Axios Houston

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🌞 Rise and shine, folks! It's Monday.

⛅️ Today's weather: Partly cloudy with a high of 68.

🤑 Sounds like: "Fraud" by Jessie Reyez.

🏀 Situational awareness: The Houston Cougars have secured the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament for the second straight year.

  • The Cougars play 16-seed Longwood in Memphis on Friday.

Today's newsletter is 942 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: $1 billion lost to scams

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Texans lost more than $1 billion to internet scams last year, ranking second behind California in cases reported to the FBI.

The big picture: Americans lost more than $12.5 billion to cybercriminals in 2023, according to new FBI data.

  • Investment fraud was the costliest cybercrime reported nationally, jumping 28% from 2022.
  • Americans also lost roughly $1.3 billion in 2023 to scammers pretending to be from the government or tech support, the FBI said.
Data: FBI Internet Crime Report 2023; Chart: Axios Visuals

How it works: Scammers pretend to be a government official, tech support agent or customer service representative to trick people into sending money or other sensitive information, Axios' Sam Sabin reports.

  • The impersonators typically call with fake stories that motivate someone to share their private identifiable details.

Zoom in: The FBI received 47,305 complaints from Texans last year.

  • The Harris County Sheriff's Office has warned residents of scams in which callers will try to collect money and personal information under the guise of outstanding warrants or missed jury duty.
  • Last year, more than 60 people lost $5,000 each in a jury scam in Harris County.
  • "These scammers are smart, they do their homework … it sounds very legit," Sheriff Ed Gonzalez told Fox26. He added that the scammers have even used real names of people who work for the sheriff's office.

Reality check: People of all ages are susceptible to scams — not just older adults. Only 40% of people who fell for tech support scams were reported to be over 60, according to the FBI.

The bottom line: Many victims won't call the police after a scam or cyberattack due to shame over falling for a ruse or fear of retaliation, but the FBI encourages reporting.

Read the rest

2. Texas' role in a potential TikTok ban

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

TikTok says a bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week could actually make the app less secure for Americans because a sale could spell the end of TikTok's $1.5 billion, Texas-based data security initiative.

Why it matters: The bill raises national security concerns over TikTok's Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, alleging the Chinese Communist Party could influence app operations or control software on American mobile devices.

  • If signed into law, the measure would require TikTok to split from ByteDance within 180 days or be banned from U.S. app stores.

Flashback: To address security concerns, TikTok began routing all U.S. user data through Austin-based tech company Oracle in 2022. The initiative is dubbed Project Texas.

  • The Oracle cloud prevents U.S. user data from being accessed by either TikTok or ByteDance employees, TikTok public policy vice president Michael Beckerman wrote in a letter to Congress.

Yes, but: If ByteDance is forced to sell, another parent company is unlikely to "continue this expensive, groundbreaking work," Beckerman said.

The intrigue: Brian Firebaugh, a Netflix-famous rancher from Hubbard, posted on TikTok that he wonders if politicians are actually concerned about user data ending up in China's hands or if they're "fearful" about the rapid dissemination of information through the platform.

Catch up quick: The federal legislation has been moving fast. It was introduced two weeks ago, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced it days later.

  • Just three Democratic U.S. representatives from Texas voted against the bill — Austin's Greg Casar, Houston's Sheila Jackson Lee and San Antonio's Joaquin Castro.

What's next: The Senate has indicated it will move slowly on the measure, and Texas' Republican senators have been noncommittal about their planned vote.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz, the ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, said the chamber should "examine" the bill, per the Washington Post.
  • Sen. John Cornyn has called the app "a serious national security problem."

Keep reading

3. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

⚽️ Lionel Messi is expected to come to Houston this summer for the 2024 Leagues Cup and to generate millions of dollars for the local economy. (Houston Business Journal)

💻 VPN searches have increased in Texas after Pornhub blocked access in the state. (Chron)

🪧 Pro-Palestinian protestors disrupted Mayor John Whitmire’s keynote address at the Houston Iftar, an event that some Muslim organizations boycotted. (Houston Chronicle)

🏫 West Texas A&M University's ban on drag shows on campus will stand after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a student challenge to the prohibition. (Axios)

4. New RodeoHouston records

The Jonas Brothers were all adorned in Western attire. Photo: Shafaq Patel/Axios

The last weekend of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was one for the records.

Driving the news: Despite the storms on Friday, the Jonas Brothers set an all-time attendance record of 75,600, beating the record set only days before by Los Tigres del Norte, who had sold only five fewer tickets.

Inside the room: Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas, who performed at RodeoHouston in 2009, played hits from their albums, including "Sucker," as well as throwbacks like "Year 3000" and "Junebug."

  • They even performed songs from their solo careers. Nick sang "Jealous," and Joe brought a dance-pop vibe to "Cake by the Ocean."

💭 Shafaq's thought bubble: The concert was incredibly fun — the set list couldn't have been better. They delivered exactly what the audience wanted and paid homage to their roots, performing the songs that built their fanbase.

  • My highlight was the throwback to their "Camp Rock" songs.
Photo of Grand Champion Steer of Show
Blaize Benson with his Grand Champion Steer of Show, Woozy. Photo: Courtesy of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

Plus: The Jr. Market Grand Champion Steer, Woozy, sold at auction for $1 million, tying the rodeo's record, set in 2022.

Other records

5. Social Calendar

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

🖼 Take a guided tour of the new fauvism special exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

  • 1pm-2pm Wednesday. Museum entry is $24.

🎶 Enjoy a concert during lunchtime at Discovery Green. Students from Kinder HSPVA will perform 1pm-2pm Wednesday.

  • Free.

🌳 Learn all about trees in Houston with the Houston Botanic Garden's deputy director of horticulture on Wednesday at the Texas Medical Center Helix Park.

  • 11:30am-1:30pm. Free.

More events

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Khalid Adad and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

🎞 Shafaq wants to see your rodeo pics — from concerts to the best food on a stick you can't stop thinking about!

✌️ Jay is out.