Watchdog column: Businesses experience dumpster woes

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

July 11, 2013 at 2:11 a.m.
Updated July 12, 2013 at 2:12 a.m.

When Marc Hinojosa started as the Boys and Girls Club executive director about a year ago, he noticed the Victoria nonprofit's dumpster would fill to the brim quickly.

It wasn't until about four months later, when he caught a person in a pickup dumping an old chair in the green container, that he realized why.

"I said, 'Hey, wait a minute,' but the next thing I know, they jumped inside and drove off," Hinojosa said.

He could not bring himself to climb inside the dumpster to see whether they'd left behind some identifying information that could lead police to them and a possible theft of service charge.

Theft of service is a class C, B or A misdemeanor, depending on how much the garbage collection company - in this case, Waste Management - charges a business to empty its bin once a week.

Waste Management has dealt with this problem, but it usually occurs in more metropolitan areas, said Raymond Franks, the company's public sector solutions manager.

The company will install a lock on a dumpster for a one-time fee of $50.

The company must charge a $7.69 "gate fee" if a driver is required to get out of the truck to unlock it, though, because it's inefficient to do so, said Lisa Doughty, Waste Management public affairs manager.

She suggested businesses post a sign informing violators they will be prosecuted.

Mounting cameras and motion detecting lights as well as repositioning the dumpster out of sight should also alleviate the problem, Doughty said.

"The biggest issue we face with an investigation like this: Who did it?" said Lt. Mike Hernandez of the Victoria Police Department.

He said the dumper needs to be caught in the act, and sometimes people will still lay items outside of a locked dumpster.

For Hinojosa, though, that has not been an issue since installing his lock.

He would be ecstatic if police could patrol and ask suspicious people loitering near the bins what they are up to but recognizes they have other priorities.

Seller beware

A reader recently tried to sell a cherry wood entertainment center on Craigslist, but what he got in the mail was a check far above his $300 asking price.

It sounded too good to be true - and it was.

A man instructed the reader via text message to cash the check, which was written for $2,631, and send the remaining balance as soon as possible via money gram to a shipper in Pennsylvania.

The check was written out of sequence, which suggests it's fraudulent. And, while the account is real, it did not match up with the name listed on the check, said Marian Wong, a risk management supervisor for the California-based East West Bank, whose name also appears on the check.

Tracy Bracy, the regional director of the Better Business Bureau, said the reader avoided a common scam where a victim's account is overdrawn or closed.

People found to have deposited more than one fake check could also be prosecuted and serve jail time, she said.

Bracy suggested anyone who receives an unexpected check in the mail verify whether it is a valid bank account by looking up the bank in the phonebook rather than calling the number on the check. One could also double check an offer's legitimacy through the BBB, the Department of State or the attorney general's office.



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