minors -- could help prevent thousands of deaths related to skin cancer and save consumers millions in treatment costs.

      “It is estimated that banning indoor tanning for minors younger than 18 years old would prevent 61,829 melanomas and 6,735 melanoma deaths and save $342.9 million in treatment costs,” the researchers said.

      The full study has been published in JAMA Dermatology.

      A new study has found that over one-third of U.S. tanning salons (37.2 percent) violate state regulations banning access to indoor tanning for minors.R...
      Read lessRead more

      Arctic Cat ROVs recalled

      Heat from the exhaust can melt the plastic panels, posing a fire hazard.

      Arctic Cat is recalling about 15,500 Arctic Cat recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

      Heat from the exhaust can melt the plastic panels behind the operator and passenger seat, posing a fire hazard.

      The firm has received 444 reports of the plastic panels melting, with 5 resulting in fires. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves all model year 2014 through 2017 Wildcat Trail and 2015 through 2017 Wildcat Sport models of Arctic Cat ROVs.

      The recalled vehicles were sold in multiple colors, have four wheels and side-by-side seating for two people.

      “Wildcat Trail” or “Wildcat Sport” is printed on each side of the vehicle.

      The ROVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Arctic Cat dealers nationwide from December 2013, through August 2017, for between $10,500 and $19,500.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact Arctic Cat to schedule a free repair.

      Arctic Cat is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      If you need assistance locating an authorized dealer to conduct this repair, contact Arctic Cat at 800-279-6851 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.arcticcat.com for more information.

      Arctic Cat is recalling about 15,500 Arctic Cat recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.Heat from the exhaust can...
      Read lessRead more

      Great Lakes Cheese recalls imitation mozzarella cheese

      The product contains whey and casein, milk allergens not declared on the label

      Great Lakes Cheese is recalling of 60 packages of American Accent Shredded Imitation Mozzarella Cheese.

      The product contains whey and casein, milk allergens not declared on the label.

      There are no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products to date.

      The following product, sold at Bashas’, AJ's Fine Foods, Food City and Bashas’ Dine Markets stores in Arizona and New Mexico, is being recalled

      • American Accent Shredded Imitation Mozzarella Cheese; Size 32 oz, UPC Code 0 365148012 6, Best By JUN 8 2018

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should discard them immediately or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

      Consumers with questions about the recall may contact the Great Lakes Cheese customer care hotline at 1-800-677-7181.

      Great Lakes Cheese is recalling of 60 packages of American Accent Shredded Imitation Mozzarella Cheese.The product contains whey and casein, milk aller...
      Read lessRead more

      Dunlop GrandTrek PT3A tires recalled

      The tires complete DOT identification markings

      Trek Tire is recalling 1,400 Dunlop GrandTrek PT3A tires, size 275/50R21, manufactured between December 1, 2016, and December 7, 2016.

      The recalled tires lack the complete DOT identification marking prefix for radial tires and light vehicles.

      As such, they fail to conform to the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 139, "New Pneumatic Radial Tires for Light Vehicles."

      The lack of complete DOT identification markings can lead to inappropriate use of the tires, possibly increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Dealer Tire LLC will notify owners and the noncompliant tires will be replaced free of charge. The recall is expected to begin during October 2017.

      Owners may contact Trek Tire at 1-207-200-6967.

      Trek Tire is recalling 1,400 Dunlop GrandTrek PT3A tires, size 275/50R21, manufactured between December 1, 2016, and December 7, 2016.The recalled tire...
      Read lessRead more

      Dangerous driving behaviors to address with your teen

      NHTSA suggests talking points for parents as part of National Teen Driver Safety Week

      Crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2015, approximately 2,300 teen ages 16 to 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes.

      Fatal car accidents claim more teen lives than injuries, disease, or violence.

      Experts attribute teens’ heightened risk of involvement in a crash to their overconfidence, inexperience, and an increased likelihood to speed, make mistakes, and get distracted -- especially if their friends are in the car.

      The NHTSA is raising awareness during National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 15-21), and encouraging parents to talk with their teen drivers about what is and isn’t safe driving behavior.

      Risky behaviors

      Distracted driving, drowsy driving, speeding, alcohol use, not wearing a seatbelt, and driving with passengers are among the risky driving behaviors teens are more likely than older drivers to engage in behind the wheel.

      Surveys show teens whose parents set firm rules for driving tend to engage in less risky driving behaviors and be involved in fewer crashes

      Reducing crash risk

      Here are a few topics to talk about while going over safe driving habits with teens:

      • Don’t drink and drive. Despite not being legally allowed to buy alcohol, almost one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking, according to 2015 data from the NHTSA. Remind your teen that driving under the influence of any substance– including illicit prescription or even over the counter drugs–could have deadly consequences and is strictly enforced.

      • Always wear a seatbelt. The simple act of buckling up before embarking on a drive could save your teen’s life or help prevent injuries.

      • Avoid distractions. Distraction was a key factor in 58 percent of crashes involving drivers ages 16 to 19, according to an analysis of video footage of 1,691 moderate-to-severe crashes 6 seconds before they occurred. Ask your teen not to text while they’re driving and to limit other distractions, such as eating, fiddling with controls, or talking to passengers.

      • Pull over if you’re drowsy. Drowsiness can impair your ability to drive just like alcohol. If your teen suddenly feels drowsy, tell them they should immediately slow down and pull off the road into a safe parking space. Alternatively, they could take a pit stop, use the bathroom, and get a soda or coffee to wake up.

      • Stick to the speed limit. Speeding is a factor in nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers, according to AAA. Inexperienced drivers, in particular, should make sure they heed the speed limits, especially in construction work zones.

      • Maintain a safe distance. Following too closely accounts for a large number of the crashes caused by teens. In wet weather, double or triple the space you normally leave between you and the car in front of you. More space is needed to stop on slick roads.

      Crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2015, approximatel...
      Read lessRead more

      Polaris Recalls ACE 325 ROVs

      The exhaust header pipe can crack

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 6,300 Polaris ACE 325 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).

      The exhaust header pipe can crack and release hot exhaust gases into the engine compartment, posing fire and burn hazards.

      The company has received six reports of cracked exhaust pipes, including two reports of seat damage due to melting. No fires or injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves all model year 2014 through 2016 Polaris ACE 325 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).  

      Year

      Model

      Description

      2014

      A14BH33AJ

      Ace 325 in white

      2015

      A15DAA32AA

      Ace 325 in green

      2015

      A15DAA32AJ

      Ace 325 in white

      2016

      A16DAA32A1

      Ace 325 in green

      2016

      A16DAA32A7

      Ace 325 in red

      The recalled ROVs have a single seat and were sold in white, green and red.

      For model year 2014 and 2015 ATVs, “Polaris” is printed on the front grill and “Ace” is printed on the rear panel.

      For model year 2016 ATVs, “Polaris” is printed on the front grill and “Polaris Ace” is printed on the rear panel.

      The VIN is printed on the right front frame of the vehicles.

      The ROVs, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at Polaris dealers nationwide from December 2014, through July 2017, for about $7,500.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact Polaris to schedule a free repair. Polaris is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Polaris at 800-765-2747 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday or online at www.polaris.com and click on “Off Road Safety Recalls” for more information. 

      Polaris Industries of Medina, Minn., is recalling about 6,300 Polaris ACE 325 recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).The exhaust header pipe can crac...
      Read lessRead more

      IRS warns of multiple scams in wake of recent tragedies

      Scammers often try to capitalize on a national tragedy to bilk consumers

      Consumers are targeted by scams every day, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns that recent tragedies have unfortunately created an uptick in scams seeking to exploit Americans’ desire to help victims.

      The IRS points out the country has experienced a series of major disasters and a mass shooting in quick succession, so donors need to be particularly vigilant to look for signs of a scam before sending money.

      “These scams evolve over time and adjust to reflect events in the news, but they all typically are variations on a familiar theme,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Recognizing these schemes and taking some simple steps can protect taxpayers against these con artists.”

      Beware of unfamiliar charities

      Consumers should look out for appeals for donations from unfamiliar charities, or organizations that have names similar to a legitimate charitable organization. They should also be highly suspicious of appeals that come in the form of an email, text, or telephone call since legitimate charities usually stick to mass advertising like television commercials to solicit donations.

      Consumers who want to donate to any charitable cause should initiate the search for a group themselves, not respond to direct contact that may not be legitimate. The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and United Way are three groups that are involved in providing help to victims of wildfires, hurricanes, and mass shootings.

      The IRS, meanwhile, is also trying to help victims of the California wildfires. It's extending the deadline to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments until Jan. 31, 2018. The extension postpones deadlines beginning October 8 and applies to residents of seven California counties.

      Impersonating IRS agents

      The tax agency spends a good deal of its time countering the efforts of scammers, who often pose as IRS agents to fool consumers. Most recently, it has warned about scammers using a phishing scheme to steal client email addresses from tax professionals to access insurance and annuity accounts.

      The IRS reminds consumers that it does not call and leave pre-recorded, urgent messages demanding a call back. If you get one of these calls, it's from a scammer who hopes to scare you into thinking you will be arrested if you do not respond.

      There are legitimate IRS functions that scammers may also try to exploit. The agency has sent letters to taxpayers whose overdue accounts have been assigned to one of four private sector collection agencies. Scammers are already trying to take advantage of this by calling and threatening taxpayers if they do not pay the overdue amount quickly.

      What to do

      If you receive one of these calls but are not aware that you have an overdue bill, it's a scam. The IRS says all of the taxpayers receiving calls about their overdue accounts are well aware of the issue, since they have been corresponding with the IRS about it for years.

      Legitimate contact with the IRS almost always begins with a letter through the U.S. Mail. In rare cases, an IRS official may show up at your home or business, but they will always first establish the time and reason in a letter.

      Any consumers with a question about whether a contact from the IRS is real should go online, look up the number for the closest IRS office, and call the agency directly to inquire.

      Consumers are targeted by scams every day, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns that recent tragedies have unfortunately created an uptick in scams...
      Read lessRead more

      Foreclosure activity plunges in the third quarter

      Improving economy and tougher lending standards may be responsible

      Foreclosure activity hit an 11-year low in this year's third quarter, as an improving economy and stricter mortgage standards helped stabilize the housing market to pre-2008 levels.

      The Third Quarter 2017 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, compiled by ATTOM Data Solutions, shows there were 191,824 properties subject to foreclosure filings, which include default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions.

      The number is down 13 percent from the second quarter and 35 percent lower from a year ago. It's the lowest level since the second quarter of 2006, at the height of the housing bubble.

      This does not appear to be a one-off occurrence. The drop in foreclosure activity in the last quarter was the fourth straight quarter in which it has tracked below the pre-recession average.

      “Legacy foreclosures from the high-risk loans originating between 2004 and 2008 have largely been cleared out of the distressed market pipeline,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions.

      Tougher lending standards

      New post-crash mortgages must adhere to stricter standards and are subsequently performing much better, Blomquist says. The exception is FHA loans made in 2014.

      Blomquist says those loans aren't performing nearly as well, with a foreclosure rate higher than any year since 2009. He explains it by noting there was a gradual loosening of credit that year.

      Lenient lending standards in the early 2000s, along with a large number of subprime mortgages, created a “foreclosure tsunami” that was out of control by 2007. A year later, one in every 538 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing during March 2008, a five percent rise over the previous month and a shocking 57 percent increase over March 2007.

      Now, applicants are required to have two solid years of employment history at the same company or in the same industry, have a good credit score, and a debt to income ratio of no more than 43 percent.

      According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), studies have shown that mortgage applicants with a higher debt-to-income are more likely to have trouble making their monthly mortgage payments.

      Benefits for homeowners

      At the height of the foreclosure crisis, buyers had a lot more homes to choose from than they do today. However, the decline in foreclosures has produced major benefits for homeowners. The housing market is now more stable and home prices have risen back to their pre-crash levels in many housing markets.

      Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate, covering the Seattle market, says foreclosure activity there is at a record low.

      “As long as the regional economy continues to flourish, I do not expect to see foreclosures rise,” Gardner said.

      The current threat to the housing market, he says, is price growth, which is good for homeowners but has started to negatively affect affordability, and according to Gardner, “is becoming troublesome.”

      Foreclosure activity hit an 11-year low in this year's third quarter, as an improving economy and stricter mortgage standards helped stabilize the housing...
      Read lessRead more

      AAA says drivers are still distracted by infotainment systems

      Even touch screen and voice controls aren't helping that much

      The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has presented new research that shows new infotainment systems found in late model cars and trucks, even those with voice controls, continue to pose dangerous distractions for drivers.

      These infotainment systems, which play music from multiple sources and display maps outlining routes, often come with higher levels of sophistication and more features. According to AAA, that's not a good thing.

      The researchers say they found drivers who used in-vehicle technologies like voice-based and touch screen features could be both visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds when programming a navigation or sending a text message.

      The auto club cites previous research that found taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash.

      Unsafe situations for drivers

      "Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe situations for drivers on the road by increasing the time they spend with their eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel," said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

      Yang doesn't rule out the possibility that in-vehicle technology could be made less distracting. In fact, he says some systems, while far from perfect, are not as bad as others.

      "When an in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort from drivers to complete," Yang said

      The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, who examined both the visual and mental demands of infortainment systems. They also measured the time it took to complete a task using the systems installed in 30 vehicles from the 2017 model year.

      Participants in the study were instructed to use voice command, touch screen, and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio, or program navigation -- all while keeping the vehicle on the road.

      Navigation most distracting

      The study found that programming a navigation system was the most distracting task for a driver, taking an average of 40 seconds to complete.

      Remarkably, the study found none of the 30 infotainment system generated low demand on drivers. Seven were found to generate moderate demands on a driver's attention, while 11 generated high demand and 12 were "very high" in their demands.

      Among the most demanding were the infotainment systems found in the Honda Civic Touring, Ford Mustang GT, and Tesla Model S.

      The least distracting infotainment systems – those imposing a “moderate” demand on the driver – were found in the Chevy Equinox LT, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Toyota Camry SE, and Lincoln MKC Premier.

      "Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers," said Marshall Doney, AAA's CEO.

      Doney says drivers are more distracted when they encounter problems using the audio or navigation systems in their cars. However, since research shows consumers like these sophisticated systems, Doney says AAA is meeting with auto manufacturers and suppliers to find ways to make them easier to use.

      The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has presented new research that shows new infotainment systems found in late model cars and trucks, even those with v...
      Read lessRead more

      Reading difficulties for children may indicate hearing impairment

      Researchers say hearing problems can be detrimental to the learning process

      If your child has reading difficulties, the problem may not lie in their comprehension – it might be due to a hearing problem.

      That’s the conclusion of a Coventry University study, which found that 25 percent of young participants who had reading difficulties also had mild to moderate hearing impairment. Report author Dr. Helen Breadmore says the finding indicates a greater need to screen young children for hearing problems.

      "Many children in school may have an undetected mild hearing loss, which makes it harder for them to access the curriculum,” she said. "Current hearing screening procedures are not picking up these children, and we would advise that children have their hearing tested in more detail and more often.

      Detrimenal to development

      The study compared children with dyslexia to a group of children with a history of repeated ear infections to see if both groups had similar difficulties with reading comprehension.

      The researchers asked nearly 200 participants to complete a series of tests to determine how they used word sounds and meanings in speech and literacy. After an 18-month period, all participants were tested again.

      The test results showed that 25 percent of participants with dyslexia suffered from some kind of hearing impairment, with symptoms mild enough to be missed by parents. Literacy problems were slightly more common in children with hearing infections, affecting 33 percent of these participants.

      Breadmore points out that these hearing problems can be detrimental in a classroom setting, and that it can negatively impact long-term development.

      "A mild-moderate hearing loss will make the perception of speech sounds difficult, particularly in a classroom environment with background noise and other distractions. Therefore, children who have suffered repeated ear infections and associated hearing problems have fluctuating access to different speech sounds precisely at the age when this information is crucial in the early stages of learning to read,” she said.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that there is no single treatment or intervention for childhood hearing loss. However, it says that some options may include working with a support group or medical professional, or buying a hearing aid.

      If your child has reading difficulties, the problem may not lie in their comprehension – it might be due to a hearing problem.That’s the conclusion of...
      Read lessRead more

      Hyundai recalls model year 2017 Santa Fes with 3.3L engines

      Engine bearing wear may cause the vehicle to stall

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 420 model year 2017 Santa Fes equipped with 3.3L engines.

      The crankshaft assemblies may have been produced with surface irregularities in the crankshaft pin, causing engine bearing wear.

      The engine bearing wear may cause the vehicle to stall, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      Hyundai will notify all owners, and dealers will inspect and replace the engine, as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin October 18, 2017.

      Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-855-371-9460. Hyundai's number for this recall is 168.

      Hyundai Motor America is recalling 420 model year 2017 Santa Fes equipped with 3.3L engines.The crankshaft assemblies may have been produced with surfa...
      Read lessRead more

      Yahoo says 2013 data breach affected all three billion of its user accounts

      The revision adds to what is already the largest data breach in history

      Yahoo’s massive 2013 data breach, affecting more than one billion of its user accounts, reappeared this week with significantly worse numbers. 

      The company announced Tuesday that all 3 billion of its accounts were, in fact, affected at that time–leaving additional billions of user accounts vulnerable in the interim.

      The revelation follows Yahoo’s acquisition by Verizon, which paid $4.8 billion for the struggling company in hopes of combining it with AOL to create a new entity named Oath. New intelligence prompted a forensic analysis which subsequently led to Tuesday's revision.

      “While this is not a new security issue, Yahoo is sending email notifications to the additional affected user accounts. The investigation indicates that the user account information that was stolen did not include passwords in clear text, payment card data, or bank account information. The company is continuing to work closely with law enforcement,” the announcement said in a statement.

      “Verizon is committed to the highest standards of accountability and transparency, and we proactively work to ensure the safety and security of our users and networks in an evolving landscape of online threats,” added Verizon Chief Information Security Officer Chandra McMahon. “Our investment in Yahoo is allowing that team to continue to take significant steps to enhance their security, as well as benefit from Verizon’s experience and resources.”

      Protecting stolen information

      In an FAQ section of its security update web page, Yahoo says that stolen information involved in the 2013 breach may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (using MD5), and (in some cases) encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.

      To counter the breach, Yahoo required potentially affected users to change their passwords and invalidated unencrypted security questions and answers last December.

      However, in light of the recent revision, the company says that all users should change their passwords and security questions, review their accounts for any suspicious activity, and use an abundance of caution when clicking or downloading unsolicited messages, links, or attachments. The company also advises using its Yahoo Account Key authentication tool.

      Users are also free to switch to a different email service, but continuing to monitor accounts and personal information will still be just as necessary either way. 

      Largest breach to date

      The latest announcement multiplies what was already the largest data breach in history, and will almost certainly mean more litigation for both Yahoo and Verizon.

      In late August, U.S. Judge Lucy Koh ruled that class actions over the breach would be allowed to move forward. While she dismissed some parts of one particular case, she said that Yahoo’s actions “alleged risk of future identity theft” and “loss of value of [users’] personal identification information.”

      Koh also said that plaintiffs would be well within their rights to pursue breach of contract and unfair competition charges against Yahoo because they would have been able close their accounts if they had known about the data breach earlier.

      Yahoo’s massive 2013 data breach, affecting more than one billion of its user accounts, reappeared this week with significantly worse numbers. The comp...
      Read lessRead more

      Payday lenders now face tougher requirements

      Lenders must make sure the borrower has the means to repay the loan

      The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has finalized a rule requiring lenders to determine whether a borrower has the means to repay the loan.

      Currently, payday loan borrowers can secure a loan without financial documentation; usually in the amount of $200 to $500. Since the loans are due in two weeks, borrowers often take out another loan to repay the first one.

      The CFPB aims to put a stop to this by preventing borrowers from ending up with a series of loans (each with steep fees) to refinance the same debt.

      The new rule not only covers payday loans, but similar products like auto title loans, deposit advance products, and longer-term loans with balloon payments. 

      Small dollar lenders will also face new restriction on their ability to make repeated attempts to debit payments from a borrower’s bank account, resulting in mounting fees and even account closure.

      'Trapped in loans'

      “Too often, borrowers who need quick cash end up trapped in loans they can’t afford," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "The rule’s common sense ability-to-repay protections prevent lenders from succeeding by setting up borrowers to fail.”

      The Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA), the trade group representing payday lenders, said the CFPB is out of touch and ignoring the wishes of consumers.

      “This federal small-dollar lending rule is a tremendous blow to the more than one million Americans who spoke out against it during last year’s comment period," said Dennis Shaul, the group's CEO. "Millions of American consumers use small-dollar loans to manage budget shortfalls or unexpected expenses.

      Praise from consumer advocates, however, is nearly universal. Michael Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending, says the new rule is a step toward preventing financial harm to families, who often turn to payday loans because they are struggling to make ends meet.

      "Today's rule release was years in the making, and it wouldn't have been possible without the tireless effort of community and faith leaders, consumer and civil rights advocates, and countless people across the country who organized and worked hard to make their voices heard.

      Payday loans normally carry what might seem modest -- $15 to $30 on a loan of around $100. But because the loan amount is small, and only for a two week period, the annual interest rate is extremely high, usually 400 percent or more.

      Before making a loan, small dollar lenders will now be required to determine whether the borrower can pay back the loan when it is due two weeks later. For longer-term loans with a balloon payment, full payment is defined as being able to afford the payments in the month with the highest total payments on the loan.

      Low-cost installment loans

      Nick Bourke, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ consumer finance project, says the new rule opens the door to lower-cost installment loans from banks and credit unions. But regulators, he says, still have work to do.

      “Bank and credit union regulators must now create the clear guidelines these lenders need in order to make small installment loans safely and profitably," Bourke said. "If they do, millions of consumers can save billions of dollars by gaining access to lower-cost credit."

      Despite the celebration among consumer groups, there is some concern that the Payday Lending Rule may be short-lived.

      A coalition of consumer groups, called Stop the Debt Trap, warned that some in Congress may attempt to repeal the rule. The group says it will fund an advertising campaign to mobilize consumers to oppose any Congressional roll-back.

      The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has finalized a rule requiring lenders to determine whether a borrower has the means to repay the loan....
      Read lessRead more

      Equifax provides few details on its credit-freezing tool

      Consumers will be able to freeze and unfreeze credit without paying fees

      Equifax says consumers concerned about the company's massive data breach will be able to freeze and unfreeze their credit at will and not pay a fee.

      In his testimony before a House subcommittee Tuesday, former Equifax CEO Richard Smith listed the new tool among other free remediation tools the company is providing to consumers to help them protect their identity, but he did not elaborate on it.

      A credit freeze prevents anyone from accessing a consumer's credit report, so an identity thief who has stolen the victim's Social Security number and other identifying information would be unable to open a fraudulent credit account because the lender would be unable to pull the credit file.

      The credit file could only be unfrozen with the consumer's permission, making the credit freeze among the strongest identity theft prevention measures that can be taken. Normally, the consumer pays a fee to freeze the credit file and another fee when it is unfrozen.

      Equifax has disclosed few details of the tool, other than to say it hopes to have it available by the end of January. In an email to ConsumerAffairs, a company spokespereson said additional details would be provided closer to the launch date.

      Different opinions

      Security and identity theft experts have different opinions about whether a simple, easy-to-use tool to freeze and unfreeze credit is a good idea. Some have backed the idea, saying that hackers will have a harder time stealing identities if more consumers are freezing their credit files.

      But Eva Valasquez, CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), thinks the process should not be so simple and quick that it becomes vulnerable to hacks.

      "I hope that the solution that industry proposes is not more automated technology," Valasquez told ConsumerAffairs in an interview last month. "Because the process of establishing who you are goes through several steps, and we should appreciate that it's going to take a little longer."

      Whatever form the freeze tool takes, it won't be a complete solution. That's because it will only freeze one credit file -- the one managed by Equifax. Consumers also have credit files with the two other credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion.

      There will still be fees to freeze and unfreeze those files. Valasquez says ITRC has launched an online petition urging Experian and TransUnion to also waive fees when consumers freeze and unfreeze their credit reports.

      Equifax says consumers concerned about the company's massive data breach will be able to freeze and unfreeze their credit at will and not pay a fee.In...
      Read lessRead more