Tuesday PM April 17th, 2007

Tax deadline strikes at midnight tonight...Texas Attorney General accuses CVS of not protecting customers from identity theft...Reliant Energy says some customers to see electricity rates drop ten percent in May...

Today is the deadline for filing your tax return, or requesting an extension. The April 15th deadline was pushed back two days this year because the 15th fell on a Sunday and the 16th was a holiday in Washington D.C. Folks directly affected by this week's storm in the northeast will have two more days, until the 19th. The IRS says it expects to process 136 million returns this year.

The IRS says people directly affected by the storm that hit the northeast over the past couple of days have the opportunity for a two-day extension to file federal tax returns. That means affected taxpayers have until midnight Thursday, the 19th, to file. For everyone else, the filing deadline is tonight at midnight. In explaining the extra 48 hours, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson notes that it was an ''unusually forceful storm'' hitting close to the filing deadline. To avoid getting hit with late fees, affected taxpayers should mark their paper returns with the words ''April 16 storm.'' For those filing electronically, the IRS says to use tax software's ''disaster'' feature if available.


The CVS drugstore chain is accused--by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott--of not protecting customers from identity theft. A lawsuit accuses the Rhode Island-based chain of dumping records that included credit card numbers and medical information in the garbage. Employees at a CVS store in Liberty, about 43 miles northeast of Houston, allegedly dumped more than 1,000 different customer records in a garbage bin behind the store. The store was apparently being vacated by CVS. The records were found March 19th. Abbott says they included credit and debit card numbers and medical prescription forms with names, addresses and other info. CVS says it has "firm policies in place at all 6,200 of our stores designed to protect patient privacy in our pharmacies, including procedures to ensure that waste material generated in our pharmacies that contain confidential patient information is not placed in store dumpsters, but is instead returned to our warehouse facilities for secure disposal. The materials in the dumpster of our recently-vacated store in Liberty did not involve recent transactions or recent prescription information." CVS could face penalties of up to $500 for each abandoned record. The lawsuit is the fourth of its kind Texas has filed against a business since the 2005 law was passed.


AT&T announced it's settled with 13 data brokers it accused of fraudulently obtaining customer phone records. The lawsuits are AT&T's first involving so-called "pretexting.'' San Antonio-based AT&T says the brokers agreed to an undisclosed cash settlement and not to seek customer data in the future. The agreements reached within the last month are over lawsuits filed in San Antonio and San Francisco. AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook says two other settlements are expected to be entered soon. "Pretexting'' is when customer data is accessed by data brokers posing as customers--to get unauthorized online accounts where they could see calling records and other information. AT&T says the data brokers didn't obtain social security numbers, driver's license number or financial information.


Reliant Energy says some customers will see their electricity rates drop ten percent in May, as rates drop from an average of 16.3 cents to 14.6 cents per kilowatt-hour for customers using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month. The change is for some 470,000 customers on Reliant's "residential service plan." Customers will see the new rates reflected on their bills starting May 21st. Reliant also introduced a month-to-month wind plan that will cost 14.6 cents—the same as residential service and 12-month fixed-rate plans. Gexa Energy plans to roll out new plans and rates next week.


The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by an Enron investor who sought to reinstate the fraud conviction of former Chairman Ken Lay, to claim a portion of his estate. Russell Butler wanted to reclaim some of the $8,000 he invested in Enron stock. Lay died in July after being convicted for his role in Enron's collapse. A federal judge voided the conviction, saying Lay hadn't been able to exercise his right to appeal.


The news is enough to make American travelers in Britain cry in their pints. The British pound sterlingξbroke through the $2 mark for the first time in nearly 15 years. The move came after new data showed an unexpected surge in inflation, prompting speculation that the Bank of England could be boosting rates. The rate is now $2.00574 equaling ?1. Because of the pound's appreciation over the past few months, a Big Mac sandwich at a McDonald's restaurant in London now costs the equivalent of about $4, and a pint of beer at a local pub costs more than $5. Tourism operators say there may be an increase in bookings to the U.S., with shopping trips to New York having been popular in recent months.


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