Prison-stagram


February 14, 2019

Ex-cons are developing apps to disrupt the greedy prison-phone market.
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Ex-con app developers are disrupting price-gouging prison phones

Bloomberg reports that inmate messaging apps like Pigeonly, InmateAid, and Flikshop now have millions of users — and are poised to disrupt prison phone companies’ decades-old monopoly.

All started by ex-inmates, these apps aim to give inmates and their families a more affordable way to stay in contact –and bring prisons out of the digital Stone Age without sacrificing their grip on security.

What, email not good enough these days?

Actually, no. Prisons often make 1k+ inmates take turns using just 15 computers (with stripped down permissions) that charge $0.05/minute to get online — for context, many prison jobs pay just $0.08/hour.

What’s more, prison phones have been controlled by the same 3 (soon-to-be 2, pending a major merger approval) companies for the past 3 decades — allowing them to charge up to $0.21/min for long distance and pull in over $1.2B as of 2015.

And, though letters are often the easiest communications for inmates to receive, they can often feel burdensome for digitally spoiled friends and family to send.

All that means that people who are incarcerated often lose touch with the outside world — making it all the more difficult to re-enter society upon release.

The new guard of prison comm

Now, new apps offering convenient, low-cost communication services are thriving: InmateAid, a platform that lets families connect at lower rates for an $8.95 monthly fee, has over 1.2m users. 

Platforms Pigeonly and Flikshop bridge the gap between digital and physical, letting loved ones take pictures through an app, then automatically printing and mailing them to inmates at a low rate.

Though Flikshop bills itself as “Instagram for prisons,” these ’grams aren’t exactly “insta.” They can still take a week or more to make it through the post and screening in the prison mail clerk’s room.

But, as they say in the biz, slow post is better than no post.

Nobody says that
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Lufthansa sues its own customer for $2k for gaming its layover loophole

After a passenger failed to show for the final leg of his journey, German airline Lufthansa sued the two-timing traveler $2k for “skiplagging.”

Skiplagging (buying a multi-flight itinerary while intending to end up at a layover city to save money) has become a popular hack. But it’s costing airlines so much that they’re cracking down on Frequent Liar Miles.

The layover loophole

Skiplagging (AKA “hidden city ticketing”) is possible because airlines often make 2 flights less expensive than 1. 

Why do they do this? Airlines offer direct flights between small cities for big spenders willing to pay premiums for nonstop flights. But since there aren’t enough first-class butts to fill those seats, airlines artificially deflate the prices of those same flights to attract connecting fliers.

Skiplaggers are calling the airline’s bluff — but they’re also ruining airlines’ business model. 

Revenge of the airlines

Skiplagging is a really bad deal for airlines because it reduces revenue for last leg flights, makes it harder to forecast crowds, and delays takeoff.

United Airlines and Orbitz tried to sue the 22-year-old creator of a skiplagging site to cut down on skiplagging several years ago, but a judge threw out the case. 

Now, Lufthansa is taking a new approach by suing its customer for violating the company’s terms and conditions — even though he didn’t break the law.

» Skiplag to my Lou

Johnson & Johnson to acquire Auris Health for $3.4B in the name of robotic health tech

Reuters reports that Johnson & Johnson announced plans to buy surgical robotics firm Auris Health for $3.4B in cash yesterday.

The deal will give the 130-year-old pharmaceutical giant access to the privately held Auris Health’s surgical robotic scope, which is used for respiratory procedures and the detection of lung cancer.

Everybody’s doing the robot

The healthcare robotics market is expected to reach nearly $12B by 2023, and the deal marks Johnson & Johnson’s maiden voyage into a field where it hopes to become a major player by 2020.

Founded by surgical robotics pioneer Frederic Moll, Auris was initially focused on lung cancer. But last year, US regulators approved its flagship device, Monarch.

The tool was created for bronchoscopic procedures, where an instrument is inserted into the nose or mouth. Via a controller, surgeons direct a scope through a patient’s body with cameras.

Is it just another pharmaceutical cash grab?

You might assume a robot’s hand never shakes. But research shows that conventional surgery (at the hands of a human) has more favorable overall time and complication rates, while robotic surgery is significantly more expensive to those in need.

So it’s more expensive for patients and less effective — perfect. Nothing to see here, folks, things are feeling shady as usual in ol’ pharma town.

   @ Me Anything
Wes Schlagenhauf, News Writer at The Hustle
@wesschlagenhauf

Make sure to tune in next week when we find out Johnson & Johnson’s soon to be robot surgeon also prescribes opioids, at a premium, without a doctor’s note.
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» Thanks, American healthcare!

Lonely hearts break the bank: Romance scams cost people $143m last year

For those of you coddling your lonely heart on V-day, just know that your days of romantic solitude could be so much worse.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported more than 21k Americans fell victim to romance-based scams in 2018, losing a total of $143m.

The FTC said it received more reports of “romance scams” than other consumer-facing fraud last year and that con-jobs involving dating or “courtship” are becoming more popular by the year.

Roses are red, violets are blue, boy do we got a scam for you

According to The Hill, romance-related schemes involve scammers putting on their charm pants through fake profiles on social media.

Once heart-thieves woo their victims, they strike; usually asking their love-drunk targets to send cash for fake emergencies or other made-up expenses.

Scammers usually target Americans, age 40 to 69, who fall victim to romantic scams twice as often as 20-somethings, with a median loss of $10k. Overall, the median was $2.6k — roughly 7x higher than the median loss across other types of fraud.

Happy Valentine’s Day

In 2017, Americans shelled out $18.2B  for Valentine’s Day, a holiday that, no matter how you break the Russell Stover-shaped heart, either leaves you feeling sad, broke or, at the least, stressed — and while it puts the “corporate” in “corporate holiday,” it doesn’t even give us work off! 

All the while, people are getting lonelier by the year, with the cost of romance-related scams jumping from $33m in 2015 to more than $143m in 2018.  

Bottom line: Love is chill. Roses die. Don’t get scammed.

» Falling hard for love
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