Dear Equifax – Your actions and conduct tell us that that the only thing you really care about is making more money. You would love for us to forget your negligent handling and safeguarding of consumer and business customer data. Over the weekend, one of the main topics of conversation that I kept hearing was about the Equifax data breach and Equifax’s absurd response to the breach. People were infuriated because–not only did Equifax screw them for failing to protect their sensitive data– but Equifax is now screwing them again for its abysmal response to one of the country’s most horrendous data breaches of its kind. Post breach, Equifax rubbed salt into the wounds of the many millions whose Personally Identifiable Information (PII) was compromised by promoting its own identity theft services. Yes – you got that right: Equifax has the nerve to profit from its own negligence.
Many of the folks who complained to me about Equifax didn’t realize that I was about to file a class action lawsuit. What they couldn’t understand was how this this multi billion dollar company could be so negligent and reckless with their valuable Personally Identifiable Information. After all, shouldn’t this company have done more given that it has over a $12 billion market cap and that it is specifically in the business with its use, collection, and brokering of “trusted unique data, innovative analytics, technology and industry expertise to power organizations and individuals around the world by transforming knowledge into insights that help make more informed business and personal decisions.” (Equifax’s own description of itself). They just knew that I had already sued Anthem for their massive healthcare data breach, and they were dying to know what I might do about Equifax’s data breach
My short reply to all of these incredibly frustrated consumers and business owners: Equifax’s actions seem to tell us that they care more about making more money and not much else. Why else would they send millions of panic stricken people to their breach incident site, which didn’t even have the proper security in place. If any diligent and skeptical visitor researched the site, one would have found that it wasn’t even registered to Equifax until some time late yesterday.
Of all companies, Equifax should have made the security of its database its top priority. But rather, it seems more interested in giving a free 12-month trial of their credit monitoring service. BTW: If you agree to this service, know that you’ll waive your right to sue them. Read more about it in the attached Class Action complaint, which I filed earlier this a.m..
Do you think that a “free” 12 month trial offer for credit monitoring and “identity theft insurance” is enough, after all that Equifax has done to allow bad actors to access your detailed PII? I hope not. If you are interested in joining other consumers and business owners to hold one of the country’s largest credit reporting bureaus accountable for its negligence and deceptive business practices, please contact my firm, Stritmatter Kessler.
Corporations love to demonize class action lawyers. Guess why? You can likely figure this out on your own, but I’ll spell it out here: Because a class action lawsuit is one of the most powerful tools that consumers have to make corporations accountable for their negligence. But the media doesn’t like to focus on the topic of class actions much because it’s not easy to digest via 10-second sound bites. Thus, witness another week of breathtaking, frenzied stories about the Trump administration. Reporters and talking heads gravitated to discussions about the abrupt departure of Flynn and Trump’s 77 minute presser. Meanwhile, a majority in the House worked in concert to destroy consumers’ most powerful tool to hold corporations accountable. That’s right, this past Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee voted on party lines to gut consumer protection class actions.
Interestingly, the corporate lobbyists’ anti-class-action talking points are eerily similar to the proposed “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017,” introduced last week in the House of Representatives. Coincidence? Of course, not.
Most of the proposed procedural rule changes in Representative Bob Goodlatte’s are directly traceable to the business lobby’s anti-class-action talking points. Goodlatte – a Virginia Republican and chair of the House Judiciary Committee is seizing on the corporate-friendly climate. He’s expanded last year’s proposed changes in a similarly named bill that was approved in the House but died in the Senate. If Congress adopts Goodlatte’s bill in anything like its current form, class actions will lose much of its potency.
The bill will make class actions much more difficult to survive the most critical milestone–certification. And, for those class actions that would survive, the bill would make those automatically appealable. Moreover, the bill seeks to strip away attorneys’ fees so that fewer plaintiffs attorneys will pursue these.
Most consumers think that class actions are big, nebulous things that have little to do with their lives. But if you talk to regular people such like my class action clients, you’ll realize that the Congress needs to stop trying to striking fatal blows to this important vehicle for justice. Like my clients, consumers throughout this country need class action attorneys to fight for them because they can’t or don’t want to spend thousands of dollars and countless hours to fight a giant corporation. My class action clients are like your neighbors, your relatives, your colleagues, and your friends. They are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. But, for them and for me, these lawsuits are not about politics. It’s about trying to hold a massive company accountable, when an individual consumer is wronged.
We all know that corporations are focused on maximizing profits. To maximize profits, these companies will cut corners, which often result in a harm to the consumers. When a consumer finds that they have a defective product or that their most private information has caused significant harm to them and their bank accounts, they are not sure who will go to bat for them. This is why class action attorneys play a critical role in leveling the field for the citizen who’s suffered injury because a manufacturer used shoddy material, security or processes.
Please, email/call/write your representatives and let them know that they represent your interests–not the corporations who’ve donated tens of thousands of dollars to their campaign.
Today, according to WA State AG Bob Ferguson, about 330,000 Washington residents are among the 15 million people affected by the cyberattack on T-Mobile US data at credit-services company Experian. If you are a Washington State resident and victim of the T-Mobile/Experian data breach, please contact Catherine@Stritmatter.com. We are currently investigating a class action lawsuit against Experian.
WA AG Ferguson urges T-Mobile customers “…to take immediate steps to determine whether you have been a victim of ID theft, and to protect your information going forward,” he said in a statement offering advice to affected consumers.
According to T-Mobile and the credit-reporting company Experian, the breach compromised data that was used by T-Mobile to run credit checks of individuals who applied for T-Mobile services from Sept. 1, 2013, through Sept. 16, 2015. Unauthorized access was gained to Experian’s servers, exposing data including name, address, birthdate, Social Security number, other ID numbers (such as driver’s license, military ID, or passport numbers), and additional information used in T-Mobile’s credit assessment. An estimated 15 million consumers nationwide may have had their data compromised. Experian plans to notify affected consumers.
The Attorney General’s Office offers affected consumers the following advice to guard against identity theft.
- Monitor your credit reports. You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union). You can request one free report from a different bureau every four months to monitor throughout the year.
- Consider placing a “fraud alert” with each of the three credit bureaus. An alert does not block potential new credit, but places a comment on your history. Creditors should contact you prior to opening a new account.
- Consider placing a “security freeze” with each of the three credit bureaus to prohibit the release of any information from your reports. A security freeze can help prevent identity theft since most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer’s credit history first. This increases the likelihood that if an ID thief tries to open a new account under your name, they will be denied.
- Beware of unsolicited calls or emails offering credit monitoring or identity theft services. Consumers should never provide their Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal information in response to unsolicited emails or calls.
If you find unexplained activity on your credit reports, or if you believe you are the victim of identity theft, check these resources for information on steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Review the Attorney General’s ID theft website.
- Review the Federal Trade Commission’s ID theft website.
Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is not the only one who is wondering why it took Premera so long to act, after realizing that at least 11 million individuals’ information were exposed to a data breach. We are too and want to see the large class of Premera customers find justice.
Hackers had unauthorized access to approximately 6 million in Washington and the other 5 million in Alaska and Oregon whose information. There are possibly other markets associated with this breach that extends beyond Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.
Our firm is pursuing a class action to obtain a meaningful recovery for all of the victims involved as the result of Premera’s lack of vigilance over their customer’s data. Please contact PremeraClass@Stritmatter.com, as our attorneys want to speak with you ASAP. Our own Brad J. Moore, who is at the helm of the country’s largest public interest law firm (Public Justice) has a long track record of success with some of the largest consumer protection class action lawsuits.
According to KUOW, after Premera called Kreidler to inform him about the data breach that had occurred over a month before, he asked his staff to find out why it took the health insurer so long to inform everyone about this significant news.
He’s launched a multistate investigation of Premera, explaining: “We would have been heavily engaged in this activity weeks ago if we’d been afforded the opportunity to know in a more timely basis. It was clear once we were notified. Which is part of the irritation right now. It took six weeks.”
The class action/consumer protection attorneys are all for Kreidler’s idea about establishing rules that would have compelled Premera to reveal the information within hours, not weeks.
Again, if you or someone you know was or is a Premera insured and believe that sensitive information was accessed in an unauthorized manner, contact us at PremeraClass@Stritmatter.com
Sprint may have been overcharging its consumers to the tune of millions of dollars by cramming unauthorized charges onto its consumers’ bills. Haven’t we heard this before? Yes, in fact earlier this year, SKW attorney Brad J. Moore, also the President Elect of Public Justice (the country’s largest public interest law firm focused on consumer protection) obtained a $20 million class action settlement against Sprint PCS for illegal taxes.
Most recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are targeting Sprint in an investigation for practices of illegally billing customers tens of millions of dollars for unauthorized charges related to premium text messages.
Just yesterday, the consumer bureau sued Sprint in Federal District Court in Manhattan. The lawsuit claims that Sprint has been operating a billing system that allows third parties to “cram” unauthorized charges onto consumers’ mobile phone bills.
On a parallel track, the F.C.C. is conducting a similar investigation. Sources reveal that a settlement where Sprint would pay $105 million in refunds/restitution is imminent.
“Consumers ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized charges, even though many of them had no idea that third parties could even place charges on their bills,” said Richard Cordray, director of the consumer bureau. “As the use of mobile payments grows, we will continue to hold wireless carriers accountable for illegal third-party billing.”
In the past, the F.C.C., the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general have participated in lawsuits or settlements with AT&T and T-Mobile for similar alleged cramming charges. The practices under scrutiny typically focused on charges on customers’ bills for premium text messages, that came via horoscopes or other digital content.
The three major mobile companies have gotten hit with accusations of ignoring warning signs that many of the charges were unauthorized. Ignoring thousands of consumer complaints, these carriers blithely allowed third-party companies to assess the charges.
The action by the consumer bureau is a clear signal (again, no pun intended!) of its ongoing plans to police mobile payment systems (e.g., Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and others). Thank goodness for consumer protection groups and watchful agencies who are not entirely in the pockets of these mobile companies.
A widespread fallacy is that class action lawsuits only help to line lawyers’ pockets. This is what corporations want everyone to believe. That way, consumers who are hurt–either physically or financially– as the result of a corporation’s wrongdoing are less apt to seek a class action against a behemoth. But the results that Stritmatter Kessler Whelan has consistently obtained on behalf of class action plaintiffs have empowered many consumers. They have truly found justice and appropriate compensations for their injuries.
Public Justice, the nation’s largest public interest law firm pursues actions on behalf of consumers to keep large corporations in check. PJ attorney, Paul Bland, explains in the video below why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “analysis” of class actions is bunk. We at SKW are proud of the many accomplishments of PJ. Our own Brad J. Moore is currently vice president (Public Justice’s president-elect by August 2014), involved in some PJ lawsuits that include the one against Yakima industrial dairies who are responsible for that region’s groundwater contamination.