Stories about the economy and scams resonated with readers


Here are the ConsumerAffairs news stories that got the most views

Inflation, housing affordability, dangerous products, the breakout of artificial intelligence, and of course, the proliferation of scams – these are topics that ConsumerAffairs covered in 2023 that resonated most with our readers.

To select the top stories of the year, we looked at how many views each story got the week it was published, as well as how many times it was accessed in subsequent weeks. As the year draws to a close, here are the 10 most-read ConsumerAffairs news articles of 2023.

Are you still in the middle class?

After inflation soared to 9% at one point in 2022, many families were wondering where they stood economically. To find out, ConsumerAffairs updated the data in the Pew Research Center’s inflation calculator to determine the minimum annual income needed in each state to be included in the middle class.

We found it varied widely, from $82,630 in Hawaii to $59,197 in West Virginia. Read more.

If a thief steals your iPhone they can steal a lot more

Apple’s iPhone has always had a rock-solid reputation for enhanced privacy but early in the year, researchers discovered there could be big problems if the device were stolen.

These thefts usually occur in a public place, like a crowded bar. If you pull out your phone and the thief sees you punch in your passcode, they might grab your phone and run. Within just a few seconds the thief can change the passcode, preventing the victim from accessing their account.

Then the trouble really starts. Read more.

AI used in terrifying fake kidnapping scam

The year began with ChatGPT, developed by Open AI, creating a sensation. It was the first widely-used AI platform that could be used by anyone to write computer code or a sonnet. 

Predictably, AI was quickly harnessed by criminals to run all types of dangerous scams. In April we reported how AI could clone anyone’s voice by obtaining just a few seconds from social media videos. 

That made the fake kidnapping scam even more dangerous. Read more.

Wronged Bank of America customers to receive $100 million

Bank of America has millions of customers and many of them, it turns out, were subjected to unfair fees. It got the attention of federal regulators who in July, ordered the bank to pay $100 million in compensation.

One of the 36,002 complaints lodged with the regulator said that the bank charged them interest on a $0.00 balance and told them that they had to have several months of a zero balance before interest wouldn’t accrue. 

Needless to say, this story gained a lot of attention among ConsumerAffairs reader who made the article one of our most popular during the summer and into the fall. Read more.

Did Southwest Airlines sell flights it knew it couldn’t fly?

The year began in the aftermath of Southwest Airlines’ holiday week meltdown that stranded thousands of Christmas and New Year’s travelers. Before the end of January the U.S. Transportation Department opened an investigation into what happened and why.

Airline employees pointed a finger at the company’s computer system, which they claimed was outdated. But investigators also wondered if the airline sold a lot more tickets than it had available seats.

In December, the government levied a record $140 million fine against the airline. Read more.

Thinking of moving to a cheaper state?

The housing market was the source of a lot of consumer pain in 2023. As mortgage rates doubled from pandemic lows, millions of Americans found they couldn’t afford to buy a home – unless they moved to a cheaper state.

Our article about a ConsumerAffairs study of the cheapest states to buy a home got a lot of attention last year. 

ConsumerAffairs researchers determined that North Dakota has the lowest cost of living in the U.S., followed by West Virginia and Michigan. In fact, the lowest-cost states are clustered in the Midwest and Appalachian Southeast with the lowest home prices in West Virginia. Read more.

More possible links between medication and dementia

Throughout the year our readers showed a lot of interest in stories having to do with cognitive decline and the slow progress toward finding effective treatments. When we reported possible links between dementia and acid reflux medications, it was the most-read story of the week.

When we followed it up with a story about possible dementia links to other medications there was even more interest. 

To be sure, the evidence of these links is far from conclusive, but researchers think the two classes that could have the strongest link to a risk of dementia are anticholinergics and benzodiazepines. Read more.

Ford leads in the number of recalled vehicles in the first half of 2023

It’s been a rough year for Ford. Besides losing billions of dollars on electric vehicles, a special ConsumerAffairs report in July found that it had the most recalls and most recalled vehicles in the first six months of 2023.

In terms of the number of vehicles recalled Ford topped the list with a total of 4.1 million cars, light trucks and vans. Most of those – nearly 1.3 million -- were for servicing brakes and hydraulic systems, followed by miscellaneous equipment issues ( l million) and backover prevention (807,000).

Industry sources reported there were 245 auto industry recalls from January through June -- up 3.4% from the same period a year earlier. Read more.

Watch out for the new Barbie scam

The summer’s blockbuster movie “Barbie” had the whole world talking about the iconic Mattel doll, brought to life on the silver screen. It didn’t take scammers long to try and exploit it.

In late July the ConsumerAffairs-Trend Micro Threat Alert found plenty of schemes around the movie. Jon Clay, vice president of Threat Intelligence at Trend Micro, warned readers to stay alert, saying Barbie was appearing in several Walmart-related scams. Read more.

Are you an Xfinity customer? Then look out for this scam

The Xfinity scam was among one of the most enduring scams ConsumerAffairs covered in 2023. We first reported it in April after hearing about Xfinity customers who were contacted by phone and offered a fake discount.

They were told they would get a 50% discount if they committed to keep the service for another two years but would have to pay the first year in advance – using Target gift cards.

The scammers only appeared to target Xfinity customers, suggesting they have access to Xfinity’s subscriber list. Read more.

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