The Checkout

Archive: Consumer Alerts

Traces of Melamine Found in U.S.-Made Infant Formula

Not sure how this jibes with the Food and Drug Administration's recent risk assessment which said it was "unable to establish any level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula that does not raise public health concerns" but you be the judge! From Bloomberg News Service : By Justin Blum Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- The industrial chemical melamine has been found in infant formula made in the U.S. in low amounts that pose no health concern, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The finding was expected because of the chemicals use in can liners and manufacturing, said Stephanie...

 

By Annys Shin | November 25, 2008; 05:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

IKEA Recalls Roman Shades After Death of Toddler

Federal safety officials are expected to warn consumers today about an emerging hidden hazard: Roman Blinds or Shades. They typically have two inner cords, one on each side that run in and out of the panel and allow the shade to open and close. They are separate from the operating cords, which have some kind of pull at the end. The inner cords can be pulled to form a loop that can then form a noose around a child's neck. Strangulation has long been a potential hazard with blinds that come with looped operating cords, but did not pose a...

 

By Annys Shin | November 20, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Update on Delta crib recall

Here are the official releases on the crib recall with model numbers. There are TWO releases, so please scroll down: RELEASE No. 1: Infant Death Prompts Recall to Repair 985,000 Delta Enterprise Drop Side Cribs; Missing Safety Pegs Can Cause Entrapment and Suffocation Hazards WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in cooperation with Delta Enterprise Corp., of New York, New York., is announcing the voluntary recall to replace missing safety pegs involving 985,000 drop side cribs. Failure to use or install safety pegs can cause an entrapment and suffocation risk to infants and toddlers. When the...

 

By Annys Shin | October 21, 2008; 09:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

1.6 million cribs recalled after two deaths

Delta Enterprises of New York is recalling 1.6 million cribs after two infants died. The information leaked out Monday night before an official release from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. So there is little detail either about the specific model number of the cribs in question or the deaths. The company wasn't providing it as of 9:25 pm E.S.T. on Monday. According to AP: In one of the infant deaths, there was no safety peg and the crib's side detached, leaving a gap. The infant got stuck in the gap and suffocated. In the second instance, the infant died in...

 

By Annys Shin | October 20, 2008; 09:22 PM ET | Comments (0)

2,000 Cribs Recalled After Death of 5 month old

Playkids USA of Brooklyn, N.Y. said it was recalling 2,000 convertible cribs after a five-month-old child died on Aug. 31, 2008. The infant became entrapped between the mattress and the drop side rail and suffocated. The cribs involved are portable and the sides are made of a mesh which can expand, creating a gap between the mattress and the side that an infant can fall into and get stuck. The last portable crib recall was in 2005 when Delta Enterprise Corp. recalled about 10,000 cribs because the slats could separate from the headboard, posing a suffocation hazard. The crib being...

 

By Annys Shin | October 16, 2008; 02:15 PM ET | Comments (0)

Is your child's booster seat safe?

Safety experts have singled out 13 child booster seats for not doing a good enough job of protecting children during a crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said Wednesday that the booster seats for children ages 4 to 8 don't position them so they receive optimal protection from safety belts, which is their main purpose. The IIHS gave the thumbs down to the following models: Compass B505 Compass B510 Cosco/Dorel Traveler Evenflo Big Kid Confidence Safety Angel Ride Ryte Cosco/Dorel Alpha Omega Cosco/Dorel (Eddie Bauer) Summit Cosco Highback Booster* Dorel/Safety 1st...

 

By Annys Shin | October 1, 2008; 11:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Government Recalls Soccer Goal Net

A soccer net is being recalled after the death of 20-month-old child. The recalled net contains openings that are five inches wide--wide enough for a toddler to get his head through but not wide enough that he can get it out. The recall is being announced this morning. Here is the information: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Firm's Recall Hotline: (877) 516-9707 September 16, 2008 CPSC Recall Hotline: (800) 638-2772 Release #08-FINAL CPSC Media Contact: (301) 504-7908 Regent Sports Recalls Soccer Goal Nets Following Strangulation Death of a Child WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the...

 

By Annys Shin | September 16, 2008; 12:18 PM ET | Comments (0)

Gift Card Gamble

Take a peek inside your wallet, that desk in the spare bedroom or the catch-all drawer in your kitchen. Chances are that you've got some unused gift cards inside. I know I do. Now may be the time to rifle through them. As the roster of retailers filing for bankruptcy protection continues to grow, the Consumers Union is asking the Federal Trade Commission to force stores to accept those gift cards as long as their doors remain open. The advocacy group also wants retailers to set up a separate trust fund of gift card revenues, so that shoppers can be...

 

By Ylan Mui | September 11, 2008; 11:57 AM ET | Comments (1)

Costco Cautions Against Mercury

Costco is the latest retailer to agree to post signs at its seafood counters with the FDA's warnings about consuming mercury in seafood. The move comes after customer requests and an active campaign by environmental advocacy group Oceana. Oceana began its campaign in 2005 and so far has signed up nearly 6,400 grocery stores at several major chains, including Whole Foods, Harris Teeter and Safeway. The FDA's guidance says women who may become pregnant, who are pregnant or who are nursing should stay away from swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel and limit consumption of albacore tuna and tuna steaks...

 

By Ylan Mui | August 11, 2008; 07:01 AM ET | Comments (4)

J.Crew says sorry

J. Crew wants you to know that it doesn't take technical glitches lightly. Consider this e-mail that appeared in my inbox and on the front of the retailer's Web site yesterday (trendy all-lowercase style is theirs): "we've made some mistakes ... (too many in our mind). we want to say that we're sorry for any issues you have experienced while shopping J.Crew online or over the phone over the last few weeks -- we know we've let you down. we are in the midst of making some enhancements to our web site an call center (and unfortunately encountered some bumps...

 

By Ylan Mui | July 31, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Cleaning Up Dirty Gold

For years, mining reform advocacy group Earthworks called on Wal-Mart to endorse its No Dirty Gold campaign and promise to adhere to several principles, including respecting human rights, cleaning up mine sites and not forcing communities off their land. The group never got a response -- except once, from the communications department -- from the company that sells more jewelry than any other retailer in the United States. That is, not until 2006, after Wal-Mart had embarked on its sustainability makeover. In February 2007, it publicly joined the No Dirty Gold campaign. The other day, this press release with this...

 

By Ylan Mui | July 17, 2008; 07:04 AM ET | Comments (1)

Fuel Surcharge Frenzy

The air conditioning in my condo died over the weekend. It sounded fine at first, humming away even as the temperature crept up to 75, 76, 77 degrees. Then it fell silent, and I began to sweat. I called a maintenance company to repair the machine. An agent quoted me a price over the phone, and I was surprised when he mentioned a $10 fuel surcharge for driving the repair van to my house. Ten dollars! It's not surprising to find fuel surcharges added to the price of your airline ticket or car rental. But I had never considered that...

 

By Ylan Mui | June 17, 2008; 01:42 PM ET | Comments (0)

Another Sales Tax Holiday

Hurricane season starts June 1. Do you know where your glow sticks are? Don't worry -- we can't find ours either. Enter the Virginia Department of Emergency Preparedness, which is offering a state sales tax holiday through Saturday on the equipment you need to weather this season's storms. The holiday covers products costing less than $60 each, including: batteries, bungee cords, duct tape, portable self-powered radios, cell phone chargers, first aid kits -- and yes, glow sticks, flashlights, lanterns and other "self-powered light sources." Portable generators and certain power cables costing less than $1,000 are also included. The full printer-friendly...

 

By Ylan Mui | May 26, 2008; 07:46 AM ET | Comments (1)

Update: Toys 'R' Us to Phase Out BPA Baby Bottles

It's still early on Monday morning, but Toys 'R' Us has already sent us two e-mails to make sure we know that it plans to phase out by the end of the year all baby bottles and other baby feeding products that are made with bisphenol A, the controversial chemical used to make clear plastic. Straight from the e-mail from spokesman Bob Friedland: Toys"R"Us, Inc. is committed to the safety of all its customers and is vigilant about staying current with emerging scientific and other thinking about ingredients in products sold in its stores. While the FDA has not changed...

 

By Ylan Mui | April 21, 2008; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Bye-Bye Bisphenol A?

The bisphenol-A debate has gained plenty of momentum this week. I reported this morning that Wal-Mart said yesterday it will sell only BPA-free baby bottles in its U.S. stores by early next year -- one day after its Canadian division halted all sales of baby bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups, food containers an water bottles containing the chemical. That's a major move by the biggest retailer in the world. It comes at a time when debate over BPA has reached frenetic levels. My colleague Lyndsey Layton reported earlier this week on the National Toxicology Program draft report that found there is...

 

By Ylan Mui | April 18, 2008; 08:19 AM ET | Comments (11)

Buy Me Love

Before I get going today, I just wanted to say thanks for the warm welcome back! I really expected a welcoming party of crickets. And my father-in-law, Ted. (Hello, Ted!) And that's it. So it was a real surprise and delight to see folks writing in to say they kept The Checkout on their RSS feeds. (For those interested in the baby, she's great at everything but sleeping. The hub and I are resigned to the fact that our wills our weak--so weak!--and that our daughter can outscream us any night, but more on that some other time!) On to...

 

By Annys Shin | February 14, 2008; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Consumer Reports Retracts Car Seat Study

Consumer Reports is retracting its car seat report after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it had found flaws in its side-impact testing methods. A quick recap: Consumer Reports tried to raise the bar on child safety seat testing by putting 12 popular car seats through 35 mph frontal and 38 mph side-impact crash tests. CR chose those speeds because they are the government standard for crash testing vehicles. Currently, federal standards require car seats be tested only in 30 mph frontal crash tests. CR found that 10 seats failed and flew off their bases. One seat, the Evenflo...

 

By Annys Shin | January 18, 2007; 03:00 PM ET | Comments (40)

Top 10 Scams of 2006

With New Year's just around the corner, it's that time of year when we're inundated with all sorts of reviews and regurgitations of the year that is about to end. I don't get much out of them except for the occasional "oh yeah" moment. As in: "Oh yeah, it was this past year that Dick Cheney shot someone in the face." Even though there are always plenty of scams, I have to say, I enjoyed in my own consumer news-nerdy sort of way Consumeraffairs.com's Top 10 Scams of 2006. It helped that the Web site created a video countdown version...

 

By Annys Shin | December 11, 2006; 09:13 AM ET | Comments (35)

The Latest on Gift Cards

If you're like most Americans, chances are you likely will give and receive plastic in the coming weeks. Gift card sales are expected to total $24.8 billion this holiday season, a $6 billion increase over 2005, according to the National Retail Federation's fourth annual gift card survey, conducted by BIGresearch. Plus, the average consumer will spend more on gift cards than they did last year--$116.51 compared with $88.03 in 2005. We seem to be buying more gift cards despite the hassles that have emerged, such as expiration dates, so-called "dormancy fees" for not using the card, and not being able...

 

By Annys Shin | November 30, 2006; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

New Scam Twists

Do scamsters ever sleep? Probably not--at least based on the number of alerts that continue to be issued about one pernicious scheme after the other. I hope that also means Americans may be less gullible and notify law enforcement agencies about the scams when they see them. But I doubt it. Here are two of the most recent alerts: * The Internet Crime Complaint Center says consumers need to be wary of unsolicited cellphone text messages thanking you for subscribing to a dating service. The cost is $2 a day, which will be billed automatically to your cellphone bill. Of...

 

By | July 19, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (4)

Kite Tubes Recalled

Less than two weeks after the Consumer Product Safety Commission first issued a safety alert about an increasingly popular new water-sport--kite tubing--one of the makers has decided to withdraw its product. Sportsstuff, having received reports of two deaths in the United States and a variety of serious injuries, is voluntarily recalling about 19,000 Wego Kite Tubes, the CPSC announced this morning, The agency said it is aware of 39 injury incidents with 29 of those resulting in medical treatment. Those injuries include a broken neck, punctured lung, chest and back injuries and facial injuries. According to the CPSC press...

 

By | July 13, 2006; 09:08 AM ET | Comments (2)

Tube Kiting Safety Alert

Just before the holiday weekend, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a safety warning about the new but increasingly popular water sport of tube kiting--in which a person flies across water in a large inflatable tube (sometimes 10 feet or more in diameter) that is drawn by a boat traveling between 25 and 35 miles per hour. (You can see how this works by watching some of the videos at YouTube.com--and you have to admit it does look like a lot of fun.) But the agency says tube kiting is "extremely dangerous." The agency said it knows of at least...

 

By | June 30, 2006; 10:53 AM ET | Comments (13)

Perpetual Spam

Two popular e-mails--both false--are making the rounds again, prompting cautionary warnings from federal officials. Earlier this month, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) issued an alert about a spam e-mail purportedly from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. "This scheme was originally unleashed in 2004, but it is currently resurfacing," the IC3 said. The e-mail claims that your account has been denied insurance from the FDIC--in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and federal, state and local governments--because of suspected violations of the Patriot Act. To get the insurance reinstituted, recipients are asked to click to the provided link...

 

By | June 28, 2006; 10:22 AM ET | Comments (2)

Records of 26.5 Million Veterans Stolen

In what may be the largest security breach of personal data, the electronic records of 26.5 million U.S. veterans were stolen earlier this month from the home of a Department of Veterans Affairs employee. A file, containing the names, birthdates and Social Security numbers of living servicemen discharged since 1975 and some of their spouses were taken from the home of a career civil servant who had taken the data home with him. No financial or medical records were included in the data. Jim Nicholson, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs said the analyst was not authorized to take...

 

By | May 22, 2006; 03:10 PM ET | Comments (0)

An Unpleasant Easter Surprise

It seems to happen around every Easter. A popular candy egg that contains a toy inside is found on store shelves. The only problem is the candy egg -- called Kinder Surprise -- has been banned by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The reason: The toy inside the egg is so small it poses a choking hazard to young children. Kinder Surprise toys are very popular abroad so they inevitably find their way here, especially in the spring. But the CPSC has just issued a safety alert, calling on retailers to remove the product from their shelves and directing...

 

By | April 14, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (19)

Who's Preparing Your Taxes?

Did you hire someone to prepare your taxes for you this year? If so, don't miss my colleague Al Crenshaw's story today, Some Tax Preparers Don't Add Up. In a small study run by the Government Accountability Office, commercial tax preparers made errors, sometimes amounting to more than $1,000 in incorrect refunds and overpayments, in 100 percent of returns brought to them by a government agency seeking to test the accuracy of work done by large chain tax-preparation firms. The GAO does say that the study is small and can't be used to generalize the entire tax preparation industry. Even...

 

By | April 5, 2006; 08:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

In Case You Missed It

My colleague Don Oldenburg wrote a terrific piece over the weekend on cars that were flooded in last year's hurricanes hitting the secondhand market. Before you buy a used car, be sure to read this....

 

By | March 27, 2006; 02:31 PM ET | Comments (0)

Child's Death Prompts Recall

Reebok is recalling about 300,000 heart-shaped charm bracelets after a 4-year-old died from lead poisoning after swallowing a piece of the jewelry, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported in a news release today. The news release also has a photo of the bracelet. Here's an AP story on the recall as well. And check back tomorrow, when I'll have a fuller story and more information....

 

By | March 23, 2006; 01:19 PM ET | Comments (5)

Scams, Scams and More Scams

It's not like I'm trying to write about scams. Really. But I can't help it. At least once a day I get a call or e-mail with another scam alert. Here are two recent alerts worth sharing. Unlike many scams I've written about, these do not involve the Internet. The first alert--about mystery shoppers--comes from Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe. Beebe says many such offers are bogus on their face. Sure, the promise of getting paid to shop is alluring, but Beebe said, the reality is far less glamorous. "Most mystery-shopping jobs pay little, if any, money, involve a lot...

 

By | March 8, 2006; 10:25 AM ET | Comments (13)

Social Security Scam

You know the saying: There's a sucker born every minute. Well, there certainly seems to be an e-mail scam born every minute as well. Here's the latest scam, disclosed by the Social Security Administration: E-mails that appear to come from the agency are sent to "Dear Social Security Number and Card Owner" with the message, "someone illegally is using your Social Security number and assuming your identity." Readers are directed to a Web site that looks like Social Security's. E-mail recipients are then asked to confirm their identities by entering their Social Security numbers and bank information. Credit card data,...

 

By | February 23, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (8)

Another Urban Legend--With a Lesson

Another urban legend hit my e-mail box this past week--and probably yours as well since I've gotten several. This one warns of a new credit card scam and, in theory, has good advice that we've heard before: Never give out any financial information to anyone who calls you unsolicited, no matter how official the person may sound or how much information he may have about you. But other than that, Visa and MasterCard officials say the story in the e-mail is not true; they know of no specific person who's been scammed according to the story outlined in the e-mail....

 

By | January 27, 2006; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Free Medical Services? NO, NO, NO

Last week, it was Colorado that was issuing an alert alert about a recent scam that has hit the state and probably several others. Then, it was the state of Washington--which also warns there have been reports of the same scam in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. And now add Maryland to the list. Here's how the scam works: A telemarketer claiming to be from the state's "Department of Health" calls and offers vouchers for up to $1,000 in free medical services. The caller usually has the consumer's name, adddress, date of birth and name of the consumer's bank--making the...

 

By | January 25, 2006; 11:49 AM ET | Comments (7)

A Bogus E-mail Solicitation for the Sago Mine Survivor

We should all know by now. With every disaster comes a scam. So we shouldn't be surprised about this latest consumer alert involving the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia. Federal and state law enforcement officials are warning about a fake e-mail purporting to seek donations for the single survivor, Randal McCloy Jr. The e-mail claims to be from Dr. Lawrence Roberts, who is one of the main physicians in charge of McCloy. The e-mail describes McCloy's condition and seeks donations for his treatment. This e-mail is a hoax, law enforcement officials say. And there will probably be others. So...

 

By | January 13, 2006; 12:15 PM ET | Comments (0)

Beware of Fake Cashier Checks

A cashier's check used to be a sure thing. No longer. There's a raft of scams involving fake cashier's checks and Arizona’s Attorney General Terry Goddard has issued an alert after several of his state residents recieved bogus cashier’s checks ranging from $3,000 to $6,000. In some cases, the checks were accompanied by letters notifying recipients they had won a lottery or sweepstakes; the "winners" were supposed to deposit the checks into their accounts and then wire a lesser amount outside the country to collect their prize. In another case, the recipient sold an item over the Internet; the buyer...

 

By | January 13, 2006; 06:59 AM ET | Comments (12)

 

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