Thursday, June 16, 2011
Commissioner updates Holly Springs Rotary on scams, cell coverage
By BARRY BURLESON
Scams, rate incentives for small businesses and lack of cell phone coverage in rural areas were just a few topics Brandon Presley focused on in a visit to the Holly Springs Rotary Club.
The public commissioner for the Northern District of the State of Mississippi said his office has been successful in going after telemarketing scams.
“We’ve had more enforcement in our office (the Northern District) than the entire Public Service Commission the last seven years,” Presley said. “We’re going after these folks and we’ve been successful.”
He said one of the more prevalent scams recently is a call saying “your car warranty has expired.”
“They just want you to sign up and send money,” Presley said.
He said the largest fine ever put on a telemarketer, $455,000, has been levied.
“It is not collected, but we are pursing all legal routes,” Presley said. “Yes, we would like to collect the money, but the key is, the calls have stopped.
“Please report these type calls. File a complaint.”
The PSC maintains a “No Call List.” The list consists of telephone numbers of Mississippi residential telephone subscribers who have elected to reduce telephone solicitations. The law prohibits those attempting to sell consumer goods and services by telephone from calling telephone numbers that appear on the “No Call List.”
For more information, go to the Public Service Commission website – www.psc.state.ms.us or call Presley’s office, 1-800-637-7722.
He said the PSC has no regulating control, but his office has been getting calls about a Jamaican lottery scam. Calls are coming from an 876 area code (Kingston, Jamaica) and particularly being made to senior citizens.
“They will say something like – ‘You’ve won $1 million. Just send us $1,300 and we will transfer $1 million to your account.’
“It’s 100 percent scam. I can tell you people have sent thousands, trying to get this money.
“Hang up. Don’t get in the conversation. It’s very, very dangerous. You’re basically supporting gangs and drug lords.”
Presley, the former mayor of Nettleton, next addressed small businesses and high electricity rates.
“It’s a big barrier to helping the state’s economy,” he said.
He said he is excited about a meeting with the big utility companies to discuss the issue and seek help for small businesses.
“We need to target rate incentives to someone who wants to go into a building that has been vacant six months or if you want to expand and grow your small business,” Presley said. “Businesses have a hard time starting up because of electricity deposits and rates.
“Our small businesses – these are folks not shifting jobs to China. They will be here in our small communities. Somebody has to speak up for small business owners.”
Next he responded to questions about lack of cell phone coverage in rural areas, such as between Holly Springs and Oxford.
“Cell phone coverage in rural areas is now as important as any other service,” Presley said. “And in my book, it will stay at the forefront.”
He then expressed his disgruntlement with AT&T.
“AT&T has not invested in our state like it should,” Presley said.
He said if AT&T, the state’s biggest carrier, doesn’t get busy and fix the problem, then the government should shut off millions of dollars in revenue to the company that it has to approve.
“They should not be able to continue to get that money from the federal government and not help the public,” Presley said.
“I plan to put a dent in the pocketbook of AT&T if they don’t get busy and fix the problem.”
He has had meetings in rural areas concerning the lack of cell phone service.
“And AT&T representatives have never graced the door,” Presley said. “It’s an ultimate slap in the face to rural customers. They’re too big to fail and too big to care.
“Let’s see some towers get built. It is very important that this get done.”
He said AT&T is approaching a buyout of T-Mobile which would give the company 72 percent of the market.
“They can’t take care of what they’ve got and they want to purchase another company,” Presley said.
“Then they can also do what they want with the rates. We need more competition, not less.”
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