THIS WEEK IN THE NEWS
January 12 to January 16, 2015
Safeguarding Consumers From Growing Threat Of Data Breaches
With some of the largest-ever data breaches occurring in just the last year, Attorney General Schneiderman announced his plans to propose legislation that would overhaul New York State’s data security law and expand protections for the personal data of consumers by broadening the scope of information subject to existing notification laws and encouraging companies to meet higher standards for data protection. The Attorney General’s proposal would be the first update to New York’s data privacy law since 2005 – back when Facebook was just a one-year-old start-up – and would update the state’s protections to better address the current digital landscape. This new law follows last year’s comprehensive report on data breaches and hacking, which revealed that nearly 22.8 million personal records of New Yorkers were exposed by such incidents from 2006 to 2013.
Joining Facebook In New Effort To Help Find Missing Children
On National AMBER Alert Awareness Day, Attorney General Schneiderman joined Facebook in announcing a new system to help deliver AMBER Alerts to all Facebook users and find missing children using the social network. Specifically, the new system will allow Facebook to distribute AMBER Alerts to the news feeds of individuals within the targeted search area for a missing or abducted child. This announcement follows the Attorney General’s work with Facebook just last year to promote public safety, implementing safeguards to prevent the illegal sale of firearms on the site.
Standing Up For Immigration Action
Leading a coalition of 12 other states nationwide, Attorney General Schneiderman has filed a brief to defend President Obama’s Immigration Action policy from a recent challenge filed in a Texas federal court. The Attorney General’s brief argues that, by giving five million immigrants living within the United States the opportunity to come out of the shadows and stop living in fear, Immigration Action will offer immeasurable help to the states, increasing tax revenue and reducing demand for social services.
Taking Action Against Sexually-Based Harassment In The Workplace
Attorney General Schneiderman announced that his office has arrested and charged the former Director of Operations with the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s Special Investigations Unit, James Ferro, after accusations surfaced that he had repeatedly sexually harassed a subordinate employee. If convicted, Ferro faces up to two years of incarceration. Attorney General Schneiderman stressed that all New Yorkers are “entitled to a workplace that is free of harassment and where they are treated with dignity and respect.”
Returning Money To Rochester Patients Overcharged By Health Insurer
Nearly 3,000 Rochester consumers will receive a total of $74,000 in refunds thanks to Attorney General Schneiderman, after his office reached an agreement with health insurer Excellus for charging thousands of members in New York with excessive copays. The Attorney General launched an investigation after an Excellus member came forward and complained to his office of the health plan’s billing practices. Attorney General Schneiderman urged all New Yorkers to contact his Health Care Bureau Helpline at 800-428-9071 to report similar problems with their health insurers or providers.
Saving New York Homes Thanks To Mortgage Assistance Loan Program
The first loans have been closed in the Attorney General’s Mortgage Assistance Program (MAP), which helps families struggling to avoid foreclosure by providing loans of up to $40,000. Attorney General Schneiderman announced that more than 140 applications had been received statewide and more than 20 loans had been approved in the program’s first few months, allowing those New York homeowners to keep their homes. Any struggling homeowner is encouraged to get connected to the Attorney General Schneiderman’s Homeowner Protection Program to receive free, trusted legal help and determine their eligibility for MAP: Call 855-HOME-456 or visit www.AGHomeHelp.com.
Ensuring Equal Educational Opportunities For English Language Learners
Attorney General Schneiderman reached agreements with seven school districts in Suffolk and Westchester Counties to expand educational access for students for whom English is a second language. The schools have agreed to develop and implement new policies and procedures concerning English language learner students to better interact with their families throughout their educational careers. This is part of the Attorney General’s ongoing work to promote greater access to educational opportunity for all of New York’s students.
Cracking Down On Security Guard Training Scams
Attorney General Schneiderman is suing two New York City companies and their owners for tricking unemployed consumers into paying for expensive security guard training courses they didn’t need in hopes of gaining employment in the field. The two companies are accused of using phony job listings and false promises of employment to lure more than 8,000 consumers into paying for illegitimate training. The Attorney General also offered tips to New Yorkers looking to become a security guard, like first checking to see if any school is approved by the State Department of Criminal Justice Services before signing a contract.
Protecting Affordable Housing In Washington Heights
Attorney General Schneiderman filed a lawsuit seeking to protect the residents of a Washington Heights building whose owners have allegedly deprived tenants of their rights under New York’s rent stabilization law. The Attorney General’s lawsuit claims that the owners have illegally been operating the residence as a rental building in order to raise rents by as much as 25%, when it is actually a housing cooperative that should have been promoting home ownership. Attorney General Schneiderman is asking that the court restore the building to rent stabilization so that the tenants will be afforded the protections they deserve.
Securing Jail Time For Food Stamp Fraud On Long Island
Attorney General Schneiderman announced the convictions of a Long Island couple that stole $668,000 from the federal food stamp program, also known as SNAP. The couple used their convenience store in Riverhead to illegally exchange cash for SNAP benefits intended for Hurricane Sandy victims, and submitting fraudulent transactions for payment. The defendants have been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution, and one defendant will serve up to four years in state prison.
Ensuring Consumer Safety In Central New York
A Central New York business has agreed with Attorney General Schneiderman’s office regarding its sale of trailers that lacked required braking systems and failed to comply with New York State’s vehicle and traffic laws. Following the Attorney General’s investigation, the business immediately discontinued the sale of any trailers that were not equipped with the proper safety equipment, notified customers who had purchased above-weight trailers of the necessity for brakes, and offered his customers the opportunity to have brakes installed on all qualifying trailers for no cost.
Helping The Tenants Of An Upper West Side Apartment Building
Attorney General Schneiderman secured a court order barring developers from proceeding with plans to convert an occupied residential apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side into condominiums in light of a pending fraud investigation. The Attorney General alleges that the building’s developers have submitted fraudulent offering plans, distributed those fraudulent plans to tenants, and wrongfully entered into illegal buyout agreements with tenants in an effort to persuade them to vacate their apartments during the renovation.
Applauding The EPA’s Plan To Reduce Methane Emissions
In light of the Environmental Protection Agency’s announced plans to adopt new regulations reducing methane emissions by the oil and gas industry, Attorney General Schneiderman praised the agency’s important first step toward protecting our environment from this significant source of climate change pollution. The Attorney General also called on the EPA to continue to act on its responsibility under the Clean Air Act by next regulating methane emissions from existing sources and from natural gas distribution.
In Other News…
The Attorney General applauded New York City’s plan to increase funding for bulletproof vests for NYPD officers, following the launch of his inVEST Partnership last year. So far, inVEST has helped 169 New York law enforcement agencies, including the NYPD, to equip more than 8,000 officers with bulletproof vests.
Attorney General Schneiderman scored a win for New York’s outdoor enthusiasts, successfully defending the public’s right to navigate Adirondack Park waterways even if their path takes them through private property.
He also honored Comptroller DiNapoli, his “partner in public service,” at his swearing-in on Long Island.
Visit our website at ag.ny.gov, where you can learn more about our office’s intiatives. You can also find out how to contact us here.
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Posted by Charles and Randy Fisher (Twitter / Facebook / Instagram @HHSYC).