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Saturday
Apr192014

Obamacare Users Urged to Change Passwords After Heartbleed Virus

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The heartbleed virus has government officials concerned enough to ask Obamacare users to change their passwords.

Administration officials say it's just a precaution and there is no indication that the healthcare.gov site has been compromised.

But, after a review of the government's vulnerability to the perplexing heartbleed Internet security bug, they're telling Obamacare users to change passwords-- including those with accounts on the popular Whitehouse.Gov petitions page.

A message to be posted on the health care website says, "we have taken steps to address heartbleed issues and reset consumers' passwords out of an abundance of caution."

The heartbleed programming flaw has caused major security concerns across the Internet and affected a widely used encryption technology designed to protect online accounts.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr182014

Security Breach May Have Affected 2.6M Michaels Customers

payphoto/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(IRVING, Texas) -- Three months after learning of a possible security breach, Michaels announced on Thursday that it has discovered evidence confirming it was indeed attacked.

The arts and crafts chain said in a statement "that systems of Michaels stores in the United States and its subsidiary, Aaron Brothers, were attacked by criminals using highly sophisticated malware that had not been encountered previously by either of the security firms" running the investigation.

Approximately 2.6 million cards used in Michaels stores between May 8, 2013 and Jan. 27, 2014, and 400,000 cards used between June 26, 2013 and Feb. 27, 2014 at 54 Aaron Brothers stores may have been affected.

"The affected systems contained certain payment card information, such as payment card number and expiration date, about both Michaels and Aaron Brothers customers. There is no evidence that other customer personal information, such as name, address or PIN, was at risk in connection with this issue," Michaels said in the statement.

So far, the retailer has received "limited" reports of fraudulent card use.

Michaels says the incident is now fully contained and the malware no longer presents a threat to shoppers at either store.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr182014

Workers Collect Thousands in False Injury Claims

ABC News' Cecilia Vega confronts Vincent Lamantia, an ex-cop who allegedly lied about suffering from depression due to post-9/11 trauma and collected thousands in disability payments. (ABC News)(NEW YORK) -- Every year, countless people rake in thousands of dollars by faking an injury to collect on disability payments. Vincent Lamantia, 43, from Staten Island, N.Y., is allegedly one of those fraudsters.

In online videos, Lamantia appears to be very brazen, giving others advice on how to make easy money. He is one of many former New York City police officers and firefighters who were recently indicted for claiming fraudulent psychological ailments in order to collect social security benefits.

Lamantia allegedly lied about suffering from depression from post-9/11 trauma, and collected nearly $150,000 in disability payments. Despite saying he was too ill to work, he was working for an energy company and traveling to exotic countries, like Indonesia, according to prosecutors.

He is heard in one online video bragging about money coming in at his job saying, “They keep paying us. They keep downloading money every single week. We’re getting emails that said, 'Congratulations, you have money.'"

ABC News approached Vincent Lamantia for comment, but he declined to speak.

Many of the indicted former officers left a trail of evidence posted online, including Glen Lieberman, a retired police officer who claimed mental illness, but was found smiling on a jet ski in a photo posted on Facebook. Lieberman's lawyer told ABC News the photo was taken before he became sick.

Luis Hurtado collected almost half a million dollars for a claimed back injury. But, at the time, he was an active owner and martial arts teacher at “VIP Karate” school in Florida and currently has his picture posted on their website. The defendants in this case all pleaded not guilty.

These former officers are among the many individuals who are accused of claiming a fraudulent injury. Experts estimate that false injury claims cost insurance companies billions of dollars a year, which trickles down to taxpayers and raises their premiums. Questionable claims are up 24 percent from last year.

Cathy Cashwell, from Oak Island, N.C., was another individual accused of wrongfully collecting worker’s compensation. In her 2004 claim, Cashwell said a shoulder injury while working as a postal worker prevented her from standing, running, reaching or grasping.

Yet, she was spotted on the show The Price is Right, running up to the podium, jumping in excitement and spinning the wheel. She also posted all her vacation photos online, and was seen zip-lining and hang-gliding on Facebook. She subsequently pleaded guilty to fraud.

Valerie Scroggins, a former New York City bus driver, claimed that a severe shoulder injury prevented her from getting behind the wheel. In 2006, detectives tracked her down in Europe playing drums at a concert with her band, ESG. She pleaded guilty on Sept. 19, 2008 to “attempted fraudulent practices."

Chicago-based private investigator Bob Kiehn makes it his job to catch impostors, with the help of his spy gear. “It’s those people that are raising the insurance premiums…that’s why I do this," Kiehn told ABC News.

Keihn and his company can save insurance companies millions of dollars a year by detecting fraud.

He’s caught people on camera, such as Marwan Khouri, who reported severe back and neck injuries and yet was seen on video using a pick ax. Khouri's lawyer told ABC News the video does not show the extent of Khouri's injuries. But Khouri was denied all compensation after an insurance commission ruled that he had lied.

There was also a steel worker, who was collecting money for a shoulder injury, but was caught by Kiehn on video working with a power saw to cut through ice while ice fishing.

While Kiehn makes it harder for people to commit these frauds, there are many people who are willing to take that risk.

“The best way and only way of beating the system is completely staying in your house, not leaving for three to five years," Kiehn said. "Because anything you do outside of that -- and we’re there -- we’re going to get it.”

Watch the full story on ABC News' 20/20 tonight at 10 p.m. ET

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr182014

Stock Trading Closed for Good Friday; Mazda Recalling More than 100K SUVs

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. markets were closed for the holiday. But is Good Friday good for stocks?

Historically, stocks tend to trend down on the Monday after the holiday.  

Meanwhile, Mazda is recalling more than 100,000 Tribute SUV's in cold weather states to fix rusting frame parts. The model years 2001 to 2004 sold in 20 states where salt is used to clear snow and ice from roads may have the problem.

copyright 2014 abc news radio

Friday
Apr182014

Walmart Sends Chills Through Money Transfer Business

Walmart(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) -- Big changes are coming to the money transfer business. Walmart announced on Thursday that it’s entering the market, leaving competitors shaking in their boots.

Walmart-2-Walmart will be available to customers on April 24. The world's largest retailer says the money transfer service will allow customers to "transfer money to and from more than 4,000 Walmart stores nationwide for up to 50 percent less than similar offerings on the market."

Walmart teamed up with Euronet Worldwide’s Ria Money Transfer for the new service. It will have two pricing tiers: customers will pay a fee of $4.50 for transfers up to $50 and $9.50 for transfers up to $900.

Shares of MoneyGram fell nearly 18 percent after the announcement. Western Union shares, meanwhile, are down more than 5 percent.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr182014

Wine in a Paint Can? Yes, Really! 

McCann Vilnius(NEW YORK) -- Beaujolais Nouveau has long suffered an unflattering comparison to paint thinner for its bright, cidery aromas that fly in the face of soft, juicy Merlot or peppery Cabernet Sauvignon.

But a European ad agency has turned that association on its head with some striking new packaging -- a paint can, of course.

Each year, McCann Vilnius, the oldest ad agency in Lithuania, creates a limited-edition packaging design for the latest Beaujolais Nouveau vintage. For 2014, the agency chose to wink at the fact that too much red wine can stain one's teeth and released "Couleur Nouveau" in a purple paint tin.

A color chart on the back of the can even indicates the shade your teeth will turn depending on how many glasses of wine are consumed.

But with the stunt-marketing vessel only available in limited quantities, many may purchase them for sheer conversation pieces rather than actually imbibing.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr182014

Wedding Registry App Lets Couples Add Items from Anywhere

Zola(NEW YORK) -- Couples heading to the altar can now add items from multiple stores to one simple registry.

Brides-to-be can use their smartphones to scan the bar codes of products in any store or add links from online retailers with the new app from Zola, which launched Thursday. And users aren’t limited to products -- they can also add dance lessons, wine tasting tours, cooking classes or honeymoon funds to their registry.

"We want couples to be able to register for anything they want -- products, honeymoon cash, experiences,” Zola founder and CEO Shan-Lyn Ma told ABC News.

More than 10,000 couples have signed up since Zola launched its website in October. The new app, only available on iOS, adds a fun feature called Blender.

"It’s a quick and easy way to browse and add products to their wedding registry,” Ma said. “You swipe right to add and left to dismiss -- similar to Tinder.”

The feature pulls products and experiences from multiple vendors, all sourced directly by Ma’s team.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide all the things someone might love to have with their fiancé, to create their lives together,” she said. "Whether that’s stuff for the kitchen or the home or a honeymoon."

The app is also more interactive than a traditional registry. Couples can create collections to group similar products together and also add comments to let friends and family know why they want a particular item.

Instead of posting a link to Bloomingdale’s or Bed, Bath and Beyond, couples share their Zola link.

"We found the vast majority of couples today have a wedding website of some kind,” Ma said. “So they post the link there.”

When friends or family find a gift they want to purchase, they pay through Zola’s website and the couple gets an alert those funds are in their account.

The couple makes the final purchase.

Ma acknowledged it’s an extra step, but says that way the couple can control when the product gets shipped.

"Couples said this was a big problem,” she said. “It was hard to plan when your gifts would arrive or manage the returns process. We found people were having boxes arrive unexpectedly. They weren’t sure if they wanted to open them, or keep them or return them. We developed a tracker so you can device when and what will be sent to you.”

The app is free and will expand to other mobile platforms within the next few months.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr172014

Calif. Hotel World's First to Crowdfund

Courtesy Cary Brazeman(PALM SPRINGS, Calif.) -- Turns out crowdfunding can be used for way more than the creation of a hands-free cookie dunker.

For the first time, a hotel is using crowdfunding to make guests partial owners and, in the process, expedite improvements the property wants to make. Since announcing the crowdfunding platform on Wednesday, the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs has received hundreds of thousands of dollars -- much of which will be used to add a nightclub and update the pool area.

The minimum investment is $10,000. But whether a person invests at the rate, or ten times that amount, the VIP benefits of being a partial owner are the same. Hotel investors will have free use of the hotel owner poolside cabana, 25-percent discounts off the best available room rates, free room upgrades and priority and prime seating at the hotel restaurant.

Hotel crowdfunding, said Andy Carpiac, the hotel's majority owner, is a "winning formula."

Sophisticated investors are looking for a home away from home, he said. "They come and visit and spend money and the more they visit, the more their investment appreciates. It attracts the exact kind of customers we want."

He called the crowdfunding concept "cutting edge" and said that's why it's the perfect fit for his hotel.

"We're a destination hotel, an entertainment destination," he said.

The crowdfunding for the hotel is being handled by Realty Mogul, a real estate crowdfunding company. Jay Samit, executive chairman, said it's a way for people to pool investments and diversify, plus get access to something that was previously reserved for the "big boys."

"It's going to fundamentally change the hospitality industry," he said. "The [hospitality] business is perfectly suited to [crowdfunding]. "You go to Palm Springs, go to 'your' hotel, and you're spending money that's going back into your own pocket."

Samit predicts this is the next trend in hospitality. Since making the announcement on Wednesday, Realty Mogul's been "flooded" with inbound calls, from "the biggest chains you can think of" to "famous boutique hotels." He's fielding calls from hotels in Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles. He said he imagines this working especially well for a place with a loyal following and repeat visitors, like a hotel in a college football town that people tend to visit repeatedly anyway.

"It's another way to diversify and make money from your desktop." And from your travel.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr172014

Lowe’s Settles EPA Lead Paint Violations by Its Contractors

Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Home improvement giant Lowe’s Companies Inc. has agreed to pay $500,000 after federal investigators found its home renovation contractors in nine states had violated safety standards for lead paint. The retail chain was also unable to provide documentation proving some contractors employed by the company were certified to work with the toxic substance, the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department said Thursday.

The investigation by the EPA stemmed from tips and complaints from homeowners who had used Lowe’s renovation contractors. In reviews of company records the government found contractors had not used EPA-approved lead-test kits on projects, or lacked proper training to work with the hazardous element known to cause developmental problems in children and kidney and cardiovascular illness in adults.

The EPA also found contractors had failed to properly clean and contain work areas in three homes, although the agency emphasized they had not found any direct cases of bodily harm in the course of their investigation. The punishment sought against Lowe’s was more cautionary, they said. Officials also stated the violations were not company-wide, but isolated to certain brick-and-mortar stores discovered in their investigation.

“This is not to send an alarm signal that people who have had work repairs done should be alarmed about this,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert Dreher said in a conference call with reporters Thursday.

EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles said it sent a clear message to companies to comply with the toxic materials standard.

“Lowe’s is taking responsibility for the actions of the firms it hires, and EPA expects other contractors to do the same,” she said.

The officials pointed homeowners to the EPA website for fact sheets on protective measures and red flags to watch out for when working with lead-based materials.

Lowe’s says they have always sought to comply with the EPA’s Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule standards since they were enacted in 2008, and have “resolved all issues alleged by the EPA.”

“Lowe’s hires thousands of independent, third-party contractors and the EPA identified only a few who failed to meet certain record keeping or work practice requirements regarding lead-based paint,” a Lowe’s spokesperson told ABC News. “There have never been any reports of lead-based paint health issues associated with any projects completed by Lowe’s contractors.”

Lowe's declined to provide an estimate on the total number of homes that may have had renovations performed by the violating contractors, or whether the company had sought disciplinary action against them.

The EPA discovered the infractions through review of Lowe’s stores in Alton, Ill.; Kent and Trotwood, Ohio; Bedford, N.H.; Southington, Conn.; South Burlington, Vt.; Rochester, N.Y.; Savannah and Lebanon, Tenn.; Boise, Idaho Falls and Nampa, Idaho; and Muldoon, Alaska.

Thursday’s settlement also mandates the home improvement chain create a new compliance and training program at its more than 1,700 stores in the U.S.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr172014

Stocks End Mixed Ahead of the Holiday Weekend

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street stocks rolled to a mixed finish to end the short week before a holiday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 16 points at 16,408.54. The Nasdaq Composite finished up 9 points at 4,095.52. The S&P 500 ended the session up nearly 3 points at 1,864.85.

Google, IBM and insurer UnitedHealth were among the biggest losers Thursday, while General Electric and Morgan Stanley were among the session's winners.

The markets will be closed for Good Friday.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio