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 $600M student lawsuit filed

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BigBrownEyes29
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PostSubject: $600M student lawsuit filed   Sun 20 Jan 2013, 1:55 am

Chris Vander Doelen
Jan 18, 2013 - 6:02 PM EST
Last Updated: Jan 18, 2013 - 9:11 PM EST


Tens of thousands of college and university students in Windsor and Essex County who took out OSAP loans between 2000 and 2006 are covered under a $600-million class-action lawsuit filed by a Windsor firm Friday.

The student loan holders are among 583,000 Canadians who had their security compromised when federal employees lost track of a two computer hard drives containing valuable financial details, including their Social Insurance Numbers, addresses, phone numbers and birth dates.

In the digital age, that information can cause financial havoc to victims in the hands of identity thieves, credit skimmers and immigration scammers, lawyers for the students say.

Windsor-based firm Sutts, Strosberg LLP is one of three law firms specializing in class- action suits which jointly served the federal government Friday with a claim for $600 million in compensation – or the equivalent of about $1,000 per affected student.

The claim is based on advice that federal officials have given loan holders who complained about the risk they now face: some were told to hire a credit monitoring service to guard against account hackers and hijacked identities. Their lawyers say the federal government should at least cover the cost of that protection, which is about $15 per month.

“This is a classic case where the individual wouldn’t go the expense of hiring a lawyer on their own because their losses aren’t large enough,” says Sharon Strosberg, one of the lawyers handling the huge claim.

“But you have to take it seriously — these people are now at risk for identify theft,” Strosberg said Friday. “It is the expectation of Canadians that the proper protections be put in place for them.”

The partner firms in the Sutts Strosberg suit are Branch Macmaster LLP of Vancouver and Falconer Charney LLP of Toronto. All three firms are well known in Canadian class-action circles, with Sutts Strosberg alone carrying about four dozen active cases right now.

The Sutts, Strosberg claim is one of several expected to be filed for the same group of claimants. Another class-action suit has been filed in Newfoundland and several others are pending across the country.

Strosberg said the three firms decided to share the case after receiving “many calls” from worried loan holders concerned that their finances are now at risk from the security breach.

Only one student’s name is currently attached to the Windsor/Toronto/Vancouver claim, but more will be added as they join, Strosberg said. A website has been set up for them at studentloanclassaction.com

The data loss occurred on Nov. 5, when employees in an HRSDC office in Gatineau, Que., realized they couldn’t find a data stick containing the unencrypted information, which included full contact information and loan balances.

A search for the stick revealed that the hard drive the data came from also couldn’t be found. Federal officials didn’t admit the loss to the public until last week. Although the HRSDC office was located in Quebec, no Quebec data was on the hard drives — only information from the rest of the country.

Even just locally, the potential pool of claimants is huge. Lori Lewis, a spokeswoman for the University of Windsor, said the school saw about 7,000 of its 16,500 students apply for loans or grants under the Ontario Student Assistance Program in the 2011-2012 school year.

If the number of applicants has been on a slow steady climb over the past 13 years, as is believed, that would translate to a pool of anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 affected University of Windsor students alone.

Tens of thousands more students attending St. Clair College also took out OSAP loans during the same period. The college had between 5,000 and 6,000 students enrolled for each of the affected years. In some classes, more than half of the students have taken out loans.

“I think this is an important case because this is an issue which is prevalent right now — the potential for mischief is great,” Strosberg said. “We live in a digital age and people have a right to know how their information is protected.”

http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2013/01/18/600m-student-lawsuit-filed/
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BigBrownEyes29
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PostSubject: Re: $600M student lawsuit filed   Sun 20 Jan 2013, 2:06 am

What I don't understand is how a government policy was not implemented years ago to prevent employees from saving people's personal information on USB sticks and portable hard drives. They were saving unencrypted data on these drives. I can see the person responsible being let go with a nice big severance package and bonus, out of the good ol tax payers paycheques. For an irresponsible act they made.

Even where I work, we are not allowed to save any client's personal data on USB sticks or portable hard drives. If you have to, you have to get permission from upper management, and the information has to be encrypted. Even insurance companies work this way. If you are caught at work doing so without permission and without the data being encrypted, it's immediate termination. Not even the union for the union positions can save your ass. We're also not allowed to leave for lunch with paper work on our desk and when we leave at the end of the day. If I have to leave my desk for more than a minute, my computer has to be locked out.

I guess I'm a little surprised that government idiots were allowed to do handle people's personal information so carelessly.
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PostSubject: Re: $600M student lawsuit filed   Sun 20 Jan 2013, 4:44 pm

I'm wondering if I should contact them. I got osap during that time period.

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BigBrownEyes29
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PostSubject: Re: $600M student lawsuit filed   Sun 20 Jan 2013, 10:43 pm

Bullet, I would call to be sure.
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