On Monday of this week, I had 666 friends on Facebook. Today, I have none.
When I first joined Facebook, I enjoyed stumbling across the high-school math teacher who inspired me or the girl who stole my college boyfriend. I liked keeping up with the Pakistani journalist who once visited my office on a fellowship.
But over the years, Facebook lost my trust as it continuously blocked me from keeping the names of my friends private. As a journalist, I need to protect my sources. And as a human, I prefer not to have a hidden audience keeping tabs on me when I reach out to friends.
At first, I tried practicing privacy through obscurity. I accepted all friend requests (even creepy ones) in the hopes that my real relationships could hide in plain sight among the fake ones.
But I found myself sanitizing all my posts as I tried to address a wildly diverse audience that included my boss, my sources, my kids' friends' parents and strangers I had friended from Brazil. I realized that my approach had erased my ability to have a real relationship with anyone on Facebook.
Still, I wasn't ready to leave Facebook entirely. I still wanted to be able to find people and to be found by others. So this week I decided to unfriend everyone and just keep a bare-bones profile. It was hard. I felt awful when I tried unfriend a former calculus student or the page for my upcoming high-school reunion.
I ended up having to pay a real, live friend to come over to hit the "unfriend" button for me. Over and over again. It took seven hours, but I feel like a huge burden has been lifted.
To those I unfriended, I apologize. But as bizarre as it sounds, I am actually trying to protect our ability to have a real relationship, without a hidden audience watching.
A C+ cost her more than $1 million in potential earnings, Megan Thode claimed. But a judge has ruled that Lehigh University did not treat her unfairly.
Have you looked at your credit report recently? Of course you have -- you're a Marketplace Money listener! And that means you also know that you can get a copy of your credit report, every year, from each of the three credit rating agencies for free. And if getting something for free isn't enough for you, here's another reason: There's a good chance that your credit report is not entirely accurate. The Federal Trade Commission released a report this week, saying more than a quarter of credit card-carrying Americans have at least one "potentially material error" in their data -- that's as many as 42 million consumers. John Ulzheimer is one of our credit go-to guys. He used to work in the credit rating business, for Equifax, and now he's president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com.
"The report is a little troubling. Having said that, the 42 million potential credit reports with errors, there's a little bit of silver lining to that -- meaning that the errors can be anything from a misspelled former address, which is really meaningless to the world of credit risk assessment, to something more serious like a collection that doesn't belong to the consumer or a late payment that didn't actually happen. So it really underscores the importance of we the consumer becoming way more engaged with our credit reports to identify things that are wrong," says Ulzheimer.
Ulzheimer says consumers should head to AnnualCreditReport.com to get their free credit report. He says the rules under the Fair Credit Reporting Act state that the credit reporting agencies have no liability until consumers identify that something's wrong in their report. But the problem is that we've done a bad job of checking our credit reports. If you do find an error, Ulzheimer says to start the dispute process, you should communicate with the credit reporting agencies. Then the agencies have certain obligations.
How to dispute an error in your credit report. Check out these links to start:
"They must show the item in dispute that you're challenging, which means that anybody who sees it from that point forward knows that it's in question. Second, they have to identify through the furnishing party whether or not the item is correct or incorrect. And the furnishing party is almost always going to be a financial institution or a collection agency." Ulzheimer said.
"They're basically saying, 'Hey look, John filed a dispute. He says this is wrong, you let us know. Was it right or wrong?' And then they're going to essentially pare it back to the consumer what they heard back from the furnishing party. Then you as the consumer can either live with it or if you're dissatisfied with the mistake, you can go directly to the source yourself and take your argument up with them."
Ulzheimer says the frustrating thing about this process is that "the credit reporting agencies are always going to take the word of the bank or the collection agency over the word of the consumer." Ulzheimer advises consumers to be as plugged in to the data on your credit report as you are with the charges on your credit cards. He also encourages consumers to leverage their federal rights (like getting your free credit reports and the ability to get items corrected), take their battle to the bureaus if they think something is wrong, and seek out a consumer advocate attorney if you've really been damaged by the error.
Carnival Cruise Lines has an offer for the haggard passengers who’ve soldiered through sleeping on deck, urinating in showers, and a steady diet of onion sandwiches aboard the disabled ship Triumph. As a gesture of goodwill, the company is offerering a full refund for the cruise, plus a voucher for a future trip and $500. But that's probably not going to make everyone happy. So what about those passengers who are thinking about lawyering up?
Under Armour, which was founded by a former football player and is known for its hard-core, performance sportswear, is testing a new branding strategy geared towards women.
There are a lot of things that can affect your financial behavior, like how much you make or how much debt you have. And then there are more subtle things, like language. Economist Keith Chen at Yale University has been researching the link between savings behavior and the use of the future tense.
The answer is relatively simple. To document accidents and expose scam artists, many Russians keep dashcams running when they're behind the wheel. So, when a meteor appeared in the sky today, there were many electronic eyes recording the sight.
The college ID card ain't what it used to be. Ask Chris May, who lives in Atlanta and recently enrolled at Georgia State University. Like many students, the 29-year old relies on financial aid. In years past, we would have waited for a paper check or a refund from the school’s business office. But Chris’s student ID has all that cash pre-loaded. It’s half ID card, half Discover debit card.
"I’ve been able to get gas with it and eat with it," he says, adding that it's been helpful and convenient.
For Chris and about 40 percent of U.S. college students, their student IDs not only get them into the library, but also pay for dinner and a movie. But there’s growing concern over how colleges and banks work out those co-branded agreements, prompting an inquiry by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"Are school marketing agreements with banks and credit unions letting students get a better deal," asks Rohit Chopra, student loan ombudsman at the CFPB. "Or, are they sometimes worse off?”
Chopra says colleges are required to disclose agreements they have with banks for traditional credit cards. But not so with bank cards pre-loaded with student aid. And the cards can be big business for colleges and universities. Arizona State reportedly earns $15 for each new student it links to a debit account offered by MidSouth Bank.
At Ohio State, a deal with Huntington Bank is raking in $25 million over the next 15 years.
"We ensure there is no marketing of credit products," says Geoff Chatas, Ohio State's CFO. "We’re asking and working with the financial institution to provide financial literacy education. I think when you look at all of those things together, you see that these can be structured in a very positive way."
Chatas says the Huntington Bank/OSU deal is funding things like classroom renovations and the school’s endowment. But not all bank marketing deals are good for students, says the Public Interest Research Group.
In a recent report, PIRG found students often pay fees big and small, eating away at money that's supposed to be set aside for tuition. A company called Higher One is one of the biggest players in the game, holding card agreements with more than 500 campuses with a combined enrollment of more than 4.3 million students. In August, Higher One settled with the FDIC over unfair and misleading practices. It paid restitution to 60,000 students. Teresa Valerio Parrot, a spokeswoman for Higher One, says the company will not comment until after the CFPB inquiry.
Another big player in the college debit card field is Wells Fargo, which handles college-related debit cards for some two-million students. “We want students to have a good experience so they continue to choose us," says Erin Constantine, a senior VP with the bank.
Constantine says getting young adults’ business early can lead to long-term gain for the bank.
“It starts out with a checking account, a savings account, but then they continue to bank with us as their financial needs change,” she says, adding that debit cards teach students financial responsibility.
The National Association of College and University Business Officers, or “NACUBO,” also says agreements between banks and universities can be beneficial. The deals often streamline the financial aid process for college business offices, says Liz Clark, NACUBO's Director of Congressional Affairs.
“At the end of the day, we don’t want to see the baby thrown out with the bathwater. We think that these programs bring a lot of benefits to students and campuses,” says Clark.
NACUBO has published a list of “best practices” to serve as a guide on how schools should handle co-branding IDs and debit cards. The organization also plans to file comments with the CFPB. Parents, students, colleges and financial institutions have until March 18th to offer input. Based on what it hears, the CFPB will decide later this year what regulation, if any, could be warranted.
While lawmakers debate proposals, the demand for immigration attorneys is increasing as people seek information and assistance. Jose Pertierra and his staff field nearly 50 calls a day from immigrants wondering how potential changes will affect them.