Sam Glover

Sam Glover has been writing about law practice technology, management, marketing, and other stuff on Lawyerist since 2007. He also consults on appeals and motion practice. When he isn't blogging or lawyering, Sam drinks espresso and sharpens pencils.

Herbal Supplements at Major Retailers Contain Houseplants, Little Else

Yesterday the New York Attorney General reported the results of its tests on herbal supplements purchased at GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart:

The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.

You read that right. Houseplants.

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Tax-Related Identity Theft Complaints Increased 2300% in 2014

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From the FTC, here’s what tax-related identity theft looks like:

Tax identity theft typically happens when a scammer files a fraudulent tax return using a consumer’s Social Security number in order to receive a refund. The year 2014 marks the fifth consecutive year in which tax-related identity theft topped the list of identity theft complaints, with tax identity theft accounting for nearly a third of all identity theft complaints to the FTC.

To avoid falling prey to the scam, file your taxes as early as you can. The scam won’t work if you have already filed. And be on the lookout for callers posing as the IRS. The FTC says “The IRS will never call a consumer about unpaid taxes or penalties – the agency typically contacts consumers via letter.”

If you think you were contacted by a scammer or a scammer filed a tax return in your name, file a complaint with the FTC right away.

14.4 Seconds is Not a Reasonable Inquiry Under Any Circumstances

Last week, in an article for the New York Times, Jessica Silver-Greenberg included this tidbit:

In a 2009 deposition, an employee of a large debt-buying company testified to signing roughly 2,000 affidavits a day.

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Encore Capital Group Must Vacate 4,500+ Judgments in New York

I have a quibble with this quote from the New York Times‘s Jessica Silver-Greenberg, which she uses to set the stage for her reporting on the Encore Capital Group settlement:

The same problems that dogged the foreclosure of homes — and prompted public outcry and a multibillion-dollar settlement by some of the nation’s biggest banks — are increasingly showing up in the practices of large buyers of bad consumer debt.

Debt buyers were engaging in assembly-line litigation long before the foreclosure firms started. I’ve been writing about it here for years, but it’s just never gotten the same kind of exposure as the foreclosure industry’s callous disregard for the courts briefly did.

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Skiplagged.com Creator Sued for “Hidden City” Ticketing

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Hidden-city ticketing is a way of “gaming” air travel.

The idea is that you buy an airline ticket that has a layover at your actual destination. Say you want to fly from New York to San Francisco — you actually book a flight from New York to Lake Tahoe with a layover in San Francisco and get off there, without bothering to take the last leg of the flight.

This travel strategy only works if you book a one-way flight with no checked bags (they would have landed in Lake Tahoe).

It’s not like these tickets are the cheapest all the time, but they often are.

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Congress Redirects $303 Million from Pell Grant Program to Debt Collectors

From the Washington Post:

The measure, championed by Senate Democrats, would cut Pell Grants in order to free up money to pay companies that collect student loans on behalf of the Department of Education.

Sounds like robbing the poor to give to the rich.

ABA: It’s Unethical for Debt Collectors to Use Prosecutors’ Stationery

That title is a little over-simplified, so here is the ABA’s actual summary from Formal Opinion 469:

A prosecutor who provides official letterhead of the prosecutor’s office to a debt collection company for use by that company to create a letter purporting to come from the prosecutor’s office that implicitly or explicitly threatens prosecution, when no lawyer from the prosecutor’s office reviews the case file to determine whether a crime has been committed and prosecution is warranted or reviews the letter to ensure it complies with the Rules of Professional Conduct, violates Model Rules 8.4(c) and 5.5(a).

Basically that says prosecutors who just hand off their stationery to a debt collector (to collect parking fines or fines for bounced checks, for example) are engaging in unethical conduct. If they want to do this, then a lawyer from the prosecutor’s office has to actually take the time to review each file to determine whether a threat of prosecution is actually warranted.

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MN AG Sues TJ Process Service for “Sewer Service”

Sewer service happens when the process server — the person charged with telling the defendant they have been sued — lies about serving it. The Minnesota Attorney General just sued TJ Process Service for exactly that. The owner of the company leaves little room for doubt. Here is his sworn testimony:

Q: [Y]ou believe 100 percent he [Umland] engaged in sewer service?
A: Yes. What percentage and how many times that was, I don’t know.

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Subprime Auto Lenders Hold Your Car Hostage When You Fall Behind

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Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March.

About two million vehicles have devices installed that allow a lender to lock out a car from a smartphone. From the Dealbook article: “‘I have disabled a car while I was shopping at Walmart,’ said Lionel M. Vead Jr., the head of collections at First Castle Federal Credit Union in Covington, La.”

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Lifetime Student Loans

When you filled out the FAFSA before your freshman year of college, you probably did not consider the chance that you would still be paying off those loans well into retirement.

Rosemary Anderson could be 81 by the time she pays off her student loans.

She is not alone.

For all seniors, the collective amount of student loan debt grew … to about $18.2 billion last year.

In 2010 (I guess that is the most recent year for which there are numbers), 4% of seniors were still paying off their student loans. That is a small percentage, for sure, but it is growing. And most of these senior debtors are probably living on fixed incomes — social security in many cases. That’s probably why 25% of seniors with student loans are in default.

(h/t Legal Skills Prof Blog)