Nightmare Tech Support Scam Robs SC Woman of $18,000

When Sun City Hilton Head resident Laura Marks, 68, used a Google ad to find computer printer tech support in March, little did she know it would be followed in July by calls from “Mike,” a fraudulent support person who used the screen-share remote access she granted to hijack her bank account. By using a “shell game” of making it look like he was draining her Wells Fargo account when he was in fact transferring money from her credit card between her checking and savings accounts, Mike kept Laura on the phone for five hours on a Saturday while demanding she buy a succession of $1,000 gift cards from Walmart and Sam’s Club locations using her debit and American Express cards and tell him the gift card numbers. Wells Fargo and American Express have declined to reimburse the gift card amounts because she was the one who made those purchases.

Lawmakers Consider Bill to Freeze SC College Tuitions

Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) is leading a bill that would generate a $125 million trust fund to boost state funding for colleges to benefit in-state enrollment if colleges freeze tuition for one year and cap its growth at 2.75% for years thereafter. Money for the trust fund would derive from anticipated revenue from changes to online sales tax collection. South Carolina has cut its funding for higher education from 15% of the year 2000 general fund to 7% in 2017. Meanwhile, tuition for the 2018-19 school year rose by 2.9% at USC and 1.75% at Clemson, and numerous solutions will need to be found both in state funding and college institution budgets to make any plan work. “There is no way for us to eliminate enough programs or to fire enough people … to freeze tuition,” USC President Harris Pastides told the Joint Education and Finance Study Committee.

SC Production of BMW, Volvo Vehicles Braces for $2.5B in Tariff Effects

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimate places $2.5 billion worth of SC-produced passenger vehicles among the $4 billion worth of goods manufactured in the state that are China’s tariff targets. BMW’s CFO has stated that its Greer plant’s lost earnings to tariffs could start at $347 million this year and top $579 million annually if worldwide trade tensions continue. Port of Charleston exports of BMWs sank 35% in August after matching a five-year low in July. Volvo Cars might resort to building its S60 sedan in its China facilities rather than continue to build them at its new plant in Berkley County, according to a media report. Volvo has said its plan to ship SC-made S60s through Charleston to China would no longer be viable with a 40% tariff.

Out on a Limb: Across the Southeast, Decades-Long Bet on Trees is Not Sprouting into Retirement Shade

It seemed like a knock-on-wood investment in the late 1980s when a federal program offered money for reforestation of blighted areas. Investors, whether out-of-state pension funds or local individuals, reasoned that demand for timber would always be high no matter how the stock market performed. Fast forward to 2018 and there is a glut of ready-to-cut timber for the region’s sawmills to cut up. Knots along the road for the plan that trees would be the equivalent of a retirement fund included the 2008 housing crash that chopped down housing demand. Timber markets around Charleston and Savannah have used access to ports for international demand as a lifeline, but inland harvests barely break even when harvesting expenses are accounted for. Those who choose to continue to hold off on harvesting are running the risk of losing the trees to disease or natural disasters. And while the demand for additional saw mills is widespread, there remain high barriers for constructing them, such as finding enough skilled workers to fill all the shifts.