Website Lets You Report Individuals Affected by Hurricane Michael to Search-and-Rescue Teams

Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images

When Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on October 10, it became the strongest storm to hit the continental U.S. since 1992. Homes from Florida to Virginia have since been leveled and at least 11 people have died. With internet and phone lines down across the disaster zone, many people are desperate to know if their loved ones are safe—now there's an online tool that can help them.

If you're having trouble getting in touch with someone who was in the hurricane's path, you can report them through a new website set up by the Florida National Guard, First Coast News reports. The site asks for the person's name, gender, age, and address, as well as any life-threatening issues they may be facing, such as low oxygen or medication supplies. After you submit their information, the State Emergency Operations Center forwards it to the relevant local agency doing recovery work.

Michael moved back over the Atlantic as a post-tropical storm Friday morning following its rampage through the southeastern U.S. More than 1000 search-and-rescue workers have already been deployed in Florida alone, and the death toll is expected to rise as clean-up efforts continue across the region.

[h/t First Coast News]

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Almost Had a Different Title

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a favorite for fans of both the Harry Potter book series and its film franchise. In addition to offering readers a more mature outing for Harry and the gang, the stakes are far more dangerous—and the characters’ hormones are all over the place.

The name Goblet of Fire is a pretty literal title, as that’s how Harry is forced into the Triwizard Tournament. In addition to being accurate, the title has a nice ring to it, but it was previously revealed that JK Rowling had some other names in the running.

In JK Rowling: A Bibliography 1997-2013, author Philip W. Errington reveals tons of unknown details about the Harry Potter series, so much so that Rowling herself described it as "slavishly thorough and somewhat mind-boggling." In it, Errington revealed that Goblet of Fire had at least three alternate titles: Harry Potter and the Death Eaters, Harry Potter and the Fire Goblet, and Harry Potter and the Three Champions were all working titles before the final decision was made.

While Death Eaters sounds far too depressing and scary to market as a children’s book, Fire Goblet just doesn’t have the elegance of Goblet of Fire. As for Three Champions? It's as boring as it is vague. So kudos to Rowling and her editor for definitely making the correct choice here.

It's not the only time a Harry Potter title led to a larger discussion—and some confusion. In 1998, readers around the world were introduced to Harry through the first book in the series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. But elsewhere around the world, it was known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

As Errington explains in his book, the book's publisher wanted “a title that said ‘magic’ more overtly to American readers." They were concerned that Philosopher's Stone would feel "arcane," and proposed some alternatives. While Rowling agreed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, she later admitted that she regretted the decision.

"To be honest, I wish I hadn't agreed now," she explained. "But it was my first book, and I was so grateful that anyone was publishing me I wanted to keep them happy."

Beware of Amazon Packages You Didn't Order—It Could Be a Scam

iStock.com/Jorge Villalba
iStock.com/Jorge Villalba

Plenty of things can go wrong when you’re ordering from Amazon, or any other online retailer. Your package could get lost or stolen, or arrive far later than you anticipated. Now you can add one more concern to that list: receiving Amazon packages you didn’t order.

As Clark Howard reports, there’s an e-commerce scam going around called brushing, in which sellers use fake accounts to buy their own products, then mail them to unsuspecting people. This is all a roundabout way of ensuring they can write positive reviews for their own products, thereby giving their items a boost in Amazon’s search results.

The good news is that you’re legally allowed to keep any items sent to you, as Lifehacker points out. The Federal Trade Commission states, “If you receive merchandise that you didn’t order, you have a legal right to keep it as a free gift.” This is meant to protect consumers from dodgy companies that send you stuff and then demand payment, which is illegal, but the latest scam complicates matters.

That brings us to the bad news. If you’re the victim of a brushing scam, that means your personal information—your name and shipping address, at the very least—have likely been compromised. Secondly, many of these “phantom sellers” don’t include a return address or order number on the package. If they were to mail an illegal product such as drugs or weapons to your doorstep, you could find yourself in some legal trouble. The best thing to do is to report unordered merchandise to Amazon to make them aware of the problem.

Of course, there are also far less insidious explanations for why you received a package you didn’t order. It could be a gift, especially at this time of year. The buyer chooses whether or not to include a gift receipt, but they still may have intended it to be a present even if they didn't tick the "gift receipt" box. It could also be an honest mix-up. For instructions on how to return a gift or wrong order, visit Amazon's Returns Center.

Let's say you received an Amazon package that’s addressed to a different person, though. In that case, you can contact Amazon and offer to return it. Keep in mind that the company is obligated to pay for any shipping costs you would incur. In some cases, they might even tell you to keep the package, according to Lifehacker. Consider it a reward for trying to do the right thing (and hope there's something good in there)!

[h/t Clark Howard]

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