Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Help Me Howard: Faxes
Fax machines are not as necessary as they used to be. But boy, if you have one and someone keeps filling it with useless faxes, it can be infuriating. But can you stop an unwanted fax? To find out, one woman called Help Me Howard.
WSVN -- When you see those big luxury yachts cutting through Biscayne Bay, you probably see some rich guy relaxing.
Heidi Maso: "It's a watertight door, which is always on the side of the boat."
When Heidi Maso sees the yachts she sees the little things.
Patrick Fraser: "So you build specific things for those boats?"
Heidi Maso: "The doors."
Patrick Fraser: "That's your specialty?"
Heidi Maso: "The port lights, steering wheels, whatever belongs on those boats."
Most of the craftsmen Heidi uses are in Italy, so to get their drawings to her office requires a phone and a computer.
Patrick Fraser: "And the fax machine?"
Heidi Maso: "And the fax machine, yeah."
But her fax machine is fouled up.
Heidi Maso: "My fax machine is constantly blocked because I get daily credit reports of 20 to 30 pages, which are not for me."
Credit reports that should be going to a company in North Miami instead come to Heidi.
Heidi Maso: "And they take a half an hour or more to run through, so during this half and hour I can not receive faxes, I can not send faxes."
Faxes filled with information that a crook would love to have.
Heidi Maso: "They are faxing their credit reports with social security numbers, with all the most intimate details of whatever their financial life is."
While someone else's customers are filling Heidi's machine, her customers are fuming.
Heidi Maso: "And very often they cannot get through on my fax machine because it is busy with all this."
Not only is Heidi losing business, her machine is constantly running out of ink and paper.
Heidi Maso: "Annoying, very annoying."
The faxes have been coming in for over a year.
Heidi has called the credit company to stop it dozens of times, but the machine keeps humming, so she gave up and sent an email to Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "This is irritating and costly for Heidi, but it's probably not illegal. However, it is negligence by the credit company. Therefore, they have to pay for the supplies she lost, like ink and paper."
And the owner of the credit company told me he was happy to do that.
He says the problem started when one of his employees sent out the wrong fax number.
Since then, he has sent letters and emails asking his clients to send their monthly information to the correct fax number.
He told me he would pay for Heidi's paper, her ink -- even a new fax machine that will bring in the faxes faster, so Heidi's customers can then get through.
But Heidi told me she doesn't want that. She wants the unwanted faxes to stop.
Heidi Maso: "I only want to have control over my own fax machine."
In this, it seems like an innocent mistake. But Howard says if someone does use the fax to hurt a business, it is serious business.
Howard Finkelstein: "If a person intentionally gives out someone else's fax number to hurt their business, the courts could hold them responsible for any lost business."
Patrick Fraser: "And if they are faxes trying to sell something, and the company refuses to quit sending them, call the State Attorney General's office to complain."
Now a couple of quick follow ups:
Remember Lisa Tullis, the mother of two with the great arm? Her ex-husband had paid thousands in child support, but the State of Florida would not release it. After we got involved, she is getting the money and told us she was very happy.
And remember Jose Rodriguez? He came to us after he discovered his accountant had doctored his tax returns. Well, it turns out his accountant, Luis Blanco, doctored a lot of false tax returns -- 4,000 according to the U.S. Attorney's Office -- that netted his customers $17 million in returns and a lot of fees for Luis.
But after our story aired, the IRS took the accountant's pencil away. On Tuesday, he had to plead guilty to filing false returns. Luis will be heading off to a fine government facility, and now the IRS needs to talk to all his old customers.
Brian Wimpling: "In the Blanco case there are literally thousands and thousands of returns that may not have been charged in the indictment but are being looked at as being suspicious. The best way to deal with it is you make the first step -- contact us, and we'll try and take care of it as quickly as they can."
Luis would not talk to us a few months ago. He hid and now does not want his face shown.
But he will have to pull that coat down when he faces the judge. He is looking at 147 years in prison. He won't get that much but one thing is certain, he wont ever fill out another tax return.
Trouble taxing you? Need support? Fax us or phone us, we are not the law, but, some way or another, we find a way to get things done.
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