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Whole Foods: Customer payment info hacked at stores

Whole Foods Market said Thursday that customer payment information at some of the grocer’s in-store bars and restaurants was hacked.

>> Read more trending news

The company did not immediately say how many customers or stores might be affected, but said payment information was not hacked at its primary checkout counters because they use a different operating system.

“When Whole Foods Market learned of this, the company launched an investigation, obtained the help of a leading cyber security forensics firm, contacted law enforcement, and is taking appropriate measures to address the issue,” the company said in a written statement.

Whole Foods, which was recently purchased by online retailer Amazon, also said that Amazon’s system was not affected.

Most of Whole Foods’ more than 460 stores do not have in-store bars and restaurants. The ones that do are usually in or near larger cities. 

It’s unclear when the hack happened and when exactly Whole Foods learned of it. Whole Foods did not respond to a message left, seeking additional comment.

The company said it would continue to investigate the matter and provide updates when it has more information. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

Equifax to offer free credit freezes for life, new CEO says

Equifax’s new interim chief executive said the company is planning to offer a new life-long credit freeze service for free by the end of January.

>> Read more trending news

Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., who was named the company’s new CEO on Tuesday, announced that move Thursday, along with other efforts to improve its problem-plagued response to a massive data theft affecting 143 million Americans.

“On behalf of Equifax, I want to express my sincere and total apology to every consumer affected by our recent data breach,” Barros said in an op-ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. “People across the country and around the world, including our friends and family members, put their trust in our company. We didn’t live up to expectations.” 

According to a news report, Barros’ op-ed was not initially available on Equifax’s website on the security breach, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, but the site now has a link to it.

>> Related: Equifax apologizes for sending people to fake company website

In a move that could put pressure on the other two major credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, to offer similar life-long freezes, Barros said Equifax plans to offer a free service by Jan. 31 that will “let consumers easily lock and unlock access to their Equifax credit files. You will be able to do this at will.”

With the service, he said, “the cybercrime business will become a lot more difficult.”

Equifax’s efforts come as the Atlanta credit-tracking firm faces a storm surge of investigations, lawsuits and consumer complaints about its handling of the hacking scandal, one of the worst any company in the U.S. has faced.

Next week, former Equifax CEO Rick Smith is expected to be grilled before Senate and House committees looking into the breach.

>> Related: Report: Equifax hacked months earlier than previously admitted

Some lawmakers are calling for “clawbacks” of Equifax executives’ pay. Smith, who retired Tuesday, leaves the company with at least $48.9 million in stock awards and benefits accumulated during his 12-year tenure at the company.

Barros said the company is also extending the deadlines to the end of January for the free credit freezes and credit monitoring services it offered in the wake of the hacking incident. The company initially set up a one-month sign-up window after the data theft was disclosed on Sept. 7.

>> Related: Clark Howard: 10 things you need to know about the Equifax data breach

Afterwards, panicked consumers swamped Equifax's call center and website. Many said they weren't able to sign up, or Equifax's employees couldn't answer some questions. Thursday, Equifax's website indicated the problems continue.

“We are currently experiencing difficulties with our TrustedID website. As a result, the site may be unavailable periodically, and we are working hard to help reduce interruptions,” the company said on its website.

Barros said the company is working on fixing its website and adding more call center employees and additional training.

“We have to see this breach as a turning point — not just for Equifax, but for everyone interested in protecting personal data,” he said.

 

Netflix, iTunes email scams targeting bank account info, reports say

A new email scam is targeting Netflix and iTunes users in order to obtain access to their bank account info, according to multiple reports.

The Guardian reported that, according to a reader letter to its consumer division, an email that appears to be from Netflix warns users that their Netflix accounts are on hold.

>> Read more trending news

“A link in the email takes users to a fake Netflix page, where you are invited to input your bank details. It is realistic and will no doubt catch out a few people whose bank card has just expired,” a user said in a Tuesday letter to the publication.

WGN also reported about the phishing scam stateside, saying that customers are told that their payment details need to be updated because of a billing error, the Monday report said.

The email may ask for updated bank information to be emailed, and in other cases, it may link to a fake website requesting bank information.

similar scam was reported in January.

Similarly, WFLA reported that the iTunes scam claims someone is making unauthorized purchases from the user’s account and requests login information to correct it. That way, the user’s Apple ID and password are stored on the scammer’s database.

Like any phishing scam, consumers are warned not to click on any links in the email.

According to the Netflix help center website, the company will never ask for personal information to be sent over email, including credit and debit card numbers and passwords.

“Netflix may email you to update this information with a link to our website, but be cautious of fake emails that may link to phishing websites. If you’re unsure about a link in an email, you can always hover your cursor over the link to see where it directs in which you can see the real linked web address at the bottom of most browsers,” the website reads.

Suspicious emails can be reported to Netflix by forwarding them to phishing@netflix.com and deleting the email. The message and header information should be included in the forwarded email. More information on reporting suspicious emails to the company are at the Netflix website.

Apple says users who suspect a phishing attempt can forward the suspeicous email, including header information, to reportphishing@apple.com. 

“If you believe that your Apple account (Apple ID) has been compromised, by phishing or otherwise, please sign in to the Apple ID page to change your password immediately,” the Apple support site reads.

More information is at the Apple Support site.

Equifax CEO is out after massive data breach

Equifax CEO Richard Smith is out after the credit bureau reported a massive data breach earlier this month.

>> Read more trending news

The move, described as a retirement, was made effective immediately on Tuesday. Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., the head of Equifax’s Asian operations, has been named interim CEO, and board member Mark Feidler has been named non-executive chairman.

Officials with the Atlanta-based credit reporting and technology company said a “cyber security incident” might have exposed the personal information of 143 million Americans.

Hackers exploited a software glitch to gain access to the trove of personal data, the company said. Equifax disclosed earlier this month that the data breach was discovered in July and believed to have taken place from mid-May to July.

>> Related: Equifax, software maker blame each other for opening door to hackers

The data believed to have been accessed included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses.

In a statement, Feidler said, “The Board remains deeply concerned about and totally focused on the cybersecurity incident.”

“We are working intensely to support consumers and make the necessary changes to minimize the risk that something like this happens again,” he said. “We have formed a Special Committee of the Board to focus on the issues arising from the incident and to ensure that all appropriate actions are taken.”

Smith had been Equifax's CEO since 2005.

In a statement, Smith called his tenure at Equifax “an honor, and I’m indebted to the 10,000 Equifax employees who have dedicated their lives to making this a better company.”

Although many analysts had applauded Equifax's performance under Smith, he and the rest of his management team had come under fire for lax security and its response to the breach.

Smith is expected to testify before Congress in early October.

>> Related: Equifax apologizes for sending people to fake company website 

WSBTV obtained video of the Smith speaking to students and faculty at the University of Georgia last month, after the company’s massive data breach occurred but before the company disclosed it.

The company didn’t disclose the breach until Sept. 7.

The Associated Press, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Could flood-ravaged Houston become jackpot spot for HGTV?

The thousands of flood-damaged homes across southeast Texas could bring a boom to at least one Lone Star industry.

>> Read more trending news 

Some real estate investors are counseling buyers to purchase homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey, pay for the repairs and then resell them, according to Reuters.

These property “flippers,” as they’re known in the industry, expect to take advantage of a tight housing market, especially in Houston, to reap a potentially substantial profit, Reuters reported.

Ray Sasser, a real estate investor and advisor, followed a similar plan advisors are currently reemploying to attract the home front venturers when Tropical Storm Allison struck Houston in 2001.

He bought several homes -- some for as low as 30 percent of their market value -- selling many of them a year later at full market price.

RELATED: Houston suburb tops best value neighborhoods list

At a recent Houston real estate seminar, Sasser revealed his plan to purchase 50 flooded homes for pennies on the dollar, invest 15 to 20 percent for repairs, aiming to then turn them back onto the market in a short time.

With an estimated 268,000 homes suffering some damage due to the floods, what was a tragedy for a significant number of Houstonian homeowners may be a lucrative opportunity for eager flippers.

Many homeowners may consider walking away from their damaged homes with whatever cash they can get, so flippers can buy properties at near-record-low levels.

Meanwhile, the tight nationwide housing market, combined with Houston’s diverse economy and growing population, are creating ideal conditions for flippers to find buyers.

As new homes go up on the old sites, flippers may also be looking at quick sales for prices at or near full market value.

RELATED: Some Houston neighborhoods better for investment return than others

For homeowners looking to sell their damaged homes, the Better Business Bureau posted some advice on how to avoid scams on its website, including the following:

  • Checking if the company has a local office
  • Meeting in person at the buyer’s office to learn about their processes
  • Avoiding paying any “application fees” or “processing fees”
  • Contacting the buyer’s lender to see if they have the funds to complete the purchase
  • Examining the contract to ensure that the seller is no longer obligated to make mortgage payments

Read more at Reuters.

Equifax apologizes for sending people to fake company website

Equifax linked people to a fake online site that mimicked the link for its own site on its massive Sept. 7 security breach that affected 143 million Americans.

>> Read more trending news

After the breach, which involved Social Security numbers and other key identifying information, Equifax set up a site, equifaxsecurity2017.com, that directed people to information on the hacking incident and links to sign up for free credit monitoring and other protections the company is offering.

But in several tweets in recent days, a company employee directed people to a fake site that flipped the name of the site and sent people to a similar-appearing site.

>> Related: Clark Howard: 10 things you need to know about the Equifax data breach

Rather than being a phishing site that could have reaped unsuspecting folks’ personal data yet again, it was set up by Nick Sweeting, a software engineer, according to news reports.

People who clicked on the link got this headline: “Cybersecurity Incident & Important Consumer Information Which is Totally Fake, Why Did Equifax Use A Domain That’s So Easily Impersonated By Phishing Sites?”

>> Related: Report: Feds investigating top Equifax executives’ stock trading

Sweeting told the New York Times his site received more than 200,000 hits before he took it down Wednesday evening.

Equifax apologized for the mistake. “All posts using the wrong link have been taken down. To confirm, the correct website is https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. We apologize for the confusion,” the company said in a statement.

The company also warned people to watch for fake websites and emails targeting Equifax customers and people responding to the hacking incident.

“These scams, designed to capture personal information (known as “phishing”) are designed to appear as if they are from Equifax and the emails may link to websites purporting to be operated by Equifax,” said the company.

Death Wish coffee recalled over botulism concerns

Death Wish Coffee Company, a New York-based coffee producer that advertises itself as maker of the “world’s strongest coffee,” is recalling some of its products over concerns that it could become tainted with the deadly botulin toxin.

>> Read more trending news

Officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a notice issued Tuesday that 11-ounce cans of Death Wish Nitro Cold Brew were being recalled after the company determined that the process used to make the drinks “could lead to the growth and production of the deadly toxin botulin.”

Botulism is a potentially fatal form of food poisoning that can cause dizziness, double-vision, difficulty breathing, weakness and constipation, among other symptoms.

Company officials said in a notice posted to the Death Wish Coffee website that the recall was issued as a precaution and that no illnesses have been reported in connection to the drinks.

“Our customers’ safety is of paramount importance,” Death Wish Coffee Co. owner Mike Brown said in a statement. He said the recall was a “proactive step to ensure that the highest quality, safest and, of course, strongest coffee products we produce are of industry-exceeding standards.”

The process used to make the canned coffee, which is infused with nitrogen, is relatively new and little regulated, according to company officials. Death Wish Coffee Co. tested its method for producing the drinks for nearly four months, with the help of an outside process authority, before it got a recommendation to tweak its manufacturing process to ensure no botulin toxins are produced.

According to company officials, “With any nitrogen-based products on the market there is a remote possibility of the risk of Clostridium botulinum, a serious pathogen that can lead to the growth and production of the deadly toxin botulin in low-acid foods commercialized in reduced oxygen packaging.”

Death Wish Coffee Co. has halted production of its Nitro Cold Brew drinks as it adjusts its manufacturing process. Officials noted that, despite the concerns, “the company has passed all FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and state inspections since its founding.”

Any customers who have cans of Death Wish Nitro Cold Brew are asked to dispose of the drink or return it for a full refund.

UPS hiring 95,000 workers nationwide

Not far ahead of the holiday season, UPS is gearing up for an increase in the number of deliveries and services associated with the busy fall and winter months. 

The company announced Wednesday a plan to hire 95,000 employees across the country. 

>> Read more trending news

The company will offer part- and full-time seasonal jobs, primarily package handlers, drivers and driver-helpers.

According to a news release, seasonal jobs often lead to longer-term positions with UPS, and up to 35 percent of employees hired seasonally over the last three years now have permanent jobs with the company.

“Our seasonal jobs often lead to permanent employment and even careers for some,” UPS CEO David Abney said in the release. “We offer flexible shifts and full- and part-time positions. If you are a student, a working mom or just looking to make extra money for the holidays, we have a job for you.”

Abney and other members of UPS leadership started their careers at the company as part-time workers. 

Seasonal and part-time UPS employees who become full-time permanent workers at the company are eligible for healthcare and retirement benefits, and employees enrolled in college are eligible to receive up to $25,000 in tuition assistance.

Apply for a job at UPS here.

Amazon building smart glasses powered by Alexa, report says

Amazon is working on its first wearable device: a pair of smart glasses that would allow its virtual assistant Alexa to be summoned any time, anywhere, according to the Financial Times.

>> Amazon baby registry emails baffle customers who aren't expecting

The device, which would tether wirelessly to a smartphone, is designed to look like a regular pair of spectacles so it can be worn comfortably and unobtrusively, sources told the Times.

>> Read more trending news

A bone-conduction audio system would allow the wearer to hear Alexa without having to insert headphones into their ears.

Read more here.

Amazon baby registry emails baffle customers who aren't expecting

Many people online said they received notices Tuesday about gifts being purchased for their Amazon baby registry.

Problem is, in many cases the customers who received the notices said they don't have a registry – or a baby on the way.

“We are notifying affected customers," an Amazon spokeswoman said Tuesday evening. "A technical glitch caused us to inadvertently send a gift alert e-mail earlier today. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”

>> Read more trending news

“Hello Amazon Customer,” the screengrab of one of the messages read. “Someone great recently purchased a gift for your baby registry! You can visit your Thank You List to easily track all gifts purchased. PS: Remember some Gifters like when it’s still a surprise.”

There was a box where users could click through to a "Thank You List."

Many people who received the message tweeted about it with the hashtag #amazonbaby. Read some of the tweets below:

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