Archive for the ‘Maine Businesses’ Category

Class Action Over The Meaning Of ‘Sale’ Means Harbor Freight Customers Get Refunds

The Consumerist

March 24, 20174:26 pm EDT
By Laura Northrup@lnorthrup

Self-checkouts are prime targets for skimmer scammers

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted July 11, 2016, at 6:04 a.m.

In the previous column on cloning of credit and debit cards at pay-at-the-pump sites, one piece of advice was key. If one card-reading device does not look like the others, it’s probably wise to avoid it.

“An illegal, fraudulent skimmer (the data-stealing device) is big and bulky and should stand out,” David Leach, principal examiner at Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection or BCCP, said. Leach advised consumer to be “situationally aware.” If something doesn’t look or feel right, trust your instincts and keep your card in your wallet.

As in the case of gas pump scams, other businesses that use self-checkout machines are susceptible.

Crooks design a skimmer to look almost exactly like the real machine; a thief can slide on the phony device in seconds and return later to collect the information from the cards of anyone who uses it in the meantime. They usually use the data to buy gift cards or transfer the data to blank cards.

“Skimmer scammers,” as one internet security wonk termed the criminals, have targeted automated teller machines or ATMs for years. ATM skimming grew more than 500 percent from 2014 to 2015 by some estimates.

Just last month, police investigated the discovery of skimmers at bank ATMs in Kennebunk and Wells.

Chris Pinkham, executive director of the Maine Bankers Association, was quoted in one news report as saying it’s “a sign of the times.” Just as none of us is immune to fraud attempts by phone or over the internet, we’re all potential targets of skimmer crooks.

The illegal devices have been found at self-checkout stands at Wal-Mart and Safeway, and no retailer is exempt from skimming attempts. Security experts say the roll-out of chip-embedded cards should slow the rate of skimming offenses; however, many consumers don’t have cards with chips, and many terminals are not yet chip compatible.

Even with chip technology in place, consumers should not be complacent. Thieves won’t give up being thieves because chip-and-PIN or chip-and-signature technologies apply another layer of security; they’ll look for ways to get around any protections that card issuers use.

They’ll also be focusing on the magnetic strips that are still a part of the cards. Those strips still contain sensitive material that thieves want. And the thieves will double down on data stolen earlier. With the spread of chip technology, security experts predict more sales among crooks of data obtained through breaches of retailers’ websites.

Consumers can buy radio frequency ID, or RFID wallets which purport to safeguard card carriers from hacking by passers-by. Some security experts claim aluminum foil works as well. Whatever safety measures you adopt, resolve to be less trusting when a credit or debit card leaves your hand.

Instead of giving that card to a restaurant worker you’ve never seen before — and having that person disappear for several minutes — seriously consider paying cash for your meal.

“Most restaurant owners are pleased to see cash, because it means they don’t have to split their profits [with major credit card companies],” BCCP’s David Leach said.

As always, monitor your financial statements closely — not using public Wi-Fi — and check your credit reports regularly. Before using an ATM, look for signs of tampering: things that don’t line up, mismatched colors or materials and graphics that seem “off.”

See if any parts wobble or rattle; those machines are sturdy, so you should not hear sounds indicating that anything is loose.

When entering a PIN, cover the keypad as best you can. Watch for hidden cameras that may be recording your every move. Be aware.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

Old Town caterer outsmarts scammer

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted July 27, 2014, at 3:56 p.m.

Let’s start this column with a set of assumptions. Let’s agree we’re all in this marketplace together; that means that we give and take, treat others as we want to be treated and learn from our mistakes and those of others.

Link to WABI video

I think Jane Thibodeau believes in that set of assumptions. A short time ago, the owner of Jane’s Catering in Old Town responded to an email offer she had received seeking her services. The email claimed to be from a man named Leroy Martin, who said he was planning to bring his family to eastern Maine for the summer.

“There were several weeks of very nice emails,” Jane told me last week. The first inquiry asked if he could hire Jane as a full-time chef; she would prepare meals for the man, his wife and three children during their stay. Since that’s the reason she is in business, Jane readily agreed.

Martin said he would be sending a check as a deposit for her services, so Jane opened a checking account specifically for her new client. She began to suspect that Martin was a scammer, rather than a mechanical engineer as he claimed, when he made a few other requests.

He needed a chauffeur … not just any chauffer, but one who spoke Spanish, the first language of Martin’s wife. He needed a housekeeper, and both of those positions required a deposit. Would Jane be so kind as to use part of the funds from his overly large check (more than $4,000) he had sent her to wire funds to those two people?

The red flags were really flying now, so Jane visited her banker. They determined the whole thing was a scam, and they closed the checking account. Jane did not lose any money, but she learned to put more faith in her instincts than her hopes.

“It was all a lie,” she said.

During their phone calls, Jane asked how he had picked her name from all of the chefs and caterers available; he wouldn’t answer. Her banker mentioned hearing of other scam attempts targeting people in Jane’s business.

“It would have been a dream job,” she said, “but I caught them, so, whatever.”

Jane urged others not to be taken in by offers — of work, prizes or other rewards — that involve an advance check and then wiring money to unknown parties.

Readers should know that the scammer’s email included a phone number that began “044.” That’s one of dozens of numbers used by advance fee scammers. The United Kingdom-based Internet Fraud Advisory Group says a handful of companies provide the numbers, splitting fees paid by unsuspecting callers with the caller’s network. The criminals apparently get the numbers free.

Jane’s sharing of her story is important. It sends the message that con artists do prey on honest people and that there is no shame in admitting it. When those honest people avoid being taken in, it’s cause for celebration and sharing the details to help educate us all.

The Federal Trade Commission has a neighbor-to-neighbor campaign called “Pass It On.” It’s based on the trust that each of us has in people we know, and their knowledge can save us money and other losses. Visit www.ftc.gov and search “pass it on” for details.

Watch Video from FTC

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

Despite high national ranking, Maine still must work to help working mothers

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted May 11, 2014, at 12:02 p.m.
With Mother’s Day just behind us, it seems a good time to take note of a recent report on working mothers.

WalletHub, a personal finance social network, issued a report last week on the status of working mothers. Maine ranked fourth best overall in the study, which looked at factors such as wage disparity, parental leave policies, child care, and a half dozen others.

Women who read this column will be quick to point out that, while they make up about half the workforce, their pay overall is roughly two-thirds that of their male co-workers. In addition to their relative lack of buying power as consumers, many women find themselves penalized when they take time off to care for a sick family member.

The authors of the WalletHub study recognize the inequalities and pose a couple of hard questions: “Should women have to choose between their career and their family? And, even more importantly, are we prepared to accept the societal consequences of these under-the-gun decisions?”

Those authors offer no quick solutions. Rather, they list the states in terms of their dealing with the challenges of working and having a family. The nine factors in the rating of states were child-care quality, child-care costs, access to pediatric services, public school quality, gender pay gap, ratio of female to male executives, parental leave policy, length of average woman’s workday and average commute time.

While ranked fourth overall, Maine finished 12th among states in what WalletHub termed Professional Opportunities Rank (gender pay gap and female/male executive ratio). Maine’s rank for child care (the first four categories) was 18th. Our work-life balance rank (workday length and commute time) was fourth, the same as the state’s overall ranking.

It’s no surprise that the Maine Women’s Lobby says, despite Maine’s relatively high ranking, there’s room for improvement. Danna Hayes, the group’s director of public policy, said items needing attention include equal pay, leave time, access to child care and raising the minimum wage.

“Until we take action on these fair workplace policies, working moms in the United States — whether it’s here in Maine or across the country in Alaska — will continue to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of equality in the workplace,” Hayes said.

Sharon Barker, director of the Women’s Resource Center at the University of Maine, said many women who are trying to further their education face even bigger challenges.

“Some of the most hardworking and determined students I see are those who are trying to pull themselves out of poverty. They have all kinds of demands on their lives plus the demands of going back to school,” Barker said.

The WalletHub report ( http://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-working-moms/3565/) may raise more questions than it answers. They’re questions that deserve serious consideration.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

Waste is not a terrible thing to mind: Learn how to get the most out of compost

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, executive director Northeast CONTACT
Posted May 04, 2014, at 12:08 p.m.

Responsible consumers think about what they throw away, as well as what they buy. Because each of us discards more than half a ton of stuff every year, it’s worth considering ways to cut down the size of that trash pile.

The half-ton figure — specifically, 1,074 pounds — comes from a University of Maine study a couple of years back. The same study found that a bit more than 38 percent of all municipal solid waste could be composted. That means it could be turned into a nutritional supplement for our gardens instead of adding to the growing mountains of trash in our landfills.

The economic benefits are clear. We’d contribute less to the waste stream, saving money on fuel to haul it away and fees the facilities charge to dispose of it. We would get free fertilizer for our gardens. For gardeners looking to minimize application of chemicals, it’s a no-brainer.

Backyard composting has long been a practice by those of us with heavy clay in our garden soil. Now the state of Maine is looking to spread the word about composting and other waste food diversion efforts through a series of workshops.

The Department of Environmental Protection is running sessions across the state, beginning May 6 in Auburn (for a full schedule, see http://maine.gov/dep/training/). The workshops are designed for leaders of business and institutions, as well as private citizens. Participants will learn about ways food waste can be recycled into a usable product.

The short lesson might be summed up this way:

— You cannot compost anything that came from an animal (meat, bones, etc.) since these things could be dug up out of your compost by other critters.

— You can compost virtually anything that grew in the ground (peelings, stems, stalks and other uneaten parts of plants). Making compost means “earth to earth” in the most literal sense.

Each of the eight free workshops will include an introduction to Maine’s Food Scrap Recovery Program; techniques to divert, collect and process food scraps; regulations covering food scrap recovery and use; and lessons learned from current and past collection efforts. Full-day sessions also will include a tour of an organics processing facility.

Several diversion efforts already are underway. Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta just received an award from the DEP for its food diversion effort.

In the Portland area, a business called Garbage to Garden ( www.garbagetogarden.org) offers plastic containers to people to hold their food waste. For a small fee, the company picks up the container and leaves a clean one behind. Participants can get a bucket of finished compost; after the first month, if they volunteer some time, they can get free pickups.

The people who are running the DEP workshops are hoping more reuse efforts will start across the state. Mark King of the DEP says communities can save a lot by diverting potentially beneficial products from the waste stream.

“Nutrients that are generated in a community should be recycled in that community,” King told me.

Organics can be challenging to recycle. They may be available sporadically, be wet or require extra attention because of odors. The workshops will offer tips to deal with those problems. The state is also looking at other techniques to deal with food waste, such as processing in anaerobic digesters.

The workshops are focused on the first goal in the Maine Materials Management Plan. Other goals include reducing the amount and toxicity of waste at its source, reuse and recycling of noncompostable waste, and processing of waste (including incineration) to reduce the amount of waste needing to be landfilled.

 

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

TD Bank’s lost tapes procedures questioned | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Experts see signs of flaws in its handling of personal data and notification to customers, some of whom are upset.

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer
October 10

Toronto-Dominion Bank

TD Bank made procedural errors when it lost computer tapes containing sensitive personal data, including Social Security numbers, and risked exacerbating potential problems by waiting more than six months to notify customers of the breach, security experts said Wednesday.

“It doesn’t sound like they were using proper controls. It’s not good practice to ship unencrypted backup tapes. It has become a lot less common for financial institutions to lose data these days,” said Robert Richardson, an independent computer-security analyst and former director of the San Francisco-based Computer Security Institute, an association of computer security professionals.

TD Bank, which has 54 branches in Maine, began notifying customers last week that tapes including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, account numbers and debit or credit card numbers were lost in March while being transferred between bank locations. The bank said it was not aware of any misuse of the information, but did not explain how the tapes were lost.

TD Bank, which has more than 7.4 million customers and more than 1,275 retail locations, also would not say how many customers were affected. TD Bank lost the tapes in Massachusetts, but said customers on the East Coast from Maine to Florida may have been affected.

“You can understand why a bank doesn’t want to disclose the number, but as a security professional, you have to assume the worst,” Richardson said. “There could be thousands of records on a backup tape. It could be an enormous number.”

Under Maine law, companies must disclose information about data breaches or losses “as expediently as possible and without unreasonable delay,” but no formal timetable dictates how or when companies must notify customers.

Some customers said Wednesday they were going to cancel their TD Bank accounts.

“It makes you think twice about the bank. I’ll probably change banks,” said Caleb Gannon of Yarmouth, who received a letter last week from TD Bank about the loss of his personal data.

One Scarborough customer, who declined to be named because she did not want to draw attention to her lost personal information, said she and her husband would be closing their joint account as soon as possible.

“The bank said it apologizes for any inconvenience. It’s way more than an inconvenience. It’s insulting,” the customer said. “The fact that it took so long generates more concerns and more questions.”

Liz Donnelly of Bangor said she had not been notified of any problems with her account, but was concerned about TD Bank’s lack of speed in informing customers.

“It definitely makes you nervous, but it’s been kind of happening to a lot of companies. But alerting people shouldn’t be a problem like that. TD Bank has become a big institution and I don’t know if that’s better,” Donnelly said.

Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection said it has received complaints from some TD Bank customers.

“Sometimes,” Richardson said, “there’s good reason for the delay — such as working with law enforcement — or other times they’re just dragging their feet.”

TD Bank has offered free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to customers who were affected.

The bank said it did an internal investigation and notified law enforcement, but said there was no criminal investigation.

“We worked diligently to find the tapes and conduct a thorough investigation. Since this was not a data breach of any kind, there is no criminal investigation,” said TD Bank spokeswoman Rebecca Acevedo.

Sam Imandoust, a legal analyst with the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit organization in San Diego, said customers should carefully monitor their credit report and look for any suspicious activity on their accounts.

“It’s dangerous to have all that information out there. Was it unreasonable that it took seven months to disclose? What’s reasonable and prompt? Was it as expedient as possible?” Imandoust said. “I hope nobody gets a nasty surprise on their credit report.”

Identity Theft Resource Center, which tracks data breaches and lost information, said there have been 324 breaches of data nationally with more than 9 million financial records, including bank and credit card accounts, exposed so far this year. That compares with 419 data breaches with 22.9 million records exposed in 2011, the center said.

Since TD Bank is a federally chartered bank, state regulators don’t have much control over how customers get treated. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office declined to comment, and the Maine Attorney General’s Office did not return calls.

The Federal Trade Commission also declined to comment. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees federally chartered banks, said it couldn’t comment on any specific bank or situation. TD Bank is a subsidiary of Toronto-Dominion Bank of Canada.

Other companies in Maine have also been affected by data breaches.

The biggest case involved Hannaford Bros. grocery chain, in which computer hackers stole the credit and debit card numbers of Hannaford shoppers from Dec. 7, 2007 to March 10, 2008. More than 4 million card numbers were exposed. About 1,800 fraudulent charges had been made by the time Hannaford announced the breach on March 17, 2008.

The other major data breach was reported in January 2007 and involved TJX, a retail chain that owns T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s and other stores.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@mainetoday.com

Related headlines

Thousands affected by TD Bank data loss

Related Documents

TD Bank’s letter notifying customers of lost data

Automobile Financing and Purchase Rights as Presidents’ Day Sales Approach

Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection Outlines Consumers’ Rights

Agency Offering “Downeaster Guide to Consumer Credit”

GARDINER –  In advance of Presidents’ Day auto sales events, Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection is encouraging consumers to evaluate vehicle financing options and to understand their rights.

“For most of us, a new or used vehicle is the second-largest purchase we’ll ever make, second only to buying a home,” said David Leach, Principal Examiner at the Bureau.  “We encourage the thousands of Maine residents who will visit auto dealerships during the upcoming sales to become familiar with financing details and their rights as consumers.”

The Bureau outlined key facts and recommendations to keep in mind when considering a vehicle purchase from one of Maine’s many reputable auto dealers.  Additionally, the agency is making a “Downeaster Guide to Consumer Credit” available by calling 1-800-332-8529 or visiting www.Credit.Maine.gov and clicking on “Consumer Guides.”  It’s a valuable source of information about financing various purchases and dealing with credit in general.

1) Assess your personal finances before you buy.  Understanding what you can afford is an important starting point.  Don’t commit too much of your income and savings at the expense of your household obligations over a four, five or six year auto contract. 

2) Learn all you can about the car or truck you want to purchase.  Various magazines, books and reliable internet sites offer reviews of mechanical reliability, overall owner satisfaction, pricing information, and depreciation rates of cars and trucks.  Many dealerships also list their inventory and prices online.

3) Compare sources of credit.  Contact your local bank or credit union to determine their loan rates for new and used vehicles, and determine the available annual percentage rate (APR) and other credit terms.  Then compare the APR and terms to those offered by the dealer.  Negotiate the vehicle price first, then use the information from lenders to separately evaluate credit plans available from the dealership.

4) Get the best price for your trade-in.  Using print and internet sources, gain a clear understanding of the value of your trade-in to help you negotiate all aspects of the transaction with the dealership.

 5)   Limit the repayment term.  Some dealers now offer 7-year financing.  Consumers should consider whether the vehicle last that long, and avoid financing for longer than its useful life.  While monthly payments may be lower with a longer contract, more interest will be paid over time. 

6) Avoid no-money down financing, if possible.  Making a down payment of at least 20% toward the vehicle’s sale price will help minimize the chance you’ll owe more than it’s worth.  If you need to sell the car, a down payment may help you to break even or even get some equity out of the sale. 

7) Understanding your rights.  The law does not provide a return policy or “cooling off” period for an auto purchase.  Once a deal is finalized, you do not have the legal right to change your mind and cancel the contract.  Make sure you are comfortable with all aspects of a transaction before agreeing to the purchase.

 “Maine has many outstanding auto dealerships that provide excellent service to consumers.  Dealers respect knowledgeable shoppers and are generally willing to work with them to arrive at a deal that is acceptable to both the consumer and the business,” Leach added.  “Buying a car should not be an impulse purchase.”

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