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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:

More than 440,000 Dodge Ram trucks recalled due to fire hazard

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the company that manufactures Dodge vehicles, is recalling an estimated 443,712 heavy-duty pick up trucks in the U.S. because of a potential fire hazard.

Tuesday news release from the company said FCA will inspect water pumps for the vehicles and replace them if necessary.

>> Read more trending news

“Affected are model-year 2013-17 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups; and 3500, 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs,” the release said. The recall is limited to trucks with 6.7-liter engines. Some may also be recalled in Canada and other markets.

“Customer feedback prompted an FCA US investigation that discovered certain trucks are equipped with a water-pump bearing that, after exposure to certain conditions, may overheat and potentially cause an engine-compartment fire,” the company said.

“Affected customers will be advised when service becomes available,” the release said.

The water pump involved in the recall is no longer equipped on vehicles, according to the release.

According to the FCA, a warning light may be activated in the vehicle if the water pump function is compromised.

“(I)n accordance with (the) regulatory definition, which includes everything from a burning odor to open flame, we are aware of a small number of such incidents. Of these, a smaller number involved damage – none of which extended beyond the immediate area of the water pump,” a company spokesman told Detroit Free Press.

Those with questions can visit the FCA website or call the FCA US Recall Information Center at (800)-853-1403. 

Toys 'R' Us and 10 other retailers that have filed for bankruptcy in 2017

Toys ‘R’ Us has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the company announced Monday, according to CNBC. 

>> Toys ‘R’ Us files for bankruptcy: 3 things to know

The iconic toy chain is just one of many businesses to suffer this year. Retailers have closed hundreds of stores, filed for bankruptcy protection and reorganized massive debt loads throughout 2017.

>> On DaytonDailyNews.com: Toys ‘R’ Us, as anticipated, files for Chapter 11 protection

Companies like The Limited and Gander Mountain announced this year that they would file bankruptcy — shuttering stores and laying off thousands of workers.

>> Read more trending news

Some of the companies to announce bankruptcies this year include the following:

1. The Limited

The women’s clothing store announced in early January that it would close all brick-and-mortar stores, and later its parent company filed for bankruptcy. The parent company of women’s clothing store The Limited filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Court, and the store website has been taken offline.

2. Gymboree

Children’s clothing retailer Gymboree Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June, the latest sign of traditional retailers’ struggles as shoppers shun stores and buy online. The San Francisco-based company says it is seeking to reduce its debt by $900 million. It expects to operate its business and majority of its 1,300 stores during the restructuring.

3. BCBGMAXAZRIA

The company, which owns BCBGMAXAZRIA, said in March it filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The company obtained a commitment of $45 million from loan lenders in new financing and filed its plan of reorganization.

4. Wet Seal

Teen clothing retailer Wet Seal abruptly closed all of its 148 brick-and-mortar stores in early 2017. According to a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the retailer is permanently shutting down and will lay off all of its workers. The company is headquartered in California. In 2015, Wet Seal closed 338 of its 511 stores and filed for bankruptcy protection. Versa Capital then acquired the brand for $7.5 million in April 2015.

5. RadioShack

The chain retailer announced in March it was filing for bankruptcy and closing about 200 of its stores and evaluating what to do with the remaining 1,300. This isn’t the first time RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy. 

6. hhgregg

Appliance store hhgregg announced in March it was closing 88 stores and laying off 1,500 employees. A month later, the company received court approval to close its remaining stores and liquidate its assets.

7. Gander Mountain

Sporting goods retailer Gander Mountain Co. filed for bankruptcy in March. Gander Mountain and some of its subsidiaries filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code after the retailer “experienced traffic patterns and shifts in consumer demand resulting from increased direct-to-customer sales by key vendors and accelerated growth of e-commerce,” according to a company statement.

8. MC Sports

MC Sports, legally known as Michigan Sporting Goods Distributors, announced in February its plans to begin liquidation sales of all of its 68 stores. 

9. Aerosoles

AGI HoldCo Inc., which owns Aerosoles stores, has filed for bankruptcy and plans to keep just four stores open in New York and New Jersey. The stores sell women’s shoes. The company expects the restructuring process to be completed in approximately four months.

10. Payless

Kansas-based Payless ShoeSource announced in April that it would close nearly 400 underperforming locations in the U.S. Payless’ North American entities, and two of its Hong Kong-based entities, filed voluntary Chapter 11 petitions in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Report: Feds investigating top Equifax executives’ stock trading

The Department of Justice is investigating three top Equifax executives’ stock trades to see whether they violated insider trading laws, according to a media report Monday.

>> Read more trending news

Bloomberg reported that the federal agency probe is focused on Equifax’s chief financial officer and the presidents of two business units who sold a combined $1.8 million in stock in early August, days after the company learned of a massive security breach, but before it was made public.

A company representative said the executives “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time.”

But company officials told investors that they had “promptly” informed their board of directors of the incident.

>> Related: Federal probe launched after Equifax data breach

Typically, top executives at public corporations use pre-programmed stock sales through a so-called 10b5-1 plan to avoid accusations of illegal insider trading. But the three executives’ stock sale disclosures filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicate that their stock sales were not pre-scheduled.

Earlier this month, Equifax, one of the nation’s three key credit-tracking bureaus, disclosed that hackers stole Social Security numbers and other sensitive information of 143 million people.

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

Equifax said the breach occurred from mid-May to late July, when it was discovered. The executives sold their stock a few days later, in early August.

The company has been swamped with consumers’ efforts to freeze their credit profiles in the wake of the data breach, according to consumer experts and people who have tried.

Friday, Equifax announced that two top executives were retiring, but none were among the three who disclosed large stock sales after the data breach.

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