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Is It Legal to Travel With Large Sums of Cash?

If you have $75,000 in cash, can you stuff it into a suitcase and board a plane with it?

One passenger actually did this. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Richmond International Airport discovered $75,000 in cash in a passenger's luggage during a security check. The question remains: is it legal to travel with that much cash?

Traveling with Cash

Although it may seem sketchy, it is perfectly legal to travel with any amount of cash -- even very large amounts. You could cram a million dollars into your purse if you wanted. There is no law against that as far as domestic flights are concerned.

If you're flying internationally with more than $10,000, you'll have to declare the amount to customs. Other than that, assuming customs approves your luggage, you can carry as much cash as you want.

Can the Government Take My Money?

While carrying large amounts of cash isn't necessarily illegal, you may run into trouble if the authorities believe the cash may be tied to illegal activity.

Since the TSA routinely finds evidence of criminal activity such as illegal drug trafficking or money laundering, don't be surprised when the TSA pays a little extra attention to your cash stash. TSA officers may question you about where you got the money, where you're taking it to, and why. You are not required to answer these questions, but not answering can result in delays.

If the TSA suspects that the cash may be linked to illegal activity, it will call in a law enforcement agency to investigate further.

In the case mentioned above, a law enforcement agency was called in to investigate the $75,000 found. The cash was seized, as allowed by laws governing civil asset forfeiture, and the traveler was allowed to continue on his flight.

Tips for Traveling

If you do decide to stash stacks of Benjamins in your luggage, here are some tips:

  • Ask TSA officials to screen you in a private location. You don't want everyone in line to know you're carrying a lot of cash.
  • Always keep cash and other valuables with you in a carry-on bag. Never leave such items in checked baggage.
  • Don't forget to declare the cash to customs if you're traveling internationally.

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Niagara Bottling Recalls Bottled Water: E.Coli

How a company can mess up bottling water is beyond my comprehension, but be careful when you open your next water bottle.

Niagara Bottling is recalling 14 brands of bottled water for possible E.coli contamination.

Here is what you need to know:

Niagara Bottling's Bottled Water

Niagara Bottling is recalling Acadia, Acme, Big Y, Best Yet, 7-11, Niagara, Nature's Place, Pricerite, Superchill, Morning Fresh, Shaws, Shoprite, Western Beef Blue, and Wegman's bottled water. The bottles were produced at two plants in Pennsylvania between June 10 and June 18.

Niagara Bottling announced the recall after one of the plant's operator failed to notify the company of an E.coli outbreak.

E.coli in Bottled Water?

E.coli, or Escherichia coli, is a bacteria that lives in the digestive tract of mammals. Most strains of E.coli are harmless. However, one particular strain, E.coli O157:H7, is one of the leading causes of food poisoning.

The bacteria spreads through livestock's fecal matter and can contaminate food and water sources. Once consumed, E.coli can cause severe bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and even kidney failure, strokes, and comas. While most healthy people will not experience severe symptoms, the bacteria can be deadly among infants and the elderly.

Niagara Bottling reports that the recall is motivated by an abundance of caution as no E.coli contamination has been detected in any of the water bottles recalled yet. Also, no complaints of injury or illnesses have been reported.

If you do have any recalled water bottles, the company recommends boiling the water to kill any bacteria first before use. Better yet, just use non-recalled bottled water.

If You Do Get E.coli

If you do get E.coli from Niagara's bottled water or from another source, you may have legal recourse. Producers who sell an infected product may be sued for strict liability, violation of express or implied warranty, or negligence. However, these cases can be complex and hard to prove, so contact an experienced personal injury attorney for help.

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Military Consumer Protection Act Would Protect Servicemembers

The armed forces take care of us, so it's only right that we take care of servicemembers. A group of senators are proposing new legislation that would protect U.S. servicemembers from abusive financial practices.

Nine Democrats have introduced legislation to allow the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to oversee and enforce provisions of the Servicemember Civil Relief Act (SCRA). That's a lot of acronyms, so let's take a look at how the new law would work.

New Powers

As it stands now, the CFPB does not have any direct enforcement authority for the SCRA, which has led to incomplete enforcement and many referrals of cases to the Department of Justice. Instead, the Military Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) would not only give the CFPRB enforcement power over SCRA provisions, it would make SCRA enforcement a long-term priority for the CFPB.

Under the MCPA, CFRB oversight and enforcement would be extended to ten provisions, including:

  • Future financial transactions, excluding insurance
  • Default judgments, excluding child custody proceedings
  • Interest rates on pre-service debts
  • Evictions
  • Purchase or lease installment contracts
  • Mortgages and trusts
  • Motor vehicle leases
  • Telephone service contracts
  • Waiver of rights pursuant to a written agreement, excluding bailments

Teaming Up

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created after the financial crisis of 2008 in an effort to protect consumers in financial markets, primarily covering mortgages, credit cards, and payday lenders. The CFPB can enforce federal consumer financial protection laws and restrict deceptive or unfair financial practices.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act was enacted to protect military service personnel from civil lawsuits while on active duty and for up to a year afterward. Together, the two acts would protect members of the military and their families from being taken advantage of in financial practices and products.

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Sawed-off Shotguns Legal in Indiana Starting July 1

Earlier this year, Indiana repealed a statewide ban on shotguns with less than an 18 inch barrel, also known as a sawed-off shotgun.

For all the gun enthusiasts out there, here is what you need to know.

What You Can Do

The law will go into effect on July 1st. Starting on that date, it will be legal to manufacture, sell. or own a sawed-off shotgun with barrels 18 inches or less in length. This will bring the law in line with current federal regulations that already allow sawed-off shotguns.

Before you get excited, residents who want a sawed-off shotgun must first undergo a background check and get a permit from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). A permit costs about $200 and can take up to six months to be approved.

What You Can't Do

Don't let the name fool you. Just because you may be eligible to own a sawed-off shotgun, doesn't mean that you can go into your garage on July 1st and saw the barrel of your shotgun to any length you like. That is still illegal. You could get up to 10 years in federal prison for illegally modifying a shotgun yourself.

If you do want a sawed-off shotgun, you must purchase one from a licensed manufacturer.

Other Provisions of the Law

In addition to allowing possession of a sawed-off shotgun, the new law also includes an enhancement provisions. An extra 10 years in prison will be added to a sentence if the defendant was in possession of a sawed-off shotgun in violation of federal law while committing certain crimes.

Similar Laws in Other States

Arizona may soon be following in Indiana's footsteps. Currently, Arizona's laws ban the possession of sawed-off shotguns. However, earlier this year, the state's Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow residents to own sawed-off shotguns, silencers, and nunchakus.

The bill must first be voted on and approved by the senate first before it is sent to the House of Representatives for voting.

If you live in Indiana and absolutely must have a sawed-off shotgun, make sure you get a permit first and buy one from a licensed manufacturer!

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Lender Facing Suit From CFPB for Unfair Debt Collection

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed a lawsuit against Security National Automotive Acceptance Company (SNAAC) today for unfair debt collection practices.

Here is what you need to know:

SNAAC Tactics

Security National Automotive Acceptance Company is an auto loan company that specializes in providing service members with loans to buy used cars.

When customers defaulted on loans, SNAAC allegedly used unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices to induce payments for the loans. In its lawsuit, CFPB alleges that SNAAC often exaggerated the consequences of being delinquent on a loan. SNAAC would lie and tell servicemembers that they could face demotion, loss of promotion, discharge, or reassignment. In fact, the likelihood of such consequences were non-existent.

SNAAC also repeatedly contact servicemembers' commanding officers to demand payments of delinquent loans. In such communications, SNAAC allegedly lied and suggested that borrowers were in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and could be subject to discipline.

CFPB to the Rescue

Under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA), the protection bureau has the authority to "take any action authorized ... to prevent a service provider from committing or engaging in an unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice."

An act or practice may be unfair if it "causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers," and abusive if it "takes unreasonable advantage of a lack of understanding on the part of the consumer of the material risks, costs, or conditions of the product or service."

The CFPB contends that SNAAC violated the CFPA when they lied about possible repercussions and contacted servicemembers' commanding officers. The lawsuit wants compensation for harmed borrowers, a civil penalty, and an injunction on the company's practices.

If you've been harmed by a debtor's abusive practices, consult with an experienced consumer protection attorney for help.

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FCC Will Fine AT&T $100 M For Data Throttling

AT&T is once again in hot water because of its data throttling practices.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced today that it will fine AT&T $100 million for misleading customers with its unlimited wireless data plan.

This is the second time that the company's data throttling has gotten it into legal trouble.

'Unlimited means Unlimited'

According to the FCC, AT&T's advertising promised unlimited data plans. However, the company capped data speeds after customers used a certain amount of gigabytes of data within each billing period. Then, AT&T throttled, or slowed down data, by 90 percent to dial up speeds.

The company does not necessarily dispute that it throttles data. AT&T argued that the FCC previously approved of the practice as a legitimate way to manage resources. AT&T also claims that it fully disclosed the practice to customers through a disclosure on the company's website.

The FCC challenges that AT&T was not fully transparent about its throttling practice leading customers to believe that they were getting fully unlimited data.

AT&T has said that it will challenge the fine. If AT&T loses the challenge, the $100 million fine will be paid to the U.S. Treasury. AT&T customers will not receive any money from the fine. Instead, they may benefit from faster unlimited data.

Federal Trade Commission Lawsuit

However, AT&T customers may see some financial compensation if the telecom company loses the lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission.

Late last year, the FTC filed a lawsuit against AT&T for similar reasons. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, claims that AT&T's practices are deceptive.

AT&T has promised to vigorously fight this suit. The company points out that it sends email and text-notifications to customers telling them when they crossed pre-set limits and that they're data speed would be slowed.

As a result of the FCC fine and FTC lawsuit, could AT&T customers expect an end to data throttling? We'll have to wait and see.

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What Does the Natural, Organic, Local Really Mean Legally?

Are you careful about what your buy and eat? Do you buy organic, local, natural foods?

You may be surprised to find that those words -- natural, local, organic -- don't necessarily mean what you think. Here is what you need to know about the legal definitions of these label words.

Natural

What is natural? Surprise! There is no legal definition of natural. Many producers label their foods as "all natural" when in fact they contain factory produced chemicals. For example, Naked Juice agreed to pay a $9 million settlement after it was sued over its "all natural" claims when its juice actually includes fibersol-2, frustooligosaccarides, inulin, and genetically modified soy.

The FDA claims that it has not created a definition of "natural" because all foods have probably been processed at one point and are no longer technically a "product of the earth." However, the FDA does suggest that natural may mean no added color, no artificial flavors, or no synthetic substances.

Local

How local is local? Is a corn local if it was grown in the same city, county, state, hemisphere? Like the word natural there is no legal definition of local.

Whole Foods defines local as anything grown in the state, or, in big states, anything grown within the region such as California's "Bay Area" or "Central California Coast."

Organic

Previously the term "organic" was as wishy-washy as natural and local. However, the United States Department of Agriculture has created a legal definition for the label "USDA Organic."

To be USDA Organic, producers must not use any synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), growth hormones, antibiotics, or GMO feed for animals. Farmers must actually remove all the above listed products from their farms for three years before they can be certified as USDA Organic.

However, if the broccoli you just bought is only marked as "Organic" instead of "USDA Organic," there is no guarantee that synthetic pesticides of GMOs were not used.

If you're trying to eat health and natural, don't just rely on the label. Your all natural cereal may be anything but natural.

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Ford Expanding Its Takata Airbag Recall

Last month, we wrote about Takata's massive recall of its airbags. Now the recall is getting bigger and bigger.

Here is what you need to know:

Airbag Defects

Takata is the world's second largest supplier of airbags.

For years, many suspected that Takata's airbags were defective when people got hurt by flying shrapnel and debris during airbag deployments. Car manufacturers have recalled their cars for Takata airbag defects as early back as in 2008. It wasn't until this year that Takata has finally admitted that its airbags are defective.

The problem is with the propellant used to make the airbags inflate. Over time, high humidity and changes in temperature can degrade the propellant causing overaggressive combustions. So far, there have six documented cases of deaths and 100 injuries caused by the defect.

Takata's Recall

Takata is currently still trying to figure out all the cars that may be affected by this recall. The company estimates that 34 million cars in the U.S. and 52 million cars worldwide carry the defective airbags.

Ford's Recall Expansion

Late last year, Ford recalled 500,000 Mustangs and GTs. However, since Takata announced its recall, Ford is expanding its recall to include 500,000 more Mustangs and GTs to replace the defective Takata airbags. This recall now includes 2005-2014 Mustangs and 2005-2006 GTs.

Other Related Recalls

Other car manufacturers who have issued recalls include BMW, Chrysler, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota, and Mitsubishi.

If your car is included in these recalls, you should be receiving notification letters from your car manufacturers shortly. If you haven't received any letters, you can search for any recalls on your car on SaferCar.gov by entering your vehicle's 17 digit VIN number.

Repairs

If your car is recalled, dealerships will replace your airbags for free. However, the supply of available replacement airbags is currently dwarfed by the demand. Takata and Autoliv, the world's largest supplier of airbags, are struggling to make enough airbags to cover all the recalled cars. So, it may take a while for your airbag to be replaced.

If you've been injured by flying shrapnel from your airbag, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.

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FCC Considers New Rules to Block Telemarketing Calls and Texts

All those annoying telemarketing robocalls and unwanted texts may soon become a thing of the past. Hopefully.

The FCC is considering new rules that will allow users to say no to spam texts and robocalls.

Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulates telemarketing. The act requires telemarketers to identify themselves on all calls, prohibits calls before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m., and restricts calls to people who are on the National Do Not Call Registry.

Despite these regulations, there are still loopholes in the law that allow marketers, bill collectors, and certain businesses to bombard consumers with unwanted phone calls and text messages.

The proposed new regulations seek to close those loopholes.

New Rules

While most of the new regulations are targeted to mobile phone customers, some traditional telephone services will also be protected. Under the new regulations:

  1. Consumers can revoke consent.-- Previously customers had to consent to receive telephone calls and texts. Once they've consented, marketers would make consumers jump through hoops, such as sending letter and filling out forms, to revoke their consent. The new rules would allow consumers to revoke consent just by saying so during a telemarketing call.
  2. Telephone companies can block robocalls.-- Under certain laws, telephone companies are required to connect phone calls. So, they were hesitant to employ robocall-blocking technology. The new regulations now encourage companies to offer robocall-blocking technology to customers.
  3. Telemarketers cannot repeatedly call wrong numbers.-- With more and more people getting rid of landline service in favor of cellular phones, many of the old landline numbers are getting recycled and given to new customers. So, telemarketers are calling numbers whose previous owners gave consent, but the new owner did not. The new regulation would allow telemarketers to get away with the first call, but once they know that the number now belongs to someone else, they can't make any subsequent calls without permission.

These rules are only proposals as of now, and will be voted on at a meeting on June 18.

Related Resources:

What to Do if You Find a Bug in Your Food?

Beware of beetles!

Most people don't order salads with a side of beetles, but some are getting them regardless. Consumerist recently reported that several consumers have found Iron Cross Blister Beetles in packaged organic salads. Yuck!

What do you do if a bug of any kind makes an appearance in your food?

Iron Cross Blister Beetles

Most of the time, bugs and other foreign objects in food are gross but usually harmless.

However, the Iron Cross Blister Beetle can be toxic. When stressed, the beetles release a toxin call cantharidin. While the substance isn't exactly fatal, in can cause nausea and sickness in healthy adults. Also, touching the beetles can cause skin blistering. The beetles are even used in wart removals.

Cases of blister beetles found in salad have popped up in Illinois, Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts, and California.

FDA's Rule

Don't freak out, but the Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers to include some bugs in their food products without repercussion. Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations Part 110.110 establishes maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects in food. According to the FDA low levels of bugs and other defects pose no inherent hazard to your health.

For example, frozen broccoli can have up to 60 aphids per 100 grams of broccoli. Ground paprika can have up to 11 rodent hairs per 25 grams. Chocolate can have up 60 insect fragments per 100 grams. Canned fruit juices can have up to five fly eggs per 250 ml. Macaroni and noodle products can have up to 225 insect fragments per 225 grams.

What Can You Do?

If you do find a bug, or more specifically a blister beetle, in your salad, you should take pictures and keep the product and bug, if possible, as evidence to send to the manufacturer.

Report the incident to the grocery store where you bought it and the company that produced it. Many companies will want to investigate where the bugs may have entered their production process. They should offer you a refund.

You should also notify the FDA. While some bugs in food may be acceptable, the presence of toxic bugs such as the blister beetle may be cause for concern and investigation for the FDA.

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