Call 360-861-4117 and talk to a fake IRS agent. I did!

IRS scammers are calling millions of Americans this week. Watchdog Nation has heard from many people.

So are you ready for a little Watchdog Nation mischief? Let’s sting the stinger.

Call this fake IRS scammer (as I just did) and pretend you will pay him money.

“IRS Officer Daniel Smith”

1-360-861-4117

Listen to my call with him here. Warning: Foul language alert (but not by me).  Note: This is the second call. He hung up on me the first time, so I called back.

This is a Soundcloud file:

Listen HERE.

Make sure you put your phone on Caller ID block so he doesn’t know your number.

I told him my name was Luke Walkersky.

Call him and say hi.  Tell him you are responding to a call. That’s all it takes. The longer you keep him on the phone, the less time he will have to hurt innocent elderly folks who fall for this crap.

Act scared. Make up your information.

He’ll say you owe the IRS $3,000.

String him along. Sting the stinger.

After you are done, post comments on this blog about how it went so we can all be entertained!

IRS phone scam

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Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.\

Still here? Visit Dave Lieber’s other fun websites: DaveLieber.org

What’s the biggest lie in the 2015 Texas Legislature?

Do you believe insurance companies will actually walk away from a billion dollars in profits if insurance lobbyists fail to get wicked Senate Bill 1628 passed? Dallas Morning News Watchdog Dave Lieber calls them out on this ridiculous claim the industry is using to promote this bill.

Read a news story about this bill: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/state/headlines/20150420-texas-home-insurers-see-another-strong-year-but-still-seek-limits-on-lawsuits.ece

Read my opinion column: http://www.dallasnews.com/investigations/watchdog/20150409-watchdog-texas-insurance-lobbyists-have-a-plan-you-wont-like.ece

mr moneybags

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Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.\

Still here? Visit Dave Lieber’s other fun websites: DaveLieber.org

Five Bills Designed to Make Texas Consumer-Friendly

Make shopping for electricity fairer for Texans. Force roofers to get a state license. Stop charging extra for people who pay with debit and credit cards. Verify that fingerprinting all Texans for driver’s licenses is legal. Protect auto insurance customers who ask questions about their policies.

These are the five dream bills offered up by Dallas Morning News Watchdog Dave Lieber in his recent two-part series. Read Part One and Part Two.

By far, his Retail Electricity Reform Act of 2015 is his top-priority. “I get more complaints from Texans about their electricity contracts than any other subject,” Lieber says. “I have placed the top ones into my dream bill. I’m seeking one or more lawmakers willing to take on the big powerful interests and clean up all the loopholes. So far, no legislator has taken the big step. But I’m hoping for it.”

Lieber wants to ban minimum usage fees, regulate unregulated fees and make comparison shopping easier by forcing all companies to advertise the full price including the delivery charge.

electricity screen shot

Watchdog Nation founder Dave Lieber discusses his legislative proposal on NBC5. Watch here:

Read about the four minor bills here.

Read about the major electricity bill here.

Follow The Watchdog at www.dallasnews.com/watchdog and see the progress of this year’s campaign.

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Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.\

Still here? Visit Dave Lieber’s other fun websites: DaveLieber.org

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More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

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Excerpt about Garage Door Services from Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation book (2015 edition)

Dallas Morning News Watchdog Dave Lieber first wrote about Garage Door Services in 2006.

The following is from his book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong. (Just released 2015 edition available here.)

Click the image below to open it and read this 2-page story.

dave lieber-watchdognation-Garage-Door-Service-GDS

Excerpt from the book Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation — Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong (based on a 2006 incident)

Top 10 Consumer Tips for 2015

This video shows the best tips for 2015 from Dallas Morning News Watchdogs Dave Lieber and Marina Trahan Martinez.

How did we figure this out?

Based on our mail and the most common problems we see. If you hit most of these correctly, you’ll lessen your chances for a hassle-free ’15.

Happy New Year from The Watchdog Desk at The Dallas Morning News.

Watch Dave live on NBC5.

Read the full column this is based on here.

For desktop and laptop viewers, here’s the information in a cartoon we made.

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More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

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Hipster site: DaveLieber.org

AUDIO: Watchdog Nation Confronts “Inspector Luigi” The Scammer

Note: Columnist Dave Lieber revisits the story of retired American Airlines captain George Kahak in this 2014 Dallas Morning News column, “A man who fell for, and lost, everything.” After it appeared, readers requested to hear the original audio of Lieber talking to scammer “Inspector Luigi” who pretended to be a U.S. Customs Agent. Watchdog Nation reprints this 2009 post with the sound recordings below.

Ever wonder what a scammer sounds like? Listen to a vulture who preys upon the elderly with a phone call. He wants the 86-year-old man to wire money to a foreign country. But this scam can be stopped when you know how it works. That’s the basis of consumer protection and my Watchdog Nation.

Please let me introduce you to Inspector Luigi. (This next video is an intro, but you can skip to the actual audio files below.)

He is with the U.S. Customs Service — or so this fraud says. He called my pal, George Kahak, who probably holds the world title as victim of the most scams.

I first wrote about George in my Dave Lieber Watchdog column in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2009. The story is so fascinating that I reprinted it in my book — Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation.

I’d love for you to read the short chapter on George in this memorable excerpt.

So the other day George called me. He was about to get bit again. He won a half million dollars in a lottery. But the organizers wanted to explain to him how to claim his prize. It involved him sending money to them.

As always, I warned him off. But this time, when Inspector Luigi called George, I was there.

I asked George if I could take the phone. Then I told Inspector Luigi that George is hard of hearing. Meanwhile, I taped it for you.

Captain George Kahak. He died in 2010.

Captain George Kahak. He died in 2010.

Please listen to the slick, deep voice of this con artist. He’s a beaut. Each segment is just a few minutes.

In Act I, he explains the scam to me in detail.

Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/davelieber/inspector-luigi-part-i

In Act II, he continues his ridiculous explanation.

https://soundcloud.com/davelieber/inspector-luigi-part-ii 

In Act III, well, here’s the real drama. He tells me where to wire the money. Then, The Watchdog confronts him. (This sound file ends when the good inspector hangs up on me.)

https://soundcloud.com/davelieber/inspector-luigi-part-iii

In Act IV, I call back a few days later and Luigi pretends he is some other guy who answers the phone. When he tries to connect me — surprise — I get disconnected.

https://soundcloud.com/davelieber/inspector-luigi-part-iv 

And in the finale, Act V, he tries to pretend, once again, that he is someone else. But it’s obviously his voice.

https://soundcloud.com/davelieber/inspector-luigi-part-v 

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Bastards like Luigi do this every day. There are thousands of them. They prey on your grandmother, your parents, your friends and neighbors. They are so convincing that they get enough victims to make this worthwhile. Luigi is a classic case.

Watchdog Nation can’t stop the Inspector Luigis of the world from operating, but you can expose them and make it clear to all exactly how they operate.

Please share this blog post with those whom you care about.

# # #

Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Dallas Morning News, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. His book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Please use these icons below to share this warning message on Facebook, Twitter and your other favorite social sites.

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More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

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Personal: YankeeCowboy.com

Hipster site: DaveLieber.org

Did you get slammed for unwanted $29.95 a month credit monitoring? You can get a refund.

Call me naive, but I imagined a company that tricks people into paying $29.95 a month for a credit-monitoring service they didn’t know they ordered would be headquartered in a faraway land.

A company that lured people with the promise of free credit scores in big print but hid the actual cost in tiny print must be offshore, right?

A company that informs surprised customers it can cancel anytime but isn’t available to take cancellations? Hidden somewhere on an island nation?

Nah. Try the 8100 block of Walnut Hill Lane in Dallas.

one tech b

As readers of The Dallas Morning News Dave Lieber Watchdog column first learned, One Technologies Inc. is headquartered on the sixth floor of a corporate tower.

I first learned about the company weeks ago after my wife, Karen, tried to get her free credit report from the government-sponsored site and accidentally ended up on one of the dozens of websites run by the Dallas company.

She typed in her personal information, then pulled back when asked for credit card information.

No payment is required on government-sponsored annualcreditreport.com. But One Technologies has gamed the Internet so its dozens of websites confuse people.

The company, which uses many names including ScoreSense and MyCreditHealth, is easily found through its use of common search terms linked to its many websites. The sites’ names carry common keywords such as “free credit report” and “check credit scores.” The company also purchased click-on ads to attract users.

This month, the façade of respectability disappeared for One Technologies. The Federal Trade Commission, working with the states of Ohio, Illinois and Texas, successfully brought legal action to stop the company’s sales practices.

The FTC, in legal filings, reports 210,000 complaints against the company from banks, credit card companies, law enforcement agencies and the Better Business Bureau.

One Technologies “participated in deceptive acts,” according to a final court order agreed to by company officials and made public this month.

One Technologies must pay $22 million into a restitution fund for victims.

The company can no longer hide its online terms of purchase in obscure web boxes that users must open to see. Terms must be clear and conspicuous. Frustrated customers must be allowed to cancel immediately through an available call center.

Last week, I visited the company in its office tower and expected to find it shuttered. That’s what Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office promised in a news release.

Abbott’s headline bragged, “State of Texas Shuts Down Bogus Online ‘Free’ Credit Scores Scheme.”

Imagine my confusion when I walked into the company’s sixth floor suite and found people working.

Turns out Abbott’s office oversold. After the company complained, the headline was changed: “State of Texas Stops Online Scheme that Claimed to Offer ‘Free’ Credit Score Schemes but Charged Monthly Fees.”

That’s not the only mistake I see in this enforcement action against a company that capitalizes on customers’ mistakes. In its only public statement about its comedown, One Technologies attempts to turn a national disgrace into a crowning achievement.

The company headlines its public statement: “ScoreSense/One Technologies Sets New Benchmark for Industry Transparency and Disclosure.”

In its opening sentence, the company claims that it “set a new standard for the industry’s clearest and simplest subscription disclosures.”

The company brags that it has helped “to establish industry best practices for enrolling customers” in online businesses.

Denying what it agreed to in the court order, the statement refers to government claims against it as “alleged” and states that “the terms of One Technologies’ offers have always been disclosed to the consumer.”

Fred Loeber, an executive, is quoted: “We call on our competitors to adopt this new benchmark.”

Shameless audacity.

“No fines or penalties were imposed,” the statement continues. “One Technologies will establish a fund for providing refunds to certain past customers.”

How nice. An established fund. Sounds like a scholarship. There’s no mention of $22 million in the company statement.

This company accused by the feds and three states of deception shows in its own words that it hasn’t learned the lesson. Shameless audacity.

Staff writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.

Follow Dave Lieber on Twitter at @DaveLieber.

Check out The Watchdog on NBC5 at 11:20 a.m. Mondays talking about matters important to you.

# # #

In the Know

Get free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. Type the address correctly.

Here’s a list of websites used by One Technologies:

freescoreonline.com

freescore360.com

checkmycreditnow.com

freeonlinescore.com

creditreports.com

freecreditcheck.com

freescoreusa.com

mycredithealtlh.com

ScoreSense.com

spendonlife.com

2012TransUnionExperianandEquifaxScores.com

3-BureauCreditScores.com

3-BureauMonitoring.com

3-FreeCredit-Scores.com

3-in-1 creditscore.com

Amazing-CreditScores.com

CreditCheck2013.com

CreditReview2013.com

Credit-Review-Team.com

CreditScore-Check.com

Credit-Scores.net

CreditSummary.com

FastAccessToYourCreditScore.com

FastReview.us

FraudMonitoringOffer.com

FreeScoreCheck360.com

MyFree3B.com

MyFree3Bcheck.com

Online-CreditScores.com.

ProfessionalCreditScores.com

ScoreCheck.net

Scores-2012.com

Scores2013.com

ScoresDirect.net

Think-Credit-Scores.com

TimeForACreditCheckUp.com

TrackerTripleScores.com

ViewYourCreditScoreFast.com

Your-Credit-Check.com.

YourCreditScoreIsWaitingForYou.com

YourFree3B.com

YourFree3Bcheck.com

YourFree3Bscore.com

YourFreeScore360.com

Your-Score-Check.com

YourScoreCheck.com

SOURCE: Texas attorney general’s office

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Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.\

VIDEO: Watchdog Dave Lieber shares his best secret

Here’s Watchdog Dave Lieber’s gift to you.

His secret weapon to survive.

The best way he knows how to keep you, your family and your business out of trouble.

It’s so simple.

Watch The Dallas Morning News Watchdog columnist share it now on NBC5 with news anchor Kristi Nelson.

# # #
Watch Dave talking about matters important to you Mondays around 11:20 a.m. on NBCDFW.
Dave-Lieber-Watchdog-Nation-NBC5-Dallas-Morning-News

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Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.\

Watchdog reveals secret land deal between Ross Perot Jr. company and TxDOT

Along a 35-mile proposed superhighway only one landowner has been able to sell right-of-way to TxDOT.

The seller is the biggest name in North Texas real estate. Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood Development.

Ross Perot Jr.

Ross Perot Jr.

The deal was never revealed to the public until this Dave Lieber Watchdog report in The Dallas Morning News appeared.

Read more Watchdog reports here.

Watch this video by Dallas Morning News Watchdog Desk Administrator Marina Trahan Martinez.

Read The Watchdog every Friday and Sunday in The Dallas Morning News and at DallasNews.com.

 

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New book site: BadDadBook.com

The Watchdog: Time Warner Cable’s fine print fools a customer

I’m fed up with businesses that tease us with large print come-ons in advertising and hide the conditions in small print that most people miss. Until now, the worst I’d seen recently was at the State Fair of Texas. The sign stated, “Ask Me About our Botox.” Underneath, in tiny print, was the word “Effect.”

So it’s not Botox. It’s the Botox Effect. Doh.

Today I call out Time Warner Cable for doing the same to Sherry Buffington of Farmers Branch and who knows how many others.

She received a flier from TWC with a “limited-time offer.” If she upgrades her TV-Internet-phone package, she would receive a Samsung Galaxy Note tablet. “A $399 Value,” the ad states.

Buffington called TWC and asked about the promotion. A customer service rep promised her she qualified for the expensive tablet. She gave the go-ahead for a switch.

But the tablet never arrived. She went round and round with the company for the next several weeks. Nobody would give her a straight answer about why she didn’t receive the promised gift. She contacted The Watchdog and told me she felt “duped.”

TWC informed me that Buffington had not read the fine print on the offer and did not qualify. That was the bad news. The good news, however, was that TWC folks went back and listened to a recording of her original phone call and heard that the rep promised her a tablet when he shouldn’t have.

TWC offered Buffington a $300 bill credit as a makeup for the error. TWC’s position: She had to switch to a specific bundled package (which she didn’t) and the fine print explained that.

I contacted Buffington and told her tsk, tsk, you gotta read the fine print in life. But then Buffington sent me the actual ad and I was truly surprised. The fine print was so small and in a lighter shade of type than the rest of the flier. The rest of the flier was in big letters. But this fine print was so small I couldn’t even read what she sent me. It was disgustingly small.

fine print

To be fair to TWC, the company is not selling the tablet but the bundled package. The tablet is the lure. But this reminds me of the famous saying: “The big print gives, and the small print takes away.”

I asked the company to send me a sharper copy. I measured the font size. The letters are 1/16 of an inch tall. The tiny print alerts customers that they must sign up for a specific package to qualify.

When I asked Melissa C. Sorola, TWC’s director of public relations, about this, she pointed out that the requirements “are stated three times in the documents.” Yes, that’s true. But it was in 1/16 of an inch everywhere. I don’t find that acceptable. Do you?

Font size in ads is an issue when shopping for electricity in Texas. Under state rules electricity requirements must be “written in language that is clear, plain and easily understood, and shall be printed in paragraphs of no more than 250 words and in a font no smaller than 10 point.”

For perspective, a 10-point font size is twice as large as the font used by TWC for its small print.

The Federal Trade Commission gives guidelines to businesses for fine-print advertising on its ftc.gov website. The regulatory agency has what it calls Clear and Conspicuous Standards.

“Your ads should clearly and conspicuously disclose all information about an offer that is likely to affect a consumer’s purchasing decision. Disclose the most important information — like the terms affecting the basic cost of the offer — near the advertised price.

“Print advertisers should not attempt to hide the real cost or the critical terms or conditions by putting them in obscure locations, such as the border area on a print ad, burying them in numerous densely packed lines of fine print or including them in small-type footnotes.”

The FTC adds, “It’s against the law for businesses to bury important details about a product or service in the fine print.”

The Watchdog continues to become less trusting of companies that try to hide information from us. I agree with Buffington when she tells The Watchdog: “Deception is never acceptable, and consumers definitely should not stand for it.”

IN THE KNOW: FTC standards

Here are the Federal Trade Commission’s Clear and Conspicuous Standards:

Prominence: Is the fine print big enough for people to notice and read?

Presentation: Is the wording and format easy for people to understand?

Placement: Is the fine print where people will look?

Proximity: Is the fine print near the claim it qualifies?

If an ad violates these standards, complain to the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit www.ftc.gov/complaint.

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More Watchdog Nation News:

Watchdog Nation Partners with Mike Holmes

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Debuts New e-Book and Multi-CD Audio Book

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Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.\

Still here? Visit Dave Lieber’s other fun websites:

Personal: YankeeCowboy.com

Hipster site: DaveLieber.org