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Are you ready for the XP apocalypse?

Beginning Tuesday, Microsoft will no longer provide free updates or tech support for its Windows XP operating system.

To help you through what some people are calling the “XP Apocalypse,” the Geek Squad at Best Buy has some advice.

To find out if you’re using Windows XP, click here.

When Tuesday rolls around, you won’t notice a major difference. You’ll still have all the computer programs you use and they’ll still work. But without those Microsoft updates, you’ll be vulnerable to new viruses and you won’t have “patches” to fix bugs or improve performance. You’ll also have little to no support from software makers.

Depending on how old your computer is and how capable its built-in hardware is, you might be able to just upgrade to a newer version of Windows and avoid all of those problems.

To find out if your computer can handle that, download and run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, which will scan your computer and tell you if upgrading is an option.

If you really, really want to keep running XP, be aware of the risks and take some steps to protect yourself. PC World has some great advice here.

 

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Would you like footprints with that?

LettuceIck.

Three Burger King workers near Cleveland have been fired after a picture was posted of one of them standing with his feet in two bins of lettuce.

You hear stories about stuff like this happening, but I think most of us try to pretend it doesn't.

Is this just a rare instance grossery that happened to be captured for posterity on some idiot's cell phone? Or does it happen more often than we'd like to imagine?

Most of us already feel conflicted enough about eating at a fast-food chain. We have to plug our ears and hum a song to drown out thoughts of what the food is doing to our health and what the corporations' business practices are doing to the planet. Pictures like this make fast food that much harder to stomach.

Maybe that's a good thing?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

 

 

Does Verizon owe you a refund?

LandlineIf you're a Verizon landline customer, you could be eligible for a payout from the company.

Verizon has settled a class action lawsuit accusing the telecommunications company of allowing deceptive overcharges onto customers' bills.

Unlike many class action suits, which tend to reimburse just a tiny bit of the defrauded amount, consumers affected by this suit are entitled to a full refund of any unauthorized charges billed from April 27, 2005 to Feb. 28, 2012.

Here is more from Troy & Banks, a local utility auditing company:

Over the past seven years, many Verizon landline customers have been paying for services they did not authorize or receive on their monthly telephone bills. These overcharges are known as cramming charges, or unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on a customer’s telephone bill. Cramming charges are billed by a third-party company who is not affiliated with the phone provider, but is still able to bill on the invoice.

Cramming charges can be listed on Verizon customers’ monthly telephone bill as service and long distance fees, web hosting, collect calls and other miscellaneous charges. Cramming charges can range in price from $1.99 to as much as $49.95 per month. Only 1 in 20 Americans are aware of these charges on their bills, which affect an estimated 15 to 20 million households per year.

Verizon was recently sued over allowing these charges on their customers’ bills. Verizon settled the lawsuit, and, in accordance with the settlement, the court ruled that all cramming charges from April 27, 2005 to February 25, 2012 must be reimbursed to Verizon landline customers who file a claim. Verizon customers can visit the settlement site, www.verizonthirdpartybillingsettlement.com, to obtain a summary of all potential cramming charges billed to them during that time period. Customers can then use this information to submit a claim to Verizon for a full refund.

Verizon has recently been sending out notifications of the settlement via mail and e-mail to affected customers. Customers who receive this information should be aware that the settlement is legitimate and the instructions provided should be followed in order to obtain a refund.

“With so many households nationwide being affected by cramming charges, there is a strong likelihood that many Verizon landline customers in Western New York were billed these erroneous charges as well,” says Brandon Jonas, a member of the Client Services department at Troy & Banks.

Groupon Class-Action Suit

Groupon

If you bought or received a Groupon voucher any time between Nov. 1, 2008 and Dec. 1, 2011, you may be eligible to receive funds from a class-action lawsuit--though you'll probably receive very little.

 

Groupon has settled the suit for $8.5 million.

Here's the story from ABC News:

Seventeen Groupon subscribers each filed individual lawsuits over the past few years about expiration dates on Groupon's deals and how the company sold or advertised those deals.

The suits allege, among other things, that Groupon imposed illegal and undisclosed deal restrictions -- like "must use gift certificate in one visit" -- that violate a variety of gift-card regulations. For example, a federal law makes it illegal to sell gift cards that expire in less than five years .

Those 17 lawsuits were rolled into one and transferred to California district court, where a judge certified the claim as a class action last year. That brings Groupon's entire subscriber base into the lawsuit . . . .

But what those customers will actually get remains pretty murky. The settlement's core terms appear to almost exactly mirror Groupon's own current policy on expired coupons.

Groupons have two separate values: the actual amount paid (like $20 for a voucher promising $50 worth of services at a local spa) and the promotional amount (that's the $50).

While the promotional amount carries an expiration date, Groupon's policy is that expired Groupons can always be redeemed, with any time limitation, for the amount actually paid. If the $50 spa voucher that you paid $20 for expired last month, you can still redeem it at the spa for services worth $20.

The settlement offers those who submit claims a "settlement voucher" that can be redeemed through the merchant for goods "up to the purchase price that you paid."

Check here for more information.

 

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Can you get a refund for your sneakers?

This just in from the New York State Attorney General:


Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a record $45 million dollar nationwide settlement with Skechers, USA, Inc. to end the deceptive marketing of its footwear products including Shape-Ups, Tone-Ups, and the Skechers Resistance Runner athletic shoes. Under the settlements reached with New York, 44 states and the Federal Trade Commission, up to $40 million is being allocated for refunds to be paid back to consumers who purchased the shoes, and Skechers will pay an additional $5 million to the states.

The investigation revealed that Skechers engaged in deceptive and misleading practices when it unlawfully marketed its line of rocker-bottom shoe products including Shape-ups, Tone-ups, and the Skechers Resistance Runner as providing certain health and medical benefits that were not adequately proven by scientific evidence. Skechers claimed that its toning shoes caused consumers to lose weight, burn calories, improve circulation, fight cellulite, and firm, tone or strengthen thigh, buttock, and back muscles and that its products also reduce stress and improve sleep. However, these grandiose claims were not substantiated by credible scientific evidence. Following the investigation, Skechers agreed to change its marketing of its toning shoe products.

 

Under the settlement, Skechers is prohibited from making these claims unless it has adequate substantiation to do so. More specifically, Skechers cannot make claims regarding the health benefits of its toning footwear products unless those claims are based on scientifically reliable studies or generally accepted competent and reliable scientific evidence. Skechers entered into the settlement without admitting any wrongdoing.

 

Consumers who purchased Shape-Ups, Tone-Ups, or the Skechers Resistance Runner at any time should go to www.ftc.gov/skechers or call 866-325-4186 beginning today to submit a claim for a partial refund. The amount of each refund will be determined by how many consumers apply for a refund from the available pool of $40,000,000.

 

 

Time to update homeowner's insurance?

Here is today's MoneySmart tip of the day:

Renovations

If you've done major renovations that could affect your home's value, or if you've inherited valuable items, it's time to update your homeowner's insurance.

 

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

How to get your "Baby Einstein" refund

   BabyEinstein

Parents who bought "Baby Einstein" toddler videos or DVDs between June 5, 2004 and Sept. 4 found out last week they can return them for up to $15.99 in cash, exchange them for a "Baby Einstein" book or compact disc, or use them toward a 25 percent discount on "Little Einstein" merchandise.


To take advantage of the refund, click here. You will be prompted to print, fill out and mail a form, which must be postmarked by March 2010. There is a limit of four refunds per household. 


The upgrade to the Disney-owned company's return policy came after the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood raised concerns about claims the videos were educational.


Research has shown that watching an hour or more of "Baby Einstein" actually delayed development. Doctors suggest children under two years old spend no time in front of the television.


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

Old Advertisements Prove Ironic in Time

DuPont-Cellophane-babies 

Doctors recommending Camel cigarettes? Safe driving tips from James Dean?

The Consumerist has compiled the "Top 10 Ironic Ads from History" and some of them are real doozies. An ad for Bayer brand heroin makes the cut, as does one for asbestos with the tagline, "When your life depends on it, you use asbestos."

It makes you wonder which of today's ads will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. In light of the economic meltdown, my votes are for those decadent MasterCard commercials and this one from AIG


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann 

Best Buy Faces Class Action Lawsuit

Electronics retailer Best Buy has been slapped with a class action lawsuit alleging it trained and rewarded employees to violate its price-matching guarantee .


HDguru.com reports the company trained employees to cleverly deny legitimate customer attempts to collect on the company's price-matching promise, turning down an average of 100 requests per week and even going so far as to alter in-store model numbers to make price-match requests appear invalid.


Best Buy employees were allegedly paid bonuses based on the amount of price guarantees they rejected.


"It looms on the wall, on a 9 foot sign.  Our Price Match policy.  There it is plain as day in English (Y en espanol para los de usted que puede leerio.)  However, just because it is our policy, do we abide by it?  Does it really help the customer?

What is the first thing we do when a customer comes in to our humble box brandishing a competitor’s ad asking for a price match?  We attempt to build a case against the price match.  (Trust me, I’ve done it too).  Let’s walk through the “Refused Price Match Greatest Hits...," read an internal training document cited in the suit.


This doesn't make sense to me. Why would the company go to all the trouble of advertising a policy only to put even more energy into making it void? Sounds like a terrible business strategy.


In response to the initial complaint which launched the class action suit, Best Buy had this to say:


“We apologize for the confusion over this price matching incident, and appreciate that there’s room for misinterpretation of what we’ll match and when."


What do you think?


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann


Is Your Mattress Toxic?

A story at MomLogic.com looks into consumer complaints of sore throat, fatigue, headache, bloody noses, nausea and other scary symptoms reported in people and pets sleeping on Memory Foam mattresses.


Tests have found memory foam emits 61 toxic chemicals into the air, including carcinogens. The polyurethane foam in mattresses can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation, the article said. Formaldehyde, used as an adhesive in the mattresses, has been linked to lung, nose and throat cancers as well as pesticides and flame-retardants linked to cancer and nervous system disorders.Toxic_mattress2


But, experts warned, organic mattresses might not be much better. And mattresses that forego flame retardants could pose a much more present danger than one made with untested chemicals.


"If you search the Internet for long enough, you can find someone . . . to say something bad about just about every kind of mattress," said pediatrician Cara Natterson.


---Samantha Maziarz Christmann