Friday, May 8, 2020

Pandemic or Disaster: Opportunity for Scammers and Criminals

Why is this pandemic a ripe opportunity for scammers and criminals?

A: It has been widely publicized in the news lately to watch out for and increase in scams.  Criminals are very opportunistic. They see a vulnerable population and prey upon them. Scared people are looking for help.  People are trying to protect themselves.

People looking for medical attention and medical equipment may fall for a scam that falsely promises to deliver something that to meets a victim's needs.  They also may be unemployed and looking for work. There may be an extra level of desperation right now that may cause someone to make an emotional decision that they otherwise would not make.

You can learn more about scams to watch out for at https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/protect-yourself-from-covid-19-scams-040620

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

COVID 19 and Bankruptcy; TOOJAY'S


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As has been recently mentioned upon many news outlets, it appears the filings of bankruptcies has begun in Florida.  As of today, TOOJAY'S has filed for protection under Chapter 11.  This is a restaurant chain in Florida with $50M to $100M in assets, and their bankruptcy filing is a direct effect of the COVID 19 order shutting down restaurants.  While many restaurants, including Toojay's, offer To Go meals during the crisis, they are still struggling financially.  Even after restaurants are allowed to reopen in Florida, distancing guidelines and limitations on the number of customers allowed within establishments will limit income, and because of the continued Coronavirus threat, it is not clear how fast customers will return to eating in restaurants.  Also, many people, especially people now out of work, no longer have the disposable income they had prior to the COVID 19 event, and will no longer have the luxury of being able to eat out.

Even with emergency funding through the SBA, it appears there may be a title wave of Chapter 11 filings that will emerge in the near future.  It also appears there may be a large uptick in the filing of Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings from people that have lost their jobs, and are either re-employed in a lower paying job or remain unemployed for an extended period of time.

UPDATE: Florida Governor DeSantis just announced the reopening of restaurants with outdoor seating while observing social distancing, and inside limiting to 25% capacity.  This is for the reopening scheduled for May 4, 2020.  CDC guideline must continued to be observed.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Garnishment Order and Your Stimulus Check

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Many Americans are awaiting the deposit of their stimulus checks there are issued according to the CARES Act as a result of the economic devastation created by the pandemic, stay at home orders, and business closings.  According to news reports, these checks are paying people to stay at home.  Checks are also being sent out to those for which the government does not have account information.



Hopefully, I am telling you something you already know.  But guess who else knows this money will hit your account.  That is correct:  Creditors and Debt Collectors.  Hence, expect an increase in collection activity, and if your account is subject to a garnishment order, those trying to collect a debt may seek court order intervention to go after the funds.

If you are in a bankruptcy proceeding, chances are your account is safe from garnishment.  You should check with your bankruptcy attorney to insure there the account is protected under the bankruptcy code by something called an automatic stay.  If you don't know what an automatic stay is, you should ask your attorney.

If you are not in bankruptcy, you should contact a local attorney practicing in your state to find out how you can protect the funds.  In some states, your financial account may to subject to a continuing writ of garnishment, whereby there may be a freeze put on the funds until there is judicial intervention.  And trying to get before the Court could be a challenge in and of itself, and in many areas of the county, the judicial system, to some extent, is shut down.  You should also check to see if there is a order put in place within your jurisdiction temporarily putting a hold on garnishments because of the national emergency.

So, what happens if your account has been garnished?  That again depends on the state.  Different states have different exemptions.  So again, you should check with an attorney.  Some states have wild card exemptions, or exemptions related to a percentage of Federal funds received.  So the stimulus check may fall within this exemption amount.  Another possibility is to see if your state has an exemption for public assistance.

If you are the subject of a garnishment, whatever you do, do not delay in getting with an attorney as soon as you can, as any delay may negatively effect your rights to recovery of the funds. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Coronavirus and Fraud

Criminals are taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the Coronavirus and the resulting vulnerable population.  Some of the most common sources of fraud fall into the following categories:

1.  Government Impersonators 
2.  Fraudulent Cures or Medical Equipment
3.  Work-from-Home Fraud 
4.  Investment Fraud

Hopefully each of the above categories is self explanatory as these are not new forms of fraud, however some perpetrators have become very good at scamming, and seek opportunities to prey on vulnerable people.

Scams include the following:
  • Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
  • Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
Be especially vigilant regarding any emails you receive, and any calls you receive from anyone asking for any financial information, and protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

ZOOM Consultation Warning


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As you know, we are in the middle of a pandemic.  This is a very unique situation, and one in which very few organizations or people were prepared for.  As everyone quickly found out, this is different than a hurricane or earthquake in many ways.  For one, COVID 19 can not be seen, and there is little information on how long it will last.

One of the ways schools and courts have adjusted is by using internet platforms that allow for video conferencing.  This is a great way to relay information among others when it is not advisable or you can not meet face to face.

While Zoom is the preferred encrypted video conferencing platform for many, it should be noted the platform has some drawbacks.  One, it appears to be prone to attacks by others that acquire the correct credentials to join in on a meeting.  Apparently, hacking software has been developed that allows one to take control of a meeting by redirecting the audio and video to the hackers control.

It has also recently been reported on the news that Zoom has a flaw in its encryption, allowing others to be able to hear and see conversations among others.  Hence, if you have sensitive information to convey to others, including legal consultations, you should probably avoid using Zoom to convey that information until Zoom can improve the security of its platform to be secure.

Friday, April 3, 2020

UPDATE WILLS

I have had several calls about doing Last Will and Testaments, and reviewing ones that have already been done.  Yes, I do more than just bankruptcies. 

The governor has issued an order to stay at home.  The daily news outlines county by county how many positive cases of COVID 19 have been discovered, both total numbers and new cases in the past 24 hours.

This gives one pause to reflect with everything going on in the world right now.  It could also bring one peace of mind to know you have a properly drafted will.  Should you need a will reviewed, or need other testamentary documents drafted and reviewed, you should contact your attorney, or an attorney in your area competent in drafting and executing such instruments.  While I am happy to draft these documents for Florida residence, these documents are state specific, so I would recommend you have an attorney within your state draft these documents.

Bankruptcy: NON ESSENTIAL BUSINESS CLOSED

CORONAVIRUS: WORK FROM HOME, Safer from Home.

We are currently under an order from Governor Desantis to close all non-essential businesses in Florida.  Law offices, depending on their practice and status of cases, could be an essential business. 

However, in an effort to conform with the spirit of the law, I am seeing clients by internet or telephone conference.  The current technology is such, that allows attorneys to consult with clients using one of several video meeting platforms.  I have recently been using a platform called ZOOM, which has a free application and is similar to Skype.  This allows me to further conform with the wishes of state authorities in being able to work from home, and still being available to consult with clients.

So, should you know anyone needing a bankruptcy consultation, please don't hesitate contact me at 904-652-0060, or by email at dgrange@grangelaw.org to arrange for a video conference.  I am also offering consultations for a wills, probate, bankruptcy, or any other consumer advocacy matters.