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Bank of America Reaches Record Settlement with DOJ


Chris Hondros/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Bank of America reached a record-breaking $16.65 billion settlement with the Department of Justice on Thursday.

The deal resolves an investigation into allegations that the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank misled purchasers of mortgage-backed securities prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

The settlement is the largest ever reached between the federal government and a company.

“At nearly $17 billion, today’s resolution with Bank of America is the largest the department has ever reached with a single entity in American history,” Associate Attorney General Tony West said in a statement Thursday.

The previous biggest bank deal involved JPMorgan Chase, which agreed to pay $13 billion for its role in selling flawed mortgage investments.

Bank of America is expected to pay $9.65 billion in cash; the rest will go toward consumer relief.

“This historic resolution -- the largest such settlement on record -- goes far beyond ‘the cost of doing business,’” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. "Under the terms of this settlement, the bank has agreed to pay $7 billion in relief to struggling homeowners, borrowers and communities affected by the bank’s conduct. This is appropriate given the size and scope of the wrongdoing at issue.”

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Tooth Fairy Leaving Less Money Under Pillows this Year


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The latest tooth fairy index suggests consumers are a little more nervous than last year about the future.

According to credit card company Visa, the tooth fairy is leaving 8 percent less cash under the pillow this year. The average now is $3.40 a tooth.

The survey shows dads leave more than moms since they tend to panic and leave whatever's in their pockets.  

Researchers say the tooth fairy's clipped wings this year show a drop in consumer confidence.

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Existing Home Sales Jump 2.4% in July


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sales of existing homes in the U.S. rose last month to the highest level since last September, a report out Thursday shows.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says sales jumped 2.4 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million.

"I'm not surprised at all that the numbers are up. It's summer time and this is when the masses want to buy real estate. It's warm out. We had a really slow start to the year because it was just too cold to go outside and go to work certainly too cold to buy a home. So we're catching up now," says Kathy Fettke, CEO and founder of Real Wealth Network.

Sales of previously-owned homes are at the highest pace of this year and have gone up for four straight months, according to the NAR.

Fettke says now is a good time to buy a first home.

"There's more inventory out there and that's really great news for home buyers. Interest rates are still low. Home prices are up but only up 4.9 percent from last year. So it should still be fairly affordable in certain markets for people to buy their first home," she explains.

Despite the good news, existing home sales are still down 4.3 percent from July of 2013.

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How Much Will You Get from Social Security When You Retire?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Have you ever wondered how much money you'll get from Social Security when you retire?

You can find out now -- online.

"People can go to socialsecurity.gov/myaccount," says Mark Hinkle of the Social Security Administration.

It takes about 10 minutes to sign up. Once you're done, you can see what your payments will be when you retire and how much you qualify for.

"They get access to their personal Social Security information online," says Hinkle. "It's a great way for people to start planning for their retirement."

You can get personalized benefit estimates and also find out what your disability benefits would be if you need them.

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Jobless Claims Dip to 298K


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(WASHINGTON) -- Jobless claims were lower last week, decreasing by 14,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending Aug. 16, the number of people filing for benefits declined to 298,000. The previous week, claims stood at 311,000.

The Labor Department said there were no "special factors" impacting that week's figures.

The four-week moving average jumped higher, increasing by 4,750 to 300,750.

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UPS Says Customers Data May Have Been Compromised in Malware Incident


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- UPS warned customers on Wednesday that they may have been one of the U.S. retailers whose customers may have had their data compromised as a result of exposure to malware.

According to a press release, UPS customers who used a credit or debit card at one of the 51 impacted UPS locations between Jan. 20 and Aug. 11 may have had their personal data exposed. As of Aug. 11, UPS says the malware has been eliminated from their computer systems and that customers can shop at all UPS Store locations without concern.

Tim Davis, President of The UPS Store, Inc., said that he understands how, "this type of incident can be disruptive and cause frustration." He apologized for, "any anxiety this may have caused our customers," while stating that resources were deployed to address the data intrusion as soon as the malware was located.

UPS notes that the 51 impacted locations represent just about one percent of the company's 4,470 franchised locations in the U.S.

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A Surefire Way to Maximize Your Work Productivity


iStock/Thinkstock(RIGA, Latvia) -- Give yourself a break at work, literally, if you want to be the best possible worker.

That’s the advice of Julia Gifford, whose Latvian-based Draugiem Group is an umbrella organization for many IT-related companies.

Using the time tracking app DeskTime, Gifford says the best formula for maximizing your time on the job is 52 and 17: that’s 52 minutes of full-steam-ahead work followed by a 17-minute break or “recuperation,” as she puts it.

According to Gifford, it’s not about working longer, it’s about working smarter with frequent breaks.

During those 52 minutes, the most productive employees work with purpose and take a well-deserved break so they can hit the ground running again in what Gifford labels “the 100 percent dedication theory.”

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Target Announces Lower Annual Earnings Forecast


Target(NEW YORK) -- Target announced it would drop its annual earnings forecast by about 50 cents per share on Wednesday, part of ongoing fallout from the data breach the company experienced late last year.

The company announced that its second quarter adjusted earnings per share was just 78 cents, down 20.6 percent from the second quarter in 2013. Target is currently anticipating annual earnings of $3.10 to $3.30 per share for the full year.

A press release from Target noted a dip of 1.3 percent in second quarter U.S. Segment transactions. Still, that figure was slightly higher than that of the first quarter.

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Wall Street Continues Week of Gains, Apple Stock Hits New High


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street -- barely -- continued its week of gains on Wednesday, with two of the three major indices posting gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 16979.13 on Wednesday, continuing a slow creep back to the 17000 milestone with a gain on the day of 59.54.

The S&P 500 closed up 4.91 to 1986.51, but the Nasdaq dropped 1.03 to 4526.48

Apple hit a new high on Wednesday, topping $100 per share, placing the company's value in the vicinity of $600 billion, greater than any other publicly held company.

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How Real Is the Looming Nutella Shortage?


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- How real is the reported threat to Nutella hazelnut spread?

According to the Financial Times, there was poor weather in Turkey, where approximately 70 percent of the world's hazelnuts originate. But Somerset, New Jersey-based Ferrero USA, the company that makes and distributes the sweet stuff for its Italian parent company, says fans have no need to worry.

"Inclement weather last spring in Turkey has impacted this year’s hazelnut harvest," a spokesperson for Ferrero USA said in a statement to ABC News. "We are tracking this issue closely and there’s no foreseeable impact on the availability of Nutella. As always, we will maintain the high quality of the Nutella product that consumers know and love."

The price of hazelnuts has spiked more than 60 percent this year, according to the Washington Post. Ferrero buys as much as a quarter of the world's hazelnuts, according to the Post.

Jenny McCoy, chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, said she doubts any shortage may actually happen.

"Ferraro has been in the hazelnut product business for quite some time and I feel certain they've secured crops for their annual production needs. Being the consumer of 25 percent of the world's hazelnuts, they've been aware of this issue for many months sooner than the rest of us," she said.

Either way, any hazelnut shortage may be good news for small farmers, such as those in Oregon. McCoy said they grow "far more delicious hazelnuts" than those of Turkey, and are enjoying the increase in hazelnut market prices.

"In the meantime, regular consumers, chefs and small food producers looking to purchase hazelnuts may see some difficulty if harvests are as low as predicted -- mostly because the costs will be too high for most budgets. I'll be curious to see if restaurant menus change and chef's consider other nuts instead. Perhaps it is time for a revitalization of the walnut," she said.

Every day, businesses like Ferrero, which are dependent on food commodities, like hazelnuts, are closely watching the prices of their ingredients.

Earlier this year, the price of limes more than doubled due to shortages from the produce's main exporter, Mexico. Rain and a bacterium affected harvests there, analysts noted.

As concerns continued into the spring, restaurants turned to other citrus fruits to take its place, but not necessarily because they couldn't buy the fruit. Many businesses chose to pay higher prices to continue serving dishes with the fruit, or limited them on an as-needed basis.

Last year, it wasn't weather, but strong demand that led to "fears" of a chicken shortage before a heavy chicken-wing weekend: the Super Bowl. The National Chicken Council says about one billion chicken wings can be consumed during the Super Bowl. Fortunately, the wing scare ended up as hype.

Rising almond prices also scared health nuts last year, due to a shortage of honey bees that influenced lower almond production levels in California.

When there was mild hysteria over the price of avocados in January, a spokesman for the restaurant chain Chipotle told ABC News that prices had increased, but the company didn't stop serving guacamole then, nor in 2011, when there was a similar price hike.

"The sky is not falling," Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle, told ABC News at the time.

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NJ Woman Claims Fashion School, Barnes & Noble Stole Her Design


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Fashion Institute of Technology graduate who is suing her alma mater and Barnes & Noble for selling a backpack she designed without, she argues, giving her any profits says it is “confusing” to see her backpack on the streets.

“It is a very confusing feeling knowing that my backpack is my design and I see people on the street wearing it all the time and I have not received any monetary value for it at all,” Diana Rubio told ABC News.

Rubio, 33, from Carlstadt, New Jersey, was a Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) student in 2010 when she designed “The Everything Backpack” for a class project.

In a copyright-infringement lawsuit filed Monday in Manhattan Federal Court, Rubio claims the New York City school entered her design in Barnes & Noble’s “Back to Campus” contest and she won.

The bookstore then began selling her bag for $39.95 and identifying Rubio as the backpack’s designer both on its website and on a tag inside the bag.

Rubio’s lawsuit claims that she “has received no payment…nor has she authorized the manufacture, marketing and sale of such backpacks.”

“I did receive the formal paperwork that goes with if someone is going to produce your bag -- the sign-your-rights-away waiver -- but I did not sign it,” Rubio told ABC News. “I feel a little bit betrayed,” she said.

Barnes & Noble responded to the lawsuit by saying the issue is between Rubio and her alma mater.

“We pay royalty fees to FIT for student designs…this matter is between FIT and Ms. Rubio,” the bookstore chain said in a statement to ABC News.

FIT officials told ABC News they are aware of the lawsuit and looking into it.

“Although we have not been formally served with the lawsuit, we are aware of it and we have begun our fact finding to learn the circumstances and, if appropriate, do right by Ms. Rubio,” the school said in a statement.

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Hertz Pulls 2014 Financial Forecast


Chris Hondros/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The picture isn’t so pretty at Hertz.

The world’s biggest car rental company says it’s withdrawing its financial forecast for the year and expects profits to be "well below the low end of its 2014 guidance."

Hertz is blaming GM’s recent recalls for part of the problem, leaving the firm with fewer cars to rent, because the vehicles had to be pulled off the lot.

In a regulatory filing Tuesday, Hertz also cited higher-than-expected costs and weak demand for equipment rentals.

Shares of Hertz Global Holdings plunged 18 percent on the news.

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Owners Take Vevo Off the Market


Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The owners of Vevo have ended the sales process of the popular video-streaming site because of expected continued growth, the New York Post reports.

Universal Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Google and the Abu Dhabi Media Group have ended all sales talks with big-name companies such as Liberty Media and Guggenheim Digital Media, among many others.

Vevo, launched in 2009 by Universal Music, is expected to reach 227 million viewers worldwide as of Dec. 31, which the Post reports is just one reason the current owners have decided to keep the site.

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Bank of America Expect to Reach $17 Billion Settlement with Department of Justice


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Bank of America is expected to agree to a $17 million settlement on Thursday in connection with its sale of mortgage-backed securities prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

The bank is expected to agree to the deal with the U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general, in what would be the largest settlement ever with a bank or private company. The previous record settlement was a deal with JPMorgan for $13 million related to its losses in the London whale case. JPMorgan was accused of failing to, "keep watch over its traders as they overvalued a very complex portfolio to hide" $6 billion in trading losses.

The $17 billion is the equivalent of approximately three years of Bank of America profits.

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How to Vacation for Next to Nothing as a Mystery Shopper


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Chulews -- Mike, Rebecca and 2-year-old Veronica -- recently went on a summer vacation for practically free. Their gas, flight, hotel and even their meals were about 80 percent off.  That’s because the Chulews of Texas are mystery shoppers.

“If I wasn’t a mystery shopper,” Rebecca Chulew said, “I don’t even know how I would pay full price for these things.”

[Click here to learn about accredited mystery shopping companies.]

The Chulews said being a mystery shopper was like going on a secret spy mission.

Mystery shopping companies hire people to grade everything, from free newspapers for guests and towels laid out for the beach to whether the hair dryer in the bathroom works.

Shoppers then document their findings and opinions on a score sheet.

“We’re always looking for mystery shoppers,” said David Lipton, president of the mystery shopping company Sensors Quality Management. “The most successful mystery shoppers are those who are reliable, responsible. They have a keen eye for detail. They can follow the instructions that we provide.”

When the Chulews recently stayed at a hotel in Corpus Christi, Texas, they noted that the pillows in the lobby were messy and that there was sand on the carpeted steps.

At the end of their stay, though, the Chulews gave the hotel a thumbs-up.

The hotel declined to comment to ABC News.

The Chulews said they’d performed about 150 mystery shops this year, saving them about $5,000 in expenses they would have bought anyway.

“My haircut was a mystery shop,” Mike Chulew said. “My clothes. My shoes. My socks.”

“Once you know you can get a half-priced pair of shoes for doing 20 minutes of paperwork, why not?” Rebecca Chulew said.

“[Mystery shoppers] will save a significant amount off of their airfare, their stay at a hotel, a night out at a restaurant,” Lipton said.

But there are scams out there, he added. Be wary of companies that ask you to pay them money upfront.

Make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. Here’s some advice from the FTC on how to avoid a scam. And there’s a mystery shopper trade group that provides web resources.

Mystery shopping is just one way, though, to save big on a vacation as the summer comes to an end.

Christine Partello of Boston and her fiance saved $75 on their honeymoon this summer by using Yapta. The website tracks the price of your flight and sends a notification if it drops.

Gail Presses of New Orleans saved $600 by booking her hotel through Tingo. It tracks prices and automatically rebooks your room when the price drops.

Rahul Razdan of New Jersey used Zalyn to find a car rental coupon, saving his family $246.


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