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Consumer Confidential: Taco Bell bites back, spending eases, inside Internet crime

February 28, 2011 | 10:22 am

Tacopic Here's your makin'-whoopee Monday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Taco Bell is fighting back. The fast-food chain has launched a new TV campaign aimed at countering the lawsuit alleging that its beef isn't actually so beefy. According to the Associated Press, the new $3-million ad campaign comes the week that Taco Bell is due to respond to the lawsuit, filed in a U.S. district court in California. Taco Bell initially fought back with full-page ads last month in national newspapers. The company also launched a social media campaign involving Facebook and Twitter. The Alabama law firm that filed the lawsuit last month has said its testing showed the filling was made of only 35% beef and therefore couldn't be called "beef." Taco Bell has repeatedly said the claim is false.

-- Consumers kept a tight grip on their wallets and purses in January. Consumer spending edged up a seasonally adjusted 0.2%, the weakest pace since June, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Higher gas prices played a role in spooking people, analysts said, prompting many consumers to throttle back on the shopping. The crucial final month of 2010 was not as strong as first thought. Despite steep discounts offered by retailers to lure holiday shoppers, December spending increased 0.5% instead of the 0.7% initially estimated. Meanwhile, incomes surged by 1% -- the sharpest gain since May 2009 -- indicating that we're more interested at the moment in saving than spending.

 -- The Internet may be a nifty place to hang out, but be careful who you hang with. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, more than 25,000 complaints were lodged monthly last year for non-delivery of payment or merchandise, scams and identity theft. Most people filing complaints were male; between 40 and 59 years old; and residents of California, Florida, Texas or New York. Most international complainants were from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia or India. Other top complaints included computer crimes, miscellaneous fraud, advance-fee fraud, spam, auction fraud and credit-card fraud.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: How much beef is really in that Taco Bell taco? Credit: Taco Bell