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Fortune struck for these Syrian migrants, but can they make it in California?

Consumer Confidential

Consumer Confidential With David Lazarus
You've bought it. Now what about returning it?

It's Black Friday, so people's thoughts turn from a celebration of thankfulness to spending gobs of cash on modestly discounted consumer goods.

I'm not here to judge.

But I am here to offer some tips on two of the big R's of the holiday shopping season: rebates and returns.

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Average taxes on wireless bills in California reach a record 18%

The good news: Thanks to increased competition, wireless companies' rates have dropped nearly 7% since 2008.

The bad news: Average federal, state and local taxes and fees for California customers reached a record 18%, meaning that the government's slice of your wireless bill is now at least twice as high as the state sales tax imposed on most other goods and services.

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The country's largest private health insurer throws a 'tantrum' over lower profits

UnitedHealth Group, the country's largest private health insurer, has discovered that sick people tend to go to the doctor. And that means bills to pay. And that's bad for the company's bottom line.

So UnitedHealth said Thursday that because of the "continuing deterioration" of its profits from Obamacare, it may quit offering coverage through the system by 2017.

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Why aren't more merchants geared up for chip credit cards?

Loren has been following the switch to new and improved "smart" credit cards with embedded microchips and has a request about retailers:

"Please explain why merchants are getting away with chip-card non-compliance."

Can do.

ASK LAZ: Smart answers to consumer questions

First, a quick refresher.

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BMW's fear of lawsuits blinds it to a customer's idea

Dr. Ron Aryel, a pediatrician whose patients include many disabled kids, had a brainstorm after recently buying a new BMW 328i Sports Wagon.

As part of his research for the purchase, he learned about BMW's new gesture-control technology, which is being incorporated in the carmaker's high-end 7 Series vehicles.

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Using TiVo? Your personal choices may be going straight to advertisers

If you're a TiVo user, your digital video recorder may be ratting you out to advertisers.

In the latest example of consumer privacy being threatened by Big Data, TiVo's number-crunching subsidiary this week announced a partnership with media heavyweight Viacom that helps advertisers target TV viewers with specific commercials.

Think of it like this: A car company wants to reach men in their 20s.

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