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.

Once More Unto the Security Breach

For the third time this year, I opened an unmarked envelope to find a new credit card glued to the insert. Actually, it wasn’t a new card. Just a replacement for my current card, now unusable because of a security breach somewhere. I’ll be amazed if this card makes it to the end of the year. Sound familiar? Security Breaches on a Massive Scale Huge data breaches affecting millions of American consumers seem to be happening with regularity these days. …

Have Efforts to Create a Do-Not-Track List Derailed?

The brightly colored running shoes stare back at me from my computer screen. They’ve been following me from website to website — ever since I clicked on them while browsing an online store the week before. The shoes aren’t supposed to follow me like this. I’ve set my browser to send a message to each website I visit expressing my desire to opt out of such tracking. But here come the shoes again. And again. What happened to the online …

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 …