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  • Why you shouldn't ignore that data breach notice.

    Today, it seems like an ordinary occurrence to receive an email or letter in the mail informing you that a company you do business with (or even one you never heard of) experienced a data breach and that your sensitive personal information may have been exposed. The data breach notice might suggest that your information is likely secure, and that the company is just sending the notice as a precaution. But there’s almost zero incentive to notify consumers of a data breach. The companies that ultimately do notify are most often obligated to do so. Under California law, a business is required to notify any California resident whose unencrypted personal information, as defined, was acquired, or reasonably believed to have been acquired, by an unauthorized person. So odds are that the company is sending you this notice because there is a likelihood that your personal information is at risk. So don't wait to act. Once your personal information is stolen, consumers are more vulnerable to identity theft and spear-phishing scams that can trick even cautious people into revealing their credit card information, Social Security numbers, usernames and/or passwords for social media or bank accounts over the phone or by email. And identity theft may not happen overnight. Your information may end up for sale on the dark web and used months or years after the data breach incident. Here are some of your options for acting now: Change and create stronger passwords. Do not use the same password for all your accounts. That way if a criminal gets a hold of one password, they won't have the key to access all of your accounts. Monitor your credit report. You can check your credit report for free once a week here. You can also sign-up for credit monitoring. Typically, the company who sent you the data breach notice will provide you with this service for free of charge. Freeze your credit report. A credit freeze (aka a security freeze) restricts access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. You can do this for free here. Don't trust emails and telephone calls purporting to be from companies you do business with or even governmental agencies asking for you to verify your personal information. For California residents, retain a data privacy attorney to enforce your rights under the Consumer Privacy Protection Act of 2018. The CCPA authorizes any consumer whose nonencrypted and nonredacted personal information is subject to an unauthorized access and exfiltration, theft, or disclosure as a result of the business's violation of the duty to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the information to protect the personal information to bring a civil action. Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.150(a)(1). The CPPA allows a consumer to bring a lawsuit to recover statutory damages in an amount not less than one hundred dollars ($100) and not greater than seven hundred and fifty ($750) per consumer per incident or actual damages, whichever is greater, injunctive or declaratory relief; and any other relief the court deems proper. Cal. Civ. Code § 1798.150. The statutory damages of $100 to $750 are hefty and will add up if the case is maintained as a class action on behalf of all consumers whose personal informations was subject to the data breach. Importantly, statutory damages are available to consumers who have not experienced any identify theft. In order to obtain statutory damages on an individual or class-wide basis, the law requires consumers to provide a business 30 days' written notice identifying the specific provisions of this law the consumer alleges have been or are being violated. If the company doesn't cure the violation, the consumer can bring a lawsuit. Although a company may be able to patch up a security hole in their system, it may not be able to cure the data breach because the consumer's personal information has already been exposed to the public! If you get a data breach notice, contact Parasmo Lieberman Law for a free consultation.

  • Is Your Student Loan Servicer Collecting Monthly Payments or Reporting During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

    COVID-19 has affected everyone, including student loan borrowers. On March 13, 2020, FEMA declared the COVID-19 pandemic a natural disaster. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securty (CARES) Act, Congress gave relief to certain student loan debtors. The Act gives relief for loans under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, and Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) which are owned by the United States Department of Education. It automatically suspends all payments and waives all interest from March to September 2020. Many borrowers have stopped making student loan payments under the CARES Act. But the 6-month suspension on federally-held federal student loans leaves out an estimated one in five borrowers who owe on privately-held FFELP loans or Perkins loans. It is estimated that roughly 9 million federal student loan borrowers have at least one loan not covered by the CARES Act payment suspension. Even if your loans are not covered under the CARES Act, you may still have some legal rights and protections, especially if you have been financially impacted by COVID-19. Parasmo Lieberman Law is investigating whether debt collectors servicing FFELP loans are complying with federal and California laws. Some borrowers with FFELP loans may be entitled to an automatic forbearance or even restitution and/or money damages. Some of the companies we are investigating include: · Aspire · CornerStone · Conduent · Ed Financial · Granite State · Great Lakes · MO HELA · Navient · Nelnet · PHEAA If you made payments on a FFELP loan since March 2020, you may be entitled to legal relief. In order to evaluate if you have a case, we will need to review: · your student loan account statements from 2020; · records of payments in 2020 (which may be reflected in your account statements); and · the loan's origination documents (typically the promissory note). You can request your promissory note from your loan servicer and/or from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). You will need to either make an account or log into NSLDS if you already have an account, here. Then go to "Documents," and look for your promissory note. You can also obtain basic details about your loans by going to "Dashboard," clicking "View Details," and then clicking "Download My Aid Data." You can also request this information directly from your servicer. Last, but not least, the CARES Act creates special protections that change the way some creditors can report information to credit bureaus. If a consumer is current on their payments and received some form of payment relief from a creditor, and they comply with that financial hardship plan, the consumer's payment status should continue to be reported as "current." If you received an accommodation, forbearance, payment deferral, or any sort of COVID relief on a federal student loan servicer, check your credit report to make sure this is reported correctly. (You can check it for free once a week here.). We are investigating whether student loan companies are following the credit reporting protections of the CARES Act.

  • Class action lawsuit claims Bumble's No Refund Policy is Illegal and Deceptive

    A class action lawsuit against the Bumble dating app claims that Bumble’s No Refund Policy violates the New York Dating Services Law and New York’s consumer protection statute. The lawsuit alleges that, under the New York Dating Services Law, Bumble was required to provide purchasers of its paid subscription called "Bumble Boost" with the “Dating Service Consumer Bill of Rights” and written notice of their right to cancel their subscription within three business days, without penalty or obligation. The lawsuit alleges that Bumble has a uniform policy of denying refunds requested by consumers. Plaintiff seeks to represent a class of consumers who purchased a Bumble Boost subscription within the last three years and were not informed of their right to cancel. The Bumble class action lawsuit seeks actual damages, statutory damages of $50 per violation, treble damages, court costs, and attorneys’ fees. ​ #Bumblerefund #Bumblecancel #Bumbleclassaction

  • Have You Been Offered Discounted Energy Rates? Beware of the Predatory Practices of Alternative Ener

    Remember the time when your local public utility had a monopoly on the natural gas and electricity markets? Today, as a result of the deregulation of these markets in more than a dozen states, residential consumers have the ability to choose from a number of alternative or private energy service companies (“ESCOs”). The impetus for deregulation was the premise that a free market would lower costs to consumers. However, consumers are complaining that ESCOs are taking advantage by engaging in unscrupulous, deceptive, and unfair competition practices, such as: High pressure and misleading telemarketing and door-to-door sales tactics; Slamming, i.e., switching customers’ providers without their knowledge and authorization; Impersonating consumer's existing utility providers; Telemarking to people who registered their numbers on federal and national Do-Not-Call lists and using pre-recorded messages, artificial voices and automatic dialing systems to place these calls, without prior consent of the consumer; False and deceptive advertising, such as unexpected spikes in utility bills after promising discounted rates and significant savings; Bait and switch tactics: luring consumers with initial low fixed rates only to impose variable rates in a short period of time; and Charging undisclosed termination fees when consumers try to cancel. ESCOs often target lower income residents, communities in which English is a second language, and the elderly. They lure consumers into switching energy suppliers by promising discounted energy rates. However, studies have shown that, on average, ESCOs charge consumers more than traditional utilities. For example, some consumers complain that their bills doubled after switching energy suppliers. In fact, studies have shown that collectively, consumers have been overcharged over a billion dollars as a result of switching to retail energy: CONNECTICUT: For the period of June 2016 through May 2017, Connecticut residential customers who purchased electricity through competitive supply companies paid $66,736,598.41 more that they would have paid their regulated public utility companies for the same electric service. ILLINOIS: In Illinois, residential customers who purchased electricity from competitive supply companies spent an additional $152,108,081 from June 2016 through May 2017 over the prices charged by regulated public utility companies. NEW YORK: residential and some small commercial customers overpaid by $817 million between January 2014 and June 2016, and low-income customers overpaid by almost $96,000,000 during the same period, compared to the prices charged by regulated public utility companies. MASSACHUSETTS: Massachusetts’ customers paid $176,800,000 more than what they would have paid for electricity from their utility, during the period of July 2015 through June 2017. See Competing to Overcharge Consumers: The Competitive Electric Supplier Market in Massachusetts, NCLC (April 2018). These predatory practices have come under increased scrutiny by state attorneys general and other state agencies. However, the practices are so pervasive and the ESCOs are so numerous that public officials cannot effectively police all of the abuse. For example, a Chicago newspaper reported that the Illinois "attorney general conceded she has only been able to pursue the worst of the worst among 100 authorized alternative retail energy suppliers doing business in Illinois — an industry she said is rife with fraud." See What’s even more alarming is that consumers often do not realize they are victims of retail energy fraud. Many consumers are given the false impression that they are signing up for discounted rates with their existing public utility, only to find that they have entered into a new contract with a third-party energy provider. In addition, some consumers who switched energy providers (knowingly or unknowingly) still receive one consolidated bill from their local public utility. This consolidated bill includes charges from both the ESCO and from the local utility company. This is because the public utility may still manage the delivery of the electricity and/or natural gas service, but the supply or generation is provided by the ESCO. This is why it is so important for consumers to pay close attention to their energy bills for spikes in rates, overcharges and undisclosed fees. If consumers are not paying close attention, they may be unaware that they are being overcharged. Consumers may be surprised to learn that low fixed, introductory rates end after only a few months and are replaced with high variable rates, which can double their energy bills. Parasmo Lieberman Law is investigating the alternative energy markets in California and New York. Some of the companies we are investigating include: Spark Energy ACN/XOOM Energy Just Energy Everyday Energy, a subsidiary of Crius Energy, LLC, under the Comcast Energy Rewards brand YEP Energy SFE Energy If you have experienced predatory practices by these or another alternative energy supplier, please call us at 844-200-5623 or submit your information here.

  • California’s Highest Court Holds That All Workers Are Presumed to Be Employees, Not Independent Cont

    Why does it matter whether a company classifies you as an independent contractor or an employee? On the one hand, if a worker is an employee, the hiring business bears the responsibility of paying federal Social Security and payroll taxes, unemployment insurance taxes and state employment taxes, providing worker's compensation insurance. The hiring business must also comply with numerous state and federal laws governing the wages, hours, and working conditions of employees, and reimburse workers for business expenses. On the other hand, if a worker is labeled an “independent contractor,” the business does not bear any of those costs or responsibilities — they fall entirely on the worker. The worker has no employee rights under the California Labor Code. On April 30, 2018, in a groundbreaking decision, Dynamex Operations W., Inc. v. Superior Court, No. S222732, 2018 WL 1999120, (Cal. Sup. Ct. Apr. 30, 2018), the Supreme Court of California made it extremely challenging for companies to legally treat their workers as independent contractors. The Court adopted a rigorous legal test, the “ABC” test. Under the ABC test, all workers in California are presumed to be employees for purposes of the California wage orders. This is a seismic shift - workers who receive a 1099 and/or who signed independent contractor agreements are presumptively employees until the hiring business proves the following: (A) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; (B) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business, and; (C) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business, the worker should be considered an employee and the hiring business an employer under the suffer or permit to work standard in wage orders. Significantly, under this test, the hiring company must prove A, B, and C. If it fails to prove any one of these, the worker is deemed an employee for purposes of the California wage orders. Relative to the prior test, this is an exceedingly difficult standard to meet, and one that companies are likely unprepared to meet. The Court provided an example of a true independent contractor: when a retail store hires an outside plumber to repair a leak in a bathroom on its premises or hires an outside electrician to install a new electrical line. By contrast, the Court offered examples of workers who would enjoy employee status due to their integral role within the hiring entity's usual business operations: when a clothing manufacturing company hires work-at-home seamstresses to make dresses from cloth and patterns supplied by the company that will thereafter be sold by the company… or when a bakery hires cake decorators to work on a regular basis on its custom-designed cakes. The Dynamex decision will undoubtedly have a dramatic impact across various industries that have a long-standing tradition of treating their workers as independent contractors as well as new and emerging businesses, such as those in the gig economy, where the independent contractor model is prevalent. Some of the jobs that may be affected are as follows: Real estate brokers and agents Insurance agents Security guards Barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists, nail-techs Owner-operators in trucking companies Delivery drivers Loan officers and mortgage brokers Ground maintenance workers Construction workers Child care workers Carpenters Court reporters Solar installers Field Technicians Nurses Teachers Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers Fisherman Assemblers and fabricators Carpenters Editors, writers and authors Waitresses Gig economy workers Many, many other workers who provide labor or services Many companies that currently label their workers as independent contractors may be violating the law. Just because an individual works from home, signed an independent contractor agreement, and/or was given an IRS Form 1099, does not mean the worker is not entitled to employee protections and benefits. Wage and hour lawsuits on behalf of these and other workers may challenge their designation as non-employees and claim damages and penalties for minimum wage violations, overtime violations, unreimbursed business expenses, failure to provide meal breaks and paid rest breaks, and other claims under the California Labor Code. If you are or were classified as an independent contractor in California, please fill out this form or call us at 844-200-5623.

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