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Hyundai Recalls 200K Elantras Over Power Steering Problem

Hyundai has issued a safety recall over a flaw in the power steering systems of more than 200,000 vehicles.

The recall affects Hyundai Elantra sedans from model years 2008 to 2010, along with Elantra touring hatchbacks from model years 2009 to 2010.

What do consumers need to know about this recall?

Faulty Power Steering Controls

The power steering system at issue in the recall makes it easier to move the steering wheel. An error in a control unit component causes the system to disable power steering assistance.

If a malfunction occurs, drivers will see a warning light and may feel that they have to work harder to maintain control of the wheel. The issue is easily reset by restarting the car. In a report filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Hyundai asserts that the error does not drastically affect drivers' ability to maintain steering control manually.

While Hyundai first discovered the flaw in 2010, the company believed a safety recall was not necessary. The amount of effort required to continue steering the vehicle in the event of a malfunction was well within compliance standards, the company said.

But since automakers and NHTSA have recently been criticized for not issuing safety recalls, Hyundai has decided to voluntarily recall the vehicles to maintain driver safety.

Does Your Car Need to Be Fixed?

Similar to other safety recalls, Hyundai says it will contact owners of affected vehicles. The company will test the vehicles for defects and make the necessary repairs at no cost to the consumer.

Car owners can also use NHTSA's free online tool to determine whether their vehicle is affected by this, or any other, automotive recall.

If you were injured because of a mechanical defect in a recalled vehicle, a products liability lawyer can help explore your options.

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E-Filing Your Tax Return? Top 5 Tips to Protect Your Data

You're already worried about identity theft. And you're probably worried about your taxes as well. As it turns out, if you're planning on e-filing your tax return, you might have to worry about someone stealing your data to file a fraudulent tax return.

If you've already e-filed, you may want to confirm with your tax-preparation company or the IRS that only one return has been filed with your Social Security number on it. If you've yet to file, here are a few ways to protect your personal data when e-filing your return:

1. Secure Your SSN.

Most fraudulent tax returns were filed with a stolen Social Security number, the theft of which is distressingly easy. While the worry with SSNs was having your Social Security card stolen from a wallet or purse, now we use the numbers more frequently and online.

We give out our Social Security numbers to employers, health care providers, and even cable companies, so it's no surprise they would targets for hackers. Hackers stole around 6 million Social Security numbers last year, and fraudsters don't need much more information than that in order to file a tax return in your name.

Give out your Social Security number as little as possible, and only use the last four digits when you can. And you should probably find a safe place to store your Social Security card, rather than carrying it around with you.

2. Protect Past Returns.

It's good practice to keep records of our past tax filings, but these can be another source of personal information that identity thieves can exploit. If you're keeping paper copies of previous returns, make sure they are secure. And if you're tossing out old returns, it's best to shred them to avoid exposing your data.

3. Use a Trusted Preparer.

Admittedly, when one of the largest e-filing companies is facing allegations that it allowed online bandits to file millions of fraudulent tax returns, it's hard to know whom to trust. It may help to keep an eye on the news, but ultimately, the convenience of filing our taxes online comes with the risk that criminals will exploit that ease.

4. Report Fraud.

As noted above, confirm with your tax preparation company and the IRS that no other returns have been filed using your Social Security number. If you do discover that someone else has filed a fraudulent return, report the fraud immediately. The Department of Justice is aggressive in prosecuting identity theft and tax fraud cases.

5. Monitor Your Credit Report.

You can check your credit report for free, and it may be your first indicator that someone has stolen your identity or filed a fraudulent tax return. Even if your tax filing went smoothly, you should be diligent about protecting your identity online.

We all love the convenience and time-saving aspects of e-filing for our tax returns. And while e-filing companies can help us file our taxes, it's up to us to protect our personal data.

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HealthCare.gov Tax Error Affects 800K People: What You Need to Know

The government sent incorrect tax information to some 800,000 people who signed up for insurance plans through HealthCare.gov last year. The error is expected to delay the tax returns for about one out of every five people who used the federal insurance marketplace to avoid tax penalties for being uninsured.

If you were one of these enrollees, what do you need to know about the mix-up, and how will it affect your tax filing?

What Happened?

The error occurred in calculating the premiums for consumers who signed up for Obamacare via HealthCare.gov and received subsidies to help purchase insurance in 2014. These tax credits are based on consumers' income and certain insurance premiums. 

The problem: Some of the insurance premiums were miscalculated, leading to incorrect information on consumers' tax forms. As of yet, officials are not sure why the miscalculation occurred.

How Will It Affect My Taxes?

Because the tax credit calculation uses a taxpayer's income, and because incomes vary, some people will owe more and some will owe less. There's no way to know until those affected by the error receive updated and accurate tax information.

What Should I Do?

If you enrolled in health coverage through HealthCare.gov, you may want to hold off on filing your taxes just yet. The HealthCare.gov website had this to say:

If your form is affected by this issue, you’ll get a call and email from us in the next few days, and you will get a message in your Marketplace account here on HealthCare.gov. Once you log in, you should select your 2014 application, and then select "Tax forms." You will see a message letting you know if your 1095-A form is being corrected. This is also where you will find your corrected form when it is completed. When the corrected form is ready, we’ll send a message to your Marketplace account.

The department is due to deliver corrected tax data to consumers in the first week of March, and has urged consumers to wait to file their taxes and will provide further information to those who already have.

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Anthem Hack Spurs 'Phishing' Email Scam: How to Stay Safe

Following the Anthem hack attack that potentially exposed the personal information of some 80 million customers, another danger has arisen: "Phishing" emails attempting to scam those same customers of even more personal information.

Ars Technica reports that scammers are using the hacked information to email Anthem customers in the hopes of gaining access to customers' personal data. The extent of this phishing campaign is unknown at this time, but Anthem's press release regarding the scam asserts, "There is no indication that the scam email campaigns are being conducted by those that committed the cyber attack, or that the information accessed in the attack is being used by the scammers."

How the Scam Works

Internet scam artists are sending emails designed to look like they are from Anthem and offer recipients free credit monitoring services. Once a recipient clicks on the links embedded in the email, they are prompted to provide personal information to enroll in the service.

These email scams are known as "phishing," and once scammers have access to a person's identifying information, they can use that data to apply for lines of credit, open fraudulent bank accounts, or even steal a person's identity.

How to Protect Yourself

There are some general rules to avoid phishing scams, like keeping an eye out for suspicious email addresses, being cautious regarding embedded links in emails, and confirming with the sender that the email you received is legit.

In this particular instance, Anthem is advising customers that it is not sending emails regarding this credit monitoring service. Anthem is also "not calling members regarding the cyber attack and is not asking for credit card information or Social Security numbers over the phone." Instead, the company warned customers not to click on any links in these emails, supply any information on the website in the email, or reply to the email in any way.

Anthem will, however, be reaching out via U.S. mail and offering customers affected by the hack its own free credit monitoring and identification protections services.

You can learn more about phishing and online safety by visiting FindLaw's section on Online Scams.

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Which Cars Have the Highest, Lowest Death Rates?

A new report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that while car safety has continued to improve in most late-model vehicles, some vehicles still have alarmingly high death rates.

According to the IIHS, among 2011 model-year cars or equivalent earlier model vehicles, there were 28 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years through 2012. (A "registered vehicle year" equals one vehicle registered for one year.) This is down significantly from 2008-09, in which there were 48 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years. But while nine 2011 or equivalent earlier model vehicles had a driver death rate of zero, several other models had death rates exceeding 100.

Which cars have the highest and lowest death rates according to IIHS statistics? And what should drivers know when trying to choose a safe car?

Safe, Deadly Cars

The IIHS found that in general, the smallest vehicles have the highest death rates, with the Kia Rio having the highest death rate, at 149 per million registered vehicle years. Most of the vehicles that made the institute's list of safest cars -- those with 6 or fewer driver deaths per million registered vehicle years -- were SUVs or minivans, although several midsize cars also made the list.

The vehicles with the lowest rate of driver deaths include:

  • Audi A4 4WD
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Kia Sorento 2WD
  • Lexus RX 350 4WD
  • Mercedes-Benz GL-Class 4WD
  • Subaru Legacy 4WD
  • Toyota Highlander hybrid 4WD
  • Toyota Sequoia 4WD
  • Volvo XC90 4WD
  • Honda Pilot 4WD
  • Mercedes-Benz M-Class 4WD
  • Ford Crown Victoria
  • GMC Yukon 4WD
  • Acura TL 2WD
  • Chevrolet Equinox 2WD
  • Chevrolet Equinox 4WD
  • Ford Expedition 4WD
  • Ford Flex 2WD
  • Mazda CX-9 4WD

Among the vehicles with more than 46 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years were many small or mini-size vehicles, but also one full-size pickup truck and several SUVs.

The list of vehicles with the highest driver death rates, according to the IIHS, includes:

  • Kia Rio
  • Nissan Versa sedan
  • Hyundai Accent
  • Chevrolet Aveo
  • Hyundai Accent
  • Chevrolet Camaro coupe
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew 4WD
  • Honda Civic
  • Nissan Versa hatchback
  • Ford Focus
  • Nissan Cube
  • Chevrolet HHR
  • Chevrolet Suburban 1500 2WD
  • Chevrolet Aveo
  • Mercury Grand Marquis
  • Jeep Patriot 2WD
  • Mazda 6
  • Dodge Nitro 2WD
  • Honda Civic

Vehicle Designs Have Improved Safety

One major factor in improving the safety of automobiles is improving design and safety technology. In particular, the IIHS cites electronic stabilization control (ESC) -- which helps prevent SUVs from rollover crashes -- for taking SUVs from one of the most dangerous types of vehicles a decade ago to now being being the safest of any vehicle type. Generally, the report found that as a car's size increases, the death rate declines.

Learn more about the liability for automobile accidents and injuries at FindLaw's section on Car Accident Liability.

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Toyota, Chrysler, Honda Recall 2.1M Vehicles Over Air Bag Risk

U.S. safety regulators have announced the recall of more than 2.1 million vehicles made by Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda for a defect that may cause the vehicle's air bags to deploy in the absence of an accident.

The recall was announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Saturday, Reuters reports. The new air bag recall is unrelated to the massive ongoing Takata air bags recall. However, according to NHTSA, about 1 million of the vehicles included in the new recall are also affected by the Takata air bag recalls, which may make getting the required repairs even more urgent.

Which vehicles are included in this latest recall, and what should owners of recalled vehicles do?

Models Affected

The vehicles included in the recall are all older vehicles from model years 2002, 2003, and 2004. They include:

  • 2002-03 Jeep Liberty
  • 2002-04 Jeep Grand Cherokees
  • 2003-04 Honda Odyssey
  • 2003 Acura MDX
  • 2003-04 Pontiac Vibe
  • 2003-04 Dodge Viper
  • 2003-04 Toyota Corolla
  • 2003-04 Toyota Matrix
  • 2003-04 Toyota Avalon

There have been about 400 reports of air bags deploying inadvertently in the vehicles subject to the recall. These deployments have caused injuries but have not lead to any deaths. According to a NHTSA press release, the recalled vehicles had been subject to earlier recalls by the vehicles' manufacturers, but the recall repairs failed to fix the problem.

For owners of the approximately 1 million vehicles included in the new recall that are also included in the Takata air bags recall, taking action may be especially important. The Takata air bags may have a defect which causes shrapnel to fly into the passenger compartment upon airbag deployment, making an inadvertent deployment more likely to cause serious injury.

How to Determine Whether Your Car Is Subject to Recall

If you believe your car may require repairs under this or another recall, NHTSA has set up an online search tool that allows consumers to search using a car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

Consumers who do own a car included in the recall should bring in their vehicle to a dealer for repairs immediately, even if those cars had been repaired in previous recalls for the same issue, NHTSA advises.

Related Resources:

Ford, Nissan Recall 989K Vehicles: What Consumers Need to Know

Two new auto recalls were announced Wednesday involving nearly 1 million Ford and Nissan vehicles.

Ford is recalling more than 205,000 vehicles because of a problem with interior door handles, and an additional 16,100 vehicles for potential issues with safety belt fasteners, reports The Detroit News. Separately, Nissan announced the recall of about 768,000 vehicles for issues relating to a potential wiring short and problems with a secondary hood latch, Reuters reports.

What should consumers know about these two recalls?

Ford Recall

Ford is recalling 205,000 Taurus, Lincoln, and Police Interceptor vehicles from the model years 2010-13 because of an issue with a spring inside the vehicles' door handles. A defect in this mechanism could cause the door to become unlatched during a crash, increasing the risk of injury for the driver or other occupants of the vehicle.

Ford also announced the recall of 16,100 of its Transit Connect vans, citing an issue with the vehicles' safety belt fasteners. These fasteners may not have been properly tightened, leading to an increased risk of injury in a crash.

According to Ford, no injuries have been reported in connection with these recalls. Even so, owners of these vehicles have the right to a recall remedy, which in this case involves free repairs at a Ford dealership.

Nissan Recall

Nissan also announced recalls related to two different potential defects. Approximately 552,135 of the company's Rogue crossover vehicles from model years 2008 and 2013 are being recalled because of a potential problem caused by moisture seeping through the driver's side floor, causing an electrical short in wiring which could in turn cause a fire.

Another 215,789 Nissan Pathfinder SUVs from model years 2013 and 2014 are being recalled; the problem lies with a secondary hood latch designed to prevent the hood from flying back if the primary hood latch is disengaged. No injuries have been reported in either of these recalls.

How to Determine Whether Your Vehicle Has Been Recalled

If you are curious whether your vehicle may be affected by this or any other recent vehicle recalls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a free online tool that allow consumers to determine whether safety recall repairs have been completed on a specific vehicle.

Consumers can search using their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to see whether any required recall repairs are needed. Individual manufacturers are also now required to have recall information searchable by VIN on their own websites.

If you were injured because of a mechanical defect in a recalled vehicle, a products liability lawyer can help explain the legal options for recovering for your injuries.

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'Child Predator Alert' Email Is a Scam, BBB Warns

The Better Business Bureau is warning parents to be on the lookout for a new email scam disguised as a warning about child predators in their area.

According to the BBB, parents have reported receiving an email with the alarming subject line "Alert: There is a Child-Predator Living Near You!" The email goes on to say that, based on your ZIP code, a registered child sex offender has "just moved into your area."

Fortunately, the email's claims are untrue. But parents duped by the email's scare tactics may themselves become victimized by malicious software designed to steal sensitive financial and personal information from their computers.

How the Scam Works

The email provides a link for those concerned by the email's dire warnings to "learn more about this predator alert." And clicking the link provided does lead to a website for "Kids Live Safe," a service that provides reports on sex offenders.

But the emails aren't actually affiliated with "Kids Live Safe." Rather, the link seems to be way to make the scam look more legitimate. In addition to leading to the Kids Live Safe website, clicking on the link also may be enough to allow malware to infect your machine, the BBB warns. This malware will then search your computer for passwords, credit card numbers, and other information that could be used by scammers for identity theft.

How to Spot the Scam

The BBB recommends several ways that consumers can spot this scam and others like it before it's too late. These include:

  • Watch for typos and bad grammar. Scammers are good at making emails look legitimate, with logos and design, but are typically less adept at writing clearly. Look for misspellings, poor grammar, and strange phrasing such as the scam emails use of the term "local area zipcode."
  • If you don't remember signing up for a service, you probably didn't. Scam emails are often disguised as notifications from a service or retailer. But if you don't remember ever having signed up for a particular service or making a purchase from a website, chances are you didn't and the email is a scam.
  • Look for strange email addresses, URLs. Here's another red flag: An email that appears to be from a particular service or business but is sent from an unrelated email address. Also, always be sure to hover your mouse over links in an email to see where they actually lead. A link might say it's going one place, but may take you somewhere different when you click on it.

To learn more about identity theft, email privacy, and online safety, check out FindLaw's section on Online Scams.

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Ikea Recalls Crib Mattresses Over Injury Risk

Ikea has announced a recall of nearly 170.000 crib mattresses because infants may become trapped between the mattress and the crib.

The Swedish furniture retailer is recalling its Vyssa style mattresses, reports CNBC. The recalled mattresses were sold with the model names Vinka, Spelevink, Vackert, Sloa, and Slummer. They were made in Mexico on or before May 4, 2014.

What do consumers need to know about this crib mattress recall?

Reports of Infants Becoming Trapped

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, Ikea has received two reports of infants becoming trapped in the gap between the mattress and the crib. Neither of these incidents led to an injury.

But the incidents did lead to the discovery of a defect present in some mattresses. These defective mattresses create a gap between the mattress and the crib that's larger than allowed by federal regulations. In order to prevent potential injuries -- and to thwart any potential defective product injury lawsuits that could follow -- the company is recalling 169,000 mattresses that may have the reported defect.

Did You Buy a Recalled Mattress?

The Ikea Vyssa mattresses subject to the recall were manufactured on or before May 4, 2014. A label attached to the mattress will show the product's model name and manufacturing date.

The CPSC advises consumers who may have purchased a mattress to inspect the mattress, making sure that the gaps between the sides of the mattress and the crib are no larger than the width of two fingers. If a larger gap is found, consumers are advised to stop using the mattress immediately and return the product to any Ikea store for an exchange or refund. Proof of purchase is not required.

Consumers with questions can call Ikea toll-free at (888) 966-4532. Consumers are also encouraged to report any incidents involving this product to the CPSC by using the online report filing system.

Related Resources:

Dick’s Recalls Inversion Tables, Resistance Cords After Injuries

Dick's Sporting Goods has started off the New Year with a pair of product recalls.

The company announced late last month the recall of the Fitness Gear Inversion table, a fitness device in which users are flipped upside down. The second recall, announced last week, also involves a fitness product: the Pro Performance SKLZ Recoil 360 All Position Trainer, an elastic band-type device used for resistance training.

What led to these two product recalls and what should consumers who may have purchased these defective products do?

Fitness Gear Inversion Table

Dick's has issued a voluntary recall for the Fitness Gear Inversion Table based on two issues with the product. First, the company has removed potentially misleading medical claims on the product's packaging, as well as on store signage and in online descriptions. These claims included statements that the fitness table reduced back stress by relieving pressure on vertebrae discs, relieved pain by stretching muscles, stimulated circulation to relieve muscle stiffness, and reduced the effect of aging due to gravity. The company states in its recall notice that the Inversion Table is "intended to be a fitness product, and not a medical device."

Dick's also reports that users of the product have been injured after falling from the table. Consumers who may have been injured while using this product may want to consult a lawyer regarding a personal injury lawsuit. But anyone who may have purchased a Fitness Gear Inversion Table from Dick's between November 2011 and September 2014 can return the product to a Dick's store for a full refund.

SKLZ Recoil 360 All Position Trainer

The SKLZ resistance training belt is being recalled after it was discovered that a weld on the device may snap, causing the flexible cord to retract and potentially hit the exercise partner providing resistance. According the Consumer Product Safety Commission, three serious injuries have been reported in connection with the defect.

Those who purchased one of the 52,000 units subject to the recall can contact the product's manufacturer SKLZ, to receive a replacement product. Consumers with questions regarding either of these recalls can call Dick's Customer Service team at (866) 677-4771.

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