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Friday
Aug162019

Beware of asking your smart device to look up a phone number, Better Business Bureau warns

CoinUp/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Better Business Bureau issued a new warning on Friday cautioning consumers to not ask voice assistant-enabled smart devices to find and call phone numbers for companies because it could lead you to a scam.

According to the nonprofit BBB, when some customers ask devices such as Google Home, Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri to call companies, the devices may dial numbers that scammers have created and bumped up to the top of search results, often by paying for ads. As a result, you may be connected to fake customer service representatives who try to solicit payments by wire transfer or prepaid debit cards. The smart devices may have trouble recognizing phony numbers for real companies.

One victim told the Better Business Bureau that she thought she was talking to the customer service department of a major airline when she tried to change her seat on a flight. Instead, she says, a scammer tried to trick her into paying $400 -- using pre-paid gift cards -- after the "representative" said the airline was running a promotion.

“We work hard to fight against spammers and protect people from scams," a spokesperson for Google told ABC News. "When these fake numbers are reported, we remove them."

Apple declined ABC News' request for comment. Amazon did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

The Better Business Bureau released three main tips to help people avoid this scam:

1. Use caution when searching for support numbers.

The Better Business Bureau recommends using the contact information directly from the business's website after double checking the URL is correct, finding contact information on your bill, or in a confirmation email. Be wary about doing a quick online search or letting your smart device pull up a number.

2. Look out for fake ads.

Many scammers will make phony ads with wrong customer service phone numbers. Moreover, it can be hard for a voice-assisted smart device to tell the fake ad from the real one, so be extra cautious about getting contact information from advertisements.

3. Pay with your credit card.

If you do get scammed, it is a lot easier to dispute a credit card payment and get your money back. A major red flag is when representative asks for payment by wire transfer or a pre-paid debit card -- and there is almost nothing you can do in these cases to get your money back, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug162019

Walmart says it sells 20 percent of ammunition in US, defends gun sales after mass shootings

Andrei Stanescu/iStock(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) -- Since 22 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, earlier this month, and another shooting at a Mississippi Walmart in July left two people dead, the megastore -- which estimates it sells one out of every 50 guns sold, and one out of every 5 bullets -- has come under renewed pressure to help limit the number of guns in America.

In comments that were part of the company's quarterly financial disclosure on Thursday, Walmart's CEO Doug McMillon noted the "common-sense changes" the company has made in recent years -- including requiring that gun buyers are 21 or older -- and said that he welcomed a broader discussion about background checks.

But McMillon gave no indication the company plans to remove firearms from its shelves.

“As we’ve shared previously, we will strive to use these experiences to identify additional actions we can take to strengthen our processes, improve our technology and create an even safer environment in our stores,” McMillon said in the disclosure statement. "We’re also thinking through the broader issues related to gun violence and things we should do to help create safer communities.”

As mass shootings have increased in frequency, Walmart has removed handguns from most of its stores, and the company stopped selling military-style rifles like the AR-15 in 2015, three years after that weapon was used in the mass killing of 20 elementary school students in Newtown, Conn.

Also, while federal law allows a person to buy a firearm three days after submitting to a background check -- even if the check has not been completed -- Walmart goes a step further and requires that buyers successfully pass the check.

Last week, after facing intense pressure from mostly Democratic lawmakers to act, Walmart instructed its employees to remove video game displays with violent imagery from its stores and to shut off hunting videos in the vicinity of where guns are sold.

But a growing chorus of lawmakers and gun control advocates says that Walmart can do much more.

This weekend, Guns Down America, a coalition of groups that includes the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), MoveOn and March For Our Lives -- a student-run organization formed in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida -- is planning rallies at Walmart stores across the country to demand they stop selling guns until "we can dramatically raise the standard for gun ownership nationwide," the coalition says.

"While we wait for our lawmakers to act, all of us must do our part to help build a future with fewer guns and safer communities. That includes Walmart -- a company with tremendous market leverage and clout," Randi Weingarten, the AFT president, said in a letter to McMillon.

Last week, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts pointed to the 2014 decision by pharmacy chain CVS to stop selling tobacco products, and called for Walmart to take firearms off its shelves.

"Sometimes, companies recognize that they have an obligation to the lives, health, and safety of their communities," she said on Twitter. "Do the right thing -- stop selling guns."

Five other Democrats running for president -- Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio -- made similar calls soon after.

Many of the Democratic 2020 contenders have also called on the Republican-led U.S. Senate to pass legislation approved months ago by the Democrat-controlled House to require universal background checks. President Donald Trump said last week he thinks "very meaningful background checks" can pass Congress.

On Aug. 3, a gunman walked into a Walmart in El Paso -- close to the U.S.-Mexico border -- and unleashed a rampage on a store packed with back-to-school shoppers, allegedly targeting Mexicans who make the short trip from El Paso's sister city of Ciudad Juárez to shop. The attack came four days after two Walmart employees were gunned down -- allegedly by a disgruntled co-worker -- at a Walmart in Southaven, Miss., about 13 miles south of Memphis.

"Our hearts continue to be with our associates in El Paso and Southaven and we are focused on the safety of our associates and customers in all our stores and clubs," the statement from McMillon said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Aug162019

New York City hosts first dog restaurant week

ablokhin/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Starting this Sunday, New York City is going to the dogs.

Dog lovers can dine out with their four-legged friends from Aug. 18 to Aug. 25 at a variety of local dog-friendly outdoor patios across Manhattan and Brooklyn for Dog Restaurant Week.

The first of its kind in New York City, the event is the brainchild of Sonali Nigam and Leah Wang, founders of Petminded, a startup that helps pet owners travel with their pets. Petminded has a curated network of experts with backgrounds in travel, dog training and pet wellness.

"When I was traveling to LA with my dog it was so easy to find places where we could dine together," Nigam told ABC News' Good Morning America. "That’s not always my experience in NYC and I’ve heard the same from other dog parents as well so we thought it would be fun to do something like this here in New York."

While dining al fresco with your dog, not only will you be sharing a meal together, you’ll also be making a difference in another pet’s life. Customers who dine with their dogs can make a donation to one of two local dog rescue organizations, Foster Dogs Inc and Muddy Paws Rescue.

In addition, Bar Primi, one of the participating restaurants, will offer a $5 donation to Bideawee, a rescue organization in NYC, for every dog "dining" with them.

The concept is new for New Yorkers, but it’s not the first event of its kind across the country. Similar events have taken place in Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; Santé Fe, New Mexico; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Louisville, Kentucky, although there is no affiliation with the New York mission.

"Given how many dog owners there are and great restaurants in NYC, it’s a little surprising that something like this hasn’t been done before here," said Wang.

Nigam said the responses have been amazing and they are already planning to make it an annual event.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug152019

What is an inverted yield curve? It's a recession's canary in a coal mine

shipov/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its worst day of 2019 on Wednesday, and economists offered an obscure culprit: an inverted yield curve.

What is it, and why did it spook investors?

On Aug. 14, the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds briefly fell below that of two-year bonds. That inversion, last seen in 2007, is viewed by several economists as an indicator of a coming recession.

“If you lock your money up for a longer period of time, you almost always get a higher interest rate," Duke University finance professor Campbell Harvey told ABC News. "However, today, things are backwards – 10-year interest rates are far below short-term rates. This is known as an ‘inverted yield curve.’ In the past 50 years, we have seen seven inverted interest rate curves. Each one was followed by a recession.”

Harvey's 1986 dissertation showed that the yield curve inverted before four recessions. Since then, it has inverted three times, he said, each one before a recession.

Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors told ABC News that it's currently "more expensive for the government to borrow money for the shorter term than longer term."

"This stops companies from borrowing and taking out loans because the cost of capital is more expensive," he said. "It’s more expensive to borrow money."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug152019

Dow closes flat, holding most of Wednesday's steep losses

narvikk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. stock markets traded mostly flat on Thursday, in essence holding most of Wednesday's steep losses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 0.39% or 100 points higher to end the day at 25,578.39, holding most of the largest losses of the year from Wednesday on recession cues from the bond market.

Similarly, the tech-heavy NASDAQ edged slightly lower, ending the day down 0.09% to 7,766.62. The S&P 500 crept barely positive to close 0.25% higher at 2,847.60.

On Wednesday, the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes dipped below the yield of two-year U.S. notes, resulting in an "inverted yield curve."

"Right now, it's more expensive for the government to borrow money for the shorter term than longer term," Michael Matousek, head trader at U.S. Global Investors told ABC News.

Traders pointed to new rhetoric from China that could be interpreted as optimistic for trade talks. Walmart released strong earnings, which led support to the markets as investors noted a bullish slate of retail earnings.

"China holds a consistent and clear position on China-U.S. trade talks," China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying's said in a statement early Thursday. "We hope the U.S. can work in concert with China to implement the two Presidents' consensus that was reached in Osaka, and to work out a mutually acceptable solution through equal-footed dialogue and consultation with mutual respect."

However, traders kept a close on the bond market. The 30-year Treasury yield dipped below 2% for the first time on record early Thursday, Matousek said, igniting pessimism about the market.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug152019

What you can do now to protect your finances in the event of a recession

D-Keine/iStock(NEW YORK) -- With growing fears of a recession after the worst trading day of 2019 on Wall Street, here's what you need to know about how to protect your money.

ABC News Chief Business, Technology and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis shares advice and best practices for people looking to protect their finances should a recession hit.

What does this mean for consumers?

The market is reacting to a number of things, one of which is fears of a recession, which would slow consumer spending and economic growth.

While a recession is difficult to predict, Jarvis said the trade war with China and impending tariffs could make a number of goods more expensive, with consumers, producers -- or both -- absorbing costs. In many cases, consumers would absorb the additional cost on goods coming from China on products including apparel and electronics.

What should people do?

Don't panic.

It's still hard to know if a recession will occur, and experts have advised against any drastic moves. Focus, instead, on your financial well-being.

That means paying off credit cards and other high-interest debt and making sure you have a cash cushion of savings.

What does this mean for someone's 401(k)?

The S&P 500, which is what most retirement accounts are invested in, either through mutual funds or ETFs, is still up about 13% this year. Which means your 401(k) is likely still higher for the year.

Important things to consider

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 800 points on Wednesday after a series of concerning economic indicators from Germany and China.

The S&P 500 also fell by more than 85 points, and the Nasdaq slid more than 240 points.

New data from China indicated on Wednesday that the country's factory output of goods, retail spending and investment weakened in July.

Other potentially bad news that fueled the drop in U.S. markets was that Germany's economy shrank 0.1% in the second quarter as exports declined.

On Aug. 5, the Dow closed down 760 points, or about 3%. The tumble came after China's central bank allowed its currency, the yuan, to fall to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in more than 10 years.

The growing trade war between China and the U.S. has intensified in recent weeks after President Donald Trump accused China of manipulating its currency.

His comments came just days after he threatened to levy tariffs on about $300 billion of Chinese goods, extending existing tariffs.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug152019

5 clothing rental services that will keep your wardrobe in constant rotation

golibo/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Rent The Runway has led the charge when it comes to borrowing your wardrobe through a subscription service.

Now, multiple companies, as well as major retailers, are following suit, making fashion more accessible. At the end of July, one of those company called Nuuly, said that it would carry trendy brands such as Anthropologie, Free People and Urban Outfitters.

There have also been popular stores such as Loft and New York and Company that have adopted the idea of giving customers the option to rent their favorite looks.

In the era of fast-fashion, as brands churn out an ever-changing array of clothing, many consumers find it nice to lean on subscription services that allow them flexibility in how, and for how long, to acquire clothing.

Ahead, we have highlighted five rental-clothing companies to keep top of mind.

1. Rent The Runway


Rent The Runway is an innovator among clothing rental subscription services.

It started off as somewhere women could shop for formal-wear, but now with their Unlimited feature, you can snag everyday wear as well. With this service, you can rent an unlimited amount of pieces monthly that can be swapped whenever you feel like returning. You also get to enjoy discounted prices if you choose to purchase any of your items.

Plus, there is free dry cleaning and shipping.

Price: $159 monthly

2. Nuuly


As mentioned earlier, with Nuuly you can try out styles from Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Free People and over 100 other third-party labels as well as vintage pieces. You get a box of six items that are offered in sizes 00-26.

Price: $88 monthly

3. Infinitely Loft


If you are a LOFT fan, you'll definitely want to get in on what Infinitely Loft has to offer. You can rent three garments at a time with unlimited swaps to enjoy. You also will get the luxury of being able to buy pieces you really love at a discount rate of 50-80 percent off.

Price: $64.95 monthly

4. NY&C Closet


New York & Company has joined in on the fun with a budget-friendly subscription service that offers a monthly selection of their apparel where you can rent up to three items at a time with unlimited swapping. Bonus points: free dry cleaning, shipping, and returns!

Price: 49.95 monthly

5. Gwynnie Bee


This amazing service offers a wide range of sizes that range from 0-32. There are also size advisor services available to help you find just the right pieces to flatter your figure. You can rent up to two items at time, and there's no stressful commitment or contract that lock you in.

Price: $69 monthly

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug152019

What pet owners needs to know about flying with their dogs

gchutka/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Booking a plane ticket is often as simple as the click of a few buttons -- except when flying with your dog.

Then, this relatively simple process becomes a bit more complicated due to specific rules, restrictions and regulations put in place in order to ensure your dog’s safety.

But if you prepare in advance, traveling with your pup should be a breeze.

“It’s essential to think ahead and not finalize travel plans till the last minute,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack, a veterinarian specializing in acupuncture and Chinese herbology, and the founder of the concierge practice Animal Acupuncture in New York City.

Because of unforeseen circumstances, like the weather, pet embargo rules are put in place for a dog’s safety. Check with your carrier to find out their temperature and destination restrictions.

Most airlines will not allow dogs to fly if the current or forecasted temperature is above 85 or below 45 degrees. American Airlines, for example, prohibited checked pets from traveling to, through or from Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas or Palm Springs between May 1 and Sept. 20, 2019.

Before you book your four-legged friend’s airline ticket, ABC News has gathered up a few important tips to ensure a safe flight:

Visit your vet

First, your dog must be healthy enough to travel.

All vaccinations have to be up-to-date and a health certificate, along with proof of those vaccinations, will need to be provided to the airline.

“The health certificate is only valid for 30 days and will be required for both the departure and return flights,” Dr. Barrack explained.

If traveling internationally, check to see if the country has any additional restrictions or regulations. For example, Mexico requires that documentation be written in both English and Spanish, and upon arrival, a brief physical examination will be conducted in order to verify your dog is in compliance with their requirements.

Cabin versus cargo area


Before booking, check with the airline to determine if your dog will be allowed to fly in the main cabin.

Your vet can then advise you as to whether your dog is healthy enough to travel in either the cabin or cargo area. Dogs with pre-existing cardiac, respiratory, epilepsy, blood clots, hypertension and other issues, as well as very young, pregnant or elderly dogs may be advised against flying entirely.

Dogs traveling in the pressurized cargo compartment will need to be in a secure crate. Dr. Barrack suggests using zip ties to ensure the crate cannot be opened and that your dog is unable to escape. The crate should be marked “live animal” with your pet’s name, address, contact information and destination details. Clip on a water bottle to the outside so it can’t be knocked over. Remove collars prior to departure so there are no strangulation hazards.

If traveling in the main passenger cabin, dogs must be confined in a carrier (check with the airline on specific measurements) and placed beneath the seat in front of you -- never in the overhead bin, Dr. Barrack insists. On most airlines, a pet carrier takes the place of one carry-on and a fee may apply.

Certain types of dogs, especially brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds like the Bulldog, Boxer and Pug, are more likely to have respiratory issues and have difficulty breathing.

“These types of dogs should never fly in cargo,” she said.

Avoid layovers

No one likes a layover and it’s even harder for your dog. When planning your travel, direct flights are always best to minimize total travel time.

Inquire with the airline as to whether they have a limit on the number of pets allowed per flight. Delta has a first-come, first-serve basis and passengers must call in advance to arrange to bring a pet on-board. There’s nothing worse than getting to the airport only to find out your pup must travel on another flight.

Risks with sedation

Regardless of where your dog stays during the flight, Dr. Barrack advises against sedation. Sedatives increase the risk of cardiac and respiratory issues due to the changing of altitude and pressure, making it harder for a dog to thermoregulate. If you choose to sedate your dog, you’ll need to let check-in personnel know the name of the medication, the amount, and date and time it was taken as a safety precaution.

Helpful things to bring

Your dog might not need clothing but he sure needs a few things “packed” for the trip.

Ample food, treats and toys goes without saying, but make sure to bring any medications and/or supplements in your carry-on bag.

Research 24/7 emergency vet clinics and veterinarians in the area you’ll be staying, just in case.

A properly tagged collar or harness along with leash should be included in your dog’s travel bag.

Meal time

Traveling on an upset stomach is never pleasant and that goes for your dog as well. While you don’t want to offer a large meal right before takeoff, Dr. Barrack recommends feeding at least four hours prior to travel. This will ensure your dog isn’t flying on a full stomach and has had time to digest and relieve himself.

Water on the other hand can be given throughout the trip.

Play time

There's an old saying, “a tired dog is a good dog.”

Long flights can be tedious so before heading to the airport, schedule some playtime to help release some energy.

Charles “Chick” Gregg, co-owner and pilot for Air-Unlimited, often flies with his Golden Retriever Bria, and makes sure to carve out time for a game of fetch which he says tires her out.

Stay calm

Flying can be stressful, even for the calmest of humans and canines. Airports are chaotic and because dogs are highly attuned to the energy around them, it’s important to stay calm and avoid adding to an already stressful situation.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug152019

New "Star Wars"-themed Barbie dolls debut

Barbiemedia.com(NEW YORK) -- The Force is strong with these Barbies.

Barbie just announced a collaboration with Star Wars and revealed a new line of Barbie dolls that pays homage to Star Wars: A New Hope with some fashionable flair.

The three new collectible dolls are modeled after iconic characters, Princess Leia, Darth Vader and R2-D2, but accessorized with some high fashion twists.

Princess Leia has on an elegant white gown, silver jewelry and her signature space buns restyled into a modern up-do.

The designer behind the collection, Robert Best, detailed how he kept signature elements from the character to make her recognizable while adding a glamorous touch.

"I also wanted to make sure Leia's confidence shined through," he said in an interview with the Barbie blog. "I took the hairstyle (that might be one of the most recognizable of all time) and added braids and volume as well as lowering the placement. For the gown I really wanted to amp up the glamour but still keep it relatively clean and simple. We created a stunning white gown with dramatic cape-like sleeves, highlighted with the silver corset belt, necklace and cuffs adding a cool touch of shine and texture."

Darth Vader is rocking some killer shades with a shiny leather dress, a large cape and a clutch that resembles the Sith Lord’s breastplate.

R2-D2 reps a geometric style with a bomber jacket, a dome skirt, thigh-high boots, a striking blue ponytail, "radar eye detail" and a clutch that looks a bit like his pal C-3PO.

Best called the line a "dream collaboration."

"Barbie and Star Wars are cultural phenomena like no others and so it’s exciting to bring these two worlds together. I also think it might be an unexpected collaboration and I love that," Best said.

The dolls are priced at $100 each and are scheduled for release on Nov. 18.

Disney is the parent company of Lucasfilm and ABC News.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Aug142019

Dow drops 800 points, marking worst day for stock market this year

lucky-photographer/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 800 points on Wednesday, as investors suffered their worst day of the year as new concerns arose over data on global economic growth.

The tumble followed a series of concerning economic indicators from Germany and China, signaling renewed recession fears in the global economy.

One big piece of news came when the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes dipped below the yield of two-year U.S. Treasury notes, a rare occurrence described by market watchers as an "inverted yield curve." The 30-year U.S. Treasury bond also hit a new record low on Wednesday.

The S&P 500 also fell by more than 85 points and the Nasdaq slid by more than 240 points.

The downturn in the markets came a day after the Dow closed up 373 points after the U.S. Trade Representative announced a delay in many of the import taxes imposed by the Trump administration's planned tariffs on Chinese goods.

But new data from China indicated on Wednesday that the country's factory output of goods, retail spending and investment weakened in July.

Other bad news that was apparently fueling the drop in U.S. markets was that Germany's economy shrank 0.1% in the second quarter due to a decline in exports, signaling a recession could be around the corner.

On Aug. 5, the Dow closed down 760 points, or about 3%. The tumble came after China's central bank allowed its currency, the yuan, to fall to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in more than 10 years.

The growing trade fight between the two countries has intensified in recent weeks after President Donald Trump accused China of manipulating its currency. His comments came just days after he threatened to levy tariffs on about $300 billion of Chinese goods, extending existing tariffs.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







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