Category Archives: Uncategorized

FTC Finally Stops (well, not really) The Most Annoying Robocallers Ever: “Rachel from Card Services”

According to the FTC, the agency has reached a settlement with the people behind the “Rachel from Card Services” robocalls. The individuals mentioned are Emory L. “Jack” Holley IV and Lisa Miller. Going after the source of these obnoxious robocalls was one the most useful activities of the FTC in 2013. Unfortunately, however, it didn’t work. I received a call from Rachel on December 16, 2013.

Rachel

FTC’s announcement:

Final Six Defendants in ‘Rachel Robocall’ Scheme Settle FTC Charges – They Will Be Permanently Banned from All Telemarketing and Debt Relief Services – The final six of 10 defendants named in an alleged “Rachel from Cardholder Services” scam have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they misled consumers with bogus claims that they would lower their credit card interest rates.The FTC settlement bans Emory L. “Jack” Holley IV, Lisa Miller, and the remaining corporate defendants from telemarketing and marketing debt relief services or assisting others in such conduct, prohibits them from misrepresenting any products or services, and imposes a partially suspended $11.9 million judgment. The FTC filed its complaint in this matter in October 2012, alleging that the defendants violated Section 5 of the FTC Act and the agency’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by charging illegal up-front fees during telemarketing calls in which they made false promises to reduce the interest rate on consumers’ credit cards and save them thousands of dollars.”

Questions:

  1. How did they get away with it for so long?
  2. Will they really stop?

Case Documents:

Update:

Rachel from Card Services is back at it as of December 16, 2013!

Rachel

Call from Rachel from Card Services (December 16, 2013)

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Do weight loss products containing Hydrocitric Acid (HCA) work as advertised? Do they contain as much HCA as advertised?

Does Hydroxycitric acid (“HCA”) work as a weight loss agent? If you have purchased a weight loss product containing Hydrocitric acid (HCA) or Garcinia Cambogia, and found that the results did not live up to product claims, you are welcome to contact us.

Top Garcinia (HCA) supplement brands

  1. Absolute Garcinia Cambogia
  2. Healthy Clip Pure Garcinia Rapid
  3. Pure Health Garcinia Cambogia
  4. Bio Nutrition Garcinia Cambogia
  5. Labrada Nutrition Garcinia Cambogia
  6. Puritan’s Pride Super Citrimax
  7. Futurebiotics Garcinia Cambogia
  8. Molecular Research Labs Pure Garcinia Cambogia
  9. Vitamin Shoppe Garcinia Cambogia Extract
  10. Garcinia Cambogia Select
  11. Nature’s Plus Citrimax
  12. Vitamin World Super Citrimax
  13. Genesis Today Garcinia Cambogia
  14. Nutritional Sciences Garcinia Lean

Warning: Six HCA products on this list have been been found to contain 16% to 81% of the HCA claimed on the label. If you have purchased any of these products, and believe you were misled, you are welcome to contact us. 

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Are Annoying Telemarketing Calls, Spam Text Messages and Junk Faxes Illegal — and Can You Make Them Pay?

Obnoxious Robocalls, Unsolicited Text Messages, and Junk Faxes Are Often Unlawful

Examples of TCPA violations:

  • Bill receives a call on his cell phone from an unfamiliar number, and when he picks up, hears a pre-recorded voice offering to sell him something.  He is annoyed and hangs up. After Googling the phone number that called him, and reading all the complaints, it is clear the call was placed by a robocalling telemarketing operation.
  • Sarah sits on the subway on the way to work. She receives a text message from her new hairstylist: “Goddess hair salon offers text reminders. Reply with ‘Y’ to sign up. ” She never gave the salon permission to send her text messages in the first place.
  • Joan runs a small business. One day, she receives an unsolicited fax from a fast food company offering her coupons.

Text Messages and Federal Law

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “The TCPA and the FCC’s rules ban many text messages sent to a mobile phone using an autodialer. These texts are banned unless (1) you previously gave consent to receive the message or (2) the message is sent for emergency purposes. This ban applies even if you have not placed your mobile phone number on the national Do-Not-Call list of numbers telemarketers must not call.

Robocalls aka Telemarketing Calls And Federal Law

Federal law regarding telemarketing calls is embodied in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) and FCC Rules enacted to interpret and enforce the purpose of the TCPA:

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Is National Union Fire Insurance Company / AIG A Company To Be Wary Of?

American International Group, Inc. (

American International Group, Inc. (“AIG”)

Complaints about National Union Fire Insurance Company

Some consumers have complained about fees imposed by this company in a way they perceive as unfair and deceptive.

Complaintsboard.com

Rippoff Report (37 Complaints)

Information about National Union Fire Insurance Company and AIG

The National Union Fire Insurance Company sells and provides insurance products to consumers and businesses. It operates as a subsidiary of American International Group, Inc. (“AIG“) (formerly Chartis U.S., Inc.). The CEO of NUFIC is Mr. John Q. Doyle.  NUFIC’s primary place of business is located at 70 Pine St., New York, NY 10270. Their phone number is (212) 770-7000.  AIG is led by Mr. Robert H. Benmosche, whose yearly compensation is $10,573,900.  According to documents filed with the SEC, “In March 2012, the National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa. (NUFI), an AIG Property Casualty company, became a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of Pittsburgh.”

AIG

American International Group, Inc.

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Legal Discussion: Foreign Driver’s Licenses in Massachusetts & International College Students

Issue:

Do validly licensed foreign college students in the Commonwealth temporarily for school have an obligation to obtain Massachusetts Drivers Licenses? If so, what are the time frames that govern these requirements? If they remain in Massachusetts for over a year without leaving the U.S., does that change things?

Example A: Alfred, who is a citizen of Spain, has a valid driver’s license from Spain. He is admitted to Boston College and purchases a car upon arrival. Alfred registers the car in the Commonwealth. Must he obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license immediately? Can he drive here on his Spanish license temporarily? If so, how long does he have before the Spanish license becomes invalid here?

Example B: Assume same facts as above, except that Alfred returns home each summer for vacation and then returns in the fall. How does leaving and re-entering the country affect this situation?

Example C: Upon graduation, Alfred remains in Spain through the summer, then comes back to Massachusetts for a job. He does not obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license. Does the Commonwealth honor his Spanish driver’s license indefinitely? At what point must he obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license?

Answer:

It depends.

First, it is necessary to determine whether the foreign driver’s license in question is honored in the United States at all.  That depends on whether the license was issued by a country which is one of the Parties to the 1949 Road Traffic Convention and the 1943 Inter-American Automotive Traffic Convention.

Explanation of the 1949 Road Traffic Convention and its application:

  • According the 1949 Road Traffic Convention, a non-resident foreign student from one of the countries listed therein who is at least 18 years of age and is validly licensed in his/her home country can drive a passenger type of vehicle authorized by the license for up to one (1) year in the U.S. on the valid foreign license.
  • If he/she is still here at the end of the 12-month year, they lose the right to operate a motor vehicle on their foreign license in the U.S.
  • If the student goes home at the end of the academic year and returns the following academic year (leaves in May-June and returns in September) then, a new one (1) calendar year period is established on return in September.
Driver's license from Brazil, as issued in the...

Brazilian Driver’s License
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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Job Seekers: Be Alert to FCRA Violations!

Companies often violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when screening applicants.

Generally, there are five very important requirements that employers must follow when seeking an investigative consumer background report  on employees or applicants.

Employers must:

  • Make a clear and accurate written disclosure to the employee/applicant of its intent to obtain the investigative consumer report;
  • Obtain express authorization from the employee/applicant to obtain the investigative consumer report;
  • Give the employee/applicant a pre-adverse action notice if the employer plans to take an adverse action against the employee/applicant based on the information contained in the investigative consumer report;
  • Provide the employee/applicant with an adverse action notice after taking the adverse action;
  • Provide an updated “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act” to employees/applicants when an employer provides the pre-adverse action notice.

If you have applied for a job, and the prospective employer failed to meet any of the above requirements, you are invited to contact us.

Federal law provides for stiff monetary penalties against FCRA violators.

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Urban Outfitters Faces Privacy Class Action in Massachusetts

The Leonard Law Office, PC is representing clients regarding credit card privacy claims against Urban Outfitters. This class action, alleging violations of Massachusetts privacy and consumer protection laws, was filed on August 15, 2013. If you have received “junk mail” from Urban Outfitters, you are welcome to contact us.

Urban Outfitters - Massachusetts Ave.

Urban Outfitters – Massachusetts Ave.

Information about the class action lawsuit against Urban Outfitters

The complaint alleges that Urban Outfitters collected ZIP codes at checkout at its Massachusetts stores from customers who made purchases with credit cards, recorded that information as part of credit card transactions, and then used that information for marketing purposes, including to send unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or “junk mail.” The complaint further alleges that: Continue reading

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Ocwen – A Company To Be Wary Of?

INVESTIGATION CLOSED — PLEASE REFER COMPLAINTS TO:

Ocwen is a mortgage servicing company headquartered in Florida.  A “mortgage servicer” is a debt collector by another name. Ocwen’s phone number is (561) 682-8000. Ocwen (Ocwen Financial Corporation) is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol OCN.

Ocwen

Complaints about Ocwen

Complaints at Consumeraffairs.com (408 complaints)

Complaints at RipoffReport.com (2,026 complaints)

Complaints at Complaints.com (45 complaints)

Complaints at Complaintsboard.com (682)

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Under Investigation: Acting and Modeling Gig Websites

UNDER INVESTIGATION: Are acting and modeling websites taking unfair advantage of people?

For example, is the company called “Explore Talent” (www.exploretalent.com) deserving of the litany of complaints below?

Complaints about Explore Talent:

There are 74 Complaints about Explore Talent at RipoffReport.com: http://www.ripoffreport.com/directory/Explore-Talent.aspx

  • “…such a headache as Explore Talent, just don’t bother signing up for the free account, and definitely DO NOT give Explore Talent ANY MONEY! You will regret it later on when they continue to charge you credit card even after you thought you canceled you account… http://www.ripoffreport.com/modeling-talent-agencies/explore-talent/explore-talent-an-obvious-scam-w3bbc.htm
  • “They are a scam. They post unpaid (low paid), outdated or phony castings. Every now and then there is a legit casting but they’ve more than likely stole it froanother website. So that is what your monthly fee goes for.” http://www.modelmayhem.com/po.php?thread_id=30397 Continue reading

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Legal Discussion: Are debit/credit bank cards “credit cards” subject to the same privacy safeguards under Massachusetts Law?

There are a number of Massachusetts statutes governing the use and misuse of credit cards.  Most address criminal conduct, and unfair business practices. Some define the term “credit card.”  They were all enacted before debit/credit cards issued by banks became prevalent.  Case law indicates that these debit card amounts to the functional equivalent of a credit card.  This is important, because the Massachusetts credit card privacy law (G.L. c. 93, § 105) should also apply to debit cards.

CIVIL

G.L. c. 93 § 104 (definitions for § 105 Credit cards; checks; personal identification information)

  • “Credit Card”, any instrument or device, whether known as a credit card, credit plate, or by any other name, issued with or without fee by an issuer for the use of the card holder in obtaining money, goods, services, or anything else of value on credit. Credit card shall not include a check guarantee card.

G.L. c. 140D §1 (Consumer Credit Cost Disclsoure; definitions)

  • “Credit”, the right granted by a creditor to a debtor to defer payment of debt or to incur debt and defer its payment.
  • “Credit card”, any card, plate, coupon book, or other credit device existing for the purpose of obtaining money, property, labor, or services on credit.

CRIMINAL

G.L. c. 266 § 37A (Misuse of credit cards; definitions)

  • “Credit card”, any instrument or device, whether known as a credit card, credit plate, or by any other name, issued with or without fee by an issuer for the use of the cardholder in obtaining money, goods, services or anything else of value on credit.

G.L. c. 266 § 37C (Fraudulent use of credit cards to obtain money, goods or services; false embossment of credit cards, multiple possession, presumption; arrest)

G.L. c. 140D § 27  (Unauthorized use of credit cards)

CASE LAW

  • “a debit card fits within the ambit of a “credit card” as defined for purposes of G.L. c. 266, § 37C.  COMMONWEALTH v. RYAN, 79 Mass. App. Ct. 179, 183-186) (2011) .

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Zbiddy.com – a company to be wary of?

About Zbiddy.com

Zbiddy is an internet auction site. Unlike Ebay, the site charges users money to place bids (“Purchase your bids Bids cost $0.60 each and come in packs of all sizes starting as little as $13.50!.”)

Complaints about Zbiddy.com

Ripoff Report (79 Complaints)

ComplaintsBoard.com

 

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Class Action Investigation: Shen Min Hair Regrowth

Shen Min Hair Regrowth Investigation

There is a new product that the Leonard Law Office PC is investigating.  According to the Shen Min website, “Shen Min is a natural line of dietary supplements designed to help reduce hair loss and enhance hair growth in men and women…Shen Min® formulas are specifically designed to help block the negative effects of DHT, the “bad” form of testosterone.  This action helps prevent additional hair loss and enhances hair growth naturally. help reduce hair loss and enhance hair growth in men and women…”

These claims are in question.

If you have questions about this investigation or would like to share your experiences with this product, you are welcome to call Preston W. Leonard, Esq. at (617)329-1295.

Issues with Shen Min

  • What are the active ingredients of Shen Min?
  • Have there been any consumer complaints?
  • Is this product effective?

Advertisements seen in Boston, Massachusetts

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SHEN MIN 1

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Cases in the Spotlight: Tyler v. Michael’s Stores

Original Post dated March 8, 2013 – Tyler v. Michael’s Stores

This case is an interesting one, and it’s not entirely over yet.  The central issue in Tyler v. Michael’s stores is whether Massachusetts merchants are allowed to collect consumers’ zip codes at the time of purchase.  It is the only “zip code” case that has been brought in Massachusetts.  There have dozens of class actions concerning major national retailers collecting zip codes in violation of California law.  In this case, the plaintiff was arguing for an interpretation of Massachusetts law that mirrored California’s Song-Beverly Credit Card Act, which forbids the collection of zip codes at the time of purchase by brick and mortar retailers.

 Continue reading 

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Is Greystar a Good Landlord?

We are interested in learning more about Greystar’s Business Practices in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Greystar operates six apartment buildings in Massachusetts:

Do you have complaints about Greystar?

Greystar

Greystar

In a January 2013 press release Greystar claims to be “the largest operator of apartments in the United States” (Equity Residential may dispute that assertion).

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Greystar: Redefining Excellence in Apartment Living?

Really?

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Fishy yogurt?

Is there something fishy about (or in) your yogurt?

Would you be surprised or disgusted if you found out there is fish in some yogurt?

Tilapia

Tilapia

Quaker Müller FrütUp yogurt contains Tilapia.

Why it’s there:

“Q: Why is there tilapia in FrütUp™?

A: “We use kosher gelatin from tilapia to maintain the light and airy texture of the fruit mousse.”
(http://mullerquaker.com/muller-quaker-faq)

Are you as unpersuaded by this explanation as I am? I still think yogurt and fish should never be combined.

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Dear Turkey Neck

An advertisement appeared in a Boston newspaper on Thursday, February 7, 2013 with a cure for “turkey neck.”  The advertisement’s title is: Loose Saggy Neck Skin – Can Any Cream Cure Turkey Neck?”

This is a classic example of a skin cream purporting to have special youth-restoring properties.  If you have purchased this product, you may have been misled, and you are encouraged to contact us.  The Leonard Law Office, LLP  is actively investigating the “anti-aging” industry and we are currently engaged in multiple false advertising cases related to wrinkle creams.

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Below is the actual text of most of the advertisement:

“Dear Doris:

I’m a woman who is 64 years young who suffers from really loose skin under my chin and on my lower neck…

Dear Turkey Neck:

In fact, there is a very potent cream on the market that firms, tightens, and regnerates new skin cells on the neck area.  It is called Continue reading

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A “Real” bad decision

On January 7, 2013, Judge Manuel L. Real denied class certification in a California federal false advertising case. It looks like the opinion was written by defense counsel and Judge Real simply signed the order.  Due to its large population, California has long been a favored place for filing false advertising and other consumer protection class actions.  How will this decision affect future false advertising cases brought in California?

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MARA CHOW et. al. v. NEUTROGENA CORP Case No. CV 12-04624 R (JCx)

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION

(Original .pdf of the order here)

Plaintiff Mara Chow’s motion for class certification (Doc. No. 25) (“class certification motion”) came on regularly for hearing at 10:00 a.m. on January 7, 2013. Ryan Clarkson, Edward Dubendorf, and Eric Zard appeared on behalf of Plaintiff Mara Chow (“Plaintiff”). Richard Goetz and Matthew D. Powers appeared on behalf of Defendant Neutrogena Corporation Continue reading

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UNDER INVESTIGATION: Weight Loss Products

Diet pills are a common sight on the shelves of grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and gas stations around America.  They are top-sellers, but are they falsely advertised and do they pose hidden risks?  If you want to share your experiences about your use of diet products, you are encouraged to contact us.

Common concerns about diet pills:

Do any of these over the counter products actually work? Are they supplements or are they drugs? Are they safe? Are lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise the only lasting and healthy ways to lose weight?  Are these products abused by people suffering from anoroxia or bulemia?  How much money are these belly fat cure companies making?

Examples of diet pills:

Blu Science, Ultimate Fat Burner Green Tea, Xenadrine:

Blu Science, Ultimate Fat Burner Green Tea, Xenadrine

Blu Science, Ultimate Fat Burner Green Tea, Xenadrine

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Icashloans.com Discussion

Recently, the company “icashloans.com” sent a text message purportedly from (757) 462-0547 claiming:
“Wells Fargo is offering $950 cash loans deposited in 2 hrs. Bad Credit is OK. Claim the money at cashin2hrs.com and get funds transferred now.”

If you have received an unsolicited text message from this or any other company, federal law (Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991) provides that you may be entitled to significant financial compensation for each violation.

In addition to private litigation over unsolicited text messages, The Federal Trade Commission has taken to suing text spammers. See an example of an FTC text spam complaint here.

icashloans.com text

icashloans.com text

If you have any information about this company, including who is behind it and where they are actually located, please contact us.

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icashloans.com

icashloans.com

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The address listed on their website is below:

iCashLoans.com
6130 Elton Ave
Suite 386
Las Vegas, NV 89107  (855) 208-8086

See the scambook.com listing about this company here.

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Discussion about Massachusetts Energy Suppliers NSTAR and National Grid

Are you happy with your Massachusetts energy company? Is there enough competition in the Massachusetts energy market?  How many options are there to comparison shop for electricity or heating fuel?

NATIONAL GRID

National Grid provides electricity and gas to a large number of Massachusetts homes and businesses.

National Grid Service Truck

National Grid Service Truck

NSTAR

Background

Nstar also provides electricity and gas to many customers in Massachusetts.  According to the NSTAR website, “For more than 100 years, NSTAR Electric and Gas has been delivering safe and reliable electricity and natural gas to customers in Eastern, Central and Southeastern Massachusetts. Nstar transmits and delivers electricity to 1.1 million electric customers in 81 communities and nearly 300,000 gas customers in 51 communities. NSTAR is an operating company of Northeast Utilities.”

Nstar

Nstar

Nstar Lawsuits

Nstar has been the defendant in at least one class action lawsuit. For example, the Providence Business News reported that Nstar agreed to pay $1.4 million to settle a class action lawsuit which alleged the company overcharged customers who had moved to new addresses.

Nstar-Related Disasters

In 2011, the Attorney General’s Office recommended that Nstar be fined $5,675,000, for how it “prepared for and handled the damaged and resulting power outages caused by Tropical Storm Irene.”

After the dramatic May 2012 Nstar transformer fire that plunged much of the city of Boston into darkness, some questioned whether the accident released dangerous pollutants. Later, it was determined that the heavy black smoke put off by the conflagration was not toxic.  The best images of that incident are at Universal Hub, “Transformer explodes, fire rages, Back Bay goes dark,” here.

Nstar Billing

Nstar supports multiple forms of “E-billing,” allowing customers to pay their bill online with a credit card or checking account, and even via text message “through a partnership with Western Union.”

Nstar Repairs

Nstar repair trucks are a common sight throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. When storms cause tree limbs to snap, power lines must be repaired by Nstar crews. Utility poles knocked down by cars, and flooded underground-fed electricity systems that feed some municipalities are other common situations requiring Nstar crews to be sent out to restore power.   Nstar provides an online tool to report a power outage here.

Nstar service truck

Nstar service truck

What do you think of Nstar?

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Red Bull Class Action Investigation

Status: Closed.

Source: http://www.redbullusa.com/cs/Satellite/en_US/Red-Bull-Energy-Drink/001242989766321

Red Bull Energy Drink

Related information:

On Tuesday, January 13, 2013, a false advertising class action lawsuit was filed in New York against the producers of Red Bull energy drinks. Careathers et al v. Red Bull GMBH, (S.D.N.Y 2013) No. 13-CIV-369. Continue reading

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Why Congress should enact privacy laws modeled after those of the EU

Congress should enact privacy laws modeled after those of the EU.

America’s current laws related to privacy and data do not do enough to protect consumers. U.S. lawmakers should model privacy laws after the EU’s in regards to data collection, data storage, and electronic privacy.

European data laws embrace two core privacy rights that American law does not recognize. In Europe, consumers enjoy a “basic right to informational self-determination with regard to their personal data,”i and a so-called “right to be forgotten.” Informational self determination essentially means the right to make informed decisions about data collection and use. A French data commissioner defined the right to be forgotten as: “if an individual no longer wants his personal data to be processed or stored by a data controller, and if there is no legitimate reason for keeping it, the data should be removed from their system.”ii

Informational self-determination and the right to be forgotten are two rights that Americans should have. Consumers should be given full disclosure of what information will be collected about them, how it will be used, how it will be stored, and with whom it will be shared. If there is any data collection or use not fully disclosed and obvious to consumers, then opting out of that use or collection should be the default, with consumers having the choice to opt in, after considering all of the relevant information needed to make an informed decision. American consumers should have the right to require that a company reveal a full record of all data collected about them, and to generally have that data be deleted upon request.

Google

Footnotes

i Proceedings Against Facebook Resumed, Der Hamburgische Beauftragte für

Datenschutz und Informationsfreiheit Press Release, 8/15/2012, at http://www.datenschutz-hamburg.de/fileadmin/user_upload/documents/PressRelease-2012-08-15-Facebook_Proceedings.pdf, accessed 1/7/2012

ii The Right to Be Forgotten, 64 Stan. L. Rev. Online 88, 1/13/2012 at http://www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/privac-paradox/right-to-be-forgotten accessed 1/7/2012 (internal citations omitted).

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Shake Weight Class Action Investigation

You may have seen the silly adds on television for the shake weight, promoting the device as a “flab-busting breakthrough.”

The packaging promises: “Shake your way to Firm & Fabulous arms & shoulders in just 6 minutes a day!”

Leonard Law Office, LLP is investigating whether consumers have been misled by these claims.  If you purchased a shake weight and found the results you obtained did not live up to marketing claims, please contact us.

shake weight

Shake Weight

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940 CMR 7.00 – Massachusetts Attorney General’s Regulations on Debt Collection

940 CMR 7.00: Debt Collection Regulations (Current)

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Avon Class Action Investigation

Avon skin cream class action
Under Investigation: Avon

ANNOUNCEMENT: If you have purchased any of the supposed “anti-aging” products listed below, you are encouraged to contact us today about your Avon skin cream complaints. The FDA has declared that certain marketing claims violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  The Leonard Law Office, LLP is accepting inquiries from potential Massachusetts class representatives to bring a class action against Avon for its “anti-aging” cosmetics.

  • Anew Clinical Advanced Wrinkle Corrector
  • Anew Reversalist Night Renewal Cream
  • Anew Reversalist Renewal Serum
  • Anew Clinical Thermafirm Face Lifting Cream
  • Solutions Liquid Bra Toning Gel

If you have used any anti-aging skin care product, even those other than the ones listed above, you are also encouraged to contact us.  We are actively pursuing cases on behalf of people who have been misled by deceptive skin cream marketing campaigns.  No overpriced moisturizer or “serum” on earth can live up to many of the youth-restoring claims made on the shelves of your local pharmacy or department store.  The Avon Anew Skin Cream line is one of many anti-aging skin cream lines which may be falsely advertised.

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Avon Anew Skin Cream line
Avon Anew Skin Cream line

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The FDA Warning Letter to Avon is reproduced in full below: Continue reading

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Public Citizen is Fighting Back Against Ebay’s Forced Arbitration Clause

Mandatory arbitration is terrible for consumers. Please read the paragraphs below from Public Citizen, and sign the online petition that they have created.

“Public Citizen is fighting back. It is urging eBay customers to opt out so they can retain their rights to go to court and to participate in class actions. Public Citizen has created a form letter that eBay customers can use to opt out, along with instructions on how customers can exercise their opt-out rights. Consumers are also urged to sign this on-line petition:

We, the undersigned, call on eBay to remove from its terms of service the forced arbitration clause and the ban on joining together in a class action. EBay customers should not be required to sacrifice their legal rights. If eBay refuses to remove these terms, the company should at least provide an online opt-out option.

For more information, see Public Citizen’s letter to eBay’s CEO demanding that eBay get rid of its forced arbitration policy and class-action ban, and read Public Citizen’s press release.”

 

 

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Legal Discussion: Massachusetts Security Deposit Recovery

In Massachusetts, the law regarding security deposits is very pro-tenant.

Has any of the following happened to you?

  • Landlord did not return the security deposit within 30 days after termination of the tenancy
  • Landlord did not deposit the security deposit in an escrow account.
  • Landlord made up false damage
  • Landlord charged you for cleaning costs and took that from the security deposit

If your landlord did not follow the law, you could be entitled to  3 times the amount of the security deposit.

If you are interested in speaking with an experienced security deposit lawyer about your rights, you are encouraged to contact us.

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10 Worst and Best Foods According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest

The Center for Science in the Public Interest studies foods and supplements and how they affects us, and how they are marketed to us.  The 10 Worst and Best Foods According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest are:

10 Worst Foods:
1. Marie Callender’s Chicken Pot Pie
2. Olive Garden’s Tour of Italy
3. Campbell’s Condensed soup
4. Chipotle Chicken Burrito
5. Cheesecake Factory Chocolate Tower
6. Pillsbury Grands Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll with Icing
7. Land O’Lakes Margarine
8. Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha
9. Haggen Dazs ice cream
10. Cold Stone Creamery’s Oh Fudge! shake

10 Best Foods:
1. Sweet Potatoes
2. Mangoes
3. Unsweetened Greek Yogurt
4. Broccoli
5. Wild Salmon
6. Crispbreads
7. Garbanzo Beans
8. Watermellons
9. Butternut Squash
10. Leafy greens

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Revive / Peau Magnifique Youth Recruit “Anti-Aging” Class Action Investigation

Under Investigation: Revive – Peau Magnifique

ANNOUNCEMENT: If you have purchased any of the supposed “anti-aging” products listed below, you are encouraged to contact us today about your Revive/Peau Magnifique Complaints. The Leonard Law Office, LLP is accepting inquiries from potential Massachusetts class representatives to bring a class action against Peau Magnifique for its Revive line of “anti-aging” cosmetics.

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Peau Magnifique Claims:

At $1,500.00, Peau Magnifique Youth Recruit is possibly the most expensive anti-aging skin product on the market:

Peau Magnifique Youth Recruit

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Harvard Club reaches a $4 million settlement with waitstaff over tips not paid

Source: By Katie Johnston, Globe Staff: Harvard Club reaches a $4 million settlement with waitstaff over tips not paid:

“Employees filed a class action lawsuit in November, claiming they had been cheated out of potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in tips because of a misleading 17 percent surcharge on food and beverage bills that the club stated was collected “in lieu of a gratuity.” Some club members thought they were effectively paying tips, but the workers didn’t get any of the surcharge money.” Read the rest of the story here.

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Olay Pro-X “Anti-Aging” Class Action Investigation

Under Investigation: Olay Pro-X product line

ANNOUNCEMENT: If you have purchased any of the supposed “anti-aging” products listed below, you are encouraged to contact us today about your Olay Complaints. The FDA has declared that certain marketing claims violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The Leonard Law Office, LLP is accepting inquiries from potential Massachusetts class representatives to bring a class action against Olay for its “anti-aging” cosmetics.

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  • Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System
  • Pro-X Age Repair Lotion with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30
  • Pro-X Wrinkle Smoothing Cream
  • Pro-X Hydra Firming Cream
  • Pro-X Deep Wrinkle Treatment
  • Pro-X Eye Restoration Complex
  • Pro-X Skin Tightening Serum
  • Pro-X Exfoliating Renewal Cleanser
  • Pro-X Anti Aging Starter Protocol
  • Pro-X Intensive Wrinkle Protocol

Olay Pro-X “Anti-Aging” product line

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Olay Regenerist “Anti-Aging” Class Action Investigation

Under Investigation: Olay Regenerist product line

ANNOUNCEMENT: If you have purchased any of the supposed “anti-aging” products listed below, you are encouraged to contact us today about your Olay Complaints. The FDA has declared that certain marketing claims violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The Leonard Law Office, LLP is accepting inquiries from potential Massachusetts class representatives to bring a class action against L’Oreal for its anti-aging cosmetics.

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  • Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Fragrance Free
  • Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum Fragrance Free
  • Regenerist Intensive Repair Treatment
  • Regenerist Wrinkle Revolution Complex
  • Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum
  • Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream
  • Regenerist Regenerating Lotion With Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 15
  • Regenerist Regenerating Lotion With Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50
  • Regenerist Night Recovery Cream
  • Regenerist DNA Superstructure Cream with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30
  • Regenerist Night Resurfacing Elixir
  • Regenerist Regenerating Serum
  • Regenerist Fragrance-Free Regenerating Serum
  • Regenerist Deep Hydration Regenerating Cream
  • Regenerist Anti Aging Eye Roller
  • Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum
  • Regenerist Eye Regenerating Cream + Touch of Concealer
  • Regenerist Filling + Sealing Wrinkle Treatment
  • Regenerist Lip Anti-AgingConcentrate
  • Regenerist Microdermabrasion & Peel System
  • Regenerist Reversal Treatment Foam
  • Regenerist Anti-Aging Starter Trio
  • Regenerist Thermal Mini-Peel, Regenerist
  • Regenerating Cream Cleanser
  • Regenerist Micro-Purifying Foaming Cleanser
  • Regenerist Detoxyfying Pore Scrub
  • Regenerist UV Defense Regenerating Lotion

Olay Regenerist “Anti-Aging” product line

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Products in the Spotlight: Skin Cream

Origins of Skin Cream

Skin cream is probably as old as civilization.  Excavations from sites dated to 10,000 BCE have uncovered ceramic jars containing mixtures of animal fat and olive oil which may have been used as skin ointments.  Jezebel‘s use of cosmetics is noted in the Bible. Nero’s wife Pompeiia was known to apply powder made of white lead to her face. During the Renaissance, it was popular among the nobility to apply a toxic mixture made up of white lead and mercury.  For puritanical moral reasons, the use of cosmetics was outlawed in Pennsylvania during colonial times.

History of Cosmetics
(article abstract)
J. Chem. Educ., 1979, 56 (1), p 46

During the Pennsylvania oil rush, workers found that by rubbing  “rod wax” from oil rig pumps on their hands, they could effectively soothe their burns, abrasions, and dry skin. This accidental discovery led to development of the petroleum based skin balm Vaseline in 1859.

Skin cream is a simple emulsion of water and oil, which can be made at home with a blender.  Today, the largest cosmetics company in the world is L’Oréal.

Trends in Skin Cream Marketing

Obviously, skin cream has a moisturizing effect on the skin.  Nearly everyone has used skin cream at least once in his or her life to treat a patch of dry skin. But can skin cream do more than moisturize?  Cosmetics companies make billions promoting the fiction that their products do much, much more.

In a clever scam to increase sales and differentiate its skin lotion from competitors, a skin cream company operating in the United States in the 1940’s made a bold claim: the cream would reverse the signs of aging.  The Federal Trade Commission sued Charles of the Ritz, the manufacturer of “Rejuvenessence,” and the company was forced to discontinue its deceptive marketing.

Preying upon the fear of aging and unattractiveness from which all humans suffer has become a profit model that scores of companies have run with. For the past seventy years, certain skin cream companies have seemingly felt they had a free pass to include fanciful claims on packaging.  The usual pattern is:  moisturizing skin cream + a special ingredient  = a more expensive product which sells better.

Anti-aging claims are not the only suspect add-ons to moisturizer.  Skin creams that make anti-cellulite claims are rife, some of which have attracted class action lawsuits in the U.S. In non-U.S. markets, such as India, cosmetic companies are profiting on some kind of cultural/race envy which this writer cannot comprehend.  Ethnically insulting whitening creams purport to lighten users’ skin. These products represent the negation of one’s identity through the application of a consumer good.   People should be proud of their race and heritage. It is sad that women around the world are trying to emulate the images of women they receive from Western-dominated film and media.  The look of being a vapid, malnourished strumpet from Los Angeles is nothing to strive for. It is not at all surprising that cosmetics companies are racing to profit from an irrational and unhealthy desire to copy how Caucasian American actresses and models look.  Bollywood skin cream ads exemplify this disturbing trend, with L’Oreal leading the charge toward global whiteness, with “white perfect” skin cream.

World’s Leading Skin Companies

Loreal SA (OR: FP) is in the lead, followed by Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) , Unilever (NYSE: UL) and Avon Products, Inc. (NYSE: AVP) .

Deception in Skin Cream Marketing

There is a commonality between all skin cream that is marketed in a deceptive manner.  They are all dressed up  as something more than simple skin moisturizer.  It is important to realize that moisturizer is basically a blend of water and petroleum-based oil, or water combined with glycerin.  Water plus oil emulsifier prevents moisture loss in the skin, whereas water plus glycerin emulsifier attracts moisture to the skin.  Oil and glycerin ingredients are extremely inexpensive.  The deceptive skin creams usually include some “special ingredient,” that gives it the unique properties that supposedly justify the price premium charged.

What to Expect

In September of 2012, the FDA began a crackdown on allegedly deceptive skin cream claims. A wave of consumer protection class action lawsuits related to skin cream claims are likely to follow.  The claims made by marketers will probably be toned down in response. Language on packaging such as “anti-wrinkle” will probably replace “anti-aging.”  However, skin creams that promise to reverse the signs of aging will always exist in one form or another.

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Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts

Statute of Limitations

The primary Massachusetts Statute of Limitation is Chapter 260, but there are also other statutes which specify limitations for bringing certain types of actions.

Tempus Fugit

Consumer Protection (93A, etc.):         4 years.          ch. 260 s. 5A
Fraud:          3 years.          ch. 260 s. 2A
Breach of Contract:          6 years.          ch. 260 s. 2
Breach of Warranty:           4 years.          ch. 106 s. 2-275
Tort Actions:          3 years.          ch. 260 s. 2A
Wrongful death:          3 years.          ch. 229 s. 2

Discovery Rule: Cause of action does not accrue until plaintiff knows or reasonably should have known that it was injured by defendant’s conduct. Coady v. Marvin Lumber & Cedar Co 167 F.Supp.2d 166 (2001).

See Also: Massachusetts Statute of Limitations Checklist by John Miller and William G. Cosmas, Jr., Sally & Fitch LLP and PLC Litigation.

Another website that has a more thorough explication of Massachusetts Civil Procedure is found here.

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Spam texts are usually illegal – and can result in damages of $1500 per text

The other night I received this spam text:

Message: Your entry in our drawing WON you a FREE $1,000 Target Giftcard! Enter “617” at www.target.com.tbgz.biz to claim it and we can ship it to you immediately!  Details: Sender: (no name) +19018348547 Received: 1:35:05am, July 7, 2012.

What is the law about spam text messages?

47 U.S.C.§ 227 et seq., the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (the “TCPA”) specifically prohibits unsolicited voice and text calls to cell phones. The TCPA provides for a statutory minimum of $500 dollars per unlawful text message.

According to findings by the Federal Communication Commission (“FCC”), the agency Congress vested with authority to issue regulations implementing the TCPA, such calls are prohibited because, as Congress found, automated or prerecorded telephone calls are a greater nuisance and invasion of privacy than live solicitation calls, and such calls can be costly and inconvenient. The FCC also recognized that wireless customers are charged for incoming calls whether they pay in advance or after the minutes are used. See Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.

Under the TCPA and pursuant to the FCC’s January 2008 Declaratory Ruling, the burden is on Defendant to demonstrate that Plaintiff provided express consent within the meaning of the statute. See FCC Declaratory Ruling  23F.C.C.R. At 565 (¶ 10).16. Text messages are “calls” within the context of the TCPA. Satterfield v. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 569 F.3d 946 (9th. Cir. 2009).

 

Note: This spam text was not sent by Target, and is a scam. Tracking down and recovering damages against the sender would be nearly impossible. If you have received a spam text from a real business, you may be able to recover $500 per unlawful test message.

UPDATE:

Deceptive Messages Promised “Free” $1,000 Gift Cards to Major Retailers

Two affiliate-marketing scammers and their company have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they sent millions of unwanted text messages to consumers across the U.S. with false promises of $1,000 gift cards to retailers like Best Buy, Target and Walmart.

Under the terms of their settlement with the FTC, Scott A. Dalrymple of Pennsylvania and Robert Jerrold Wence of Texas, who operated a company called Advert Marketing, Inc., will be permanently banned from sending unwanted or unsolicited commercial text messages or assisting others in doing so. In addition, the two will also be prohibited from misrepresenting to consumers whether a product is “free,” whether they have won a prize or been selected for a gift, or other behavior related to the nature of the scam.

Dalrymple, Wence and Advert Marketing were among the defendants named in the FTC’s 2013 enforcement sweep against text message spammers and affiliate marketers who used false promises of free gift cards to draw consumers into websites that asked them to provide credit card information to sign up for trial offers.

The settlement contains a monetary judgment for $4.2 million, which is partially suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay. Under the terms of the settlement, Dalrymple and Wence will be required to pay $15,000 each to the Commission, and will be required to destroy any consumer data they may have collected while conducting the text message spam operation.

The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated final judgment was 5-0. The FTC filed the proposed stipulated final judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, and the Court entered the stipulated final judgment on June 10, 2014.

NOTE: Stipulated final judgments have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

Need a Massachusetts TCPA lawyer? Preston W. Leonard, Esq. accepts TCPA cases; Tel.: (617) 329-1295.

 

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Spiked Supplements

Will this supplement make me test positive for steroids?

Some supplement manufacturers and retailers have been caught spiking products with drugs and selling them as natural supplements in violation of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). For example, a recent prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado against the DeLuca brothers and Bodybuilding.com concerning Force Methadrol, Nutra Costal D-Stianozol, Force Dymethazine, Rage RV5, Genetic Edge Technologies SUS500 resulted in a $7M fine for Bodybuilding.com, and steep fines and probation for the DeLucas. See the press release here.

About a month ago, I walked into a GNC in Boston, and asked a salesman for the closest thing to real steroids they had for sale. He laughed, and told me to buy Cellucor P6.  He said it is the best selling and most expensive product they have for building muscle.  $100.00 later, I was the proud owner of shiny tube of the stuff.

The label says it contains:

P6 Extreme Blend:

Black Cohosh (root) extract

Beta-Sitosterol

Ovine Placenta powder

Agaricus Bisporus (fruit) extract

Stinging Nettle (root) extract

Wild Yam (root) extract (standardized for Diosgenin)

Bayberry (bark) extract (standardized for Myricetin)

Salvia Sclarea (whole plant) extract (standardized for Sclareolide)

A few weeks later, I had myself tested for steroids. The results: here. I don’t know if this supplement did anything bad to my system, but it did not cause me to test positive for steroids.

If you have ever taken a supplement that caused you to test positive for steroids, I’d like to hear about it.

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Body Building Supplements Containing Synephrine, Ephedrine or Yohimbine – Are they safe?

Related Post: Body Building Supplements Containing DMAA – Are they safe?

According to a recent British Government report, the products below may contain either Synephrine, Ephedrine or Yohimbine, and may cause adverse health affects such as kidney failure, seizures, and heart problems:

The British government warns: “Ephedrine, Yohimbine and Synephrine are drug substances that are extracted from certain herbs.  Each is capable of causing significant physiological effects, especially to blood pressure and heart rate. They have considerable potential to cause harm if used without medical supervision or advice.”

  1. USP Labs “OxyElite Pro”
  2. Nutrex “Lipo 6” range
  3. Dorian Yates “Blackbombs”
  4. Isatori “MX-LS7”
  5. i Force “Maximise V1 & V2”
  6. Forza “T5 Black” range.
  7. Cellucor “D4 Thermal Shock” – Cellucor Super HD consumer complaint here
  8. Biotest “Hot-Rox”
  9. Dymatize “Dyma Burn Extreme
  10. Kaizen Ephedrine tablets

According to an FDA release, “yohimbine creates safety risks by significantly raising blood pressure and interacting adversely with certain medications, such as beta-blockers that are used to treat heart disease.”

NOTICE: If you are now, or have taken any of these products in the past, you may be entitled to financial compensation.  Call attorney Preston Leonard at (617) 329-1295 for more information

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The Spreading Scourge of Corporate Corruption

Source: NYT

“The misconduct of the financial industry no longer surprises most Americans. Only about one in five has much trust in banks, according to Gallup polls, about half the level in 2007…”

“Company executives are paid to maximize profits, not to behave ethically. Evidence suggests that they behave as corruptly as they can, within whatever constraints are imposed by law and reputation….”

“[E]conomists Luigi Zingales and Adair Morse of the University of Chicago and Alexander Dyck of the University of Toronto estimated conservatively that in any given year a fraud was being committed by 11 to 13 percent of the large companies in the country. ..”

Read the rest of the article here.

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Upper Crust Case Gets Class Action Status

Source:  Boston Globe

“A judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit filed on behalf of former Upper Crust pizza chain workers who claim they were cheated out of wages.

The case, filed in July 2010, accuses company founder Jordan Tobins and other executives of rescinding overtime checks that were ordered by the Department of Labor. Upper Crust was supposed to pay nearly $350,000 to more than 100 workers, but employees — mostly low-paid Brazilian immigrants — have alleged that the Boston chain forced them to pay back the money to keep their jobs. Continue reading

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Bad Drug Company Behind Bad Drug Paxil Faces Billions in Criminal Fines and Settlement Payouts

Source: Public Citizen

“When drug companies market their products for off-label uses to doctors, hospitals, and others, consumers may be injured or die. After all, an off-label use is a use that the FDA has not found to be safe and effective. In recent years, the FDA and the Justice Department have stepped up their criminal prosecutions of drug companies that market their products for off-label uses. Continue reading

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“Lose Weight Get Paid”

This advertisement appeared in the Boston Metro weekend (June 15-17).

The ad states:

Lose weight with SimplePure HCG and earn $5 per pound of weight loss!

“Simple Pure Nutrition is looking for participants in their ground breaking HCG weight loss program.  HCG is a chemical produced by the human body that helps use fat more efficiently.  Until recently, HCG was only available by injection from a medical professional.  Now with its advanced liquid formula, SimplePure Nutrition has made it available in easy to use sublingual drops.  Simply put the drops under your tongue and you’ll start to experience weight loss of up to 1-2 lbs per day and get paid for it!*”

*          *          *          *

What is HCG?

HCG stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin  hormone. It is harvested from the urine of pregnant women.

“Sublingual drops” means drops released from a medicine dropper under the tongue.

As a weight loss aid, HCG simply doesn’t work and is potentially dangerous.  That is why the FTC and the FDA have been cracking down on HCG marketers.

Read the FDA publication “HCG Diet Products Are Illegal” here.

*          *          *          *

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), HCG diet products are unproven and illegal.

“The FDA is warning consumers that over the counter HCG products marketed as weight loss aids are unproven and illegal. Many HCG products are marketed to be taken in connection with a very low calorie diet — it’s the decrease in calories that accounts for any weight loss. There are currently no FDA-approved HCG products designed to help you lose weight. FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have jointly issued warning letters to companies illegally marketing over-the-counter HCG products labeled for weight loss. marketing over-the-counter HCG products labeled for weight loss.”

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First criminal charges filed in Gulf oil spill

This Just In

The first criminal charges have been filed in connection with the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

Former BP engineer Kurt Mix was arrested Tuesday on charges of intentionally destroying evidence requested by the authorities.

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The Federal Trade Commission (America’s federal consumer protection agency) Reminds Job Seekers: Get Your Free Credit Report Before You Apply for a Job

Before you apply for a job, you should know what’s in your credit report.

Employers may look at your credit history if they’re considering hiring you. The FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, has encouraged job seekers to get a free copy of their credit report at annualcreditreport.com or 1-877-322-8228, so that they can fix any mistakes they find in their credit report, or have an explanation ready regarding information that might not look good to a prospective employer.

To obtain more information about your rights as a job applicant, read the FTC’s What to Know When You Look for a Job.

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My Landlord kept my security deposit!

Massachusetts landlords often commit violations that forfeit their right to hold on to a security deposit.

It is very common for renters to find themselves paying fees that do not make sense when renting an apartment.  More often than not, renters lose money from their security deposit because of greedy, dishonest, and incompetent landlords.

There are many landlords in Boston that routinely break landlord-tenant law.  If you are having a problem with a Massachusetts landlord, you are welcome to contact us.

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Masschusetts Law on Landlords Taking Last Month’s Rent in Advance:

Summary of the law on last month’s rent In Massachusetts:

  • The amount of the last month’s rent must be the same as the first month’s rent.
  • Landlords have to give a proper receipt if they take last month’s rent in advance.
  • Landlords are required to pay interest on last month’s rent collected in advace, and if they don’t they can be forced to pay triple the amount of interest due, plus reasonable attorney’s fees.

M.G.L. ch. 186 s. 15(B)(2)(a)

“Any lessor or his agent who receives, at or prior to the commencement of a tenancy, rent in advance for the last month of the tenancy from a tenant or prospective tenant shall give to such tenant or prospective tenant at the time of such advance payment a receipt indicating the amount of such rent, the date on which it was received, its intended application as rent for the last month of the tenancy, the name of the person receiving it and, in the case of an agent, the name of the lessor for whom the rent is received, and a description of the rented or leased premises, and a statement indicating that the tenant is entitled to interest on said rent payment Continue reading

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Massachusetts Law on Landlords Taking Last Month’s Rent:

M.G.L. ch. 186 s. 15(B)(2)(a)

“Any lessor or his agent who receives, at or prior to the commencement of a tenancy, rent in advance for the last month of the tenancy from a tenant or prospective tenant shall give to such tenant or prospective tenant at the time of such advance payment a receipt indicating the amount of such rent, the date on which it was received, its intended application as rent for the last month of the tenancy, the name of the person receiving it and, in the case of an agent, the name of the lessor for whom the rent is received, and a description of the rented or leased premises, and a statement indicating that the tenant is entitled to interest on said rent payment at the rate of five per cent per year or other such lesser amount of interest as has been received from the bank where the deposit has been held payable in accordance with the provisions of this clause, and a statement indicating that the tenant should provide the lessor with a forwarding address at the termination of the tenancy indicating where such interest may be given or sent.

Any lessor or his agent who receives said rent in advance for the last month of tenancy shall, beginning with the first day of tenancy, pay interest at the rate of five per cent per year or other such lesser amount of interest as has been received from the bank where the deposit has been held. Such interest shall be paid over to the tenant each year as provided in this clause; provided, however, that in the event that the tenancy is terminated before the anniversary date of such tenancy, the tenant shall receive all accrued interest within thirty days of such termination. Interest shall not accrue for the last month for which rent was paid in advance. At the end of each year of tenancy, such lessor shall give or send to the tenant from whom rent in advance was collected a statement which shall indicate the amount payable by such lessor to the tenant. The lessor shall at the same time give or send to such tenant the interest which is due or shall notify the tenant that he may deduct the interest from the next rental payment of such tenant.  If, after thirty days from the end of each year of the tenancy, the tenant has not received said interest due or said notice to deduct the interest from the next rental payment, the tenant may deduct from his next rent payment the interest due.

If the lessor fails to pay any interest to which the tenant is then entitled within thirty days after the termination of the tenancy, the tenant upon proof of the same in an action against the lessor shall be awarded damages in an amount equal to three times the amount of interest to which the tenant is entitled, together with court costs and reasonable attorneys fees. “

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Does a landlord have to give a receipt for a security deposit?

Yes.  First, a landlord must provide a receipt for a security deposit at the time they take it.   That receipt must identify the amount, the date, the premises, and the landlord’s name.   M.G.L. c. 186, § 15B(2)(b).

Then, within thirty days, the landlord must give a receipt identifying the name, location, and account number of the bank holding the security deposit.  The bank account the landlord sets up to hold the tenant’s security deposit must be a  “separate, interest-bearing account in a bank, located within the Commonwealth.” M.G.L. c. 186, § 15B(3)(a).  The remedy for a landlord’s failure to establish an appropriate account and/or failing to give the tenant a receipt indicating the banking information,  is that the tenant is immediately entitled to the return of their security deposit.

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What is the Purpose of the Massachusetts Law on Security Deposits?

The purpose of the Massachusetts law governing security deposits (M.G.L. c. 186, § 15B)  is to assist “tenants in a residential property who, as a practical matter, are generally in inferior bargaining positions and find traditional avenues of redress relatively useless; i.e. the legal expense of chasing a security deposit would be more than the amount of the deposit.”  Shwachman v. Khoroshansky, 15 Mass.App.Ct. 1002, 448 N.E.2d 409 (1983).  Put simply, the purpose of the Massachusetts law on security deposits is to help tenants get their money back.

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How to Find a Consumer Protection Lawyer Outside of Massachusetts

We are always interested in taking your calls and hearing about your consumer law issues. Unfortunately, the Leonard Law Office is not able to represent clients in every state, or for every issue.

Sometimes, we refer people to lawyers in their home state. One resource available for finding a lawyer for any of the issues listed below is the National Association of Consumer Advocates (“NACA”).  It is a non-profit organization of lawyers committed to helping clients with matters related to consumer law.

Below is a screenshot of that page: Continue reading

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The human costs of Apple products

Excerpt from In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad By CHARLES DUHIGG and DAVID BARBOZA, New York Times Published: January 25, 2012

“…Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.

“If Apple was warned, and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,” said Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advises the United States Labor Department….”

Read the rest of this article here.

Also, there is great NPR piece on Apple’s manufacturing practices here.  It describes some working conditions and health problems that result from making certain Apple products.

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Some typos are worse than others

Quincy District Court
One Dennis F. Ryan Parkway
Quincy, MA 02169
Basement
January 24, 2012

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Debt Collection FAQs: A Guide for Consumers

Source: The Federal Trade Commission

If you’re behind in paying your bills, or a creditor’s records mistakenly make it appear that you are, a debt collector may be contacting you.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.

Under the FDCPA, a debt collector is someone who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts on a regular basis, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them.

Here are some questions and answers about your rights under the Act.

What types of debts are covered?

The Act covers personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a medical bill, and your mortgage. The FDCPA doesn’t cover debts you incurred to run a business.

Can a debt collector contact me any time or any place?

No. A debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night, unless you agree to it. And collectors may not contact you at work if they’re told (orally or in writing) that you’re not allowed to get calls there.

How can I stop a debt collector from contacting me?

If a collector contacts you about a debt, you may want to talk to them at least once to see if you can resolve the matter – even if you don’t think you owe the debt, can’t repay it immediately, or think that the collector is contacting you by mistake. If you decide after contacting the debt collector that you don’t want the collector to contact you again, tell the collector – in writing – to stop contacting you. Here’s how to do that:

Make a copy of your letter. Send the original by certified mail, and pay for a “return receipt” so you’ll be able to document what the collector received. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, with two exceptions: a collector can contact you to tell you there will be no further contact or to let you know that they or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a lawsuit. Sending such a letter to a debt collector you owe money to does not get rid of the debt, but it should stop the contact. The creditor or the debt collector still can sue you to collect the debt.

Can a debt collector contact anyone else about my debt?

If an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather than you. If you don’t have an attorney, a collector may contact other people – but only to find out your address, your home phone number, and where you work. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting third parties more than once. Other than to obtain this location information about you, a debt collector generally is not permitted to discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse, or your attorney.

What does the debt collector have to tell me about the debt?

Every collector must send you a written “validation notice” telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first contact you. This notice also must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you don’t think you owe the money.

Can a debt collector keep contacting me if I don’t think I owe any money?

If you send the debt collector a letter stating that you don’t owe any or all of the money, or asking for verification of the debt, that collector must stop contacting you. You have to send that letter within 30 days after you receive the validation notice. But a collector can begin contacting you again if it sends you written verification of the debt, like a copy of a bill for the amount you owe.

What practices are off limits for debt collectors?

Harassment. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, they may not:

  • use threats of violence or harm;
  • publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts (but they can give this information to the credit reporting companies);
  • use obscene or profane language; or
  • repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone.

False statements. Debt collectors may not lie when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:

  • falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
  • falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
  • falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
  • misrepresent the amount you owe;
  • indicate that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t; or
  • indicate that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are.

Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:

  • you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt;
  • they’ll seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so; or
  • legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.

Debt collectors may not:

  • give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
  • send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t; or
  • use a false company name.

Unfair practices. Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, they may not:

  • try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or your state law – allows the charge;
  • deposit a post-dated check early;
  • take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally; or
  • contact you by postcard.

Can I control which debts my payments apply to?

Yes. If a debt collector is trying to collect more than one debt from you, the collector must apply any payment you make to the debt you select. Equally important, a debt collector may not apply a payment to a debt you don’t think you owe.

Can a debt collector garnish my bank account or my wages?

If you don’t pay a debt, a creditor or its debt collector generally can sue you to collect. If they win, the court will enter a judgment against you. The judgment states the amount of money you owe, and allows the creditor or collector to get a garnishment order against you, directing a third party, like your bank, to turn over funds from your account to pay the debt.

Wage garnishment happens when your employer withholds part of your compensation to pay your debts. Your wages usually can be garnished only as the result of a court order. Don’t ignore a lawsuit summons. If you do, you lose the opportunity to fight a wage garnishment.

Can federal benefits be garnished?

Many federal benefits are exempt from garnishment, including:

  • Social Security Benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
  • Veterans’ Benefits
  • Civil Service and Federal Retirement and Disability Benefits
  • Service Members’ Pay
  • Military Annuities and Survivors’ Benefits
  • Student Assistance
  • Railroad Retirement Benefits
  • Merchant Seamen Wages
  • Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Death and Disability Benefits
  • Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Benefits
  • Compensation for Injury, Death, or Detention of Employees of U.S. Contractors Outside the U.S.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Disaster Assistance

But federal benefits may be garnished under certain circumstances, including to pay delinquent taxes, alimony, child support, or student loans.

Do I have any recourse if I think a debt collector has violated the law?

You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower. Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you owe it.

What should I do if a debt collector sues me?

If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you to collect a debt, respond to the lawsuit, either personally or through your lawyer, by the date specified in the court papers to preserve your rights.

Where do I report a debt collector for an alleged violation?

Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office (www.naag.org) and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov). Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law.

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Most Creative Nigerian Scam of the Week

FROM.Hon. Dr. Garuba Usman
Minister, Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Maputo Street Zone 3
Wuse- Abuja-Nigeria.

Sir,

Re: PAYMENT AUTHENTICATION..,

I am Hon. Dr. Garuba Usman, Minister Foreign Affairs Ministry; my office
monitors and controls the affairs of all banks and financial institutions in
Nigeria concerned with foreign contract payments. I am the final signatory to
any transfer or remittance of huge funds moving within banks both on the local
and international levels in line to foreign contracts settlement.

I have before me list of funds, which could not be transferred to some nominated
accounts as these accounts have been identified either as ghost accounts,
unclaimed deposits and over-invoiced sum etc. I write to present you to the
federal government that you are among the people expecting the funds to be
transferred into their account, on this note; I  wish to have a deal with you as
regards to the unpaid certified contract funds.

I have every files before me and the data’s will be to change to your name to
enable you receive the fund into your nominated bank account as the beneficiary
of the fund’s amount $20 Million U.S.D.

As it is my duty to recommend the transfer of these surplus funds to the Federal
Government Treasury and Reserve Accounts as unclaimed deposits, I have the
opportunity to write you based on the instructions i received 2 days ago from
the Senate Committee on Contract Payments /Foreign Debts to submit the List of
payment reports / expenditures and audited reports of revenues. Among several
others, I have decided to remit this sum following my idea that we have a
deal/agreement and I am going to do this legally.

MY CONDITIONS.

1. You will give me 65% of the total contract funds as soon as you confirm it in
your designated bank account.

2. This deal must be kept secret forever, and all correspondence will be
strictly by email / telephone, for security purposes.

3. There should be no third parties as most problem associated with your fund
release are caused by your agents or representative.

If you AGREE with my conditions, l advise you on what to do immediately and the
transfer will commence without delay as I will proceed to fix your name on the
Payment schedule instantly to meet the three days mandate. I hope you don’t
reject this offer and have the funds transferred.

Waiting for your reply soon.

Yours Sincerely.

Hon. Dr. Garuba Usman

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER.

This transmission may contain information that is privileged, confidential
and/or exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you are not the intended
recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying, distribution,
or use of the information contained herein (including any reliance thereon) is
STRICTLY PROHIBITED. If you received this transmission in error, please
immediately contact the sender.

FROM.Hon. Dr. Garuba Usman
Minister, Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Maputo Street Zone 3
Wuse- Abuja-Nigeria.

——————————

———————————-
Fallnet Wireless => 75-3281-5666 – Paulo Afonso / BA

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Video Privacy Lawsuit – Current and Former Netflix Subscribers

Someone just forwarded me this email message about the most recent Netflix Class Action.  I don’t think the email is a scam.

If You Are a Current or Former Netflix Subscriber
A Class Action Settlement Could Affect You

Para una notificación en Español, llamar 1-866-898-5088 o visitar www.VideoPrivacyClass.com

Our records show that you were a current or former Netflix subscriber as of July 5, 2012. We are emailing to tell you about a Settlement that may affect your legal rights. Please read this email carefully. Go to www.VideoPrivacyClass.com for more information.

A Settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit that claims Netflix unlawfully kept and disclosed information, including records on the movies and TV shows its customers viewed. Netflix denies that it has done anything wrong.

What does the Settlement provide? Continue reading

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Cellphone privacy fight – Two file suit over Carrier IQ’s personal data collection

by Brendan Lynch, Boston Herald, 12/7/2011

“A pair of Massachusetts smartphone users have filed separate suits against mobile-phone data tracker Carrier IQ, which drew strong criticism last week from privacy advocates.

… filed a class action lawsuit against Carrier IQ and phone-maker HTC after reading about the controversy over Carrier IQ’s alleged collection of location, app usage and even keystrokes from Android smartphones and older iPhones….

Under the Federal Wiretap Act, each plaintiff can seek damages of $100 per day for the length of the violation, up to $10,000.”  Read the rest of the story here.

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Report Reveals Depth of US Cyber-Theft Fears

by Robert McGarvey, Internet Evolution, 11/9/2011

“The thin, 20-page report from an agency few had ever heard of — the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive — landed in Congress last week and, despite its sensational title, seemingly turned few heads. Coverage has been minimal, with scattered, mainly small writeups that yawn at a report that tells us what we already knew: The Chinese and Russians are stealing as many of our secrets as they can glom onto. Who didn’t know that?

 But that is to miss the story — a huge one, according to longtime Beltway counterintelligence expert Roger Cressey, now an executive with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

That is because the report — titled “Foreign Spies Stealing US Economic Secrets” — “puts in an unclassified document for the public what has been said in classified, behind closed door meetings in Washington for a decade,” said Cressey, who held top posts in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.  “Frankly, the report is overdue. But they are issuing it publicly because this is information we need to know.”

The importance of the report, he stressed, is its very existence: This is the Federal government, saying loudly and publicly, “We have a problem. A big one that is not going away.”

Note, too, that the report pulls few punches. In particular, it names names, pointing fingers at China  (“the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage”) and at Russia for state-sponsored cyber-espionage…” Read the rest of the article here.

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Facebook’s Most Wanted? Drone warfare in the age of facial recognition

by SharonWeinberger, Medill National Security Zone, 11/4/2011

“Imagine a future where a U.S. military drone flies over a foreign city, spots a group of people, swoops in close enough to see their faces, and then kills an identified terrorist. Sound scary?

It should, since indeed the Pentagon is working on a variety of technologies designed to do just that.

A recent Washington Post article recounted a recent military-sponsored experiment that could lay the “groundwork for scientific advances that would allow drones to search for a human target and then make an identification based on facial-recognition or other software.” Similarly, Wired’s DANGER ROOM blog reported on some half a dozen contracts recently given by the Army to develop software that can instantly recognize specific people based on unique identifiers, such as their face.

Such automatic facial recognition technology, the articles say, could lead to a future where targeted killings are carried out with incredible speed. “This successful exercise in autonomous robotics could presage the future of the American way of war: a day when drones hunt, identify and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans,” the Washington Post reported…” Read the rest of this article here.

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Facebook Quietly Rolls out Facial Recognition Tool

by , CNET.com 6/7/ 2011

“…If the [facial recognition] feature, which is turned on automatically by default, makes you feel uneasy, you can disable it by going to the Privacy Settings in your Facebook account via “Suggest photos of me to friends.”

If the facial-recognition feature is beneficial to users, then Facebook should at least let them know about the change, Wisniewski said. Even if you opt out of a privacy setting, and your friend doesn’t, then your vacation photos can still be publicly available to a mutual friend or a lurking stranger who happens to stumble upon them. If you don’t want all 60 photos of you in your bikini uploaded, then you’ll have to untag them all manually.

“You’re not a customer, you’re a product,” Wisniewski said. “With this facial-recognition feature, photos will be automatically indexed, which will help information spread more quickly.”

Jules Polonetsky, director of the organization Future of Privacy, isn’t as worried. “It hasn’t raised the hackles of users in the six months this has been available in the U.S. because tags are suggested only based on pics that users already have access to,” he said. “Facebook is using a fairly limited capacity of recognition compared to what is possible. Going further to identify pics based on other data the system has or third-party data would certainly create a backlash….” Read the rest of the story here.

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Company in the Spotlight: Topical Index of Facebook Lawsuits

Cases filed matching “Facebook” – 226 records found on Pacer.gov – 196 records on Justia.com

Defamation (also Cyberbullying, Third-Party Content)
  • Finkel v. Facebook  – users posted defamatory material about plaintiff, fb has no responsibility for user generated content.

Ownership

Patent

Privacy – (Sharing Data With Advertisers)

  • Lane v. Facebook — about fb’s “Beacon” advertising platform and  dissemination of user information, Consolidated into In re Facebook Privacy Litigation.
  • Noble v. Facebook — regarding Facebook’s sharing of user information with advertisers.  Seeks class of all Facebook users who clicked on third-party ads between February 4, 2004, and May 21, 2010.

Privacy – Wiretapping by Cookies

  • Brkic v. Facebook, Inc –  (N.D. Calif. 2011) Complaint filed 11/5/2011 – Federal Wiretap Act, Unjust Enrichment, Intrusion Upon Seclusion, Trespass to Personal Property.
  • Davis et al v. Facebook – (N.D. Calif. 2011) Complaint filed 9/30/2011 – Federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C § 2511, Stored Electronic Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701 Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.18 U.S.C. § 1030

Privacy – Wiretapping by Cookies – Identical Complaints:

(E.D. Va. 2009).

Privacy – (Minors)

  • Cohen v. Facebook –alleges fb violated the privacy rights of California minors by exploiting their names and/or likenesses for profit, mainly through showing the minors’ information in association with “like” buttons.
  • Meth v. Facebook — alleged fb’s unauthorized use of minors’ names and/or likenesses without parental consent.

Privacy – (Wiretapping and Sharing User Data with 3rd Party Apps)

  • Marfeo v. Facebook, Inc. – Rhode Island, Complaint filed 6/17/2010, alleges fb uses cookies to violation Federal Wiretap Act, and shares information with 3rd party Apps, case was Ordered Consolidated and Transferred to Northern District of California into In Re: Facebook Litigation.
  • Wood v. Facebook – filed 11/30/2011., Complaint alleges fb tracks users after the log off and violates users’ privacy.
  • In Re: Facebook LitigationCalifornia, Complaint filed 10/11/2010

Facebook Litigation Overseas

Privacy – Facial Recognition

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Google Says Hackers in China Stole Gmail Passwords

By and , Washington Post, 6/1/ 2011

“Google said Wednesday that hundreds of users of Gmail, its e-mail service, had been the targets of clandestine attacks apparently originating in China that were aimed at stealing their passwords and monitoring their e-mail.The company says recent attacks on Gmail apparently began in Jinan, a provincial capital in China.

In a blog post, the company said the victims included senior government officials in the United States, Chinese political activists, officials in several Asian countries, military personnel and journalists.

It is the second time Google has pointed to an area of China as the source of an Internet intrusion. Its latest announcement is likely to further ratchet up the tension between the company and Chinese authorities…” Read the rest of the story here.

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