A deceptive TV commercial, big changes to your credit score, bitcoin miners and more

Lots of consumer tidbits here. Let’s start with The Watchdog’s nomination for most deceptive local political TV commercial of 2022:

The attack ad from State Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, against challenger David Lowe in the recent Republican primary runoff baffled me.

Every time I saw it – and I saw it at least two dozen times – the ad confused me because Klick portrayed Lowe as a supporter of abortion rights. I didn’t understand. How could any abortion rights advocate make it to a runoff in the Republican primary?

In the ad, Lowe is heard saying a podcast interview, “I’m willing to stand on the House floor and vote no to any pro-life bill.”

That’s clear enough, right?

Not really. Turns out Klick’s ad cut off the rest of Lowe’s comment, in which he criticized Republican lawmakers for regulating abortion instead of abolishing it completely.

To abolish abortion, he said, “I would be willing to give my life to get this passed. And I would.” She left that part out.

Cutting a quote so its meaning is changed – whether it be in a movie ad, in journalism or in political ads – is wrong.

Klick told me if Lowe voted ‘no’ on abortion bills. as he said. because they weren’t strong enough. he’d be saving abortion rather than stopping it.

Lowe said, “It’s sad to see how low she goes just to retain power.”

Gov. Greg Abbott with State Rep. Stephanie Klick on May 17, 2022. Klick was in a GOP runoff at the time. Watchdog Dave Lieber calls her out on a cheap trick in a TV ad against her opponent.(Elias Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

Crypto-mining shutdowns?

Are you worried about crypto miners using too much electricity when we need all the power we can muster?

Bitcoin miners have set up thousands of high-powered servers that we’re told use enough electricity to power a city.

Readers are asking The Watchdog if crypto miners are shutting down their machines when Texas grid operator ERCOT calls for conservation. So I checked.

Public Utility Commission spokesperson Rich Parsons sent me to Texas grid operator ERCOT for answers.

ERCOT’s media department offered a statement: During a recent mid-May conservation warning period, businesses of all types voluntarily reduced energy use.

ERCOT recommended that I step outside of government for more information by contacting Texas Industrial Energy Consumers (which didn’t respond to my emails) and the Texas Blockchain Council, a trade association. (I can’t remember the last time a state agency sent me to a trade association for public information.)

I checked in with council president Lee Bratcher. Last month he issued a statement saying that “some facilities shut down while many will ramp down in the afternoons this weekend when power is in high demand, but then turn back on overnight.”

Miners are supposed to get ERCOT’s permission to connect to the Texas grid. The only news I could find is that an ERCOT task force has been created to protect the grid as miners flood to the state to set up operations.

Let’s hope Texas regulators get more actively involved in protecting existing customers before worrying about these power-hogging miners.

Cowtown computing

Fort Worth now claims to be the first U.S. city to set up its own crypto mining operation.

While true miners have thousands of machines running, Fort Worth has only three, which were donated by the Texas Blockchain Council. Fort Worth officials say that each of these machines uses “the same amount of energy as a household vacuum cleaner.”

City spokesperson Carlo Capua told one resident in a letter shown to me that the project is a “very small-scale pilot program to be able to better understand the implications and opportunities of mining bitcoin.”

On this, we’re told it takes the amount of electricity you use in your home for two months to produce one bitcoin.

In this 2021 photo Frisco resident Ishaan Thakur, 14, explains how he is mining...
In this 2021 photo Frisco resident Ishaan Thakur, 14, explains how he is mining cryptocurrency with computers in his garage to make money for college. The city of Fort Worth is also building a mini-crypto mining setup as part of a pilot program, Watchdog Dave Lieber reports. It’s possibly the first city to do so.(Stewart F. House / Special Contributor)

Latest on robocalls

On illegal spam and robocalls, Federal Communications Chair Jessica Rosenworcel’s proposal to stop illegal foreign callers from using U.S. telephone networks – called gateways – has been adopted.

Will it work? I’m skeptical, but hopeful. Unfortunately, many of my junk calls sound as if they’re calling from within the U.S.

The FCC is trying something new to stop spam calls from overseas, Watchdog Dave Lieber reports.
The FCC is trying something new to stop spam calls from overseas, Watchdog Dave Lieber reports.(Dreamstime / TNS)

Stop junk fees

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has declared war on junk fees, which are fees you learn about after you have agreed to buy something. These hidden fees make it harder to comparison shop.

Example: You purchase a new car and the salesperson tries to sell you a service warranty or an add-on like window etching.

The bureau says junk fees particularly harm people of color because they are more likely to be taken advantage of. Banks and credit card companies are major culprits, the bureau states. But you also find these fees in concert tickets and retail electricity company offerings.

Hello, Facebook. Anyone home?

A front-page story in The Wall Street Journal reports that our major social media companies do not offer customer service desks, which makes it incredibly difficult for some to restore locked-out or hacked accounts.

The Journal cited Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and WhatsApp as chief culprits where you can’t find a human to talk to.

My thought: Companies that big and powerful must offer customers a human voice to solve problems. Life is hard enough when you lose access to your account. This selfishness is unacceptable.

Facebook and other social media companies should offer help desks to customers, Watchdog...
Facebook and other social media companies should offer help desks to customers, Watchdog Dave Lieber says.(The Associated Press)

Improving your credit score

The Equifax, Experian and TransUnion trio of nationwide credit reporting agencies have announced they’ve agreed to important changes when reporting medical debt collection.

According to a letter I received from Equifax, the time period before unpaid medical debt will appear on a credit report will increase from six months to a year. This gives consumers more time to pay off before getting a ding on their credit score.

By 2023, medical debt under $500 will no longer be included on credit reports.

The big three credit bureaus are changing the way they report medical debt on your credit...
The big three credit bureaus are changing the way they report medical debt on your credit report, Watchdog Dave Lieber reports.(Callie Richmond)

New city park opens

It’s been almost four years since I told you about one man’s crusade to bring a new Dallas city park on a scratchy piece of land to the far northern tip of Dallas. Unfortunately, Bruce Hatter passed away before his dream could be completed. Posthumously, he was given the parks department’s volunteer of the year award.

Well, his lobbying efforts have paid off: Moss Glen Park has its opening Saturday at 10 a.m. at 5230 Bentwood Trail, Dallas, 75252.

Way to go, Bruce.

Before he died, Bruce Hatter led the movement to create a new Dallas city park in far North...
Before he died, Bruce Hatter led the movement to create a new Dallas city park in far North Dallas. Moss Glen Park officially opens Saturday, June 11 at 10 a.m.(Courtesy photo)

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The Dallas Morning News Watchdog column is the 2019 winner of the top prize for column writing from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. The contest judge called his winning entries “models of suspenseful storytelling and public service.”

Read his winning columns:

* Helping the widow of Officer J.D. Tippit, the Dallas police officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, get buried beside her late husband

* Helping a waitress who was harmed by an unscrupulous used car dealer