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Today’s post is brought to you by Amazon’s 2014 Black Friday Deals Page. Just as in past years, Amazon is getting the Black Friday party started early, with limited-time, deep discounts on everything from DVDs to sewing machines. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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AT&T Mobile AND DirecTV Customers: Heads Up!

Whether you’re an AT&T Mobile customer or a DirecTV customer, you’re going to want to read this. AT&T is in the midst of getting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approvals to acquire DirecTV, and if they succeed, DirecTV customers can probably expect deceptive business practices and ripoffs like those already being experienced by AT&T Mobile customers.

 

Some Companies Never Learn…

Earlier this month I shared the news that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is forcing AT&T to issue millions in refunds to its mobile customers due to AT&T’s illegal practice of “cramming”: adding premium service charges to mobile customers’ bills without their knowledge or consent, and going even one step further to deceive customers by labeling those items as AT&T services, to make it harder for customers to notice or fight the charges.

Yesterday the news broke that the FTC is suing AT&T over another, totally different customer rip-off: purposely slowing, or “throttling”, the connection speed of customers who’d signed up for an unlimited data plan and were exceeding AT&T’s internal measures of reasonable data usage. Here are some details from an article on Consumer Affairs:

The FTC’s complaint alleges that the company didn’t adequately disclose to its customers on unlimited data plans that, if they reach a certain amount of data use in a given billing cycle, AT&T reduces – or “throttles” – their data speeds to the point that many common mobile phone applications – like web browsing, GPS navigation and watching streaming video – become difficult or nearly impossible to use.

According to the FTC’s complaint, AT&T’s marketing materials emphasized the “unlimited” amount of data that would be available to consumers who signed up for its unlimited plans. The complaint alleges that, even as unlimited plan consumers renewed their contracts, the company still failed to inform them of the throttling program.

The FTC alleges that AT&T began throttling data speeds in 2011 for its unlimited data plan customers after they used as little as 2 gigabytes of data in a billing period. According to the complaint, the throttling program has been severe, often resulting in speed reductions of 80 to 90% for affected users.

Today, The Los Angeles Times is also reporting that customers using as little as 2GB of data were throttled:

Beginning in October 2011, AT&T began restricting the data speeds of unlimited data plan customers who exceeded a monthly usage threshold that initially was as low as 2 gigabytes, the agency said…Customers who exceeded the level had their data speeds slowed 60% to 95% for the rest of the billing period.

The suit, filed Tuesday, alleges that AT&T deceived its wireless customers and seeks millions of dollars in refunds for a practice that still continues. Unhappy customers who canceled their plans were charged early-termination fees that typically were hundreds of dollars, [FTC Chairwoman Edith] Ramirez said.

 

AT&T Isn’t Denying Anything

Amazingly, AT&T does not deny its practice of throttling unlimited data plan customers. AT&T’s entire defense of the practice comes down to a claim that they notified customers of the policy change via email when it occurred, and that constitutes adequate disclosure.

 

Watch Out, DirecTV Customers: You Could Be Next!

The FCC has yet to rule on AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV, and these recent revelations may derail that process. But the FCC is a separate entity from the FTC, and the FTC’s actions and findings do not necessarily affect FCC decisions.

If I were a DirecTV customer and this merger is approved by the FCC, I’d be shopping for a new satellite service provider right away.

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

Amazon’s 2014 Black Friday Deals Page is up and running, and that means there are some great deals to be had! Since the deals are all on limited-quantity items and typically expire in less than a day, the specific deals shown in the screenshot below may be expired by the time you check them out. But it’s a page that’s well worth bookmarking and checking from time to time throughout the holiday season, because there are some definite steals there every single day.

 

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Today’s post is brought to you by the Fire TV Stick, normally sold for $39 but TODAY ONLY (10/28/14) Amazon Prime members can order up to two for just $19 each! Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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Millions Of Dollars In Unclaimed Money Are Out There, And Some Of It May Belong To YOU!

With the holidays just around the corner everyone could do with a little extra cash, and you may have some money coming to you that you don’t even know about.

Maybe you moved and forgot to close that small savings account you had. Maybe a local or state government entity issued you a refund but the notification was lost in the mail. Maybe you’ve accrued some retirement benefits from a former employer and forgot all about it after you moved on to another company. Perhaps a state tax refund or insurance settlement with your name on it is languishing somewhere, unclaimed.

Whatever the case, it’s not so hard to find out if there’s some cash out there with your name on it. Every state in the U.S. has a department that manages unclaimed funds, and there are some free websites you can use to find money owed to you by private entities.

From Slate:

You can check many of the state databases at once using Missingmoney.com, which (in case you’re worried about scams) is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, or NAUPA. If that doesn’t work, you can check individual state databases one by one.

 

I Got Some Money!

It wasn’t much, but after using the above links to do a search of my own I found I still had a small amount on deposit with Upromise, where MANY years ago I’d signed up for a matching-funds sort of thing that would add money to my Upromise account when I made purchases online via the Upromise portal.

Not a big payday, to be sure, but since I’ve already been the guinea pig you can feel safe and secure using the above links yourself.

HAPPY HUNTING, AND GOOD LUCK!

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

The Fire TV Stick is a digital video streaming stick that boasts virtually all the same features as the $99 Fire TV streaming box (it’s only missing the voice recognition feature), but at the much lower pricetag of $39. Better still, TODAY ONLY (10/28/14) Amazon Prime members can order up to two for just $19 each! Note that the price won’t change until you add the item to your shopping cart; there, you’ll see a Prime Member discount of $20 applied.

I’ve already ordered one, because it beats my beloved Roku streaming box both in terms of processing power and on-board memory. The Fire TV Stick has a dual-core processor where my Roku’s processor is single-core, and where my Roku has something like 256MB of memory the Fire TV Stick has 1GB of temporary flash memory and 8GB of memory for storage. That memory and storage can be used to temporarily buffer videos you’re watching to ensure smoother playback with no interruptions, as well as for storing game save files—yes, the Fire TV Stick lets you play games, too!

 

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Today’s post is brought to you by the new Annie Lennox album of standards: Nostalgia. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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Welcome To Free Music Monday!

Today’s Free Music Monday album is pretty amazing: All Star Parade of Jazz and Blues Legends, Vol. 1 (4/5 stars, currently FREE).

With 13 tracks from such legendary artists as Muddy Waters, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughn, it’s a great album for Jazz and Blues newbies, and longtime fans alike!

As with last week’s offering, there’s not much more I can say about this album. If you’re a Jazz and Blues novice, it’s a great starter collection. If you’re a longtime fan, you don’t need me to tell you why the artists on this album are icons in music.

 

All Star Parade of Jazz and Blues Legends, Vol. 1: grab your copy today!

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

Annie Lennox, formerly of Eurythmics, has a voice like no other and at last she’s released the album fans have been wanting from her for years: Nostalgia. It’s an album of classic torch songs and singer-songwriter standards, and includes such tracks as Georgia On My Mind, I Put A Spell On You, Summertime, Mood Indigo and You Belong To Me. Currently priced at $9.49, the album’s currently rated 4.75/5 stars.

 

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Free App Friday For 10/24/14

Posted October 24, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by the HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset – Black, a very high-end set of gamer headphones with mic that’s currently being offered at 47% off! Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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Free App Friday!

Here are the top ten most downloaded AND highest-rated apps (4/5 stars or better) from Amazon’s Android App Store as of this writing. Note that where a given app has already been included in a Free App Friday post, a different one (still with a minimum 4/5 star rating) will be subbed in. Remember that free apps may include in-app purchase (IAP) options or be ad-supported, but given that these apps have been given very high ratings by MANY consumers, where IAP links or ads are present they must be pretty unobtrusive. Descriptions below are from the apps’ product pages.

Paperama – Introducing a new and unique puzzle adventure: Enter a beautiful Origami world and bring it to life!

Mage & Minions – Fight spectacular real-time battles against hordes of skeletons, robots, beasts, demons, aliens, dragons and many other minions.

Just Jumble – Play America’s favorite daily puzzle in a marvelous new app!

Blackjack: MyVegas – myVEGAS Blackjack is the only free-to-play blackjack app that offers players a chance to earn real world rewards from an exclusive collection of travel, leisure, and entertainment brands including BELLAGIO, ARIA, MGM GRAND, WOLFGANG PUCK, CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL, and HOUSE OF BLUES.

Call Of Mini: Double Shot – The small town of Lakeside is suffering from something even scarier than economic crisis: Zombies. You are an unwitting truck driver stranded in the middle of it all, forced to kill for your survival.

3D Chess Game – Play Chess against the computer, in 3D! Human vs AI, AI vs AI, Human vs Human! Completely free: not a demo, no locked options!

Trials Frontier – Explore a vast world on your motorcycle. Compete against your friends on Global Leaderboards. Master physics-based tracks to challenge the world’s top riders for the best times.

Jedi Lightsaber Simulator – Lightsaber Multiplayer Duel. Fight against friends or strangers with your lightsaber (best for use on a smartphone)

ICE – Quick and addicting real-time strategy. Beautiful, not-so-simple, just awesome. Control your army of ant-like ships. Capture connected enemy bases (remember that you can’t simply capture a non-connected base – this would be too easy!) You win when you control everything, you lose when you lose everything. Good luck!

Guess The Song – How well do you know music? Guess The Song – 4 Pics 1 Song will put your music trivia knowledge to the test! This new app combines the best of both words – picture trivia and music trivia!

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

If you’ve been wanting a premium gamer headset but found them a little too pricey, now’s your chance to get the 4.5/5 star -rated HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset – Black for just $79.99—that’s 47% off its usual price of $149.99. Features: Designed in Sweden and recommended by the world’s most elite gaming organizations – Extremely comfortable light weight headset with leatherette memory foam ear cups and extra set of velour ear cups – Over-the Ear headphone with noise isolating ear cups and detachable microphone – 53mm hifi capable drivers with 15-25khz frequency response – Tangle free braided cables with inline volume control and mic-mute controls – Compatibility: PC, PS4, MAC, iPhone, Xbox One (Xbox One Stereo Adapter Required, not included) – Stereo 3.5mm plug – Two year warranty

 

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Today’s post is brought to you by the new 2014 Kindle: at a current price of $79 it’s the most affordable e-Ink ereader for folks who only need a device for reading. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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I’m Not A Lawyer, But…

According to an April 11, 2014 piece on NPR:

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 77 percent of employers now use social networking to recruit candidates, up from 34 percent six years ago. About a dozen states have banned employers from asking workers for their social media passwords, and Congress is considering several measures that would make that a national policy.

But as far as using information that a job seeker makes publicly available, the rules aren’t exactly clear. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has not issued specific rules governing social media.

Since so much of the searching is done unofficially, [University of Illinois Management professor Don] Kluemper says rules might not even help.

 

 

While The Legality Is Still Murky, Employers ARE Googling Job Applicants And Employees

As reported in that NPR piece, 77% of employers are now active in social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) and it’s a safe bet they’re using their newfound social media savvy to vet employees and job candidates.

This post from last October on The Employer Handbook, a site intended for Human Resources professionals, reported that nearly half of employers routinely investigated job applicants online, and I’d wager that number has only gone up in the year since that piece ran.

That same Employer Handbook article goes so far as to provide helpful tips for its readers to use when researching job applicants and employees online.

Alarmingly, this Forbes piece from all the way back in 2009 reported that at that time:

What’s even more surprising is that a whopping 35% of managers admitted to not offering jobs based on what they found on those social pages, reported the New York Times. Most of the time, employers are put off by photos involving nudity, drink, and drugs, writes privacy expert Daniel Solove at Concurring Opinions.

 

 

If You Don’t Want Them To Find It, Don’t Post It In The First Place

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there is no such thing as online privacy. NEVER post anything online, or send anything via email, instant message or app that could cause you embarrassment, legal or employment difficulties if it were to become public because it can happen at any time.

It doesn’t matter if you mark it “private”, limit its visibility to “Friends”, et cetera et cetera. There have been plenty of malicious and accidental data leaks that exposed supposedly private pictures, videos, emails, texts and other online material, and there will always be more.

Even Twitter and Facebook have had incidents where a software update to their sites unintentionally exposed users’ private content.

 

 

What You Can Do To Protect Yourself

Aside from not posting anything you don’t want found to begin with, here are some steps to take.

1. Google yourself.
You may not even be aware of all the stuff relating to you that’s available online and viewable to the general public. If you want to know what a current or potential employer can easily and (as of this writing) legally find out about you online, this is the fastest and easiest way to do it.

Do a search of your name on Google and every other major search engine you know of. Make sure you’re logged out of any and all websites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, online dating sites, etc.) first, so that you will only be able to see what a stranger could see when following links to those sites.

If you find anything you believe an employer may find objectionable, clean it up and/or delete it.

 

2. If possible, establish your own web presence.

Being able to provide a web address right on your resume is a good pre-emptive move. It won’t prevent employers from doing their own online research as well, but it will help to avoid confusion in situations where someone else with the same name as yours, or a very similar name to yours, is splashed all over the internet with content that shows they’re engaged in illegal or controversial activity. If the employer sees YOUR web page first, they’ll be less likely to jump to wrong conclusions.

 

 

If you have zero web skills, this will be easiest to do on a pre-existing site like LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides a basic, free membership option.

If you DO have some basic HTML knowledge, it’s very easy to set up and customize a free blog and use it to display your current resume and contact information. A good one for beginners to try is Google’s Blogger.

I say that you should have at least a little HTML knowledge before attempting this because you will need those skills to properly format your resume so that it looks attractive on a blog page. Having a sloppy-looking online resume is actually worse than having no online resume at all, so if you’re at all unsure about your ability to handle this I suggest you go back to the LinkedIn option.

 

3. Get your friends to delete or clean up anything they’ve posted about you online.

You may have done a great job of cleaning up and/or deleting any potentially problematic content you’ve posted online, but what about pictures, videos, comments, Tweets and so on that friends have posted about you? If your pal uploaded all those drunken bachelor party pics to Instagram and you’re clearly visible in any of them, it’s safest to assume they can be found.

Also ask friends to “un-tag” you in any content where they’ve specifically listed you by name.

 

 

4. Know that the cleanup results won’t be instant.

Even after you and your friends have spiffed up your online image, saved or “cached” versions of the offending content stored on various servers will still be accessible online for a period of weeks to months. Not everyone knows how to view cached versions of web pages, but you can bet anyone in the employer’s IT department knows how. It’s also safest to assume that HR professionals are savvy to such tricks of the online trade.

For this reason, it’s best to undertake your cleanup mission as early as possible in your job hunting schedule.

 

5. Don’t count on legal action to save you.

While some states have made it illegal for employers to conduct certain types of online research, such as asking applicants or employees to hand over their login credentials for social media and other sites, many states don’t have such laws on the books yet and even in those that do, it’s very easy for employers to skirt the limits of the law.

After all, there’s no way for you to prove an employer Googled you or conducted some other online research about you, assuming they haven’t actually asked for your usernames and passwords. Also, remember that anything they can find via a simple Google search is considered public, and not subject to any presumption of privacy.

 

See this Career Attraction piece, How To Survive Being Googled By Potential Employers, for more tips.

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

The new 2014 Kindle doesn’t have all the fancy bells and whistles of the higher-end Paperwhite or Voyage, but it does have the same crisp e-Ink display. This entry-level Kindle doesn’t have an internal light mechanism or advanced page-turning animations of those other models, but its glare-free display makes it easy to read ebooks in any of the same conditions you might normally read a hard copy book. Lighting too low? Turn on a lamp! It’s also an ideal e-reader for kids because the PTA has adopted it as their official e-reader and that means many schools that prohibit tablets and smart phones allow kids to bring this one to school. After all, reading is all they can do with it!

 

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