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First 100 Juror Candidates Interviewed for Cosby Case

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May 2017 Scam Alerts

May 2017 Scam Alerts

1. SCAM ALERT Starting...

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First 100 Juror Candidates Interviewed for Cosby Case

PITTSBURGH—Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill spent most of the morning questioning the first 100 juror candidates in the criminal trial of comedian Bill Cosby.

Ten of the prospective jurors were Black; eight women and two men.

In all 53 women and 37 men were among the Allegheny County residents questioned as prospective jurors.

A preliminary witness list the judge read didn’t include the big Hollywood names that many anticipated.

The judge read the name Diahann Carroll, the actress who won a Golden Globe in 1968 for Best Actress in a Television Series and who became the first African-American to earn an Emmy nomination in 1969.

Women’s rights attorney and perpetual Cosby nemesis Gloria Allred also made the witness list, as well as several law enforcement officers, doctors and Andrea Constand, whose 2003 accusations that Cosby drugged her and raped her in his home near Philadelphia led to the star being charged with three counts of sexual assault.

The trial is set to begin on June 5 in Montgomery County, 300 miles away from Pittsburgh where the jury selection is taking place.

When jurors were asked if they or a close relative or close friend have ever been a victim of sexual assault, 35 of the 100 jurors said, “Yes.”

Fourteen of the jurors said the nature or references to sexual assault would prevent them from being fair and impartial; sixty-seven of them said that being sequestered and the expected two to three week duration of the trial would create an undue hardship.

However, O’Neill said that while the jury will be sequestered, they will be allowed to use their cell phones, watch television and use other devices that they normally would.

He also said that they’d still have to abide by their sworn oath not to form any opinions, talk to anyone about the case and reach a decision based on evidence presented in court only.

Thirty-four prospective jurors said Monday that they had already formed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of Cosby and 25 said the nature of the charges against him would prevent them from being fair and impartial.

Cosby arrived in the courtroom flanked by his attorneys and being helped to his seat by his assistant and spokesman Andrew Wyatt.

During the morning proceedings, Cosby occasionally brushed his eyebrows with his hands and smiled at times at some of the judge’s quips to jurors.

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May 2017 Scam Alerts

1. SCAM ALERT

Starting next April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will begin issuing Medicare cards that do not display Social Security numbers. New beneficiaries will get the modernized cards first, and then new cards will be issued to existing beneficiaries. This change presents an opening to scammers. If you get a call claiming to be from Medicare asking you to confirm your Social Security number for the new card, this is a scam! It is also a scam if you get a call claiming you have to pay for your new card. Hang up immediately.

Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Report scams to local law enforcement. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for more information on fraud prevention.

2. SCAM ALERT

Fake checks are featured in many types of scams, from phony prize winnings to fake jobs. And scammers are good at making phony checks look legitimate. The scams typically involve sending victims a check, asking them to deposit it, and then when cleared, asking them to immediately wire the money to a third party. Remember, a check can take weeks to clear. Wait until you are certain, and the bank can confirm, that your check has cleared before taking further action. If you wire money and later discover that the check was fake, you’ll have to repay the bank.

Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Report scams to local law enforcement. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for more information on fraud prevention.

3. SCAM ALERT

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Help Line has been fielding lots of calls about the “Say yes” scam. News reports have warned that a fraudster will call and ask a question to get the victim to say yes. The scammer records that affirmation to use it to authorize unwanted charges to a phone bill, utility bill, or even a stolen credit card. While many people report that they are getting calls like these followed by a hang up, we have yet to encounter any victims. If you got a call like this and answered yes, don’t panic. Be sure to always carefully review your bills and credit card statements, and immediately dispute any unauthorized charges. This is another good reason not to answer calls from unfamiliar numbers.

Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Report scams to local law enforcement. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for more information on fraud prevention.

4. SCAM ALERT

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is now working with private debt collectors to recover unpaid tax debts. Scammers could attempt to capitalize on potential confusion created by this new development. If you have a long overdue tax account, the IRS will first send you a letter to inform you that it is turning your account over to a debt collector. Then you will receive a letter from the debt collector before they contact you by phone. The only way to pay your debt is electronically or by check, payable to the US Treasury. If you don’t owe overdue taxes, a tax debt collector will not contact you. If you get a call from someone claiming to be collecting overdue taxes, hang up.

Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Report scams to local law enforcement. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for more information on fraud prevention.

5. SCAM ALERT

If you were tricked into wiring money to scammers using Western Union, you may be eligible to get at least some of your money back. The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice (DOJ) came to a $586 million settlement with Western Union earlier this year. If you sent money through Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017, and lost it to a scammer, you may be eligible for a refund. Once DOJ collects the money from Western Union, it will open a process later this year called “Petition for Remission” for people to make claims. Visit www.westernunionremission.com to learn more and sign up to receive updates.

Be a fraud fighter! If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Report scams to local law enforcement. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for more information on fraud prevention.

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CBC Members warn against returning to failed financial practices

A House bill designed to reverse regulation of financial services and end consumer protections is attracting the attention of a growing number of Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Members. In recent days, three CBC Members who are also Ranking Committee members have written their respective committee chairs to express opposition to H.R. 10, the so-called Financial CHOICE Act of 2017.

In just three days, May 2-4, Representatives John Conyers of Detroit, Elijah Cummings of Baltimore and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of Newport News, each wrote their respective committee chairs in Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform and Education. Their single message: afford full committee deliberations on the bill.

Earlier dubbed the ‘Wrong Choice Act’ by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, on May 4, the ill-advised legislation received a straight party-line vote in that committee.

“H.R. 10 is a sprawling piece of legislation that would destroy key financial regulations and consumer protections put in place by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” wrote Michigan Congressman John Conyers, Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.

“H.R. 10 would gut the progress we have made and place our entire economy at risk of another crisis,” wrote Rep. Elijah Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in his May 3 letter. “It would increase risks that taxpayers may have to bail out banks and financial firms yet again. As well as leave consumers vulnerable to the kinds of abusive and predatory practices that hurt so many American families before and during the Great Recession.”

Similarly and two days earlier on May 2, Rep. Scott wrote Rep. Virginia Fox, Chairwoman of Education and the Workforce. “Committee Members have expressed great concern over the attempts to weaken the oversight and enforcement power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the important role it plays regarding the integrity of student loan finance services.”

Since its April 26 introduction, H.R. 10 has become a legislative tug-of-war that has civil rights and consumer advocates speaking on behalf of average citizens on one side, and the worst actors in the financial industry on the other side. In many ways, these two sides are in a rematch of the same battle that was fought in 2010 to enact Wall Street reform.

The key difference today is that since its enactment, the cornerstone agency of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act returned nearly $12 billion to the pockets of 29 million consumers who were illegally harmed by financial companies. CFPB has also pursued ‘rules of the road’ with a consistent commitment to fairness, transparency, and access to credit whether the issue was student loans, debt collectors, auto finance, or other lending and credit concerns.

Unfortunately, those who comprised the opposing and losing side in 2010, never relented for a return to a Wild West style free market that operates with scant or meaningless consumer finance regulation in a wide array of financial services.

Among HR 10’s 591 pages are proposals that include:

§ Banning CFPB from enforcing the law or issuing any regulation for payday, car-title, or similar small dollar loans that charge triple digit interest rates that push borrowers into destructive debt traps;

§ Repealing the Bureau’s authority to stop unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices (UDAAP), the same authority that enabled CFPB to bring a case against Wells Fargo for creating fraudulent consumer accounts; and

§ Forbidding CFPB from regulating forced arbitration clauses and returning access to class action litigation to consumers seeking financial remedies.

Research by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) has repeatedly found that consumers of color, often Black and Latino, remain targets for financial abuse.

Today, more than 44 million consumers together owe $1.3 trillion on student loans. But for Black college graduates who have earned a bachelor’s degree owe almost double the debt of their white classmates – even four years following graduation.

A new kind of predatory lending, one that charges high cost installment loans with fees rivaling those of payday and car-title loans are placing consumers at financial risk with fees that eventually lead to repayments that are double, if not triple, the amount of money actually borrowed.

“Recklessness on Wall Street stripped a generation of wealth building in both communities of color and in low-income areas,” remarked Yana Miles, a CRL Senior Legislative Counsel. “As communities are getting back on their financial feet, the ‘Wrong Choice Act’ threatens to knock them back down again. We need a bipartisan coalition in Congress to oppose this extremely dangerous legislation.”

The CBC Members are right: A return to the policies and practices that nearly ruined the lives of consumers and the American economy should remain in the past.

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