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TurboTax Maker Confirms Information Requests from US Government Regarding Tax Fraud

Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Intuit Inc, the maker of TurboTax, confirmed on Friday that it had received requests for information from the U.S. government in connection with a recent spike in fraudulent income tax filings.

In a statement, Intuit said it had been contacted by authorities "including Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Justice." The company added that it "looks forward to cooperating with all such inquiries, including formal requests for information it has received from the DOJ."

Intuit's Chief Tax Office Dave Williams said in a statement that "cybersecurity and the integrity of the tax system have never been more important than they are in this tax season." He added that the company is "committed to fighting tax fraud, responding appropriately to that fast-evolving challenge, and striving to do the right thing by our customers in providing tax compliance products and services anchored in principles of accuracy, fairness and security."

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Jony Ive: High-End Apple Watch Will Come With Its Own Leather, Suede Box

Apple(NEW YORK) --  The priciest of Apple Watches -- the 18-karat gold Edition collection -- won't just come in any Apple packaging but will mimic five-figure luxury watch boxes. With leather and "ultra-suede," Apple put a lot of thought into even the packaging.

“We didn’t want the packaging to be a sort of shorthand for value, where the box needs to be big and we have to include expensive materials," Apple's senior vice president of design Jonathan Ive told The Financial Times.

The Edition watch, which still has an undisclosed price tag, will have a box of "aniline-dyed leather" on the outside and a “sort of ultra-suede on the inside," he told the Times. It will have a connector at the back that turns it into a charging dock when the watch snaps into place with magnetic technology, the Times reported.

“I like the idea that it’s all part of one experience, it’s all part of how we feel about something, and that each of these elements can play a positive and interesting role," Ive said.

"We’ve always liked the idea that if we are heavy in our thinking, we can be much lighter in the implementation. So there’s huge virtue, I think, in keeping the packaging small: at least, it is the right choice environmentally, it’s easier to move things around and you don’t end up with your wardrobes full of large watch boxes that you don’t use.”

Ives revealed details of the product ahead of Apple's highly-anticipated media event this Monday in San Francisco. What the public does know about the Edition collection is that it features six "expressions of Apple Watch." Each will be made of 18-karat gold, which Apple says is twice as hard as standard gold, and sapphire crystal.

Ive's description of the Apple Edition packaging sounds a lot like boxes that are sold with ultra high-end watches. For these watches, which can also have 18-karat gold and cost tens of thousands of dollars, the boxes can double as permanent storage.

"The whole presentation is integral to the sale," Ron Groezinger of Westime in Malibu told ABC News.

Westime, purveyor of fine timepieces, sells products from watchmakers like Swiss Audemars Piguet. These timepieces are often sold with an inner and outer box that include not only the watch but include an extensive booklet about the timepiece. The inner box can be made from wood with gold lettering and interior black leather. Groezinger said these elements are "all conducive to the elegance of the piece."

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

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Big Losses on Wall Street Despite Lower Unemployment Rate

JaysonPhotography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Friday featured big losses on Wall Street, despite a jobs report that showed a 12th consecutive month of job gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dove to 17856.78, dropping 278.94 from its open.

The Nasdaq slipped 55.44 to a close of 4927.37, while the S&P 500 fell 29.78, ending the session at 2071.26.

The Labor Department reported on Friday that the U.S. economy added nearly 300,000 jobs in February. The unemployment rate fell from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent.

A bit of negative news in the Labor Department report, however, the January job growth number was lowered by about 18,000 from the its initial reporting.

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Apple to Replace AT&T on Dow Jones Industrial Average

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Apple has ousted AT&T -- at least on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

S&P Dow Jones Indices announced on Friday it would be adding Apple to the Dow's 30 companies, replacing AT&T on March 18.

“As the largest corporation in the world and a leader in technology, Apple is the clear choice for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the most recognized stock market measure,” David Blitzer, the managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement.

Art Hogan, the chief market strategist for Wunderlich Securities, says the move could have a big impact on the Dow.

"We measure the Dow Jones Industrial Average on a market cap weighted basis. So you know, the larger the company, the larger the impact it has on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. So, you know, a couple points in Apple is going to mean 20 some odd points in the Dow at any given point, up or down," Hogan said.

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Unemployment Rate Drops to 5.5% as 295K Jobs Added in February

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. employers added 295,000 jobs to their payrolls in February, marking the 12th straight month with job gains above 200,000, the Labor Department reported Friday morning.

The figure exceeded economists' expectations, who predicted about 240,000 jobs were added last month.

The unemployment rate also beat expectations, falling from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent.

Jobs were added in food services, construction and healthcare, the report shows.

In a bit of bad news, the report finds that the total in January was revised to show that 18,000 fewer jobs were added that month.

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Apple Watch Frenzy: What to Expect from Monday's Event

Apple(NEW YORK) -- The frenzy surrounding Apple Watch will likely reach a new high on Monday when the company holds an event in San Francisco where it's expected they'll reveal more information about the hotly anticipated wearable.

Apple will live stream its "Spring Forward" event from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Monday at 1 p.m. ET.

The flagship wearable device is set to ship in April, however Apple hasn't yet revealed an exact release date.

Since Tim Cook showed off the watch last September, Apple has been dropping teases about its first wearable. The watch even landed its first magazine cover, gracing the wrist of a model on the front of November's issue of Vogue China.

While there are plenty of questions that will likely be answered on Monday, there is plenty we do know about the Apple Watch.

The wearable comes equipped with Apple Pay and a rich ecosystem of apps that can help keep the wearer informed with nuggets of information throughout the day, such as a dinner date or a flight delay.

It's also compatible with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S. It is expected to begin at a price point of $349 and will come in three editions: Apple Watch Sport, the standard Apple Watch and a luxury gold edition. Consumers can expect to pay more for the high-end versions.

While other wearables focus on a touch screen, Apple is making navigation on the watch head easier by letting users move the digital crown to toggle between apps.

The wrist is "a very interesting place" because users can glance at it while "you can't glance at a lot of other places on your body," Cook told ABC News' David Muir in an exclusive interview after the watch was announced last year.

"You can measure a lot of things from there and you can just get, honestly, a tidbit today of what all it can do," Cook said. "But I think it's huge."

The watch is expected to surpass the bestselling Pebble wearable -- but competitors shouldn't lament Apple's entry into the market.

"The Apple Watch is good news for the entire wearables segment because it will take consumer awareness to a whole new level," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, a technology analysis firm, told ABC News last month.

"If you don't own an iPhone but you are keen to join the smart watch party, there are alternatives," he added.

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Three Red Flags that a ‘Mortgage Rescuer’ Is Really a Fake

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many homeowners were hit hard in the recession, as they fought to stay in their homes amid job losses and declining incomes. And sadly, those struggling homeowners have become easy marks for “mortgage rescue” con artists.

American homeowners have lost millions to mortgage modification scams in recent years. In a typical scam, the homeowner is promised they’ll get a new loan with better terms if they first pay a large, upfront fee and then continue to send payments to the modification company.

The problem is the scam artists just pocket the money, while the consumer falls further behind and into foreclosure.

Here are three red flags of a mortgage rescue scam:

  • The company guarantees it can get your loan modified by your lender and seeks an upfront fee for its services.
  • The mortgage relief pitch invokes government programs in a bid to seem legitimate.
  • The company may ask you to sign over the deed to your home while they work on your issue.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule makes it illegal for a company to collect any fees until the homeowner has actually received an offer of relief from his lender and accepted it.

But be careful. Some shady operators have tried to get around the MARS Rule by falsely saying they are working with a lawyer. That’s because lawyers are allowed to accept upfront fees for legal work.

If you want to hire an attorney to help you with financial issues, make sure he or she is licensed to practice law in your state, and check out the lawyer’s disciplinary record with the state bar association. Ask friends and relatives to recommend a trusted attorney who has experience in helping people with foreclosure issues.

If you’re in over your head financially, contact your lender or get help from a HUD-approved housing counselor at MakingHomeAffordable.gov.

You can find more info about mortgage scams from the Federal Trade Commission here.

And remember: Never send your monthly mortgage payment to an outside company that claims it will modify your loan. Your loan payments should go to your lender.

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Tax Tip: Flexible Spending Accounts

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Americans are reaping the benefits of having access to flexible spending accounts through their employer.

"They're fabulous deals, because with a FSA for either health care or childcare, those are the two kinds of expenses you can run through them. The money put into those accounts goes in pre-taxed and it not only avoids federal income tax, but it also avoids federal Social Security tax,” says Kevin McCormally of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.  

McCormally says one drawback is they're use-it-or-lose-it accounts, meaning you either spend all the tax-free money you set aside from your salary over the course of the year, or you miss out, though some companies offer a grace period. Even if they don't, McCormally says, you'll likely still come out on top.

"Most people could actually forfeit 20 to 40 percent of what they put in and still come out ahead, because the tax breaks are so strong,” he says.

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Etsy CEO Says IPO, Mass Production Won't Ruin Website's 'Handmade Ethos'

Courtesy Etsy(NEW YORK) -- Etsy's move to allow manufactured goods on the expanding "handcrafted" goods site and now its initial share offer has some sellers less than thrilled about its corporate direction. Some sellers say they are taking their business elsewhere while competition for Etsy heats up.

Chad Dickerson, Etsy's chief executive since 2011, addressed the concerns about the company's phenomenal growth and change in policy to allow "mass manufacturing," saying the website still values craftsmanship.

"I have heard concerns that by allowing our sellers to partner with responsible manufacturers, we are diluting our handmade ethos," Dickerson wrote in the company's S-1 filing submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday night.

The 10-year-old company was founded in Brooklyn as "a marketplace for handmade goods and craft supplies," the company says. But starting in 2013, Etsy changed its policy to allow sellers to use mass manufacturing to produce goods. Some critics say the policy has created unfair competition to small business crafters while diluting the market for handmade products.

A competitor site called Aftcra, which markets itself as a marketplace for handmade items made in America, has touted itself as the anti-Etsy from Milwaukee.

"The decision to allow manufactured products was one to improve Etsy’s revenue, but it affected Etsy artisans detrimentally," Aftcra founder Erica Riegelman said on her website.

Etsy seller Grace Dobush was among the users displeased with the move.

“They fundamentally changed the purpose of Etsy,” Dobush told Wired magazine. “To stay true to my handmade ethos, I had to move my business elsewhere.”

As of Dec. 2014, Etsy had 54 million members, including 1.4 million active sellers and 19.8 million active buyers, in nearly every country, the company claims. Etsy sellers generated $1.93 billion in merchandise sales last year, according to the S-1 filing.

Dickerson maintains that the company is still committed to "social good" and its community culture. Etsy is incorporated as a "B Corporation," which under laws in many states makes it a for-profit entity dedicated to having a positive impact on society and the environment. Etsy says the status will help it adhere to its "adherence to rigorous social and environmental standards," according to the filing. B Lab, an independent nonprofit, certified Etsy as a B Corporation.

"I share our community’s desire to preserve what is special about Etsy," Dickerson, Etsy's former CTO, wrote in the S-1 filing. "After all, Etsy has always served as an antidote to mass manufacturing. We still do. With our vision of responsible manufacturing, we are promoting a new, people-centered model in which artisans can preserve the spirit of craftsmanship and grow responsibly by collaborating with people at small-batch manufacturers to make their goods."

A spokeswoman for Etsy declined to comment because the company is in a mandated quiet period ahead of its IPO.

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How This Bakery Helps Military Vets Re-Enter the Workforce

Dog Tag Bakery(WASHINGTON) -- Some disabled veterans are getting sick of the “disabled part.”

“We might have a ‘disability,’” retired Sgt. Maj. Sedrick Banks told ABC News. “But it’s not about your disability. It’s about your ability.”

Banks served 23 years in the military, bouncing around between eight deployments and various assignments at the White House, 82nd Airborne Division, 520th Infantry, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and more, before medically retiring after a brain injury and some physical injuries.

Despite doctors telling him it would be difficult for him to ever work again, Banks started volunteering with Mission Continues, the Wounded Warrior Project and other organizations. He began building back his mental and physical strength enough to want to go back to school, so he tried a sociology course at Strayer University.

“I found I wasn’t where I needed to be at yet, so I dropped that course,” he said.

That’s when he found Dog Tag Bakery in Washington, D.C., whose mission is to provide these still-abled veterans a roadmap to entering the civilian American workforce. Founded by Father Rick Curry, SJ and Constance Milstein, both of whom have prior baking and nonprofit experience, Dog Tag teamed up with Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies to create a program where disabled veterans specifically could learn the skills of a business administration certificate program through classes and running an actual bakery. Proceeds from the bakery are reinvested in the education program to pay professors’ salaries and give the veterans stipends while in the program.

“The goal is that within the program we provide the education and the opportunities to understand what it takes to run a small business with an entrepreneurial mindset and step out into the next phase of their life empowered with these tools,” Dog Tag chief operating officer Meghan Ogilvie told ABC News.

Georgetown professors teach courses on the bakery’s second floor on topics like marketing, social media, finances and more, and guest speakers such as real estate agents and bank CEOs stop by. Students then immediately apply what they’ve learned in the bakery below. Veterans are even given a mock interviewing process, which in turn lead to real interviews.

The bakery first opened in November and has since graduated its first class of seven veterans – including Banks – who by completing the program received their Georgetown certificate in business administration. The first class has since moved on in various directions; one is getting his masters, another his MBA. One got a job through the program, two are interviewing and Banks now owns his own life coaching business.

Through it all, the Georgetown community has been incredibly supportive, Dog Tag general manager and veteran Justin Ford told ABC News.

“We’ve more than doubled our sales in the last couple months, we have an online store where we’re selling things like cookies, brownies and neat dog tag-related items and we just expanded our hours of operation,” he explained. “We have a ton of regulars. More than 50 percent of our business is regulars who come in almost on a daily basis. I think the community loves our mission and our product more importantly, and they’re coming back for more. We’re really excited about it.”

To staff the bakery when a class isn’t in session (the bakery is currently accepting applications for its second class to begin in June), Dog Tag employs locals to bake their scratch breads and pastries on premises.

From the start, though, Dog Tag was incredibly popular with disabled veterans, filling a need for those who have a tougher time post-military.

"I think with the veterans, when they return from active duty sometimes they have a more challenging time transitioning their careers from military to civilian. Dog Tag provides a very nice runway for them, kind of a safe environment where they can really understand how the skills they’ve acquired in service in active duty can apply in the real world,” associate dean of Georgetown School of Continuing Studies Edwin Schmierer told ABC News. “The program combines both the theory and learning with the experiential. As fellows in the bakery, they have to apply what they learn immediately, and I think that’s one of the most powerful types of learning when you can apply and experience it.”

Dog Tag even invites the vets’ spouses and caretakers to partake in the program as well.

“The caretakers have an additional challenge with the issues they face taking care of their spouses. They also have a higher rate of suffering from anxiety and PTSD on their own right,” Ford said. "Here at Dog Tag we have a very supportive and understanding community that your average employer wouldn’t necessarily have.”

Banks attributes his current success to that understanding community.

“Two months into the course mentally it was killing me, and I was like, ‘Man, maybe I can’t take this and I talked to one of the students in the class, Anton, and he was like, ‘Well, Sedrick, if you’re gonna sit there and whine about it you can quit the course,’” Ford recounted. “I felt so inspired by it and held accountable for it and I was like, ‘Okay I can do this.’”

The course gave Banks enough confidence to re-sign up for the Strayer sociology course, which he then “aced.”

“Believe me, we had our ups and downs, but what’s so cool about Dog Tag is how you come out in the end of the program. The course was great,” Banks said. “Everyone I talk to, I tell them, especially disabled veterans and spouses, ‘This is the course you need to sign up for.’”

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Why Instant Ramen Inventor Momofuku Ando Floats in Space in Google Doodle

Google(NEW YORK) -- Thursday’s Google "Doodle" honored the father of instant noodles: Momofuku Ando, the Taiwanese-Japanese founder of the Nissin Food Products Co.

Ando would have turned 105 on Thursday had he not died of heart failure in January 2007 at the age of 96. With Taiwanese parents, Ando was born in Taiwan during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan and became a Japanese citizen after World War II.

He started with chicken-broth noodles in cellophane bags behind his house in Ikeda, Japan. Today, Nissin sells instant ramen, chow mein and pasta noodles in cups, bowls and plastic packaging.

Google featured three illustrations of Ando, in one of which he is seen floating in space.

Why? In the 1990s, he introduced instant noodles that could be eaten beyond Earth: “Space Ram.”

“People have to eat no matter where they go, even outer space," he said, according to Google's blog.

In July 2005, Nissin vacuum-packed instant noodles for Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi on the space shuttle Discovery.

“I’ve realized my dream that noodles can go into space," Ando said at the time, according to his obituary in The New York Times.

In the other doodles, Ando is shown inspecting noodles under a microscope and waiting for his noodles to warm up during a significantly shorter amount of time than the typical three minutes.

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Who’s Getting Your Money? Five Signs a ‘Charity’ Is Really a Scam

Fuse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many Americans make it a point to assist victims of natural disasters, donate to fight diseases and give money to help veterans.

But their generosity is also noticed by scam artists, who want a piece of that action.

The Federal Trade Commission gives these red flags that a charitable appeal is not legitimate:

  • The charity offers only vague information about its mission, budget and how your donation will be used.
  • It won’t provide proof that your donation is tax-deductible.
  • It may use a copycat name that closely resembles a well-known, reputable organization.
  • It may thank you for making a pledge that you don’t recall making.
  • It uses high-pressure and emotional appeals to get you to donate cash immediately.

You can make sure your generosity benefits the right people by carefully researching a charity before you give.

Find out whether the charity is registered to solicit in your state and check its record at websites like Give.org, CharityNavigator.org, CharityWatch.org and GuideStar.org.

And even with legitimate charities, make sure the organization’s mission lines up with your charitable giving goals.


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US Stocks Rise On Earnings Reports

NikolayPeev/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks moved slightly higher on Thursday, led by gains for utilities and financial companies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the session on Thursday at 18,135.72, up 38.82 from its open.

The Nasdaq also was up by 15.67 to close at 4,982.81. The S&P 500 rose by 2.51 points to close at 2,101.04.

Pharmacyclics, which makes the cancer drug Imprivica, surged on Thursday after AbbVie said it would acquire the company for $21 billion.  

The company behind the Snuggie, the Perfect Bacon Bowl and other “As Seen on TV" products has agreed to pay $8 million to settle charges that it deceived customers.

The Federal Trade Commission says Allstar Marketing promised customers buy-one-get-one-free promotions, and then charged them in the form of high shipping costs.  

Allstar will pay the FTC to create a fund that will be used for customer refunds.

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What Ringling Bros. Circus Will Be Like Without Elephants

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Without Asian elephants, the show will still go on at Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circuses, though fans will likely also say goodbye to its "woolly mammoth."

The 145-year-old "Greatest Show on Earth," owned by the Feld Family of Feld Entertainment Inc., said it will still feature other "extraordinary animal performers." Those include lions, tigers, horses, llamas, goats, dogs and camels.

The company's programs have evolved from just animals to "mythical creatures of the past," specifically a unicorn and a Pegasus. The company will also likely be dropping the "woolly mammoth" from its "Legends" show, now that it can't dress an elephant.

The Legends performance previously highlighted "awe-inspiring feats of daring, spectacles of strength and thrills of wonder to summon the mythical and mysterious creatures of the past."

Ringling's "XTREME" show, on the other hand, features "circus spectacles," like human cannonballs, balancing acts and stunts on ramps. Even this stunt show, which of course features clowns, includes a range of animals.

The company recognizes that the omission of elephants is an "unprecedented change" in the show's history, but it said the company can focus on its Asian elephant conservation programs in North America and Sri Lanka.

"This is the most significant change we have made since we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in 1995," Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, said in a statement. "When we did so, we knew we would play a critical role in saving the endangered Asian elephant for future generations, given how few Asian elephants are left in the wild."

Feld Entertainment Inc. could not be reached for comment. The Circus Fans Association of America, which calls itself North America's leading circus fan organization, founded in 1926, did not respond to a request for comment.


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Facebook Users from Birth: Why Some Kids Are Already Online

Facebook(NEW YORK) -- Meet Clementine. The smiling Brooklyn, N.Y., baby has her own Facebook page that includes photos of her at a birthday party, meeting a zoo animal and posing at the beach.

Rebecca Winkel adopted Clementine two years ago. Her daughter's birth family are among the 18 friends who are treated to occasional updates and adorable photos Winkel snaps using her smartphone.

"It was an idea suggested to me by another adoptive parent. I really saw how it added a nice layer to the open adoption where the family stays updated. Nowadays they don’t have to put a letter in the mail," Winkel, a New York City psychologist, told ABC News.

Buzz Bishop, a Calgary-based radio host who blogs about fatherhood at Dad Camp, has been running social media profiles for his sons, Zacharie, 7, and Charlie, 5, since they were born.

His kids have their own urls, Gmail accounts, Tumblr pages and Twitter handles. Zacharie has a Facebook page, however Bishop said he hasn't updated it in years.

"I wrote a post called 'One Day I Will Have to Apologize to My Kids For My Blog,'" Bishop said. "The thing I hope is it's not just my kid who will be embarrassed -- it's going to be for all of their peers. Will I have to apologize for some of the stories? Yes. But I don’t think it will be deeply scarring."

Mainly, it's sharing ridiculous things that the two boys say on their Twitter accounts -- which are also placed on private.

"[All of the quotes] are in one place and when I want to remember what they were like, it's all there in chronological order," Bishop said.

Karissa Sparks, vice president of marketing at Reputation.com, told ABC News it's almost to be expected that parents would want to help their child establish their digital footprint by registering their name on various sites.

"We’re creating these digital portfolios for kids. We can't fathom right now how that data may be used [many years from now]," she said.

Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert at the Texas School of Protocol, said parents should also consider what they're posting on their child's profile and who can see it.

"It's that forever footprint you’re putting out there, and there are risks and dangers with that," she said, "Be diligent and respectful of our babies who are going to grow into teenagers and adults."

Facebook requires that all users who have a profile are at least 13 years old. Parents can make pages for their children, but profiles are prohibited under the social network's terms of service.

Winkel said she gets some "raised eyebrows" from friends who know her 2-year-old is on Facebook, but she said she the ability to create a virtual scrap book of Clementine's life has been an important tool in her open adoption.

"I understand people's safety concerns but that is a life skill people need to acquire nowadays. It’s a major avenue of how we stay connected to communities," she said. "My take is that it is just part of the modern world we live in."

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