Kurniadi & Kurniadi, APC Blog

LifeLock, Inc. to pay for false claims and false advertising

November 22nd, 2010

Kurniadi & Kurniadi is dedicated to consumer protection and guarding the general populace from commercial false claims.  Recently, the Federal Trade Commission filed charges against and settled claims with LifeLock, Inc.  However, under California law, consumers have protection and may have remedies under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act.  If you purchased a subscription from LifeLock identity theft protection, you may have rights under California Law.  If you have questions regarding your remedies under California law, please call our office at (858) 755-0455.

From the newsfeed of the Federal Trade Commission:

An administrator working for the Federal Trade Commission began mailing refund checks yesterday to 957,928 people who were victims of allegedly false claims made by LifeLock, Inc., which told consumers it could provide absolute protection from identity theft if they signed up for its identity protection service. The mailings will continue for two weeks.

In March 2010, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz announced that LifeLock had agreed to pay $11 million to the FTC and $1 million to a group of 35 state attorneys general to settle charges that the company used false claims to promote its identity theft protection services, which it widely advertised by displaying the company’s CEO’s Social Security number on the side of a truck. The FTC charged that LifeLock provided less protection against identity theft than promised and made claims about its own data security that were not true. Consumers who signed up for LifeLock’s services based on those false claims will now be receiving refund checks.

Consumers will receive checks for $10.87 each, and will have 60 days to cash them. The distribution represents all eligible consumers, and no further claims for refunds will be accepted. Consumers who have questions can call the administrator’s toll-free number at 1-888-288-0783 or go to www.ftc.gov/refunds.

These consumer refund checks can be cashed directly by the recipients. The FTC never requires the payment of money up-front or additional information to be provided before consumers cash their refund checks.

Based in San Diego, California, the Consumer Law attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi, APC epresent residents throughout the region who have been injured as a result of consumer fraud and scams.  Contact the attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi by calling (858) 755-0455 or by emailing info@kurniadilaw.com for a free consultation.

American Tax Relief California Consumer Class Action

November 4th, 2010

The law office of Kurniadi & Kurniadi is preparing to bring a California class action on behalf of California residents based on American Tax Relief’s violation of the False Advertising Law.  If you have been injured by American Tax Relief, and you are a California resident, you may be part of the class.  For more information, please contact the attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi at (858) 755-0455.

As released by the Federal Trade Commission:

Company’s Owners Lived Lavish Lifestyle, Targeted Financially Distressed Consumers

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal judge has halted a national operation that allegedly bilked consumers out of more than $60 million by falsely claiming it can reduce people’s tax debts – the company’s California state business license was suspended last year for not paying its own taxes, the FTC alleges. The FTC is seeking to make the defendants pay restitution to victims.

“We’ve made it a top priority to go after scammers who try to exploit the financial hardship of others,” said David C. Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “For people having a tough time paying their taxes, the last thing they need is to lose more money to a fraud.”

According to the FTC, in TV, radio and Internet ads, American Tax Relief LLC falsely claims it can settle consumers’ delinquent federal and state taxes for a fraction of the amount they owe. The company also falsely claims that it can remove tax liens and stop wage garnishments, bank and tax levies, property seizures, and “unbearable monthly payments.” For example, the company’s website states, “The IRS is currently accepting a fraction of back taxes owed to them (sic) for those who qualify. The IRS is allowing the people with delinquent tax liabilities a ONE-TIME opportunity to settle the debt ONCE AND FOR ALL. But at the same time, the IRS does not advertise, promote or even voluntarily suggest this program.”

The FTC alleges that the company has continued its deceptive practices even after federal agents executed a criminal search warrant on the operation’s Beverly Hills business premises in April, 2010. At that time, criminal authorities seized money from bank accounts and a Ferrari from the company’s owner, and placed liens on two residences, including a $3.4 million house. At the time, one of the company’s owners was leasing six other vehicles, including a Rolls Royce, a Bentley, two Porsches, and two Mercedes-Benzes, according to exhibits the FTC filed in court.

American Tax Relief charges up-front fees ranging from about $3,200 to $25,000 for the purported tax relief services. The company’s ads include a toll-free number for consumers to call for a “free consultation.” After speaking briefly with commission-based sales people who are supposedly “tax consultants,” virtually all consumers are told that they “qualify” for a tax relief program, and that American Tax Relief can help them significantly reduce their tax debts, the FTC complaint alleges.

In reality, very few of the company’s customers qualify for the promised tax relief programs, which are available only in very limited circumstances. Most people who hire the company would qualify at most for installment payment plans, which still require payment of the full amount owed, and which many taxpayers can easily arrange by themselves.

Many consumers are told that they qualify for an “Offer in Compromise,” which the Internal Revenue Service states is its only program that allows people to avoid paying the full amount of back taxes, and is available only in limited circumstances; taxpayers are eligible only after other payment options have been exhausted and the person’s ability to pay has been reviewed.

Other consumers are told that they qualify for a “penalty abatement,” which the company claims will eliminate both accumulated penalties and interest stemming from late payments. However, a penalty abatement is considered by the IRS only in very limited circumstances for people who have “reasonable cause” for the late payments, such as death, serious injury, natural disaster or the like. The FTC alleges that the company does not gather sufficient information from consumers to know whether they would be likely to qualify for either an Offer in Compromise or a penalty abatement.

The FTC’s complaint names Alexander Seung Hahn, Joo Hyun Park, and American Tax Relief LLC. Park’s parents, Young Soon Park and Il Kon Park, are named because they are allegedly holding funds obtained from the defendants’ customers. On September 24, 2010, a federal judge in Chicago entered a temporary restraining order prohibiting deceptive claims, freezing the defendants’ assets, and appointing a receiver to manage the company.

The Commission vote to file the complaint was 5-0.  The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

To help consumers who may be having trouble meeting their tax obligations, the FTC created “Owe Back Taxes? Tax Relief Companies Can Result in More Pain than Gain,” which is available on the agency’s website.

Based in San Diego, California, the Consumer Law attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi, APC represent residents throughout the region who have been injured as a result of consumer fraud and scams.  Contact the attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi by calling (858) 755-0455 or by emailing info@kurniadilaw.com for a free consultation.

Who’s calling you? Beware, it’s not the FDIC.

October 23rd, 2010

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is warning of fraudulent phone calls from scam artists or bill collectors who falsely state they are working for the federal bank regulator.  The FDIC says it has received numerous reports of unsolicited and suspicious telephone calls to individuals during which the caller claims to represent the FDIC and is calling regarding the collection of an outstanding debt.

To date, the callers have alleged that the person who answers the call is delinquent in payment of a loan that was applied for over the Internet or made through a payday lender.  The loan may not actually exist.  The caller attempts to authenticate the claim by providing sensitive personal information, such as name, Social Security number, and date of birth, supposedly taken from the loan application.  The person receiving the call is then strongly urged to make a payment over the phone to “avoid a lawsuit and possible arrest.”  In some instances, the callers have been aggressive and threatening.

These suspicious telephone calls are fraudulent. Anyone who receives such a call should consider it as an attempt to steal money or collect personal identifying information.  The FDIC generally does not initiate unsolicited telephone calls to consumers and is not involved with the collection of debts on behalf of operating lenders and financial institutions.

If a caller demonstrates that he or she has your sensitive personal information, such as Social Security number, date of birth, and bank account numbers, you may be (or may become) the victim of identity theft.  Review your credit reports for signs of possible fraud.  Get free annual copies of your credit reports from the three major credit reporting bureaus at Annual Credit Report.com (www.annualcreditreport.com).  Examine the reports closely for items you do not recognize and dispute inaccurate accounts.

If you are a victim of ID theft, you can place a fraud alert on your credit reports.  This can be done by contacting one of the three consumer reporting companies listed below.  Only one of the three companies needs to be contacted.  That company is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of the report.

TransUnion: 800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, California 92834-6790

Equifax: 800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241

Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9554, Allen, Texas 75013

Information about online and email fraud and other fraudulent activity using the FDIC name may be forwarded to the FDIC’s Cyber-Fraud and Financial Crimes Section, 550 17th Street, N.W., Room F-3054, Washington, D.C. 20429, or sent by email to alert@fdic.gov. Questions related to federal deposit insurance or consumer issues should be submitted to the FDIC using an online form that can be accessed at http://www2.fdic.gov/starsmail/index.asp.

For your reference, FDIC Special Alerts may be accessed from the FDIC’s website, and consumers can sign up for automatic alerts via email.

Based in San Diego, California, the Consumer Law attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi, APC represent residents throughout the region who have been injured as a result of consumer fraud and scams.  Contact the attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi by calling (858) 755-0455 or by emailing info@kurniadilaw.com for a free consultation.

Crimes Against Elderly on the Rise

October 4th, 2010


Reported on September 2, 2010 by Sarah Buynovsky of WNEP:

One day after a Luzerne County woman was charged with stealing from her elderly aunt and uncle, investigators are speaking out about elder abuse.

Edwardsville Police Sergeant Hal Bond said he has seen the elderly taken advantage of time and time again. He is investigating a case right now in which a caller tried to scam a woman out thousands by telling her she won a million dollar prize. “There just seems to be more phone calls going in and more elderly people falling for the scam,” said Bond.

Edwardsville is not the only police department busy with elder abuse crimes.

Marisa Harlen of Kingston was arrested Wednesday, charged with stealing more than a $100,000 from her elderly aunt and uncle.

Brando Johnson is accused by Kingston police of using her job at Kingston Commons, a nursing home, to befriend and then steal from an elderly woman and a former administrator of a personal care home in Schuylkill County was charged with taking more than $60,000 from patients’ accounts and recently ordered to repay the money.

“We’re seeing more and more of it. More and more cases are being reported to this office and to local police,” said Luzerne County Detective Larry Fabian. He investigates elder abuse cases for Luzerne County and said these crimes seem to be on the rise, especially financial scams.

“Most of this financial exploitation is occurring with the involvement of family members and close friends of the elderly person so be very cautious.” Fabian said.

Investigators are warning the elderly to be cautious about their money. They recommend talking with a financial adviser and attorney before making any major decisions and never giving out personal or financial information.

“Over the phone you give no information, you don’t even give your name over the phone, is something is suspicious, call the police department” advised Bond.

Based in San Diego, California, the Elder Law attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi, APC represent individuals and families throughout the region who have been physically or financially injured as a result of Elder Abuse. Contact the attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi by calling (858) 755-0455 or by emailing info@kurniadilaw.com for a free consultation.

New Legal Protections for the Elderly

September 26th, 2010

Courtesy of Time Magazine and contributor, COELI CARR:

Misappropriation of an elderly person’s assets by someone legally authorized to oversee them may now be a lot tougher to pull off in the State of New York. New legislation that went into effect Sept. 1 — in the form of a radically changed power-of-attorney (POA) document — couldn’t have come at a better time. “Financial abuse is one of the fastest growing areas of elder abuse,” says Andrea Lowenthal, an elder-law and estate-planning attorney in New York. “Older people are a growing segment of society and are among the most vulnerable, often because of their misplaced trust.” But if seniors are the prey, then they often choose their predators — people they’ve empowered to act on their behalf, as agents, in financial matters, though a POA. (Watch TIME’s video “Seniors Say End-of-Life Care Matters.”)

To be granted the rights associated with a POA was pretty uncomplicated under the old document. Only one signature was required — that of the principal assigning POA to the agent. In some cases, the agent — usually an offspring — didn’t even know he or she had been named in the document until the principal became unable to take care of day-to-day financial affairs. Such secrecy generally led to confusion down the road, with the appointee often woefully ignorant of the principal’s state of affairs. In other instances, a health-care aide or housekeeper with ulterior motives might procure a POA and persuade a gullible senior to sign it. The signature of the principal was basically all that mattered then.

Now things are different.

“The new power of attorney has teeth,” says Ronald Fatoullah, an elder-law and estate-planning attorney in New York. One safeguard is a multiplicity of signatures. Now both the principal and the agent must sign the POA, and each signature must be notarized. “This is a big change,” he says. “The document specifically states that when you accept the authority to act as agent, you create a special fiduciary relationship with the principal that imposes legal responsibilities until you resign or the power of attorney is terminated.” (Read “The Real Issues of End-of-Life Care.”)

Another important provision of the statute is the right of the principal to appoint a monitor, like a trusted accountant, to oversee the activities of an inexperienced agent, or a family member to ensure that an agent acts according to the principal’s wishes. Those who have POA must now keep records and account for every penny, which was not a requirement under the previous law, says Louis Pierro, an elder-law and estate-planning attorney in New York, adding, “The new law makes it easier to bring a civil suit against an agent who has acted inappropriately.”

The new law goes even further when addressing gift-giving. In the past, it was relatively easy for people expecting to be named as agents to slip into the POA a self-serving gift-giving provision. Because these write-ins would often be overlooked by the principal, it was possible for agents to write checks to benefit themselves and clean out a principal’s bank account. Now such doings will be harder to get away with. If the principal wants to grant the agent the specific power to make gifts, the principal must initial a box on the POA authorization form, and then describe the types of gifts on a separate statutory major-gifts rider. The rider must contain the signature of the principal and two witnesses and also be notarized.

The new rider is unique to New York, notes Pierro. “Having the obligations spelled out makes the person acting under power of attorney subject to virtually the same rules as someone who operates as a trustee,” he says. Might other states adopt the rider? “They’ll likely wait and see New York’s experience with it,” he says.

Based in San Diego, California, the Elder Law attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi, APC represent individuals and families throughout the region who have been physically or financially injured as a result of Elder Abuse. Contact the attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi by calling (858) 755-0455 or by emailing info@kurniadilaw.com for a free consultation.

Consumer Advice: Don’t Let Scams Ruin Your Cyber Monday Shopping Experience

September 20th, 2010

Reported by the National Consumers League:

Washington, D.C.- As Americans return to the workplace next Monday after the long holiday weekend, many will spend a portion of their day surfing the Internet for deals from online retailers. Monday, November 30 is known as “Cyber Monday,” what the retail industry claims to be one of, if not the, busiest Internet shopping days of the year, and with more and more consumers opting to avoid the mall, e-shopping next week is expected to be higher than ever. According to the National Retail Federation, 53.5 percent of workers with Internet access, or 68.8 million people, will shop for holiday gifts from work this holiday season; three-fourths (73.8 percent) of young adults 18-24 with Internet access will shop at work, and men are more likely to shop from work than women (56.3 percent vs. 50.8 percent).

Whether consumers do their shopping online at the workplace or at home, advocates are reminding them to practice safe e-shopping habits in the coming weeks and year-round. “The Internet can make your shopping faster and easier, but there can also be pitfalls if you’re not careful,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, which today released its top ten tips for avoiding cyber grinches and scams this holiday season. “There are ways to ensure you have a safe online shopping experience, so that gift-giving is a joyous occasion, not an opportunity for cyber thieves.”

  1. Don’t shop online on an unencrypted or open wireless network. An airport or coffee shop’s wireless network is not an appropriate place to conduct financial transactions. Entering personal financial information over an unsecured connection may leave your computer open the to hackers and thieves to capture your financial information. Home Wi-Fi networks can also be compromised, so consumers should find out how to secure their connections.
  2. Secure your computer before shopping online. Before connecting to the Internet or shopping online, take the following three core protections: 1) Install anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and keep them up to date; 2) Install a personal firewall; 3) Regularly update operating system and anti-virus programs to current protections.
  3. Know who you’re dealing with. Before shopping online with an unknown e-store, check out the seller and be sure to get the name and physical address of the vendor in case something goes wrong. If you’re buying gifts on an online auction site, check the track record of the seller before you bid.
  4. Pay the safest way – by credit card, especially when you’re purchasing something that will be delivered later. Under federal law you can dispute the charges if you don’t get what you were promised. You may also dispute unauthorized charges on your credit card.  Many card issues have “zero liability” policies under which you pay nothing if someone steals your credit card number and uses it. Increasingly, debit cards are also offering good protections, so check with your bank to learn more about protections offered.
  5. Only shop on safe sites. When providing payment information, the Web site URL address should change from “http” to “https,” (or, less frequently, “shttp”) indicating that the purchase is encrypted or secured. Look for an icon on the browser (generally in the bottom right of the window), such as an image of a padlock closing, to indicate that the page is secure.
  6. Don’t fall for a phishing email or pop-up. Legitimate companies don’t send unsolicited email messages asking for your password, login name, or your financial information. But scammers do, and it’s called “phishing.” Crooks often send emails that look like they’re from legitimate companies – but direct you to click on a link, where they ask for your personal information. Delete these emails.
  7. Be careful when shopping for a gift in an online auction. Consumers sometimes turn to auctions for harder-to-find collectibles or expensive electronics. Understand how the auction works, and check out the seller’s reputation before you bid. Use safe ways to pay, like a credit card. If you use a 3rd party payment system, read the terms carefully to understand what protection, if any, it offers if you don’t receive what you were promised. Always ask about terms of delivery and return options.  Be especially wary of auctions that ask for payment via wire transfer.
  8. Turn your computer off when you’re finished shopping. Many people leave their computers running 24/7, the dream scenario for scammers who want to install malicious software—“malware”—on your machine and then control it remotely to enable them to commit cyber crime. To be extra safe, switch off your computer when you are not using it.
  9. Don’t be tempted by offers of free money. Con artists take advantage of cash-strapped consumers during the holidays to offer personal loans or credit cards for a fee upfront. These scammers simply take the money and run. Beware of emails offering loans or credit, especially if you have credit problems.
  10. Visit www.fraud.org to learn more about protecting yourself from online scams year-round and to report suspicious sites, sellers, or scams. You don’t have to be a victim to report a scam, and your information will help law enforcement go after cyber grinches.

Based in San Diego, California, the Consumer Law attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi, APC represent residents throughout the region who have been injured as a result of consumer fraud and scams. Contact the attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi by calling (858) 755-0455 or by emailing info@kurniadilaw.com for a free consultation.