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Five Ways to Spot a Home Flip Money Pit


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Just a few weeks after Eric Mann bought a Brooklyn brownstone for $1.2 million in February -- and painted the walls, sanded the floors, and added a $300 chandelier -- he sold it for $2.1 million.

"I was extremely lucky," said Mann, who said he'd bought about 40 properties across Brooklyn over the years as a real estate investor.

That's the wild world of house flipping, which is up 16% since last year and 114% from the previous year, according to real estate data-supplier RealtyTrac.

Ericka Doolittle said thought she was getting the deal of a lifetime as well when she purchased a newly renovated home in Oakland, California.

"On the surface, it looked pretty good," she told ABC News.

Then she discovered something her inspector had cautioned her about: more than $15,000 in hidden costs, from loose wires to sewer leaks.

A year after buying, Doolittle found two feet of water under debris in the basement.

"There was a veritable lake," she said. "[And] a lot of flooding issues. There was water under the house."

"What flippers are particularly good at is to make surface repairs -- and not handling the structural repairs that are sometimes needed," said New York real estate guru Barbara Corcoran who appears on ABC's Shark Tank.

Jennifer and Steve Clark of The Home Co., a husband-and-wife team of flippers, shared the following insider secrets to spotting a potentially bad flip:

1. In the utility rooms, make sure the dryer and heater are vented out of the house.

2. Measure the height of the electrical sockets. Steve Clark said they should be about 12 inches off the floor — anything else could be a sign of old electrical wiring.

3. Switches should be on the wall, not set into the molding.

4. If the owner says the house comes with new appliances, ask to see the manuals.

5. In the bathrooms, separate hot and cold knobs in the shower may mean old fixtures were replaced but not the old plumbing.

The Clarks advised to always get a thorough inspection before buying and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


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Members of Congress Plan to Live on Minimum Wage for a Week


Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- A trio of Democratic politicians are about to find out what it's like to be poor.

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Rep. Jan Schkowsky, D-Ill., and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, announced Monday that they plan to "step into the shoes of a minimum wage worker and live for one week on just $77."

It's part of the Live the Wage Challenge starting Thursday— marking the fifth anniversary since Congress last increased the nation's minimum wage.

From July 24 to July 30, the three politicians will chronicle their experiences on social media in an effort to shed light on the challenges facing minimum wage workers across the country.

A minimum wage of $10.10 pegged to cost-of-living increases would provide Americans who "work hard and play by the rules" a chance at joining the middle class, Ryan said during a call with reporters.

Strickland echoed the congressman's sentiments, saying that full-time workers should not have to "live in poverty or have to choose between food and electricity every month."

The federal minimum wage in the United States is currently set at $7.25 an hour — and has not been increased by Congress since 2009. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers has remained at $2.13 an hour since 1991.

According to a statement on its website, "the Live the Wage Challenge has called on elected officials, community leaders, advocates and anyone concerned about the growing inequality in this country to walk in the shoes of a minimum wage worker by living on a minimum wage budget for one week."

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Netflix Shares Rise as It Gains Subscribers


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Investors kicked off a new trading week with mixed results, as investors kept one eye on the tensions between Russia and the West over the downed Malasia Airlines flight in Ukraine and one eye on corporate earnings.

Netflix shares rose despite quarterly earnings that failed to meet analysts estimates. The streaming service added nearly 1.7 million subscribers globally in the second quarter.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 48 points, closing at 17,051.73. The Nasdaq declined more than 7 points, ending the day at 4,424.70, while the S&P 500 lost more than 4 points, closing at 1,973.63.

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Mobile Home Apartment Building Comes to NYC


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New York City is getting its first mobile-home apartment building.

Called "The Stack," this new residential building has 28 apartments formed by 59 modules, creating a collection of individual mobile homes piled on top of each other. 

The seven-story apartment building is on the northern tip of Manhattan and is built out of prefabricated rooms-- between 625 and 750 square-feet each.

Like mobile homes nationwide, these came to their destination on the back of a truck and got hoisted into place.

Rents start at $1,600 per month for a studio and $3,700 per month for a three-bedroom. 

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Casinos Closing in Atlantic City


iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.) -- After 36 years of casino gambling in New Jersey, the industry is crashing.

Atlantic City, which once had a monopoly on East Coast gambling, is losing some of its 12 casinos.

The Atlantic Club, Trump Plaza, and the Showboat plan to fold this year, and the Revel could join them.

Despite the quick collapse, Atlantic City is gambling on new nightclubs, malls, concerts, and conventions as part of a five-year turn-around plan.

Analysts say Connecticut, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania may also be at risk because of increasing competition.

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Sony's Walkman Returns with ZX1


David Becker/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In 1979, long before the iPod, Sony brought the world portable music in the form of the first Walkman. Now, the Walkman has returned -- and it's called the ZX1.

Compared to an iPod, it's heavy, bulky and no bargain. The new device costs $700 and is aimed at buyers who will pay the price for better sound.

The compression used by the iPod to squeeze thousands of songs on the device sacrifices sound quality.

Sony claims the ZX1 plays ultra high quality audio -- as good as listening directly to a CD. The company thinks at least some music fans will pay the price.

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New Toyota Feature Will Help Parents Bark at Kids in Back Seats


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Toyota is offering frustrated parents a helping hand in keeping their kids quiet on road trips.

A feature available on the automaker's new Sienna minivan called "Driver Easy Speak" will make it easier for parents to bark at their kids.

According to Toyota, "Driver Easy Speak utilizes the vehicle's built-in microphone to amplify the driver's voice through the rear speakers" -- thus, cutting back on the need to shout at the top of your lungs so passengers in the back can hear you.

The feature only works one way, so the voices of passengers in the back seat won't be amplified -- at least not through the microphone.

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RJ Reynolds to Appeal Verdict to Pay $23B to Cancer Victim's Widow


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco is fighting back against an order to pay billions to a widow of a former smoker who passed away 18 years ago from lung cancer.

The country’s second-largest cigarette maker says it will appeal last Friday’s jury verdict ordering the company to pay $23.6 billion in punitive damages.

The verdict came just days after Reynolds’ parent company, Reynolds American Inc., announced it was purchasing Lorillard, the maker of Newport cigarettes, for $27.4 billion.

A lawyer for the plaintiff stated that big tobacco “cannot continue to lie to the American people” with regard to the addictiveness of cigarettes.

J. Jeffrey Raborn, an executive for Reynolds, called the verdict “grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law.”

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Verizon to Increase FiOS Upload Speeds, Improving Internet Sharing


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Verizon announced on Monday that its FiOS residential customers will receive increased upload speeds, making Internet sharing easier and faster.

According to a press release, the new upload speeds will match existing download speeds. The upgrade, free for current customers, will be rolled out Monday for residential customers and later this year for small-business customers.

"Faster upload speeds means better sharing experiences," said Mike Ritter, Verizon's chief marketing officer for consumer and mass business. "All internet sharing -- whether videos, large photo files or gaming -- starts with uploading."

According to market research firm IDC, more than 20 percent of U.S. broadband households are frequently online, uploading nearly as much data as they download. The demands of constant sharing, IDC's program director of consumer multiplay and broadband services research Matt Davis says, "will inevitably become the norm in the coming years."

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Airline Security Fee Increase Goes into Effect Monday


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Starting Monday, airline passengers will begin paying more in fees when they purchase airfare.

Earlier this year, Congress voted to raise the security fee on all airplane tickets, and the hike goes into effect on Monday.

Travelers had previously been paying $2.50 in security fees for non-stop flights and $5 for a connecting flight. The new fees will cost $5.60 for all flights.

For passengers with a layover of more than four hours, that fee will be doubled.

While the TSA is facing criticism for the fee hikes, it was Congress who opted to make the change. About 75 percent of the add revenue is expected to go toward reducing the federal deficit.

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Chicago Cubs File Lawsuit Against Fake Mascot


Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The Chicago Cubs have filed a lawsuit in an effort to stop a fake mascot outside Wrigley Field.

The Cubs have filed suit against five people accused of dressing up in a Billy Cub costume and posing for pictures outside the stadium.

The mascot has demanded tips for photos and has reportedly made some lewd gestures.

In April, the mascot was involved in a bar fight and punched a man who took off his bear head. Video of the incident went viral.

The team says this is a fake mascot not associated with the team. The Chicago Cubs introduced an official mascot this year-- Clark the Cub-- who does not charge for photos.

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Credit Card Thieves Target Gas Pumps, ATMs, Restaurants With 'Skimmers'


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More cases of credit card thieves using "skimming" devices to steal unsuspecting customers' credit card information are popping up across the country, not just at gas stations, but also ATMs and even restaurants.

When a credit card is run through a skimmer, the small device stores the cardholder's data. Once the credit information is obtained, the thief can then sell the information or clone the credit card.

Authorities say thieves have installed skimmers inside credit card slots on gas pumps and in fake card slots placed on ATMs. Recently, an employee at a McDonald's in Boca Raton, Florida, was caught on camera swiping customers' cards through a handheld skimmer.

Richard Norris never thought much about his morning ritual of stopping by the McDonald's for a sweet iced tea, until he noticed mysterious charges popping up on all three of his credit cards. Knowing that McDonald's was the only place he had used all three cards, Norris turned his credit card receipts, showing dates and times of the purchases, over to police, who then checked the franchise location's surveillance footage.

Sure enough, the footage showed the drive-thru window attendant swiping Norris' card twice, first to charge for the iced tea, and again through the skimmer, kept out of sight from drivers. Police say Norris was just one of up to 70 customers who were skimmed during the attendant's shifts.

"I was lucky, the money was, you know, it was found early on," Norris said. "In other people's situations, they might not be so lucky. They might have more money taken from them, and it might be their car payment, their mortgage payment, whatever."

Norris said it wasn't just the fraudulent charges that got to him, but also the deception.

"He actually made it a point to [say], 'How are you doing, good afternoon, good morning,' whatever the case might be, seemed to always be smiling," Norris said. "He seemed like one of the nicer guys... he actually did his job. So for him to be on the back end doing something like he was, it was definitely, I don't know, disheartening."

The McDonald's employee ended up pleading guilty to fraud charges and was sentenced to two years'probation. The Boca Raton McDonald's did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

But authorities say this sort of brazen theft appears to be common. Detective Jeffrey Marshall of the Nassau County Police Department in New York said three different businesses within a two minute drive from the station had cases of employees skimming cards.

Electronic skimmers are so advanced that they don't even need a human to operate. Marshall said there was a case where a thief installed a skimmer inside a fake card slot and placed it over the real one on an ATM inside a convenience store. The thief also installed a tiny camera to capture unsuspecting customers' pin numbers so he could withdrawal cash.

The U.S. Secret Service, which investigates skimming fraud cases across the country, gets help from local police departments, gas station owners and guys like Dan DeFelippi, a reformed credit card hacker.

DeFelippi was caught by the Secret Service, but instead of going to prison, he spent two years training Secret Service agents in the art of skimming. "ATM cashing was the easiest and best way to make money," DeFelippi said. "I was making thousands of dollars a day in cash doing that."

His favorite target, he said, were gas pumps.

"[The skimmer is] hidden, the person using it will never see it, it's simple to add, it's simple to modify it. It only takes seconds to open it up and put it in there,"” DeFelippi said. "They're ubiquitous. There are gas pumps everywhere. You can easily find a gas station to do it at and go back and gather."

Authorities say there are ways for customers to protect themselves from skimming fraud.

Marshall advised checking your credit card statements regularly. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, once you report loss or theft, you have no additional responsibility for charges you didn't make.

Second, if you're at a gas station, choose a pump near the convenience store part of the station, close to the attendants. Experts say skimmers prefer to target pumps in the shadows. Finally, there is always the option of paying in cash.

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Malaysia Airlines to Offer Refunds, Fee Waivers


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) -- Malaysia Airlines says it will offer refunds and waive change fees for any passengers who wish to cancel or postpone their travel plans in the wake of MH17 being shot down over Ukraine on Thursday.

In a statement on their website, Malaysia Airlines says that passengers -- even those with non-refundable tickets -- can receive a refund should they opt to cancel or postpone their trip. Enrich passengers will also receive fee waivers for any travel changes and refunded miles if they cancel a trip using redemption tickets.

The offer stands for one week, so customers have to act between July 18 and July 24. All offers are available to customers scheduled to travel between July 18 and December 31, 2014.

In a statement, the company said that it "deeply regrets the loss of MH17, and is very much appreciative of the support from our passengers."

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Number of Layoffs in US at Six-Year Low


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Microsoft is the big exception. The company's announcement of 18,000 job cuts goes against the latest employment trends.

Job security for most workers has improved. In fact, the number of layoffs across the U.S. is now at a six-year low.

"Firms just aren't laying off people in a recession-like way. They're basically back to good times in terms of layoffs," says economist Cary Leahey.

But, he points out, job creation could be stronger.

"They just haven't felt the good times are good enough to hire workers in profusion or to take a chance on workers who have been unemployed for a long period of time," Leahey says.

Nevertheless, the jobs market is improving.

"It's basically as good as it's been in the last five or 10 years but its nothing like what happened in the 80s or 90s," Leahey notes.

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Markets Rebound to Close Week on High Note, Unemployment Claims Dip


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street rebounded from poor performances on Thursday to finish the week on a high note, while the U.S. Labor Department announced lower unemployment rates in 22 states.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day up 1213.37 to 17100.18. The index climbed back over the 17,000 mark, which it reached for the first time ever earlier this month.

The Nasdaq closed at 4432.15, up 68.7 from Thursday's finish, while the S&P 500 ended the session up 20.1 to 1978.22.

A Labor Department report said on Friday that 22 states saw lower numbers of unemployment benefits claimed. Overall, 3,000 fewer Americans claimed unemployment compared to the revised numbers from the week before.

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