29 Sep

Credit monitoring services doing more harm than good?

With stories of identity theft surfacing daily, it’s no wonder that consumers want to be able to keep an eye on their credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

But there can be a hidden problem with these credit monitoring services. Each time your credit is checked by a third party, it lowers your credit score a little. If you personally check your credit, there is no impact.

The problem is that some of these credit monitoring services allow you to check your credit daily, and they count as a third party check. That means every time you check your credit, you’re lowering your credit score. Read More

28 Sep

Mark Cuban and Sharesleuth.com: Good or bad idea?

Wired Magazine featured an article on Mark Cuban and his Sharesleuth.com website. In theory, it kind of sounds like a good idea. Mark and company think that the media has given up critically examining public companies. They think there are many red flags with companies, but that the press never reports a lot of them. They believe positive press has taken over.

So Mark Cuban started Sharesleuth to “investigate” public companies. In its first year, negative reports on two companies were posted: Xethanol and Utek. Indeed, four weeks after the reports were published, each company’s stock was down 39% and 36%, respectively. Read More

27 Sep

Lowes tries to shut down Lowes-sucks.com

This was reported on Ars Technica, and the writer is pointing out the misuse of intellectual property laws in attempting to shut down Lowes-sucks.com.

I have a special interest in this topic, since I have a website called Pink Truth. When the site was started a little over a year ago, it was called Mary Kay Sucks. I know, I know. I’m entitled to say it, but eventually I wondered if I was inviting trouble like the kind that Lowes dished out. When I started the site… I didn’t really have a mission or goal with it, and I had no idea it would become as popular as it is, so I didn’t think there was a problem with the name. A few months into it, I changed the name to Pink Truth.

The site in question proclaims boldly that Lowe’s Home Improvements Sucks. Lowes-sucks.com was started by a dissatisfied customer. The customer, Allen Harkleroad, had a fence installed by a “professional” from Lowe’s, but later saw that the $3,500 fee got him bad workmanship and an unstable fence. Lowe’s offered to fix the fence, and Harkleroad said he wouldn’t pay his outstanding balance until it was fixed. Lowe’s responded by turning his account over to collections.

How did Lowe’s decide to fight this bad PR? They sued for trademark infringement. How does that work? They accused him of unauthorized use of Lowe’s trademarks on his site, and that his use of them “…distorts the goodwill of LF’s federally-registered trademarks, and constitutes infringement of LF’s trademark rights.” Ars Technica notes that Harkleroad did not even have any of the company’s logos on his site, but merely used the company’s name to identify who he was complaining about.

Lowe’s made a settlement offer this week, and Harkleroad wrote this on his site:

My thanks to Lowe’s for allowing us to (possibly) come to a mutually acceptable agreement for both parties, that is of course if this all gets finalized as I do believe it will. If it does this will be the last post or comment I make about the issue on this web site.

Harkleroad has since made a counteroffer for settlement, but had not heard back as of the publishing of the article. His attorney wisely points out that trademark laws are meant to protect consumers, but not to stop consumers from talking about their experience with the owner of the trademark.

Instead of fixing the problems being pointed out on the website, the company tries to find a creative way to quiet the messenger. Nice work, Mr. Harkleroad.

26 Sep

Patrick Byrne and his three stooges

Last week, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Bryne celebrated an apparent victory in court. Overstock is suing Gradient Analytics and Rocker Partners over some negative reports that were issued about Overstock. Of course, the negative reports weren’t negative because Overstock is a crappy company. No, the negative reports were negative simply because there is a Sith Lord conspiracy against Overstock.

So Byrne was busy doing his happy dance over this court ruling that allowed Overstock’s lawsuit to proceed. We’ll see how happy that ends up for Overstock, though, as there will certainly be some interesting things revealed when discovery begins and depositions are taken. Read More

25 Sep

Steroid Ring Involving 37 Chinese Companies

The Drug Enforcement Administration now estimates that 99% of illegal steroids being with chemicals from China. “Operation Raw Deal,” related to illegal steroids has resulted in 124 arrests and the identification of 37 companies in China supplying the drugs.

Those arrested have been charged with distributing chemicals acquired in China and with setting up labs in their homes to turn these chemicals into pills and injectable liquid steroids. The chemicals in question are illegal to purchase without a prescription and cannot be sold without a DEA license to do so.

The federal authorities conducted 143 search warrants and seized $6.5 million in cash, 25 vehicles, 3 boats, 27 pill presses, and 71 weapons.

The DEA identified many unrelated distribution rings, and says that there is not a “kingpin” related to this investigation. As with many modern crimes, the perpetrators were using the anonymity of the internet to further their crimes.