Archive for June, 2007

Searching for pennies

Monday, June 25th, 2007

If you use the Yahoo search engine, you can earn money for your favorite charity.

GoodSearch, powered by Yahoo, allows users to choose designate their favorite charity. Then about 50 percent of revenue from the site – about a penny per search – goes to that charity.

The site was founded by Ken and JJ Ramberg and already has been generating a few thousand dollars for major and minor charities alike.

“We know there are a lot of people who want to do good but may not have the time or the money to help out,” said Ken Ramberg. “GoodSearch makes it as easy as possible. We’ve taken something people do everyday – searching the Internet – and have turned it into doing good.”

New twist on an old computer virus

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Received an e-mail message today saying I have “an e-card from a family member.” It included a link from “zzwrong.hk.” This is a variation of similar messages that usually included a random name — usually a female name — in place of “family member.” Clicking on the link takes the recipient to a Web site that attempts to exploit their Web browser, then returns a page stating “We are currently testing a new browser feature. If you are not able to view this ecard, please _click here_ to view in its original format.”

The link presented in “click here” goes to a Trojan downloader that downloads multiple components, making up a “Storm Worm” infection. Presumably, if any of the browser exploits above work, the downloader Trojan will be downloaded and run without user interaction.

Don’t click on the links, and don’t worry, any e-card from zzwrong.hk won’t be coming from any member of your family.

Study ranks effective — and safe — sunscreens

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

With sunny and hot weather forecast for the next few days, it might be time to re-evaluate the sunscreen you use.

The Environmental Working Group has done it for you with an amazingly detailed landmark study of 783 sunscreens on the market. The group found that many sunscreens are not only ineffective, they might contain harmful chemicals. That’s an issue, the group says, because the FDA has rather loose standards for sunscreens.
The study database lists levels of protection, ingredients and effectiveness.

The bottomline is that a product called Badger SPF+30 is the most effective and least hazardous of the lot and tops the list of 17 considered to be the best.

To access an executive summary of the study and the database, click here.

Healthy egg claims mislead consumers, group says

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

The Center for Science in the Pulbic Interest, a consumer advocacy group, says higher-priced eggs with nutrition and “heart-healthy” claims are hookwinking consumers into shelling out more for the products.

Most of the claims aren’t warranted and aren’t legal under FDA nutritional labeling rules, the group says, and it’s urging the FDA to crack down on the companies.

Learn more about the controversy here.

Tougher rules for dietary supplements

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

The Food and Drug Administration has adopted new rules governing the quality and marketing of dietary supplements, including quality assurance in manufacturing and the way adverse health effects related to the products must be reported.

Details of the rule and the rationale for it can be found here.

Internet users spend less time car-shopping

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

U.S. consumer scientists have conducted one of the first studies detailing how car purchasing has changed since the advent of the Internet.

The investigators found online research has largely supplanted time spent at a dealership.

“We confirm that consumers who use the Internet appear to come to the dealer armed with better information, and that users of objective print information appear to migrate to the online version of these sources,” said Brian Ratchford of the University of Texas-Dallas, Debabrata Talukdar of the University of Buffalo, and Myung-Soo Lee of Baruch College. “These results are consistent with the common expectation that buyers use the Internet to come to the dealer armed with price information, ready to negotiate a better buy,” the researchers said.

Specifically, the study found buyers who used the Internet spent an average of 80 minutes less at car dealerships during the course of their search for a car. They also spent a total of 25 minutes less negotiating prices and on test drives.

The study is detailed in the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

AG gets MySpace sex offender list

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox has subpeonaed a list of MySpace users who are registered sex offenders in Michigan.

He has a list of user names on his Web site. About 200 names are on the list.

Check it out here.

Language scam targeted Hispanics

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

The feds have cracked down on a nefarious scam that offered Spanish-speaking people free language course and then had bill collectors harass them.

Here are details.

Feds encourage banks to do payday loans

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Based on the popularity of so-called “payday loan” operations, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has issued guidelines to encourage banks to start offering small-dollar loans without the enormous interest rates usually charged by the storefront payday loan outlets.

The feds make that point that since typical customers of payday loan operations usually have a checking account of some kind, they would be a market that could be tapped and probably would welcome the lower rates banks would charge for small short-term loans.

The FDIC says it would be reasonable to charge for 12 to 36 percent for such loans along with a small origination fee.

It will be interesting to see if any banks start offering such products in the months ahead. News about the FDIC guidelines may be found here as well as the guidelines themselves.

Pier 1 expands glassware recall

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Pier 1 is expanding a recall of glassware it imported from China because the glasses have been breaking easily and cutting people.

To learn the latest details, click here.

Smoking parents are a real drag for kids

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

A new study finds children in smoking families have 5.5 times the amount of nicotine toxins in their blood as kids from non-smoking families.

Read about the study here.

New mattress standard: Good or bad?

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

The federal government is mandating a new fireproof mattress standard, effective July 1. Regulators say it will save lives by preventing deaths from bedding that catches fire.

But some say the fire retardant chemicals that will be put into the mattress to keep it from burning may do more harm than good. Trace elements of boric acid, an ingredient in roach killer, and antimony, a toxic element, are among the chemicals that can be used. The concern is that some manufacturers might go overboard with these chemicals and some mattress-buyers will be sleeping for years on these toxic substances without knowing what health effects might result.

The government says the chemicals are used in such small amounts, there would be no harmful effects.

Those concerned about the matter can ask their doctor or chiropractor for a prescription mattress or use a water bed.

The federal press release about the new standard can be read here.

Those opposing the new standard can be found here.

Brush up on hazardous toothpastes

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Here’s an up-to-date listing of the brands of toothpaste that might be contaminated with a poisonous ingredient commonly found in anti-freeze, plus a lot of other related information from the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Butterfly necklaces have lead content

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

GeoCentral butterfly necklaces made in China are being recalled because of high lead content.

Read about the recall here.

Western Union offers anti-fraud tips

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Because scammers often encourage their victims to wire money, Western Union has started offering a range of anti-fraud tips to make sure its customers aren’t victimized.

Here’s is the company’s tip page.