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HOBO stores may shutter by year’s end due to financial problems

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FOREST PARK, Ill. (WLS) —

Home improvement retailer HOBO may be closing its doors for good by the end of this year, leaving some customers high and dry.

Last week the Waukegan-based company gave notice that the Home Owners Bargain Outlet, or HOBO, would be forced to shutter because of financial trouble if it couldn’t find a buyer by the end of the year.

A woman who did not wish to be identified told ABC7 Eyewitness News she’s stuck with $6,000 worth of damaged cabinets while the store’s future remains in limbo.

“I was completely unaware of the situation, what’s going on prior to the purchase. I’m sure a lot of people were,” she said. “Now I’m kind of caught up in everything that’s happening.”

The woman bought the cabinets in August and said they were delivered to her house damaged six weeks later. She said the company intended to return to repair the damage, but she hasn’t been able to get them to do so.

“At this point I know they’re telling us that the manufacturers are not wanting to do business with them because of all the money that they owe them,” she said.

The woman said HOBO is now telling her to dispute the charge for the cabinets with her credit card company.

HOBO could not be reached for comment on this situation.

HOBO has been around since the early 1990s and operates five stores in the Chicago area plus two in Milwaukee. The retailer’s closing could have a big impact on the communities its stores are in. Melody Winston is the director of real estate, operations and constructions at Forest Park Plaza, where one of the HOBO stores is located.

“They’ve got a loyal customer base which makes a big difference here at Forest Park Plaza,” she said.

“I usually come about two to three times a month because they always have good sales, so I’m really surprised,” said Nancy Grayson, a regular HOBO shopper.

Officials at the minority-owned shopping center said they hoped the company’s owners would keep the store open through the holidays.

Employees received notice that they could be terminated as early as Dec. 20. HOBO first took up residence at the mall in March 2017 after signing a 10-year lease. There’s now concern that HOBO’s closure could translate to anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000 in lost sales tax revenue for the small suburb, which could eventually lead to cuts in city services.

State representative LaShawn Ford said he’d like to meet with owners to see if the state could help them with their financial troubles through empowerment funds from the federal government, if they’re in fact eligible.

“They hire people with backgrounds. They hire people in and from the community,” Ford said.

HOBO seemed to have a steady stream of business Wednesday afternoon, with customers like Angelo Debartolo remaining hopeful that the store would remain open.

“If they can, that would be nice, but who am I to tell them to stay open for me?” he said.

(Copyright ©2018 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Ontario’s new automated speed enforcement explained

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(NC) To wage the war against speeding, many municipalities across Ontario have turned to automated speed enforcement. Most recently introduced in Toronto, speed cameras are a high-tech solution to reduce speeding and are considered one of the most effective ways to create safer roads and save lives.  

Recognizing police officers cannot catch all speeders, these cameras fill the gap, providing monitoring in specific locations around the clock. When a car’s speed is even one kilometre over the posted amount, it will take a picture of the offending vehicle’s license plate, using the captured photo as indisputable evidence. A ticket is then served to the vehicle’s owner, regardless of who was driving. 

With a focus on high-risk areas, Ontario’s automated speed enforcement cameras are located in two specific municipal areas: school and community safety zones. School zones are designated streets close to a school, featuring reduced speed limits as dictated by local bylaws. Community safety zones are high-risk corridors and intersections, subject to increased fines and penalties.  

While the Ontario Highway Traffic Act outlines the use of automated speed enforcement, municipalities can decide when and where to use cameras to curb speeding. The act does dictate financial penalties for speed violations captured with cameras, which vary depending on the number of kilometres caught over the speed limit.  

Speed enforcement is not new, but part of a broader, integrated road safety strategy that includes infrastructure improvements, awareness campaigns and new uses of technology. City officials hope for a halo effect, inspiring better driving behaviour across entire communities, not only in areas with cameras. A controversial topic, some critics take exception to speed cameras, labelling them as sneaky cash grabs for municipalities. Governments think the opposite. 

Safety advocate and auto insurance provider Onlia is hopeful that the cameras will provide drivers with a reminder to slow down, especially in high-risk areas like school and community safety zones.  

For those who obey the speed limit, automated speed enforcement shouldn’t change anything about your driving style, says Alex Kelly, Safety Ambassador at OnliaDrivers have fair warning as they approach areas with speed cameras, as mandatory signs provide reasonable notice of upcoming automated speed enforcement. Regardless of warnings, the best speed is the posted speed. 

You can start to understand your speeding style by downloading the insurance provider’s new safe driving app that coaches and rewards for you for safe driving habits.

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Online banking: How to protect yourself from fraud

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(NC) Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, a growing number of consumers are regularly using mobile and online banking to paybill payments, transfer money and make purchases.

Although these tools can give you easy access to your personal finances on demand, there are also some risks involved. For instance, your banking information—such as your debit or credit card number, user name, or personal identification number (PIN)—could be stolen. If criminals have access to your online banking information, they can steal your money, which is why it’s so important to be  vigilant when you bank online.

Follow these tips to help protect your personal and banking information:

  • For your online bank accounts, use a strong password that can’t be easily guessed, and never share your user name or password with anyone.
  • Check your accounts regularly to make sure there are no transactions you didn’t make or authorize.
  • When making online purchases, never authorize a website to save your credit card information, password or other personal information. Giving websites this permission will save you some time the next time you access the site, but it poses a real threat if a hacker manages to access your information.

Most financial institutions have policies to protect you from transactions that you didn’t make.

However, you are responsible for protecting your online and mobile banking information. If you give your details to anyone—including your spouse or partner, a family member or a friend—your financial institution may hold you responsible for any unauthorized transactions in your account, and even strip you of protection from unauthorized transactions in the future.

If you suspect your information may have been compromised, change your passwords immediately, and check your account and credit card statements for anomalies and report any suspicious transactions to your financial institution.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has created resources to help you protect your online banking information.

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Payday loans: Not the best way to borrow money

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(NC) Payday loans are a very expensive way to borrow money. Even if you’re struggling financially, think twice—and crunch the numbers—before getting this type of loan.

Depending on the rules in your province, payday lenders can charge fees of $15 to $25 per $100 that you borrow.

As an example, let’s say you borrow $300 for home repairs. The payday lender charges you $51 in fees, or $17 for every $100 borrowed. Your loan balance is therefore $351, which amounts to an interest rate of 442 per cent.

There can be serious consequences if you don’t repay your loan by the due date. These may include the following:

  • The payday lender may charge you a fee if there isn’t enough money in your account.
  • Your financial institution may also charge you a fee if there isn’t enough money in your account.
  • The total amount that you owe, including the fees, continues to increase.

There are better options out there

Payday loans should be your last resort to borrow money. Consider cheaper ways of borrowing money, such as:

  • Cashing in vacation days or asking for a pay advance from your employer.
  • Getting a line of credit, a cash advance on a credit card or a personal loan from your financial institution.
  • Getting a loan from family or friends.

Before getting a payday loan and to avoid getting stuck in a debt trap, consider other, less expensive ways to borrow money.

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