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Mercedes-Benz USA and parent settle emissions cheating probes; Oracle-TikTok deal is shrouded in questions |

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Daimler to pay $1.5B for emissions cheating

WASHINGTON — Automaker Daimler AG and subsidiary Mercedes-Benz USA have agreed to pay $1.5 billion to the U.S. government and California state regulators to resolve emissions cheating allegations, officials said Monday.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency and the California attorney general’s office say Daimler violated environmental laws by using so-called “defeat device software” to circumvent emissions testing and sold about 250,000 cars and vans in the U.S. with diesel engines that didn’t comply with state and federal laws.

The settlement, which includes civil penalties, will also require Daimler to fix the vehicles, officials said.

The German automaker said on Aug. 13 that it had agreements with the Justice Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Customs and Border Protection, the California Air Resources Board and others over civil and environmental claims involving about 250,000 diesel cars and vans.

Daimler said the settlement would bring costs of about $1.5 billion, while the civil settlement will bring a one-off charge of about $700 million. It estimated that “further expenses” would be required to fulfill conditions of the settlements.

Details of Oracle deal with TikTok unclear

SAN FRANCISCO — The short-video app TikTok on Sunday chosen Oracle as its corporate savior to avoid a U.S. ban ordered by President Donald Trump. The U.S. government said Monday it will review the prospective deal.

That much is known. Everything else is confusion, at least to outsiders. For example, what does it mean that, as Oracle declared, it will become a “trusted technology provider” for TikTok? Is this a joint venture, a vendor agreement or something else? Oracle is pointedly not referring to its deal as a sale or acquisition.

“This whole process has been a mess,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared to support the Oracle bid on CNBC Monday morning. Oracle’s proposal made “many representations for national security issues,” Mnuchin said. He also noted a new commitment — by whom, he didn’t say — to make TikTok’s global operations a U.S.-headquartered company with 20,000 new jobs. Neither TikTok nor Oracle mentioned that pledge Monday, although TikTok said in July that it would add 10,000 U.S. jobs

TikTok said in a statement Monday that its proposal to the Treasury Department should “resolve the Administration’s security concerns” and emphasized the importance of its app to the 100 million users it claims in the U.S.

Oracle and TikTok did not answer questions about the structure of the proposal on Monday. The Treasury Department didn’t return an emailed request for more information about the proposal.

Buyout sparks fears of chip dominance

LONDON — U.S. graphics chip maker Nvidia said it plans to buy U.K.-based Arm Holdings in a deal worth up to $40 billion, in a move that would create a global powerhouse in the industry.

The deal, announced late Sunday by Nvidia and Arm’s parent, Japanese technology giant SoftBank, raises concerns about the independence of Arm, one of Europe’s most important technology companies.

Most of the world’s smartphones run on Arm’s chip designs and it’s a vital supplier for companies like Apple and Samsung. It’s also an innovator in chip technology that can power artificial intelligence for connected devices like medical sensors, known as the “Internet of Things.” The company’s business centers on designing chips and licensing the intellectual property to customers, rather than chip manufacturing, for which it relies on partners.

Being owned by a U.S. company could mean Arm is exposed to U.S. government export bans at a time when Washington is in a battle for tech supremacy with China.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said the U.S. company still plans to keep Arm based at its headquarters in Cambridge, England. “Together we’re going to create the world’s premier computing company for the age of AI,” Huang said.

Verizon to buy mobile reseller Tracfone

NEW YORK — Verizon, the country’s largest phone company, is buying prepaid phone seller Tracfone for up to $6.9 billion, expanding its low-income customer business.

Tracfone, a subsidiary of Mexico telecom giant America Movil, is a mobile reseller, the largest in the U.S. It doesn’t build its own network, instead paying companies like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile a fee to use theirs. Nearly two-thirds of Tracfone’s 21 million U.S. customers get their service from Verizon via Tracfone renting Verizon’s network.

Most U.S. cellphone customers are “postpaid” rather than prepaid — they pay a monthly phone bill. Prepaid customers are more likely to be low-income or have bad credit. Tracfone is a major provider of the U.S. Lifeline service, which discounts phone and internet service for low-income customers. Verizon said Monday that it would continue to offer Lifeline through Tracfone.

Verizon said it expects the deal to close in the second half of 2021. Regulators must approve it.

Gilead buying maker of cancer drugs

NEW YORK — Shares of the cancer drug specialist Immunomedics more than doubled before the market opened Monday, a day after its sale to Gilead Sciences for $21 billion was announced.

Gilead said on Sunday that it will pay $88 per share in cash as it seeks to broaden its cancer treatments portfolio. Immunomedics’ drug Trodelvy was granted accelerated approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April for the treatment of adult patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer who have received at least two prior therapies for metastatic disease. The drug is also being studied for bladder cancer, lung cancer and other solid tumor types.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

Delta to monetize its loyalty program

NEW YORK — Delta Air Lines will use its frequent flyer program to back up $6.5 billion in funding as the pandemic continues to buffet air travel.

A sharp drop in travel has left the airlines with tens of thousands more employees than they need to operate the vastly reduced number of flights. This spring, the airlines began receiving $25 billion in federal grants and loans to keep workers on their payrolls for six months. With that money ending Sept. 30, the three biggest U.S. carriers are expected to furlough or lay off about 40,000 workers.

Delta is only the latest to leverage its frequent flyer program to raise capital. United Airlines and American Airlines did the same in June.

Airline executives do not expect airline traffic to return to normal for some time, and that is raising pressure on lawmakers to step in and prevent mass job losses.

On Monday, Delta said the bonds and term loans linked to the funds will be secured by its SkyMiles program. SkyMiles IP plans to lend the net proceeds from the bonds and term loan to Delta after depositing a portion of the proceeds in a reserve account.

US halts some imports over forced labor

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has blocked imports from four companies and a manufacturing facility in northwestern China suspected of using forced labor from people detained as part of a sweeping crackdown on ethnic minorities in the region.

Companies that ship clothing and other cotton goods, computer parts and hair products from the Xinjiang region were named in the order issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

VW completes monitoring in 2015 emissions scandal

FRANKFURT, Germany — Volkswagen said Monday that it has completed supervision by an independent monitor imposed as part of the company’s plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department in its diesel emissions scandal.

The company said it worked with monitor Larry Thompson since 2017 to implement compliance programs aimed at preventing behavior like that evidenced by the scandal. The company made cars rigged to cheat on U.S. diesel emissions tests, and paid more than $33 billion in fines and settlements.

The carmaker said that steps taken during the monitoring period included a code of conduct across all its businesses, an expanded whistleblower system and establishing a top-level compliance committee.

Former CEO Martin Winterkorn faces a trial on criminal fraud charges in Germany in connection with the 2015 scandal and also has been charged in the U.S. along with other former VW executives.

Walmart, Zipline to test drone delivery

NEW YORK — Walmart is teaming up with a company called Zipline to launch drone delivery program early next year that will deliver health and wellness products close to the retailer’s headquarters in northwest Arkansas.

Walmart said Monday that it plans to eventually expand to general merchandise.

It’s the second delivery drone deal for Walmart within a week. It’s using drones from startup Flytrex to deliver groceries and household essentials from its Walmart stores in North Carolina.

Zipline, founded in 2014, has the world’s largest drone delivery network and began operating in late 2016 in Rwanda primarily focusing on-demand delivery of medical supplies. The company has now delivered more than 200,0000 medical items to thousands of health facilities in numerous countries.

NJ sets US sports betting record

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — New Jersey gamblers set a nationwide record for the most money bet on sports in a single month, plunking down almost $668 million in August on events including resurgent baseball, basketball and hockey seasons that had been interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, figures released Monday showed.

That smashed the previous record of $614 million set in Nevada in Nov. 2019.

The extra money helped cushion the blow of months of losses incurred by New Jersey’s casinos and two racetracks that offer sports betting, helping them start to rebound financially.

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement shows the casinos and tracks collectively won $326.3 million from gamblers in August.

That figure was heartening to the casinos because it came in a month where they were restricted to operating at 25 percent of capacity, and it also included a doubling of internet gambling revenue compared to a year ago.

All told, the casinos and tracks saw their revenue decline by 7.5 percent compared to August 2019, when they were going full-blast and there was no pandemic.



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Are Buy Now, Pay Later Apps Better Than a Credit Card?

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You might think BNPL saves you money and time, but it can cost you big if you’re not careful.

If you’ve noticed a lot more “buy now, pay later” apps popping up when you check out with online retailers, it’s because they’ve become increasingly popular.

This comes as no surprise when you consider how younger generations are hesitant to use credit cards. According to a new study on buy now, pay later (BNPL) apps done by The Ascent, 67% of millennials don’t have a credit card. For some, that’s because they can’t get approved, and others prefer to avoid credit. Many don’t think it makes sense to use a credit card for small, everyday purchases and are worried about the impact of credit cards on their credit scores.

Which one is better: BNPL apps or credit cards? The answer, as you might expect, is: It depends.

Better for ease of approval: Buy now, pay later

One of the main draws of BNPL apps is that they typically don’t require credit approval, and most don’t even involve a hard pull on your credit report.

This is good news for folks with bad credit or no credit at all, and it’s helpful for anyone who wants to keep credit inquiries to a minimum. Having multiple new inquiries on your credit report in a short period of time — and credit card applications are considered an inquiry — can cause your credit score to drop.

Shopping with an online retailer and paying with a BNPL app at checkout is certainly convenient. It means you don’t have to fill out a lengthy application and wait to see if you’re approved. However, just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s a wise choice.

Better for improving your credit score: Credit cards

Using a credit card regularly and paying it off in full and on time each month is one of the best ways to build credit. Of course, credit cards don’t inherently improve your credit — responsible credit card usage does. Late payments and delinquent accounts can completely wreck your credit score. And, as discussed above, the credit card application itself can ding your score slightly.

Many BNPL apps, on the other hand, don’t report on-time payments to the credit bureaus. This means you won’t get credit for them — pun intended. On the other hand, any failure to make your payments can be reported to the credit bureaus and damage your score.

Credit cards have the potential to either help or hurt your credit depending on how you use them. In contrast, a lot of BNPL apps only have the potential to drag down your score if you fail to pay off your balance.

Better for avoiding interest: It depends

Every BNPL option has its own set of terms and conditions, so it’s important to read the fine print before making a decision. Some come with an interest-free period, while others charge interest rates of up to 30%. You typically won’t be charged any fees to use a BNPL service if you take advantage of an interest-free promotion and pay off your full balance within the interest-free period and on time. That said, most of these services do charge late fees and returned payment fees if you don’t have sufficient funds in your bank account to make one of your scheduled payments.

The decision between a BNPL app and a credit card comes down to interest, so you should know the interest rate on your credit card. You can find that information on your monthly statement. If the BNPL app you’re considering charges interest, compare the rate to what your credit card would charge. In either case, you’ll likely pay a premium to put the purchase on credit, as the interest rates on credit cards and BNPL apps are extremely high.

Often, BNPL apps will offer an interest-free period, which is what can make them so enticing. A typical interest-free offer will break up the total cost of your purchase into four installments, asking you to pay 25% of the purchase price up-front and then make the remaining three payments every two weeks.

If you do this, you’ll have six weeks to pay off the purchase and won’t have to pay any interest. This makes it a slightly better deal than a credit card, which typically has a grace period of 21 days, or three weeks, before interest is assessed on a purchase.

However, if you miss a single payment or fail to pay off the full purchase by the end of the interest-free period, even if you only have a few dollars left to pay off, you could be in for a rude awakening. BNPL interest rates are typically far higher than those charged by credit cards. Some even charge what’s called “deferred interest,” meaning interest accumulates on the original purchase price, not the remaining balance. What’s more, some of these services charge late fees as a percentage of the original purchase value, which can be very costly.

In other words, BNPL services can save you money on interest, but they can also cost you a lot more if you’re not careful. They also give you a very short period of time to pay off your purchase interest-free, especially when compared to 0% intro APR credit cards with 18-month introductory periods.

Better for big purchases: Credit cards

Most BNPL apps are meant for smaller items — think a few hundred dollars — rather than major purchases. If you’re looking to finance something in the thousands of dollars range, you might have trouble finding a BNPL app that will help you out. Credit cards tend to come with higher credit limits, especially if you have good credit and a decent income.

That being said, financing an expensive purchase on a credit card is typically not a good idea either, due to the high interest rates. The only time you should consider putting a big-ticket item on credit is when you can take advantage of a good 0% intro APR credit card. Even then you need to be certain you can pay off the balance before the introductory period ends. Otherwise, you’ll end up getting slammed with massive interest fees.

Saving enough money to pay up-front is almost always the best way to pay

In most cases, the best way to pay for a purchase is to save up the money first and buy it outright. This ensures you’ll avoid interest fees, debt, and potential credit damage.

This isn’t always possible, but it is a best practice you should exercise for any non-essential purchases. Instead of swiping your credit card or using a BNPL app, open a free savings account specifically for that goal and transfer money into it once each week. Wait until you have enough money saved to buy the item you’ve had your eye on.

It won’t get you instant gratification, but it also won’t cause you to stress about making your payments or land you in debt. And that is priceless.

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It’s never too early to monitor your kid’s identity

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As children return to school, security experts want parents to add one more thing to their yearly checklist – safeguarding their child’s identity.

Monday is Child Identity Theft Awareness Day.

“This is a huge problem that frankly no one is aware of if they’re not paying attention to it, because it feels like an adult crime and it couldn’t possibly happen to a child, but it does,” said Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center.

Recent studies show over 1 million children are impacted each year, with losses over $2.6 billion.

This year, new government programs for COVID-19 relief have created new vulnerabilities.

Children are prime targets because thieves can use their credentials to build credit history over time, then take out loans, open credit cards and max them out.

It can take months or even years for parents to realize their kids now have bad credit.

“The detection methods adults use just by engaging in the outside world, those aren’t there for children and the thieves realize that and they know it can go undetected for long periods of time,” said Velasquez.

The center says it’s never too early to start monitoring your child’s identity.

Teach them cyber safety as they get older and watch for red flags.

If you get something in the mail for your kid that looks like it should be for adult, don’t write it off as a mistake.

The biggest recommendation is to freeze your child’s credit. It won’t solve everything, but it will significantly lower risks.

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4 Signs of a Online Loan Scam

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Over the years, complaints about online loan scams are fortunately decreasing, thanks to warnings about loan scams and more reputable online lenders surfacing nowadays. However, even though the number of people getting scammed is steadily decreasing, the amount of money these scams are getting is still massive.

A report made by the Federal Trade Commission stated that consumers had lost about $905 million back in 2017, which is significantly higher than 2016’s $63 million. The FTC has made general guidelines about online scams through credited education, awareness programs, and even enforcement. However, even with all that, consumers are still losing millions through these fraudulent activities.

Typically, financial scammers primarily prey on people who have been previously denied a loan and desperately need money. For people like them, the need to borrow money is stronger than the urge to be vigilant about the loan they are applying for, making them easy prey for online loan scams. Even then, we need to be vigilant. That said, here are some signs you should watch out for to see if you are applying for an online loan scam.

No Credit Check

Now, don’t get us wrong. Not all lenders who don’t look at your credit history are scammers. Some alternative lenders are more interested in your income or profits (if you are running a business) rather than your credit history or merely running online loans for people with bad credit.

However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be vigilant when encountering a lender that doesn’t require a credit check. If you base your decision on whether it’s a scam or not, merely seeing if they do a credit check is wrong.

It is essential to take note that most reputable lenders do a credit check. This is important to them because it helps them determine if you are a risky borrower or not. On the other hand, fraudulent loans aren’t even interested if you can pay the loan. They relish the fact that the borrower can’t repay the debt to incur more fees and penalties upon the borrower.

Upfront Fees

Some lenders will make you pay money in advance before doing any service. This is a red flag. The lender will disguise these as application fees or introduction fees.

Some even disguise these fees as document fees for them to process your application. It’s like them saying you need to send them money first before sending you money for the loan, which is 100% a scam if you ask us.

It is important to remember that any penalties, application fees, and whatnot will be rolled into repayment, or the principal cost when you get approved for the loan.

Unregistered Lender in Your State

All personal loan companies or any financial companies must be registered to the state they operate in. Their registration must pass through the State Attorney General’s Office, which will help the state monitor its businesses. This is applicable even if they operate online.

Online loan scams will typically say they are out of the state’s reach because they are online or a foreign company, which is what a scammer would say. If they operate outside of the state laws, they might be lending money illegally, or it’s an outright scam. When you find one, you can report them to the authorities to prevent these lenders from scamming other people.

If you aren’t sure whether they are legal, you can always check the State Attorney General’s Office if there are some complaints made about them. This might take time, but remember, we are talking about your money here. What is a week of waiting compared to you losing money over a scam?

They Demand a Credit Card

Under no circumstances will a lender or any other legitimate financial institutions demand your credit card or a photocopy of your credit card. If a lender asks for your credit card, it is a scam. They will typically say it is for insurance or some other excuse.

Legitimate financial companies will ask for a payment for the credit report, appraisal, or application, but those charges will be forwarded to your loan, not to your credit card. This is a popular way for scammers to get your money since credit from your credit card is virtually untraceable by the authorities. You also can’t report it to them because you voluntarily gave it to the scammers.

Remember to never give away your credit card or your credit card information to anybody, no matter how legitimate they sound or for any purposes. Doing so will rack you up tons of debt that you may never pay for for the rest of your life.

Takeaway

Online loan scams are still prevalent, even though the cases are steadily decreasing over time. Always be vigilant, especially if your money is at stake. Never give these scammers a chance to get any of your info, no matter how insignificant it is, especially your credit card information. Keep safe.

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