Category Archives: Consumer Advocacy

Is Computer Tech Support Really Calling to Help You?

Does the thought of losing everything on your computer leave you queasy? That’s the anxiety fraudsters attempt to exploit with tech support scams – and it’s conduct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and law enforcement partners are challenging through 16 civil and criminal (yes, criminal) actions announced as part of Operation Tech Trap.

Tech support scammers’ modus operandi is to run ads that resemble pop-up security alerts from Microsoft, Apple, or other companies. Consumers are warned that their computers are infected with viruses or are under hack attack. Some pop-ups even feature a countdown clock, supposedly showing the time remaining before the hard drive will be fried – unless the consumer calls a toll-free number supposedly affiliated with one of those big-name companies.

Once operators have consumers on the phone, the real theatrics begin. Operators claim to need remote access to consumers’ computers so they can run “diagnostic tests.” Those tests purport to reveal grave problems that can only be solved by one of their “certified technicians” – for a hefty fee, of course. Companies use high-pressure tactics to strong-arm consumers into paying hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs, anti-virus protection or software, and other products and services. (Here’s an example of a pitch in action from the FTC.)

 

In settling a case against Click4Support LLC and others, the FTC and AGs from Connecticut and Pennsylvania announced that the defendants are banned from marketing technical support services, will pay a total of more than $554,000, and will forfeit an additional $1.3 million held by the court-appointed receiver. A federal judge in Philadelphia also entered a $27 million default judgment against a related party.

But that’s not all. There have been several other similar cases brought by the FTC.

How does this boil down for you or your business?

  • Consumers get caught in tech support scammers’ web, but so do small businesses and people who work from home. The FTC has updated its advice on what you can do to protect yourself. Also, the FTC will be hosting a roundtable this summer for law enforcement agencies leading the charge against this kind of fraud and for businesses affected by tech support scams, including companies whose names have been misused by con artists. Looking for tips on spotting other B2B scams? The FTC’s new Protecting Small Businesses site is designed with you in mind.
  • People who participate in tech support scams aren’t just risking their assets and future livelihoods. They could face criminal prosecution.

If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, including assistance with policies, prevention or recovery from a ransomware attack and cybersecurity insurance or insurance claims, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Cybersecurity Strengthened with Executive Order

STRENGTHENING THE CYBERSECURITY OF FEDERAL NETWORKS AND CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTUREwh_logo_seal

President Donald Trump on May 11, 2017 signed an executive order (EO) on cybersecurity that requires agency heads to enhance the security of their networks, systems, and data, as well as requires their adoption of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) cybersecurity risk framework of best security practices.

The EO has been in the works for a while and revised a few times.  Among the key elements is a call for modernizing and consolidating government network technologies and infrastructures; a report on the technology supply chain risks to the US Department of Defense; support for security of critical infrastructure; an assessment of cyberattack and disruption of the nation’s power grid; and a call for skilled cybersecurity talent.

“Effective immediately, each agency head shall use The Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (the Framework) developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or any successor document, to manage the agency’s cybersecurity risk.  Each agency head shall provide a risk management report to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within 90 days of the date of this order,” according to the EO.

If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, including assistance with policies, prevention or recovery from a ransomware attack and cybersecurity insurance or insurance claims, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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New FTC Website Helps Small Businesses Avoid Scams and Cyber Attacks

Attacks can be especially devastating to small businesses; FTC provides information on how businesses can protect themselvesftc

At the direction of Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched a new website – ftc.gov/SmallBusiness – with articles, videos, and other information aimed at helping small business owners avoid scams and protect their computers and networks from cyberattacks and other threats.

“Small businesses are critical to our economic strength, building America’s future, and helping the United States compete in today’s global marketplace,” Acting Chairman Ohlhausen said. “This innovative new website is a one-stop shop where small businesses can find information to protect themselves from scammers and hackers, as well as resources they can use if they are hit with a cyberattack.”

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), there are more than 28 million small businesses nationwide, employing nearly 57 million people. Scammers frequently target small businesses with deceptive tactics designed to get them to pay for supplies they didn’t order, donate to fake charities or trick them into giving access to their network or downloading malware that can corrupt their business’s computers.

Cyberattacks can be particularly devastating to small businesses, and many of them lack the resources that larger companies have to devote to cybersecurity. Symantec Corp.’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report indicates the percentage of spear-phishing attacks targeting small business rose dramatically from 18 percent to 43 percent between 2011 and 2015.

The FTC’s new web page offers specific information to help small businesses protect their networks and their customer data. This includes a new Small Business Computer Security Basics guide, which shares computer security basics to help companies protect their files and devices, train employees to think twice before sharing the business’s account information, and keep their wireless network protected, as well as how to respond to a data breach. It also has information on other cyber threats such as ransomware and phishing schemes targeting small businesses. The FTC is continuing to work with the SBA on additional ways to help small businesses.

If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, including assistance with policies, prevention or recovery from a ransomware attack and cybersecurity insurance or insurance claims, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Pennsylvania’s Powelson to Join FERC from PaPUC

FERC

President Donald J. Trump announced May 8, 2017 his intent to nominate the following individuals to key positions in his Administration:

Neil Chatterjee of Kentucky to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the term expiring June 30, 2021. Mr. Chatterjee is energy policy advisor to United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Over the years he has played an integral role in the passage of major energy, highway, and farm legislation. Prior to serving Leader McConnell, he worked as a Principal in Government Relations for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and as an aide to House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio. He began his career in Washington, DC, with the House Committee on Ways and Means. A Lexington, Kentucky native, he is a graduate of St. Lawrence University and the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

powelsonRobert F. Powelson of Pennsylvania to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the term expiring June 30, 2020. Commissioner Powelson has served as a Commissioner on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) since 2008. Commissioner Powelson was first nominated to the PUC on June 19, 2008, by Governor Edward G. Rendell and appointed Chairman by Governor Tom Corbett in 2011. Currently, Commissioner Powelson serves as the President of National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) based in Washington, DC. Commissioner Powelson serves on the Electric Power Research Institute Advisory Board (EPRI) as well as the Drexel University Board of Trustees. From 1994 to 2008, Powelson served as the President and CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry based in Malvern, PA. In 2005, he was selected by the Eisenhower Presidential Fellow to be a United States fellow in Singapore and Australia. Commissioner Powelson holds a Bachelor of Administration from St. Joseph’s University and a Master of Governmental Administration with a concentration in public finance from the University of Pennsylvania.

Prince Law Offices, P.C. congratulates Commissioner Powelson.  To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with real estate, business, FERC, or PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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Safety First – Call Before You Dig

 

PA One Call“The arrival of warmer spring weather often marks an increase in construction and home renovation across the state, making this a prime time to highlight the importance of safe digging practices,” noted Commissioner John F. Coleman Jr. during the Commission’s Public Meeting today. “Every year, there are approximately 6,000 hits on our underground infrastructure across the state, and each one of these poses a risk to contractors, utility workers and bystanders, along with the possibility of service In conjunction with National Safe Digging Month, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today reminded homeowners, businesses and contractors of the importance of dialing 8-1-1 before digging to help ensure the safety of their excavation projects.interruptions, environmental damage and costly repairs to damaged lines.”

State law requires contractors and residents to contact the PA One Call system at least three business days prior to excavation – triggering alerts to all utilities within an intended digging area and prompting them to mark where their facilities are located. Pennsylvanians can dial 8-1-1 puc_sealto connect with the One Call system, while non-Pennsylvania residents can dial 1-800-242-1776.

“We urge everyone involved in excavation projects – whether it’s a small backyard improvement project or a large construction site – to ensure that utilities are marked before any digging begins,” Commission Coleman added. “A single call to 8-1-1 can go a long way toward preventing a potential tragedy or avoiding costly delays or repairs to underground utility lines.”

Governor Wolf and leaders from numerous counties across Pennsylvania have proclaimed April to be Pennsylvania One Call System Safe Digging Month, underscoring the invaluable nature of this service.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with real estate, construction, or PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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PaPUC Approves Three Applications for Permanent Operating Authority as Transportation Network Companies

puc_sealOn February 9, 2017, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved two applications for authority to operate as a Transportation Network Company (TNC) – increasing the total number of approved TNCs in Pennsylvania to three companies.

The Commission voted 5-0 to grant licenses to transport persons via TNC services to Lyft, Inc., which had previously been issued an experimental two-year authorization from the PUC.

The Commission also voted 5-0 to approve a license application submitted by Freed Man Autonomous Vehicles, LLC.

Previously, on Jan. 26, 2017, the Commission approved a TNC license application submitted by Rasier-PA, a wholly-owned affiliate of Uber Technologies, Inc.

The Commission oversees transportation services operating throughout Pennsylvania – including taxis, limousines and TNCs – with the exception of Philadelphia, where those activities are regulated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority. In December 2016 the Commission established an application process for new TNC licenses under Act 164 of 2016, which created the regulatory framework for TNCs to operate in Pennsylvania. Act 164 was signed into law by Governor Wolf in November 2016. Prior to that time, TNCs operated in most of Pennsylvania under experimental authority granted by the PUC.

In a joint statement issued at yesterday’s public meeting, PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown and Commissioner Robert F. Powelson took note of the growing number of TNCs now licensed to operate across Pennsylvania as the result of Act 164, emphasizing that innovative services are good for consumers, good for the transportation industry and good for business in the Commonwealth.

All of the TNCs approved by the Commission are required to maintain consumer protections and comply with all driver integrity, vehicle safety and insurance requirements set forth in the Public Utility Code or the Commission’s orders and regulations, along with all requirements established by Act 164. Additionally, to the extent that any autonomous vehicles or vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems and technologies are used, such vehicles shall be and shall remain in continuous compliance with all current and future vehicle safety rules and regulations issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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First Step to Starting Your Business

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Prince Law Offices, P.C. attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin will be presenting at “First Step to Starting Your Business” in cooperation with the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center.
First Step to Starting Your Business (Lancaster, PA)
Date:Fri, February 17, 10:30am – 12:30pm
Point of Contact: Kutztown SBDC (877) 472-7232
Fee: None
Location: 454 New Holland Ave Suite 300 Lancaster, PA 17602
This workshop covers a number of critical issues relevant to starting and operating a small business. Professional presenters include attorneys, insurance agents, accountants, financial specialists and zoning and codes staff. The workshop is designed for both entrepreneurs thinking about opening their first business and existing business owners looking for a “checkup”.
Desire more specific assistance regarding your business formation, agreements, intellectual property, trademarks, zoning, real estate law, cyber security, insurance, etc., contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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