Vacation Rental Scams on the Rise in Florida
Mar30

Vacation Rental Scams on the Rise in Florida

Travelers are being warned against vacation rental scams as they plan their spring or summer break. Property manager Joyce Gonzales of the Sand Pearl Residences in Clearwater Beach, FL, has had to turn away more than five families who traveled to Florida with the promise that their vacation rental would be waiting for them. Unfortunately for these vacationers, they were victims of a costly scam. Michigan mom Shelly Stamis responded to an online advertisement for a vacation home at only $200 a night. “We looked at the pictures, and it was right on the beach, and it was definitely in our price zone, so we booked it,” she told NBC News. Shelly sent $1,500 to a bank account in Florida only to find that the home had never been for rent. Florida has become the top travel destination in the world, with 87.3 million tourists in 2011 alone. Yet due to the high demand for lodging, vacation rental scams are on the rise in the area. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, these scams ended up costing Americans over $1 billion last year, with 15 million scam reservations made. Scammers are copying descriptions and photos of listings from Realtor websites and creating their own advertisements on sites like Craigslist. The unsuspecting traveler responds to the ad, and the scammer tells them to put down a deposit to secure their reservation. This money gets sent to a PayPal account, mailed to an address, or even deposited into legitimate bank accounts for fake businesses. Police are finding it difficult to make arrests in cases like these. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi reports, “It’s a tremendous problem here in Florida. If they’re located in our state, we’re going to go after them with everything we’ve got. But, unfortunately, a lot of [the scammers] are out of the country.” Authorities recommend the following tips to avoid falling for a scam: Search for the property on Google to see if it exists on any legitimate real estate site. If it does, contact the property manager via the information found on that site, and not through Craigslist. Use a credit card that has a fraud prevention guarantee. Check the prices of other rentals in the area. If they are more expensive, it may be a...

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McDonald’s Hinting Towards Cheaper and More Nutritious Menu Options with New Trademark Slogan
Mar29

McDonald’s Hinting Towards Cheaper and More Nutritious Menu Options with New Trademark Slogan

McDonald’s food will never be confused with organic homemade cooking, but the fast-food chain has been looking for ways to change its unhealthy image for quite some time. Now, the company is registering a new trademark slogan that could help with its re-branding process. According to Ragan’s PR Daily, McDonald’s recently filed a U.S. trademark registration for the slogan, “The Simpler the Better.” Marketing professionals and consumers have already begun to speculate that the new slogan could signify a massive upheaval of the restaurant’s menu to include healthier options. While the registration did raise some eyebrows in the industry, the fast-food giant may just be covering their bases by trademarking slogans for potential future use. However, McDonald’s is staying mum on their intentions behind the slogan — for now. “We routinely file intent-to-use trademark applications as part of our regular course of business. We can’t share details at this time as to how this trademark may or may not be used,” a McDonald’s spokesperson said. It typically takes about 10 to 14 months to get a U.S. federally registered trademark, so the menu changes being tied to the new slogan wouldn’t hit restaurants until at least 2017. McDonald’s has already been testing several healthier items in select markets across the country for months, including a “Simple Delights” menu that features options under 300 calories. The trademark could also be McDonald’s response to growing frustration from its franchisees, who have complained that the chain’s complex menu is hindering employee productivity. If implemented, “The Simpler the Better” could signify shorter food preparation times, allowing employees to perform other duties around the restaurant. The consensus seems to be that McDonald’s is just implementing its bureaucratic right to trademark something that they may use in the future. As Business Insider recently reported, this certainly would not be the first time that McDonald’s registered a trademark that never saw the light of day. In 2014, the company trademarked the phrase, “Lovin’ > Hating,” which prompted the ire of consumers who didn’t appreciate math symbols in their fast-food slogans. In 2012, McDonald’s finally canceled its trademark of the phrase, “I am Asian,” which was registered in 2004 as part of a campaign to reach Asian-American consumers. There were also The McCruncher (a budget burger topped with crispy onions,) The McEgg (a burger topped with a steamed egg,) and dozens of other failed “McItems.” McDonald’s has sparingly used most of these failed slogans and products, so “The Simpler the Better” could soon be added to this dubious...

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Universal Studios to Open Toothsome Chocolate Factory

Chocolate lovers worldwide rejoice! Universal Studios in Orlando, FL, just announced that it is building its very own chocolate factory. Called the “Toothsome Chocolate Factory,” the gigantic building will be a monument to all things chocolate. So far, many who have heard the news have been quick to associate the Toothsome Chocolate Factory with “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory,” the stuff of Roald Dahl’s imagination that has been cinematically retold on more than one occasion. But so far, Universal Studios has made no mention of Willy Wonka. Instead, Universal Studios revealed that the Toothsome Chocolate Factory’s design was inspired by Steampunk, a subculture that combines a healthy mix of science fiction and Victorian engineering. That being said, the factory will feature 19th century decor with “towering smoke stacks, funky gadgetry, and staff wearing unique Steampunk fashion.” Either way, for the global population that consumes 7.2 million metric tons of chocolate per year, the soon-to-be chocolate cathedral is quite the dream come true. According to comicbook.com, the factory, located on City Walk, will largely be a restaurant. So far, it seems that the menu is dazzlingly chocolate-y with menu items like a cupcake topped milkshake and a bacon brittle dessert. While it sounds mostly like a glorified dessert restaurant so bar, Universal revealed that the restaurant will also offer a fair share of savory items, like all-day brunch, burgers, steak and pasta. Just like in Willy Wonka’s factory, visitors will be able to watch chocolate confections being made real-time. Unfortunately, there’s been no mention of a chocolate river or Oompa Loompas. So far, there’s no definitive date for the opening of the Toothsome Chocolate Factory. In the meantime, chocolate lovers and fans will wait with bated...

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Not Enough Salt Could Can Harm People Who Exercise
Mar23

Not Enough Salt Could Can Harm People Who Exercise

Excessive sweating can pose many problems for people, but monitoring those sweat levels can be just as important. Exercise obviously has tremendous benefits for people, but too much exercise resulting in too much perspiration can be detrimental. Dr. Jordan Metzel, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, says that although too much sodium is dangerous, it’s important for those who sweat a lot to make sure they’re not getting too little sodium. As the Financial Times reports, when people are exercising in hot and humid temperatures, they sweat a lot, and much of that sweat is salt being sweat out of the body. Too much sweat leaving the body can result in hyponatremia, which can cause nausea, headache, fatigue, and hospitalization for the worst cases. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, those who sweat a lot are encouraged to get enough salt and have to be careful about the amount of electrolyte liquids they take in. “Electrolyte replacement,” the journal added, “will slow but not prevent the development of hyponotremia if fluid intake is in gross excess of sweating rate.” Simply just drinking more water can actually make matters worse. The water dilutes the salt in blood, making the sweat and salt leave the body even faster. Along with the necessary liquids, the clothes that athletes choose to wear can prevent too much sweat from leaving the body as well. An athlete wearing viscose clothing produces 1.5 times more sweat than someone wearing linen clothes. Additionally, many people who remain active have to monitor their blood pressure more frequently than others. According to HealthDay, a new invention that can monitor blood levels via sweat is in development. Published this week in Nature Nanotechnology, a study was done at Seoul National University where two humans wore a wrist band that secured tightly around their skin and successfully determined their blood sugar levels. The researchers hope this new device will be available in a few years. People with heart conditions should consult their doctor before increasing their salt...

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A Typo Stopped a $1 Billion Heist From the U.S. Federal Reserve
Mar18

A Typo Stopped a $1 Billion Heist From the U.S. Federal Reserve

In Hollywood, daring bank heists are perpetrated by masked men in black, rappelling from wires, hacking the mainframe, and making a speedy getaway with only seconds to spare. But in the 21st century, even bank robbers are going digital. This March, hackers in Bangladesh pulled off a massive, $101 million cyber bank heist that spanned the globe. The unidentified hackers reportedly breached the Bangladesh central bank, posed as Bangladeshi officials with stolen credentials, then sent a series of transfer requests to the New York Federal Reserve. According to a Federal reserve spokesperson, the transfer requests went through legitimate channels and complied with their authentication protocols. In total, the Fed transferred $101 million to Asian bank accounts in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The heist almost turned into a $1 billion disaster, but the thieves accidentally set off red flags by making a simple spelling error. Reuters reported that “The hackers misspelled the name of a Sri Lankan non-governmental organisation, writing ‘foundation’ as ‘fandation’. That prompted a routing bank to query the transaction and led to the crime being stopped.” In the United States, police respond to an estimated 38 million alarm activations annually, of which 94-98% are false alarms. But this may be the first case of a common typo acting as a final warning system. Now, Bangladesh’s finance minister is pointing fingers at the U.S. Federal Reserve, while admitting that Bangladesh Bank failed to promptly report the crime to authorities. Today, the world’s largest banks transfer massive amounts of money using services like SWIFT, a Belgian-based, “member-owned cooperative that banks use for account transfer requests and other secure messages.” A Fed spokesperson said, “The payment instructions in question were fully authenticated by the SWIFT messaging system in accordance with standard authentication protocols. The Fed has been working with the central bank since the incident occurred, and will continue to provide assistance as appropriate.” These transfer systems have opened up new frontiers for bank robbers, who can hack into banks and steal millions while hiding behind a computer screen on the other side of the...

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