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The Watchdog: IRS-Equifax deal can't help but fail

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Dave Lieber, The Dallas Morning News

Can you believe the IRS will pay Equifax $7.2 million in a contract awarded last week to help prevent identity theft?

Seriously. I know that sentence is so preposterous that it can't possibly be true. But it is.

Equifax, a company that lost the most crucial personal data (Social Security numbers!) of 145 million Americans, is hired by the IRS, which loses billions of dollars each year to fake tax filers who commit ID theft.

Equifax has shown itself to be an incompetent company. The IRS is, well, the IRS. What a combo.

U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, has jumped in. The rookie congressman says he wants the feds to re-examine the contract award "so we can maintain the confidence of the American people."

Set a fraud alert: Speaking of Equifax, have you put a temporary fraud alert on your credit report for your family members? Here's a website that promises to share your request with the three major credit bureaus. It's a quick process. Visit www.experian.com/ncaconline/fraudalert.

Homebuilder indicted

Here's something you don't often see.

A Dallas luxury homebuilder has been indicted on theft charges in five separate cases for the way he handled builder problems with his high-end customers.

The Watchdog first told you in February about builder Kevin D. Wiley's troubles with several families who had hired him.

Wiley, 49, owns Tower Custom Homes and builds million-dollar homes in some of North Texas' swankiest neighborhoods.

Raj Beri charges that Wiley didn't pay his subcontractors the $250,000 he owed them. Ron Hoxworth says he lost $70,000 to Wiley.

Virginia Petty says she spent almost $250,000 on repairs from faulty construction. John Bottone says Wiley didn't properly handle his commercial building construction.

All now get a face-off with Wiley in criminal court.

Wiley this past week told my colleague Marina Trahan Martinez that his former customers actually owe him money, not the other way around.

"They just keep badgering," he said of his critics. "There is no case. ... They're trying to make my life a living hell and doing a pretty good job of it."

Criminal cases involving builders are rare in Texas. Here, unlike in most states, builders are unlicensed. Homeowners with builder problems are mostly on their own.

Senior discount ends

Did you know that if you're older than 59 1/2 you could get a 10 percent discount on Kroger-brand products for the past decade at Kroger?

No more. The Kroger Senior Discount Program is officially dead. Kroger killed the program in early September. Several seniors complained to The Watchdog.

"Really disappointing," one told me.

"That'll surely anger a bunch of folks," another said.

Kroger spokeswoman April Martin Nickels says that in the weeks since the discount disappeared, the supermarket chain "lowered thousands of prices on items that our customers purchase most often."

My favorite senior, my mother-in-law, verifies this. Kroger has lowered prices in recent weeks, she says.

The Kroger spokeswoman says, "We continue to accept print coupons, and we also offer hundreds of digital coupons that are available to download at Kroger.com and on the free Kroger app."

So long, Hothead

Two years ago, The Watchdog introduced you to "Councilman Hothead," whom I called "the rudest city council member in North Texas."

Arlington Councilman Charlie Parker wrote back nasty words to some of his constituents, I reported.

He told one letter writer her note was "repulsive" and, "Your opinion has no value to me."

"Don't send me any more of this trash," he wrote to another correspondent.

"I would much rather talk to a parrot," he told a third.

Parker, 68, is still doing it. On Parker's blog, one man wrote that Parker is "a fabricator, liar and coward."

Parker issued his rebuttal in classic style.

"You miserable piece of excrement," the councilman replied.

He ended this way: "You are a coward, and I will meet you anywhere anytime. Tee it up b----!"

Parker told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he won't run for re-election in May.

I admit, in the current Age of Trump, that Parker's language is not as shocking to me as it was two years ago. That's a sad thing.

Staff writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.

ABOUT THIS COLUMN

The Watchdog Desk works for you to shine light on questionable practices in business and government. We welcome your story ideas and tips.

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Email: watchdog@dallasnews.com

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Write: Dave Lieber, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265