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Consumer Advice

    Google Maps tracks everywhere you go. Some people find the fact that Google Maps keeps a log of everywhere you’ve been useful. For example, if you need to recall a friend’s address that you recently traveled to, you can simply look up your recent searches.  On the flip side, having everywhere you’ve recently traveled as public information can be invasive. So it makes sense that you would want to get rid of all the extremely detailed data Google Maps keeps on you, regardless of whether you use the GPS application.  » RELATED: Google Maps detour leads 100 drivers into muddy mess Over the summer, Google began rolling out a feature that lets you automatically delete your saved location data either every 18 months or every three months. Anything older than that is automatically deleted, according to CNBC.  To delete the log that Google keeps on you, just follow these simple steps: Open Google Maps on iPhone or Android Tap the menu bar on the top-left of the app Choose “Your Timeline” Tap the three dots on the top right of the screen Choose “settings and privacy” Select “Automatically delete location history” Change the setting from “Keep until I delete manually” to “Keep for 18 months” or “Keep for 3 months”
  • Cyber grinches are working overtime this holiday season to steal gift cards from unsuspecting consumers, warns the Better Business Bureau. A growing scam has emerged in which hackers remove gift cards off racks in stores where they are often kept out in the open and use a magnetic strip reader to scan account numbers. They scratch off the material on the back to get the PIN number and apply a replacement strip. Unsuspecting consumers then buy the cards and are none the wiser.  » Holiday stress: Amazon, others under gun for 1-day delivery After the card is loaded with cash, the thief gets an alert that funds are on the card and then goes on a shopping spree, draining the card balance, or programs a new blank card that can be used in stores. Card reader/writer encoders — which conveniently come with blank credit cards — are available on online for as little as $85.  'Before purchasing a gift card, look carefully at the packaging for any tears, wrinkles, or other indications of tampering, and see if the PIN is exposed,' warns the BBB. 'If anything looks suspicious, it's probably best to take a different card, and turn in the compromised card to the store's customer service desk.'  » Top shopping deals, discounts for Cyber Monday 2019 This novel new swindle is not a surprise considering the popularity of these easy-to-give gifts. For the 13th year in a row, gift cards are the most popular items on wish lists, requested by 59% of those surveyed by the National Retail Federation.  They are so popular, gift cards have grown more than 100% since 2013, according to Mercator Advisory Group, an advisor to the payments industry. Gift card purchases increased 3% last year, to $95.7 billion, a survey by the company reported. » Shop small this holiday season on Small Business Saturday You can protect yourself. The Federal Trade Commission and the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center offer these tips when buying, giving and using gift cards.  Check cards for an expiration date or fees and note any terms and conditions.  Use gift cards as soon as possible. We often lose or forget about them.  buy gift cards from trusted sources. Avoid online auction sites, as these cards may be counterfeit or may have been obtained fraudulently.  Read the fine print. Is there a fee to buy the card? Are there shipping and handling fees for cards bought by phone or online? Will any fees be deducted from the card after it is purchased?  Inspect the card. Verify that no protective stickers have been removed or tampered with, and that the codes on the back of the card haven't been scratched off to reveal the PIN. Report damaged cards to the store manager.  Attach the original receipt to the gift card in case it is lost or stolen.  Before you buy, consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant. If the establishment goes out of business, you can be left with nothing. Gift cards from companies that file for bankruptcy also may be worth less.  If it appears that a card has expired or fees have been deducted, contact the company that issued the card and ask if the card can be honored or if fees can be reversed.  Treat gift cards like cash. If it is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer. Some will not replace cards while others will for a fee.  If you purchase or sell gift cards on the secondary market, check website reviews and only buy from or sell to reputable dealers.  If you do get scammed, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or at 877-382-4357.  Find more safety tips at FTC.gov/giftcards and from the Retail Gift Card Association at thergca.org/tips-for-using-gift-card-exchanges.
  • There’s nothing new about companies tracking your online activity and spending habits. But the extent of the information they collect might surprise you.  » RELATED: Credit errors upend lives of thousands of consumers Every consumer has “secret” scores that are determined by factors such as how long you’re willing to stay on hold when calling a business and whether you return items to a store, reports The New York Times.  “A low score sends you to the back of the queue; high scores get you elite treatment,” Kashmir Hill wrote in The New York Times.  Up until recently you couldn’t always get access to the data that was being collected, but thanks to new laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act and a 2018 European law called General Data Protection Regulation, now you can.  Hill was able to track down the file that a company called Sift, which tracks 16,000 factors for companies like Airbnb and OkCupid, and what he found surprised him.  “More than 400 pages long, it contained all the messages I’d ever sent to hosts on Airbnb; years of Yelp delivery orders; a log of every time I’d opened the Coinbase app on my iPhone,” Hill wrote.  » RELATED: Many Americans Don't Know Their Credit Score Here’s how to get your data according to The New York Times:  Sift, which determines consumer trustworthiness, asks you to email privacy@sift.com. You’ll then have to fill out a Google form.  Zeta Global, which identifies people with a lot of money to spend, lets you request your data via an online form.  Retail Equation, which helps companies such as Best Buy and Sephora decide whether to accept or reject a product return, will send you a report if you email returnactivityreport@theretailequation.com.  Riskified, which develops fraud scores, will tell you what data it has gathered on your possible crookedness if you contact privacy@riskified.com.  Kustomer, a database company that provides what it calls “unprecedented insight into a customer’s past experiences and current sentiment,” tells people to email privacy@kustomer.com.
  • Getting cheap flights for Christmas or Thanksgiving isn't all luck — but it's not the result of endless finagling, either. Armed with tips from travel number crunchers and expert bargain hunters, you can usually get a cheaper flight for the holidays with just a bit of preplanning and as much flexibility as you can spare. Here are the high points for frugal air travel in November and December 2019. » RELATED: Atlanta among top five cities for winter travel, according to WalletHub Start early. Though it may seem strange to talk turkey when the kids haven't even gone back to school yet, the best time for holiday flight deals starts in late summer and early fall, according to Fare Compare travel blog. 'Fares for Thanksgiving generally begin to rise on a daily basis starting in September and continue to increase into November,' Fare Compare explained. 'It's not much at first; maybe a dollar or two per day but this can rise to $5 per day in October and that can really add up.' The most popular days to travel for Thanksgiving are the Tuesday and Wednesday before the big day, leaving to return the Sunday after. If you can't avoid traveling on these days, you, in particular, should buy your tickets as soon as possible, Fare Compare added. 'If you aren't ready to buy, at least set up a price-watch to keep an eye on your flights,' it said. 'Holiday fares won't exactly be cheap now — Thanksgiving fares are never cheap — but at least you can lock in the price of the most expensive days before the price hikes begin.' » RELATED: 5 Atlanta holiday shows that aren't ‘The Nutcracker’ or ‘A Christmas Carol’ Work with data from the pros. Unless you just think it's fun to Orbitz, Expedia and Priceline incessantly, take advantage of the data that travel pros have already developed when seeking cheap flights for Christmas. SmarterTravel, for example, crunched flight price numbers from 2018 and established patterns of the best and worst days for holiday travel in 2019. They did remind holiday travelers that 'best' fares are relative during the holidays. 'That designation is relative to already-inflated high-season prices,' SmarterTravel said. 'But there are some significantly cheaper times to fly during a holiday week or weekend. These cheaper times to fly are typically on the less-popular travel days, which means you'll also be more likely to have a lower-stress airport experience.' Here's what they came up with: Best Thanksgiving travel days 2019 Monday, Nov. 25 Thursday, Nov. 28 (aka Thanksgiving) Friday, Nov. 29  Worst Thanksgiving travel days 2019 Wednesday, Nov. 27 Saturday, Nov. 30 Sunday, Dec. 1 Best Christmas travel days 2019 Tuesday, Dec. 24 Wednesday, Dec. 25 Saturday, Dec. 28 Worst Christmas travel days 2019 Saturday, Dec. 21 Sunday, Dec. 22 Sunday, Dec. 29 » RELATED: Black Friday deals: Amazon already has deals for early shoppers Focus on the best times to get cheap flights for Christmas and Thanksgiving 2019. Instead of zeroing in on a particular airline, even if you earn points with them, check out the times that are usually the best for buying tickets for cheap flights for Christmas or Thanksgiving. They are not foolproof, but they give you the best possibility of saving money on holiday airfare. According to Expedia, these are the cheapest times to book holiday travel: Thanksgiving cheapest time to buy: October 29 – November 13 'Booking two weeks to a month in advance of travel saved travelers more than five percent,' Expedia explained. 'Those who booked 91+ days out and less than one week out paid the most, with last-minute bookers paying more than 20% above average.' Christmas cheapest time to buy: November 23 – December 9 'Booking during this window saved travelers around 15%, so aim to book at least two weeks to a month in advance of travel,' Expedia added. 'While last-minute bookers paid around 2% more than average, early birds who booked 91+ days out paid around 15% more than the average holiday traveler.
  • Subscription contact lens company Hubble is facing scrutiny from doctors and the contact lens industry as a whole. >>LISTEN BELOW TO WSB’s CLARK HOWARD EXPLAIN WHY HE FEELS THE CONTACT LENS INDUSTRY IS ‘IN TERROR.’ The start-up company promises to revolutionize eye care, and has taken social media by storm offering dirt cheap lenses. Hubble offers contact lenses at a tiny fraction of the cost of other lenses.  Ophthalmologists and optometrists say they have seen several patients with eye problems after using Hubble and have criticized the company for switching people from their prescribed lenses to a completely different brand. However, the company says their business is completely legal and that they have spent years researching their product to produce high-quality contact lenses. They require their consumers to have prescriptions before subscribing to their services.  WSB consumer expert Clark Howard is accusing the entire contact lens industry of price fixing. 'The doctor you go to for a contact lens fitting makes the big income not from the exam and fitting, but on selling you massively overpriced contact lens boxes,” he explains, adding, “The industry is in terror because they saw what ‘Dollar Shave Club’ did to Gillette.
  • Check your freezer for recalled ground beef that could make you sick.  Cargill is recalling 132,000 pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with E-coli.  Consumers should throw the meat away or take it back to the store for a refund.  The ground beef products were produced and packaged on June 21 and bear the number “EST. 86R” inside the USDA mark of inspection.  Officials identified 17 illnesses and one death connected with the E. coli outbreak ranging from July 5 to July 25, 2018.  The meat was sold nationwide. Full list of recalled products:  3-lb. chubs of “OUR CERTIFIED 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a USE OR FREEZE BY JUL/11/18 and case code 00228749057646.  3-lb. chubs of “OUR CERTIFIED 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a USE OR FREEZE BY JUL/11/18 and case code 00228749002653.  10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 00228749089098.  10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 73/27 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749002751.  10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 81/19 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749003536.  10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 00228749003568.  10-lb. chubs of “EXCEL CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749402773.  20-lb. chubs of “EXCEL 81/19 FINE GRIND GROUND BEEF COMBO” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749073935.  10-lb. chubs of “Sterling Silver CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 00228749702416.  10-lb. chubs of “CERTIFIED ANGUS BEEF CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 and case code 90028749802405.  10-lb. chubs of “CERTIFIED ANGUS BEEF CHUCK GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a Use/Frz. By Jul 11 with case code 00228749802413.  10-lb. chubs of “Fire River Farms CLASSIC GROUND BEEF 81/19 FINE GRIND” with a USE/FREEZE BY: 07/11/2018 with case code 90734730297241.
  • Baby walkers are very popular with parents, but they can be dangerous.  There is potential for trouble with those wheeled frames and suspended seats that let babies move around using their feet.  A shocking number of babies are injured each year by baby walkers, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.  Over the past 25 years, an estimated 230,676 children were injured in baby walker accidents.  Most children were injured by falling down stairs in a baby walker, and 90 percent of the injuries were to the head and neck.  Nearly 38 percent of the children that went to the hospital, suffered a skull fracture.  The good news is that the overall number of baby walker injuries has decreased since 1990.  Gary Smith, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio spoke with WSB Radio about the risk.  “Baby walkers by their nature give children mobility before they're able to handle it,” explains, adding, “I tell parents that the best parent in the world can’t move quickly enough to stop their child from going down the stairs, is say a young sibling leaves the door open to the basement stairs – even for a moment.”
  • “If you watch people—how they interact—they interact mostly with their digital devices,” Zellmer tells WSB’s Pete Combs. “To then get into a car and viscerally experience what can be done on a track is something people appreciate obviously. And we’re very happy about that.” In this case, the experience involves driving on a closed track in a way you can’t drive on the highway. At the Atlanta Porsche Experience Center, that involves pushing both car and driver to the limits of their abilities. For 90-minutes, paying customers drive company cars on this road course. That may not seem like a long time, but Porsche bets it’s long enough to fall in love.  It’s also a learning experience. Drivers are instructed by Porsche experts who ride along, providing tips and cautions all along the way.  The course is set up in several parts.  “There’s a road course that’s designed to mimic a windy road in the North Georgia Mountains,” says Operations Manager Geoffrey Lowdermilk.  There’s a kick plate course where the road actually turns underneath the car, forcing it to slide. “That’s an effective way to learn how to control oversteer by turning into the slide,” he points out.  There’s also a multi-faceted off-road course built specifically for the Porsche Cayenne, an all-wheel drive SUV.  “You’d be surprised at what that vehicle can do right off the showroom floor,” Lowdermilk says with a smile.  Finally, there’s a “launch pad,” where drivers can feel the wind in their hair, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in around 3.2 seconds.  How do customers react to a brand land like the Porsche Experience Center?  “I just wanted to experience it more than I would if I was driving it around the block at the Porsche dealership,” says Suwanee retiree Terry Jordan. As he’s speaking, a bright blue roadster speeds up to a circular pad of polished concrete. It’s a drift pad, where drivers fling their Porsches into a sliding 180 degree turn, tires screeching all the way. “You know, like that,” he says, motioning over his shoulder.  It’s hard to be objective about the Porsche Experience Center once you’ve driven the course, met the people who work there, dine in the elegant café and see the remarkable collection of fine sports cars parked all over the property.  And that’s quite the point.  Porsche says the Experience Centers are a boon to sales and to the company’s cache. The point, says Zellmer, is that people want this sort of hands-on experience. He believes “brand lands” will work in a number of industries worldwide.  Says one employee at the Porsche’s Atlanta facility, “It’s like Disneyland for adults who like to drive really fast.”
  • Xtava announced it will recall its Allure and Allure Pro 2200W ceramic hair dryers after finding that the hair dryer and power cord can overheat and catch fire. At least 193 Xtava users have reported that the hair dryer has overheated, and 20 have reported burns or minor electrical shock, according to a report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • AT&T has reportedly issued a warning to its customers about a phone scam making the rounds. WAFB reported that customers are reporting calls from people saying their service is being temporarily halted until they give the last four digits of their Social Security number. >> Read more trending news  “These calls are not from us,” AT&T said in a statement, according to WAFB. “If any company calls you and asks for your personal information, that is a red flag. One of our tips on our new Cyber Aware website is never give such information to someone who calls you. Call the company at the number found on your bill.” Customers can also forward suspicious texts to 7726 or report scams to abuse@att.net.