Houston man sentenced to more than 9 years in prison for getting nearly $1.6M in PPP loans and spending it on Lamborghini, strip clubs
The Houston man accused of going on a shopping spree after receiving more than $1.6 million from the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program has been sentenced to 110 months in prison, the U.S. Justice Department announced Monday.
KPRC 2 Investigates: Phone number swap scam warning
A new scam is targeting something just about all of us have in our pocket or purse - our cell phone. It’s called SIM swap fraud and our KPRC 2 Investigates team explains how criminals can steal your phone, your personal information and your money, without ever touching your device. We have the warning plus, what you need to do to protect the information on your phone.
Houston man pleads guilty to federal charges for fraudulently getting $1.6M in PPP loans
A Houston man has pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges for getting more than $1.6 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans, designed to help struggling small businesses pay their employees and stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘We believe there are more victims’: Katy jewelry store owner accused of stealing millions from customers, other jewelry dealers
Santiago Mora, owner of Alku Jewelers in Katy is accused of stealing millions of dollars from customers and other jewelry dealers.He was arrested in Miami on federal charges and is now awaiting extradition back to Texas.
Consumer alert: Scammers targeting relatives of COVID-19 victims
Scammers are targeting the relatives of people who died from covid-19. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the con artists are claiming to offer help with funeral expenses, reaching out to people by phone, email and text message.
Harris County business owners say scammers hacked into their bank account, filed for unemployment benefits
HOUSTON – Harris County business owners said scammers filed for unemployment benefits in their name. Pauline Edgar has kept an extensive log of the countless times hackers tried to access her husband’s online business account. Edgar says their bank, Frost Bank, first contacted them last week after spotting unusual activity. “The first thing they tried to do was take money out of the company’s bank account through Zelle,” she said. We’re sitting here in Houston, Texas.”AdThe TWC told KPRC 2 that they cannot comment on a person’s claims for privacy reasons.
Don’t be a victim: What you need to know about new scheme that will leave you heartbroken, penniless
HOUSTON – The FBI is warning the public about a new “romance scam” that could leave victims with a broken heart and an empty bank account. According to the warning, scammers will make the victim believe he or she is in some sort of relationship with the scammer, be it friendly, family or romantic. Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious. Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.
Bruno Mars impersonator scams Texas woman out of $100K, Case has ties to Houston
HOUSTON – A 65-year-old North Texas woman is out $100,000 after she fell in love with someone pretending to be Bruno Mars, the famous entertainer. Harris County cyber-crimes prosecutors said someone overseas befriended her on Instagram, convinced her that he was Bruno Mars and that he needed help with his touring expenses. Authorities said Basil Amadi and Chinwendu Azuonwu are the two men in Houston who opened up the two different bank accounts where the woman was instructed to send the money. Ad“What these people do is they will recruit people to open up bank accounts. One of those men in Houston went before a judge Tuesday to hear the allegations against him.
Texas Medical Board warns of new scam targeting health care professionals
HOUSTON – The Texas Medical Board (TMB) has issued a warning to health care professionals about a new scam targeting them. According to the warning, scammers are making calls claiming to be employees with the TMB, the Drug Enforcement Administration or FBI or other law enforcement entities and demanding money. The scammers may also go as far as to spoof agency phone numbers or send documents on official-looking letterheads, according to the TMB. “Additionally, the TMB has no authority to issue, cancel, or influence arrest warrants, as some scams have indicated.”AdPeople are being asked to report it should they receive a call or document from any such organization asking for money or threatening to suspend their DEA registration. To learn more or report an incident, visit the TMB website.
COVID-19 scam alert for small business owners
HOUSTON – The Federal Trade Commission is warning small business owners about the latest COVID-19 scam. With a new round of Payroll Protection Program loans now available, scammers are impersonating Small Business Administration employees, calling owners to trick them into giving up information. The FTC says real lenders will never call you and solicit you for a loan you haven’t even applied for. The feds say these are likely phishing attempts from criminals who could illegally apply for loans using your information. You should also never fill out loan applications online from lenders you don’t know to be legitimate.
What you need to know about the latest phishing scam targeting TDLR licensees
HOUSTON – The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation has issued a warning about a phishing scam targeting people with TDLR accounts. According to the agency, licensees have been getting emails asking them to validate their profile information by clicking on a link that is not associated with the TDLR. Here is what the TDLR says you should watch for:Emails that appear to be from the TDLR, but have a return address that does not belong to the agency. Any email that says licensees are required to validate their information no later than Dec. 24 or their next renewal could be delayed. Emails asking you to click on a link and then require you to enter personal information to “validate” it.
7 tips to help you avoid being scammed while doing your holiday shopping online
Even though they look a little different, many people are starting to get their holiday shopping done. The FBI put out a list of tips that could help protect you from online scammers as you shop. Make sure the website is reputable before shopping or providing info like your credit card number. Be wary of social media posts (some posing as holiday promotions or contests) offering discounts, deals or free gifts cards/vouchers. Keep a close eye on your credit and bank statements to make sure no fraudulent charges are being made.
SCAM ALERT: Customers receiving false calls from scammers pretending to be Entergy employees
HOUSTON – Customers are being warned by local law enforcement after a scam targets Entergy. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies are alerting residents after receiving multiple calls regarding the phone scam. They also have automated answering machines that sound like Entergy, officials said. The scammers will ask you for a number, your account number, your social security number or Tax ID number. If you have been targeted or a victim of the scam, officials ask to call your local police department, Entergy and your financial institution.
Customers leaving angry messages after online scam posts woman’s phone number as contact
FRIENDSWOOD, Texas – Imagine getting angry phone calls from frustrated customers all over the country, accusing you of stealing from them. It’s happening to one Friendswood woman who discovered the hard way scammers had roped her into their crimes, posting her real address and cell phone number on their fake website. What’s unique about it, is it leaves one set of victims pointing fingers at another victim while the bad guys hide. That is when they found a phone number to call and an address, supposedly for the business. She also sent an email to an address on the website demanding the operators remove her phone number and address from the site.
Phishing scam targets Amazon and Netflix customers
HOUSTON – Nobody wants to get all ready to Netflix and chill, only to discover your Netflix account has been disabled. Scammers are sending our emails that appear to be from Netflix, asking you to update your current billing information. There are several similar phishing scams using the Amazon logo. If you want to report those emails, the real Amazon wants to hear about them. You can send the phishing email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s how to make those bogus social security calls stop
HOUSTON – The coronavirus pandemic shut down a lot of operations, but there is actually one we all wanted to go away: those scam calls claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. If you do call, they will attempt to get you to “verify” or “confirm” your social security number. Don’t ever give your social security number to anyone by phone, not even the last four digits. The Social Security Administration will never call you and threaten you with arrest or any other kind of legal action. The Social Security Office of the Inspector General has set up a complaint form to collect information on the calls.
Suspected serial scammer in Houston-area arrested again as victims describe litany of scams
Chad Skelton was arrested in Chambers County this week on several charges, including theft, deceptive business practices, and fraudulent use and possession of personal ID information. Both men say they paid Skelton hundreds of dollars for pre-employment screenings and then never heard from him again. Melissa Harpster, the secretary at First Baptist Church Highlands, said Skelton told her he was a soldier about to be deployed and needed some money. “He called up and said he was in the military and that he was helping the people in Louisiana from the hurricane,” Harpster explained. “Altogether, we gave him over $300.”Channel 2 Investigates other law enforcement agencies may be looking into Skelton’s recent activities.
This payment app scam could wipe out your bank account within minutes
But if you’re not careful, you could fall for a scam that could drain your bank account in seconds. "So, I went to my bank account and he was saying, 'Ma’am, you need to stay on Cash App. The man on the other end of the line wasn’t with Cash App at all but in less than five minutes, he nearly depleted Sakala’s bank account. Cash App responseCash App is aware of the scam and says you should only contact them through its app or website. If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, you should contact Cash App support through the app or website immediately.
Don’t fall for this text message scam, Texas attorney general warns
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is warning people to stay vigilant for a new scam targeting text messages. According to Paxton, scammers are now sending messages containing a fraudulent link and false delivery information for a package. Typically, the message will say that there is a pending delivery and to receive it, the recipient must “claim ownership” by providing personal and credit card information, Paxton said. Report the phone number and message contents to the Office of the Attorney General or the Federal Trade CommissionShipping companies will not contact customers via text message regarding issues with a package, Paxton said. Any unsolicited message containing a link or claiming to be from a company you have not contacted should be considered suspicious and be treated with caution.
Here’s how to make sure the person at your door is really a census worker and not a scammer
HOUSTON – Census workers are going door to door, calling and emailing. The Federal Trade Commission has received reports of scammers posing as census workers in person and by sending phony emails to try and get your sensitive information. They say you should use this information to make sure you don’t fall for a scam:Census takers going door to door must show you a photo I.D. Census takers work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. That means you could get a phone call or even a visit to your home up until 9 p.m. Census takers will wrap up home visits by Sept. 30.
Ask 2: What can you do about those phone calls from solicitors who want to buy your home even though it’s not for sale?
As part of our Ask 2 series, the newsroom will answer your questions about all things Houston. Question: What can you do about those phone calls from solicitors who want to buy your home even though it’s not for sale? Answer: If you’re one of those who received these “we buy your home” calls, don’t fall for it. Simply block the phone number that called you and delete any voice messages, if received. If you haven’t already, you can also add your phone number on the FCC’s National Do Not Call Registry.
Houston man accused of fraudulently getting $1.6M from a COVID-19 relief program was one of many, records show
The money was part of the emergency COVID-19 relief program through the Small Business Administration, a program designed to help struggling small businesses pay their employees and stay afloat during the pandemic. Jerry Tarnopol, an SBA Loan Specialist at Community Bank, said with a program this big, fraud was a possible likelihood. “It saddens me that it happened, but you’ve got to expect it’s going to happen with such a big program. Price now faces federal charges of making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud, and engaging in prohibited monetary transactions. He’s not the only one Federal Prosecutors have charged with crimes related to the SBA’s PPP program.
Trust Index: Is the Google Plus settlement email a scam?
HOUSTON – Thousands of people received emails this week about a settlement from Google. This is what we’ve learned:Google has agreed to pay $7.5 million after its social media service Google Plus exposed users’ personal information-- including names, email addresses, occupations, and ages. If you had a Google Plus account between Jan. 1, 2015 and April 2, 2019, you could get up to $12. But the claim form asks for my bank account informationThis request raised a red flag for some people. If you decide not to give up your bank information, Google will use what is left of that $7.5 million to give to a non-profit charitable organization that benefits the public’s interest.
SCAM ALERT: Amazon sellers use your info, send packages you didn’t order to boost ratings
It was all funny…He was like, ‘No I didn’t order it.’ It was weird that it came in his name,” Lowe said. “Come to find out we didn’t order it. These cans of air that you use to clean a computer, and I know I didn’t order that,” she said. “I go into my order history and there’s an order for 22 items that I would never order, ever. Napoliello said if you’ve received items you didn’t order, first go in and check your account history to verify if you actually were charged for the items.
Trust Index: Is website that promises extra $800 stimulus payment legitimate?
HOUSTON – A Houston woman reached out to KPRC 2 after she said her friend signed up on a website to get an extra $800 stimulus payment. Kelly Thomas said the website asks for your social security number. When her friend typed his in, he got a message that he was approved for the extra $800 bonus. “Is there really an extra $800 out there for everybody?” Thomas asked consumer expert Amy Davis. He is now out a $300 because that is what he paid for Lifelock since he gave someone his social security number.
Scratch lottery ticket scam: Clerk accused of scratching tickets before sale
HOUSTON – A convenience store clerk appeared in court Monday after being accused of scratching tickets to see if they were winners before the tickets were sold. Investigators said it happened at the Timewise Food Store at 8190 Katy Freeway in Houston. Clerk Omar Ali, 31, is charged with violation of lottery act, a felony, as some of the tickets had prizes of up to $1 million. According to court documents, investigators believe Ali would use a pin to make very small scratches in the bonus prize box to see if the ticket was an instant winner or not. “Taking away from the customers but it ain’t right though.“Court documents didn’t mention what investigators think Ali was doing with the winning tickets.
Don’t fall for it: Army Recruiting says military draft texts aren’t real
Just a heads up: The U.S. Army is not sending out text messages to tell people they’ve been chosen for a military draft, officials from Recruiting Command said Wednesday. Even if there were a draft, it’s not a decision made by U.S. Army Recruiting Command. The Selective Service System, a separate agency outside of the Department of Defense, is the organization that manages registration for the Selective Service, officials said. The Selective Service System is conducting business as usual. Registering for the Selective Service does not enlist you into the military.
What to do next time you get a call from scammers claiming to be from the social security office
HOUSTON – Calls from scammers claiming to be from the Social Security Administration are increasing. When your phone rings, your caller ID may even look like it’s from the real Social Security Administration. The caller usually tells you that your number has been suspended because of suspicious activity, and they can help you reactivate it. The next time you get one of these calls, hang up and then file a complaint online at the new Social Security Administration impostor scam reporting form on the Social Security Administration website. The form collects information that law enforcement will analyze for trends to help identify the scammers.
Ghost businesses: What are they, how to protect yourself
The internet has changed the way we search, but KPRC 2 consumer expert Amy Davis discovered if you’re not careful, you could end up giving your business to a scammer, also known as a ghost business. Like a ghost, these shady businesses appear to be there when they’re actually not. Free Google business listings help ghost businesses pretend to be something or somewhere they are not. In a statement, Terminix confirmed it is not affiliated with the address in the Google business listing. What is clear, if you inadvertently hire a ghost business, you could be in for more than just a scare.