Neal Walters conducts policy research and analysis on issues that affect the financial security of older persons. He has written a variety of reports on matters relating to financial information privacy, identity theft, affordable home utilities, prepaid cards, credit reporting and the subprime mortgage market.

Is Someone Following You Around the Store as You Shop?

Well, they might be – if you are one of the 58 percent of adult Americans who own a smartphone. Each smartphone broadcasts a unique identifying code through signals emitted as the phone searches for available networks. Retailers can track these signals and follow the in-store movements of customers as they shop. Most consumers understand that online stores track shoppers as they navigate around their websites. Yet, few realize some brick-and-mortar retail stores and shopping malls are using smartphone mobile analytics …

The Heat Is on Summer Electric Bills

The 2014 summer cooling season is turning into an expensive and potentially unsafe one for older consumers who live on a fixed income. Though many welcome the heat after a harsh winter, the frigid temperatures of this past winter are causing higher electric bills this summer. Consumers hoping to escape the high utility bills they faced during winter will find little relief. A colder-than-normal winter triggered record demand for natural gas to meet home heating needs. As a result, natural gas reserves …

Impact of the Polar Vortex on Consumers Will Linger

Many consumers are happy to say goodbye to the polar vortex that caused frigid temperatures and high home heating bills this past winter. While the memory of bitter cold winter days will fade as warmer weather finally begins to take hold, the ghost of the polar vortex may return in the form of higher home energy prices for the remainder of the year. The onslaught of colder-than-normal temperatures resulted in higher-than-average natural gas demand for home heating. This high demand has …

Spending on Cell Phone Service Increasing for Older Consumers

Cell phones have become ubiquitous-90 percent of adult Americans now own one-and that has impacted overall spending patterns for telephone service. Analysis of the latest federal Consumer Expenditure Survey finds that spending on cell phone service by consumers aged 50+ is continuing to increase while spending on traditional residential landline service is decreasing. Spending by consumers aged 50+ on telephone service grew in 2012, even as overall spending for utilities fell. A PPI analysis of expenditures on utilities by consumers …

Temperatures Plunge While Heating Bills Soar

This winter millions of Americans reluctantly became acquainted with the term “polar vortex” and the substantial impact it will have on their home heating bills. The 2013-14 winter has been notable for the repeated onslaught of bitterly cold Arctic air masses bringing waves of below-normal temperatures to the country’s Midwest, South and East. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that through January the average number of heating degree days has been 12 percent higher compared to the previous winter. Not surprisingly, …

What Personal Information Is Your Mobile Device Sharing?

“Always on and always on you” describes the extent to which consumers have integrated cellphones, smartphones and tablets into their daily lives. How deeply do consumers depend on these mobile devices? One survey found 44 percent of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they were afraid to miss any calls, text messages or other updates during the night. As mobile device use continues to increase, there is growing concern that consumers are unaware how …