Identify theft—a problem increasingly affecting everyone’s daily lives—is usually depicted as the work of criminal syndicates, petulant adolescents, and war rooms of hostile foreign powers—all perpetrated against the banks who protect our checking accounts and retirement funds. And that’s true, to a great extent, but sometimes the threat arises from a surprising source: the banks themselves. Although they’re not a very prevalent source of identity theft, being aware of the mistakes banks make can help consumers avoid those who put customer funds at risk.
If the following sources of error sound familiar, don’t be surprised: they’re nearly identical to the ways that consumers can compromise their own security. It may be disappointing that organizations as wealthy, diverse, and organized as multinational banks can’t avoid simple mistakes, but it reinforces the importance of staying alert and vigilant. Many careless mistakes may nonetheless be made with good intentions:
In the end, consumers have relatively few banks to choose from, and almost no ability to influence a bank’s internal processes, but there is a way to stay educated. The Identify Theft Resource Center is a non-profit organization that collects information from a wide variety of sources about financial, medical, and governmental identity theft, as well as descriptions of invasions of privacy through cellphones and social media. Content on its website, www.idtheftcenter.org, is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.
Identity theft, a concept that wouldn’t even have made sense thirty years ago, is now one of the most pernicious and damaging offenses we’re at risk for every day, and because it’s substantially perpetrated over the Internet, the threats come from every corner of the globe. By focusing on key areas of vulnerability and taking steps to minimize your risk, you can increase your chances to avoid the hassle of recovering from identity theft.
Keep the following in mind as you register for websites, pay your bills, shop online, and do business over the phone:
Identity thieves are real criminals, but don’t get swept up over who they are or why they do it. A thief could be an 11-year-old delinquent trying to prove himself to his friends, or a rogue business in Uzbekistan who wants $1 from 2 million people to fund a terrorist attack. It doesn’t matter. Focus instead on your areas of vulnerability: money-impacting online accounts, secure passwords, and your Social Security number. With any luck, keeping those factors in mind will let the thieves take care of themselves.
If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, contact an attorney immediately so that you can take the appropriate and legal steps to minimize the damage and repair your good name.
Fair-housing organizations have filed new complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, alleging discrimination in the marketing and maintenance of foreclosed properties in minority neighborhoods in nine major cities. The complaints, brought by the National Fair Housing Alliance and four of its members targets U.S. Bank and it’s parent company, U.S. Bancorp, along with Wells Fargo.
The complaints were the result of an investigation in which the housing groups said foreclosed properties in predominantly white areas were much better maintained than properties in predominantly African American or Latino neighborhoods. The groups examined more than 1,000 properties in Georgia, Maryland, Texas, Ohio, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Washington.
The report concluded that properties in communities of color were 42 percent more likely to have more than a dozen maintenance problems compared with properties in predominantly white neighborhoods. In many cases, the report added, the deterioration occurred while properties were under bank ownership and could be attributed to lender neglect.
The banks deny the allegations and question whether or n0t those properties mentioned in the complaints were even theirs to maintain. In the vast majority of cases where U.S. Bank is involved in a foreclosure, we serve as a trustee for an investment pool where the former mortgage was held, and have no role in servicing or maintaining the property,” Nicole Garrison-Sprenger, vice president of corporate public relations, said in a statement. “When we do own a property, we have a strong and comprehensive process in place to regularly inspect and maintain properties to marketing standards where we have legal access, regardless of their location.”
The dispute clearly illustrates the problems that come up with widespread lender ownership of troubled properties and the impact their neglect has on the surrounding communities. It’s another reminder of why we need comprehensive foreclosure reform. If you or a loved one is facing foreclosure please contact the attorneys at Lord & Faris for a free consultation and let us guide you through the process and fight for your rights.
Fairview Health Services has dropped an Illinois consulting company as a revenue manager after Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson alleged the group violated consumer protection laws and engaged in an unconventional collection practice that went after patients still in hospital emergency rooms, cancer wards and delivery rooms.
According to Swanson, Accretive Health Inc imposed “boiler-room-style sales atmospheres” at Fairview’s seven hospitals using collection quotas, cash inducements and in-house competitions to squeeze cash from patients before they were treated. The probe uncovered lengthy scripts written by the company that patient registration employees were told to follow 100 percent of the time to get credit card charges or cash payments from patients before they were seen by medical staff. The goal was to get money for projected co-pays and deductibles for that day’s visit or to collect any unpaid balances from previous treatment.
“The Accretive culture has converted the hospital culture from that of a charitable organization to that of a collection agency,” the report said. “Perhaps the most damaging act by Accretive was to undermine the basic premise that a hospital is a sanctuary to treat the sick and infirm.”
The state review of Fairview’s revenue management contract with Accretive was done as part of the attorney general’s oversight authority of public charities, including not-for-profit hospitals. Fairview issued a brief statement in response saying that it takes the allegations seriously. “We share many of her [Swanson’s] concerns and have already taken actions to address them,” the statement said, noting that Fairview has ended its “revenue cycle work” with Accretive.
Minnesota consumer protection laws exist specifically to prevent companies like this from taking advantage of our citizens, particularly when they are at their most vulnerable. The dedicated litigation attorneys of Lord & Faris applaud the attorney general’s actions and hope this is a practice that ends for good.
The Department of Justice brought the first criminal charges related to the massive Gulf oil spill, accusing a former BP engineer of deleting more than 300 text messages that suggested that the blown-out well was spewing far more crude than the company was telling the public at the time.
Kurt Mix of Katy, Texas was arrested and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying evidence. His attorney, Joan McPhee, issued a statement describing the charges as misguided and that she is confident Mix will be exonerated. “The government says he intentionally deleted text messages from his phone, but the content of those messages still resides in thousands of emails, text messages and other documents that he saved,” she said. “Indeed, the emails that Kurt preserved include the very ones highlighted by the government.”
Department of Justice officials made it clear the arrest did not signal an end to the investigation. In a statement, Attorney General Eric Holder said prosecutors “will hold accountable those who violated the law in connection with the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.” Federal investigators have been looking into the causes of the blowout and the actions of managers, engineers and rig workers at BP and its subcontractors Halliburton and Transocean in the days and hours before the April 20, 2010, explosion.
In court papers, the FBI said one of the areas under investigation is whether the oil company intentionally lowballed the amount of crude spewing from the well. An accurate flow-rate estimate is necessary to determine how much in penalties BP and its subcontractors could face under the Clean Water Act. In court papers, prosecutors appeared to suggest the company was also worried about the effect of the disaster on its stock price.
The BP disaster is a classic example of what happens when a company puts profit before purpose, and it’s a story the litigation attorneys at Lord & Faris have heard before. If you’ve been injured by similar conduct, contact us for a free consultation as you may have rights at risk.
For plaintiffs filing lawsuits against companies for falsely labeling their products as covered by patents, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has outlined a new, high pleading standard. The effect is likely to severely limit the number of claims that can survive the federal court filing. In a unanimous decision in In Re BP Lubricants USA Inc., a panel of judges held that plaintiffs filing so-called false marketing cases must file complaints with the same particularity as fraud cases.
To properly plead a fraud case a plaintiff must detail, with particularity, the alleged acts of fraud. In BP Lubricants the court held that the particularity requirement for fraud cases “applies to false marketing claims and that a complaint alleging false marketing is insufficient when it asserts conclusory allegations that a defendant is a ‘sophisticated company’ and ‘knew or should have known’ that a patent was expired.
The case is significant as hundreds of pharmaceutical patents are set to expire in the coming years, potentially opening up the market for generic or off-label competition. Those holding the patents are doing all they can to keep hold of their name and brand recognition in the face of those explorations in order to hopefully keep a significant market share of their most profitable drugs.
Attorneys expect the battle to now shift and focus on what kinds of other allegations meet this fraud standard, such as label changes and the acquisition of a product after a patent expired. Either way, the litigation front for drug manufacturers has just been re-defined.
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