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Adopt, Don’t Shop: City Attorney Warns Public of Holiday Puppy Scams

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LOS ANGELES — Focusing on protecting holiday shoppers, City Attorney Mike Feuer warns would-be dog dads and dog moms about online puppy-selling scams, which have increased substantially in recent months. Many online pet sales are run by criminal organizations.

Joined by LA City Animal Services’ General Manager Brenda Barnette, and eight-week old Dancer, Dasher and Comet, he encouraged people looking for a new fur-baby to adopt and not shop.

“The cuddly pictures will steal your heart, but the criminals behind these puppy scams will steal your money, sometimes into the thousands,” said Feuer. “Most victims who are swindled never get a puppy at all, others get different dogs with health or genetic problems, and the majority of victims are too embarrassed to come forward. Puppy scams are one more reason to adopt and not shop.”

“If you are ready to add more love to your life and are considering a new dog or cat, visit one of our six Los Angeles City Animal Care Centers and meet some of our fantastic shelter guests who are hoping you will give them a home of their own before the holidays,” said Barnette. “The adoption fee for a dog is only $122 and includes vaccinations, a microchip, a city dog license and all pets are spayed or neutered. These great pets will repay you with joy for years to come.”

Puppy selling scams are simple. The scammer purports to offer dogs for sale via a custom website and ads on Facebook, Craigslist and other platforms. They interact with victims by email, text or over the phone to convince them they have a pet to sell. Once the victim is emotionally invested, they are easier to scam.  

After the victim pays for the puppy, the scammer creates a website they claim the consumer can use to track the pet’s delivery. The victim is given a bogus tracking number too, which continues to make the scam seem legitimate. But, a day later, the victim typically receives an email saying delivery has been delayed, and that the victim is now on the hook for any number of new fees – delivery fees, cage fees, vaccinations, as well as other charges. The scammers’ delivery website is updated with this information too, which, again, continues to give the impression that the sale is legitimate.

If the victim pays the fees, the scammers often demand additional fees, until the victim either can no longer afford to pay or realizes they’ve been taken. By this time, the loss to the victim could be in the thousands. 

Once the victim stops paying, the scammers sometimes threaten them with “animal abandonment.” Some will go so far as to create an additional website replicating one from law enforcement to frighten the victim and they will continue to email, text and phone the victim to try to get them to pay more money.

Nationwide, the City Attorney’s Office has identified approximately 4,500 complaints about puppy scams and almost 400 in California. According to a report by the BBB, experts believe at least 80% of the sponsored advertising links that appear in an internet search for pets may be fraudulent. These scams are common for cats, horses and birds, too. 

City Attorney Feuer offers the following red flags to avoid being puppy-scammed:

  • The asking price is far below the normal rate for that breed.
  • The seller won’t let you meet the puppy in person or see him on a video call. 
  • The seller insists on shipping the pup and won’t let you pick him up in person. 
  • The seller requires payment by money transfer, such as Western Union, prepaid debit cards or via Zelle, an app that consumers have reported has been unwilling to refund fees for fraudulent transactions with puppy scammers.
  • Pictures of the puppy or the text of the ad can be found on other sites – use Google image search to check for other sites that have the same image of the pet that is being offered.  

To search for adoptable dogs and cats sheltered with LA Animal Services, visit them online. For more information on avoiding puppy scams, visit Pet Scams which also has a list of over 8,000 websites they’ve identified as scam sites. You can also check BBB Business Profiles for complaints and customer reviews before you make the purchase as well as doing other internet searches to see if there are complaints about the seller.

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Consumer News

Trump’s Iran Conflict Has Americans Shopping for Bunkers

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Trump's Iran Conflict Has Americans Shopping for Bunkers

(TMZ) –The United States conflict with Iran has had Americans freaked the f**k out lately — and, accordingly, they’ve been looking far and wide to burrow themselves underground.

TMZ spoke with some of the best bunker retailers in the biz, and wouldn’t you know it … they say their sales and window shoppers have gone through the roof over the past week or so as missiles and nuke threats have been flying back and forth in the Middle East.

Let’s start with Rising S — which hawks pretty pricey shelters, ranging from $45k to a whopping $1 million. They tell us bunkers have been selling like hotcakes since Trump took out Gen. Soleimani. RS says they’ve sold 17 bomb shelters since then. A recent uptick of 150%.

Next is Hardened Structures … which sells some of the most expensive shelters — in the multi-million dollar range. Your average Joe probably can’t afford ’em, but they say they’ve had 12 inquires of late. Another surge.

President Trump says “the missiles fired last night (by Iran) were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.”

Then we got a company called Vivos, which tells us they’ve had 1,000-plus inquiries for products in the last week alone, and 300-plus in a 24-hour period. They’ve even sold 20 “spots” in shelter communities they operate. Pretty wild, huh?

Here’s another crazy thing … all of the places we contacted say most of their recent potential buyers have cited Iran as the reason they were in the market.

We circled back after DT’s Tuesday AM speech, which seemed to be an attempt to deescalate things. Nonetheless, nobody’s canceled.

Take cover, y’all!!!

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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Consumer News

WeHo Tech Company Shows Off Water-Proof Earbuds at CES 2020

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WEST HOLLYWOOD — For 2020, EarFun will be releasing its second pair of headphones- the Air, a next-generation True Wireless earbuds experience serving as an enhanced version of their critically-acclaimed earbuds, the EarFun Free.

CNET selected the EarFun Free as one of the Best True Wireless Earbuds of 2019, and it was also recommended by both CNET and PCMag as a budget-conscious alternative to other brands.

The new earbuds have been recognized by CES 2020 (Consumer Electronics Show- in Las Vegas this year) for featuring proprietary water-proofing technology, a substantial improvement over the basic design requirements needed to achieve IPX7 certification, all designed by EarFun’s R&D. Attendees can get a sneak peek at the new earbuds.

Just over a year ago, EarFun emerged from the plethora of small audio brands. What has separated them from the newcomers is how quickly EarFun has solidified themselves as a curator of value-conscious audio. 

“We wanted to create something very comfortable for casual listening and secure enough for physical sports or exercise” said Directing head of EarFun, CEO and Founder White Wong, “Our research and development team have been dedicated to achieving a combination consisting of a perfect fit that is wireless and convenient, and produces great sound all at an affordable price.”

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California

New Year, New Data Privacy Rights: CA Setting the Standard for Consumers

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SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has issued an advisory for consumers highlighting their new rights as part of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into in effect on January 1, 2020.

The advisory describes consumers’ basic privacy rights under the CCPA and methods for consumers to exercise those rights, information about the data broker registry, and new guidelines related to data security. Enforcement of CCPA is the responsibility of the Office of the Attorney General.

“Knowledge is power, and in today’s world knowledge is derived from data. When it comes to your own data, you should be in control,” said Attorney General Becerra.

“In California we are rebalancing the power dynamic by putting power back in the hands of consumers. I encourage all Californians to take a moment to understand their new rights and exercise these rights to take control of their personal data.” 

CCPA grants new rights to California consumers

  • Right to know – Consumers may request that businesses disclose what personal information is collected, used, shared or sold by the business, in both categories and specific pieces of information;
  • Right to delete — Consumers may request that a business delete the consumer’s personal information held by both the business and by extension, the business’s service providers;
  • Right to opt-out —Consumers may direct a business to cease the sale of the consumer’s personal information. As required by the law, businesses must provide a “Do Not Sell” information link on their websites or mobile apps;
  • Rights for minors regarding opt-in consent — Children under the age of 16 must provide opt-in consent, with a parent or guardian consenting for children under 13; and
  • Right to non-discrimination — Businesses may not discriminate against consumers in terms of price or service when a consumer exercises a privacy right under CCPA.

Businesses subject to CCPA

Not all California businesses are subject to CCPA. A business is subject to CCPA if the business:

  • Has gross annual revenue in excess of $25 million;
  • Buys, receives, or sells the personal information of 50,000 or more consumers, households, or devices; or
  • Derives 50 percent or more of its annual revenues from selling consumers’ personal information.

In addition, as proposed by the draft regulations, businesses that handle the personal information of more than four million consumers will have additional record-keeping obligations.

Data Broker Registry 

As required by California Civil Code section 1798.99.80, a data broker must register with the Attorney General at oag.ca.gov/data-broker/register. The law mandates that a data broker shall pay a registration fee and provide information including primary physical, email, and internet website addresses, as well as any additional information or explanation the data broker chooses to provide concerning its data collection practices. The registry is accessible to consumers.

Consumers’ private right of action in the case of a data breach 

Businesses are required to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices to protect consumers’ personal information, and CCPA authorizes a consumer to institute a civil action if their personal information, as defined in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of Section 1798.81.5 is subject to an unauthorized breach as a result of a business’s failure to reasonably secure this data.

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