Is Walmart bugging America?

Watchdog Nation was on to a major story.

At a local Walmart recently, we noticed these giant things hanging over the cash register area.

Dave Lieber's Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong

They appear to be microphones.

Watchdog Nation surmised that Walmart security experts want to hear what their customers are saying as they get to checkout.

So we contacted Walmart media relations and left a message. They ignored us.

So we called them.

And when they called back, we told them about the long poles. We asked that they get back to us.

They never did.

So we went back to the store to ask employees.

But when we got there, the long poles were gone.

Did the bugging of America come to a halt?

Well, an employee told us that the poles were speakers, not microphones. And the speakers were so customers could hear the sound coming from the TV sets atop each register station.

And when the TV sets were removed, the speakers were taken down soon after.

Mystery solved.

Walmart is NOT bugging America.

But it never hurts to ask!

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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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Watchdog Nation partners with Mike Holmes

We work with the HGTV Star to “Make it Right!”

Watchdog Nation, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and HGTV star Mike Holmes joined with some caring businesses to fix a heartbreaking problem involving an elderly man who lost $19,000.

Royce Benson gave two ex-convict brothers money for foundation repairs that were never done.

The story, which first appeared in a Dave Lieber column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, led to a series of events that resulted in one the culprits getting sentenced to four years in prison.

After the original story appeared, staff members for Mike Holmes contacted Watchdog Nation and asked if they could help fix the house of 80-year-old Royce Benson for free. [Read about this incident on the Mike Holmes blog here.]

Watchdog Nation Dave Lieber partners with Mike Holmes

Mike Holmes

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More Watchdog Nation News:

America meets Watchdog Nation/Listen to Fun Radio Interview

Watchdog Nation Changes Lives/Two People Who Learned to Fight Back

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

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The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Watchdog Nation worked with Holmes to get area companies and suppliers to donate their time and materials. Thanks to Perma-Pier Foundation Repair of Dallas, Roto-Rooter of Fort Worth and Lowe’s for banding together and, in the motto of Mike Holmes, working to “make it right.” (Read the complete account here.)

Watch a video of Royce Benson explaining what he went through here.

Watchdog Nation founder Dave Lieber partners with Mike Holmes

Royce Benson points to a sample of the awful foundation repair job. He paid $19,000 for nothing.

Watchdog Nation founder Dave Lieber partners with Mike Holmes

Watchdog Nation founder Dave Lieber partners with Mike Holmes

Watchdog Nation founder Dave Lieber partners with Mike Holmes

Hubert Burdick runs a small remodeling business. He promised to do foundation work but never did. Photo: Texas Prison System


Billey Ray Burdick runs a tree-trimming service. He accepted two of Royce Benson’s checks that were made out to him. Photo: Texas Prison System

Holmes, the star of his Holmes on Homes TV show, also produces Holmes, The Magazine to Make It Right now available in the USA.  In the debut USA issue (January 2011), Watchdog Nation founder Dave Lieber tells the story in a “Holmes Heroes” feature about how Benson’s house is getting a makeover.

Read the Holmes magazine story by Dave Lieber here.

Watchdog Nation founder Dave Lieber partners with Mike Holmes

The debut issue of Holmes’ USA magazine is now for sale. See a list of retailers here. And following a new Federal Trade Commission rule that requires bloggers who promote products to disclose any financial relationship, we disclose: Holmes magazine paid Lieber for the story. Lieber, in turn,  donated the funds to Summer Santa, the all-volunteer children’s charity he co-founded in 1997. (Visit You’ll be surprised.)

The folks from Perma-Pier Foundation Repair of Dallas work with Benson to make it right.

Final note: Watchdog Nation is honored to work with Mike Holmes and his wonderful team. His continued efforts to keep contractors honest and do it right the first time is nothing short of heroic.

Watch his show on TV. Read his magazine. Learn how to find the honest contractors and stay out of trouble. A mission we share at Watchdog Nation.

UPDATE: In 2011, Hubert Burdick pleaded guilty to criminal theft and was sentenced to four more years in prison for his role in this incident.

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North Texas Tollway Authority unhappy with our report about woman thrown in jail

The North Texas Tollway Authority has responded in full to the previous Dave Lieber column about the single mom who went to jail for 27 hours because of a problem stemming from unpaid tollway fines. She says she never received any notices. The NTTA says she did. But did she?

Read that full report here.

Fortunately, we can take advantage of the unlimited space offered on the Internet to post, in full, NTTA spokeswoman Susan Slupecki’s response and my response to her, also in full.

You decide.

Dave Lieber's Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong

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From: Slupecki, Susan

Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2010 2:57 PM
Subject: Your article: “Unpaid Tollway Authority bills can land you in jail”

Mr. Lieber,

This letter is in response to your story that appeared in Sunday’s Star-Telegram, “Unpaid Tollway Authority bills can land you in jail” (dated Oct. 3, 2010).

Not only did you miss several salient points, but as a reporter you have an obligation to present all the facts, which clearly did not happen in this case.

So in the interest of accuracy and removing any negative light you have shed on the NTTA as a result of this article, I, again, offer the following facts.

Ms. Butler received three invoices from the NTTA in 2005 (two in May, one in November), as well as several additional notices in 2005 and 2006 requesting maintenance on her TollTag account.  None of the invoices or notices were returned to us (indicating a bad or incorrect address).  Had they been, the invoicing action could have been stopped and wouldn’t even have gotten to the DPS/citation stage.  However, a DPS citation was issued in September 2006 for the first invoice.

You state in your article that Ms. Butler contends she was “never notified of any unpaid bills or court appearances and that her address is correctly listed with the state and the NTTA, where she keeps a current TollTag account.” However, you failed to support this contention with any documentation that would validate her claim.  You then contradict this very statement further in your article when you say that Ms. Butler did, in fact, “hear” about a notice: “She remembered hearing about one notice that went to her now-deceased grandfather in Austin in 2006.” But again, you failed to state whether or not Ms. Butler contacted the NTTA prior to the citation being issued.  The fact is, she did not.  Despite our many attempts to reach her, at no time during the invoicing/notice/citation period in question did Ms. Butler contact us to address any maintenance, problems or concerns with her account.

Furthermore…you state in your article: “Officials said last year that they had improved their use of databases to get more-accurate information.” But you failed to demonstrate how we did this by excluding relevant information I provided to you last week outlining safeguards the NTTA has in place to ensure accuracy in our databases:

–          We receive weekly record updates from the Texas DMV.

–          We also run all our invoices through the National Change of Address (NCOA) database through the United States Postal Service to ensure accuracy of the address during invoicing.

–          The Department of Public Safety issues a citation only after a vehicle title record MATCHES the driver license record address, name, etc.

Based on that last bullet alone, you also failed to question how it could be possible that DPS – the very agency that presides over driver license information – did not have Ms. Butler’s current address at the time the citation was issued in 2006.  Seemingly, nor did the Collin County Justice of the Peace Court when a citation to appear in court was issued, OR the Collin County Sheriff’s Department when a warrant was later issued for her arrest for failure to appear in court.

The fact is, Texas law requires individuals to update the address on their driver license within 30 days of moving to a new residence.  If it is true that Ms. Butler moved during the period in question, then she had an obligation to notify the Texas Department of Transportation.

Furthermore, address information is to be corrected during re-registration of vehicles, which occurs annually.  Did Ms. Butler ever correct her registration information with TxDOT during the time in question?  Had she done so, the violation notices sent to Ms. Butler notifying her of unpaid tolls would have been directed to the new address.  Ms. Butler’s toll violations occurred in early 2005, and the criminal case against her was not filed until September 2006.  She had ample time to comply with state law regarding updating her driver license and vehicle registration information before her unpaid tolls resulted in the filing of a criminal citation, yet she apparently failed to do so.

Then there is the question of how Ms. Butler could have even accrued toll violations if her TollTag account was current during the time in question.  The fact is, TollTag accounts must be in good standing in order to work properly.  We must not only have current address and vehicle information, but also current payment information.  As I explained to you last week, having a TollTag account is similar to having a checking account—it is merely a method to pay for transactions and does not guarantee payment without a positive balance.  Was Ms. Butler’s address, vehicle and payment information current and her TollTag account in good standing in 2005 and 2006?  The fact is, the most common reason a TollTag customer receives a violation invoice is because the credit or debit card the customer has on file for their account has expired or is no longer valid and, therefore, the account can no longer keep a positive balance.

Clearly, there were several factors that made up Ms. Butler’s case.  But as I mentioned to you before, there is information I was not able to provide to you as disclosure of certain customer account information is prohibited by Section 366.179 of the Transportation Code.  Still, given all the information I have provided you, I wonder how you can use your article to question the accuracy of the NTTA, the Department of Public Safety and the Collin County court system – yet, never question Ms. Butler for her role in her situation.  I think the obvious speaks for itself in this case – Ms. Butler was not being completely straightforward with you, and the unfair story that resulted is just another example of many generated by the media that perpetuates the misconception that the NTTA is solely responsible for some situations customers like Ms. Butler find themselves in.

Because it is very important to the NTTA that members of the media portray these types of situations legitimately and accurately, we would be happy to go over Ms. Butler’s account with you provided she sign a waiver allowing us to discuss her account freely while both of you are present.  If you are open to this idea, please let me know and I will be happy to facilitate a dialogue among all the parties involved.

Thank you,

Susan Slupecki

Asst. Public Information Officer

North Texas Tollway Authority

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From: Dave Lieber
Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2010 3:18 PM
To: Slupecki, Susan
Subject: RE: Your article: “Unpaid Tollway Authority bills can land you in jail”


Thank you for your comments. Of course, I would be happy to meet.

With your permission, I’d like to print your letter in response on my blog so everyone can see your points when they come across it in the future.

I believe the story was quite clear that it was her word, not her documentation against the NTTA’s position. I made no bones about it.

In most, if not all cases, I quoted her as saying it, rather than presenting her statement as fact. You accurately used the word “contends.”

I would submit that you would contend to your position, too. You say you sent letters to her. They did not come back to you. You accept that as fact that they must have landed at their proper destination. I find that to be a stretch. Why wouldn’t you use return receipt requested mail to insure this? Several readers have indicated to me in the past few days that they would hope that any government or authority would use something more sophisticated to ensure that letters are going to their proper places, rather than “we sent it and it was never returned.” Especially when the end result could be jail time.

By your chairman’s own comment in the story, there have been numerous address errors in the past. Plus, even without his forthright comment, I, and many other members of the media have in the past reported about a stream of address problems. My point is that, considering NTTA’s track record, this incident is in the realm of the possible, not the impossible.

That’s why I was willing to let Butler have her say. Your paperwork that you showed me, and your letter her, contending that she did, in fact, receive the notice, is based on a supposition as weak or as strong as her own contention.

I would like to print your note in its entirety on my personal blog so others who find the story in the future can read it and make up their own minds. But I won’t do that without your permission.

Dave Lieber

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Read previous posts by Dave Lieber on this subject

Watchdog Nation says: Give ’em hell, Victor!

Here’s how to take back some of the authority from the North Texas Tollway Authority

Woman goes to jail for unpaid toll bill she says she never received

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Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. The new 2010 edition of his book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, is out. Revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

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

Assumptions kick our butt

The same dude, George Santayana, who said the most quoted line in the world (“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”) also said: “That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions.”

Dig that. But what about assumptions themselves?

I’ve narrowed down, in my continuing study of consumer boo-boos, that one of the most overlooked errors committed by anyone who buys something at least once a day (all of us!) is that we assume things when we shouldn’t.

We live in a world of assumptions. We believe what store products tell us on the label. We listen when our doctor says there’s something wrong with us. We assume the experts know what they’re talking about.

Assumptions kick our ass.

Dave Lieber's Watchdog Nation shows Americans how to fight back and win.

Joseph Nguyen got his butt kicked by an assumption. He assumed his spare tire fit all the wheels on his Toyota Camry. It didn't. He spent several hours stuck on an interstate overpass in the hot Texas summer.

In today’s marketplace, the product box may say “Deluxe” or “Premium” — but it’s really not. Deluxe and Premium are now bottom rung. Corporate language is used to confuse as much as to inform.

I remember that I assumed that the company from which I bought a check stamp years ago was still the same honest company when I recently ordered a new stamp from them. By then, though, the company was in the business of taking money, but not fulfilling orders.

Not until I involved my bank, the California state police, two local police departments, the California attorney general and the Better Business Bureau did I get my money back. Then one day a new stamp arrived in an unmarked envelope. By then, I already bought one somewhere else.

I assumed.

Joseph Nguyen assumed that his spare tire was the right one for his Toyota Camry. It had worked once before when he had a flat rear tire. But this time it was a front tire, and that made all the difference.

He got a flat tire in the worst way. It shouldn’t have been a problem. He’s a mechanic for Lockheed Martin.

He was driving his 2004 Toyota Camry on the overpass that takes motorists from Interstate 30 East near downtown Fort Worth to Interstate 35W North. Nguyen was about four stories above the ground, coming down the slope that’s like a roller-coaster ride.

“I hear a pop. The car is shaking. I stop and pull over.”

Hole in the right front tire. He removed the spare tire from the trunk and jacked up the car.

It was 4 p.m. July 7. Traffic backed up. Nguyen and his car were on the shoulder of the treacherous ramp. No shade. Temperature in the 90s.

And the spare wouldn’t align with the bolts on his wheel. Although the mechanic had once used the spare for a flat rear tire, this time he couldn’t make it fit.

He was frustrated — and thirsty. He called 911. “I need some water,” he said. A dispatcher promised help.

A half-hour later, two police cars arrived. An officer tried to change the tire. “It’s not the right one,” he agreed. Police called for a tow.

A fire truck arrived, answering a call about a dehydrated man stuck on the ramp. A firefighter gave him water.

Then an ambulance arrived. Nguyen was shaky. A paramedic gave him more water.

It was now rush hour. Traffic backed up for as far as Nguyen could see. Two police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance didn’t help the traffic problem.

“I’m real mad,” he said. “I stay in the car and turn on the air conditioning. Because I have water, I feel better. And I wait for the tow truck.”

At 6:30 p.m., after 21/2 hours, a tow truck arrived. By the time the truck towed his car to the repair shop, it was closed. The car was towed to his home.

Nguyen next called Toyota’s U.S. headquarters in California. He was told to call his area dealership. Nguyen visited Freeman Toyota. His invoice states, “Spare tire is a size 15 and vehicle recommendation [is] for a size 16.” Freeman sent him to Vandergriff Toyota, where Nguyen bought the car four years ago, used, with 4,000 miles.

Under most state laws, used cars are sold “as is” unless the seller offers an added return policy or warranty. In this case, after four years, Vandergriff Toyota is under no obligation to do anything for Nguyen.

Still, Vandergriff gave him a new spare for free.

Vandergriff customer relations manager Radonna Gritten says the reason is that the dealership wants used-car buyers “to be just as happy” as new-car buyers.

“I have apologized to Mr. Nguyen, but he’s very adamant,” she said.

Nguyen is asking Vandergriff to also pay his $200 towing bill and $35 rental-car charge. He hasn’t received an answer.

Gritten gave it to me: “The fact that this was four years later threw me off. I do realize he is requesting we pay his tow bill. From what I understand, we’re not going to do that.”

What happened here? My guess is that before the used car was sold, someone put the wrong-size spare in the trunk and at least one improper-size wheel on the car. A Camry uses 16-inch tires. But a 15-inch spare worked on one of his wheels and not on another.

Because he used the spare once, he assumed the spare would work for all four tires.

“Most of the time, your spare tire fits all four,” Gritten said.

For Nguyen, the dominoes keep falling. To replace the one bad tire, because of uneven wear on the others, “I had to buy all four new tires.” Another $535.

This story reminds us to challenge our assumptions. We assume the spare tire will fit. The jack will work. We figure the fire extinguisher in the kitchen will spray and the backup valve on the water heater will hold. Our assumptions sometimes get us in trouble.

“Check the spare before you go on vacation,” Nguyen said. “Make sure you have the right one. You never know what’s going to happen on the freeway or wherever.”

Yes, that life is worth living is a grand assumption. But false assumptions can make you feel the other way.

Watchdog Nation advises: Now is NOT the time to assume anything anymore from anybody.

Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. The new 2010 edition of his book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, is out. Revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

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

VIDEO: What’s the secret size cup at Starbucks?

Did you know there’s a secret size cup of coffee at Starbucks?

No foolin’.

But you gotta ask for it specifically. And to get that far, you first have to know the secret word.

This illustrates the key component of being your own watchdog. Ask a bunch of questions! Americans ask too few. There’s a stigma to asking too many questions — when there shouldn’t be. We should honor the asker of questions.

So what’s the secret word so you can start saving at Starbucks? Like any other questions these days, you could google it. Or better yet, watch this video by Fort Worth Star-Telegram investigative columnist Dave Lieber, founder of

And you can purchase the “Ask a Bunch of Questions” button (as featured in USA TODAY) by visiting here.

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Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. The new 2010 edition of his book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, is out. Revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

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

Funky lamp leads him to a billionaire

[This is written by Monty Snow, a guest columnist for]

I had a very unusual experience that ran counter to the norm, and I thought you might like to hear it.

My wife Rochelle and I had found this little lamp at IKEA that we just loved and couldn’t find anywhere else. Trouble was, they were out of stock. So, we tracked it on their website until, according to the website, it was in stock.

So, I drove to Frisco and guess what?  It was still out of stock.  I asked about it and they apologized for a computer glitch.  So, I drove home and waited a couple of weeks and checked it again.  Now it was in stock.  So, I drove to Frisco.

IKEA logo

When I drove back to Frisco and found it STILL out of stock, I asked if I could buy the display model, but the woman who was stocking the lighting section told me that was against company policy.  I noted that they had two display models and what difference was it going to make if they had one or two, especially since a customer had been inconvenienced twice by their error.  She couldn’t violate company policy.

So, I sought out a supervisor.  I couldn’t find any offices.  It seems that all the supervisors at IKEA are working on the floor.  So, I asked a worker where I could find one, and he pointed to a guy across the floor who was standing in front of a computer while another guy was talking in one ear while he was answering his phone with the other.  I didn’t think there was any way this guy was going to help me, but I waited patiently, and when I got a chance, I told him my story.

He was a young man, quiet and polite, and as soon as I finished, he asked me to wait by the checkout, and he headed toward lighting, answering his phone as he went.  He was gone 10 or 15 minutes, and didn’t come back until he had found the lamp I had been looking for.  I was very impressed by his willingness to go out of his way to help a customer when all he really had to do was repeat company policy, so I asked him for his name and wrote it down.

When I got home I wrote a letter to his boss telling him how this supervisor had gone out of his way to provide service in what is pretty much a self-service operation.

Well, you know how I tend to overdo things, so on a whim, I wrote the founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad – in Sweden.  This guy is the richest man in Europe and the fifth richest man in the world.  Never in a million years did I expect a reply.  So I was shocked when an envelope with Swedish postage arrived.  Here is the letter.


Dear Mr. Snow!

How very kind of you to take time and write about your experience in our IKEA store in Frisco, Texas.  You certainly make me feel very proud of our staff there, particularly Mr. Ruigu!

I apologize for taking so long to reply to your letter which had taken some time to reach me.

You point to the risk of impersonality in a business like ours, and I could not agree more.  We try to maintain the spirit of the small Swedish company we once were, and itis not always easy.  I often use the Swedish word “Tillsammans” – meaning “together” – to underline how very important each one of us are for the total result.  That is a lesson I learnt very early on the farm where I grew up in Sweden.  It has followed me ever since.

Again, my heartfelt thanks for you letter.  I wish you and your family a joyful Christmas and look forward to see you again in one of our stores.

Ingvar Kamprad

(The signature indented the back of the paper and appears to be genuine, rather than machine-generated).

The guest columnist and his lamp

The guest columnist and his lamp

On Facebook, your friends could be your enemies

On Facebook, which last week bragged about its 300th million user and first-time profitability, you have “Friends.” You don’t have “Enemies.”

Or do you? wants everyone to learn some new Facebook terms that don’t necessarily show up in the company’s amazing corporate history.

Compromised account.Dave Lieber Facebook identity theft

Account takeover.

Account hijack.

Definition: term used to describe when an unknown scamster gains control of your account, often resulting in a fairly believable plea to your friends for money to rescue you from disaster.

That’s my definition. Feel free to rewrite in the comments.

Let me show you how it works. This research first appeared in the September 20, 2009 Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the best paper in Texas, in the Dave Lieber column.

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While on Facebook recently, Gary Rifkin received an instant message from his friend Karen Cortell Reisman.

“Hey Kar, how’s it going?” he typed back.

“Not too good at the moment,” she answered.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“I’m in a deep mess as we speak and I need your financial assistance,” she answered.

She explained that she was in London “and we got mugged at gunpoint.”

“Oh my God,” Rifkin said. “Are you okay?”

“Yes. Cash, credit card and phone got stolen. It was a brutal experience.”

“How are you going to get home?” he asked.

“That is the main problem now. I need your financial assistance.”

“How much do you need?” he asked.

“All I need is $1,300.”

“Where should I send it?”

The address was in London.

“Hang in there,” he advised, a transcript of the conversation shows.

Rifkin never sent the money. He knew he wasn’t talking to his friend but someone pretending to be her. He knew his friend was at home in Dallas.

Reisman, meanwhile, started getting frantic phone calls from friends asking, “Are you OK?”

As she told me later, “It was stunning to see how fast this grew over the course of one day.”

She calls the whole experience “the day I got hijacked on Facebook.”

Reisman uses Facebook as part of her speaking and coaching business. But she couldn’t get into her account because her password no longer worked. She tried to call Facebook’s corporate office in Palo Alto, Calif., but she couldn’t find the phone number. (Note: 650-543-4800)

She found the help page on Facebook that led to a contact form that put her in touch with the security team.

When Facebook e-mailed her a new password, she worried that it, too, was a hoax. But it wasn’t. She got her Facebook page back.

None of her friends sent money, but most called to see whether she was OK. “I was so touched by the concern of so many people,” she said.

In Facebook lingo, her account was compromised, company spokesman Simon Axten said.

Reisman has no idea how it happened. In all probability, Axten said, scammers learned her password through phishing.

That’s when a user goes to a fraudulent Web site that looks like the real thing. The person enters his or her login information, and then the crooks have what they need.

I can see how this happens. Sometimes I get an e-mail on an account that Facebook doesn’t know about. The e-mail asks me to look at Facebook photos. But I’d have to log in to Facebook. I ignore it.

The Facebook spokesman says scammers re-create e-mails that look like ones Facebook sends out. They might say that a friend has commented on your link or that you were tagged in a photo.

“We advise people to be careful when they’re clicking on e-mails, and especially links,” Axten said. “And when they do click on a link, check the URL [Web address]. If it’s not and it’s something else, most likely it’s a phishing site. Be careful.”

He suggests that when a friend claims to be in trouble, test the friend’s identity by asking key questions (“Where did we have lunch together last week?”).

The number of accounts compromised is very low, Axten said, considering that Facebook has 300 million worldwide.

“But obviously the consequences are pretty severe if someone ends up sending money. That’s a significant loss. As a result, we’re taking it very seriously, as we do any security threats.”


Facebook monitors users who start sending out lots of messages or making “wall” posts. Facebook may block or disable the account until the mystery can be solved, he said.

Passwords should be complex, with a variety of letters and numbers.

Reisman changed all her passwords after her experience – for Facebook and for her bank, e-mail, other social media sites and credit cards.

Previously, she said, “I used the same password for everything because life is short and I can’t remember everything.”

Now she keeps a separate list of passwords.

Facebook isn’t as much fun for her now.

“It’s left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth,” she said. “But Facebook came through, in my opinion, because they really did react to the problem in a fairly quick manner.”

Do you use the same password for multiple accounts? Or simple passwords, easy to figure out, like the name of your dog?

Remember that the best password is a combination of letters, numbers and punctuation marks. Always be careful when entering it into any e-mail that is sent to you.

And please feel free to share your detailed stories about similar problems – along with suggestions about how we can protect ourselves in the comments below.

* * *

Learn more about protecting yourself in the national-award winning book about social change, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong. Visit

Facebook Protection TIPS

– Be suspicious of friends who ask for money. Test their identity. Ask others who know them to verify any questionable situations that arise.

– If you see something suspicious on a friend’s account, go to the help link on the lower-right corner of a Facebook page and report it to the Help Center.

– Learn about security tips at

– Choose a strong password and don’t use it for other Web accounts.

– Use an up-to-date Web browser that offers anti-phishing features.

– Run anti-virus software on your computer.

– Reset your Facebook password if you suspect that your account has been compromised.

– Become a fan of Facebook at to get the latest security announcements.

Source: Facebook

How NOT to fix customer service

Every day of every week, I get mail and e-mails from Americans who want help fighting corruption and stupidity in government and business.

Today, for example, I heard from Bill, who has been trying for weeks to get someone from a local hospital to help him with a bill that he says he doesn’t owe.

I heard from Cecelia, an 80-year-old woman who has called her satellite TV company many times without success to complain about poor wiring. When she finally cancelled, they sent a collection agency to harass her “with daily calls, morning, noon and night. I have medical conditions that have been aggravated by these calls.”

And I heard from Gwen, 88, whose cable TV company assured her the installation charge would be $9.99. Instead, she got a bill for $149.95.

Fortunately, I’ve been doing this long enough so that I know key executives at each of these companies. I’ve already sent copies of letters from Bill, Cecelia and Gwen. I expect all three will hear from these companies in the next few days.

But this silly procedure of mine – taking complaints and passing them on – doesn’t get to the root of the problem. It’s a temporary fix. I help one, but thousands suffer from the same problem.

Each of these companies has broken or struggling customer-service cultures. OK, that’s putting it kindly. They stink. They rot to hell. They ruin days and nights for their customers with their never-ending incompetence.

And that’s the reason I can’t get David Avrin’s story out of my mind. I always wondered what happens behind the secretive doors of America’s top corporations when top executives figure out that they need to bring somebody in from the outside to help their employees see the light.

David Avrin | The Visibility Coach

David Avrin | The Visibility Coach

Avrin, known as The Visibility Coach, is one of the smartest people I’ve met when it comes to image-building and branding. He understands the trinity of media, public relations and advertising as well as anyonee’s a classy guy, too – Don Draper without the adultery. His specialty is coaching chief executive officers.

And that’s how he ended up telling the story about how he was called into a major corporation to help settle internal customer-service issues. But then, as he explains, he walks into a huge trap of his own making. He’s sitting there, facing the CEO, and because of his own boneheaded move, he has nothing left to give.

Avrin’s brutal honestly in his story helps me see how Bill, Cecelia and Gwen can’t get satisfaction. Please read David Avrin’s moving story here – and find out how he became part of the problem he was supposed to fix.

Finding an honest contractor

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

How hard is it to find a good, inexpensive and honest roofer, plumber, painter or contractor?

If you’ve ever been burned, you know the answer to that.

Monty Snow, a leading citizen of Watchdog Nation, sent us a recent note, which he granted permission to share:

Just a personal note about consumer (self) protection. You know, after my experience with a plumbing company that charged me $250 to dig 1-foot-deep holes, I decided to find a good plumber before I needed one again (lesson 1).

So I started checking websites, looking at customer reviews, and I found a guy who everybody seemed to love. You could tell from their reviews that it wasn’t just about plumbing – they really liked the guy. So I emailed him and asked him straight out how much he charges and how he calculates it. He wrote me back immediately, was very straightforward, no b.s., and he told me exactly what I wanted to know.

I needed him sooner than I thought I would – twice in fact. He came out, used only the best of materals, did a first-class job each time, and the total for both calls was $250 – the big fancy company had charged me to dig the hole.

But I went a step further. I figured if this guy was honest and reliable, he probably used honest and reliable people when he needed something done around the house. So, when my air conditioner acted up, I sent the plumber an email and asked him who he uses. He gave me the guy’s name and number, said he never used anybody else (Networking – lesson 2).

I called the a/c guy and he was out the next day, fixed only what I needed, didn’t try to sell me anything, was extremely pleasant and reasonable. When I need an electrician, I’m gonna call the plumber and the a/c guy.

“It’s not the $5. It’s the principle.”

Watchdog Nation hears that all the time. Dave Lieber was interviewed on radio station KYQX-FM by Linda Brooks Bagwell recently on her “Books ‘n Authors” show, which is broadcast on a chain of radio station throughout North Central and East Texas. The subject was Watchdog Nation.

Here is a caller, Gary, complaining about a subject that grates on all of our nerves. Banks charges that nickel and dime you to death. Dave’s talk with the man on the radio.

Gary later attended a book signing at Lark Bookstore in Weatherford and told Lieber that the reason he went to the bank in question to cash the check was to see if a new customer’s check was any good. He said he has been burned too many times in his business by bad checks. The bank in question was close to the customer’s location.