Archive: October, 2012
The Federal Trade Commission says it has shut down five more companies engaged in a widespread scheme: deceptive robocalls, or automated pitches, promising help reducing consumers' credit-card interest rates.
The companies, based in Arizona or Florida, are allegedly responsible for many of the robocalls that have lately generated a huge flood of complaints to the FTC: about 200,000 a month in recent months, according to spokesman Mitch Katz, ahead even of 2011's remarkable pace that topped out at 130,000 a month.
If you've gotten one (or many) of these calls, you'll probably recognize the script. The recording starts by announcing the caller as "Rachel" or as someone else from "Cardholder Services" - plainly designed to trick recipients into believing that their credit-card issuer is calling. The pitch then invites them to speak to a live operator.
I wrote last year about a Bellevue, Wash., company, RootMetrics, that uses both drive-testing and crowd-sourcing to put wireless carriers' performance to the test. A RootMetrics snapshot last fall showed Verizon Wireless as the Philadelphia data king, thanks to its early rollout of a network based on fourth-generation LTE technology.
Back then, I reported based on RootMetrics' data, Verizon's "average download speed was about 10 Mbps - fast enough, RootMetrics says, to download a TV show in 5 to 10 minutes." Second-place Sprint and third-place AT&T Mobility showed average download speeds of about 3 megabits per second, and T-Mobile's averaged about 2 Mbps.
So how are the carriers doing now? Verizon still leads, but not as dramatically as a year ago, according to an update that RootMetrics sent me for today's column about a low-cost, prepaid carrier, MetroPCS, that has been rolling out LTE in the Philadelphia area. Even with non-LTE service, T-Mobile was in second place, lending credence to its promise to become the country's "leading value carrier" once it completes its recently announced merger with MetroPCS. Though they use different technologies now, both plan to end up with LTE.
Counterfeiting always hurts businesses that lose sales of real goods, but often causes only trivial harm to the people who buy the fakes. If you're foolish enough to spend $10 on a fake Rolex watch or sports jersey, your life isn't at risk.
Not this time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put out a warning today to anyone who has been in a car crash during the last three years and had someone other than a new-car dealer replace a vehicle's air bags, or who purchased a new air bag online to make such a repair:
NHTSA has become aware of a problem involving the sale of counterfeit air bags for use as replacement parts in vehicles that have been involved in a crash. While these air bags look nearly identical to certified, original equipment parts—including bearing the insignia and branding of major automakers—NHTSA testing showed consistent malfunctioning ranging from non-deployment of the air bag to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.