Archive for June, 2008

Stop Junk Mail & Offers
June 29, 2008

It’s 8:42pm on Sunday night. I am winding down because I have to wake up at 1:30am to be at work at 3:30am. “Before I lay me down to the sleep,” I wanted to share some useful information I found in a Martha Stewart Living magazine.  I often scan through magazines laying around the house before I drop them in the recycle bin.  This task usually happens when I am putting off doing something else… this weekend, it was house cleaning.  But hey- you benefit from this info… so in the end, it’s a good thing I didn’t do the floors 🙂

The artcle was all about banishing junk mail. While I’ve given some of this information on air before, it’s a good reminder. Here goes (and again this is all from a January 2008 Martha Stewart Living article by Jennifer Uscher):

End Unwanted offers  Go to or call 888-567-8688 to be removed from the major credit bureaus’ mailing lists for pre-approved credit card and insurance offers. Register online to opt out for 5 years or by mail to protect yourself permanently (a printable form is available on the website). You will be asked to provide your Social Security number and your date of birth; the information helps insure that your request is processed, but it’s not required.

Get off Mailing Lists The Direct Marketing Association (DMA), a trade group for companies and nonprofits that send advertising mail, will remove the names and addresses of everyone in your household from mailing lists for 3 years for $1 per person. Register at, or write to Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512 (send all variations of names, plus your address and signatures). The DMA says this will reduce your solicited mail by up to 80%. If you move during that 3 year period, you will need to re-register with your new address.

Note that registering with the DMA will not stop Valpak coupon mailings. To halt those, go to

Cancel those Catalogs The Ecology CEnter, an environmental group in California, recently launched, a site that lets you search for catalogs by name and cancel those you no longer wish to receive. If you can’t find the catalog you’re looking for, click on the “Suggest a Catalog” link at the bottom of the results page.

 So what else did I save from that magazine? A recipe for grapefruit souffle. I’m going to try and make that one day… perhaps the next time I’m trying to find something to get me out of vacuuming!


Online Loans & other internet scams
June 26, 2008

Esther Canales went online to get money… but she ended up giving it instead.  She wrote the email below explainng how she lost $880.

“I applied online for a personal loan for $5000.00, the next day a Jonathan Flemming the Senior Loan Officer called and said that I was approved for the loan, but I had to pay 4 months worth of payments upfront which totaled $880.00.

He said that I needed to moneygram the money to Brooks, Canada to a Mary Halstead
and that by 5pm the next day I should have the $5000.00 Fed Ex to my work address.

The next day there was NO money and NO FED EX .”



Canales says she did talk with managers at the loan company. She says they only told her she needed to send more money to get that loan.

I told Canales she should file a complaint with the Internet Crimes Complaint Center. The agency is made up of investigators from several local and federal law enforcement agencies who specialize in internet crimes. You’ll find info. on how to file a complaint and a list of common Internet Crime Schemes.  




SEC: National Power Co. at center of Investment Scheme
June 20, 2008

Reporter Tom Fowler had this story in today’s Chronicle.  While the Chron was slow to get on board covering electricity and deregulation, they were ahead on this one.  The issue is one every news outlet in Texas should be all over.

We are heading to Austin for a Public Utility Commission meeting on Monday. It is a specially called meeting by Rep. Phil King.  He sent out the release below.  We’ll be there to ask questions for you and see if there’s any real action behind these words.

Phil King to examine recent electric market upheaval



Px00038_9_2Dramatic price spikes in the wholesale electricity market along with failures of two retail electric companies has captured the attention of state Rep. Phil King, the Weatherford Republican in charge of electric utility issues in the Texas House of Representatives.

King, who chairs the House Committee on Regulated Industries, said he will seek answers during a special hearing on June 23. He also has brought his concerns to both Public Utility Commission chairman Barry Smitherman and Bob Kahn, director of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas that manages the state’s power grid.

“I have been assured in no uncertain terms that the PUC and ERCOT are taking corrective action to stop these price spikes,” King said in a statement released Tuesday.

Last week electric wholesale prices spiked to nearly unprecedented levels — from about $175 per megawatt-hour to $2,250, which is the maximum allowed by law.  Also last month, Houston-based National Power and Bridgeport-based PreBuy Electric failed to meet their financial obligations and dumped thousands of customers onto high-priced default electric providers.

Are you entitled to receive money from a class action settlement?
June 12, 2008

Today at 4pm, we told you about a Class Action Lawsuit against Stein Mart that has resulted in Stein Mart agreeing to print coupons for shoppers in local newspapers all across the country.

It reminded me of a website where you can scour through hundreds (maybe thousands- I haven’t counted) of Class Action Lawsuits and Settlements across the country to find out if you have any of that settlement cash or some other offer coming to you.  You don’t want to miss out!

The website is Lawyers and Settlements.  A fellow consumer reporter who works in Salt lake City used the website for a story.  He took the list of suits and parameters for being part of the “class” and set up a table at a local shopping mall.  People could walk up and find out if they were owed money. You’d be surprised how many people realized they had money just waiting to be collected.

Disclaimer: I am not a litigious person. I know a lot of people argue that the only people who benefit from Class Action suits are the.. well…. the suits, the lawyers.   While they make rake in some dough, it’s also true that when thousands of consumers are taken for a small amount of money here or there, making businesses pay with a fat monetary penalty is sometimes the only way to punish the business’ bad behavior.  So cash in!


More Questions that we couldn’t fit on TV
June 10, 2008

We just answered some of your questions on our 4pm newscast today; but we had more questions and answers than we had time for within the newscast.  I am posting the other questions you’ve asked here:

Riverway customer Jarred Young emailed:

Not only will their be a significant increase in my new utility bills due to the high costs of electricity (avg. 16c/kwh) but since I live in an apartment I cannot join another 12mos. fixed rate plan without being subdued to early termination fees.  Why should I (the customer) be subjected to these penalties because the Company could not allocate their finances? This is only my third month into this plan.

PUC Spokesman Terry hadley responded:

We suggest the tenant meet with the landlord since the landlord may have dealt with this issue in the past and help the tenant if only to keep a customer for the entire lease period. The customer should review his/her contract with the REP to see what if any terms apply. If the tenant is shopping for a new provider, then mention to the prospective REP that you may move within x months and what is the best plan for that situation. Here’s the PUC rule that applies: PUC Subst. R. 25.475(d)(5)(N) provides that the terms of service must state the following. 

(N)          A statement of customer’s ability to terminate service without penalty in the event:

(i)            The customer moves to another premises;

(ii)           Market conditions change and the terms of service document allows the REP to terminate service without penalty in response to changing market conditions; or

(iii)          A REP notifies the customer of a material change in the terms and conditions of the service agreement.

 NPC customer David Ericson wrote:

I was with National Power Co. when they sent me notice (letter dated 5-9-08 received 5-14-2008) of them raising their rates 40% to .153 kWh on a fixed price contract originally agreed to at .11 kWh.

They offered a no cancellation fee, if you wanted to go to another provider within 45 days. So, I switched to US Energy Savings Corp. at .1315 kWh and signed up with them on May 15th.

I just learned that my request to switch providers was cancelled and I have been switched to TXU Energy at .204 kWh. as a provider of last resort.

I feel that I have been done wrong, again. 1st by National Power Co, who apparently is now out of business, and secondly by my account with them, switched to a provider that I did not request.

In fact, my request to change providers has been ignored and cancelled.

I had signed up with US Energy on May15th. Switch was set for June 15th.

I was changed to TXU on June 3rd (without my knowledge or permission.)

This is ridiculous and not right and VERY costly!!

PUC Spokesman Terry Hadley’s response:

This is probably a case of the original switch going through the standard notification process that usually takes 30-45 days including the mailing of a postcard from ERCOT to give the customer a “cooling off” period. The customer can contact the new REP to see if the switch can be expedited. There is a fee for this, but if a lower rate is available, paying the fee will probably be more economical.

 Hadley also told me that your original start date with the new company will still take effect on that date. You will be on the POLR until that time unless you make other arrangements.