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      Health experts urge Facebook to discontinue ‘Messenger Kids’

      Children under 13 aren’t ready for social media accounts, experts say

      A group of 100 child development experts and advocates has published an open letter urging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to shut down the site’s new messaging app aimed at kids.

      Back in December, Facebook launched the free Messenger Kids app, touting it as a safe way for kids under 13 to chat with family members and parent-approved friends.

      Since parents are given control of their child’s account, Facebook asserted that Messenger Kids would be filling a “need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want.”  

      But health experts argue that younger kids aren’t ready to have their own social media accounts and say the app should be pulled.

      Targeting younger children

      Led by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the group of experts and advocates includes psychiatrists, pediatricians, educators, parenting organizations, and the children’s music singer Raffi Cavoukian.

      "Messenger Kids is not responding to a need - it is creating one," the letter states. "It appeals primarily to children who otherwise would not have their own social media accounts," the letter reads. Another passage criticized Facebook for "targeting younger children with a new product."

      The group says children under 13 aren’t old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships or protect their own privacy.

      “They also do not have a fully developed understanding of privacy, including what’s appropriate to share with others and who has access to their conversations, pictures, and videos,” the letter continued.

      ‘Gateway drug’

      When the app was launched, Facebook said there were “no ads” or paid content downloads inside the app. It also assured parents that their “child’s information isn’t used for ads.”

      In defense of the app, Facebook released a statement emphasizing that parents are “always in control” of their child’s activity.

      "We worked to create Messenger Kids with an advisory committee of parenting and developmental experts, as well as with families themselves and in partnership with National PTA. We continue to be focused on making Messenger Kids the best experience it can be for families," said Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, in a statement to the Washington Post.

      However, the company has been accused of using Messenger Kids as a ‘gateway drug’ to get kids hooked on social media at a younger age, making them more likely to use their service when they become teenagers and can be subjected to ad-targeting.  

      Health effects of technology

      The group says it’s “particularly irresponsible” of Facebook to launch an app geared towards preschoolers when there is growing concern about how social media use affects children’s development.

      “Already, adolescents report difficulty moderating their own social media use,” they write. “Messenger Kids will exacerbate this problem, as the anticipation of friends’ responses will be a powerful incentive for children to check – and stay on – a phone or tablet.

      “[T]he app’s overall impact on families and society is likely to be negative, normalizing social media use among young children and creating peer pressure for kids to sign up for their first account,” they said.

      “Raising children in our new digital age is difficult enough,” they added. “We ask that you do not use Facebook’s enormous reach and influence to make it even harder. Please make a strong statement that Facebook is committed to the wellbeing of children and society by pulling the plug on Messenger Kids.”

      Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg vowed to try to make users “happier” in 2018 by making certain changes to the site. Shutting down Messenger Kids would be a highly positive move, the group of experts contend.

      “Doing better is leaving younger children alone and allowing them to develop without the pressures that come with social media use,” they said.

      A group of 100 child development experts and advocates has published an open letter urging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to shut down the site’s new messagi...
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      Target beginning same-day delivery in Florida

      Partnership with Shipt will eventually be nationwide

      Target has announced it will team with Shipt to provide same-day delivery of select groceries, consumer electronics, and other products in Florida.

      The service will begin February 1 in Tampa and South Florida. A week later, it will begin in Daytona Beach, Fort Myers, Gainesville, Gulf Shores, Jacksonville, Naples, Sarasota, Orlando, Space Coast, St. Augustine, Tallahassee, and Treasure Coast.

      Target says the new service will cover more than 6.3 million households in the state, with delivery as quickly as within one hour if requested.

      “The addition of Target stores to Shipt’s online marketplace across Florida allows us to deliver on our promise to offer quality products at great prices by making Target’s wide assortment available to our dedicated members,” said Shipt CEO Bill Smith.

      “Florida’s growing community of Shipt members continues to be loyal and enthusiastic about the service, and we look forward to expanding throughout the state with our newest retail partner, Target.”

      Target acquiring Shipt

      Target announced last month it is acquiring Shipt for $550 million in cash. At the time, it made clear that the combination would be a key element of the retailer's expansion of delivery capability, helping it to compete with Amazon and Walmart.

      Target said the acquisition of Shipt would help it increase its digital fulfillment efforts by bringing same-day delivery services to approximately half of Target stores by early 2018. The company said it expects the service will be available at the majority of its stores, in all major markets, before the 2018 holiday shopping season.

      In this beginning phase, Target said deliveries will be limited to the products in the Florida test market. By the end of next year, it said it expects same-day delivery will include all major product categories at Target.

      Top priority

      “Same-day delivery was at the top of our list when we were thinking about ways to make shopping at Target even easier,” said John Mulligan, Target's executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Shipt’s personalized, customer-focused approach fits perfectly with our commitment to deliver a convenient, exceptional experience and we’re excited to begin offering same day service in Florida.”

      Shipt hires shoppers to pick up items ordered by its members, who pay a $99 per year membership fee. It currently operates in 72 U.S. markets.

      Amazon offers same day delivery to Prime members on orders of $35 or more. Walmart offers same day pick-up on grocery orders.

      Target has announced it will team with Shipt to provide same-day delivery of select groceries, consumer electronics, and other products in Florida.The...
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      Model year 2009-2010 Tribecas, Imprezas, Foresters, WRXs, Legacys and Outbacks recalled

      The passenger front airbag inflator may explode

      Subaru of America is recalling 93,209 model year 2009-2010 Tribecas, Imprezas, Foresters, WRXs, Legacys and Outbacks sold, or ever registered, in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

      The vehicles are equipped with certain airbag inflators assembled as part of the passenger front airbag modules used as original equipment or replacement equipment.

      In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the passenger front airbag, these inflators may explode due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to absolute humidity and temperature cycling.

      An explosion of an inflator may result in sharp metal fragments striking the front seat passenger, driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      Subaru will notify owners, and dealers will replace the front passenger air bag inflator, free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin February 9, 2018.

      Owners may contact Subaru customer service at 1-800-782-2783. Subaru's number for this recall is TKB-18.

      Subaru of America is recalling 93,209 model year 2009-2010 Tribecas, Imprezas, Foresters, WRXs, Legacys and Outbacks sold, or ever registered, in Arizona,...
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      Airbag inflator issue prompts massive Mercedes-Benz recall

      The passenger front airbag inflators could explode

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 132,167 of the following vehicles:

      • Model year 2013 C250s, C250 Coupes, C350 Coupe 4Matics, C300 4Matics, C350s, C350 Coupse, C63 AMGs, C63 Coupes, E350 Cabrios, E350 Coupes, E550 Cabrios, E350 Coupe 4Matics, E550 Coupes, GLK350 4Matics, GLK250 Bluetec 4Matics, GLK350s, SLS Coupes, SLS AMG GT Coupes, and SLS Roadsters sold, or ever registered, in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan), and the U.S. Virgin Islands or "Zone A."
      • Model year 2010 C300s, C300 4Matics, C63 AMGs, E350 Coupes, E550 Coupes, GLK350s, and GLK350 4Matics ever registered in Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia or "Zone B."
      • Model year 2009 C300s, C300 4Matics, C63 AMGs, and C350s ever registered in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming or "Zone C."

      In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the passenger front airbag, the inflator may explode due to propellant degradation occurring after long-term exposure to absolute humidity and temperature cycling.

      An inflator explosion may result in sharp metal fragments striking the driver or other occupants resulting in serious injury or death.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the passenger frontal air bag module, free of charge.

      Parts are currently not available.

      Owners will be sent an interim notification starting in February 2018. A second notice will be mailed when remedy parts are available.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-877-496-3691.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 132,167 of the following vehicles: Model year 2013 C250s, C250 Coupes, C350 Coupe 4Matics, C300 4Matics, C350s...
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      Hillsdale Furniture recalls bar stools

      The stool seat can loosen or break off at the base

      Hillsdale Furniture of Louisville, Ky., is recalling about 500 Polston and Collin bar stools.

      The stool seat can loosen or break off at the base, posing a fall hazard.

      The firm has received nine reports of the stool seat detaching from the base. No injuries have been reported.

      This recall involves Polston and Collin models of swivel backless bar stools.

      The Polston bar stools have a tan seat cushion and metal base with four legs and were sold in a mocha color. They were sold in two sizes: counter height at 26 inches tall and bar height at 30 inches tall. The Collin bar stools have a wooden seat and metal base with four legs and were sold in two colors: mocha and white. They were sold in bar height at 30 inches tall.

      The model number is printed on the packaging and in the assembly instructions.

      Model Number

      Model

      Color

      6316-826

      Polston: Counter height

      Mocha

      6316-830

      Polston: Bar Height

      Mocha

      6327-831

      Collin

      Mocha

      6316-832

      Collin

      White

      The bar stools, manufactured in China, were sold at Bellacor, Bob’s Discount Furniture, Platte Furniture Mart, Rooms to Go, Alladin, Lamps Plus stores nationwide and online at 123stores.com, Overstock.com, bedbathandbeyond.com, Hayneedle.com, PurchasingPower.com (an Authorized Partner), Wayfair.com, and Zulily.com between March 2017, and December 2017, for between $85 and $115.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled bar stools and contact Hillsdale Furniture for a full refund. The firm is contacting all known purchasers directly.

      Consumers may contact Hillsdale Furniture at 800-368-0999 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or online at www.hillsdalefurniture.com and click on “Product Recalls” at the bottom of the page for more information.

      Hillsdale Furniture of Louisville, Ky., is recalling about 500 Polston and Collin bar stools.The stool seat can loosen or break off at the base, posing...
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      CFPB to reconsider payday lender regulation that protects consumers

      Reversing the rule would allow lenders to extend credit without ensuring that borrowers can repay the loan

      The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the agency Congress established to protect consumers from abusive lending practices, has formally announced it will reconsider a key consumer protection.

      In a brief statement, CFPB said it intends to engage in a rulemaking process so that it may reconsider the Payday Rule, which became effective this week. Among other things, it requires payday and auto title lenders to determine that customers are financially able to repay the loan before it is approved.

      Critics of the payday loan industry had pushed for the rule, arguing that many consumers are approved for the small loans but are unable to repay them two weeks later, requiring them to take out a new loan with a new set of fees.

      Reversing course?

      Groups like the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) claim the CFPB is reversing course in its mission to protect consumers.

      “While not perfect, the CFPB’s final payday lending rule was a strong step toward helping struggling families avoid debt traps," said Christopher Peterson, a law professor and senior fellow at CFA. "The CFPB’s regulation would have required that payday lenders consider whether loan applicants can afford their loan before extending credit that can spiral out of control.”

      Rebecca Borné, Senior Policy Counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) blasted the move, saying payday loans with triple digit interest rates need stronger regulation.

      "For more than five years, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau studied the issue, welcomed public input, and crafted a rule to help stop the payday loan debt trap," Borné said in a statement to ConsumerAffairs.

      She also said the agency's disputed director, Mick Mulvaney, is on record as being in favor of eliminating the rule. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also views Mulvaney as a key player in the agency's decision to reconsider the Payday Rule.

      “Rather than focus on keeping the government open, the Trump administration’s top budget expert is busy unraveling important consumer protections for payday borrowers," Brown said in a statement. "If he’s the head of both the CFPB and OMB, as this administration claims, he’s failing at both of his jobs.”

      Opposition to the Payday Rule

      Meanwhile, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank, supports the CFPB decision to reconsider the regulation. It issued a report this week urging Congress to stop the Payday Rule from going into effect, arguing that it would hurt low income consumers who use payday lenders to meet emergency expenses.

      “Millions of Americans will have few other options to cover urgent expenses like rent, a car payment, or a medical emergency if regulators succeed in shutting off access to small dollar loans,” said Daniel Press, CEI policy analyst and author of the report.

      CFPB finalized the Payday rule last October, but in announcing its plan to reconsider, the agency notes that most enforceable provisions are not scheduled to take place until August 2019.

      The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the agency Congress established to protect consumers from abusive lending practices, has formally announce...
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      Travelers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport possibly exposed to measles

      Health officials say a traveler with a confirmed case of measles was at the airport on January 10

      Public health officials say a passenger arriving on an international flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport last Wednesday, January 10 may have exposed some people in the airport to measles.  

      A passenger with a confirmed case of measles landed at the international terminal (Terminal 5) on Wednesday morning and departed on a domestic flight from Terminal 1, according to a statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

      “People who were at O’Hare between 6:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. could have been exposed” to the passenger’s highly contagious disease, the statement said.

      Vaccinated people not at high risk

      The Department of Health confirmed that an unidentified passenger that flew into the airport from another country tested positive for the disease. The traveler was in multiple terminals of the airport before boarding a second flight from Chicago to Little Rock, AR, WTVG reports.

      Health officials stress that there is no current risk of a public outbreak. Individuals most at risk are those who were also in the airport during that time and have not been vaccinated.

      “Most people have been vaccinated routinely in childhood and are not at high risk...of most concern are people who have not been vaccinated,’’ the statement said.

      Symptoms

      Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus, according to health officials. The virus is easily spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Measles can cause serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

      Symptoms include a rash that starts on the face and neck, a high fever, runny nose, cough, and red, watery eyes. The rash generally appears about 14 days after exposure, but symptoms could come on as late as January 31 if you were exposed to the passenger’s virus on January 10.

      People who think they may have been exposed are advised to contact their health care provider right away. Be sure to call first and arrange for an exam to be done in a place where others will not be exposed so you don’t infect anyone else.

      Public health officials say a passenger arriving on an international flight to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport last Wednesday, January 10 may have exposed some pe...
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      Survey finds consumers are confident about their finances

      Economist says tight labor market may be lifting spirits

      Two-thirds of consumers expressed optimism about their personal finances to start 2018 in a survey conducted by LendingTree, an online loan marketplace.

      Nearly half the consumers in the survey said 2017 was better for them financially than the previous year, with at least one-third saying they got a pay raise last year. Twenty-four percent said they were able to add to their savings last year.

      Consumers under age 35 appear to be the most optimistic. A full 79 percent of this age group said they expect their finances to improve this year. In contrast, only 55 percent of those older than 50 expressed confidence that their finances would improve in 2018.

      Rising home prices and a booming stock market could be contributing to the sunny outlook, but economist Joel Naroff, of Naroff Economic Advisors, points to a tightening labor market, where job security has improved.

      Easier to get a job

      "The labor market is good for almost anyone who can pass a drug and background test," Naroff told ConsumerAffairs. "Some people may have to relocate to get jobs, but they are out there. Most businesses, no matter what their size, are having significant problems finding qualified workers to fill openings."

      Not only does that improve the prospects of finding a job, it helps people who already have one. Businesses realize it is important to retain good employees. Naroff expects that trend to continue in the months ahead.

      "The tax cuts will accelerate economic growth, raising labor demand and making it more likely that less qualified workers will be hired," he said. "In other words, the economy is too strong for the labor markets, but that is why things are good for workers."

      With a tight labor market, wages could also rise -- another benefit for consumers. At the same time, rising wages could increase inflation, making most things more expensive. So far, at least, inflation has been tame, perhaps another reason for consumer optimism.

      Worries about credit card debt

      There is one area of the economy that Naroff sees as cause for concern. Credit card debt hit a record level in November, with December's spending yet to be accounted for.

      Evidence suggests households appear to be funding spending out of savings. Naroff says that's the result of growing consumer confidence that might not be justified.

      "Household budgets seem to be stretched. That said, people use credit cards for just about everything, so saying we are at record highs is not that much of a surprise," he said. "It is the record highs coupled with the low and declining savings rate that has me concerned."

      In the LendingTree survey, that's also the biggest source of consumer concern. Only 16 percent reported progress in reducing credit card debt last year.

      Forty-three percent of consumers expressed concern about unexpected expenses and 34 percent said they sometimes worried about making ends meet. Those two factors often result in more expenses going on credit cards instead of being paid for with cash.

      Two-thirds of consumers expressed optimism about their personal finances to start 2018 in a survey conducted by LendingTree, an online loan marketplace....
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      Toyota expands Takata airbag recall

      The airbag inflator could rupture during deployment

      Toyota Motor North America is expanding its recall of vehicles with Takata front passenger airbag inflators.

      The recalled vehicles are equipped with a particular type of Takata inflator in which a safety defect may arise in the front passenger airbag inflators in the involved vehicles due to inflator propellant degradation occurring after prolonged exposure to high absolute humidity, high temperatures, and high temperature cycling.

      This may result in an inflator rupture when the airbag deploys.

      Based on the latest information from Takata, the expansion involves approximately 601,300 additional vehicles in the U.S.

      The following models are included:

      • 2009 – 2010 and 2013 Model Year Scion xB
      • 2009 ‐ 2010 and 2013 Model Year Toyota Corolla
      • 2009 – 2010 and 2013 Model Year Toyota Corolla Matrix
      • 2009 – 2010 Model Year Toyota Yaris
      • 2010 and 2013 Model Year Toyota 4Runner
      • 2013 Model Year Toyota Sienna
      • 2009 – 2010 and 2013 Model Year Lexus IS250/350
      • 2010 and 2013 Model Year Lexus IS250C/350C
      • 2009 – 2010 and 2013 Model Year Lexus IS‐F
      • 2009 – 2010 Model Year Lexus ES350
      • 2010 and 2013 Model Year Lexus GX460

      What to do

      Toyota will contact all known owners of the recalled vehicles by first class mail by early March.

      Toyota and Lexus dealers will replace either the front passenger air bag inflator or the front passenger air bag assembly at no cost to customers.

      Owners with questions may contact Toyota customer service at 1‐800‐331‐4331, or Lexus customer service at 1‐800‐255‐3987.

      Toyota Motor North America is expanding its recall of vehicles with Takata front passenger airbag inflators.The recalled vehicles are equipped with a p...
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      Model year 2017 Mercedes G550 & G550 4x4 Squared vehicles recalled

      The vehicle may require increased braking effort

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 432 model year 2017 Mercedes G550 & G550 4x4 Squared vehicles.

      The vacuum hose for the brake booster may collapse resulting in increased braking effort, increasing the risk of a crash.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify owners, and dealers will replace the vacuum hose, as necessary, free of charge. Parts are not currently available.

      Owners will be notified of the recall in January 2018 and receive a second letter when the parts become available, currently expected to be in March 2018.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at 1-877-496-3691.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling 432 model year 2017 Mercedes G550 & G550 4x4 Squared vehicles.The vacuum hose for the brake booster may collapse...
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      HealthPostures recalls IntimateRider chairs and RiderMate benches

      The stitching on the cloth cover can loosen, posing a fall hazard

      HealthPostures of Prior Lake, Minn., is recalling about 100 IntimateRider chairs and RiderMate benches.

      The stitching on the cloth cover can loosen, posing fall and injury hazards.

      The firm has received one report of failed stitching causing a person to fall, resulting in an ankle injury.

      This recall involves the IntimateRider chair and the RiderMate bench which are designed for the specialty mobility market, including persons with disabilities.

      The chair and bench have a steel frame and come with a black cloth covering that fits over them., and fold for storage.

      The chair part number is (P/N7100), and the bench part number is (P/N 7150). The numbers can be found on the white label located on the frame.

      The chairs and benches, manufactured in the U.S., were sold at The Veterans Administration in Richmond, Va.; Milwaukee, Wis.; St. Louis, Mo.; and online at Indemedical.com, Vidacura.com, Access to Recreation.com, Sportaid.com, The Access Store.com, Austin Wheelchair Co.com and intimaterider.com from September 2017, through November 2017, for about $365 for the chair and $159 for the bench.

      What to do

      Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled chairs and benches and contact HealthPostures for a free replacement cover and instructions on installing the replacement cover. Health Postures is contacting consumers directly.

      Consumers may contact HealthPostures at 800-277-1841 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (CT) Monday through Friday, online at www.intimaterider.com, or email customerService@HealthPostures.com.

      HealthPostures of Prior Lake, Minn., is recalling about 100 IntimateRider chairs and RiderMate benches.The stitching on the cloth cover can loosen, pos...
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      Forever 21 confirms 2017 data breach

      Payment cards may have been compromised at some stores

      Retailer Forever 21 has confirmed a payment card data breach it first raised as a possibility in mid-November.

      The company said it received a report from a third party in mid-October suggesting there could have been unauthorized access to payment card data at certain stores. The investigation revealed that encryption technology, installed on point-of-sale (POS) devices in 2015, was not always activated at some stores.

      Investigators then discovered signs of unauthorized network access and installation of malware on some POS devices. The malware searched for payment card data as it moved through the POS device.

      No consistent pattern

      Complicating the investigation is the fact that the encryption was not turned off in all stores; it was off for only a few days to several weeks in some stores; and it was off most of the time in other stores.

      "Each Forever 21 store has multiple POS devices, and in most instances only one or a few of the POS devices were involved," the company said in a statement. In nearly all cases, potentially compromised transactions occurred between March and October 2017.

      Mark Cline, a vice president at Netsurion, a provider of managed security services for multi-location businesses, says there are important lessons to learn here for both consumers and retailers.

      “With its endless POS endpoints, the retail industry has always been a desirable target for cybercriminals," he told ConsumerAffairs. "They know that if they can introduce malware into POS networks, they can make a decent amount of cash by selling credit card numbers on the dark web. With their millions of customers, large retailers, like Forever 21, have typically been the hardest hit."

      The costs for companies can be enormous. Cline says a retailer pays on average $172 per stolen record in "clean-up costs."

      The challenge for retailers is to stay ahead of the hackers. Cline suggests companies first run a vulnerability scan on their internal networks and then update all operating system and software upgrades and patches immediately.

      Consumers inconvenienced

      The cost for consumers is mostly in convenience. If promptly reported, consumer liability for fraudulent use of a credit card is limited to $50, and in many cases there is no loss.

      If debit card information is stolen, risks may be greater. Policies protecting consumers in these cases tend to vary bank to bank. Needless to say, a thief with a consumer's complete debit card information could clean out the account very quickly.

      Consumers using a payment card at a POS terminal are safer paying with a credit card than a debit card. Paying with cash is safer still.

      Forever 21 operates more than 815 stores in 57 countries with retailers in the United States and overseas. The company did not provide the number of its stores that may have been affected by the data breach.

      Retailer Forever 21 has confirmed a payment card data breach it first raised as a possibility in mid-November.The company said it received a report fro...
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