<![CDATA[NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth - Dallas-Fort Worth News - NBC 5 Responds]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/localen-usSat, 20 Jan 2018 15:14:45 -0600Sat, 20 Jan 2018 15:14:45 -0600NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Government Shutdown Could Impact Mortgage Loans]]>Fri, 19 Jan 2018 17:26:21 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/irs+exterior+sign.JPG

A government shutdown would mean parts of major federal agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service, would shut down, and that could have a huge impact on home buyers.

After months and months of searching, Elena Snyder, finally found the perfect home.

"We've been back and forth with negotiations for a few weeks now, so we finally last night got the final negotiations signed off on," Snyder said.

The deal on the Arlington fixer-upper is ready to close quickly, but if the government shuts down, that may not happen.

"We need Social Security numbers confirmed, income confirmed," said Kelly Decker, with First United Bank Mortgage.

Decker says banks use the IRS in the loan process to vet things like your ID and income — especially for first-time home buyers like Snyder, who typically have loans that are backed by the federal government.

"It's going to take a little longer to get those loans funded. So if they had planned on moving trucks showing up on the last day of the month, it might mean they have to wait maybe another three, four, five days, depending on how long the shutdown takes," Decker said.

If the shutdown drags on, people selling their homes may take an offer from someone who has all cash versus someone who needs a loan and is stuck in limbo.

Snyder says it's one more stress in North Texas' competitive real estate market, but she's hopeful that a deal can happen in Congress to keep her dream for a home alive.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Experts: Save the Extra Money You May Find in Your Paychecks]]>Thu, 18 Jan 2018 17:45:59 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/counting+money+generic.jpg

You've heard people talk about it time and again: building a nest egg.

Financial planner Jean Keener is one of North Texas' money saving experts. She's a big proponent of saving anything, even if just $5, and putting it toward your retirement.

"Early on in life, even while they're working on paying down debt and building that emergency fund, and if that's all you can start out with, you're still better off," Keener said.

Some workers may soon see more money in their paycheck because of recent tax changes.

Some analysts say it could mean a smaller income tax return check for you, or you could even owe some money to the IRS.

Either way, until you know your specific tax situation, there's never any harm in saving it in a traditional savings account. That way, if you do owe money, you'll have that money available to pay back.

If it turns out you don't need that money for your taxes, it could be the perfect way to help build your nest egg for retirement.

"I think it's much more helpful for people to really understand what they want their retirement lifestyle to look like, and then to build a plan from there," Keener said.

If you plan to travel or take up a hobby, Keener said you should think about what it will cost.

When you finally pay off your mortgage, will you be OK in an apartment, or do you want to keep the big house?

Lastly, when you retire, make sure it's the right time. Most of us retire as soon as we can, but waiting a few extra years can earn you more money in the long run.

"You need to treat the decision about when you take Social Security as one of the biggest financial decisions of your life, because it is," Keener said.

She said almost half of Americans take Social Security at age 62, which is the earliest you can take it.

"You can actually wait after full retirement age as late as age 70 and earn delayed retirement credits, which right now are going up at eight percent per year, which is huge," Keener said.

If you take it as soon as you can, your benefit is reduced permanently.

"Then they live into their 80s and then their 90s, and they've got this benefit that is so much smaller than it could've been if they'd just waited a few more years," Keener said.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Man Hit By Another Driver is Stuck With Medical Bills]]>Thu, 18 Jan 2018 06:46:35 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+hd3-auto+insurance_KXASG1JU_2018-01-18-05-44-40.jpg

Every time Christen Zinger gets behind the wheel of a car, his grandfather Willis Lyons is just hoping he'll be okay.

"Just parental worry; that's my kid there," Lyons explained.

But last year, his fear became a reality.

"A guy turned left in front of me, trying to cut through the median, hit my car and I went off the road," said Zinger.

Zinger's car was totaled. He said officers assured him the other driver was at fault and gave him a slip with the driver's insurance information.

After running some tests and X-rays at Hilcrest Medical Center in Oklahoma, Zinger said he got the okay from doctors to go home. When he made it back to Texas, he said he contacted the other driver's insurance company, Travelers Insurance.

They sent him a check for his totaled car, but he said the medical bills were another story. Zinger said he received the first hospital bill on July 18 and emailed a copy to a Travelers Insurance adjuster.

"Every time I get a medical bill I call them and say, 'hey, I'm still receiving them. You guys told me you were calling the hospital.'"

He said when the adjuster finally called the hospital to see what was owed, he learned the bills came out to $6,400.

Zinger said the adjuster told him, "the bills were just too high," and he wasn't getting answers from the hospital as to why they were so high.

Zinger told us he did have medical insurance at the time of the accident, but didn't feel he needed to use his insurance since it wasn't his fault. He believed the bills were Travlers' responsibility.

But, six months later the bills remained unpaid.

"I've dealt with many insurance companies over my life and I've never had a company that operated this way," Lyons said. 

Zinger's grandfather got involved when they started receiving debt and lien notices in the mail. He said he made several phone calls to Travelers on his grandson's behalf, but couldn't get any answers, so he called the NBC 5 Responds team.

We called and emailed Travelers Insurance, and Zinger and his grandfather got a call from an adjuster a couple days later.

They said an adjuster apologized for their troubles and said he would make sure the bills were taken care of. The adjuster sent them a confirmation later that day.

$6,439, paid.

A spokesperson for travelers insurance told NBC 5:

"We have been working with Mr. Zinger since his claim was filed. We covered the total loss of his car soon after the accident and paid his medical bills after we received the appropriate documentation."

Zinger said the adjuster also sent him another check last week for $2,500. An email said it was an "injury settlement payment."

"I don't have to worry about getting these bills no more, and the debt collectors will probably leave me alone by now," he said.

A personal injury lawyer we spoke with said that insurance companies are obligated to cover medical expenses.

He also says, regardless of the reason you are sick or injured or who's at fault, you should always utilize your medical insurance. If the injured person's medical insurance pays the hospital bills, they will bring a claim against the driver who caused the accident, and that person's auto insurer is then obligated to step in and handle the case. This process is called subrogation.

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<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Answers Your Consumer Complaints]]>Tue, 27 Dec 2016 17:32:28 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/NBC-5-Responds-1200x675-New.jpg

NBC 5's consumer unit, NBC 5 Responds, is our commitment to viewers that no call or question will go unanswered when it comes to your consumer complaints.

 

NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and resolution.

If you have a consumer complaint, we want to hear it!

Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or CLICK HERE to fill our our Customer Complaint form.

Check out our latest stories right here.

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<![CDATA[Dallas Catholics Respond to Parker School Uniforms Closings]]>Wed, 17 Jan 2018 06:48:15 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-parker-school-uniforms.jpg

The Diocese of Dallas Catholic Schools is shedding new light on what led up to the abrupt closure of a popular uniform company.

Five-year-old Camryn Callaway has grown quite fond of her private school uniform. But if you ask her mother, Shalecia Callaway, it's caused nothing but headaches and chaos.

When she paid for the items in August, she said Parker School Uniforms informed her they were back ordered.

"Her entire grade level and others at the school ended up not getting their uniforms until three weeks into the school year," she explained.

Callaway said she didn't think she'd ever order from Parker School Uniforms again, until she heard about a sale.

"So I felt it would be good to buy her additional items for the next year," she said.

But two months later, she's still waiting for that order, and she's not alone.

The Diocese of Dallas told NBC 5 that parents at their schools had similar complaints, so some campuses had already moved to other uniform vendors. But a few of its schools were still using Parker at the time the company closed its stores.

They released a statement to NBC 5:

"For decades, the Diocese of Dallas had enjoyed a good relationship with Parker and is saddened to learn the company is no longer in business. We pray for all those who lost jobs and hope that Parker will do the right thing and refund parents for any outstanding orders."

Meanwhile, Callaway believes Parker owes her and other parents across North Texas an apology.

"Other than hearing the story on the news, I have no idea as to what's going on," she said.

The fort worth diocese says a portion of their schools used parker - and they're working with parents to find alternatives. We'll continue to investigate this situation...And encourage parents and employees to reach out to us as we stay on top of this story.

The Fort Worth Diocese said a portion of their schools used Parker and they're working with parents to find alternatives.

We've reached out to parker school uniforms via phone and social media and we still haven't heard back.

We'll continue to investigate this situation and encourage parents and employees to reach out to us as we stay on top of this story.

Read more here.

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<![CDATA[CVS Pharmacy to End Touch Ups of Its Beauty Images]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 17:34:01 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/cvs-photos-altered_720.jpg

CVS Pharmacy, the retail division of CVS Health Corp., wants to end touch-ups of its beauty images in its marketing campaigns by the end of 2020.

Photo Credit: CVS Health]]>
<![CDATA[Scam Victim Says He Was Penalized Trying to Get Money Back]]>Fri, 12 Jan 2018 22:40:23 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Gift+Cards+011218.jpg

A North Texas man says he was a victim of a gift card scam and that he was penalized when he tried to get his money back.

Tracey Sanders is a huge football fan. His love for the game is seen in the banners and jerseys all over his home.

You can usually find him in front of the big screen, during football season, catching the game.

"I stick with DirecTV because of the NFL package, the football game package," said Sanders.

Just before the holidays he got a phone call and recognized the 877 number on the caller ID as being DirecTV's number.

"They said they knew I was ending my free movie preview, and they wanted to give me the free movie package for a full year and they were going to reduce my cable bill for half of the next 12 months," said Sanders.

He knew his special deal was expiring soon. He was expecting to pay more, but now he was being promised an even cheaper price.

"The only way to do it,  they were doing a promotion with Amazon with their gift cards. If I purchased an Amazon gift card I had to pay four months in advance," said Sanders.

Sanders admits it sounded too good to be true, but says he was reassured since they knew about the expiring promotion on his account and he recognized the number as being DirecTV's. 

He settled back into watching football, happy about his great deal, but that all ended when the mail came and his typical DirecTV bill was still due.

"I called DirecTV, was trasferred from person to person and then they're like 'yeah you've been scammed, sorry for your luck,'" said Sanders.

Sanders called his credit card company who agreed to reverse the charge for the gift card but he says that didn't go over well with Amazon.

"Amazon turned around and canceled my Prime account and said any orders you placed will be canceled and you'll get nothing," said Sanders.

Those orders were last-minute Christmas gifts for the whole family. They panicked, but luckily Sanders said the gifts had all shipped before the cancellation took affect.

We looked into Amazon's terms and they do allow the company to terminate a Prime membership at any time at the company's discretion.

Sanders got his account reinstated after speaking to supervisors at Amazon, but says the online retailer is challenging the credit card company's decision to reverse the charge.

Amazon told NBC 5 they would not comment on this story but did pass along a link to common gift card scams on its website.

If the credit card reversal stands, Amazon is the only party losing money in this situation.

AT&T, the parent company of DirecTV said, "Customers should be skeptical about any promotion from any company where a third party gift card is required. If any customer feels a call or email is not legitimate, we encourage them to call the number on their bill and ask Customer Care if the offer is valid."

It's unclear how the person knew account details for Sanders. A cyber security expert tells us it could have been a guess or maybe someone got into Tracey's email account.

Just because someone knows your information, don't trust them. Hang up and look up the company's number and dial it in yourself.

You can also put a password on your account and give the wrong one on purpose to see if the caller catches it, just to see if you're dealing with the actual company.

MORE: Amazon's Common Gift Card Scams



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Former Alfred Angelo Inventory on Steep Discount in Garland]]>Thu, 11 Jan 2018 17:38:31 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/10pm__Alfred_Angelo_Folo_08_06_22_06_08.jpg

A former Alfred Angelo store has opened its doors temporarily, giving brides deep discounts on wedding dresses.

The latest designs and dresses that normally cost thousands of dollars are all for sale for $299.

Last year, Elizabeth Andreano paid Alfred Angelo more than $1,400 for her wedding dress. She never got the dress or her money back because Alfred Angelo went out of business.

"I had to post a GoFundMe page to be able to afford another dress," Andreano said.

The people running this sale are not the same ones who originally took Andreano's cash.

"This is not Alfred Angelo. This is Solid Asset Solutions. We just are selling the Alfred Angelo inventory we purchased," said Dan Kenny, partner of Solid Asset Solutions.

When Alfred Angelo closed, all the dresses inside were kept by the landlord who was owed money. Kenny made a deal with the landlord to sell him the dresses so he could turn around and sell them. The landlord then gets an empty store back to lease to someone else.

"We're basically renting month-to-month. We hope to sell out totally to bare walls," Kenny said.

As for Alfred Angelo's bills, that's still being worked out in bankruptcy court.

Brides like Andreano say it's hard to see other brides walking out with their dream dresses, when she couldn't wear hers on her wedding day.

"I haven't gotten any correspondence, any apology or anything," Andreano said.

Solid Asset Solutions, the company running the sale, says it not only bought what was left in the store but also bought dresses Alfred Angelo ordered but hadn't paid for.

NBC 5 Responds called and e-mailed the lawyers listed in the Alfred Angelo bankruptcy court documents but have not heard back.

The store is located at Firewheel Town Center, right off Firewheel Parkway in Garland.

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<![CDATA[GroupMe Users Report Hacked Accounts]]>Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:00:19 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-groupme-message.jpg

Tech experts say cyber thieves are always looking for ways to come after your money and personal information, and group messaging apps have become a popular way to do it.

Ally Edmonson has a lot of apps on her phone, but GroupMe is by far one of her favorites.

"All of my friends are on GroupMe," she explained.

GroupMe is a group messaging app that allows large groups to chat without being bombarded with text alerts and notifications. 

Earlier this year, Edmonson got a direct message from someone in one of her groups wishing her a happy Near Year. It also came with a link.

She didn't think much of it until she got another message, and another message.

"And they're from different people with this link," she said.

When she clicked the link it sent her to a site that's advertising a weight loss pill. Edmonson said she went on social media and learned the link was being sent to a number of GroupMe users across the country.

"Clicking on these links can be harmful because it can cause malware to be downloaded. It can even pull credit card information out of your browser," said Keith Barthold, tech expert and president of DKB Innovative.

Barthold said the link appears to be part of an identity theft, phishing or malware distribution. He said group messaging apps have become breeding grounds for criminal activity. 

"There's definitely opportunity for people to get scammed," he explained.

Other GroupMe users like Edmonson are sounding off on social media. One user tweeted "Some dude sent me a direct message on GroupMe that has a link to a weight loss pill." Another tweeted, "This GroupMe hack/virus. Whatever is about to have me throw the whole app away."

Barthold said hackers are constantly finding new vulnerabilities and new ways to exploit people.

"It's kind of concerning that they've taken it this far," Edmonson said.

GroupMe told NBC 5 it has received multiple reports from other users stating their own account is experiencing the same issue. GroupMe also said their engineers are currently looking into this.

A spokesperson for Microsoft, the parent company of GroupMe, said "some GroupMe customers reported that their accounts were being used to send spam mails. We looked into this and determined that the security of the GroupMe service wasn't affected."

If you use a group messaging app, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Change your password regularly.
• Never click on suspicious link, no matter how curious you are. It's not worth it.
• If a friend sends you an odd message that doesn't make sense, pick up the phone and call them.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[New Rule Helps Combat High-Interest Payday Loans]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 17:48:32 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Payday_Loans_5p_11018.jpg

If you live in the South Oak section of Mineral Wells, chances are you've heard Jerry Taylor powering through your neighborhood.

"It's a Harley, it's supposed to be loud," he said, speaking over his roaring motorcycle.

He's colorful and enjoying life.

He spends a lot of time on his Harley, and when it needed a last-minute repair, he didn't hesitate to take out a payday loan.

Taylor didn't pay attention to the exact terms he was agreeing to, and found out the hard way.

"One time I was one day late. I called them and told them ahead of time. They said no problem. I went in to make that payment, next thing I know my payments went 'sppppt,'" he said, gesturing up with his hands.

That missed payment changed his terms. Now, every month when he makes a $145 payment, less than $1 goes to pay back the loan. The other $144 are all fees and financing.

"Whoever regulates this needs to check into this, because it's highway robbery," Taylor said.

They are checking into it.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently finalized a new rule that prohibits lenders from issuing loans with fees so high that the customer can't afford to pay them back.

The rules set specific short payment schedules, and lenders must make sure you can afford them.

It was designed to keep reputable payday loan companies around while weeding out ones who make loans hard for people like Taylor to pay back.

"I went to several who said we can't give you a payday loan because you don't make enough. I go to this one, they're like, yeah, sure no problem. Now I know why," Taylor said.

The new rules don't help people like Taylor who are already in current loans. It will go into effect for new loans sometime next year.

In the meantime, make certain you fully understand the terms of any loan you take out now.

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<![CDATA[Here Are 5 Ways to Reduce Your Energy Bill]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 07:21:08 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/saving-energy-bill.jpg

It's that time of the year when North Texans see their energy bills increase, but there are ways to save energy and money throughout the year.

It seems to happen around the same time every year — Micah Matthews gets his energy bill and is startled by the vast difference.

"My bill was $54 in November, and in December it was $86, so I was upset about that but I didn't know what was causing it" Matthews said. "Thirty bucks is a big jump!"

But this year, he's ready to make some changes around his Dallas apartment, and they're steps that all North Texans can take to cut down on energy costs.

If you find yourself getting cold at night, but your thick blankets just aren't doing the trick, try reversing your ceiling fan.

Leticia Castellanos, Vice President of Energy at Stream Energy, said spinning the fan in the opposite direction can force the rising warm air downward, giving your thermostat a bit of a break.

"What this means is you will feel warmer and you won't need to turn the heat up," she said.

Next, check your home for drafts.

"What you need to do is take the dollar bill, open your door, close the door and pull it. If it's easy and glides, then you need to change the weather stripping," she said.

Heat and air can escape through the smallest cracks. You're going to want to seal those edges up with weather stripping around your doors and windows. If you have pets, caulk may be a better option.

You'll also want to keep your home's blinds open in the winter and closed in the summer. This will reduce the amount of energy your HVAC system has to use.

Don't forget to unplug! Things like phone and laptop chargers and coffeemakers can cost you big time.

So go ahead and unplug and save yourself some cash throughout the new year.

"Now, I'm going to be going to everybody's home like hey, you should unplug this, unplug that. I'm gonna be this plug guy. Call me the plug," Matthews said.

Be sure to clean your HVAC unit every 30 days to keep it running efficiently.

If you're not sure how to do it, click here.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Consumer Electronics Show Gives Peek At Coming Technology]]>Tue, 09 Jan 2018 22:50:13 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/CES+Gadgets.jpg

This year developers are taking a lot of the technology we know and improving upon it, mainly when it comes to smart homes.

Smart Tupperware will track the freshness of your food and text you to eat it before it goes bad.

There are fridges that will not only take pictures of the groceries inside while you're at the market, but will also suggest recipes based on what you have on hand.

Artificial Intelligence has created robots that help kids with homework.   

Priscilla the robot will deliver things like extra towels and pillows to hotel guests.

There's a scanner to spot counterfeit cash and tell you if that leftover food in the fridge has ecoli growing inside.

Almost every company is adding internet to their home products to help you create a connected smart home.


"The big connectivity here is amazon vs Google. the amazon Alexa voice activated speaker vs the Google home."


"The big connectivity here is Amazon vs Google. The Amazon Alexa voice activated speaker vs the Google Home," said Elliot Weiler of Consumer Reports.

Plano-based Toyota unveiled a self driving van that can make deliveries on its own and even double as movable office space.

Some of these items are already for sale, while others will be just a few years away.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Fort Worth Woman's Flower Order Never Arrives]]>Tue, 09 Jan 2018 06:44:36 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ecoflowers+2.jpg

When you see a product on a TV show, you may be more inclined to buy it.

Alma Singer, of Fort Worth, learned of a flower business featured on the show "Shark Tank" and was anxious to place an order.

She placed an order with Eco Flower, a company that makes floral arrangements out of wood or recycled materials. A few weeks went by, but nothing was delivered. So, Singer sent Eco Flower an email to check on her order.

The company apologized and said they were backlogged on orders. It also said, in part, "unfortunately, we cannot provide a time frame for you. We are doing our best to ensure that this situation does not take place again."

Singer tried to be patient, but another month went by and her flowers were nowhere to be found. She emailed the company again and asked for a refund.

Eco Flower said they were faced with a severe refund delay, but she'd get an email once the refund goes through. A few months later, there were still no flowers, and no refund.

That's when Singer called the NBC 5 Responds team.

We emailed Eco Flower. They never responded to our questions, but two hours after we emailed them they sent Alma a full refund of $60.

Singer did a lot of things right in this situation, but there were some red flags.

Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• When you're doing business with a company that's new to you, always do a Google search.
• We Googled "Eco Flower BBB" and found that the company had an "F" rating with lots of similar complaints.
• You also want to keep a paper trail, like Singer did.
• If the company offers a refund make sure you get it in writing in case things go south.
• Keep in mind, new businesses can get behind when they're ramping up production or dealing with sudden demand.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[How to Get Stores to Honor Online Deals, After Inventory Runs Out]]>Tue, 09 Jan 2018 04:03:08 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/online+shopping4.JPG

Ever see a deal online, but get to the store only to get disappointed?
NBC 5 Responds helped a Mineral Wells woman, in this situation get the deal she was promised.

Cecilia Staten wanted to get something nice for a family members baby shower and jumped at a offer for $100 off a baby monitor.

The deal was only good for in-store pickup so she drove 45 minutes to a Babies"R"Us that had the monitor in stock.

She got there, it wasn't actually in stock and her online order had been canceled.

The store manager stepped in and helped her place the order online again with the same discount. He even added free 3-day shipping. 

Staten never got the monitor though, nor an email confirmation of the order the manager placed.

By the time the monitor was back in stock, the deal was expired.

Staten called NBC 5 Responds and we contacted Babies"R"Us' owner, Toys"R"Us.

They quickly told us they would make it right and gave Staten $100 off the monitor plus an extra 20 percent off because of the inconvenience.

They say the manager entered Staten's email address wrong and the monitor was just out of stock.

Next time you're trying to hunt down a deal, don't rely on the inventory numbers listed online - they're often not accurate.

Call and ask someone to physically locate the product and set it aside while you drive there.

If a store promises to help you take advantage of a deal make sure you have a copy of the paperwork, and take screen shots of everything, so you have proof in case something goes wrong.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Lyft Drivers Say They're Getting Shortchanged]]>Tue, 09 Jan 2018 13:55:06 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/lyft+photo.JPG

The Lyft driver who picks you up may be getting cheated out of the money you're paying for the ride. Fed up, drivers reached out to our sister station NBC 4 in Los Angeles for help.

Brian Bleecker has been driving for Lyft in Southern California for more than two years. He said he's been happy, but he admits it's not an easy living.

"I'm struggling to make this work full time," he said. "I wasn't sure my house payment was going to clear this month."

Bleecker gets paid per ride. He thinks Lyft pays him the rider fare, minus a 20 percent cut that Lyft takes. He said that's what he agreed to when he signed up.

But, Bleecker recently heard rumblings that Lyft wasn't being upfront about what it's charging riders. So, he asked some of his riders to help him investigate.

"I was totally floored that it didn't match. It didn't make any sense," Bleecker said.

Here's what he told NBC 4 he found: A rider paid Lyft $22.16 for a ride, but the fare Lyft reported to Bleecker was $17.78.

Another ride: Lyft charged the rider $48.46, but Lyft told Bleecker the rider paid just $35.47.

Lyft is paying Bleecker based on a fare that's lower than what it's charging the rider. Bleecker said Lyft is pocketing money that should be his, and also duping the rider, leading them to believe the driver is paid based on the fare they paid.

"I'm overwhelmed that this is happening," he said.

NBC 4 heard this same story from dozens of Lyft drivers who feared retaliation by the company if they spoke to us.

So, NBC 4 took some rides to see how their claims played out. Time and time again, the fare Lyft reported to the driver was lower than what we paid, usually by a buck or two, but in a ride to LAX, there was a $12 difference.

"They're breaching their deal. They're being deceptive. They're being misleading," said Attorney Stephan Mashel.

Mashel is representing a New Jersey Lyft driver in a class action lawsuit against the company. The suit accuses Lyft of deceiving drivers and shorting their paychecks.

According to the suit, Mashel claims Lyft is secretly making two fare calculations per ride. One determines what riders pay. And the second determines what drivers are paid. Mashel said the driver formula is almost always lower.

"Those monies go into the coffers of Lyft that should go into the pockets of the hard working drivers who are trying to make a living doing rides and providing a service to customers," Mashel said.

Mashel believes Lyft is hiding the fare discrepancy and that it should be clearly disclosed in its contract with drivers. He said Lyft recently made the fare calculations more available, but he argues it's still difficult to find.

Mashel wants Lyft to simply pay drivers based on the fare riders pay.

Bleecker and the other drivers who talked to NBC 4 want the same thing.

"There has to be some retribution, some fairness to it," Bleecker said.

Lyft didn't respond to repeated phone calls and emails for this story. The company has filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The two sides are scheduled to meet with a judge in January.



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Online Gaming May Put You at Risk of Being Hacked]]>Fri, 05 Jan 2018 22:38:03 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/computer+man+glasses.jpg

If a new video game system has made its way into your home over the holidays, have you considered protecting your or your child's online identities and gaming accomplishments?

One mom said her son's access to his prized online games was compromised, and she spent months trying to resolve it.

Jill Kaplan said her son's Xbox Live account was first taken over by outsiders in February 2016.

That's when 13-year-old Jacob Kaplan discovered he was locked out of his account because of a password reset issue. He lost access to many of the online games he had already purchased with gift cards.

"I noticed that there was something a little bit different about the email address," Jill Kaplan said. "It was off by like a letter or something."

She worked with Xbox Live support staff to resolve the issue. But she said Jacob's account was attacked several more times.

She later found out her son's recovery email address had changed to include a domain from a country outside the United States.

"It just seems crazy to me, because I don't know exactly what they were trying to achieve by it," Jill Kaplan said.

She reached out to NBC Responds after she said several attempts to resolve the issue with Xbox Live's support did not fully resolve the ongoing issue.

"It was like three or four times within the month of October, and then it happened in November where he was completely locked out," Jill Kaplan said.

NBC Responds contacted Microsoft, which operates Xbox Live, and asked if the support staff could take another look at the issue impacting Jacob's access to his gaming account.

Jill Kaplan said a fresh email was created for Jacob's gaming account and everything was resolved within 24 hours. And she said the family received a free month's subscription to Xbox Live.

A spokesperson representing Microsoft said the company worked with the Kaplans to reach an appropriate resolution. The spokesperson also said users can take steps to protect online gaming accounts from outside interference.

"We encourage customers to regularly review their member account security information and ensure it is up-to-date," the spokesperson said. "Customers should exercise caution when receiving emails or links from unknown contacts."

According to online gamer and security professional, Jaku, many of the online attacks are committed by people who want to play games but don't want to pay for them.

He said the attackers can steal users' email addresses and passwords on third-party websites and use them on gaming accounts until they find one that works.

"It's not necessarily the security on the consoles, but it's security outside on third-party sites," Jaku said.

Jaku said parents can help their young gamers increase their online security by choosing a unique password, at least 12 characters long, that is not being used anywhere else.

He also recommends utilizing two-party authentication as another line of defense.

"Anytime something's trying to log in with their account credentials, they have to type in a six-digit code that only their phone has," Jaku said.

Kaplan said no credit card information was compromised, because she makes a point to only use gift cards when purchasing online games for her son.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Fur Wizard]]>Fri, 05 Jan 2018 17:45:03 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/215*120/fur+wizard.JPG

The Fur Wizard says it works quickly and easily to clear the fur off of almost anything. NBC 5's Wayne Carter bought it to find out how it lives up to the claims.

We took the Fur Wizard to the SPCA of Texas, where you can fall in love with the cutest furry friends and easily get convinced to add a little one to your family.

You don't have to look that closely to see the fur left right on the workers' clothes, so we broke out the Fur Wizard.

The device comes with a lot of stuff. There's a big over-sized lint brush, a big over-sized cleaning device for the brush and then a small travel version.

Maura Davies' shirt was covered in a lot of fur.

"Rabbit and cat and dog [fur] all at once. Mostly rabbit," she said.

She took one big swipe with the Fur Wizard.

"Wow! That's not bad, pretty quick," Davies said. "I was not expecting this. It works well with either hand."

"I kinda like this, because it's consistent, and it doesn't look like it's a whole lot of effort," added Victoria Albright, of the SPCA.

We also saw all the fur trapped in the cleaning tool and weren't sure how to get it out at first. With more use, we found it did eventually build up and easily emptied out of the bottom.

We wondered how it handled more delicate fabric and found not only did it not harm Albright's light sweater, but seemed to refresh it.

It's pretty clear the Fur Wizard was a winner.

"[My sweater] actually looks better," Albright said.

Fur Wizard is priced at just $12 at Walmart.

The travel version is not double-sided, and it is smaller, so it's not nearly as fast, but did clean very well, too.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Customers Unsure About Orders From Shuttered Parker Uniforms]]>Fri, 05 Jan 2018 22:56:17 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/No_Show_Uniforms_5p_10518.jpg

Parents across the country are scrambling after Texas-based Parker School Uniforms, a major uniform supplier, abruptly closed its stores.

NBC 5 obtained an email sent to employees offering an explanation on why the company kept its financial problems under wraps.

The email reads, "If Parker had provided earlier notice, it would have undermined its efforts to obtain additional outside capital due to potential investor concerns about doing business with a troubled company or a company whose employees were looking for other jobs."

The e-mail goes on to say, "We are permanently shutting down all of our operations including the entire corporate headquarters and terminating all employees."

Here in North Texas, we found stores with signs posted on the doors reading, "temporarily closed."

Parker School Uniforms currently has an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau with more than 80 complaints against it. Consumers complained about never receiving their orders and a lack of communication from Parker.

NBC 5 Responds also checked the company's website, and it appears to have been taken down. Its Twitter and Instagram pages, however, appear to be active. In fact, just last week, the company's social channels appeared to be promoting 35 percent off for online in-stock merchandise

The shuttered stores have caused headaches for customers like Victoria Rodriguez, who is still waiting for part of her order she placed at the beginning of the school year.

"It's horrible. It's a mess. You pay money for something your child should be wearing at school, and you don't get answers," Rodriguez said.

Houston NBC affiliate KPRC visited Parker's corporate headquarters, where a man who came to the door said they're working on a plan to notify customers about their paid orders.

We reached out to get additional information on that plan but haven't been able to reach anyone just yet.

NBC 5 also spoke to the daughter of one of the employees who lost their job Friday. She told us they expected a paycheck to be deposited on Friday but it didn't come.

TELL US: If you're having trouble with an outstanding order, click here.

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<![CDATA[Chip Issue Makes Nearly All Computers Vulnerable to Hackers]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 18:02:23 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/551984311-Keyboard-generic%29.jpg

Researchers with Google and their partners located an issue with computer processing chips that could allow hackers into almost any computer.

They're calling the flaws, "meltdown" and "Spectre," two different names for the two different ways hackers can gain access to computers where, once inside, they could steal personal information.

An attack on the computer chip could let a hacker capture sensitive information like passwords and encription keys.

A number of chip designs from Intel, ARM, and AMD are susceptible to the attacks. 

The issue is windespread because the chips are used in devices made by Apple, Google, Amazon and others.

Microsoft sent an emergency patch they said should fix the problem, although it may slow down your computer.

Apple hasn't released anything after this announcement, but it's widely reported that some previous updates to their system already addressed the issue on many computers.

Experts suggest taking the security patches seriously.

Microsoft also said if you didn't receive a patch automatically, your antivirus software may have blocked it and you should contact your antivirus company to make sure the patch gets through.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cultura RF]]>
<![CDATA[Some 'Gift' Cards Expire After All]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 17:15:49 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Beware_of__Gift_Cards__That_Actually_Expire.jpg

Retailers are using free money as a way to get you inside their stores.

For example, Buy five items and get a $10 giftcard.

However, socking that card away might be a bad idea.

Consumer protection laws apply to gift cards you actually pay money for, not ones given to you for free.

Free cards are considered a promotion or sale and those cards could expire after a certain period of time -- leaving you with $0.

Make sure you read the back of the card for the fine print and find out if and when that money expires.


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<![CDATA[North Texas Consumer Gets Refund for Faulty Fridge]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 06:50:53 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/lg-fridge-responds.jpg

Martha Newell purchased a brand new LG refrigerator in June for about $2,600. When Newell got the fridge set up, she says she immediately received an error code and the fridge wouldn't dispense water or ice.

Newell explained that five repair visits later, the dispenser still wouldn't work and she said she didn't get a satisfactory explanation for the fault. So, Newell called the NBC 5 Responds team for help.

Days after we reached out to LG, Newell was told she would get a refund. LG would not issue a statement, but they did send Newell a check for $2,600.

The NBC 5 Responds team has gotten back more than $750,000 for consumers all across North Texas.

So, if you have an issue you're having trouble getting resolved, give us a try! Just call 844-573 7763 or submit your tip here.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[5 Steps to Take Before Joining a Gym]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 16:16:15 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/gym-fitness-generic.jpg

Every year, we hear from consumers who are left with what we call "fitness remorse." They signed up for a membership, thought they'd have an easy way out but later find out they're hook for the rest of the year.

Rule #1: Read your contract

Don't solely rely on what the salesperson is telling you.

Everything you're promised needs to be in writing. And, if it's not, challenge them. Make them put all of those good deals on your contract in writing.

Rule #2: Visit the gym

Go on a tour and look around to see how clean it is.

Go at the actual time you plan on working out. This will allow you to see if  going to be too crowded. You may even want to ask a customer what the wait time is like to use a certain machine.

Rule #3: Ask if you're able to freeze your membership

This perk will protect you if you get injured or need to take an extended vacation. In many cases, you won't be charged full price during that period.

Not all gyms and fitness groups offer this but you should still ask for comparison sake.

Rule #4: Find out if you can break up with the gym

Check to see if there's a cancellation period. That way, if you realize you're way in over your head, you can cancel your membership with no penalty.

Also, if you sign up for a free trial, check to see if you're automatically enrolled once that trial is over.

Rule #5: Take advantage of freebies

Go after them!

Now is the time where gyms and fitness instructors are laying out the red carpet.

Test the waters, save money, and if you have any problems with your contract, click here to submit a complaint.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Misplaced Money, Recovered for a Fort Worth Family]]>Tue, 02 Jan 2018 17:30:17 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Cigna+2.jpg

Jimmie Mattoon was cleaning up recently and stumbled upon two reimbursement checks from her health insurance company.

They were dated 2011.

Jimmie remembered they were delivered when her family was moving to a new home.

The checks got stashed away somewhere in the chaos of the move.

She called Cigna and was told the checks were so old the money was likely sent to the state's unclaimed money office.

She checked both in Texas and Arkansas where they used to live and couldn't find the cash.

She says she called Cigna for help again with no luck.

NBC 5 Responds tried too. A representative told us they would help track it down but Jimmie never got a call.

We stayed at it for several months asking Cigna to tell us if Jimmie could still get the check or if they could tell us what agency had the money.

Cigna gave NBC 5 the following statement:

“We apologize for our slow response. Apparently the initial communication between public relations and customer service went awry and the case was not assigned. This is an extraordinarily rare event. Our special customer service unit is typically extremely responsive to customer issues we send their way.”

Just before Christmas, the check came. $1,375, and a big smile.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Donations for Church That Says Contractor Stole $50K]]>Tue, 02 Jan 2018 06:55:37 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/6a+p-n5r+church+contrac_KXASFV58_2018-01-02-05-56-27.jpg

Pastor E.G. Roberts of The Way of Christ Christian Church said his congregation should have moved into their new church months ago, but more than a year later, an empty lot remains. 

He hired Kevin Kissire of Standard Steel Buildings to build the new sanctuary in DeSoto. Roberts said the contractor disappeared, leaving the North Texas congregation out of nearly $50,000.

"From a fleshly side, I would love to get my hands on him. From a spiritual side, I have to forgive him," said Roberts. "But, if I actually saw him, the flesh may win this time."

"Financially, you know we just, just take it Sunday after Sunday," said church board member Victor Bell. 

After our first story aired, the community responded. Viewers messaged the church on Facebook wanting to help, and calls from strangers continued to pour in.

"It just makes you feel good that people do care even when you don't know them," Roberts explained. 

But then, he said the unexpected happened. Roberts received anonymous letters in the mail, accompanied with small donations for the church.

"Honestly, it's hard to put it into words. It's still just hard to wrap my mind around it," he said.

If that wasn't surprising enough, the pastor received another call from a North Texas businessman.

"He said when the Lord spoke to him after he saw what had aired, he knew what he wanted to do," the pastor explained.

Two days after that phone call, he received a check from that same man.

"The check was for $10,000, exactly what he said he was going to donate," the pastor said. "God is working. The Lord is working because it couldn't be nothing else."

He said the man asked to remain anonymous, but he wanted to remind the pastor that the community was with him, and to hold on to his faith.

"Even when you can't see it, you still gotta believe in it," said Pastor Roberts.

Kissire has since been charged with theft in an unrelated case in Collin County. As for the church, the DeSoto Police Department has confirmed with NBC 5 that they have officially reopened Roberts' case and plan on presenting it to a grand jury in Dallas County.

We've called and messaged the contractor for comment and we have not received a response. 

Kissire's next court date is set for Jan. 5.

ONLINE: The Way of Christ Chritian Church



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[What to Do With All Your Shipping Boxes From Online Shopping]]>Mon, 01 Jan 2018 17:44:35 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/giveback+boxes.jpg

Chances are your home swelled with new holiday gifts, as they mixed in with all the old items. Not to mention all the boxes piling up from online shopping.

It's time to get rid of the old toys and clothes, and make room for all the new stuff you may have received recently.

Amazon and the company GiveBackBox have teamed up to make donating easier, while reusing all those shipping boxes at the same time.

All you have to do is take one of your shipping boxes — it doesn't have to be from Amazon — and fill it up with stuff you've replaced, like clothing, household goods and anything you want to donate to charity.

Then, go to GiveBackBox.com and download a free shipping label.

UPS or the U.S. Postal Service will deliver the box.

Amazon says the donations will go to the nearest participating charitable organization, and your effort will help those boxes get more use as well.

MORE:GiveBackBox.com



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Email Warning of Student Loan Increases Not As It Appears]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 22:42:31 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/loan+email+question.JPG

An email that might be in your in-box about a deadline to enter information regarding student loans may not be coming from your student loan servicing company.

A Dallas man feared the worst and turned to NBC 5 Responds.

Wayne Smith knows a thing or two about online safety.

"I work in computers. I'm in a software company," he said.

When his wife got an email about her student loan, he thought her payment plan was in trouble.

The email stated, "You must re-certify your family size and income ... This is a federal requirement in order to maintain your low monthly payment," and failure to re-certify can have some very unpleasant consequences.

"It threatened to double or triple our payments, and if we were on auto-pay it would definitely hit my checking account, and I was like really concerned about it," Smith said.

His wife had recently gone back to school. They took on the debt, and she earned a master's degree in special education to better help their grandson, who has autism.

Smith was working hard to pay it back and didn't want to take any chances.

"I clicked on the link, and I got a '505 error.' It said the link is not there," Smith said. "I started looking at it. It's not from who is servicing her loan, it's not the same phone number. The date on the email was the 4th of December at 11:59 p.m. saying we had to respond by the 4th at 4 p.m. I'm like, 'This just doesn't look right.'"

He called the company that services his wife's student loan, and they knew nothing about the email.

She was not on this income-based repayment plan and nothing was in jeopardy of changing.

NBC 5 Responds investigated and tracked the email to a company called Certified Enrollment Center. Right on their website it says they're a document preparation service and the services they provide can be done on your own for free.

They even warn that some companies promising student loan relief are scams.

The email and the website seem very much at odds.

When we called, a manager for Certified Enrollment Center apologized, telling NBC 5 Responds the email came from a third-party marketing vendor and they didn't approve the wording.

The manager said they got complaints, too, and immediately fired the vendor.

Certified Enrollment Center also says all of their services come with a 90-day, money-back guarantee and that they're up front with who they are.

Smith says he wants everyone to be careful when getting emails, making sure they're really sent from the company you think.

It's always good advice when getting an email like this to look up the phone number of the company you normally deal with, not the one on the email. Call them, like Smith did, and make certain for yourself the letter is the real deal.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Spin Broom]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 17:56:18 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/hurricane+spin+broom.JPG

New gadgets and gizmos always catch our eye — products aiming to make our lives simpler and easier. The Hurricane Spin Broom promises to be the easy way to sweep, requiring no bending and no hard work.

We let NBC 5 Consumer Reporter Wayne Carter buy it to see how it works.

Tammy Dietzman, owner of Cosmopolitan Maid Services, has been cleaning homes with her team around North Texas for 29 years. New cleaning solutions are old hat to her.

Still, she took us up on the chance to try the Hurricane Spin Broom, which claims to pull in everything in its path with no batteries, cords or bags.

Dietzman and her team is cleaning a home in Dallas' Knox-Henderson area that is in the middle of a significant remodel. They are trying to keep the place clean while construction is underway.

We had some trouble assembling the Hurricane Spin Broom at first, but once in place it was simple to use. The broom grabbed all the large pieces of construction debris lying around and picked up everything from wire insulation to paper clips and large pieces of plastic.

"It's getting the big pieces, and I'm really surprised, because I didn't think it would," Dietzman said. "It's very manageable, because it's lightweight. It doesn't require batteries or some electrical cord following it around."

The Hurricane Spin Broom did pick up everything big like it promised, but Dietzman wasn't sold, because it appeared to do little for the dust.

"I believe it's going to make more work, because you still have to come behind it," she said.

We brought it to a finished part of the home, without construction, to see how it handled dust in an everyday environment.

We found the Hurricane Spin Broom picked up the big pieces and still left a trail of dust behind. Dietzman concluded she would save her money and buy a regular broom and a dust pan instead.

We paid $19.99 for the Hurricane Spin Broom at Bed Bath & Beyond, but you can get a better deal through the manufacturer's website.

Wayne Carter buys products you suggest, and reviews them to see if they live up to their claims. If there's a product you'd like Wayne to buy for you, send him a Facebook message on his page.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[How to Make the Most of Your New Digital Assistant]]>Thu, 28 Dec 2017 17:47:15 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Digital+Assitant+122817.jpg

Get a new Amazon Echo or Google Home for Christmas and you’re not sure exactly what to do with it? Consumer Reports helps you get your new digital home assistant out of the box.

Whether it’s making shopping lists or converting cups to ounces, a voice assistant can help you out in ways you’ve never imagined. But first, you have to set it up. When you get a new voice assistant or smart speaker, you need to download the app that goes with it. And from there it will walk you through how to set the device up.

Once that’s done the possibilities are endless, but you might have to enable things called “skills” for the Echo and “actions” for Google Home — think of them as added features that make your assistant even smarter. You can have it tell you what the weather is or have it read your calendar for the day. You can also get the latest sports scores or even play trivia games.

Are you ready to let your new assistant really show its stuff? with high-tech add-ons like smart light bulbs, thermostats, door locks and plugs you’ve got an instant smart home. If you have a smart plug, you can turn on and off whatever you happen to have plugged into it, whether it’s a lamp or, in my case, a Christmas tree. What it lets you do is get things done without having to open an app, or you know, in this case, crawl behind the couch and unplug the tree.

Another tip from Consumer Reports? Practice patience as you get to know your new assistant and what it can do. It’s important to remember that you know Rome wasn’t built in a day. And that you’re gonna buy things to connect to it and add skills and apps and it’s kinda something you construct over time.

Consumer Reports says its testing shows these assistants don’t have the best sound quality when it comes to playing music. In that category, the original Amazon Echo earned a “good” rating, the Google Home, a “fair.” But the new Google Home Max, the Sonos One with Alexa built in and the upcoming Apple Home Pod all promise to raise the bar on sound quality for home assistants.

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<![CDATA[Driver Accuses Carmaker of Failing to Warn of Defect]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 06:44:51 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+vw+problems_KXASFTB2_2017-12-27-05-02-51.jpg

Sue Winters loves her 2011 VW Tiguan so much that she affectionately named it “Ethel” — as in Lucy and Ethel. So when Sue found “Ethel,” a relatively new car, dead in the driveway this summer, it came as a bit of a shock.

"The car doesn't start. It’s completely dead,” Winters said. “I was sad. I really was. I just love this car. "

It was surprising to Winters because the car had only 46,000 miles on it and was just out of warranty. She had it towed to her dealer, where it has sat for the last 3 months, and got a grim diagnosis.

"I had never even heard of a tensioner,” Winters said. “That’s the part that blew."

The part that failed is called a timing chain tensioner, which keeps a car’s valves and pistons operating in sync. When it fails, the engine can fail too. According to VW’s maintenance schedule, the timing chain system should last at least 120,000 miles without the need for repair or replacement. Yet Winters said the dealership told her the problem part had ruined her engine and that she needed a brand new one, at a cost of $7,000.

It was something Winters could not afford and something she believes could have been prevented if the carmaker has issued a warning to drivers before it was too late.

“They knew that this was happening and they did nothing about it,” Winters said. "Sorry you’re out of luck, you know. The warranty is expired and there’s nothing we can do for you."

The timing chain issue has been on VW’s radar since at least 2010, when it began sending out technical service bulletins alerting dealerships about the problem – affecting VW’s and Audi’s with 2-liter gas engines made between 2008 through 2013 – but not alerting drivers.

Here is a list of the affected cars:

• 2008-2010 and 2012 VW Beetle

• 2009-2013 VW CC

• 2008-2012 VW EOS

• 2008-2012 VW Golf

• 2008-2012 VW GTI

• 2008-2012 VW Jetta

• 2008-2012 VW Passat

• 2008-2011 VW R32

• 2008-2010 VW Rabbit

• 2009-2012 VW Routan

• 2008-2012 VW Tiguan

• 2008-2013 VW Touareg

• 2011 VW Touareg Hybrid

• 2008-2012 Audi A3

• 2008-2012 Audi A4

• 2008-2012 Audi A5

• 2010-2012 Audi A6

• 2012 Audi A7

• 2008-2012 Audi TT

• 2010-2012 Audi Q3

• 2009-2012 Audi Q5

• 2012 Audi Q7

It’s a practice Winters calls outrageous, at best.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “And then, well, I thought for sure VW would do something. And then we went on and on and on. They just ignore the issue like it’s not their problem. There was no recall on it. It’s a defect."

The same allegations are echoed in a recently filed, but not yet certified, class action lawsuit alleging VW has “fraudulently concealed a defect” in the timing chain, calling the problem a “significant safety risk.” VW denies those allegations.

There is no shortage of VW owners speaking out about the problem. NBC 5 Responds found at least 166 complaints on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website alone:

“This is a dangerous problem,” one complaint stated. “There should be a recall on these vehicles,” according to another. “VW is aware of yet refuses to properly address or provide remedy.”

Drivers aren’t the only ones not getting remedies or answers. NBC 5 Responds reached out to VW about Winters’ car 10 different times -- by phone, email and social media – and never got a response.

With no “Ethel” and no help from VW, Winters’ commute continues to be a struggle. But with no other option, she refuses to let this go.

"I’m just not going to give up. It’s not only me. I’m not the lone duck out here. There’s a lot of people that this has happened to," Winters said.

After this piece aired, the consumer says VW corporate called her the next day and offered to fix the engine problem. VW has not responded to our request for comment.

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<![CDATA[Merchants Keep Lists of Who Returns Items Too Much]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 07:04:57 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Return+Denied.jpg

If you’re giving or getting presents for this holiday, chances are something will end up getting returned, but some shoppers have reported they were banned from the return line.

Vina Le found herself in that situation earlier this year.

“My friend had given me a bottle of perfume for my birthday,” Vina said, “And the one she gave me is actually the one I’m allergic to.”

Vina said she spends hundreds of dollars every year at her favorite cosmetic store, Sephora. But when her friend gave her the bottle of Miss Dior, the perfume she’s allergic to, Vina decided to take it to Sephora for a possible return. Vina said she didn’t know what store the bottle actually came from.

“I told them if you can return this, that’s great,” Vina said, “If you can’t, that’s ok too.”

Vina said when the Sephora cashier scanned the bottle and typed in Vina’s information into their system, Vina was told the return was denied.

“The cashier was polite, she handed me the receipt and said to go ahead and call,” Vina said, “Maybe it’s just a minor typo issue and they can talk to you about it.”

Vina said the number the cashier gave her to call was for The Retail Equation, a nationwide company that keeps track of returns for a variety of retailers, including Sephora.

“The first words out of their mouth were ‘you are banned from returning anything to Sephora for a year,’” Vina said.

Vina said The Retail Equation told her she had too many returns but Vina thought that was unfair since she had spent over $575 at Sephora this year and returned only $32 worth of merchandise. In 2015 and 2016, Vina said she had no returns.

“It made me feel like I was a thief or something because the way The Retail Equation basically phrased it was I was a habitual returner,” Vina said.

When Vina couldn’t get the problem solved, she called NBC Responds for help.

NBC Responds reached out to both Sephora and The Retail Equation. Both did not answer our specific questions about Vina’s account but instead, offered insight into how they monitor returns in general.

A spokesperson for The Retail Equation told us, “Our return authorization system is designed to identify the 1 percent of consumers whose behaviors mimic return fraud or abuse…”

The company also added retail fraud accounted for billions of dollars in retail losses last year. To read The Retail Equation’s full statement, click here.

After reviewing Vina’s case, Sephora told NBC Responds Vina is no longer banned from making returns and the store would contact her directly about the bottle of perfume she had originally tried to return.

Vina told NBC Responds last weekend, a Sephora representative offered her a $100 gift card to the cosmetic store.

A spokesperson for Sephora told NBC Responds, “Sephora values each and every one of its clients and strives to provide exceptional customer service at all times, including returns and exchanges. Our policy is on par with other national retailers, and we encourage all our clients to keep in mind our returns policy, including proof of purchase, when requesting a refund if they are not fully satisfied with a product. We can confirm that the client is not banned on returns in general, and have reached out to her to discuss her most recent return request inquiry. Sephora encourages clients to accept email receipts for all store purchases, to make exchanges and returns swift and easy. Also, if you are giving a gift, ensure you get a gift receipt to accompany your present, just in case they get multiples of the same item, or decide to get something else.”

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<![CDATA[Deadline Looming for Scam Victims Tricked Into Wiring Money]]>Fri, 22 Dec 2017 23:16:03 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/western+union+sign.JPG

Thousands of people were tricked into wiring money to thieves over the past few years. If you were one of them, time is running out to get your money back in your wallet.

Mariellen Hallcox was one of those people. She describes the phone call she received as terrifying.

"They said they had my daughter in a basement," Hallcox recalled.

On the other end, a man's voice said he had kidnapped her daughter, Lyndsay.

"'If you don't give me the money. I'm going to hurt her, I'm going to beat her and I'm going to kill her,'" Hallcox remembered the person saying.

Terrifying, indeed, but as it turned out, the call was part of an elaborate scheme.

The self-described "kidnappers" demanded money to be wired via Western Union for Lyndsay's safe return.

It's a hoax that landed Hallcox on the list of thousands who fell prey to the scams in which wiring services were central.

"He wanted a couple thousand dollars. I said I have $400 cash," Hallcox said.

She sent that money, like thousands of other victims, via Western Union.

The wiring service appeared so central to these scams that three years ago federal agencies launched an investigation to determine what Western Union knew, and when, amid allegations the company didn't do enough to protect consumers.

As part of a settlement agreement, the company admitted to failing to maintain an effective anti-laundering program and aiding and abetting wire fraud, agreeing to a $586 million settlement.

Some of that money is now earmarked to repay victims like Hallcox. But with the potential refunds comes another warning: scam artists may be contacting potential consumers offering to help them get a refund through the Western Union process if they pay a fee.

Consumers should not pay anyone to help them get a refund.

Who's eligible for restitution and how does it work?

Anyone who lost money to a scammer via Western Union between Jan. 1, 2004, and Jan. 19, 2017, can file a claim.

It must be submitted by Feb. 12, 2018.

Each claim must be verified by the U.S. Department of Justice. The amount victims get depends on how much they lost and how many victims submit valid claims.

Still shaken by the ordeal, Hallcox is both hoping to get her money back and to pay it forward by sharing her cautionary tale.

"If I can help anybody out there, maybe there will be less of them feeding off of us," she said.

At the time it agreed to the settlement, Western Union said it shared the government's goal of protecting consumers and worked hard to resolve these matters.

Consumers who have already filed a complaint with Western Union, the FTC or the Attorney General's Office, should have received a claim form in the mail by now.

MORE:For more information from the Federal Trade Commission, click here.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Scrub Mommy]]>Fri, 22 Dec 2017 19:30:19 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/scrub+mommy.JPG

Most of us aren't big fans of cleaning, so products that make it easier usually get our attention. The sponge Scrub Daddy came around, promising to last longer, hold more water, and not hold stains or smell. And just recently the same company came out with Scrub Mommy, which the manufacturer says works even better. We let Wayne Carter buy it to see if the sponges are worth spending your money.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Last-Minute, Highly-Ranked Toys For Shoppers in a Pinch]]>Fri, 22 Dec 2017 06:59:08 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/last+minute+toys.jpg

Magic Hat (Thames & Kosmos)

• Enter the world of magic and sorcery! With the magic hat and rabbit puppet, as well as more than 40 other magic props, kids can learn and perform 35 different magic tricks.

• Make your magic wand float, bend, and grow. Pull a rabbit from a seemingly empty hat. Make cards grow and shrink. Use X-ray vision to magically see symbols through a solid, opaque surface.

• Use the included manual to learn all these tricks and more in three easy steps. With some practice, it becomes easy to stage a magic show filled with fun and successful tricks that will amaze your audience!

• For one magician and many audience members.

• Magic teaches kids emotional intelligence, public speaking, and inspires creativity and public comfort.

• Age: 6+

• MSRP: $43.50

• Available: Amazon, Toys R Us


The Original Fidget Cube by Antsy Labs (Zuru)

• The Original Fidget Cube by Antsy Labs is a versatile fidget toy featuring six different sides with multiple buttons, dials, and switches so fidgeters can quietly focus while clicking, spinning, rolling and gliding their nervous energy away.

• The six-sided desk toy is equipped with an array of addictive features including five clicker buttons (two of which are silenced), a switch to flick up and down, and a side designed after a gaming joystick with a satisfying gliding action.

• Launched on Kickstarter in 2016 by Antsy Labs, Fidget Cube has since been one of the platform’s most successful crowdfunding campaigns.

• The Fidget Cube is available in eight different colors.

• Age: 3+

• MSRP: $12.99

• Available: Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart


CPK Little Sprouts Figures and Playsets (Wicked Cool Toys)

• Cabbage Patch Kids Little Sprouts, a child’s first collectible toy line of micro figures and playsets, introduces the world where Cabbage Patch kids, babies and pets actually live.

• The Little Sprouts world is bustling with neighborhood pals and big time fun! Skip along the friend-filled streets, snuggle with loveable furry pets, and help sweet babies stay healthy and grow–there’s so much to do, see…and cuddle! But when the school bell rings, it’s time to dash to class to discover, learn, and play.

• Collect all 120 Little Sprouts kid, baby, and pet figures and set off on an exciting new adventure every day!

• Age: 4+

• MSRP: $2.99-$29.99

• Available: Amazon, Toys “R” Us


Pictureka Card Game (Winning Moves)

• Perfect for families, friends and parties, Pictureka! card game is great fun for all ages.

• There are four different ways to play and they vary in pace from calm to high-energy.

• Age: 6+

• MSRP: $10.95

• Available: Amazon



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Get the Same Item for a Different Price Using Image Search]]>Thu, 21 Dec 2017 17:38:04 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/online+shopping4.JPG

It's so easy these days to compare prices online and find a better deal somewhere else. But there's a little secret you may not know that could save you big bucks.

Sometimes the same product has several different names, and Google Image Search can really pay off.

We first found a dining set on Joss and Main for $399.99. Google Image Search shows a set with the same photo on sale on Wayfair for $363. It had a different name, but the same photo.

Walmart even had it online for $348 with yet another name.

In a different case, we found a sofa listed for $259.99 on Birch Lane.

We found the same image down for $241 on Wayfair but found it even cheaper still on Joss and Main at just under $230.

Joss and Main, Wayfair and Birch Lane are all owned by the same company.

Retail expert Nicole Reyhle explains that companies get one product and might adjust the price differently across its different brands. They may even change the names just in case you comparison shop, even though many of us don't.

"We are influenced by a variety of factors, and that influence ultimately drives us to purchase," Reyhle said.

The companies know that too, and might show you an advertisement at another one of their brands at the lower price to make you jump up and buy.

"As a consumer, if you look for something and then you wait, you typically will find something pop up in the near future that often drives the price lower than what you originally saw it, because that's their call to action for you to hit purchase," Reyhle said.

If you ditch the words and search the photos, it's a quick and easy way to get the same item with a different name for a lot less.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Locksmith Company Responds After NBC 5 Investigation]]>Thu, 21 Dec 2017 06:54:11 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/supreme-locksmith-dallas.png

A Dallas-based locksmith company is responding to a customer's complaint that her car was damaged by an employee they sent and the company wouldn't do anything about it.

Supreme Locksmith was the subject of an NBC 5 Responds story earlier this week which details how Jordan Cornelson claimed her car door and window were damaged by a Supreme Locksmith worker.

Cornelson said the locksmith told her not to worry because her car was under warranty and the company would take care of it. Supreme Locksmith never called her back, and the locksmith blocked her number, she said.

"Now I just kind of feel helpless," she told NBC 5 Responds.

Our team started looking into the business and discovered it was operating under several different names, including Avenue Locksmith, 24/7 Mobile Locksmith and Supreme Locksmith.

NBC 5 Responds emailed and called, finally speaking to a manager who told us customers have to work directly with the locksmith to fix any problems, not the company.

We tracked down the registered owner’s name, Matan Abehasira, and tried calling him, but we never heard back. So, we stopped by the Avenue Locksmith office in Dallas, but were asked to leave.

After that visit, the company made major changes to their website, including a new disclaimer telling customers to call immediately if they have any trouble.

And a day after our story aired, the company sent us a statement, calling this a big misunderstanding.

An officer manager named Celeste Lopez told NBC 5 Responds the following:

"We at Avenue Locksmith do take care of our customers that we service, and the owner/manager were unaware that this happened with this specific customer since she went directly to the dispatching center. The company did not bring this to our attention, and had we known that this happened, we would've definitely taken care of this customer. Their manager did not inform us about what happened on location. The customer did not email or call the number or email that was listed on the invoice and went straight to dispatching company, and we were not aware of the situation."

"If they're saying I didn't call, that's just bologna," said Cornelson. 

Avenue Locksmith said Cornelson only contacted the dispatch number instead of the number listed on the company's invoice. Cornelson said that’s not true, she called both numbers, and tracked down her call log to prove it.

When we sent Avenue Locksmith her call log, their response was "no comment."

As for Cornelson's damaged car, a spokesman said, "Our company is required to have insurance to cover damages in such instances as this. We would like to reach out to the customer & would like to have an insurance adjuster go to her location to make sure the damage to her car door will get taken care of."

Cornelson said a local auto shop took care of the repairs free of charge.

We also asked about an investigation the Texas Department of Public Safety opened regarding the company's business practices.

An Avenue Locksmith spokesman said, "We are aware that the Texas Department of Public Safety is conducting a formal investigation, and we are working with them to get all proper rules and regulations in line and corrected. Since their visit with the owner of the company, we have then ordered new business cards, uniforms for each technician, proper presentation for each technician's vehicle, and invoices that have our phone number and company business license number on each of the items listed above."

An Avenue Locksmith spokesman added, “They are in the process of changing many things in their company” and that they apologize for any inconvenience.

We offered the company the chance to speak to us on camera, but they declined.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Watch Out for Imposter Drivers When Using Ride Sharing Apps]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 17:40:33 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Airport_Ride_Share_Warning_5p_122017.jpg

If you ever use ride sharing companies, like Uber and Lyft, beware there's a rash of fake drivers out there taking advantage of folks just needing a ride home.

The Better Business Bureau is spreading word about people who are pretending to be ride-share drivers. It's been happening particularly at airports around the country.

Essentially, while you're waiting at the designated ride sharing pickup area, someone will pull up, and may even have an Uber or Lyft sticker in the window, and ask your name.

If you give your name, they'll say they're here to take you where you need to go, but they're not the driver you actually ordered.

Once you get in the car, they'll demand higher fares, cash and use scare tactics or intimidation to get you to pay.

"Take caution, be wary. Before you get in that car, there are a few fail-safes to protect you. Most of the apps that offer ride sharing will show you a picture of the driver. They'll show you the license plate number of the vehicle. And also there are ways to call your driver," said BBB spokeswoman Phylissia Clark.

We're told there haven't been specific reports at Dallas area airports, but it is happening around the country.

People who are new to Uber or Lyft, or someone who's in a rush and just trying to get where they're going, are the ones it's happening to the most.

Always make sure you know whose car you're getting into and make sure you ask their name, not the other way around.

]]>
<![CDATA[Hot Holiday Gifts for Pre-Teens and Teenagers]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 07:06:47 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+teen+toys_KXASFR3L_2017-12-20-05-18-14.jpg

Nikko Air, Air Elite 115 Race Set (Toy State)

• Part of a debut line of Nikko Air racing drones, the first and only co-branded drones designed expressly for consumers. New pilots can master the drone racing skills they need to fly to the next level with this new racer.

• The set even lets them create custom courses and challenge friends to a race.

• Includes Air Elite 115, modular gate system, and accessories.

• 2.4 GHz transmitter.

• Variable flight modes.

• Age: 8+

• MSRP: $59.99

• Available: Amazon, Target.com, Toys “R” Us, Walmart.com


House of Boing (University Games)

• Fill your life with Boing! House of Boing is the game that mixes speed, dexterity, and fast thinking. The first player to empty his or her room of balls wins! House of Boing features 10 games to wow your next party, including House of Boing, Top Boing, Team Boing, Long Boing, and more. With its elegant design, House of Boing may be enjoyed as a work of art or played as a challenging addition to any game room.

• Fun for 2 to 4 players.

• Age: 12+

• MSRP: $24.99

• Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AreYouGame.com


Merge Cube (Merge VR)

• The Merge Cube is the world’s first holographic object kids can hold in the palm of their hand. Kids can play, learn, and explore in magical new ways.

• Download apps using a tablet or smartphone at www.MergeCube.com, view the cube through your device's camera, and watch the Merge Cube come to life as it transforms.

• The Merge Cube experience can be upgraded by selecting the optional virtual reality mode and sliding a smartphone into virtual reality goggles to be completely immersed in holographic worlds.

• Ages: 10+

• MSRP for cube: $14.99 (MSRP for headset: $59.99)

• Available: Walmart


Who’s The Dude (Identity Games)

• Players can play charades with “The Dude,” a life size inflatable man-doll, while the other players try to guess within the time limit what you and the Dude are doing.

• Using the charade cards, player act out scenes from a movie, a sport, or a profession.

• The game includes 440 charade cards, 50 score sheets and different ways to play.

• Age: 16+

• MSRP: $24.99

• Available: Target


NERF RIVAL Nemesis MXVII-10K Blaster (Hasbro)

• Kids can dominate blaster battles with the NERF RIVAL Nemesis MXVII-10K blaster.

• This blaster has a 100-round capacity to outlast the competition.

• The fully-automatic NEMESIS MXVII-10K blaster features the first-ever easy load hopper for high-speed reloads, and is compatible with the Nerf Rival rechargeable battery pack (sold separately).

• Ages: 14+

• MSRP: $99.99

• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart


Princess Cakes Deluxe Baking Set (Skyrocket)

• The Real Cooking Princess Cakes Deluxe Baking Set makes it easy to bake and decorate with tools, cake mix and step-by-step instructions. Add your own fresh eggs, butter and milk. Create perfectly proportioned cakes, tailor-made for two stunning princess cake toppers. Use the set’s simple utensils to dress your princesses in tasty fondant frills and sparkly sprinkles.

• Specialty utensils are real and can be used again when baking other treats at home.

• Food contents: Cake mix, pink fondant, green fondant, and two sprinkle pouches.

• Includes a specialty pan, roller, cutters, cake stand, and rolling mat.

• Comes with doll cake toppers for a pink princess and green fairy princess with wings.

• Age: 6+

• MSRP: $29.99

• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Locksmith Company Accused of Damaging Property, Overcharging]]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 04:45:55 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/car-door-handle-generic.jpg

Lockouts are the worst, especially for a busy nursing student like Jordan Cornelson.

"I looked in the door, and I realized that I couldn't get in and my keys were in the cupholder," she explained.

Cornelson Googled Dallas locksmith services and came across Supreme Locksmith.

Its website said "Our expert team of emergency locksmith professionals are trained and experienced in using the latest technology and locksmith techniques."

So, she gave them a call.

"I just said you know I locked my keys in my car I need some help," she said she told them.

Cornelson said the locksmith arrived in about 15 minutes.

"He seemed really nice. He just came over, kind of gave me the spiel of everything he was going to do," she said. 

She said he told her the job would cost $100 up front, and if anything happened during the service, she was completely covered under their warranty. She agreed to move forward, and the locksmith got to work.

"He immediately is having trouble and he says it's the hardest car he's ever had to unlock," she said.

Cornelson took a Snapchat video while he worked on her car. She said it took 30 minutes, but when he finally got it opened, she noticed her door "didn't look right."

She said the frame was bent and it wouldn't close properly. Her window was also damaged, as it wouldn't stay up.

"He said 'your door is kind off of your frame. Don't worry, we'll completely cover this,'" she said. 

Cornelson said the locksmith told her he'd give her $50 off and a manager would call to start the claim process, but that never happened. So she called Supreme Locksmith about the damage and her claim. She said the person on the phone told her "they don't do that," and she'd have to deal with the locksmith directly.

Problem is, that locksmith blocked her phone number and she said Supreme Locksmith won't tell her who he is or how she can find him.

Meanwhile, a mechanic told Cornelson the repairs will cost about $200.

"Now, I just kind of feel helpless," she said.

When the NBC 5 Responds team examined her documents, we noticed something strange:

Her receipt says 24/7 Mobile Locksmith, her credit card statement says Avenue Locksmith, but remember, the name on the website says Supreme Locksmith.

"They currently have 55 complaints with the BBB," said Kelle Slaughter, Director of Investigations with the Better Business Bureau.

She said the BBB has been looking into three years worth of complaints.

"In total, I believe we have seven different names that this company is operating under," Slaughter explained. "It is unusual for a legitimate locksmith company to have these types of complaints."

The BBB notified the Texas Department of Public Safety. DPS told NBC 5 Responds it has opened a formal investigation into the companies’ business practices. The Texas Attorney General’s office tells us it is also aware of complaints.

We called Avenue Locksmith and Supreme Locksmith about Cornelson's damaged door. A manager told us they're not liable for any damage. They're just a dispatch and the locksmiths are subcontractors. The manager also said the consumer would have to resolve her issues with "John," the locksmith.

When we called "John", he answered. But when NBC 5's Samantha Chatman told him who she was, he hung up the phone and then blocked her number, too.

We also tried calling the registered owner of Avenue Locksmith, a Dallas man named Matan Abehasira.

We didn't hear back, so Chatman paid the Avenue Locksmith office in Dallas a visit.

Chatman was told no one could answer her questions, and she was asked to leave.

Just hours after we visited the Avenue Locksmith offices, we found big changes on the supreme locksmith website.

Near the top, the site now calls it a "dispatch," telling customers "let one of our customer service representatives connect you with an independent contractor."  

At the bottom, it's now called a "locksmith dispatch service."

The line about their "expert team" of locksmiths is now gone. It's been replaced with lines about how Supreme Locksmith dispatch puts the customer first.

A section labeled "trusted locksmith services" has transformed into a disclaimer, warning customers to get all of the locksmith’s information and that service and charges may vary from the cost estimate.

They've also added a line saying it's up to the customer to ask the locksmith for their license and insurance.

If you're going to hire a locksmith, here are Samantha Chatman's solutions:

  • ALWAYS CHECK REVIEWS ONLINE.
  • CHECK THE TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY’S WEBSITE TO SEE IF A LOCKSMITH IS LICENSED.
  • ASK YOUR LOCKSMITH TO SHOW YOU HIS POCKET CARD.  IT’S A FORM OF ID THAT ALL REGISTERED LOCKSMITHS MUST HAVE. 

If you have a consumer complaint, click here.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Tips for Navigating Through Airline Delays and Cancellations]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 18:48:59 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ATL-airport-recovery.jpg

Thousands of passengers were left stranded on Sunday as after an electrical fire shut down operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for more than 10 hours.

Delta Air Lines is the major carrier in Atlanta, the world's busiest airport, but Dallas-based Southwest Airlines is a strong second — operating a significant number of flights there.

Southwest has also offered refunds on any flights that were canceled. Driving has been the preferred alternative for many of the affected passengers, but rental car inventory is now running low at the airport, which handles about 250,000 passengers every day.

So what can you do to avoid being stuck in a similar situation?

Distance yourself from the airport: If you can't fly out and you can't get a car, find a hotel or some place farther out. You could have more luck finding a rental at some of the local offices away from the airport.

Distance is still OK when negotiating with the airline: Most people think they have to talk to a worker at the airport when their flight is canceled. It's not true, but speed matters. Get online or on your phone and try to negotiate some way to there or get your money back. Sometimes you can get through to help faster on the phone, than waiting on the few kiosks operating in the airport.

Pack wisely: It may sound silly, but no matter where you're traveling, be sure to pack a portable cellphone charger in your carry-on luggage. You may also want to include a few snacks and even an empty water bottle that you can fill up and keep on you as you deal with delays over the holidays.

Don't be afraid to ask: Ask your carrier for a refund, to travel on another airline, or simply to speak with a manager — whatever it takes.

If you're scheduled to fly to Atlanta, and are concerned about your flight, most major airlines are helping consumers come up with alternative plans.

We've compiled the following links for you to quickly find a flight status or learn how to make changes.

Check Flight Status:

Make Changes:



Photo Credit: David Goldman/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Toys That Promote Fitness and Movement ]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:56:35 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz5-+fit+toys_KXASFQ94_2017-12-18-05-13-25.jpg

Y Glider Deluxe XL (Yvolution)

• The Y Glider XL Deluxe features three adjustable steering levels to best suit each child’s experience based on their steering comfort.

• Children can personalize their scooter with a changeable deck comes available in three colors and colorful wheel inserts.

• The extra wide rear wheel provides control and stability.

• Folding adjustable handlebars make for easy transport.

• Age: 5-8

• MSRP: $89.99

• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart


Unicorn 6V Plush Ride-On (DynaCraft)

• This Unicorn ride-on makes real unicorn sounds.

• It has soft plush material with a light up horn, realistic reins, and unicorn hair.

• A play stable included.

• The unicorn reaches a 2.5 MPH max speed and has a 6 volt battery and charger included.

• Ages: 3+

• MSRP: $149.99

• Availability: Walmart


Razor Hovertrax 2.0 (Razor)

• Whether you're riding around your neighborhood or cruising to a friend's place, Hovertrax 2.0 offers the performance and maneuverability you need to make every ride a blast!

• Our exclusive EverBalance™ technology provides an intelligently-engineered, state-of-the-art, self-balancing experience for an easier mount and smoother ride, every time.

• Up to 60 minutes of continuous use, with a cruise speed of 8mph.

• No assembly required, includes battery charger.

• Maximum rider weight of 220 lbs.

• Available in red, blue, white, black, or green.

• Age: 8+

• MSRP: $399.99

• Available: Amazon, hayneed.co, Kmart, Toys “R” Us, Walmart


Ultra Dash (PlayMonster)

• Ultra Dash is a fast-paced action game that uses lights and targets to encourage children to test their speed, skills, memory, and teamwork.

• The active play game provides a thrilling rush of excitement as kids race to match the color of the flashing light on their tagger to the color of the targets.

• Colors flash randomly and players can change their target course, so it’s a different game each time.

• Designed for one or more players or teams.

• Age: 6+

• U.S. MSRP: $19.99

• Canadian MSRP: $24.93

• Available: Target, Toys R Us, Walmart


Fisher Price Bouncesational Bouncer (Bestway)

• The Bouncer is a brightly colored bounce house where little ones can learn their colors while playing.

• The bouncer is complete with 50 play balls and a built-in pump.

• The entrance allows kids easy access to the Bouncer, helping to improve motor skills as they crawl in and out.

• The side walls and mesh windows create a safe place for kids to play and allow for adults to easily supervise them. The 50 play balls, which come included, provide a way for kids to learn to catch and throw, improving hand-eye coordination. The built-in pump makes it super easy to inflate and deflate the Bouncesational Bouncer– simply place the house where you please, connect to a plug-in and watch as it inflates in less than 4 minutes.

• When kids are done, the auto-deflate option makes for an easy clean-up. With an inflatable floor, kids have a soft, cushioned area for playing. The Bouncer also helps children learn balance and coordination as they bounce up and down with their friends.

• Inflatable bounce house measures 69 in. x 68 in. x 53 in. and is good for indoor use as well.

• Ages: 3-6

• MSRP: $69.99

• Available: Walmart (Nov. 24, 2017)


Super Wubble Brite (NSI)

• It looks like a bubble, plays like a ball – and now it lights up the night. Squeeze it, whack it, throw it, bounce it – even sit on it! It floats, wobbles, dribbles, spins, and smashes – all while putting on a light show.

• Made from a squishy, squashy, super soft and lightweight Xpandium, Super Wubble Brite can be inflated to 2 1/2 feet tall and changes colors.

• When kids kick, bounce or throw a Wubble, it wobbles like a bubble – it doesn't stay perfectly round.

• It doesn't hurt to get hit with a Wubble. The squooshy material literally molds around, like it's giving a big hug.

• Super Wubble is designed to be four times stronger and more tear-resistant than the original.

• Age: 6+

• MSRP: $24.99

• Available: Target, Toys “R” Us, WubbleBall.com

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<![CDATA[Fake Fingerlings Are Popping Up at Online Stores]]>Mon, 18 Dec 2017 04:08:41 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/194*120/fingerling.JPG

You can't find Fingerlings online or in stores around North Texas, but parents are still desperate to find the hot new interactive toy monkey that sits on your child's finger.

Reesa Peck knew her son and niece would fall in love with Fingerlings.

"I'm not going to get caught not getting the hot Christmas item this year. So, I went online to see who had them. A lot of places said they had them but didn't have them in stock in the store, so I went on the Walmart website," Peck said.

She found and ordered four Fingerlings, paying just over $100. The first one was great, but the next had a problem.

"The second one that I receive came in not as a Fingerling but as a Happy Monkey. Not the color, not looking like it, not the brand, nothing like that," Peck said.

The same thing happened to a NBC producer, also ordering from Walmart.com and getting a fake.

They look like the real thing, and the packaging is nearly identical to the Fingerlings.

It's not until you compare it to authentic Fingerlings that you see the major difference: the name "Fingerlings" is missing on the packaging, replaced with things like Happy Monkey or Finger Monkey.

There are also safety concerns, as fakes don't go through federal safety inspections.

"The two concerns with counterfeit products are, one, they could provide a choking hazard, particularly if there are small parts. The second concern is that there are unhealthy toxins in the product," said Emily Rusch, of the California Public Interest Research Group.

Phylissia Clark, with the Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas, says they've gotten complaints from Texans who ordered Fingerlings and got fakes or never got anything at all.

She says sometimes crooks set up fake websites just to steal your credit card information.

Even though both Reesa and the NBC producer bought from Walmart.com, the site includes items sold by third parties — not just Walmart.

Walmart booted some sellers from its site, saying it has "zero tolerance" for people selling fake goods.

They also gave Reesa and the producer a refund.

Fingerlings are made by Wow Wee, whose company name should be on the packaging for any real Fingerling you buy.

As for finding one, many retailers — including Walmart — have ways to sign up for alerts when a product comes back in stock.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: 3-Second Lash Magnetic Eyelashes]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:57:42 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/magnetic+lash.JPG

You can find Lariza Moreno on YouTube, helping others with makeup and beauty tips so they can look their best.

"Every little girl loves makeup, watching their mom put on makeup. So that's how I learned, kind of," Moreno said. "I wasn't blessed with big long lashes, so I wear lashes almost every single day."

She has heard of new magnetic lashes but hadn't given them a try just yet.

We already tried 3 Second Brow, and were pleasantly surprised how it worked, so when I saw the 3 Second Lash we scooped them up.

"We're putting a lash on top, one of the bottom, and your lash will be in the middle and the magnets will sandwich together," Moreno explained.

She felt the 3 Second Lash took way too long to get on. Since there's no glue when you put that first lash on, there's nothing to hold it in place. So if you blink, it's gone.

The makers recommend using mascara to help, but Moreno didn't think it did much good, not to mention in the corners the lashes didn't follow the shape of the eyelid.

"For someone starting to wear lashes and they're starting to experiment, they're going to pick these up and they're going to be turned off," Moreno said.

The 3 Second Lash did not get Moreno's stamp of approval.

The manufacturer told us there is a learning curve to using 3 Second Lash. Perhaps our tips and tricks page may provide some help with the application.

This reporter tried them out, too, just for giggles. They actually fit a bit better on my eyes, but still were pretty obvious. We got the opinion of some of the people in the office, and you can see that video below.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Ooey, Gooey Squish Toys For Kids]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 07:04:34 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/squish-toys-holiday-responds.jpg

Makin Station by Compound Kings (WeCool)
• A DIY set for making more than 1 lb of super stretchy squishy like slime compound with just two ingredients: powder and water. That’s all that’s needed to make the slime – no glue required.
• The set includes everything needed to make the slime: the Makin Station that mixes up the powder and water to create the compound plus 16 slime powder packets (4 each of orange, blue, purple and green) plus 6 glitter packets (1 each of gold, pink, silver, blue, purple, green), 10 storage pods and a measuring cup.
• Age: 4+
• MSRP: $19.99
• Available: BJ's, Toys “R” Us

Smooshy Mushy (RedwoodVentures)
• Smooshy Mushy from RedwoodVentures is part of the newest collectible craze, full of exciting, super squishy, slow-rise surprises.
• Each Smooshy Mushy series includes one of eight randomly assorted pets. Kids can unwrap the container to find out which scented Smooshy Mushy squishy surprise is inside.
• Every pet has a Bestie they can’t live without so kids should keep searching to find out, which tiny squishy • “Bestie” is their pets BFF. Sets also come with a “what’s your smooshy name?” game, a nametag, mini container, stickers, and a collectible poster.
• Kids can collect 24 food-themed Smooshy Mushy Pets to discover, squish, and trade with their friends.
• Age: 5+
• MSRP: $9.99
• Available: Walmart

YOUniverse Galactic Gel Candles (Horizon Group)
• With the YOUniverse Galactic Gel Candles kit, create fun, slimy, gloopy, gels and then turn them into candles.
• Children will learn the science of how mixing compounds together can create something totally new, all while making something fun for them to put on display.
• Age: 6+
• MSRP: $12.97
• Available: Walmart

Oonies Starter Kit (Moose Toys)
• Oonies give kids a new way to create. Kids can take an Oonies pellet, place it in the inflator, and watch it magically grow into an Oonie.
• They stick to each other so kids can make amazing creatures and designs! No glue, no water, no mess—just air filled balls of amazing fun.
• The Oonies Starter pack has everything needed to make awesome Oonies with enough pellets to make six Oonie designs.
• They're not a bubble, they're not a balloon, they’re Oonies!
• Ages: 5+
• MSRP: $19.99
• Available:  Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

Squish-Dee-Lish (Jakks Pacific)
• Squish-Dee-Lish are super cute slow-rise squishies that are fun to squeeze and to collect.
• Series 1 combines adorable animals with dee-lish foods and has 24 styles to collect.
• Designs include a panda on top of pancakes, a sherbert bird, a pear bear, and so many more!
• Each blind foil bag contains one squishy.
• Age: 6+
• MSRP: $4.99
• Available: Toys “R” Us, Walmart

Mash’Ems (Tech 4 Kids)
• Mash’Ems are the super squishy, super stretchy, must-have collectible that kids love! Twist’em, Squish’em and Collect’em! Each Mash’Em comes in a blind capsule, adding the element of surprise every time you open one up!
• Available in a variety of licensed characters like Paw Patrol and The Avengers.
• Tech4Kids is excited to introduce Thomas and Friends for the first time as Mash’Ems!
• MSRP: $2.99
• Ages: 4+
• Available: Toys R Us, Walmart and Target



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[What Does the 'Net Neutrality' Decision Mean for You?]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:58:00 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/computer+generic2.JPG

The FCC voted Thursday to repeal restrictions put in place by the Obama administration on how internet service providers manage the internet.

Most consumers get their internet from a cable television provider or phone provider, and to look at what those companies could do to the internet without the regulations, let's look at how they handle TV service.

Right now, TV providers sell you packages.

If you want to watch Bravo! or MSNBC, you have to purchase a specific bundle to get those channels and you pay extra for that.

Some groups worry the FCC vote will allow companies to charge you in a similar fashion to surf the web.

The fear is you might have to pay extra to visit something simple like youtube.com or cough up more money if you choose to watch shows on streaming services like Netflix or Hulu.

Suku Nair, professor of virtualization at Southern Methodist University, says those concerns are legitimate but that there are benefits, too.

He says there's incentive for investment in faster, better internet service and says we will likely see new competition and new internet offerings.

Internet providers like Spectrum, AT&T, COX, and NBC's parent company, Comcast, would have the ability to build fast and slow lanes on the internet.

Lobbyists for the internet service providers say the fears about the internet becoming more like cable TV are unfounded.

"Consumers care that their content isn't blocked, their content isn't throttled. Those principles existed before the current rules and they're gonna exist after," said Jonathan Spalter, of US Telecom, which represents telecommunications-related businesses.

While the companies say it won't happen, Thursday's repeal does mean there is nothing to stop it.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns this television station.



Photo Credit: Fairfax Media via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Educational STEM Toys For Kids]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:10:58 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+stem+toys_KXASFOS7_2017-12-14-05-16-23.jpg

Barbie Fundamental Chemistry Set (Thames & Kosmos)

• This colorful carrying case is a portable science lab with numerous tools and materials for science experiments.
• As kids read the story in the illustrated manual, they can experiment with six fun, safe potions and concoctions, each demonstrating important scientific principles.
• Learn the chemistry and physical science behind all the special properties of these potions.
• Ages: 4+
• MSRP: $29.95
• Available: Amazon, Toys “R” Us

LEGO BOOST Creative Toolbox (LEGO)

• The LEGO BOOST app guides children through a build-and-code experience in a series of game-like challenges.
• Kids can build and customize Vernie, their own personal talking robot friend, code its behavior, and complete fun activities with the included play mat.
• When kids speak to Vernie, it will respond with facial expressions that reflect its mood.
• Vernie can move in all directions at variable speed on its large tracts, see objects and colors, sense distance, grip and carry accessories, make hand gestures and launch darts from its shoulder mounted shooter.
• Vernie also senses and reacts to impacts and knows when you pick it up.
• Rebuild Vernie to create the M.T.R.4 (Multi-Tooled Rover 4), Guitar4000, Frankie the Cat, or the AutoBuilder, all controlled via a tablet with the free downloadable app that also includes digital LEGO
• Ages: 7-12
• MSRP: $159.99
• Available: Online at shop.lego.com and LEGO brand retail stores

LeapFrog Epic Academy Edition (LeapFrog)

• LeapFrog Epic Academy Edition is packed with kid-appropriate, on-board learning content, including 20 learning games that explore a range of subjects and skills and a free trial of LeapFrog Academy.
• Kid-safe right out of the box, the LeapSearch web browser lets kids safely surf the Internet and parental controls allow parents to add Android apps as their kids advance.
• Ages: 3-9
• MSRP: $119
• Available: Toys “R” Us, Amazon, Walmart, Target

GearZooz Roll & Roar Animal Train (VTech)

• Kids can be the conductor of their own adventures with GearZooz Roll & Roar Animal Train.
• Children can create their own unique train by mixing and matching the 15 included gears while strengthening their fine motor skills and problem solving techniques. Put the Smart Gear animals on the pegs to learn about animals.
• Press the buttons to listen to different instruments or answer kid-friendly quiz questions and move the slider to explore different locations. Little ones can push the train or pull the string to watch the gears spin and move together.
• Age: 18 mos.+
• MSRP: $29.99
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

Discovery 3D Motion Sandscape (Horizon Group)

• Kids can create their own constantly evolving sandscapes by filling the observation tank with sand and water with this 3D Motion Sandscape kit.
• Age: 12+
• MSRP: $19.99
• Available: Michael’s

IMAGINE: Power & Play Motorized 50 Model Building Set (K’NEX)

• The Power & Play Motorized Building Set comes with 50 unique building ideas and a reusable storage box.
• Kids can use the included full-color instructions to construct cars, planes, robots and more, or use their imaginations to create their own exciting model.
• Includes more than 530 classic made-in-the-U.S. pieces.
• Ages: 7+
• MSRP: $49.99
• Available: Amazon, knex.com

]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Says She Was Sold Old iPhone That She Thought Was New]]>Wed, 13 Dec 2017 18:37:33 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/215*120/iphone+generic.JPG

When you shell out hundreds of dollars for a smartphone, you expect it to last. But a Dallas woman says that wasn't the case for her, so she called NBC 5 Responds for help.

Marilyn Dietz bought an iPhone 6 in May for her daughter. She believed it was slightly used, saying the store clerk at Metro PCS told her someone bought it and brought it back with 24 hours during the refund period.

Dietz got a discount and said things were great at first. But a few months later, she says the phone started dying even with a 100-percent full battery.

They brought it to the Apple Store in Southlake.

According to a document Dietz received, the techs at the store's Genius Bar reported her phone was in fact three years old. Its battery had been charged hundreds of times and was so old it needed to be replaced.

Dietz tried for weeks to get the issue fixed with Metro PCS but was told the owner of the store hadn't made a decision.

We reached out to the corporate office, and soon the problem was solved.

Metro PCS wouldn't comment to us, citing customer privacy, but Dietz told us she got a new phone and an apology from corporate.

You can't change the battery on an iPhone. Before you buy a used one, confirm the return policy in case the battery turns out to be a dud.

NBC 5 Responds can help you too if you're in a similar situation. Just click here.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Update: Local Contractor Pleads Guilty to Theft]]>Wed, 13 Dec 2017 06:48:51 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/tlmd-mario-vila-conmtratista-detenido-texas.jpeg

A local contractor accused of stealing from homeowners across the state has pleaded guilty.

Mario Vila pleaded guilty to class a misdemeanor theft in Collin County.

He was initially charged with exploitation of a child, elderly or disabled person, but the charge was reduced in his plea deal.

The Collin County District Attorney's office told NBC 5 Responds that before they reached the deal, Vila paid his two victims back in full, totaling $6,600.

As part of the plea deal, Vila was also sentenced to 15 months probation with 40 hours of community service.

The contractor will also have to complete an anti-theft class.

Vila recently pleaded guilty to theft charges in Tarrant County.

He admitted to taking deposits from customers and never coming back to finish the jobs.

In that case in Tarrant County, he was ordered to pay his victims back, totaling $39,900.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[No, Southwest Isn't Giving Free Tickets to Everyone]]>Tue, 12 Dec 2017 07:14:51 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/southwest+airlines+plane.JPG

You may have seen a voucher popping up on your Facebook timeline or Twitter feed, saying: "Southwest Airline is gifting two free tickets to everyone to celebrate their 95th anniversary."

Once you click on the link, you're then directed to take a survey and you're instantly a winner. All you have to do is share the good news with your friends on Facebook and click the "like" button.

When we hit the like button, our system found a security threat, including a malicious URL.

This "promotion" isn't real.

Southwest Airlines confirms this is a hoax and said they're taking formal steps to stop them. They say they're not even celebrating their 95th anniversary.

They've only been flying for 47 years.

Here's another clue: The title says Southwest "Airline" when it should be "Airlines;" plural.

So if you ever see a promotion that you're interested in, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Call the company to see if it's legit.

• Check the web address. That's usually another dead giveaway.

• If it seems too good to be true, chances are, it probably is.

We emailed Facebook. They've started looking into this ticket post. They want to remind everyone, if you spot fake posts like this, report it so they can take action.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Agencies Warn of Phony Computer Tech Support Groups]]>Mon, 11 Dec 2017 17:44:30 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/219*120/computer+keyboard.JPG

Tech support fraud is a growing issue, experts say.

The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission say they've been studying phony computer tech support groups who take advantage of people.

This happens when crooks put software on your computer, saying it's infected with a virus, and then they want money to fix it.

People are getting pop-up windows that play messages asking you to call a certain number and pay money to get your computer repaired.

The BBB and FTC are working together to help keep track of the issues. They warn that companies won't ask you to call a phone number to unlock your computer.

MORE:If you'd like more information from the BBB on how to protect yourself from this issue, click here.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas Man Raises Concerns About Gas Leak in '17 Dodge]]>Tue, 12 Dec 2017 06:53:28 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dodge-gas-leak-charger.jpg

Fontayne Payton was instantly sold on his 2017 Dodge Charger, from it's sharp color to its muscular build. But about a month after the purchase, he said he started noticing a gas smell.

"I was driving to work and I started smelling it come through the vents," said Payton. "I said this is, something's not right."

He took the car back to Dallas Dodge, the dealership that sold him the Charger. He said a service technician immediately noticed the gas smell, too.

They checked the fuel pump under his backseat and discovered a puddle of fuel leaking from the pump.

"I was frustrated because I was thinking, OK, this is a brand new car," Payton recalled. "I shouldn't have any of these type of problems and especially something like this."

According to the service report, the fuel pump housing cracked, leading to the leak. So, they replaced the fuel pump module and installed a new seal. Payton said they also replaced his back seats because they were soaked in fuel.

He thought his troubles were over, but after filling his tank about a week later, he said the smell returned. When he checked under his seat, he said he saw another puddle of gasoline.

"Here we go again," he said.

The service department identified yet another gas leak. The second service report said they found the fuel pump seal and retainer ring weren't installed correctly.

So they fixed it. But Payton said when he picked up the car, it still smelled like gasoline. 

"Any moment now, the car could probably just blow," he said.

He took the car in two more times for the same problems. Payton said he was sent home with makeshift coffee bags to help cover the smell.

"I laughed because I'm riding around with coffee bags in the car. It's crazy," he said.

Payton believed his vehicle was covered under the Texas Lemon Law and the Serious Safety Hazard Test.

Under this law, a vehicle passes that test if it's been taken to the dealership to repair a serious safety hazard two or more times during the first two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Payton brought this information to the dealership, but said the dealership disagreed, telling him he'd have to trade in his car if he wanted a new one.

That would cost him thousands of dollars, which Payton believed was unacceptable.

The NBC 5 Responds team called Dallas Dodge to find out what was wrong with Payton's car and why he wasn't offered a new one.

The general manager told us he wasn't happy about what happened, and had he known there were issues they wouldn't have sold him the car. But, at the end of the day, they don't build the car and he told me we'd have to talk the manufacturer for additional information.

So we called Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA. We received this statement:

"FCA US is working with this customer to resolve his concerns. We take seriously all such concerns and routinely monitor the performance of our vehicles in the field by tracking customer inquiries, and reviewing data streams from multiple sources."

Unable to agree on a resolution, arbitration followed.

In the arbitrator's findings, he said, "As I walked up to the vehicle, there was a very strong smell and when I sat inside the vehicle to check the odometer, the gas smell was very strong inside of the vehicle."

That arbitrator sided with Payton, saying the conditions impair "both the use and safety of this vehicle."

After hearing from both sides, the arbitrator ruled that Payton would receive a full refund for the amount he paid for the vehicle in addition to all other fees, such as tax, title and license.

But, he was told he must pay for the miles he racked up before the first repair, a fee of about $1,400. After this story aired Monday morning, Payton said he got a call from Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles saying that he would no longer have to pay the mileage fee.

"I can finally get my money back and get out of this car and get a new car that actually smells like a new car," Payton said.

We looked into fuel odors and leaks involving Dodge Chargers and found more than 50 complaints on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website.

Most of these reports stemmed from the 2011 dodge charger, but a NHTSA spokesperson said there have been no recalls.

For more information on the Texas Lemon Law, click here.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Make Sure 'Collection Companies' Aren't Making Up Your Debt]]>Fri, 08 Dec 2017 22:38:28 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/cell+phones+generic.JPG

The calls can keep coming and get aggressive when collection agencies are working to get people who are behind on their bills to pay up.

Tiffany Schunn panicked when her mom and dad told her a man called saying Tiffany was about to get sued over a bill she hadn't paid. She immediately called the number back.

The caller told her that she had taken out a payday loan of $300 back in 2010 and never paid it back. 

Tiffany said she only took out one payday loan in her life and that was when she was in college and it was repaid immediately.

She got calls at her house and work telling her this was a recent payday loan, but Tiffany swore it wasn't hers.

"I said, 'I want to see documentation that I signed requesting a loan.' They said, "We can't give you that,"' said Schunn.

The Consumer Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that information be provided. It also forbids collection agencies from calling you at work, but only if you tell them to stop. That's something Tiffany said she did.

We tried to get to the bottom of the calls but that was complicated.

The first call claimed the collection agency was Fi-ber Financial of Georgia but we found no company under that name is registered in that state.

Tiffany also got another email and it gave this physical address for the company on the email, but it's really just a mailbox at a UPS store.

Yet another email came from Chaplain Financial, a real business, but state records show it shut down earlier this year long before Tiffany started getting these calls.

She's not the only one.

The Better Business Bureau of Metro Atlanta has given Chaplain Financial a failing grade saying they've been investigating the company after getting 13 similar complaints about payday loan bills with no documentation to prove they exist. The BBB said no one with the organization ever calls or writes them back.

NBC 5 Responds called too. We repeatedly got voicemails for the company, but when we finally got someone to pick up the phone they hung up as soon as we told them who we were. They never answered our calls again. 

"They did such a good job at convincing me that this was my debt," said Schunn.

Schunn said they were high-pressure and clearly had her credit report, knowing previous addresses and bank accounts she had. But they followed no rules to give her information about the debt and threatened her with lawsuits and arrest, something she knew wasn't right.

"I feel like I know what I've done and what I haven't done, but what if my Grandma had received this phone call or what if my mom or dad received it on them," said Schunn.

Schunn believes whoever called her received her personal information from her credit report. Cyber security attacks have a lot of our personal information out there. Even if you lock your credit report, that just protects you from getting new accounts opened in your name. It doesn’t stop people from taking the already leaked information and using it against you.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office as well as the Georgia Attorney General say they’re beginning to look into the company.

If you get a call from a debt collector, the BBB said there are several things you should know:

  • Ask for an official “validation notice.” You are entitled to know the amount of the debt and where it is from.
  • Ask for a name, address and company name from the caller, then confirm the collection agency is real.
  • If a company uses multiple names, that’s a red flag, and you should do more research.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if the caller uses threats.
  • Under the Consumer Fair Debt Collection Act, collection agencies cannot call you at work once you tell them to stop.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Window Wonderland]]>Fri, 08 Dec 2017 17:46:58 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/window+wonderland+projector.JPG

The holiday season is upon us, and North Texans love to show our holiday spirit by putting up lights and decorations on our homes. We Let Wayne Buy the Window Wonderland to see if it can bring your holiday decorating up a notch.

You've likely seen the Star Shower Laser Light Show, the mini projector you stick in your yard that projects thousands of little tiny lights all over your house. It was one of the hottest pre-holiday products last year.

Well, this year the company is back at it with the Window Wonderland.

The product promises to turn your windows into mini movie screens, showing images of Santa walking through your home, or just some festive holiday scenes.

We tried the Window Wonderland out with some kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Prairie, and they knew all about it from seeing it advertised on TV.

But does it work?

First, we had to measure our window. I left that to the kids. We had to attach Velcro strips to the window and cut the screen to just the right size.

The kids felt it wasn't very pretty, but that's mainly my fault. They said I took too long to cut and place the screen. But if your attention span is longer than a third grader's, I think you'll be OK.

Once we placed the projector and flipped the switch in the classroom, they were loving it.

The kids did notice our projector was not as vivid and bright as it was on the commercial. Adjusting the focus was a two-person job, because one person has to be inside to adjust it while someone else is outside to tell you if it's clear.

So here's the question, would they want to spend money on it?

Charleston says, "We would totally spend our money on this, it takes a while but it's all worth it."



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Helps Man Get $750 Rebate From Samsung]]>Thu, 07 Dec 2017 17:42:01 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N5R_Rebate_Promise_2017_12_07_16_23_51.jpg

BOGO, buy one get one, deals are common for everything from fast food sandwiches to fares on a cruise.

Sam Paiboon saw a BOGO for a cellphone, so he bought two Samsung Galaxy S8 phones with the promise that he would get $750 back for one of the phones.

Paiboon sent in all the required paperwork and was promised a check back between seven and 14 days. It never happened.

He says he called Samsung repeatedly. Every time was told the same thing: wait another seven to 14 days.

He did that over and over again for 16 weeks, then he called NBC 5 Responds.

We got on the line with Samsung, and got him his cash back. Samsung called Paiboon's experience unusual and said they're happy to have resolved it.

They sent us a statement, saying, "We are reviewing this experience to try to ensure this doesn't happen again."

One of the things Paiboon did was kept calling the same number for help. Sometimes you have to do some digging and find another customer service number or location.

But when all else fails, you know who to call: NBC 5 Responds is here for you.

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<![CDATA['Secret Sister Gift Exchange' Is an Illegal Scam: BBB]]>Thu, 07 Dec 2017 08:26:16 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-630083944.jpg

Two holiday schemes have made their way back to social media and people are still falling for them.

The "Secret Sister Gift Exchange" and the "Wine Exchange" programs are getting a lot of traction this time of year. The Better Business Bureau calls them a pyramid scheme.

Here's an example of how it works. One post on Facebook had a user promoting the Secret Sister Gift Exchange by asking ladies to send one gift and promising they will receive 36 gifts in return. All you have to do is message this person for more information.

At first glance the post may look harmless, but a response to the post indicated the consumer reported she hadn't received anything in the mail.

Another user said on Facebook, "Send one gift and get 6+ gifts back." Someone else responded by saying "I did this about two weeks ago, and have not gotten a thing."

The same scheme appears true with the "Wine Exchange" program: Send one bottle of wine and you'll get 6 to 36 bottles in return.

The BBB is urging consumers not to believe the hype.

Gift exchanges are popular this time of year, but according to the U.S. Postal Service, this type of gift chain is illegal. It falls into the "chain letter" category.

"They don't work because the promise that all participants in a chain letter will be winners is mathematically impossible," the postal service said.

So if you're looking for a fun gift exchange activity, this one isn't the way to do it.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[New Minivan Stalls While Driving: Parents]]>Thu, 07 Dec 2017 04:06:37 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/chrysler+pacifica.jpg

There’s a push nationwide for a recall of more than 150,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans. Dozens of owners have filed complaints with the government that their vehicles are stalling while they're driving.

Imagine driving on the highway and suddenly your car just stalls. No power steering, no turn signals, and you can't accelerate to get out of the way of oncoming traffic.

This scenario is reportedly playing out across the country. Now, we're hearing from one mom who said it happened to her.

Adam and Allison Cohen purchased their minivan for the same reason many parents do, safety.

On two separate occasions, they say their 2017 Chrysler Pacifica lost power and stalled while Allison was driving with one of their children.

Allison Cohen describes the incident saying, “Your car is basically off, you don't have power steering, you can't accelerate and I was in the middle of an intersection in my neighborhood and my car just stops.”

The Cohens are one of more than 50 Pacifica minivan owners who've filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

One driver recorded his own incident after he safely pulled over. He said his 2017 Pacifica stalled while driving in the fast lane on a busy San Francisco freeway.

The Center for Auto Safety, along with the Cohens, filed a petition with NHTSA to investigate the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica for stalling issues.

The Center for Auto Safety’s Executive Director Jason Levine said, “What we want to see Chrysler do is 1. Get these cars off the road, 2. Give people a loaner, and 3. Figure out what the problem is and fix it.”

The Cohens refuse to drive their brand new Pacifica, which now is parked back at the dealership.

Adam Cohen explains why he came to us.

"I don't have the luxury to be patient and waiting for them to take action and Chrysler wasn't doing anything about it and that's when we decided to do something more.”

NBC Responds reached out to Chrysler. In a statement the company said,  "it's unaware of any injuries or accidents associated with these complaints ... in most of the complaints ... customers were able to restart their vehicles immediately thereafter, and the condition did not reoccur."

The Cohens told us Chrysler did offer to buy back their Pacifica. The driver who recorded the incident from San Francisco confirmed with us that Chrysler extended the same offer to him as well.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Retro Toys: Gifts That Are Making a Huge Comeback]]>Wed, 06 Dec 2017 07:02:41 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/retro-toys-consumer-responds.jpg

Laurie Schact, The Toy Insider blogger, details her top retro toys of the 2017 holiday season:

Teddy Ruxpin

  • The new 14-inch Teddy Ruxpin animatronic bear. He’s totally lovable, and brings magic and friendship to storytime with oodles of interactive technologies and features.
  • Teddy Ruxpin enjoys telling tales and singing songs with friends, making him the perfect companion for both little ones who love hearing stories, as well as older children just starting out on their reading journey.
  • He has colored LCD eyes with more than 40 different animations, and an animatronic mouth that syncs to Teddy’s speech.
  • Touch sensors allow kids to control the story and songs.
  • Teddy features three original pre-loaded stories, including seven sing-along songs.
  • There are two Modes of Play: With or without the free Teddy Ruxpin app (app is secondary). View the digital books to read along with Teddy using the storytime app, or kids can enjoy listening to TR’s stories without the app, anytime anywhere.
  • Ages: 3+
  • MSRP: $99.99
  • Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

Ultimate Voltron 14” Electronic Figure

  • With Ultimate Voltron, kids can battle the evil Galra forces with a highly detailed and feature-packed version of Voltron!
  • Ultimate Voltron features include: over 20 phrases and sounds, face and chest light up, "laser" projectile, incredible detail and articulation, and of course Voltron's sword!
  • Green Lion can fire "laser" projectile.
  • 26 points of articulation.
  • Age: 4+
  • MSRP: $39.99
  • Available: Amazon, Target, Toys R Us, Walmart

Mini Arcade Games

  • Replica mini arcade game, just like the originals! It's a blast from the past with this retro-styled mini arcade game! It looks, sounds and plays just like you remember with authentic 80’s graphics, sounds, and game play.
  • Available in: Qbert Mini Arcade Game, Centipede Mini Arcade Game, Frogger Mini Arcade Game
  • Move Qbert to each cube in the pyramid before he gets squashed by the bad guys in Qbert Mini Arcade Game.
  • Shoot down the Centipede before it gets you in Centipede Mini Arcade Game.
  • Move your frogs across the highway and river to safety in Frogger Mini Arcade Game.
  • Age: 8+
  • MSRP: $17.99
  • Available: Amazon, Target, Toys R Us, Walmart

LatchKits Craft Kids

  • The classic latch hook craft kit is back as LatchKits are a fun and easy-to-learn craft—just loop, hook, and pull.
  • Everything kids need is included: the handy latch hook tool, pre-cut yarn and color-coded, easy-to-follow canvas make getting started on a project a snap.
  • The sturdy canvas features fabric-lined edges and hanging loops to create soft and fuzzy design that’s ready to hang on the wall or use as a mini-rug.
  • Available in Unicorn or Rainbow designs.
  • Age: 6+
  • MSRP: $19.99
  • Available: Amazon

Giant Kerplunk

  • Don’t let the balls fall and go kerplunk! Play the giant sized version of this family favorite. Pick a colored stick and give it a soft tug. With steady nerves, a little skill, and a bit of luck, you can keep a lot of balls from going Kerplunk.
  • For 2 to 4 players.
  • Age: 5+
  • MSRP: $29.99
  • Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

Disney Puppets

  • These full body hand puppets come to life when you animate mouth and hands through the access point in the back. Find pockets in the gloves to wave, clap, and blow kisses.
  • The Mickey puppet is the essence of all things Disney, with his iconic red shorts, yellow-gold shoes, and white gloves.
  • The Minnie puppet is adorned in her classic vintage style, with polka-dot skirt over bloomers, over-sized high heeled pumps, white gloves, and flower in hat.
  • Also available are Donald, Pluto, and Goofy.
  • Age: 3+
  • MSRP: $73.99
  • Available: Amazon



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Cinemark Joins Others in Movie Membership Offering]]>Wed, 06 Dec 2017 03:57:54 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/cinemark+movie+club.jpg

Plano-based Cinemark announced Movie Club, a movie membership program that for $8.99 per month provides members a free ticket to a 2-D movie, the ability to reserve seats with no fees and a discount on concessions in the theater.

In a press release, Cinemark's CEO Mark Zoradi stated, "Based on the feedback we received, we designed Movie Club with all of the features and benefits that moviegoers desire most in a membership program without any of the hassle, enabling our guests to enjoy the moviegoing experience with their friends and family.”

The idea isn't new, Moviepass.com launched this year offering as many tickets as you like to any movie, any day for $9.95 per month.

Some users reported issues getting theaters to accept the card as the service first launched, but now report things have improved, moviepass.com said they have America's largest theater network with some 4,000 participating theaters nationwide.

Other cinemas offer membership programs offering frequent flyer-type deals for returning customers. Cinemark's program seems to combine the idea behind those with moviepass.com.

You can check out Moviepass' program on their website, and the same for Cinemark.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Toys 'R' Us Cancels Orders After Promo Code Glitch]]>Tue, 05 Dec 2017 06:58:06 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Toys+R+Us+1.jpg

North Texas consumers voiced concerns after their Toys 'R' Us orders were canceled because a promo code was "too good to be true."

Toys 'R' Us promo codes were posted online for 15, 20 and 25 percent off — not a bad if you're buying a lot of toys for your kids.

Shoppers were excited about these savings, but the next day, many shoppers received a follow-up email: "Some or all of the items from your order are currently unavailable. As a result-these item(s) Have been removed from your order."

Many customers were confused and didn't understand what was going on.

Shortly after, the toy retailer tweeted the following: "Yesterday, several promo codes intended only for our credit cardholders were improperly shared online and quickly went viral. This resulted in an overall deal that was simply too good to be true - as many have noted on social. Orders that should not have qualified for the deal have been cancelled. Credit cards will not be charged for cancellations."

We heard from consumers who were furious. One consumer sent us his order confirmation. He thought he was saving $129 on his order, only to find out the deal wasn't intended for him.

We asked Toys 'R' Us if they would honor the promo codes, but the company didn't budge. However, this isn't uncommon.

Last year, Walmart was advertising 75 inch TVs for $99.

Consumers across the country bought dozens at a time, but the company canceled the orders, saying it was an error.

So as you're shopping, if you see a deal that seems too good to be true, always screen shot the promotion and call the company to see if the sale is real.

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<![CDATA[Resolved: Man Gets Refund For Out Of Network Bill]]>Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:58:23 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-1512628091.jpg

When John Pearson got bloodwork done at Texas Health Physicians Group in Arlington, they sent his bloodwork to an out-of-network lab, even though there was an in-network lab available. Those issues were sorted out until Pearson went back again, and his labs were sent to the out-of-network lab once again and he was billed for it. NBC 5 Responds to help Pearson get his money back.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Refund Demanded After Canceled Christmas Tree Order]]>Mon, 04 Dec 2017 06:50:06 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz4-s-christmas+tree_KXASFKK0_2017-12-04-05-43-07.jpg

A Grand Prairie woman called NBC 5's Samantha Chatman after an online Christmas tree company failed to deliver her order and only offered a credit.

For Mary McDowell, the holidays are bittersweet. She lost her mother in 2010.

"There was one thing my mom had asked me on her death bed, and she said remember to keep our traditions alive," said McDowell.

That's why Christmas decorations are so important to McDowell.

"It just is empty without them. So having a tree is important to me," she explained.

Two years ago, she ordered a Christmas tree online from Five Star Christmas Tree Company.

"It was delivered without an incident. It was perfect," she said. "I've never seen a gorgeous tree like that and I was just thrilled."

This year, she decided to order from the same company, hoping for another gorgeous tree. She paid $75 and was told the tree would be delivered in November.

"Well, I had emailed the company asking where's my information about the tracking because it was getting close to thanksgiving," recalled McDowell.

She she got a reply saying the tracking numbers would be sent out on Black Friday.

"I waited. I waited all the way til Monday," said McDowell.

She never received her tracking number, so she sent the company another email and got this response: "We just received news that there is a supply issue in the Grand Prairie area and we will not be able to deliver your order this year. We apologize for the inconvenience. We will not be working with that local farm in the future."

But they weren't offering a refund; just a credit for $252.

"I don't want a credit. Just give me my money back so I can get a tree," she said.

The Five Star Christmas Tree website says they offer a money back guarantee on all of their products. But when McDowell asked about her refund, she said her response was silence.

Consumers across the country have a lot to say about Five Star Christmas Tree on Facebook. The company even has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau with dozens of negative complaints.

"I felt empty. I feel used," said McDowell. "$75 doesn't seem to be a lot these days, but to us it's $75. If that money is gone there is no tree this year."

We called Five Star Christmas Tree. A voicemail said to send an email for customer support. So we did that, asking the company about McDowell's tree, the negative complaints online and its F rating with the BBB.

We didn't get a response, but two hours later, McDowell did: "I have issued a refund to the payment method that you used when you ordered. You should receive confirmation by email shortly."

As she waits for her refund, she's pulled out an old plant as an alternative.

"I don't like it, but I've just got to punt and make do because that's what mom would've done," she said.

As of Monday, McDowell has not yet received her refund, but we'll be staying on top of this to make sure Five Star Christmas Tree follows through.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Help Prevent Tax Fraud By Learning About Common Schemes]]>Fri, 01 Dec 2017 22:59:36 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-504662110.jpg

Every year NBC 5 Responds warns you that cyber criminals could be working to steal your personal information and file tax returns in your name.

This year, thanks to all the data breaches out there, the criminals' work is a little easier.

This week several groups in North Texas are joining forces to fight back.

Major breaches of computers at Equifax and businesses like Sonic Restaurants have many of us wondering when and where we will get hit.

Cece Morgan, an executive with Intuit, the company behind TurboTax and Quicken, says, "We've made tremendous progress. There's more to do."

Morgan and executives from the Better Business Bureau, the IRS and area CPAs are joining forces to share information on scams and how hackers are targeting them.

Morgan says that crooks know that their company is hiring. These hackers send emails with resumes attached. When the resume is opened it downloads software onto the company's computers and logs their keystrokes.

Tax preparers are vulnerable. By hacking into a company's computers instead of yours at home, they get information on many people.

And thanks to the recent data breaches, these hackers could already have your information, which makes this year a little different. They may not target tax preparers and just file taxes in your name, or come to you to fill in the blanks on the bit of data they don't know.

Educating yourself on what hackers are doing is the best protection. Make sure you keep updated on many of the scams out there.

Take some time to learn why you should never pay for anything with a gift card, wire someone a check, or mail out W-2s or personal information, even if the emails look like it's coming from someone you know.

Having anti-virus software installed isn't enough. Make sure you also have a firewall, and that the sensitive files on your computer are encrypted.

The IRS says their investigators are on it to help protect you, too.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Hottest Toys of 2017]]>Fri, 01 Dec 2017 17:47:59 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Let_Wayne_Buy_It_2017_12_01_16_18_02.jpg

We put the Hottest Toys of 2017 in the hands of kids to see if they live up to their title.

Meet the team of testers: Alyssa, Alice, Alexis, Priscilla and her little sister, Cailyn. Those last two, they call me dad.

The kids only got one direction: jump in and have fun.

These third grade girls jumped at the karaoke machine inspired by tween sensation Jojo Siwa. Being a dad, I reminded them we already had a karaoke machine. My daughter Priscilla tried to convince me that the one she already had was completely different.

"You can't connect it to a phone to play your own. You can only play your CDs," she said.

Next up was the Aura Indoor Drone. It was like a hot potato — every kid wanted a turn.

Alyssa got worried that it might be too late for her to get the toy for Christmas.

"Um, I already gave Santa my Christmas list," she said. But she assured me that she would definitely add it to her list if she could.

While designed for indoors — beware. Ours wound up upside-down on a ledge of a 20 foot ceiling, and when we got it down the drone's housing cracked and it no longer flew.

We reached out to the makers of the drone because it was pretty cool. They said, "Aura despite its superpowers, is a toy-grade product and under certain rare circumstances the cage may become cracked or broken."

They said they have a support team to help you replace it, if it happens to you.

Other toys, like the Fur Real Roarin' Tyler the Tiger, got lots of attention.

My 3-year-old wasn't into the lifelike Baby Luvabella, but Alexis sure was.

"Well, she does open her mouth really well when you say, 'Open up'…or if you do the airplane to her, she'll open her mouth," Alexis said.

The girls were sad to see them go. There were tears when the tiger had to go back in the box.

Each hot toy had one thing in common: they're loud and sometimes need parental assistance.

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<![CDATA[The Hottest Toys of 2017]]>Fri, 01 Dec 2017 06:54:38 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-hot-toys-list.jpg

Luvabella/Luvabeau
• Luvabella is a loveable, life-like baby doll that comes in a variety of girl and boy doll options in different ethnicities.
• Children can care, nurture and play with Luvabella and Luvabeau using the doll’s interactive accessories and pacifier.
• From feeding time with her spoon, play time with her Lamby, to nap time with her bottle, Luvabella will respond with natural reactions. Kids can watch her laugh, blink, purse her lips and more.
• Feed her with her spoon and she’ll begin to chew and learn new food words.
• Ages: 3+
• MSRP: $99.99
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

FurReal Roarin' Tyler, The Playful Tiger
• Kids can bring home an adorable baby tiger to love, play with, and care for as their own.
• Make a noise or give a loud jungle roar and Tyler will roar back in response.
• Kids can enjoy playtime with him using his play chicken.
• Tyler features more than 100 sound and motion combinations with sensors on his forehead, back, and muzzle allowing him to respond to touch in fun ways.
• Kids can pull him up close to snuggle thanks to his moveable back legs, or nuzzle his cheek and he’ll respond with expressive eyes, sounds and tail movements.
• Ages: 4+
• MSRP: $129.99
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

JoJo CD + G Karaoke Machine
• This karaoke machine is inspired by the teen and tween sensation JoJo Siwa!
• Kids can access their music library and stream content with voice control.
• Users Connect to the TV and sing their hearts out to their favorite JoJo lyrics on screen using the included CD, featuring songs with and without guide vocals.
• The karaoke machine even features a multi-colored LED light show. Bluetooth wirelessly streams audio from any compatible device, and it also take calls with the included speakerphone.
• Ages: 6+
• MSRP: $69.99
• Available: Walmart exclusive

Shopkins Shoppies Super Mall

• Shoppies and their Shopkins friends can now ride the elevator lift and discover three levels of fun at the Shopville Super Mall.
• Kids can join their Shoppies and Shopkins for a movie, feeding their passion for style and fashion, and taking a seat for some treats in the food court.
• They can also swipe and shop with the VIP card checkout to make their Shopkins drop. The Super Mall includes a Food Court, Fashion Boutique, Beauty Parlor and Smart-Phone Cinema.
• Ages: 5+
• MSRP: $79.99
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart (10/2/17)

Lightseekers Starter Kit
• Lightseekers is an action-adventure role playing game built for mobile devices that fuses together fantasy and reality, integrating video games and smart action figures with the latest in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, interactive trading cards and more.
• The mini-computer, known as the FusionCore, is embedded within each action figure and is the “brains” behind the smart connected toys.
• Players can take their experience to another level, adding physical accessories to their figures and scanning trading cards with the Lightseekers game app to customize their gameplay.
• Add smart action figures with interchangeable weapons you can level-up.
• Scan augmented reality trading cards that give you special in-game abilities.
• Connect motion-controlled flight packs that turn your figure into a game controller.
• Ages: 8+
• MSRP: $69.99
• Available: Toys “R” Us

Aura Drone with Glove Controller
• Aura is a gesture-controlled drone that uses patented Gesturebotics technology powered by LocoRobo.
• The wearable glove controller will have users feeling like superheroes – the drone is controlled by hand motions made while wearing the glove.
• Kids can fly Aura up and down, forward and backward, and even perform tricks like a sideways flip.
• Aura puts the power in kids’ hands, removing the learning curve of using a joystick controller to pilot their flying robot.
• Automatic features like Auto Takeoff, Auto Hover and Auto Landing offer ultimate control for the perfect first flight right out of the box.
• Built-in height and distance limiters keep the drone under your power, and make Aura perfectly suited for indoor use.
• Safety frame protects the drone from bumps and drops, and people from propellers.
• Ages: 6+
• MSRP: $99.99



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Cable Customer Returns Equipment, Left With Billing Issue]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 06:49:04 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Spectrum+41.jpg

A North Texas woman says she waited months to have her money returned after returning her Spectrum equipment within the 30 day window.

Deborah and Joanna Maznaritz are mother and daughter. They live together and said cable and internet service is part of their everyday lives. They were looking for better service and heard about Spectrum's 30 Day Money-Back Guarantee program.

Here's how it works:

Spectrum lets you sign up for its services, and if you're not satisfied within the first 30 days, they'll give you your money back. But, you have to return your equipment.

When the ladies weren't satisfied and canceled their service, they returned their cable and internet boxes on time. They had already paid the first month's bill and expected to get their money back, but that didn't happen.

The ladies called Spectrum and were told the check was on the way, but eight months later, nothing.

So they called The NBC 5 Responds team to step in.

We reached out to Charter Communications, the parent company of Spectrum, and here's what it had to say:

"Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention...It appears that when the customer returned their equipment, the account was not disconnected correctly. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience."

We are happy to report that the ladies finally got their money back! Two checks totaling $247.

If you need to return your cable and internet equipment, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

•  Check your deadline. Make sure you know how long you have to return it and how much you'll owe if you don't.
• Know where you need to drop it off. Do you need to take it inside or drop it off in a box? Some companies will have you return equipment through the postal service or UPS.
• If you're disabled, ask the company if they can pick it up for you.  Spectrum offers this service.
• Consider recording yourself dropping off the equipment.

Maznaritz



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Advice If Your AA Flight Is Canceled After Scheduling Glitch]]>Wed, 29 Nov 2017 18:36:29 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/vuelos-american-airlines-sin-pilotos.jpg

American Airlines is scrambling to find pilots to operate thousands of flights over the holidays after a scheduling glitch allowed nearly all of its pilots to take time off around Christmas.

The Fort Worth-based airline has not confirmed the dates of the flights in question, but a source at the airline familiar with the situation tells NBC 5 Responds it's impacting flights starting about one week before Christmas.

The pilots' union says that about 15,000 flights were scheduled without a captain, a co-pilot or both. A spokesman for the airline said on Wednesday that they expect to avoid canceling flights by paying overtime and using reserve pilots.

Travelers who may be impacted by possible cancellations have some options.

If you booked your flight within the past 24 hours, you can cancel it and get a full refund no matter what you paid. It's a perk always available on American Airlines.

If you've been ticketed for longer, and your ticket is non-refundable, you will have to wait to see if your flight is canceled. If that happens, take action quickly.

Even if you're at the airport, pick up the phone and call for help. The few extra seats will go to the first ones who can get to an agent. The folks on the phone can do the same thing as the people in the airport.

You may want to re-book on your phone, or call and speak to an agent while you're waiting in line to see who can get to you first.

Also, carry on your bags. If there's a seat on a plane leaving within minutes, it will be easier for you to hop to another aircraft without worrying about your checked bags.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bicyclist Says He Was Hit By Uninsured Lyft Driver]]>Wed, 29 Nov 2017 07:18:40 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/uninsured-lyft-driver-crash.jpg

A bicyclist wants answers after he was hit by an uninsured Lyft driver.

"People are not paying attention," said Joe Mariscal, who has braved the roads for more than 30 years. "They're going too fast....they're being daring and getting too close."

He's never had an accident, until this past June. Mariscal said he was stopped at a red light when the car in front of him started backing up.

"I saw her coming at the last instant, and dove to the right as she plowed into my bicycle and pinned it under the back end of her car," he explained.

Mariscal said the driver was eager to leave, explaining to him that she was a Lyft driver and she had a customer waiting.

Mariscal was unharmed, but his bike wasn't. So, before the driver left, he snapped pictures of her driver's license, her insurance card and her plates. Back at home he even filed a police report.

Mariscal then called the driver's insurance company to file a claim for his banged-up bike. He was shocked when the insurance company told him the policy had expired.

"Very aggravating. I was angry," Mariscal said.

He then turned to Lyft, wondering if its insurance would cover the cost of repairing his bent bike frame. He called and emailed Lyft, but he said for the next two weeks all he received from the rideshare company were automated emails.

"It wasn't good enough for me because they weren't answering my questions," Mariscal said. "My questions involved getting my bicycle fixed or replaced."

So, he reached out to the Responds team for help.

We checked out Lyft's insurance guidelines and found there are differing levels of protections, depending on what a driver is doing. If a driver hasn't logged onto Lyft's system, Lyft offers no insurance. Thus, you rely on the driver's personal insurance.

If a driver is logged onto Lyft, but hasn't accepted a ride, Lyft's insurance is a back up to the driver's personal insurance.

Once a driver accepts a ride, Lyft's insurance assumes primary coverage.

This was the case with Mariscal. We reached out to Lyft about his incident, resulting in an immediate call from a claims adjuster. Days later, he got a check for $1600 — the cost to fix his bike.

Lyft said it was in the process of handling Mariscal's claim before we got involved. As for Mariscal, once his bike was fixed, he was back on it.

"I'm not injured. I'm healthy. I can still ride my bicycle," he said.

Lyft says drivers must be personally insured to drive with the company. It says according to its records, the driver who hit Mariscal was personally insured. But, the insurance information she gave him showed she wasn't. We checked Uber's insurance policies and they're similar to Lyft's. Coverage varies based on whether the driver is on a trip or not.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Cyber Monday and Black Friday Spending Break Records]]>Tue, 28 Nov 2017 17:36:44 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Cyber_Monday_Tips_for_a_Good_Deal.jpg

The numbers are out and Cyber Monday was a good day for businesses across the country turning it into the largest online shopping day in history.

Adobe Analytics tracks this information and had been telling us it expected a big day and they were right.

It says consumers spent more than $6.59 Billion online Monday.

That's about $1-Billion more than last year.

Adobe tells NBC 5 it was also the first $2 Billion day for mobile devices.

Analysts say mobile shopping was dominant in both the morning and afternoon. That's a change from the recent past when we used to do most of our shopping during the work day on the company's computers that had fast connections. But now, we get that speed everywhere. 

Adobe says shoppers used desktop computers the most Monday night after everyone got home from work.

This Holiday season, which started November 1st, has brought in $50 Billion in online shopping revenue, a nearly 20% jump year-to-year.

Adobe says the top-selling items on Cyber Monday included the Nintendo Switch, Playstations and Hatchimals.

Finally, Adobe says TV's were the most discounted item on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Some eye-popping figures from Cyber Monday that bode well for North Texas businesses.

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<![CDATA[Local Uber Driver Claims Her Fuel Card Was Hacked]]>Tue, 28 Nov 2017 07:02:35 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AM+PKG+N5R+-+Uber+Gas+Card+1_2017-11-28-05-06-52.jpg

A local Uber driver is demanding answers after she says her fuel card was hacked.

Sandy Roberts was looking for a side job — a way to make extra cash on her own time. She decided to give Uber a try after a recommendation from a church friend.

"On Saturdays I'll get up, I'll go out and start working," said Roberts. "I'll start off here in Lewisville and I might wind up out in Weatherford."

After completing 100 trips with the rideshare company, she learned she was eligible for Uber's fuel card. It allows drivers to save up to 15 cents per gallon on fuel at nearly any gas station. Drivers can spend up to $200 a week on the charge card, and what they spend is deducted from their uber earnings.

But, two recent charges worried Roberts: one for $73, the other for $98. Both were charged in Houston, but Roberts said she's hasn't been to Houston in years.

"I was stunned. I didn't know what to do," said Roberts.

An Uber representative told her, in part, "your card was swiped and your pin was entered."

That person said they'd file a formal dispute on her behalf with the card provider, but also said it was unlikely her complaint would be considered valid because a "unique pin was used."

"I felt like they were treating me like I was trying to pull something over on them or something," Roberts said. "Like I was guilty. That's exactly how I felt."

After doing some of her own research, Roberts discovered an online forum for Uber drivers and found others who had the same complaint.

The NBC 5 Responds team has learned Uber's fuel cards are provided by Fleetcor, a Georgia-based technology company. We called and e-mailed Fleetcor for weeks and still haven't received a response.

We asked Uber about Roberts' account and those other claims of fraudulent charges on the fuel cards.

A spokesperson told us, "drivers are our customers, and we are committed to helping them get the most out of their experience with Uber and the fuel card. We work closely with Fleetcor to ensure any concerns we are hearing from drivers about their experience with the fuel card are elevated and addressed."

Uber eventually put $175 back into Roberts' account.

"It makes me feel like I'm not crazy," Roberts said. "Something needs to be done. They need to be held accountable for this."

Uber told NBC 5 tens of thousands of drivers use the Uber fuel card every week. The company says fraudulent charges, while rare, are credited back by Uber to partners immediately after they are identified.

In the meantime, Roberts says she will continue to drive with Uber, but is reconsidering whether to use her fuel card at all.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Says Partnerships With Small Businesses Are Strong]]>Mon, 27 Nov 2017 20:20:26 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/amazon+foto.png

Amazon employs more than 20,000 people in Texas, including thousands at the company's fulfillment center in Haslet.

Sherry Willenborg helps manage the robotics program there, supervising how your purchases make their way toward your doorstep.

The second you hit purchase, robots at the fulfillment center lift and move shelves of products to employees, who sort the items and send them to you.

Amazon says it recognizes the struggle of other retailers and small businesses as the online giant grows. They have a plan to help them.

"We actually have stores on Amazon that specifically sell items by small businesses," said Allison Leader, of Amazon. "Our goal is to help businesses grow and get more eyes on their products."

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<![CDATA[North Texas Contractor Surrenders After Being Indicted]]>Mon, 27 Nov 2017 16:59:22 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/kevin-kissire-cu.jpg

A North Texas contractor accused of stealing from a local business and church has surrendered himself to police.

Kevin Kissire turned himself in after being indicted on a felony theft charge.

Jaime Fernandes and his son, Matt, run a small, family business: Azure Pools and Outdoor Living. Operating in their leased office space has made their jobs challenging. So, they turned to Kissire to build a showroom for their pool company.

"He took us out for steak lunches. I thought he'd be a great, honest person to do business with," said Matt Fernandes.

They said Kissire showed them some of his work from around North Texas and assured them Standard Steel Buildings would get the job done.

Fernandes signed a contract and later wrote a check for $18,000. But, Kissire said he needed more cash up front to secure the price of steel.

After receiving the design, they put down more money, paying Kissire nearly $40,000 up front. Shortly after, they said Kissire disappeared.

"He wasn't answering any emails or calls," Fernandes explained.

Jaime Fernandes called another one of Kissire's clients, Pastor E.G. Roberts.  His church needed a new sanctuary. Roberts said that after shelling out nearly $50,000 to Kissire, they have nothing to show for it.

"From a fleshly side, I would love to get my hands on him," said Roberts. "From a spiritual side, I have to forgive him. But, if I actually saw him, the flesh may win this time."

They learned Kissire had closed up shop and moved to the Philippines, something Kissire's own father told NBC 5.

"You're a coward. If you steal from a church and other business you're a coward. You're the lowest of low," Fernandes said.

Fernandes and Roberts each filed police reports. However, they weren't sure if justice would ever be served. 

Months later, the Wylie Police Department reached out to Azure Pools and told them of the indictment.

"Azure Pools contracted with Kevin Kissire, owner of Standard Steel Buildings to construct a building within the city limits of Wylie," a Wylie police spokesman told NBC 5 Responds. "During the investigation, it was determined that Kevin Kissire received payments for the construction of the building, but did not have any intent on completing the project. Investigators were able to speak with other victims and determine that this was a common practice of Kissire."

A case was filed with the Collin County District Attorney’s Office, and Kissire was subsequently indicted on a charge of theft of property.

"We want to see that money back and we want justice to be served," said Fernandes. 

Kissire posted bail and is expected to appear in court on Dec. 7.

NBC 5 Responds has tried reaching out to Kissire multiple times through multiple channels. We are still waiting on a response.

Police said the case is still ongoing, and if more leads point to other people involved, they will investigate them as well.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Online Typo Costs One Consumer Hundreds of Dollars]]>Mon, 27 Nov 2017 11:48:49 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/costoco-typo-piracy.jpg

A man who made a one-letter typo in a web address for Costco found out what it means to become a victim of typo piracy.

Last year, while looking to visit the Costco website, Allen Stern unknowingly mis-spelled Costco in his browser.

"C-o-s-t-o-c-o. There's an extra "o" in there," he said.

Yet, Allen said the website that loaded looked legitimate.

"It even had the Costco logo and brand, so of course I thought it was Costco and I thought I had gone to Costco.com," he explained.

The page asked Allen to do an eight-question survey. As a "thank you," Allen was offered a free bottle of face cream if he paid shipping.

Allen called the Responds team after four $97 and $98 charges appeared on his credit card for a cosmetic "membership." He returned the cream and complained to Costco in writing.

"How could you do this? How could you support this? And, Costco wrote back and said, 'This wasn't us,'" Allen said.

We shared Allen's experience with technology analyst Carolina Milanesi, and we learned a new term: "typo piracy." That's what the tech world calls the misuse of misspelled web addresses to possibly rip you off.

"These people have no limits to how they try to get you," said Milanesi.

She said some sites collect a finder's fee for redirecting poor spellers to other sites. Some masquerade as a real site and dupe you into buying something.  The worst case is a typo that leads to a scam site or malware.

"You could end up having your identity stolen," she explained.

Milanesi said "typo piracy" is too complicated to fully unravel. But, the Responds team tried with "Cost-o-co."

First, we searched public registries and found that address registered in Russia to a person named Vladimir Snezko. That name is linked to other web addresses with typos: Marriiott.com, with an extra "i," Vrizon.com, missing an "e," and Southwesr.com, one letter off from Southwest.com.

When we loaded "Southwesr" it used southwest airlines' name and had a survey, just like the Cost-o-co site.

That's not the only similarity: Several people posted glowing comments on the southwesr page. Well, those same people also endorsed the cost-o-co page in the exact same order.

The real Southwest and the real Costco told us they have no connection to these sites. They never asked for the surveys or authorized the use of their name or logo.

So, we had questions for "Vladimir Snezko." The Responds team sent messages to Moscow, but never heard back.

When we cross-referenced the e-mail addresses Snezko used to register his sites we found more than 500 other websites, each off by just a letter or two from brand names like Google, Toyota, Disney, Fidelity, Sprint and eBay, each waiting to capitalize on your careless tap on a keyboard.

After we started asking questions, Southwesr shut down the survey.

So did Cost-o-co.  But it was too late for Allen. As it turns out, he works in digital advertising and internet security is part of his job. He's speaking up because he says if he fell for "typo piracy," anyone can.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Hackers Beat New Technology to Prevent Hacks]]>Fri, 24 Nov 2017 22:43:41 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/new+fraud+prevention.jpg

Catherine Monet Vincent and her kids love spending time outdoors with their three dogs, especially the oldest, Bella.

"We've had her since she was this big," said Catherine, barely opening her hands.

Bella's aging now and having back problems.

On a recent trip to the vet, Catherine says her cellphone was unusually ringing off the hook.

"I knew the number, I knew it was Wells Fargo so I didn't answer it. Then it rang again immediately."

She answered and just as she thought the man on the other line said he was from Wells Fargo and asked if she had changed her user name and password and if she authorized a $2,500 transfer from her account.

"I said absolutely not and he said 'well hold on just one second we're going to get this reversed,'" said Catherine.

"He says, 'we're going to send you a text message with the verification code,' and I said 'OK.' It gave me a number. It said it was from Wells Fargo. I read him the number and he said OK."

He told her to go into the bank the next day and change over her account but when she got to the teller there was an issue.

"I saw her sitting at the computer and she did a little head tilt," said Catherine.

A representative from the banks main office told her Wells Fargo never called her and the call likely came from someone who had accessed Catherine's bank account and set up a wire transfer to himself.

The hacker called Catherine to gain her trust and get her to tell him the access code needed to wire the money.

"I left going oh my god I was scammed. The lady at the bank, her mouth was open the whole time and she was like 'I would have fallen for it to.'"

Some banks, credit card companies, even your email providers will use two factor authentication when you change account information or transfer money.

They send a code to your phone, and you enter it online.

The idea is the hacker would have to break into your account and somehow steal your phone.

They didn't do that, but did come up with a way to convince Catherine to give them the code.

Catherine went back and read the text message that came from the bank, it said, "We will never call and ask you for this number", she missed that part the first time.

Wells Fargo refunded Catherine her money, she turned to NBC 5 Responds to spread the word hoping others learn from her mistake.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Fire Safety: How to Use a Fire Extinguisher]]>Wed, 22 Nov 2017 07:01:39 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/fire_extinguishers.jpg

In light of a recent recall on nearly 40 million Kidde fire extinguishers, NBC 5's Samantha Chatman shows consumers which units they should buy and how extinguishers are properly used.

For more information, click here.]]>
<![CDATA[Uber Hack Exposed Contact Info, Experts Warn That's Plenty]]>Tue, 21 Nov 2017 23:14:42 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-595927402.jpg

Uber on Tuesday came clean about its cover-up of a year-old hacking attack that stole personal information about more than 57 million of its customers and drivers.

The heist took the names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of millions of riders around the world and the driver's license numbers of 600,000 Uber drivers in the U.S.

Cybersecurity experts tell NBC 5 Responds that an email address, phone number and text message are all hackers need to get into your email.

Hackers go to your email provider, enter your email, and click "forgot my password."

Your email provider will typically offer to send a text to your phone with a code.

As soon as you get that text, the hackers send one, too, pretending to be your email provider asking you to enter the code. Many of us do it, thinking it's legit.

But what you've really done is give the hackers access to your email.

Once inside they have all of your information, like which bank you use and who your credit card providers are.

They gain all this simply from knowing your email, phone number and relying on you to answer a text.

Experts say you should never text anyone a code sent to you from your bank. That's a big red flag.

Those codes are only generated if you initiate them.

Uber waited until Tuesday to begin notifying the drivers with compromised driver's licenses, which can be particularly useful for perpetrating identify theft. For that reason, Uber will now pay for free credit-report monitoring and identity theft protection services for the affected drivers.

So far, there's no evidence that the data taken has been misused, according to a Tuesday blog post by Uber's recently hired CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. Part of the reason nothing malicious has happened is because Uber acknowledges paying the hackers $100,000 to destroy the stolen information.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Toys That Are Sure to Be A Home Run With Kids This Holiday]]>Tue, 21 Nov 2017 22:49:58 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/3doodler+robotics.JPG

Buying toys can be challenging, especially if it's for a kid you don't know too well.

If you're getting toys for a co-worker's child or a neighbor you may be worried that he or she might hate their gift.

But we found some home run toys that will have any kid jumping for joy.

"Maybe you don't know exactly what they like, so these are gifts that really everybody loves. These are home runs. You're not going to go wrong with them," said Toy Insider Mom Laurie Schacht.

First up, for babies, there is the Dolce Activity Zebra. It is perfect for active kids who love to play. At $39.99, it's nice and soft and provides lots of entertainment.

Next on her list is the Crayola Kids@Work crayon tube, coming in at $24.99. Inside the large crayons, you'll find 80 different fun, chunky blocks.

And best of all, the crayons act as storage containers perfect for sliding right under the bed.

Also, check out the Farm World and Wild Life Starter Sets for $19. The pieces are hand-painted with impressive detail.

"It really encourages kids to use their imagination and make up stories," Schacht said. "They're beautiful. They're collectible, and kids love them!"

Kids are going crazy over the Boom Blast Stix game for $14.99.

"As kids get a little older, they're really into playing games with the whole family," Schacht said.

She says this game will make you laugh and jump.

The next gift is the 3Doodler Start Robotics Pen Set for $69.99. It's the perfect toy set for a budding engineer.

Kids can create simple robots, or two-legged, four-legged, and even six-legged walking or crawling robots.

This 3D printing pen and its creations are not hot to the touch and use BPA-free plastic.

And you can't go wrong with a tent. We found one for $29 for the cover or $49 for the build kit.

"Kids love to be in forts to be in tents. You pulled out every sheets from mom's house," Schacht said. "It comes with eight washable markers, which means that we get to decorate this anyway we want."

And best of all, you can throw it right in the wash to give your kids a fresh, clean canvas.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Consumer Group Warns of Doll's Internet Connectivity Risks]]>Tue, 21 Nov 2017 17:56:23 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Trouble_in_Toyland.jpg

A consumer group has come out with a warning about a popular new doll that experts say could be used to spy on your children.

Other countries have even banned the toy, called "My Friend Cayla."

The doll is connected to the internet, but some of the technology has made it easier for hackers to get inside your home.

The U.S. Public Interest Group lists dangerous toys every year — things with too much lead, or that are choking hazards. Cayla was the first toy the group added which collects data and could put you at risk.

Cayla has already been banned by the German government out of fear of how it can used to spy on you, and now consumer advocates are warning parents of what Cayla is truly capable of doing.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Cayla's manufacturer for a comment but did not hear back from them just yet. Cayla isn't the only item with warnings — there's many more, from fidgets spinners to balloons.

MORE: There's a full list of products on the group's list online here.

]]>
<![CDATA[Uber Reveals 57 Million Users, Drivers Hacked]]>Tue, 21 Nov 2017 17:58:33 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Uber_Hacked.jpg

Hackers stole data from 57 million Uber users and drivers, a breach that the company concealed for more than a year, CNBC reported.]]>
<![CDATA[Therapists Say Payments Haven't Arrived for Helping Veterans]]>Mon, 20 Nov 2017 22:34:17 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/military+veteran+generic.JPG

The Veterans Coalition of North Central Texas received a grant from the state to pay for therapy sessions for North Texas veterans, but the payments haven't come for all therapists.

NBC 5 Responds looked into how the thousands of dollars intended for veterans' therapy was spent and what's being done to ensure the vets get the help they need.

Some of the programs the therapist use are not conventional.

Rebecca Boardman started Horses Helping Humans with therapist Sara Shuck in an effort to help veterans.

They understood vets often don't like to open up to strangers about their experiences, but horses appear to provide an outlet.

Rebecca loved working with the vets.

"To see people leave from here with a sense of calmness, having the ability to engage in work again, connect with their family again," she said.

The ranch was once seeing veterans who told us it was working.

So why haven't they been back in several months? The money to pay for it is gone.

It's not just the ranch. Therapists from across the area spoke with NBC 5 Responds about money they were due and didn't receive.

They all were contracted to provide services through the Veteran's Coalition for North Central Texas, also known as VCNCT. The nonprofit hired them and many others back in March.

VCNCT sent nearly two dozen veterans to Joe Remsik Harris for therapy.

He's still owed around $10,000 for those services.

It's money he earmarked to buy and remodel a new home.

Without the payment, he's living in what looks like a construction zone and trying to fund the repairs another way.

VCNCT gets its money through a grant from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

The state reports VCNCT received more than $223,000 in payments across six months earlier this year. The state reports more than $29,000 of that money was the state putting up money to match donations VCNCT received on their own, but only $6,844 went to pay therapists.

The state reports the rest of the money, some $188,000, went towards thousands of dollars in office furniture, a trip to Washington D.C. to make a promotional video, rent payments at 1910 Pacific Place, a shiny office tower in Downtown Dallas, and salaries for a handful of office staff and CEO Nekima Horton.

Horton says the program initially did well — too well.

She tells us so many vets wanted help, they ran out of money. Horton claims the state promised them more funding but never came through with it.

"The state is not holding up their end of the bargain, they're not telling truth of how all of this happened. Their documents were flawed," she said.

Horton claims she spent more than six grand paying the therapists, but she couldn't produce documentation to prove it.

State investigators confirm that's all they have evidence of.

Horton also claims the state assured her more money was coming to cover those who had gone unpaid.

But again, she provided nothing to prove this and the state refutes her claims.

At one point VCNCT was occupying donated office space, before moving downtown.

When asked if she feels she should have stayed in the original office instead of paying for the downtown office building, Horton said:

"I get that feeling because, again, we never paid for office space, we always partnered or had in-kind office space given to us, the only reason we got this office space and the board approved all this was because of the state."

Health and Human Services continues its investigation.

Even though there were more than $400,000 left in VCNCT's grant, the state denied Horton's request to keep receiving funds.

"Despite everything that happened, there was funding for these families, these vets," Sara Shuck said.

The ranch is quieter these days. Rebecca Boardman still looks at graffiti on the walls of the barn — messages left by the clients who got help there, the vets who right now don't have anyone to pay for them to come back.

Horton stood by her story and told us the therapists will be paid. And she says she's trying to raise those funds through private donations.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Toys For Every Budget: Under $50, $40 and $10]]>Mon, 20 Nov 2017 06:48:16 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/toy-list-2017.jpg

Toy expert Laurie Schatch believes the toys below will make your kids and wallet very happy this holiday season.

TOYS UNDER $50

BB Junior My First RC (Maisto)
• This Ferrari and Jeep are designed as a first-time, radio-controlled toy.
• These cars run with a 27 mhz controller with forward and backward buttons, motion sensor to control left and right, realistic horn sound button, and working headlights and taillights.
• Age: 2+
• MSRP: $40
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

Ben 10 Rustbucket Vehicle & Playset (Playmates Toys)
• The main vehicle seen in Cartoon Network’s new Ben 10 animated series, the Rustbucket is a 2-in-1 vehicle that transforms into a 3-level playset standing over 2 feet tall.
• It's packed with action features, allowing kids to create their own adventures with all of the Ben 10 basic action figures (sold separately).
• Kids can re-create adventures seen in the show or use their imagination to create all-new ones. Features include an alien transformation chamber, plasma blaster, “alien-vator”, grabbing claw, alien lab, and more.
• Age: 4+
• MSRP: $49.99
• Available: Target, Toys R Us, Walmart

Sweetlings Sprinkle Shop (Alex Brands)
• ALEX DIY Sweetlings Sprinkle Shop is a decoration station that comes with everything kids need to bring three Sweetlings characters to life.
• Use whipped clay icing to frost two plastic cupcakes and a cone in the Sprinkle Shop workstation.
• Frost the characters easily as they rotate on the base.
• When ready, add the final pizazz with the glitterizer -- star shaped glitter will sparkle as your creation rotates on the stage for their special moment under the strobing lights.
• Age: 6+
• MSRP: $39.99
• Available: Amazon, Toys “R” Us

8-in-1 Construction (Laser Pegs)
• With this mighty 8-in-1 Construction kit from Laser Pegs Builder kids are the foreman who can get the job done.
• This kit comes jam-packed with heavy-duty models like the Claw Crane, Bobcat, Worksite Truck, Bulldozer, and many more. Light up the creations to keep the fun going all night long at the construction site.
• There are 11 LEDs, 129 pieces, includes batteries, 100 percent compatible with other major construction kits, auto off.
• Age: 8-14
• U.S. MSRP: $32.99
• Available: Amazon, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

TOYS UNDER $20

Crayola Color Wonder Light Brush (Crayola)
• Crayola Color Wonder Magic Light Brush lets kids create colorful art without the mess.
• Color Wonder paints are clear and only work on Color Wonder special paper— it won't color on skin, carpet, or furniture. The Magic Light Brush lights up to match whatever paint color kids are using.
• The set comes with six classic colors and 18 sheets of Color Wonder paper
• Ages: 3+
• MSRP: $19.99
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart, Crayola.com

Pikmi Pops Surprise Pack (Moose Toys)
• Pikmi Pops combines collectible scented plush with a range of mystery items packaged inside a lollipop vessel.
• The Surprise Pack include two scented Pikmi plush, three mystery items, two secret messages, and a collector’s guide. It’s totally blind, so you never know what you’re going to get.
• Each plush delivers a sweet surprise in terms of material finishes, scent, levels of rarity, and mystery items.
• The lollipop vessel is fun, fresh and iconic, and designed with bright colors & graphics to “pop” on shelf.
• Age: 5+
• MSRP: $10.99
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

Mayka Toy Block Tape (Zuru)
• Nimuno Loops, the original toy block tape, is now in collaboration with the Zuru’s Mayka Toy Block Tape construction brand. The product originally launched on Indiegogo, raising over $1.6 million dollars in crowdfunding in just 30 days and has been billed as one of ‘2017’s greatest inventions,’ revolutionizing the way construction bricks are played with.
• Mayka Tape transforms virtually any surface into a base for construction toy bricks and figures. One side features a bendable, flexible surface with a toy block pattern that is compatible with LEGO toys and other toy construction brands and can be cut to any desired size. The other side has a re-usable adhesive backing to allow builders to construct on nearly any object, around corners and on curved surfaces to make 3D creations.
• Each roll will feature an exciting new way to play with Mayka Tape. The line will comprise of 3 core sizes - Small (2 stud / 3.3 ft), Medium (2 stud / 6.6 ft)
• Age: 3+
• MSRP: Small: $12.00, Medium: $18.99
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

Fingerlings (WowWee)
• Fingerlings baby monkeys come to life with endless ways of play and realistic sounds to let kids know how they are feeling. Kids can wrap them on their finger to have a new friend at their fingertips.
• These silly critters have happy monkey sounds, blinking eyes, heads that turn, hands that grip, and a curly hanging tail.
• Kids can swing them, pet them, kiss them, and even rock them to sleep.
• There are six different Fingerlings to play, share, and collect.
• Ages: 5+
• MSRP: $14.99
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

Rubik’s Flip (University Games)
• Flip it – block it – win it! Win or lose in only eight moves! Rubik’s Flip is a fast-moving, easy-to-learn, but challenging game. There are few rules and a maximum of eight turns per player. Every tile is two-sided with two colors. Just FLIP your opponent’s tile to another color, then place your tile. The first to place three tiles of the same color in a row wins!
• A fun competition for 2 players.
• Age: 7+
• MSRP: $14.99
• Available: Amazon, Fred Meyer, Mills Fleet Farm, Kroger

Break Free (Yulu)
• Break Free from YULU Toys is a new, challenging action skill game full of urgency, suspense and tons of fun. The objective: players must race to pick the lock on their handcuff as quickly as possible and before everyone else!
• Players are handcuffed together and insert a maze into each handcuff.
• Includes three maze colors; each represents a different level of difficulty, making each round unpredictable.
• Using a pick lock, players have to pick the lock as quickly as possible.
• Each game comes with tokens that correspond with the different colored mazes and has points on the back.
• Each player will receive a token after each round in the order they released themselves from the handcuffs.
• The player with the most points at the end of three rounds wins the game.
• Age: 6+
• MSRP: $19.99
• Available: Target

TOYS UNDER $10

FlipaZoo Mini Collectables
• The FlipaZoo toy is two buddies in one - each mini Flipazoo features two animals that flip back and forth for two sides of fun.
• Over 101 different animals to collect and share.
• Available in blind bags, three pack collectibles and seven pack collectibles.
• Age: 4+
• MSRP: $1.88
• Available: Walmart

Hatchimals Colleggtibles (Spin Master)
• Introducing Hatchimals Colleggtibles! Hold! Hatch! Play!
• These adorable Hatchimals come inside of small, speckled eggs; and they need your help to hatch!
• Hold the egg in your hands, rub the heart, and when it changes from purple to pink, you know it's ready to hatch! Gently crack the egg to discover the Hatchimal inside! Each Hatchimal has a set of magical, glittery wings!
• With over 70 to collect in Season One – finding the ultra-rares is half the fun!
• A beautiful collector’s map introduces you to their home! With landmarks like the Giggling Tree, Lilac Lake, Fabula Forest, and more, there's so much to explore!
• Hatchimals Colleggtibles: 1 Pack; MSRP: $2.99
• Hatchimals Colleggtibles: 2 Pack + Nest; MSRP: $4.99
• Hatchimals Colleggtibles : 4 Pack + Bonus; MSRP: $9.99
• Ages: 3+
• Available: Toys “R” Us, Target, Walmart

Beat Bugs Fab Figures (Blip Toys)
• Children’s animated Netflix series, Beat Bugs, has captured the attention of children and parents around the world. Beat Bugs are now alive at retail with a spectacular range of toys utilizing songs made famous by the Beatles.
• The colorful 3-inch scale Fab Figures are exquisitely designed with fine detail. The head and arms are articulated for posing, storytelling and other creative play.
• Ages: 3+
• MSRP: $5.99
• Available: Target

Cupcake Surprise Dolls (Sunny Day Ent)
• Children will love this pretty Cupcake Surprise Princess Candy Doll. The colorfully decorated and scented cupcake transforms into a pretty princess.
• Dolls come in six different sweet scents: Strawberry, Vanilla, Grape, Chocolate, Lemon, and Caramel. Multiple styles and colors are available; collect them all!
• Age: 3+
• MSRP: $9.99
• Available: Amazon, Walmart

L.O.L. Surprise! Tots (MGA Entertainment)
• L.O.L. Surprise Tots are collectibles that have seven layers of surprise hidden inside.
• Each layer reveals a hint of which fierce, fashion-forward L.O.L. Surprise doll kids are unboxing. Seven surprises include: a secret message, stickers, a baby bottle, shoes, an outfit, a fashionable accessory, and the L.O.L Surprise doll.
• Feed or bathe the doll with water to reveal her surprising water feature. The playset (ball) can also be used as a hangout, bath tub, doll stand, and a purse to carry for on-the-go fun.
• Final layer reveals the doll. Each character is completely different and packed with personality – from rockers to divas to merbabies.
• Ages: 3+
• MSRP: $9.99
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart

Thumb Chucks (Zing Toys)
• CONTROL THE ROLL! Thumb Chucks from Zing are the newest and coolest skill toy for the ultimate finger rollin’ fun!
• Twirl, flip and twist Thumb Chucks around your fingers to perform awesome tricks.
• Two high-bounce plastic ‘Chucks’ are connected with a ‘belt’ and fit right in your pocket.
• Kids can master a wide range of tricks from intermediate to advanced. Thanks to the built-in motion-sensitive LED lights, the Chucks glow in the dark for the ultimate light show.
• The new free Thumb Chucks app, available on iOS and Android in January 2017, includes over 20+ tutorials that teach users a variety of mind-blowing tricks.
• The app also includes an easy-to-use recording feature with built-in special effects to enhance and personalize Thumb Chucks videos.
• The more kids master, the more belts they can collect. Learn how to earn special belts by going to ThumbChucks.Toys.
• Thumb Chucks are available in red, orange, green and blue.
• Ages: 5+
• MSRP: $7.99
• Available: Toys “R” Us, Amazon, Target



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Viewers Share Similar Stories of Walmart Oil Changes]]>Fri, 17 Nov 2017 21:49:27 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/walmart+oil+change.jpg

After NBC 5 shared a story of a North Texas driver whose car's engine had no oil after a Walmart oil change, other viewers came forward with similar stories.

Jose Betances got his oil changed at the Walmart on Farm-to-Market Road 423.

Hours later his car had a major malfunction.

"Every signal that you can think of was on at the same time. Next step, I have no acceleration, and I can't accelerate on the car," Betances told NBC 5 Responds in September.

His car's engine was out of oil.

Dozens of NBC 5 viewers — well over 100 — have reached out to us and our Consumer Investigative Center to share similar experiences.

"My mother went to Walmart this summer for an oil change on her vehicle. About an hour after she left she heard loud noises on her engine, and the vehicle would just stop in the middle of the street," Allen Maurice said.

Maurice's mother had her car towed to an auto repair shop and was told her car's oil cap was not screwed back.

They filed a claim with Walmart for the cost of a new engine, and their claim was denied.

The Welches also came forward. NBC 5 profiled them two years ago when their car broke down after an oil change at Walmart.

Two separate mechanics said the engine had too much oil — six quarts instead of the manufacturer's recommended five.

Walmart's own receipt shows they were charged for six quarts, which was too much for their car, but Walmart still denied the claim. The Welches said they haven't been back to Walmart since.

Neither has Mario Sanchez.

He got an oil change and drove to San Antonio, where his truck broke down. He took it to a Walmart in that city.

"He said it was the wrong oil, the wrong filter and the wrong amount of oil," Sanchez said.

Meaning, one Walmart discovered that another Walmart put in the wrong oil and it hurt his engine.

When asked if Walmart paid for the damage Mario said, "No, they didn't pay for it. They denied my claim."

NBC 5 Responds told Walmart about all the complaints we received after airing Betances's story.

A spokesperson told us, "We have a long withstanding policy if a customer has a legitimate claim we will examine it."

The "we" is CMI, a company which investigates all complaints and possible lawsuits against Walmart. All three men were initially under the impression that CMI was a third-party company.

"They don't mention that it is their own company. They don't mention that at all," Sanchez said.

CMI is, in fact, a branch of Walmart's parent company.

We did find people who said CMI paid them after their engines were damaged at Walmart, but the vast majority said their claims were denied.

That includes Ray Magruger, who says Walmart told him they had video proving they didn't break his car. However, he says they won't show it to him because it's confidential.

"It's just the sad fact that, you know, we know it took place there. If you have video footage that shows otherwise, show me," Magruger said.

The Texas Attorney General's Office says it has nearly 150 complaints against Walmart's auto service division.

They're now also looking into the complaints we brought to their attention and encourage anyone who had issues to report it to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection division for help.

Walmart also told us it stands by its previous statement — that they feel all procedures related to Jose Betances's oil change were properly followed.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: 'Aqua Dog' Water Bottle for Dogs]]>Fri, 17 Nov 2017 17:54:47 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dog+water+bottle.JPG

One of the best parts of fall is being able to spend more time outdoors, but just because the sun isn't quite as hot doesn't mean you don't have to worry about hydration.

You always see people carrying water bottles for themselves, but what about their dog?

There's a water bottle on the market geared toward dogs.

Brent and Erica Upham agreed to try it out.

They have three adorable, energy filled fur-babies: Winston, Maple and Sampson.

The family loves to get outdoors and walk their dogs, but it has its challenges.

They say their dog, Winston, requires some extra hydration. They can't go too far without him getting too hot and needing to take breaks.

Trying to walk and keep their dogs hydrated isn't always a breeze.

"When we bring the bottled water and a separate bowl, then carrying two things with three dogs is impossible for one person," Brent Upham said.

"This idea of a water bottle for your dog, yeah, it's genius," Erica added.

We filled the combination bowl and water bottle up. It only held a little more than one water bottle, though.

As for the carrying strap? It was a little tough to figure out.

The real testers were panting and ready to quench their thirst. If you lead these dogs to water, they will drink.

We paid $12.99 for Aqua Dog at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Remember if there's a product you want to see tested head to Facebook and send a message to Wayne Carter NBC 5.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Toys That May Sell Out Before Black Friday]]>Fri, 17 Nov 2017 07:28:57 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/black-friday-toys-2017.jpg

Toy Insider Mom Laurie Schacht reveals the toys that will likely sell out fast.

Hatchimals Surprise (Spin Master)
• New Hatchimals are arriving from Hatchtopia and they can’t hatch without kids’ help.  
• These eggs are different from any seen before, and they hold a very special surprise.
• Age: 5+.
• MSRP: $59.99.
• Available: Mass retailers.

Soft’N Slo Squishies (ORB Factory)
• Super squeezable and collectible, Soft'n Slo Squishies are based on the latest trend from Japan as a slow-rising and soft collectible.
• They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and produce a fun transformation that’s different every time.
• If kids are lucky they may even find the secret limited edition Soft’n Slo Squishies with a special holographic seal.
• Soft'n Slo Squishies Sweet Shop features favorite high-end bakery products, including slices of cake, cinnamon buns, ice cream cones, and super squishy s’mores.
• Ages: 8+.
• MSRP: $5.99-$14.99.
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart.

PAW Patrol My Size Lookout Tower (Spin Master)
• Big rescues call for an even bigger tower. Bring the most iconic location in Adventure Bay to life with the new Life Sized Lookout Tower play set.
• With a working elevator, a backpack storage unit, lights and sounds, a functioning periscope, a spiral slide with flipping mechanism, and a rotating base with vehicle launcher, it’s never been easier to recreate moments from the show and embark on new PAW Patrol rescues.
• Age: 3+.
• MSRP: $99.99.
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart.

STAR WARS FORCE LINK BB-8 2-IN-1 MEGA PLAYSET (Hasbro)
• Kids can activate incredible "Force Link" sounds and phrases in the BB-8 2-in-1 Mega Play set. On the outside, this play set resembles the iconic astromech droid BB-8 from "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."
• This play set features three Force Link activation areas with sounds and phrases, as well as six play areas to recreate favorite scenes.
• Discover tons of features such as hidden trap doors, a firing canon with sound effects, and more. The play set also includes 3.75-inch Supreme Leader Snoke and Elite Praetorian Guard (with Single Blade) Force Link-activated figures.
• Includes play set, Force Link wearable technology, two figures and an accessory. Requires four, 1.5V AA Alkaline batteries, not included. Compatible with all products in the Force Link line, each sold separately.
• Age: 4+.
• MSRP: $199.99.
• Available: Most major retailers.

Cutie Cars Playset (Moose Toys)
• Kids can pull up their ride at the Cuties Car Drive-in Diner. This play set allows kids to take their Cutie Cars on a spin in the rotating drive-thru, ride up the elevator or grab a meal on the go, or pull up a tray at the parking bay. Each play set includes 1 Mini Shopkin and 1 exclusive Cutie Car.
• Over 25 cars to collect inspired by fan favorite SPK characters.
• Age: 5+.
• MSRP: $19.99.
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart.

SoundMoovz (Cra-Z-Art)
• SoundMoovz is a motion-activated electronic device that plays cool music and special effect sounds as users move.
• Kids can experience the excitement by moving, dancing, and creating unique musical beats.
• The device uses Bluetooth technology, just simply power on for pairing, download the free app, choose over 400 sounds, and start the fun.
• The product comes with two special bands that users wear to enable the device.
• Layer your beat onto a song. There are multiple sound modes including Robot, Karate, Instrumental, and Musical.
• Ages: 8+.
• MSRP: $79.99.
• Available: Amazon, Target, Toys “R” Us, Walmart, Best Buy.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Customs Agents Warn of Counterfeit Products for the Holidays]]>Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:47:59 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Customs_Officials_Warn_of_Counterfeit_Merchandise.jpg

Customs agents are warning consumers to beware of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that are too good to be true.

Agents say there is a lot of fake merchandise moving into the U.S. right now — everything from imposter YETI cups to athletic jerseys, designer brand merchandise and even MAC makeup.

"They're buying them online. That's why we're out here to make sure when you're purchasing your items from legitimate buyers," said customs officer Raul Arona.

Agents warn that not only are you losing money by purchasing a fake, but you could be also be putting yourself and your family at risk with products that have inferior materials.

In order to protect yourself make sure you buy from trusted retailers, not online classifieds, officials say.

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<![CDATA[Google Launches Program in DFW to Verify Repair Businesses]]>Thu, 16 Nov 2017 07:35:03 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Google+11.jpg

Google's Guarantee Badge promises to put trustworthy electricians, locksmiths, plumbers and other professionals in front of people who are looking to find and book quickly.

It's called "Local Services," and it could be a game changer for consumers as well as business.

How it works

If you're looking for a plumber in Dallas, you'll type that in the Google search bar as you normally would. You'll then see businesses at the top of the page with green check marks. It says, "Google guaranteed." This means the company or business was screened and vetted.

Google the indicator a "badge of trust," and only businesses who have met Google's qualifying criteria will get this badge on their ad.

How does Google vet these businesses?

Google runs background checks and requires licensing and insurance information from the business owner.

Background checks are required for all businesses that want badges. All employees of the business who serve customers at their homes must also complete the background check.

Businesses have to meet all state and local license requirements. They also need general liability insurance to qualify for the Google Guarantee. License numbers and proof of insurance are required as well.

How are consumers protected?

Google says if you aren't satisfied with the work, you'll get a refund of up to $2,000 (lifetime cap).

The service must have been booked through Local Services. However, add-on or future projects, damages to property, dissatisfaction with price or provider responsiveness and cancellations aren’t covered.

Google says claims must be submitted within 30 days of the initial service completion date.

What this means for businesses

Google Guarantee ads will allow businesses to stand out from others listed on the site. Google will also create profile pages so that people can see which services are offer and the hours of operation. Google says, "it’s the perfect place to source new leads and bookings."

Google Guarantee Availability and Locations

So far, Google Guarantee is only for locksmiths, plumbers, electricians, HVAC and garage door services.

The new feature is live in the DFW area as well as Miami, Chicago, New York, Seattle and a few other cities.

ONLINE: Google Guarantee



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Helps After Laptop Repair Takes Several Weeks]]>Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:56:08 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/laptop+repair.jpg

Your computer can be your lifeblood these days. When it breaks down, you feel lost.

Michael Bruner’s laptop was just a year old when his hard drive went out.

He already bought a 3-year extended warranty. So, he wasn't worried when he took it to the Geek Squad at Best Buy.

They promised he'd get it back soon, with regular status updates.

A week later he got an email that said he had to pay for the repair.

He reminded them of the warranty but then got a message saying his laptop was being shipped back soon.

After more time passed, he was told other things were broken and they needed parts.

This kept going on weeks.

Bruner visited the store, talked to managers, and documented everything.

This all started in late August and by the beginning of October he still had no laptop, so he called NBC 5 Responds.

We called Best Buy and they apologized saying "We always want to provide a great customer experience but in this instance with Mr. Bruner we came up short."

They refunded him the original cost of the laptop -- $1,550. Problem solved.

We helped Michael get back on track, and if you're caught up in a consumer problem, we can help you too.

NBC 5 Responds solves problems every day for you.

Click here to leave a consumer tip




Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Couple Reports Flooring Problem in D.R. Horton Home]]>Wed, 15 Nov 2017 06:51:57 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/azle-responds-grout.jpg

Sandra and Jerimiah, a couple from Florida, relocated to Azle after buying a D.R. Horton home that came with a one year warranty.

A few months in, they noticed something strange in the flooring. They said there were hundreds of holes in the grout throughout the home.

The couple called D.R. Horton, and a flooring contractor was sent out to fill the holes. But, after several work orders, they said the holes kept popping up.

The couple decided to bring in another contractor to assess the damage. That contractor told them the grout was improperly installed, and it would cost them about $3,600 to re-grout the home.

The couple said they took their quote to D.R. Horton, but was told they'd only be given $750.

They were not happy, and on top of that, they said their warranty eventually expired.

So, the couple called the NBC 5 Responds team to get on the case.

We reached out to D.R. Horton. Here's what the builder had to say:

"D.R. Horton is committed to superior customer service and providing families with quality homes and neighborhoods in the DFW Metroplex and throughout the United States. We have attempted to work with the customer to resolve their concern and will reach out again."

That next day, the couple said they got a call from D.R. Horton saying they were working with the flooring contractor to resolve the complaint.

We're happy to report that the contractor wrote the couple a check for $3,600. They plan on getting their floors fixed very soon.

Now if you find yourself in this situation, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Take plenty of pictures of the problem as soon as you notice it.
• Also, take notes. If a repairman comes in to assess the problem, ask them what happened and document their response.
• Always check with the warranty provider to determine what's covered and how damage is resolved.
• When all else fails, the NBC 5 Responds team is on the case. Submit a complaint HERE.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Trip Abroad Racks Up Hundreds of Dollars in Roaming Charges]]>Tue, 14 Nov 2017 16:16:28 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/215*120/phone+on+plane.JPG

It's getting harder for many of us to go anywhere without our smartphones. We use them for directions, banking info and taking photographs.

And if we travel out of the country, many of us pack our phones, too. But if you're not careful you could rack up a small fortune in roaming charges.

Elise Sher saved up to send her daughter, Emily, on a trip to Israel to learn more about her Jewish heritage.

"She was so excited to go to Israel, which she heard so much about," Sher said.

Shortly before Emily was set to head overseas, her mother signed up for an international calling plan so her daughter could use her smartphone.

"I wanted her to be able to call me in case of anything. She's a little directionally challenged, so I wanted her to be able to use her maps app," Sher said.

The plan promised full access to everything on her phone for just $10 a day. They have unlimited data already, so the $10 would just carry those benefits with Emily as she and the tour group toured Israel.

"Within an hour of landing, I get a text message that says she's $100 over her data. I call AT&T and they said they forgot to activate it," Sher said.

They promised to fix it, but she kept getting alerts of more overage.

Sher says she was told her daughter had traveled to Jordan and Lebanon, and those locations weren't covered in the international plan.

But Emily hadn't been there. Her tour was on a set itinerary that didn't take her there. Sher said she was promised it would get handled, but then the bill came with more then $500 in extra charges.

AT&T told NBC 5 Responds they issued a credit before we called and said, "We've spoken with the customer about this billing issue and the issue has been resolved."

AT&T and most phone service providers have a list of the countries covered under their international plan, so make sure the country you're visiting is on the list.

If you start getting overage alerts, it can't hurt to take photos and map screenshots to document where you truly were located.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Best Strollers for Easy Holiday Travel ]]>Tue, 14 Nov 2017 07:31:16 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/aria-stroller-recall.jpg

A safe stroller is priority number one, but along with testing stability and braking Consumer Reports also tests for ease of use.

“We test strollers for how you’ll use them in the real world - like for example is it easy to get in and out of the trunk, and when you’re at the gate check you don’t want to be holding up the line, so does it fold quickly and simply,” said Joan Muratore, Consumer Reports Stroller Expert.

Consumer Reports will never recommend a stroller that doesn’t meet mandatory federal safety standards. Your regular stroller might be just fine to travel with, but Consumer Reports says some features can make navigating the airport a bit easier.

“Maneuverability is key when you’re traveling, the wheels should be fluid and responsive, and a single handle makes it easier to push if you just have one hand free,” Muratore said.

The Chicco Bravo Trio travel system is a Consumer Reports best buy. The stroller folds easily and testers give it high marks for maneuverability. The infant car seat can pop right into it, or it can be used as a stroller for children six months or older, who are able to sit up on their own.

“Another good option for travel is an umbrella stroller. They’re small, and they’re light, and they’re great for getting around crowded places like amusement parks or museums.”

The Summer Infant 3D Lite is compact and lightweight, with a reclining seat and a carry strap. This one also makes it one of Consumer Reports best buys at only $80.

The Quinny Yezz doesn’t recline, but it’s compact and light, has a handy carrying strap, and according to CR testers it “turns on a dime."

Most airlines will let you gate check your stroller for free, so you don’t have to worry about fitting it into that overhead compartment, or taking up space as one of your precious carry-on’s.  Same goes for your child’s car seat, if you won't be using it on the airplane.



Photo Credit: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission]]>
<![CDATA[How This Greenville Student Won $150K in Scholarships]]>Mon, 20 Nov 2017 11:42:33 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Gabrielle+McCormick.jpg

She's earned her bachelor's, master's and she’s months away from a Ph.D.

To us, Gabrielle McCormick has got it going on. But to her -- "I'd say I'm a nerd at heart."

McCormick is a stellar student with a lot of wisdom. But there's one thing this North Texan won’t have when she graduates:  College debt.

"Debt free! Completely debt free. Never seen a student loan application at all," McCormick said.

Here in North Texas, McCormick is best known for her time on the court at Greenville High School, a basketball star who knew her skills would one day score her an athletic scholarship.

But life had other plans.

"I tore my Achilles completely," she said. "When I told the coaches that were recruiting me that I'd torn my Achilles they said, 'Oh, I hate to hear that. Best of luck on your surgery,' and I never heard from them again."

That's when panic mode set in.

"I was desperate and my parents were desperate too. I had lost my identity as a student athlete.  A large part of my life had been taken away from me," McCormick said.

But McCormick wasn't giving up.

She started reading books and searching the Internet, determined to apply for as many scholarships as she could. What she learned, shocked her.

"You can get a scholarship for contacts, for glasses or being over 5 feet 10 inches as a female."

There's a scholarship for almost anything: from playing video games and drawing birds to making your prom dress out of duct tape.

She won money for good sportsmanship from the Commerce Basketball Officials Organization. She even won an academic scholarship from her high school’s cafeteria food vendor.

After winning more than a $150,000 in college funding, she knew she was on to something. 

"This isn't luck. You've actually figured out how to do this," she thought.

McCormick is now working on her third degree while running her own company: Scholarship Informer.

She’s teaching parents and students how to avoid loans and debt.

"I do what I do because it could’ve easily been me saddled with outrageous student debt," said McCormick. "I never wanted to place my parents in a situation where they were sacrificing their retirement to pay for my education."

Scholarship Informer was designed to help people from start to finish with the scholarship process, regardless of income level.

McCormick says her website offers numerous free resources, a scholarship calculator to help families estimate how much money a student could win, and most importantly real people helping real people.

"It’s my goal to make college affordable for everyone that wishes to attend," said McCormick.

From a former athlete to a scholarship connoisseur, she said not only is the money is there, it's everywhere. And she's here to help North Texans find it.

Online: Scholarship Informer



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Don't Get Roped Into Scam for Wrapping Your Car]]>Fri, 10 Nov 2017 23:01:11 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/n5r+car+wrap.JPG

Advertisers pay big bucks to get the word out about their product, and with so many companies headquartered in North Texas there's plenty of promotion to go around.

A Carrollton woman has a warning for you about wrapping your car in an advertisement.

Catherine Jamieson's car is copper red and kind of looks like a can of Dr Pepper.

So she wasn't shocked when she got a text message saying that the company wanted to put a sticker on her car advertising the product and would pay her $500 a week to do it.

The text message said it was a new marketing campaign for the Plano-based company.

After she clicked the link, she got a letter in the mail now wanting her to wrap her entire car, not just place a sticker.

The letter had a big red flag for Jamieson, and should be one for you, too.

She was instructed to cash an enclosed $3,500 check and get money orders for a total of $3,000 to pay for the wrapping of the car, and keep $500 for herself.

Jamieson called Dr Pepper first.

The company confirmed to NBC 5 and Jamieson that no such program exists, and they said it's more likely a scam.

Jamieson knew if and when the check bounced she would be held liable for the funds.

MORE: The Federal Trade Commission has posted more information on car wrapping ploys.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Copper Grill Mats]]>Fri, 10 Nov 2017 18:24:33 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/212*120/asparagus+grill.JPG

Grilling outside pretty much any time of year is one of the many perks living in North Texas. Cleanup is not fun, though, and the Yoshi Copper Grill mat promises to help.

Its makers claim you can grill out without all the mess.

We took the copper mats to Byron Barnes, a member of the Armed Forces who loves good food, particularly bacon.

"Bacon is food that has been sent to us from the gods," Barnes said.

Just back from service in the Middle East, his body clock is still off.

"When you're up late at night, you get the infomercials, and you see the grill mats," he said.

We'll give you one guess why he wanted one.

"It's not all about grilling bacon, but it is all about grilling bacon," he said.

We got to work with the mat, grilling steak, asparagus and bacon.

Right off the bat, Byron had a problem.

"I have a reduced cooking area because I am keeping it on the pad. But I like what's going on with this bacon over here," Barnes said.

The mats didn't full cover his grilling surface, but he liked having the option to cook on both sides, mainly because of the steak, which wasn't cooking with many grill marks like the mat promised.

"It looks like a fried steak, without any direct heat," Barnes said.

Knowing we would overcook it, we still moved the steak directly on the grill to show the difference in grill marks.

For everything else, the mat made the grade.

"I'm liking this mat," Barnes said.

Clean up was easy, too, nothing much to do.

We paid $10 for the grill mat at Target.

If you have a product you'd like Wayne to buy, send him a message at facebook.com/wayneresponds.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Veteran's Day Deals in DFW]]>Fri, 10 Nov 2017 13:36:50 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/flags+veterans+day+2017.jpg

Denny's

All active duty and retired service members can build their own grand slam breakfast. That includes buttermilk pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage (but you can mix and match to build your own platter). It's happening Friday from 5 a.m. to noon.

IHOP

All active duty and retired service members are invited to come in and enjoy free red, white and blue pancakes. This deal is on Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

TGI Fridays

Dine-in guests who show their military ID will be treated to a free lunch menu item up to $12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11. The offer includes the new Big Ribs entree in the half-rack portion. These guests will also receive a $5 coupon for their next meal at Fridays.

Target

All active duty military, veterans and their spouse and/or dependent children are eligible to receive a 10 percent discount on purchases in store and online through Saturday.

Bed, Bath and Beyond

Veterans, active duty members and their spouses get 25 percent off their entire in-store purchase through Sunday.

Chili's and Olive Garden are giving away a free meal from a special menu this Saturday.

Fogo de Chao is offering 50 percent off meals for Veterans and active duty personnel through Sunday. Plus, their three guests will get an extra 10 percent off their meals.

Spaghetti Warehouse is encouraging guests to "invite a veteran or soldier to lunch or dinner." For three days, Nov. 10-12, guests can enjoy a buy one entree, get one free coupon offer featuring its more popular enrees. Get the coupon here.

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<![CDATA[Man's Car Damaged By Runaway Construction Equipment]]>Thu, 09 Nov 2017 18:01:59 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Car_Vs_Spool_5p_110917.jpg

It's never a good time when you're at work or shopping and someone dings or dents your car. It happened to a Prosper man, but it wasn't just a little dent.

A huge metal spool caused nearly $9,000 in damage, and the culprit was left sitting right next to his car.

Getting his money back wasn't easy, until he turned to NBC 5 Responds.

Jonathan Bilotta found the spool sitting next to his car after work. He didn't know what it was at first, but it wasn't hard to figure out.

Construction was underway on the road in front of his office, and the large metal spool was on that work site until the wind picked up and rolled the heavy metal wheel into his car.

The spool left a note — in the form of a stamp right on it — from the owner, AT&T.

"There wasn't a number, or anything you can call," Bilotta said.

He went in circles trying to find someone with the telecommunications giant to own up to it.

Their claims provider told him the spool was left there by a construction company laying phone lines. Bilotta reached out to the construction company, but they told him they couldn't help.

"He's not going to do it. It's not his fault. If anything this was an act of God," Bilotta recalled.

NBC 5 Responds contacted AT&T, and the company convinced the contractor to pay up.

The contractor texted Bilotta that his site was clean and it wasn't his fault, but he still handed over the check for nearly $9,000.

An AT&T spokesman told NBC 5, "We regret this situation, but are pleased we could facilitate a resolution."

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<![CDATA[Plano Woman: TripAdvisor Shielded Report of Rape at Resort]]>Thu, 09 Nov 2017 21:11:17 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/tripadvisor1.jpg

For seven years a Plano woman says she's been trying to share her allegations of rape by an employee at a popular Mexican resort.

Her reviews of Iberostar's Parsiso Maya were pulled from the travel review website TripAdvisor, but now the company says that was a mistake.

TripAdvisor says it will now place icons on its website to let users know if there's been a safety issue reported at a particular hotel.

Plano mother Kristie Love fought to share her story, and she says the fight is far from over.

Love said she made the trip to that resort near Cancun many times. But on her last trip the room key wouldn't open her hotel door, so she approached a security guard for help.

She said the guard then pulled her in the bushes and attacked her.

Love said the resort wouldn't call the police — something they deny.

A spokesperson for Iberostar told NBC 5:

"The hotel offered her medical assistance as well as recommended she file a complaint with the police. Ms. Love refused both and indicated that she wanted to meet with American Embassy staff. Iberostar staff contacted the U.S. consulate at the time and offered to transfer her to another hotel if she wished. Ms. Love chose not to file a complaint, nor did she provide information that would have permitted further pursuit of the matter."

Love told her story on TripAdvisor, hoping to tell others about her experience.

The travel review website deleted the review, saying it didn't follow their family-friendly guidelines.

"It may not have gone the way I wanted legally to protect others, but I never thought telling my story about rape would be deleted for not following family-friendly guidelines," Love said.

An investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found dozens of other travelers reporting rejected posts containing allegations of tainted alcohol, blackouts and even rape.

"I think consumers are starting to understand that reviews can be manipulated on these sites, and I think the level of trust is decreasing slowly," said Pauline Frommer, a travel expert.

TripAdvisor changed its policy and posted Love's review. Now it says it will add a badge letting you know if the hotel you're looking at has been the location of a sexual assault or major concern, for up to three months.

Love found the time limit insulting.

"People can take what they want, discard what they want, but we are all privy and we deserve the truth," she said.

A spokeswoman for TripAdvisor told NBC 5:

"Our new badges are intended for instances in which news reports bring new health, safety or discrimination information to light that may not be present in traveler reviews or forum posts."

She added, "A few years ago, we updated that policy to allow more descriptive reviews and content about first-hand account of serious incidents like rape or assault on our site. We recognized then that our previous guidelines went too far in preventing information like this from being shared."

"No hotel can 'bid' for higher placement within our rankings. None of our ranking positions are for sale," the spokeswoman said.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Helps Family Get Refund From Nursing Home]]>Wed, 08 Nov 2017 18:15:44 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/counting+money+generic.jpg

When dealing with a big company it's easy to get passed around from person to person. It's extra frustrating when that company owes you money.

Ken Fung was in this very situation at the worst possible time in his life.

Ken's mother was in a nursing home and died on Mother's Day, right in the middle of the month of May.

Ken Fung asked the facility for a refund for half of the month's charge.

We called around and many nursing homes don't do that, but Fung tells us Victoria Gardens of Allen agreed to do so.

However, he didn't get a check. Every time he asked about the delay, he says he was given different reasons like: he still owed on another account, the finance person was out, or the corporate system was down.

So, he finally turned to NBC 5 Responds.

We reached out to the nursing home repeatedly by phone and through email.

Our team never got a call back to verify the claims and work out a deal. However, days after we started making contact, the nursing home called Fung and provided him the full refund.

When you're caught in a back and forth with a company, document what everyone tells you, takes notes, and try to find some other person in the company to listen.

If they don't, call us. NBC 5 Responds works for you: Send us tips anytime



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Hackers Take Over McKinney Woman's Amazon Account]]>Wed, 08 Nov 2017 07:03:08 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Amazon-PackageGettyImages-461842880.jpg

Rene Lynn can't imagine a life without Amazon. Unbeknownst to her, something strange was happening to her Amazon account. 

The red flag was raised after she received nearly 250 emails from Amazon.

"I noticed they were items that had been listed for sale on Amazon," Lynn said. "This was not me. I did not set up anything to be sold on Amazon."

There were dozens of items for sale under her name. 

She logged into Amazon and realized a seller page had been added to her account. 

Lynn said she reached out to Amazon and received a reply that they'd get back to her within 24 hours. But, she never heard back.

As the emails continued to pour in, she said she started doing some research and realized she may have been a victim of fraud.

Here's how the scheme works:

  1. Hackers steal log-ins and take over an Amazon customer's account.
  2. They then add a seller account and add their bank account information to the profile.
  3. Next: The hackers advertise nonexistent merchandise, make a sale and collect the cash.

There are two sets of victims in this scheme: The primary account holder and the Amazon customer that never receives the product for which they paid.

"I needed help getting Amazon to realize what the situation was and that I have a problem," she said.

Not only was Lynn's account still being abused, but Amazon charged her $240 in seller fees. 

She called the NBC 5 Responds team to step in.

Amazon wouldn't comment on the fraudulent activity, but they said they'd work with Lynn directly.

The seller account was later taken down, and Amazon refunded Lynn the $240 it withdrew for the seller fees.

Lynn said Amazon informed her that customers did buy products listed on her account, but the company has given all of those customers their money back.  We reached out to amazon about this, but haven't received a response.

If you have an amazon account, here are some extra layers of protection:

• Change your password regularly.
• You can also set up "two-step" verification for all of your amazon accounts.  This sends a security code to your phone to verify your log in.
• watch out for third party-sellers. Check their reviews and watch out for the prices. If it seems too cheap…it could be a scam.
• If you're not getting a response back from amazon via email or call the customer service line at 888-280-4331.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chandelier Crashes to Ground in North Texas Family's Foyer]]>Tue, 07 Nov 2017 17:45:50 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/Fallen_Chandelier_5p_110717.jpg

Crashes aren't unusual in the Word family's home.

Their son, Colby, loves playing with his wrestling action figures with his dad.

As tough as Colby may be, even he was shaken by the crash in the foyer of their home.

"It sounded like a whole glass bottle falling," Colby said.

His father, Marcus Word, had just walked in from getting the mail when the fixture fell, and he is counting his blessings his son wasn't playing underneath the light when it crashed.

The home is about five years old, and the builder, Lillian Custom Homes, first told Word they couldn't help, because they were the second owners and the warranty was up.

"I told him, I said, 'You realize this could have hurt or killed someone,'" Marcus Word said.

He hired an electrician who blamed the junction box which held the heavy fixture. It was plastic, not metal, and it cracked under the weight of the chandelier.

Word was worried the same box might be on other fixtures in his home and asked NBC 5 Responds for help.

Lillian Custom Homes told us, "Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience Mr. Word and his family experienced."

They said this was the first time such an issue happened in one of their homes and the employees with whom Marcus Word first spoke weren't trained on how to properly handle it. They paid for the cost of the repairs and sent crews to inspect the other fixtures in the home, where they found the same junction box in the dining room.

They replaced it, and told us, "The plastic junction box in question is rated to hold up to 50 pounds. The chandelier installed weighs 26 pounds, according to the manufacturer. While our electrician did follow code ordinances and the house passed all code inspections, obviously a component of the electrical/light fixture failed."

The Word family hopes the only crashes and smashes in their home now are with Colby's action figures on the family room rug.

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<![CDATA[Companies Aren't Keeping Promises on Gift Cards: Consumers]]>Tue, 07 Nov 2017 06:41:57 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/0222-2017-GiftCard.jpg

The NBC 5 Responds team has received dozens of complaints about gift card promotions. Consumers often tell us that the only reason they signed up for a product was because of the gift card.

Take Dr. Kaz for example: She's a busy woman who needs reliable internet service at all times. She said she heard about a promotion with AT&T that offered a $100 gift card after signing up for service.

It sounded like a good idea. So, Kaz accepted the offer.

She had her internet installed, but the gift card never came in the mail. Three months went by and still, nothing.

Kaz said she called AT&T and was told the promotion ended in September.  She wasn't happy, so she asked to speak with a manager.

The woman said she was then offered $50 off her bill. She became increasingly angry because all she wanted was the gift card she was promised.

Kaz called the NBC 5 Responds team and we called AT&T to find out what happened.

"Customer service is a top priority for us, and we were able to resolve this issue with the customer," an AT&T spokesman told NBC DFW.

About a week later, Kaz finally received that $100 gift card along with a $50 bill credit.

If this sounds familiar, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions: 

• When you sign up for a promotion, always read the fine print.
• Make sure you keep track of the dates: When you signed up and when you can expect the gift card.
• If you don't get anything in the mail or online, call customer service immediately and ask for it. If you wait, it may be too late.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Putting the iPhone X to the Test]]>Tue, 07 Nov 2017 04:11:59 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/iPhone+X.jpg

The iPhone X includes the highest resolution screen Apple has ever offered, plus facial recognition technology to unlock the phone, since there’s no longer a physical home button.

Consumer Reports is testing that facial recognition and other features of the new iPhone in its labs. So far it’s performing well in early tests.

"The iPhone X, like the eight and eight-plus before it, has glass on the front and the back. So we were a little concerned about durability, so like the other phones we test here, we subjected it to a series of drop tests where we put it on a specialized slider. We dropped it from five feet onto concrete on it’s front, it’s back and it’s corners. And after all that it survived with just a few minor scrapes,” said Bree Fowler, Consumer Reports Electronics Editor.

And the new facial recognition feature continued to work after drop tests from three feet.

Over the next few days Consumer Reports will conduct battery, camera and additional durability testing including a tumble test and water immersion test. Those results will be available soon.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Joanna Gaines Warns Fans About Fake Skin Care Ads]]>Mon, 06 Nov 2017 09:16:36 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/joanna-gaines-face-cream.jpg

The world can't seem to get enough of Chip and Joanna Gaines. Texans call them the first couple of Waco.

In July, Janie Carpenter came across an ad that nearly broke her heart. It said the couple was parting ways with their famous show to "start a new project."

"It stated that she was starting up a skin cream line," Carpenter said.

It even included testimonials.

"And I thought 'woo hoo,' I'm going to try this product," she recalled.

Carpenter signed up for a free sample of "Zarza Revive Cream," but another product also appeared in her cart.

"A secondary product for an eye cream, and I had no options to delete that eye cream," she explained.

It was only an extra $5.95 for shipping, so she just went with it.

But after receiving the two products, she realized she was charged $94 for one sample and $104 for the other.

Carpenter called the number on the website to find out why she was overcharged. She said a representative informed her that there was a 14-day window where she had to return the product, and she was already beyond that 14-day window.

When the company only agreed to a partial refund, she says she realized it may be a scam.

The Responds team in Boston found customers with similar complaints.

"About two weeks later, I was scrolling through my online banking account and I saw a couple of odd looking charges, and they were for $97 and 98 each," said Jean Straupenieks. "I couldn't determine. There were these strange names. We figured out it was this company."

The NBC 5 Responds team has learned that Joanna Gaines isn't endorsing this product.

In an April blog post, she warned fans, "I am not getting into the business of facial creams."

Her company, Magnolia Market, issued this statement:

"We are aware of the ongoing scam linking Joanna to a line of skincare products. We have been working to identify as many of the skincare scam sites as possible and we have been able to shut down several already, but we'd love everyone's help in spreading the word that this is a scam and to not click or engage with any of these ads." 

Documents obtained by the Responds team show 37 complaints about the Vlamorous free trial offer have been filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

We tried calling both Vlamorous and Zarza, but couldn't reach anyone for comment.

"It was very deceiving because they made you think this was Joanna Gaines' skin products," Carpenter said.

Fortunately, she was able to dispute the second charge with her credit card company, so she got the rest of her money back.

As for the Zarza ad, it's still falsely advertising products using Joanna Gaines' name.

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<![CDATA[North Texas Church Says Contractor Ran Off With $50,000]]>Fri, 03 Nov 2017 21:44:38 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Church_Ripped_Off_10p_10032017.jpg

Pastor E.G. Roberts says preaching was never a choice, and for him it is much more than just a job.

"We need to save lost souls. People are searching for a higher calling," Roberts said.

As membership grows at the Way of Christ Christian Church in Duncanville, so does the need for more space.

"It's nothing wrong with this place. We feel this place is home, but we're trying to reach a larger population," Roberts said.

The congregation made it their mission to raise enough money to build a new sanctuary from the ground up. They settled on land in DeSoto. A builder with whom the pastor worked on another project referred him to Standard Steel Buildings in Rockwall. The church wanted to build their new church using steel, and thought Standard Steel Buildings could help begin the construction process.

They did research and looked at different churches the company built.

"We just made sure that he was a legit company, which he was, so we thought," Roberts said.

The pastor and his board members were impressed with the designs and blueprints, so they signed the contract. They paid about $13,000 up front. According to Roberts, that's when the trouble started.

"They said that the price for steel was gonna go up, and we had to put down another $10,000. And we said, OK, so we did that," Robert said.

Months went by and the church didn't hear from the company.

Roberts says the owner, Kevin Kissire, stopped returning his phone calls almost immediately. The project manager, Jason White, wasn't answering either.

They couldn't get either to pick up until they started calling from different numbers.

Roberts says whenever they could reach the owner and project manager, their list of excuses for not moving forward on the project ranged from being out of town to family emergencies. Ultimately, they kept saying the pastor would need to put down more money to move forward. The church ended up shelling out nearly $50,000 for the project.

More than a year later, and still nothing.

"By now we figured the first phase would be finished," Roberts said.

The pastors says the project manager eventually informed him he was no longer affiliated with Standard Steel Buildings and that the owner moved to the Philippines. That manager, Jason White, confirmed with NBC 5 Responds that he no longer works for the company. But when asked where all the money had gone, he hung up the phone.

After looking into the owner's background, we learned Kevin Kissire has been convicted of at least five theft charges over the years, including writing a bad check. We also discovered he stopped paying taxes on Standard Steel Buildings back in 2015 and the state yanked the company's business license. We tried to call Kissire, but all of his numbers have been disconnected. We also reached out to him via Facebook days ago and have yet to hear back.

How does Pastor Roberts feel about all of this?

"From a fleshly side, I would love to get my hands on him; from a spiritual side, I have to forgive him. But if I actually saw him, the flesh may win this time," Roberts said.

The pastor says he started doing some research of his own and learned his church was far from alone. Azure Pools and Outdoor Living tells NBC 5 Responds they, too, were ripped off by Standard Steel Buildings. They say they paid that company more than $40,000 to build a new office, but they were left with nothing.

"We also have documents stating that his mama, his daddy, his uncle, his aunties, all of them are part owners in the company," Roberts said.

We reached out to Weldon Kissire, the owner's father. He confirmed that many family members worked with his son many years ago as advisors, but he tells me they eventually parted ways.

Weldon says he's spoken to the pastor many times and he'd believe what the pastor says over his son any day.

The congregation is raising money once again hoping to have a new building sometime next year. Financially crippled, but not broken.

"The money don't belong to me, it belongs to the Lord. When you're brave enough to steal from God, you'll steal from anybody," Roberts said.

The pastor has filed a police report with the DeSoto Police Department. He says he was told the matter was civil and there wasn't much that could be done. Roberts says they can't afford to sue, but he's not giving up. He hopes that sharing his story will prevent someone else from falling victim.

]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Baseboard Buddy]]>Fri, 03 Nov 2017 16:39:07 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Baseboard_Buddy_5p_110317.jpg

Big, white, bright baseboards are a staple in so many of our homes, but cleaning them can be a hassle.

The Baseboard Buddy promises to help, as a fast and easy way to clean both baseboards and moldings.

Susan Lackey's home is right out of a magazine. She loves to clean, but there is one little problem.

"I have four cats, which almost qualifies me as a crazy cat lady," Lackey said. "They walk by, and fur falls off."

Lackey saw a commercial for the Baseboard Buddy and let Wayne buy it.

After wetting the pad and applying to the wall at a 45-degree angle, they got their answer.

"I love it! I love it," Lackey said.

We took a look before and after, and the Baseboard Buddy did a good job removing the dirt.

"It's a simple problem, and a simple solution," said Lackey, who plans to add it to her FMP — "Fur Management Plan."

If you have a product you're curious about trying out, tell us at facebook.com/wayneresponds and let Wayne buy it.

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<![CDATA[Affordable Care Act Enrollment Begins Wednesday]]>Wed, 01 Nov 2017 17:10:37 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/health-care-exchange-story.jpg

The Affordable Care Act is still on the books, and if you don't get insurance through your employer, the window to enroll for health insurance is Dec. 15.

The IRS says this year your income taxes will be incomplete if you aren't covered.

The Dec. 15 is much earlier than last year, and if you miss it you could face significant fines.

You can begin the enrollment process at healthcare.gov.

The enrollment marketplace has fewer insurance choices, after Anthem and Aetna dropped out. Eight insurers remain in Texas — and rural areas have the least choices — but most counties will have one or two insurer choices.

Premiums will likely go up this year, however, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds many of you will now qualify for insurance for free for the first time.

It was an unintended result of changes the Trump administration made to the law.

By cutting funding, the survey found subsidies increased, making Bronze-level insurance policies free for many who qualify.

The Trump administration did cut money for the government to help answer questions about signing up for ACA.

Many organizations that support it are providing the service free of charge.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Health Insurance Marketplace Enrollment Starts Nov. 1]]>Thu, 02 Nov 2017 08:15:19 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/obamacare2.jpg

Open enrollment starts Nov. 1 in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

This enrollment period is shorter than the previous ones at just 45 days.

Those who don't enroll for health insurance by Dec. 15 will need to experience a qualifying life event to sign up. That's something like losing a job or getting married.

The cost of insurance will likely be higher this time around, now that the cost-sharing reduction subsidies have been cut.

The best place to register is online through the government's healthcare website.

Parkland Hospital is also offering free assistance during the enrollment period.

Counselors will be on hand to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and help with Marketplace enrollment between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in Parkland's Business Office. 

The Business Office is located here:

Parkland OPC
5201 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas, Texas 75235

Free assistance is also offered at Parkland's community health centers in Dallas, Garland and Irving during regular business hours on Tuesday and Thursdays.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Rent-A-Center Faces Suit Over Billing Practices, Bookkeeping]]>Tue, 31 Oct 2017 16:31:02 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/rent+a+center.jpg

Complaints against Plano based Rent-A-Center are coming in from all sides.

A Houston debt collector told NBC 5 Rent-A-Center sold him names of phone numbers of people behind on their bill. But when he contacted them, they had proof the bills were already paid. He also says payments the debt collector took on delinquent bills were allegedly never credited to the customers.

This news comes after an investigation by NerdWallet that says the Plano based rent to own company has failed to properly update credit files for many paying customers, and that they threatened non-paying ones with arrest.

A source close to Rent-A-Center told NBC 5 this was the first they heard of many of the complaints and that they don't condone or accept many of the actions.

NBC 5 Responds also got this statement from Rent-A-Center saying:

“The company believes NerdWallet included a number of exaggerated and inaccurate claims and grossly mischaracterized Rent-A-Center’s business practices. The company is confident in the merits of the business and industry to empower those striving to enjoy the American dream.”

Rent-A-Center won't specifically comment on the debt collection issue because a lawsuit has been filed.

We also confirmed with the Tarrant County District Attorney's office that 1 out of 5 of their theft of service cases have to do with rent to own furniture companies.

Dallas and Collin County are looking into their reports for us.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Halloween Deals, Freebies and Discounts]]>Tue, 31 Oct 2017 05:53:49 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/halloween-candy-generic.jpg

Chipotle's Boorito deal is still going strong. It brings out big crowds every year. Stop by any Chipotle in costume after 3 p.m. and you'll get a burrito, bowl, salad or tacos for $3.

Online: Boorito

If you get tired of all that candy today, Krispy Kreme says they have the perfect alternative: A free Halloween doughnut, no purchase necessary. All you have to do is come dressed in your costume and the free treat is yours. It's happening all day at participating Krispy Kreme locations.

Online: Krispy Kreme

How about FREE PANCAKES at IHOP? Kids ages 12 and under can create their own scary faced pancake from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday. It's one pancake per child, but we're told it's a pretty good size. Kids can also enter their pancake creation for a chance to win an IHOP gift card. Use the hashtags SCARYFACEPANCAKE and ENTRY.

Online: IHOP

Kids under 12 years old get a FREE MEAL at Dickey's Barbecue Pit. The promotion is on Halloween from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. All the kiddos have do is come dressed in a costume.

Online: Dickey's Barbecue Pit

Sonic is offering CORN DOGS for just 50 cents. The promotion is going all day on Halloween.

Online: Sonic

Plano-based PIZZA HUT wants you to take 25 percent off your order on Halloween by using the promo code. SCARYGOOD25

Online: Pizza Hut



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Getting the Lowest Price for Online Purchases]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 16:31:15 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Paribus+app.jpg

Prices change frequently on just about everything you buy online. Some times it can happen several times a day.

Amazon and other online retailers often promise to pay you the price difference if the item you buy lowers in cost after you make the purchase, but most people don't track prices on things they've already bought.

Paribus is one app that helps. It scans your email for receipts and searches to see if the price for the item you purchased goes down.

The app's developer says it will automatically send an email to the merchant asking for the lower price and credit your bank account.

It also keeps track of shipping time, too.

"A lot of stores promise that your package is supposed to be in by Thursday, and it ends up getting in a little later, like Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Well, you can get the shipping costs back or if you're a (Amazon) Prime member — get an extra month of Prime," said Eric Glyman, of Paribus.

There are other plugins and apps like Honey, a handy service that will save you money, before you spend it. They let you know if the item you're about to buy is cheaper at another merchant.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Drivers Across US Report 'Exploding' Sunroofs]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 05:30:47 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-exploding-sunroofs.jpg

Hundreds of drivers across the country have reported cracking, shattering and exploding sunroofs from different makes and models of vehicles.

Alicia Quinn said she was only doing 20 mph on a residential road in Southlake when the sunroof on her 2015 Nissan Altima exploded.

"I actually thought that I was shot," she said. "It sounded like a gun."

Quinn said nothing hit the glass — it just shattered on its own.

She took the car into a Nissan dealership near her job. She said the service department kept the car for several days and later determined something must have hit the sunroof, meaning she would have to pay for repairs.

"No way, no way anything hit it," Quinn explained.

Keisha King, in Chicago, shared a similar story.

"I really thought I got shot at," she said. "Did my sunroof just, like, explode?"

She was driving her 2013 Nissan Altima on an expressway when she said, all of a sudden, she heard a boom. There was shattered glass and a large hole in her sunroof.

"I feel like it's a safety issue," said King.

Others across the country seem to agree.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received hundreds of complaints about shattered sunroofs across multiple brands.

Mark Meshulam, a glass expert, pointed to three likely culprits: Rock or debris hitting the glass, an installation flaw, or imperfections in the glass itself.

"Tempered glass can be like a ticking time bomb...There are little imperfections," explained Meshulam. "They're like little stones. If they happen to be inside tempered glass, there's potential that down the road that little stone will grow sufficiently to actually spontaneously break the glass."

As of writing, a federal class action lawsuit was underway against Nissan. The complaint focuses on Nissan and Infiniti models from 2008 to 2017, claiming the sunroofs are "defective" and prone to "spontaneously shattering."

Nissan North America tells NBC 5 Responds the following:

"The safety and security of our customers is always our number one priority. While we cannot speak specifically on behalf Nissan dealerships, which are independently owned and operated, regarding questions related to reports of moon roof breakage, Nissan does not have evidence of any issue related to design or manufacturing. Consequently, damaged moon roofs should be submitted to the owner's insurer as a comprehensive claim."

Quinn had to pay $800 to repair her sunroof.

"If my child was in the car and that thing was open, she would have been covered in glass because the car seat is under the glass," she said. "This is a major issue."

NHTSA tells NBC 5 Responds it has an open investigation into sunroofs and encourages the public to contact them if they have any information about this matter.

As for Alicia Quinn's sunroof, we reached out to her local dealership and it has processed a refund for $800 as a goodwill gesture.

ONLINE: Contact NHTSA



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Faulty Furniture Leaves Customer Looking for Answers]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 15:57:54 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/faulty+furniture.jpg

Spending time outdoors is a way of life in North Texas. Even when home, we're often dining or lounging in our yards and patios. Investing in quality outdoor furniture can set you back quite a bit, so imagine the frustration when that pricey patio set doesn't last long at all.

Rachel Sipperley has a rooftop patio with quite the view. She knew it is where she and her friends would be spending some serious time.

"To grill out and sit up here and have a glass of wine at night, look at the gorgeous skyline and some sun," Sipperley said.

She saw an ad on Craigslist for some all-weather furniture — brand new and still in the box — from Vrienden Outdoor.

"And then when I contacted them, they told me that they were wholesalers, and that they had just done a home and garden show in Dallas, and that they were leaving and that they kind of just had this extra set here that they were kind of trying to get rid of," Sipperley said.

She says Alex and Suzanne Ricitelli told her it was high quality, commercial grade furniture with a five-year warranty.

Sipperley paid more than $2,000 in cash for the set, and she was pretty happy with it at first.

"I started noticing in the tables kind of little almost melted holes," she said.

She showed how the wicker in the furniture was breaking, and the webbing on a couch arm was falling apart. The coffee table also has broken pieces, she said.

She took video of how the material was sliding away.

Alex and Suzanne Ricitelli reportedly told Sipperley they never had this issue before.

"She kind of said take it up with the manufacturer, there's nothing we can do," Sipperley recalled. "So I reached out to the manufacturer, and what they said was, 'Well, you didn't buy it from us, so we're not going to honor the warranty.'"

Vrienden Outdoor is based out of Minneapolis. And right on its website are photos of Sipperley's furniture and a list of their installations, including, allegedly, the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

Vrienden owner Kevin Mach said he wasn't obligated to replace the furniture, because Sipperley bought it from the Ricitellis and not from his company directly.

He offered to sell Sipperley new tables for the set at a discount. But she would also have to pay shipping, and it was going to cost more than $200.

Sipperley asked Mach if he could ship the replacement to the Ricitellis with their next order to cut down on the cost.

He wrote, "We could, but it might be the spring."

She agreed, but it never happened. And Sipperley says it proves the Ricitellis did have a relationship with the company owner.

Vrienden told NBC 5 Responds because Sipperley bought the product second hand, they weren't obligated to help.

To this day, Sipperley says she doesn't know exactly how the Ricitellis are connected to the company.

And the Hilton Anatole tells us they've never purchased any patio furniture from Vrienden.

We've also found the exact same ads running in other cities, word for word.

Vrienden and its owner have yet to return any more of calls or answer any more emails from NBC 5 Responds.

"I don't think I'm getting my money back," Sipperley said.

Sipperley says she's learned the hard way the dangers of buying things online at a discount, and what is said verbally means little.

We tracked down Suzanne Ricitelli — the woman who sold Sipperley the furniture over Craigslist — and tried for days to connect with her, with no luck.

There's also a handful of Better Business Bureau complaints about Vrienden Outdoor's quality and warranty from consumers across the country.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Clorox Scrubtastic]]>Fri, 27 Oct 2017 17:10:49 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/LWBI_Scrubtastic_5p_102717.jpg

Most of us don't look forward to cleaning the bathroom, as scrubbing soap scum can be hard work.

The Clorox Scrubtastic is a powered brush that promises to make that job a little easier. It comes with three different brushes for different chores in the bathroom.

"I'm picky about my bathroom. I just want it to shine," said Liz Trevino.

She has a disability which makes maneuvering around the house a little tough. She agreed not to clean her bathroom for a few days so we could really see what Scrubtastic could do.

We tried the flat brush on her shower door. While the glass wasn't quite crystal clear, the Scrubtastic made a big dent, especially on the chrome.

We also tried it on the grout.

You could see how much dirt came off by looking at the white, turned brown brush bristles.

We also used the extender, which allowed Trevino to clean all around the sides and bottom of her tub without bending down.

"I'm impressed with it, because I like the way it worked in the tub," she said.

We paid $39.95 for Scrubtastic on Amazon.

This product test came as a suggestion from Trevino on Wayne Carter's Facebook page. If you have a product you want Wayne to buy, log on to facebook.com/wayneresponds and let him know.

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<![CDATA[What You Can Do in Case of a Canceled Concert]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 16:02:40 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Canceled_Concert_5p_102617.jpg

It's always exciting to score tickets when your favorite singer comes to town, and it's equally disappointing if that show gets canceled. But what happens if you don't get your money back.]]>
<![CDATA[Contractor Pleads Guilty to Theft After NBC 5 Investigation]]>Thu, 26 Oct 2017 10:20:23 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mario-Vila.jpg

His customers thought the man who introduced himself as "Dino Milutinovic" was an honest businessman.

Sophia Gray found him on Craigslist and paid him $4,300 to renovate her backyard. But she said he never returned after receiving the money. Consumers in Tarrant, Dallas, Parker and Ellis counties were faced with the same dilemma. 

"Within this group we have...$26,000 in a very short period of time that this man has taken away from us," said Terry Hill, a North Texas homeowner.

During our investigation, NBC 5 Responds learned "Dino Milutinovic" wasn't the contractor's name after all. His real name is Mario Vila. Vila said his name was tarnished by bad reviews, so he needed to come up with something different to get jobs.

Vila also revealed that his business got out of hand. He took deposits from new customers and used the money to finish other jobs and pay back loans.

"It's still stealing," said John Cole, a homeowner who says he was victimized by Vila. "We all need money, but I don't steal from people."

After our report aired, the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office brought Vila in for questioning. Officers arrested him that day and charged him with theft of service.

"We kind of just thought he was just going to get away with it and we'd lose out," Hill explained.

Nearly a year later, Vila accepted a plea deal, admitting guilt and agreeing to pay his victims back.

The DA's office tells NBC 5 Responds: "We reached an agreement in this case with the defense that ensured every victim in this case was paid back every penny that they lost. The total amount mr vila took from his victims was $39,900. Yesterday he paid back that entire amount."

Hill was shocked by the news, but she's glad she can put all of this behind her.

"Hopefully he realizes he can't go through life ripping people off and thinking he can get away with it, because there's always someone out there who will not let the situation go, and they're going to work until you're held accountable," she said

The DA's office says it is often difficult to recover lost funds in these incidents.  So they're glad the victims in Tarrant County, in this case, were each paid back in full.

The NBC 5 Responds team has recovered more than $700,000 for consumers.  If you have a consumer complaint that you'd like the team to investigate, click here: www.nbcdfw.com/consumer-form/



Photo Credit: Tarrant Co. Sheriff's Dept./NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[FW Couple Reimbursed for Tow-Damaged Car]]>Wed, 25 Oct 2017 06:14:22 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/tow-truck-sign-generic.jpg

Faye and Gregory Caldwell said they picked up their car from Metro Parking Solutions in Fort Worth.

They said front bumper was damaged and they were furious.

The couple said an employee assured them they'd pay to get it fixed, but later came back and said they'd only reattach the rubber mask on the bumper.

The Caldwells weren't too sure about this, so they went to three different auto body shops to get another opinion.

They were told the damage would cost them anywhere from $1,400 to $1,800, and reattaching the rubber mask wouldn't be enough.

The couple said they went back to the towing company, but at that point, all of their calls were being ignored.

So the couple called NBC 5 Responds for help.

Metro parking solutions told NBC 5 Responds, "We did not see any evidence that the tow operator damaged this vehicle. However, because Mr. Caldwell seemed so convinced that the damage did occur we offered to remedy the situation by paying to have the plastic under the front of the car clipped back up to the undercarriage....We offered to have a local shop we do business with secure the plastic pieces I spoke of. They declined, insisting there was other damage."

We sent the company the estimates again so they could take another look.  Not long after, they agreed to write Faye and Gregory a check to cover the damage.

The Fort Worth couple is glad their problem is finally solved.

If you have an issue with a towing company, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

  • You can file a complaint with the texas department of licensing and regulation
  • You can also file a claim on the tow company's insurance if you have damage



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[3 Things You Need to Know About the Wi-Fi 'Krack Attack']]>Tue, 24 Oct 2017 06:01:16 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/wifi-logo-hack.jpg

The Krack Attack is a newly discovered internet security flaw. It's a bug so vicious that it can cut through secured Wi-Fi networks in homes and businesses.

The Problem

If a hacker gains access through this type of attack, that person would have a front row seat to everything on your network. 

From your private chats on apps to baby monitors, if the device uses Wi-Fi, it can be hacked.

How It Works

The attack takes advantage of what's known as "the four way handshake."

This process between a device and a router delivers a fresh, encrypted session every time you get online.

That encryption is what is supposed to make your data uncrackable.

This newly discovered bug can crack that encryption, leaving all of your data exposed.

Good News

Experts at DKB Innovative, though, say they don't know of anyone who actually has these "krack" tools yet.

And many manufacturers have already released several patches across multiple platforms to close this loophole.

More Good News

Hackers can't just do this anywhere.

They have to be physically close to the Wi-Fi network. So they couldn't do this overseas.

Samantha Chatman's Solutions

• Make sure all of your devices are updated. Manufacturers will usually send your device a reminder, but it's up to you to authorize the update.

• You can also try using connections other than Wi-Fi, such as your cell phone's 3G or 4G connection

• You can also try using a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, which can give you another layer of protection



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Yearlong Headstone Dispute Finally Resolved]]>Mon, 23 Oct 2017 06:12:39 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-tombstone.jpg

As if burying her favorite aunt wasn't hard enough, Wynona Stone is now faced with yet another struggle. 

Her aunt Aline passed away in 1999 and her mom died last year. Both were missing the date of death on their headstones.

"We couldn't make the money right then and there," Stone said.

But last November, Stone and her sister scraped up enough cash to pay for their date plates. They paid Hughes Family Tribute Center about $400 for the date plates and expected both to be installed in a month or two.

But each time Stone and her sister visited the gravesite, the dates were still missing. Stone called the funeral home to find out why it was taking so long. 

"They said they order them out in California and as soon as they come in that they'd notify us," she said. "But we were never notified."

By spring, Stone said her mom's date plate was finally installed. But her aunt's still wasn't there. 

Stone's aunt's name was eventually taken off the headstone. She thought it was a sign that a new plate was coming soon. 

So Stone and I decided to go to the funeral home together to find out why this has taken nearly a year.

"There's nothing there and it doesn't prove that she even existed! It's a shame," Stone said.

After about five minutes of waiting, the owner pulled the date plate out of the drawer. 

The owner tells NBC 5 Responds "The bronze manufacturer for this plate is no longer in business and it took time to find a company that could make a matching plate. The first plate, unbeknownst to us, was delivered to the cemetery after hours on a Saturday and left at the door. We were unaware that it had been delivered and didn't realize it was missing for a few weeks, because bronze has a lengthy manufacturing time frame and this was a special order. Once we realized it had been delivered, and was most likely stolen, we paid to have a second plate made. In order to get the second plate here as quickly as possible, we also paid to have it expedited." 

That same day, the funeral home finally installed the plate on the headstone.  Putting Stone at ease. 

The funeral home, which also owns Crown Hill Memorial Park, says they tried to keep the family up to date on the status, as new information was received.  "Most of the delays have been outside of crown hill's control, but we are looking at the process to see if we can make internal changes that could have reduced the time it took...One step already taken is the change with Federal Express, which should help eliminate the need for a second plate needing to be ordered."

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<![CDATA[Contractor Hired to Paint Home as Part of Fake Check Scheme]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 21:40:40 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/fake+check.png

There’s plenty of work for home improvement contractors around North Texas, but this is a business often driven by recommendations and referrals.

When new contractor Charles Brand got an online lead for an estimate to paint an entire house, he was pretty pumped. “He sent me a location for an address. He stated he wasn’t in the state, he was away undergoing surgery with a specialist in California. He wanted me to give an estimate while he was away, and wanted me to do the work while he was away,” said Brand.

This was odd, but Brand says not unheard of. He’s done work for many customers who live out-of-state or wanted work done while on vacation.

So, he headed to the home in Garland, sized it up and texted an estimate for the job to his potential client. “The estimate was $1,600, and he gave me a total of $5,100 in the form of two separate checks,” said Brand.

The homeowner told Brand he couldn’t start painting just yet. He claimed to have  just bought the house and still owed the previous homeowner a few thousand dollars as part of the deal. He wanted Brand to help.

The text he sent Brand about the transaction said, “You will deduct $1,600 for your service and send the extra $3,500 to the initial ex-homeowner via cash deposit.”

He wanted Brand to deposit those checks, quickly, he asked the manager at the bank for advice. They researched the checks and yes they were fake.

Brand says, “Small businesses like myself we’re an easy target for people to send fraudulent checks and we’re gullible to accept”

Typically in schemes involving checks written for more than the amount of service, crooks ask you to deposit the checks and your bank will put the money in your account. The crook will then ask you to send the extra money back to them, or wire it to some third party. Days, sometimes even weeks later, the bank realizes the checks are fake and the money is taken back. But, you have already sent the extra cash and so that money is gone from your account.

If the scammers had succeeded, Brand says “they would put my business under the ground if that had turned back on me”.

The contractor referral site Home Advisor tells it's contractors if significant work is requested but the home owner has little regard to contract terms or job details. This can be a red flag. They also say that many times fraudulent homeowners will choose to only communicate over text or email instead of on the phone

Bottom line: if something seems fishy, it likely is, so trust your instincts, like Brand did. Never accept a check from someone who wants you to send money back, or in this case give it to someone else.

While some see red flags immediately, others don’t. New business owners looking to build clientele can be particularly vulnerable.

If someone feels they may have been a victim of fraud, they should contact their local law enforcement, FBI office, or can register a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Active Bright Coconut Charcoal Powder]]>Thu, 26 Oct 2017 09:10:28 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/teeth+white.png

When you talk about your smile, most of us want it to be its whitest and brightest.

There are so many treatments out there promising to do just that. Fresh on the market is Active Bright. It claims to use activated charcoal to whiten teeth and remove stains. So, we decided to see how it works.

For years Kristen McMahon has wanted pearly whites, “That’s the first thing that people look at whenever they look at you,”said McMahon.

We asked if she'd be willing to try Active Bright’s Activated Coconut Charcoal Powder. The benefits listed on the packaging gave McMahon some hope, "It says its great for sensitive teeth which is what I have,” she said.

We got our jars of active bright, a soft toothbrush, and brushed for two minutes, as directed.

We had the activated coconut charcoal all over our face, clothes, and all in the cracks of our teeth.

McMahon was not a fan of the taste, “it says it’s peppermint flavor but I don’t taste peppermint," she said.

The feeling wasn’t too nice for our sensitive teeth either, “The back of my teeth, like in the back, they are kinda sore,” she said.

Kristen and I both agreed a little mess and bad taste would be worth it if our teeth instantly got as white as they did on the box.

“I will say my teeth do feel clean. I do have a clean feeling in my mouth, it’s just not white,” said McMahon.

The makers of Active Bright told us: “Active Bright has been found to be more effective in removing stained dental pellicles (film) from your teeth in comparison to other American Dental Association approved products. The mild stinging you described may have been the sensation of the coconut charcoal which absorbs the plaque and bacteria. She should not worry as active bright is gentle and can be used every day.”

They encouraged us to use less powder, which we did and it was less messy.

While we did like how clean our mouth felt and some stains were likely gone we didn't have dramatically whiter teeth.

McMahon says, “I might keep using it to see, but I don’t have high expectations at all”.

Active Bright also said the condition of your teeth prior to use may effect an outcome. The company says its studies and tests were conducted and reviewed using FDA policies.

Kristen says she’s going to keep trying it out and I will too and we'll post on Facebook if we think our teeth have gotten any whiter.

You can also head to @wayneresponds on facebook to tell me if there's something out there you're thinking about buying but are on the fence.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Helps With Mattress Returns]]>Thu, 19 Oct 2017 06:41:53 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Responds_Mattress_Complaints.jpg

Two North Texans find out buying a new mattress can be stressful if it turns out the one you bought isn't the perfect fit.]]>
<![CDATA[Student Loan Debt Can Haunt Even After Payoff]]>Wed, 18 Oct 2017 06:52:56 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Responds_Student_Loans.jpg

For the nearly 70 percent of graduates who leave college with student loan debt, the Federal Trade Commission warns to beware of companies promising to reduce or eliminate that debt.]]>
<![CDATA[Harvey Led to Some Issues for Consumers Doing Business]]>Tue, 17 Oct 2017 16:39:16 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/NBC+5+Responds+Placeholder.JPG

The NBC 5 Responds center helps when you run into a consumer issue. Here's some recent cases in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.]]>
<![CDATA[Plano-Based Pizza Hut Notifies Customers of Security Breach]]>Tue, 17 Oct 2017 05:23:19 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/pizza-hut-101012.jpg

Plano-based Pizza Hut tells NBC 5 Responds that nearly 60,000 customers were affected by a data breach.

Information that may have been compromised includes names, billing ZIP codes, delivery and email addresses, payment card information and gift card numbers.

The company would not confirm which stores were impacted, but says affected customers have been notified electronically and will also be notified by mail.

Pizza Hut officials released the following statement.

“Pizza Hut U.S. experienced a brief third-party security intrusion on our website and mobile app that compromised the information of a limited number of customers. Pizza Hut quickly detected the intrusion and immediately took steps to halt it and remediate the security issue. We estimate that less than one percent of the week’s traffic was affected. We take the information security of our customers very seriously and invest in resources to protect the customer information in our care. We value the trust our customers place in us, regret that this happened, and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

NBC 5 Responds advises Pizza Hut customers to check their bank and credit card statements. If fraudulent activity is suspected, consider getting a new card altogether.



Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Consumer Alert: CEO Email Scheme Targets Dallas Business ]]>Tue, 17 Oct 2017 05:42:23 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-ceo-scheme.jpg

Deborah McMurray has put her heart and soul into her small business, a strategy and technology company in Dallas.

"Our employees are all really smart," she said. "Lots of engineers. Everyone has college degrees."

In May, McMurry received a text from one of her employees. It was a message she said made no sense at all. 

"The text said 'I'm about to get that transfer for you.' I had no idea what she was talking about," she said. "So I quickly texted back and I asked 'What transfer?'"

The employee then sent her a screenshot. It was an email from McMurray asking her to transfer $24,500 to a bank account. 

McMurray said she never sent that email, yet it was coming from her email account.

"It looked entirely legitimate," she said. 

It's happened seven different times; emails that appear to be from McMurray asking her employees to wire tens of thousands of dollars

"I was horrified, wondering who in the world would do this to us," she said. 

It's known as "CEO Fraud." The FBI says it's claimed more than $2 billion in funds globally.

Here's what happens: An imposter finds an executive's email address, typically from a company website. They spoof the address and ask employees to wire money, hoping someone takes the bait.

Small businesses may be more vulnerable than others because of smaller budgets and fewer resources. Fortunately, McMurray's employees were vigilant and called her first.

"And praise the Lord, no one transferred money," she explained.

McMurray is relieved, but at the same time, disturbed.

"It felt like someone had broken into my home," she said. "It felt that personal and that targeted and that intrusive it was really frightening."

The FBI says business email scams are among the fastest growing internet fraud schemes. They cost American businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Here's what businesses of all sizes can do to protect the company:

• If your boss ever asks you to wire money via email, pick up the phone and call them.
• Meet with your IT department and come up with an action plan if your email account has been hacked.
• If you ever suspect fraudulent activity, call the FBI at 800-CALL-FBI.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[ID Theft Victims May Have a Criminal Record and Not Know It]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 16:30:35 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/identity+theft1.jpg

You could have a criminal record right now and not even know it. The major problem is expected to get much bigger, and it's all due to identity theft.

When you think of identity theft, you may think about someone opening a bank account in your name or using your credit card numbers for purchases you never made.

But when crooks have your name, address and Social Security number, they can do much more.

Fake IDs can be made with your stolen information. Crooks can cash bad checks and even hand over the fake ID to officers if they're being arrested. It's no longer their name on the record, but yours.

It happened to Adrien Boyd. She's a member of the military and was deployed when someone stole her identity and used it to commit financial crimes in her name.

"She had a hindering apprehension, injury to a child, assault, failure to appear — she had done quite a few things with my name, Social Security number," Boyd said.

Most of us monitor our credit report, but how often do you check to see if you were arrested?

This could be going on without your knowledge, and you would never know until a police officer comes to arrest you for missing court or you go to get a new driver's license.

Like Boyd, only then will you learn what the legal system thinks you did.

"These are innocent people," said the Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson. "Ms. Boyd served in the Air Force, and she [came] home and someone had been using her ID all the time she was gone defending her country."

Just like you check your credit, you should check your criminal history.

Run a background check on yourself.

If there are crimes on there you didn't commit, the Dallas County district attorney is holding an Identity Theft Expo on Oct. 28 where the DA's office and sheriff's will verify your identity and help you clear your name.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas Woman Calls NBC 5 to Help Fix Erroneous ER Bill]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 05:27:09 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-first-choice.jpg

In March of 2016, Carla Spurgeon heard a thump in another room and found her husband lying on the floor.

Spurgeon said it's one of the hardest things for a caregiver to witness. At first, she thought it was just a minor scrape, but a couple days later the cut got worse.

Spurgeon said she wasn't taking any chances, so she took him to a nearby free-standing emergency room in Richardson called First Choice.

"I said all the right things when I went in," she explained.

Spurgeon said the receptionist confirmed they were in network, so they went on with the appointment. Their insurance covered most of the bill, but First Choice apparently forgot to bill Medicare, leaving her with a balance of $269.

Health care providers that accept Medicare are required by law to submit bills on the patient's behalf, but Spurgeon says that never happened.

"So I called and, 'I said you need to charge Medicare,'" she said.

But a year later, Spurgeon said she received a collection notice for $6,098. She then called First Choice and was told they'd look into it, but months later, nothing. 

So she got NBC 5 Responds on the case.

We reached out to Adeptus Health, the parent company that owned First Choice ERs at the time of their visit. The company never got back to us and has since filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

But days after we reached out, Spurgeon said she got a call from First Choice letting her know they would stop all collection attempts and that her bill was taken care of.

The NBC 5 Responds team has received a half dozen complaints about first choice facilities. The state is now cracking down on free-standing ERs and a  new law went into effect that requires these facilities to post which providers are in-network.

But if you're having issues with a Medicare claim, like Spurgeon did, you should visit medicare.gov. You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE if you believe a health provider hasn't billed Medicare.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[BBB Warns Crooks Could Target Dreamers]]>Fri, 13 Oct 2017 23:56:37 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Generic+BBB+Generic+Better+Business+Bureau.jpg

Young undocumented immigrants are waiting for lawmakers to finalize what will happen to DACA. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program let undocumented immigrants brought to America as children apply for work permits every two years.

Now, its future is in limbo. As the stories dominate the news, con artists are noticing and using the political drama to trick people out of their money.

Grisel Villareal is one of many North Texans born in another country and brought here as a minor. She could face deportation now that the DACA program is ending.

She feels her life is on pause now, and doesn't know what's next. That type of fear is one of the basic things crooks look for to take advantage of someone.

Michael Sedio with the Better Business Bureau is putting out a warning about people pretending to be legal experts, charging for free paperwork, or worse.

"We see that with senior citizens especially, we're going to see that with immigrants. They're going after people who are especially vulnerable, and that is, in a word, despicable," said Sedio.

There are no specific threats right now, but the Better Business Bureau fully expects an uptick in these types of crimes as the DACA debate continues.

Police say threats and extortion happen frequently with crooks trying to intimidate immigrants. Using topics that are frequently in the news help legitimize their bogus and sometimes outrageous threats.

The best advice is to slow down and think before handing over large amounts of cash. As new stories and concerns surrounding the end of DACA continue, experts say you have to make smart choices.

“There's a lot of things going on that people might be afraid of, but don't let that fear make you make a bad decision," said Seido.

Look up professional licenses for people who offer to help and also seek free legal assistance.

Below are places you can find legal assistance with immigration matters:

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas
(214) 855-0520
2501 Oak Lawn Avenue
Dallas, TX 75219

Dallas Bar Association LegalLine
(214) 220-7476
2101 Ross Avenue
Dallas, TX 75201

East Dallas Counseling Center
(214) 821-5393
4144 North Central Expwy
Dallas, TX 75204

Mosaic Family Services
4144 N. Central Expwy
Dallas, TX 75204

Catholic Charities Immigration Counseling Services Pro Bono Project
(214) 946-4889
325 W 12th St.
Dallas, TX 75208

Catholic Charities of Dallas Immigration and Legal Services
(214) 520-6590
9461 LBJ Freeway
Dallas, TX 75243

Peace and Justice Immigration Clinic
(214) 381-0901
6670 Military Pkwy
Dallas, TX 75228

Justice for Our Neighbors
8301 Bruton Rd.
Dallas, TX 75217

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<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Reel Roaster]]>Fri, 13 Oct 2017 16:45:39 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Reel+Roaster.jpg

When it comes to building a campfire, who could be better company than the young men of Boy Scout Troop 214 in Haslet?

These guys love making s'mores and tease each other nonstop about who can do it better.

Roasting marshmallows can require a bit of skill, each scout with their own idea of perfection.

Part fishing rod, part skewer, the Reel Roaster may seem like it's geared toward someone younger, but even with its telescoping reach Alex Allen couldn't reach the flames.

Between the helpings, laughs, and glow of the fire, reviews of the roaster started to reel in.

“I think this product is a must buy,” said Austin Travinski.

Another Scout, Aiden McCash, said the marshmallows on the Reel Roaster don’t fall off like the ones we tried with a straightened out wire coat hanger but he had cooking issues.

“I didn't get the bottom of it, just the top part of it,” said McCash.

Just like any good conversation over a campfire, the conversation got serious.

“You can take the money from the Reel Roaster and go buy the chocolate and the marshmallows,” said Connor Doughtie.

Overall, the scouts felt the Reel Roaster did a good job of making it easier to get that crunchy outside and gooey center.

We reached out to the manufacturer for a comment but didn’t hear back.

We bought it for about $16 on Amazon.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Confusion and Anger Over LuLaRoe Refund Policy]]>Fri, 13 Oct 2017 17:51:17 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/lularoe-refund-responds.jpg

LuLaRoe is known for its flamboyant leggings and other clothing items, but a change in company policy has prompted some sellers to protest.

Amanda Goldfarb spends much of her time selling clothes from LuLaRoe through a Facebook page as an independent fashion retailer. It's work she can do from home, as she takes care of her son.

"I really wanted to be home with him, so my husband and I looked into a couple of different multi-level marketing companies and LuLaRoe was on the upswing. Everybody wanted it," she said. 

Goldfarb began selling in December. She figures she's purchased about $30,000 worth of clothing.

"We did very well, we were in the top one percent of the company," she explained.

To get those sales, Goldfarb said she had to put in up to 12 hours a day. Last April she heard about a special offer for retailers who opted to resign and had leftover inventory.

"They said, 'you know what, we're gonna pay back a hundred percent. We're gonna pay your shipping back to the warehouse,'" recalled Goldfarb.

She estimates she had about $20,000 worth of LuLaRoe clothing still unsold.  So, she shipped them back and was told in August that "returns are processed in the order they were received." 

Come September, there was another change in LuLaRoe's policy.

"Instead of 100 percent, they're giving back 90 percent and charging that 10 percent, and it's actually and then a five percent restock and that was their original policy. But they actually added in a five percent restock. So really, you're getting back 85," Goldfarb explained.

After waiting six weeks and growing concerned about how much money she'll get back, Goldfarb knew she needed help. So, she called the NBC 5 Responds team.

LuLaRoe said Goldfarb submitted her cancellation in late July and they received her inventory in late August. In her case: problem solved!

LuLaRoe explained that after they verify Goldfarb's product returns she will be issued a 100 percent refund.

Here is what LuLaRoe is now saying online about their policy change:

"This waiver, in place from April to September…was never intended to be permanent...We decided to end the waiver when it became evident that a good number of retailers were abusing the program by returning product in extremely poor condition and providing inaccurate claims, as well as retailers using it as temporary solution to struggles in their business."


Other LuLaRoe sellers have told NBC 5 Responds they felt angry that LuLaRoe switched their refund policy without warning. Many we spoke to were hoping to finally be relieved of their leftover inventory and receive 100 percent of their money back, per the special offer.

But the sudden switch has left many sellers confused and motivated to protest.

Saturday's protest is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the AT&T Center in Arlington.

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<![CDATA[TX Company Says Customers' Credit Card Numbers Were Stolen]]>Thu, 12 Oct 2017 16:40:02 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/Tommy_Cooper_Breach_5p_101217.jpg

Data breaches are happening all the time, and some cases are more significant than others.

Texas-based Tommie Copper, which produces compression and active wear, reports hackers installed malware on the company's website, which allowed them to steal customer information.

In this incident, card numbers, addresses, expiration dates and security codes were taken, as well as addresses.

Las Colinas resident Ted Henderson is one of the people affected.

He has a disability after being shot while working in law enforcement and still wears a back brace daily for pain.

He bought one of Tommie Copper's braces to help him while he waited for a new one to come from his doctor, and when he made that purchase, his information was compromised. He says he's frustrated with having to go through the steps to check his credit repeatedly every time a store has a data breach.

"They wanted me to repair my own credit when they were the ones who failed to maintain proper security to protect consumers from getting their credit card breached," Henderson said.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Tommie Copper for a comment Thursday and hasn't received a response, but the company is telling customers to monitor their credit reports closely and reach out to the credit bureaus for assistance.

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<![CDATA[Tips to Pay Less For Auto Insurance]]>Thu, 12 Oct 2017 05:55:35 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/save-on-car-insurance.PNG

High car insurance premiums driving you nuts? Consumer Reports says there are plenty of ways to cut your premiums and still get coverage you can count on.

Start by picking a top-rated insurer.

“Don’t be short-sighted. It’s not just about getting the lowest premium. You want to make sure you get a company that’s going to pay your claim, in a reasonable amount of time and gives you good service,” said Tobie Stanger, Consumer Reports Money Editor.

Then, be sure to set the right deductible. A higher deductible reduces your monthly premium, but you’ll pay more out of pocket if you have a claim.

“It’s generally a good bet, just make sure you have enough to pay that deductible if your luck runs out,” said Stanger.

If you’re a driver with low risk behaviors, you can lower rates by asking about discounts for things like drivers who don’t use their car for long commutes, students with good grades, teen drivers who take driver training or mature drivers who take a defensive driving course.

Having a good credit score can also save you a few bucks.

And consider bundling your policies. Buying auto and home insurance from the same company could lead to a hefty discount.

All are good strategies to help you drive down your auto insurance costs.

People often think that by staying with the same insurance company for many years, they’ll get a loyalty discount, but it isn’t always true. Consumer Reports suggests shopping around often. You may find some significant savings.

For ratings of various companies, click here.



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Paying Bills Ahead of Time Does Have Its Risks]]>Wed, 11 Oct 2017 16:32:31 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Chris+Knott.jpg

It's not always the best decision to pay for something in advance, even if you're just trying to get ahead.

When something goes wrong, you're often out of cash and will have a hard time getting it back.

Fishing is in the Knott family DNA.

"My dad took my brother and I fishing when I was 7 or 8 years old," said Chris Knott.

Now, Knott's boys have the itch, too.

They paid $2,700 to lease a boat slip on the pier at Joe Pool Marina, a place they could all sit together to fish as a family.

"My father and I and maybe my boy used it maybe three times, then it started raining," Knott said.

A tropical depression dumped heavy rain on North Texas, and wind pounded the area.

Joe Pool Marina sustained damage in the storm.

There would be no more fishing for the Knotts, but since Chris Knott paid in advance, his money is gone.

His contract clearly states "acts of God" aren't covered.

"I think my money is just gone. It's wasted, $2,700 gone," Knott said.

He did nothing wrong, but because of the way his contract is written he's out of the cash.

There are plenty of other cautionary tales.

Patricia Stanley paid $4,000 of her daughter's tuition at St. Peter's Classical School ahead of schedule.

She loved the school and felt they would be there for years to come.

Then the school called a meeting earlier this year.

"They were having a major budget shortfall. They didn't know how they were going to make up the difference," Stanley said.

The school's transcript of the meeting shows that board members discussed the possibility of closing the school.

Stanley and her husband found a new school and enrolled their kids there.

"I just couldn't sit around and wait and see if they could swing the next school year. I didn't think it was fair to my children," Stanley said.

Ultimately, St. Peter's didn't close.

The money Stanley paid in advance is still in the school's bank account, and Patricia Stanley can't get it back.

St. Peter's tells NBC 5 Responds, "Our temporary financial issues were put behind us within a few days of the announcement. It is unfortunate that one of our parents misunderstood our intentions and made some unfounded assumptions about our future."

Stanley's contract with St. Peter's gave her a March deadline to notify the school that she was leaving. The notice of the financial problems came after that, so despite her concerns she was locked in for the full payment.

When prepaying anything, make sure you look at your contract with the company to know how they handle refunds in case something goes wrong.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Grocery Products Shrinking in Size, Prices Holding]]>Wed, 11 Oct 2017 05:45:58 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-shrinking-grocery.jpg

Rosemarie Lauria considers herself a savvy shopper… and she recently noticed something different about the six-pack of coke she buys.

"The really small cans started out as a fat small can with 8 ounces and then they introduced a taller can," she said. "I looked at the ounces. It went from 8 ounces to 7.5."

Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky has been tracking the downsizing of products for 30 years.

"Its not your imagination that you have to keep changing the toilet paper roll more frequently or make more trips back to the store to buy this stuff," he said.

Dworsky's research has revealed that the shrinking of products comes in waves.

"Manufacturers like to keep prices seemingly stable while increasing their bottom line," he said. "How do you do that? The only way you can is to shrink the product. But when they do it deceptively where the package looks just like it always did but they are giving you less, that's a sneaky way to pass on a price increase."

On a recent shopping trip, Dworsky found new and old versions of the same products sitting on the shelf together and priced the same. Two $13.99 containers of Maxwell House coffee, one with more than 30 ounces and the newer addition with only 26.8.

"What does that translate into cups? We've lost 30 cups! We went from 240 cups in a container down to 210 cups," he said.

Two 12-packs of Ultra Charmin priced at $13.29 are about the same size, but one has 154 sheets per roll and the other has 142.

"So you lost a dozen. But on each of the rolls, you got 12 rolls. So you basically lost a whole roll in this package. But you can't tell because it looks the same," Dworsky said.

And seemingly identical 2-packs of Crest toothpaste priced at $9.49. One has 5.1 ounce tubes another has 4.6 ounce tubes.

"Same size box. You would have no idea," he said. "Looks exactly the same but you lost about ten percent in each tube. So unless you become net weight conscious and actually look at the package and memorize the net weight you'd never known you'd been taken."

We reached out to the companies that make these products. Proctor and Gamble, the makers of Crest and Charmin tell us "there is a cost element to innovation...Adjusting the count per pack or the package size is one way of delivering this innovation, while maintaining a competitive price point....Pricing is at the sole discretion of the retailer."

Coca-cola says “consumers have told us they love our smaller, more convenient packages. In North America, we’re seeing double digit growth in these sizes.

The maker of Maxwell House said "the alternative to changing the price of any given product is to change the package size."

Want to get the best bang for your buck at the grocery story? Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Be price AND weight conscious. Look and compare the price per ounce.
• Look for sale items and use coupons.
• Take advantage of rebates and buy in bulk if you find a good deal



Photo Credit: Consumer Reports]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Answers Your Calls For Help]]>Tue, 10 Oct 2017 19:29:38 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Responds_Roundup_5pm101017.jpg

NBC 5 Responds is here for you. Here's some of the emails and phone calls we have recently helped resolve.]]>
<![CDATA[Digital Oversharing: Putting Your Child at Risk]]>Tue, 10 Oct 2017 05:44:24 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/social_media_debate_president.jpg

Artist and motivational speaker Rosie Jon never shies away from posting her artwork to social media.

But when it comes to her three young children, she takes a different approach.

“I have an 8-year-old son who’s old enough to understand his own privacy," she said. "So if it’s a picture of him I always check with him and ask him 'Are you happy for mommy to share this?'"

Along with respecting your child’s privacy, you should also be be concerned about their digital identity. Child identity theft is a real threat and Consumer Reports says our culture of digital over sharing is likely to blame.

“Seemingly harmless information like your child’s name, their age, what they look like, where they go to school, all of that information can be used to create a profile, that a hacker can use down the road for identity theft,” said Consumer Reports Privacy Editor Bree Fowler.

Consumer Reports says follow these digital parenting tips: First, tighten up the privacy settings on the sites you use. You can set your Facebook posts to go to just your “friends,” rather than the entire public.

And limit your circle of friends even more by creating a list of “close friends.”

Another option: a closed Facebook group, which requires you to approve everyone who requests access.

Always use caution before sharing a picture of a child’s actual location, anything that could reveal hints of your home or their school. And be careful about sharing pictures of your kids in any state of undress.

“Even a very innocent photo of your kid naked in the bathtub, might kind of haunt them down the road since nothing on the Internet truly goes away,” said Fowler. 

As for Rosie Jon, she will continue to share, but with purpose.

“Every post has to be intentional. So just like my artwork, I make sure that each posting has a purpose and has a meaning.”

Another thing to think about, wait until you get home before posting any vacation photos. You don’t want to reveal to any would-be burglars that you’re away from home.

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<![CDATA[NBC 5 Recovers $2,000 in Refunds for Consumers]]>Mon, 09 Oct 2017 16:32:11 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-100917.jpg

Becky Ives said she has no time for a rusty refrigerator in her Waxahachie home.

And when her restaurant's prep table went down, too, she went online and found Anthony's Appliance Repair. 

"Seemed to be a reputable company," she said.

Ives talked to the owner, Anthony Wynne, who was happy to come by and take a look. He told her he needed $1,050 up front, so she paid him.

"He had an immediate answer on what needed to be repaired on each item," she said. "He went out to his car, got a box, and came back in."

Wynne claimed he fixed the prep table. She was also told he'd have to order a new door for the fridge, but it never came.

"It's been almost a year that I'd been try to get my refund back from him," Ives said.

She's not alone.

Cesar Suarez said he tried getting his money back, too. He paid Wynne $950 to fix an appliance set for his man cave.

The NBC 5 Responds team called the owner myself to investigate. He said he mailed Ives' check and didn't know she never received it.

Ives disagreed.

And as for Suarez's refund, the owner said he couldn't get ahold of him. They were "playing phone tag."

Suarez said that's not true.

Within days of our calls, the owner paid Ives $1,050 in cash and Suarez got a check for $950. But their appliances were never fixed.

If you look up Anthony's Appliance Repair online, you'll find several bad reviews. We asked Wynne to come in and talk about it, but he sent this statement instead.

"My company has had bad reviews because I've had dishonest employees that have been terminated. I am diligently trying to rectify each and every complaint slowly but surely."

Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Never pay all of the money up front.
• Check reviews online to see what others had to say about a company.
• Document everything just in case things go south.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[October is Window Covering Safety Month]]>Sun, 08 Oct 2017 20:36:37 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/20130712+Blinds.jpg

The Consumer Product Safety Commission wants you to inspect your window coverings inside your home for possible hazards.

The group has declared October as window covering safety month.

Parents are encouraged to inspect their window coverings for any long cords that may hang down, creating what could be a deadly situation for kids.

The CPSC says using a cordless or inaccessible cord window coverings can prevent a tragedy involving loose or a looped window covering cord.

For a free repair kit that will make your window coverings safer, just call 1(800)506-4636 or you can click here.

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<![CDATA[Money Raised to Harvey Victims Tied Up in Facebook Platform]]>Fri, 06 Oct 2017 21:44:54 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Scotti+Rzepniewski.jpg

Hurricane Harvey's damage was evident — and everywhere. For Dan and Tracy Moses, a home they spent all of last year remodeling was gone. Hundreds of miles north in Weatherford, cousin Scotti Rzepniewski couldn't believe the couple's video of the damage.

"It looked like it had been hit by a bomb, and then someone hosed it down. It's just devastating. Tears just stream down your face when you look at it," Rzepniewski said.

She immediately asked for help on Facebook.

"I'm just making a call on Facebook for household donations, for items. And the minute I posted that on Facebook this fundraiser popped up on my newsfeed," Rzepniewski said.

The message from "Facebook Donations" asked if she wanted to start a fundraiser for Dan and Tracy Moses.

"I started the fundraiser on a Thursday. By Saturday, we had three to four thousand dollars. I just thought it was so sweet, people that didn't even know them were donating," Rzepniewski said.

Facebook soon sent a message asking for her banking info and her Social Security number, claiming it was needed to send her the money raised and report the earnings to the IRS.

She gave them the info, but Facebook staff told her they couldn't verify it.

Rzepniewski said she then kept sending emails and asking for help.

"Any time they ever responded, it's, 'We're looking into it, and it's going to be 7-10 days,'" she said.

When she realized she had given banking and Social Security information to someone who sent her a message on Facebook, she panicked.

"I said, 'Should I just end this? You're not responding. I'm starting to think this is fraud. Should I hire an attorney? All these people, they don't know me. People are donating big amounts of money, and I'm just sick. I'm gonna jump on a plane and head to Palo Alto. Where is my money?'" Rzepniewski said.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Facebook on her behalf, and almost immediately she received her cash.

"From the minute you responded I took a breath and, 'OK,'" she said.

The money is in the Moses hands now, and the rebuilding process is underway.

"The money we raised is not going to buy a house, by any means, but they're both so grateful for it," Rzepniewski said.

Although it turned out to truly be Facebook, and the donations were legitimate, it's another reminder we all have to be careful online.

Always make sure you know exactly who you're talking to before turning over such valuable information, and have a reliable way to communicate with them should something go wrong.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Top Financial Planning Concerns: College, Retirement Savings]]>Fri, 06 Oct 2017 17:14:38 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N5R_Phone_Bank_2017_10_06_17_00_11.jpg

NBC 5, The Dallas Morning News, Telemundo 39, and Al-Dia teamed up to help you answer your financial questions Thursday night.

Some of the most common questions had to do with paying for college.

Young adults wrote in on Facebook and called our experts worried about the cost of college, student loan debt, as well as having enough money to retire. Our financial planner said don't build up huge amounts of student loan debt if your career won't pay a high salary.

"You need to look at the goal, and if it's, 'I really want to go to Stanford,' you talk about it and weigh it against other things. And make sure you and the kid knows, 'I'm going to give up X to get that,' and then it's maybe, 'I'm going to go to community college,'" said Lora Hoff.

Remember, you have to pay the minimum on however many bills you've racked up. So look into whether there's a way to lower the interest rate.

Many of you also said by the time you pay off college, you worry it's too late to save for retirement. The answer is to do them both together. But start small. If your company offers a 401k, use it.

"You definitely want to start putting in enough to get the full employer match, even if you're still carrying some debt, because otherwise you're just missing out on free money," said Jean Keener.

Many employers will double the amount that you save, up to the first 5 percent or so. If you save 5 percent, you then get 10 percent in the bank.

"Some people, when they're in their working years, have lots and lots of expenses from raising a family. Just the type of lifestyle they want to lead. And in retirement, they plan a very simple lifestyle. I think it's much more helpful for people to really understand what they want their retirement lifestyle to look like, and then to build a plan from there," Keener said.

So before you drive that fancy car now, think about if you want to travel later in life, or where you want to live. It may make driving that simple compact car a lot more appealing.

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<![CDATA[Sam's Weekend Deals: DFW Pumpkin Patches]]>Fri, 06 Oct 2017 06:09:55 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dallas-arboretum-oz-2017-+%2812%29.jpg

DFW has some of the best fall events in the country, including pumpkin patches and corn mazes.

Hall's Pumpkin Farm in Grapevine, which dates back to 1929, includes a corn maze, hayrides and plenty of plump pumpkins. Admission and parking are free. The corn maze costs $5 and the hayrides are $5 during the day and $3 at night. Keep in mind it's cash only. Hall's is open everyday through Oct. 31.
hallspumpkinfarm.net

There's also Autumn at the Arboretum in Dallas, which is absolutely breathtaking. The theme this year is "The Wonderful World of Oz." It includes beautiful flowers, fall blooming plants and the internationally acclaimed pumpkin village, which features more than 90,000 pumpkins, squash and gourds. Kids younger than 3 years old get in free, children ages 3 to 12 are $10 and adults are $15. The event ends on Nov. 22. www.dallasarboretum.org/visit/seasonal-festivals-events/autumn-at-the-arboretum

The Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch is also super cute. They have hay rides, bounce houses, pumpkin picking and food! Admission is $10, parking is $5 and all activities are included! This pumpkin patch goes through Oct. 31. flowermoundpumpkinpatch.com



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Money Tips For Every Age Group]]>Thu, 05 Oct 2017 05:57:54 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/counting+money+generic.jpg

Financial burdens do not discriminate so, no matter what age you are, NBC 5 wants to help you get on track.

Millennials
Remember that time is on your side and you don't want to take it for granted.

Financial experts say millennials should invest aggressively. They typically don't have as much responsibility as someone in their 40s and don't have as many people relying on them for financial support. Now is a great time to start putting money into your 401k.

If you wait until your 30s, you could be losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars. So even if money is tight, always try to make this a priority.

Gen-Xers
If you were born in the mid-60s to early-80s and your finances aren't in order, we have some work to do.

One of the hardest things to avoid is the lifestyle creep, when you get a pay raise and you increase your lifestyle. Here's how to avoid that. If you get a $200 a month raise, take $50 of that money to reward yourself. The rest of it should be used to pay off debt or put toward your retirement fund.

Baby Boomers
We want to make sure you're all set for that next phase of life, whether you're continuing to work or preparing for retirement.

Track your monthly spending. This will give you a rough idea of how much income you'll need for the next phase.

And don't cut yourself short. It's better for your savings to outlive you than the other way around.

Also, consider outside circumstances like aging parents or adult children. The earlier you can have conversations about who will need your help, the better off you'll be.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Spending Money to Help You Save Money]]>Wed, 04 Oct 2017 16:57:25 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/160*120/Piggy+Bank+Saving+Money.jpg

Saving money is never easy, especially for those living paycheck to paycheck. No matter how tight your budget, chances are you splurge on something.

If you're like me and prefer to fly by the seat of your pants and not plan out how you spend your day and dollars, savings plans can sound awful.

Financial planner Jean Keener says she can help with a spending plan.

Keener says you should map out what you get to splurge on and how often.

"The most important thing about a spending plan is that you have to do what works for you," Keener said.

I am able to build mine around date nights, Caribbean cruises, and Italian ice!

The experts say start with a calendar and plan out a date night every other week. Space out those cruises and Italian ice every Sunday with the kids.

Then, total it all up.

"The most important thing is to spend less than you earn," Keener said.

Now, here's where we save: dial it back just a bit.

Maybe take just one date or Italian ice trip off the calendar, and you've got extra money to put toward more fun on that cruise.

You can save for vacations, putting kids through college or whatever it is on your list of goals.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[4 Signs You Need Help With Your Finances]]>Wed, 04 Oct 2017 05:54:42 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ask-a-cfp-.jpg

NBC 5, Telemundo 39 and Al Dia have launched "Ask a Certified Financial Planner Week."

Thursday, Oct. 5 from 4 to 7 p.m., you can call in or join our Facebook Live and ask an expert any financial question. 

There are a lot of people out there that know they're in financial trouble. There are others out there who may not be aware that there could be a problem, and those are the people NBC 5 wants to help.

1. You're avoiding your bank statements
Technology has made it easier than ever for consumers to stay on top of their recent purchases. Every major bank has an app you can download to monitor your spending right in the palm of your hand. Problem: Some folks dread checking it, almost like it'll just go away if you don't look.

2. You're going through a major life change
If you're getting married, having a baby, going through a divorce, any major event can quickly throw you in a financial spin. Ask yourself this question:  have you figured out how this change is going to impact your finances? If not, this week is for you.

3. You're tapping into your savings on a weekly basis
Now, don't get us wrong; it's your money and you have every right to spend it. But it's also meant to serve as a nice little nest egg or money you can use on a rainy day.

If you find yourself moving that money into your checking account for daily expenses, you may need to get a financial plan in place.

4. You're not investing your money
Some of us have no clue how to invest. Others have a 401k plan, but no idea how it works. If this sounds like you, we've got to get a good plan in place.

"Parts of your faith, parts of our health, parts of our education, and family and experiences, they're all tied, in a sense, to money," said Victor Garza of Garza Financial Planning. "If it's something so valuable and something that touches so many things in our lives, why not treat it with a lot of respect?"



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Equifax Promises New Product to 'Lock' Credit From Phone]]>Tue, 03 Oct 2017 16:35:51 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/equifax_1200x675.jpg

Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith faced lawmakers Tuesday, apologizing for the company's massive data breach that exposed millions of Americans' personal information.

Smith blamed human error and technology failures for the breach and announced a new service Equifax is providing to help consumers control their credit data.

It's an app on your phone that will will let you lock or unlock your credit instantly whenever you want from your smartphone.

Smith told Congress the free service won't be up and running until the end of January, so it's hard for anyone to know all the specifics on what it will do or its effectiveness.

And it's unclear if Equifax will put in any stipulations like asking you to give up your right to sue the company over the data breach.

It appears to be similar to credit freezing, but that process is regulated by state laws, something this service would not offer.

Of course, you'll have to wait several months for the service to begin, so freezing your credit or installing fraud alerts still is the best protection now.

Smith challenged Equifax competitors TransUnion and Experian to come up with a similar system.

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<![CDATA[Concerned Travelers Getting Help With Vegas Trips]]>Tue, 03 Oct 2017 08:17:45 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/southwest-airlines-love-field.jpg

Airlines are stepping up to help consumers change their flights to Las Vegas, if needed.

Many people have voiced concerns about their upcoming trips on social media, given Sunday's deadly shooting. For the most part, people say they are sticking with their plans, but believe it won't be the same.

One Dallas man said his travel plans to Las Vegas are up in the air. Jeff Platt told NBC 5 he's heartbroken for the victims and can't wrap his head around a vacation right now.

He and his college friends go to Las Vegas every year. But now, the group isn't sure if this is the best time.

"Carter was standing by the TV and said, 'Daddy, I don't ever want to go to Vegas,'" Platt said. "My first thought was, my family is not going to like that. ... I'm not worried about my personal safety. I'm worried about people worrying."

For anyone else who's rethinking their upcoming trip to Las Vegas, here are the airlines we've heard from so far that are waiving their change fee for Las Vegas flights this week: Southwest, American Airlines, Delta, Jetblue, Spirit, United, Virgin America and Allegiant.

Travelers have to call ahead to re-book and need to do so before their scheduled flight.

As for hotels, consumer's should call the hotel and ask if they will waive the cancellation fee if you're within that 24-hour window.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Mother Says Google Listing Led a Stranger in Her Home]]>Fri, 29 Sep 2017 22:05:29 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/vlcsnap-2017-09-29-22h59m47s132.jpg

When Courtney Pearson's washing machine started leaking she knew just who to call.

"I looked up Al's Guaranteed Appliance Repair on Google," Pearson said.

After all, Al fixed it for free last time, helping her with a fairly simple issue. She felt she could trust him and called for help, but this time she didn't get an answer.

"I got a text message almost immediately that said, 'Do you need appliance repair?'" Pearson said.

She arranged the entire appointment by text.

Two men then showed up, worked on her washer, and charged her $420.

"I went to run a load, the water was at a slow trickle, there was leaking under the machine," Pearson said.

She called back, and the men promised to return, but never did. Days kept going by and she says her calls weren't returned.

Eventually, she found a photo online of the owner of Al's Guaranteed Appliance Repair online. He was standing next to a photo of his truck, which had a different phone number than the one she was texting.

She called the number in the photo, and got Alonso De La Cerda.

"I was like, whoa, I don't remember going to your house last week," De La Cerda said.

After a few minutes Pearson realized the men who showed up to her house were not connected to Al's business.

She went back to the number she texted, and it was still listed on Google.

Al said it wasn't his number, it wasn't even close to it.

They couldn't figure out how it happened until they saw a link on the listing.

"Right where it lists the info for the business, it has a link that says suggest an edit," Pearson said.

Someone was able to edit the phone number for Al's business to something else.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Google and confirmed this is possible.

A company spokesperson said, "We recognize there may be occasional inaccuracies or bad edits suggested by users. When this happens, we do our best to address the issue as quickly as possible."

Google added that business owners who sign up for their free business listing service should get alerts letting them know where their number is changed.

If you don't sign up, like Al, you may not find out this is happening.

By the way, the real "Al" fixed Pearson's washer for a little more than $200, and we tracked down the competing company who came out, and they gave her a refund. The phone number was changed back on the listing.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Finishing Touch Yes! Hair Remover]]>Fri, 29 Sep 2017 16:46:40 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/LWBI_Hair_Remover_2017_09_29_16_55_05.jpg

Brittany Meister is a new mom, taking care of 7-month-old Braylee Grace. She loves every minute of being a mom, but there's one think she really misses — taking long showers.

Meister says it means almost no time to shave her legs, so she jumped at the chance to try Finishing Touch Yes!, which promises to safely remove her hair, anywhere.

We cracked it open in her family room, while Braylee happily played with her toys nearby.

"It's actually really fancy. It's a lot fancier than I though it would look like," Meister said, examining the tool. "This is like a blade so it's going to be interesting."

The directions said use a 45-degree angle and press it on the skin to activate.

Meister said it didn't hurt and left her legs pretty smooth, but not as smooth as she'd like. No worries, though, because the Finishing Touch Yes! comes with a second attachment you're supposed to use afterwards to get a closer, smoother shave.

Meister was pleased and plans to buy the Finishing Touch Yes! for herself.

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<![CDATA[State Fair of Texas Deals: Freebies, Discounts]]>Fri, 29 Sep 2017 11:49:59 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/215*120/state-fair-opening-092917.jpg

The State Fair of Texas opens Friday at Fair Park in Dallas. General admission is $16.50, but there are a number of discounts available that will allow you to spend more money on food and other items.

Freebies

Friday is Military Appreciation Day at the State Fair of Texas. All active military, retired military and veterans get in free with valid documentation. But that's not all: they can also bring their spouses and kids younger than 18 for free.

Oct. 13 is First Responders' Day. Law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics get in free with a valid ID. And they get up to 3 extra tickets for family.

Anyone 60 years old and older can get into the fair for free every Thursday.

Discounts

On Friday, if you bring a 20-ounce bottle of Dasani water or any 20-ounce Coca-Cola product, you'll get in for only $10. Your donation is going to the North Texas Food Bank.

Every Tuesday, you can bring an empty Dr. Pepper can and your admission is just $6!


On Wednesdays, you can get in for just $4 if you bring 4 cans of food.

Every Thursday, you'll get in for $7 if you bring an empty 20-ounce Coca Cola product.

If you eat at McDonald's, check your bag before throwing it out.  The food chain's takeout bags and tray liners have coupons for $5 off and half off children's tickets.  They can be used any day!

If you want to hit the fair at night, bring an empty Dr. Pepper can for half price admission after 5 p.m.

And consider buying your tickets online that will save you a little money, too.

General admission for the state fair is $16.50. So all of these discounts should allow you to spend more money on food!

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<![CDATA[Puppy Adoption Brings Family Large Bill for Parvo Treatment]]>Thu, 28 Sep 2017 17:12:18 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N5R_Puppy_Parvo_5p_92817.jpg

Veterinarians say parvovirus is prevalent in Texas, and young animals are especially at risk.

The Zeffer family first saw their little pup, Sugar, on East Dallas Pet Rescue's website.

"My daughter fell in love with her, I fell in love with her, my husband. All of us just instantly knew that was the puppy for us," said Brittney Zeffer.

The rescue group said the dog had a clean bill of health, but Sugar wasn't home long before the Zeffers noticed something wasn't quite right.

"Sugar was very lethargic, and as soon as she got home there was some diarrhea," Zeffer said.

She reached out to the rescue, and both sides agreed Sugar needed to see a vet.

Zeffer took the puppy to a vet whom the rescue routinely uses.

Sugar was diagnosed with having a parasite, and the vet prescribed antibiotics and sent her home, but Zeffer still had a feeling it was more than a simple parasite.

A second vet confirmed her fears.

Sugar had parvo, even though she already received two rounds of vaccinations for parvo through East Dallas Pet Rescue.

It took seven days of treatment and more than $5,400 in vet bills to get the puppy healthy again.

East Dallas Pet Rescue says it has refunded the adoption fee to the Zeffer family, started a GoFundMe campaign and will also hold a happy hour fundraiser all to help with the Zeffers vet bills.

The rescue group reiterated to NBC 5 Responds it had no knowledge the puppy would become ill.

When picking a new pet, how do you know you're adopting one that's truly healthy and not one in need of thousands of dollars worth of care?

Dr. Cynthia Rachal, with the Animal Health Care Center in Arlington, says when animals are young they can pick up illnesses anywhere as their immune system is still developing.

She said it's important to know as much as you can about where an animal came from even before it arrived at a shelter.

"I have 10 rescues that I work with. The ones I work with, I work with for a reason. I know they take excellent care of their animals," Rachal said.

She said Sugar could have easily gotten parvo from just about anywhere, because it's very prevalent in North Texas and contagious.

She added when puppies are young it's almost impossible to prevent it until fully vaccinated.

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<![CDATA[Driver Finally Reimbursed for Road Debris Damage]]>Wed, 27 Sep 2017 05:53:01 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-debris-damage-driving.jpg

Road debris damage is enough to make any driver cringe, and it happens a lot in North Texas.

Lee Wade said he was driving westbound on Texas 121 when he saw rocks and cardboard fly off a waste truck. He tried to swerve and dodge the debris, but it was too late. It cracked his windshield.

Wade decided to follow the waste truck until the driver eventually pulled over.  He was told to call management to report the incident.

Wade said a manager told him he would "take care of it." But weeks turned into months, and his windshield was still cracked.

That's when he called NBC 5 Responds.

We sent pictures of the damage to the waste management company. A couple of weeks later, Wade received a check for nearly $400, and he finally got that windshield fixed.

We tried calling and emailing the company for a response, but we're still waiting.

Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions before you hit the road:

• Consider buying scratch and dent protection from your dealership. Many places offer it in North Texas.
• Don't tailgate. Leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front of you, especially if it's hauling junk or debris. This will also help you see potential objects in the road.
• Some insurance companies recommend installing a dash camera. It would help you record any flying debris and maybe capture a license plate number.
• Document, document, document. Take pictures of the damage and send it over to your insurance company.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds To Your Consumer Problems]]>Tue, 26 Sep 2017 16:38:03 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/NBC+5+Responds+Placeholder.JPG

The NBC 5 Responds team is working every day, taking your calls and emails helping you resolve disputes and issues. Not all of them are complicated. We're working for you with problems big or small.]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Buying Condo Could Be Cheaper Than Paying for Dorm]]>Tue, 26 Sep 2017 06:03:03 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dorm-v-condo.jpg

Dorms can be expensive and financial experts say buying a condo in some cities may save students money in the long run.

Real estate company Redfin compared the monthly dorm rates at 195 U.S. public colleges to the median monthly mortgage on a condo. Based on this study, students at the University of Texas at Dallas spend about $769 per month in a dorm — about $76 more than the median monthly mortgage cost.

Students at the University of Texas at El Paso spend about $546 per month in a dorm. In a condo, they could save $100 per month. Students at Sam Houston State University spend $570 per month in a dorm, and they would save nearly $150 every month if they bought a home.

Financial planner Laura Hoff said parents may feel uneasy about their kids living off campus during their first year. But year two and beyond could be a great time to move on to a home of their own.

"I think it's a great idea," Hoff said. "I have a number of clients who have gone ahead and bought houses in Waco and Austin or wherever. And then yes, their child can live there and have a friend or two also and then the rent supports the real estate investment in itself."

Redfin pulled on-campus housing data from the National Center for Education Statistics. They only looked at U.S. public institutions that grant Bachelor's degrees. They ranked the colleges by enrollment to narrow down the list to the 15 most popular colleges.

The results from this study do not ring true for every city in the U.S., such as areas like Los Angeles and Seattle where homes are notoriously expensive.

Another challenge to buying a home is inventory. If availability is stressed, a student might have a hard time finding a home, or they may already be priced out of the market.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Hackers Use Facebook to Push 'Government Grant Scam' ]]>Mon, 25 Sep 2017 06:38:12 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-fb-grant.jpg

Veronica Gavia uses Facebook every day and got really excited when a message from what appeared to be a distant relative popped up on her app.

"I haven't had communication with her for two years," she said. 

And did her "cousin" ever have some news! She claimed she had just received $120,000 from a government grant.

"I'm thinking, "Well, OK, it's probably true if she paid off all her debt with this money. Then I can probably do the same thing,'" said Gavia. 

Before she knew it, Gavia was messaging a woman she thought represented the government, in charge of handing out grants. That so-called government agent told Gavia the more money she puts up front, the more grant money she'll receive.

The next day, Gavia wired the woman $4,000. And Gavia's promised cut: $153,000. All she had to do was wait at home for the day and UPS would make the delivery.

"It came to be 5 o'clock and that's when I kind of suspected a little bit 'what's going on' you know," said Gavia. 

She sent the woman several messages but didn't get a response until days later. That's when the woman told Gavia she needed $15,000 more.

"I said, 'Oh no!'" Gavia said. 

That's because she was slowly learning nothing was as it seemed. It wasn't even her real cousin. Someone had hacked that relative's Facebook page.

So Gavia contacted NBC 5 Responds Samantha Chatman for help. 

According to grants.gov, the government will never award grants to people who never applied and would never ask for a fee in exchange for a grant.

If you search "government grant scam" on Google, you'll see dozens of articles and complaints from people who fell victim to this scheme.

"I was real desperate to get this money," said Gavia. "I don't want anybody else to fall in the same trap."

Gavia said she reported this scam to the Mesquite Police Department, the FBI and Facebook. She said she's not the only one in the family that's been duped.

To avoid this scam, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions: 

• Remember, the government will never ask you to pay a fee to receive a grant.
• When in doubt, visit grants.gov to find out if a grant is real.
• When you're talking to friends and family members on Facebook, make sure it's them. Pick up the phone and call them, especially if they're talking money.
• If you ever believe a page is hacked, visit the Facebook help center at the top of your profile.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Man Loses More Than $200,000 Selling Protein Powder Online]]>Fri, 22 Sep 2017 21:42:10 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/vlcsnap-2017-09-22-21h54m02s185.jpg

Online shopping has made it easier for us to buy things and for businesses to expand their sales.

But the owner of a North Texas company says his business is on the brink of bankruptcy after someone posing as a legitimate customer launched a scheme that cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars, leaving him powerless to stop it.

Matt Maynard sells protein powder and other sports supplements online.

He's been doing it ever since the mid 1990s when Amazon was just starting out as a bookstore.

"I was at SMU, built a website, which back then websites were a big deal," Maynard said.

He grew from his college website, and even added brick-and-mortar stores around North Texas.

These days, international sales are a big part of his business. Last year, he shipped several huge orders to India — orders, he says, he followed up on.

"Got emails saying we received the products, our customers love them," Maynard said.

This spring, months after all the India orders came and went, it seems those same customers had a change of heart.

"Four months later they're filing claims that they did not receive their products," Maynard said.

The same protein powder, which his customers wrote reviews saying they loved, is now being reported to the payment processor Paypal as never received.

Paypal removed the money from Maynard's account when the claim was filed. They credited it back the buyer.

Each of these orders were between $400 and $700, and Maynard said it's happened to him more than 400 times — for a total of more than $200,000 worth of protein powder refunded by Paypal, because the customers said they didn't get it.

The United States Postal Service couldn't confirm all the packages were delivered, because they were sent to such small towns in India, but they did track several and say they actually got there.

Those wound up getting credited back to Maynard, for a little while.

"Paypal sided with us, and that made that person mad, and he filed another claim saying the product wasn't as described," Maynard said.

Paypal told the seller in India to return the 18 pounds of protein powder that wasn't as described.

Maynard received a small 8x10 envelope with two pieces of paper from a calendar inside. As soon as the tracking information showed those pieces of paper were delivered, the person in India got their refund.

"This is a group of people, they know what they're doing. They know how to get around Paypal's policies. They know what they're doing," Maynard said.

Maynard hired attorneys to help try to get his money back.

In the meantime he's using more scrutiny now on orders and trying to figure out how to close this loophole which is allowing someone to get expensive protein powder without paying a dime.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Paypal, which said, "Customer service and the resolution of issues are an important focus for Paypal. This is a complex matter, and we continue to work with the customer to provide information that will allow him reach favorable outcomes and resolutions to any issues he may have experienced."

It's possible this same scenario could happen when you sell something to someone and they pay you via Paypal.

Maynard's lawyers are hoping to encourage lawmakers to keep buyer protections in place but come up with some seller protections to help in cases where the returns clearly don't match what was sent in the first place.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Insulated Mugs]]>Fri, 22 Sep 2017 16:42:43 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Yeti_Cups_5p_92217.jpg

We're hard-working people in North Texas and can't let the hot summer sun slow us down. Hydration keeps us going, and we all have our own ways of keeping those liquids cool.

A popular method is by using those silver insulated mugs you can fill with ice and come back hours later and still find ice.

We know they work, but differ greatly in price.

YETI mugs retail for $29.99. RTIC is a little cheaper at $12.99, and Ozark Trail is only $8.74.

We want to be clear: our test was not scientific in any way.

We put the same amount of water and ice in each cup and dropped a thermometer in each.

We then recorded the temperatures and came back 15 minutes later, and again an hour later to see the cups each holding their own. Each one had about the same amount of water, and there was a significant amount of ice in all three cups.

Throughout the day we'd peek in, and after six hours we recorded our final numbers.

All three cups have kept the water at about 36 degrees.

No cup differed more than 0.8 degrees. We're calling it a draw, considering the thermometers were off a few tenths of a point to begin with.

In the end there was no sign of the ice in the RTIC but a tiny bit in the YETI and the Ozark Trail.

Factor in the price difference, and Ozark Trail may be the way to go.

We reached out to each manufacturer for a comment. Ozark Trail, which is made by Walmart, and Austin-based YETI, had no comment. Houston-based RTIC said it has a newer version tumbler than what we used. They said the newer version out-performs the other guys. They also pointed out their new cup comes in different colors.

So, keep it all in mind as you price-shop for one of these insulated mugs.

]]>
<![CDATA[Sam's Weekend Deals: Fall Edition]]>Fri, 22 Sep 2017 05:46:35 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/plano-balloonfest.jpg

This Friday, you've got to check out Oktoberfest in Fort Worth. The event celebrates German traditions with authentic food, drinks, music and dancing.

Kids under 12 get in free! Adults will pay $10 Friday and Saturday.

Oktoberfest is from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturday. NBC 5 sponsors the Panther Island Pavilion event every year.

Online: Oktoberfest Fort Worth 2017

Another big event this weekend is the Plano Balloon Festival. The kids will really get a kick out this one. It includes live entertainment, sky divers, food, music, and of course those amazing hot air balloons.

It's free for children 36 inches and under and the rest of the family will get in for $5 each day. The event kicks off Friday at 4 p.m. and ends on Sunday.

Online: Plano Balloon Festival

The Southlake Butterfly Festival is also this weekend. The 2-day event features a walk with hundreds of butterflies. This is a great opportunity for kids to explore their curiosity and learn more about the eco-system.

Children under two are free, kids are $5 and adults are just $7. Doors open Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m.

Online: Southlake Butterfly Festival



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Car Engine Had No Oil, Hours After Getting An Oil Change]]>Fri, 22 Sep 2017 03:03:15 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/walmart+oil+change.jpg

When Jose Betances saved up to buy his first new car his father made it clear to him it was more than just a set of wheels.

"I know that there's a certain amount of maintenance and follow up with the car, something as simple as an oil change," Betances said.

He had that done recently at Walmart in Frisco, on Farm-to-Market Road 42. His now 2-year-old Ford Focus got a clean bill of health when he picked up the car.

"When I was given the invoice, all I saw was 'good, good, good, good and good,'" Betances said.

He said he drove straight home, and later that night, drove to visit a friend who, he said, lives minutes away.

"All of a sudden my check engine light comes on," Betances said.

He said he pulled over and turned the car off and back on, and the check engine light went out. Betances got back on the road again. He said moments later, the entire dashboard lit up.

"It was telling me that my passenger bag had been deployed, telling me I had to change the battery, the oil, I had low tire pressure," Betances said. "Every signal that you can think of was on at the same time. Next step, I have no acceleration and I can't accelerate on the car."

He stopped again and called his Dad, Jose Betances Sr.

"There's no damage, so something told me just take the oil stick out, and I took it out. It's completely dry," his father said.

The next morning, a Walmart mechanic drove out to the car and the family said he confirmed there was no oil inside the engine.

The men met with a Walmart manager, filled out a claims form asking Walmart to cover the repairs. They were told an investigation would be launched.

Soon after, a letter came from Walmart's claims investigator.

The Betanceses wouldn't be receiving any money back. The letter goes on to say Walmart wasn't negligent and even added, "some medical plans refuse payment of bills related to this type of situation."

That particular line confused the family, who wanted to know about an oil change, not medical bills.

They wrote back, but were told again, their claim was denied.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Walmart, who provided us this statement:

"We work hard to maintain a high standard of customer service and satisfaction for everyone who shops with us. After speaking with the associates involved and reviewing surveillance video, it was determined that all procedures related to this oil change were properly followed."

We asked to see the video, if Walmart was certain oil was added, and if the drain was plugged tightly after the service.

Walmart wouldn't show NBC 5 the video, but said, "We can confirm oil was put in the car. There is no video angle showing the drain plug being reinstalled."

The Betanceses said they were given no further explanation, and a new engine cost them about $8,000.

Walmart did tell us the Betanceses were entitled to a copy of the full report into their investigation.

They repeatedly asked for it via email, copying us on the requests. They have yet to receive that report.

We asked, too, and after more than four weeks, it has not arrived.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[How to Avoid Flood-Damaged Cars from Harvey]]>Mon, 25 Sep 2017 03:41:48 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/harvey-houston-flooding.jpg

Looks can be deceiving when it comes to flood-damaged vehicles.

Mechanics say it sometimes starts with a strange noise, prompting the consumers to take their car to a mechanic, eventually learning the car is no good.

This is the last thing any driver wants to hear.

That's why the National Insurance Crime Bureau issued a new vehicle warning. They're telling drivers to beware of flood-damaged cars from Hurricane Harvey because they could soon pop up at a car lot near you.

They'll be cleaned up, shipped off, and if the car was not insured, there probably won't be any record of the damage.

"Small car lots, they're going to be picking up those cars because they can get them for cheap and if they can get them running," said Tarrant County College Automotive Instructor Tracy Miller. "It can be very dangerous to drive a flooded car. If anti-lock brake computers get wet they're not going to function properly. Your brakes may not function properly. In a lot of modern cars, the power steering systems those are electronic, so that may not function properly. Air bag system might not function properly."

So if you're in the market for a car, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Look for water stains, mildew or sand
• Check under the carpet and floor mats for silt
• You can even check the spare tire for moisture
• Look for fogging inside the headlights and tail-lights
• You'll also want to do a smell test. Does the car have a heavy air freshener scent? If so,that could be a red flag.

Know the difference between a "salvage title" and a "flood title." A salvage title means the car is a total loss because of a serious accident. A "flood title" means the car has damage from sitting in deep water.

Also, consider getting a vehicle history report. Some companies offer a small fee, but keep in mind this is not always foolproof.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau has a free database where you can check the car's VIN.

Online: National Insurance Crime Bureau

]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Billed for Damage to Car, After She No Longer Owned It]]>Wed, 20 Sep 2017 16:31:49 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/lease+hail+damage.jpg

Hail can do a lot of damage to a car, and the price tag to bring it back to normal can put a major dent in your bank account.

In fact, a Plano woman got a huge bill after a spring hail storm, but the car wasn't even hers.

The sedan was clearly banged up after a huge thunderstorm dropped hail right over the Subaru of Plano dealership where Lori Bell returned her car at the end of her lease.

Bell says she handed over the keys, surrendering the car in good condition on April 8. The hail storm took place two week later, April 21.

Chase bank reportedly didn’t inspect until May, long after she returned the car.

When the inspector saw it all he sent the bill to Bell, thousands of dollars in damages and Lori couldn’t get the leasing company to say she was off the hook so she turned to us.

NBC 5 Responds has been investigating this issue for the last few weeks.

A spokesperson for Chase gave us this statement.

“Leased cars that are returned are typically inspected in prompt fashion. In this situation, the car wasn't inspected for more than a week due to a miscommunication. During this delay, the hail storm took place, causing damage to the car. When the vehicle was inspected, the inspector did not know when the damage had taken place. We appreciate the situation being brought to our attention and we are glad to resolve it.”

Lori learned the hard way the importance of documenting the condition of a car before you return it.

This goes for leases or just a weekend rental. The company typically inspects a little later, so make sure you take several photos of the car when you return to a dealership or rental car lot.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Some Chevy, GMC Owners Have Lengthy Wait for A/C Repairs]]>Tue, 19 Sep 2017 16:49:47 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GM+AC+Issues.jpg

Is there anything more uncomfortable than driving around without air conditioning during a North Texas summer?

Just a few hours can be brutal, but imagine a few months.

Several General Motors customers have been waiting that long to get the A/C repaired in their vehicles. Many have complained — dozens of you to us. Now, we have some answers.

The problem is happening in some of GM’s full-sized SUVs, including the ones made in Arlington. There are 2014 and 2015 Tahoes, Yukons and Silverados — just a couple of years old — with air conditioning that has gone bad.

"I couldn't understand why a vehicle that was only two years old was having trouble with air conditioning," said driver Mark Kuffel.

The Kuffel family had just returned from vacation when their air conditioner died.

"To get it fixed would be 10-12 weeks for the part to come in," Kuffel said.

The fix would cost an estimated $1,400 — coming out of their own pockets.

This family is not alone.

Auto mechanic Cesar Vega posted a demo about the problem on YouTube.

"I've replaced four or five. Tomorrow I have a 2016, same problem. They really need to get these fixed, maybe issue a recall," Vega said.

That idea is echoed by some of the unhappy GM owners who recently reported their air conditioning failures to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Many others are speaking online, saying they've waited multiple weeks but can't get their hands on the needed part. Some fixes are in the $4,000 range.

GM initially told NBC 5 Responds the back-ordered parts would be fulfilled by the end of August. That was nearly three weeks ago. After calling again for an update this week, the GM spokesperson refused to comment.

The customers who have been able to get new parts, including the Kuffuls, did have to pay out of pocket for those repairs if the car was out of warranty. We’ll keep checking with GM about the pace of these repairs.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Ways to Avoid the 'Rental Property Scam' in North Texas]]>Tue, 19 Sep 2017 05:44:54 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/212*120/responds-craigslist-scam.jpg

For one North Texas family, it all started with an ad on Craigslist.

A house in Burleson was going for $900 a month with all utilities included.

The man who identified himself as the "landlord" sent the couple a code to a lockbox with the key inside so the family could see the home.

After they wired the man $1,800 and signed the lease, they moved in, thinking the home was theirs. But they were wrong.

"A lady had came to the door, and she said that she was the property manager of this house," said Elizabeth Jones.

It turns out that the property belonged to Streetlane Homes, and the manager knew nothing about the so-called landlord.

NBC 5 found at least two other ads on Craigslist that appeared to be from the same man. One was in Royse City, and the other in Temple, near Austin.

The ads all show the same phone number. When we called the number, the man who answered identified himself as "Mr. Thomas," the owner of the home.

He said he couldn't meet in person because his son was in the hospital. So, he sent NBC DFW a code to the lockbox. He said the house in Royse City was still available and we could see it as early as Monday. 

A quick Google search led me to the real owner: American Homes 4 Rent.

An employee with the company confirmed that the Craigslist ads we found were not legitimate.

NBC 5 Responds called the person posing as the landlord multiple times, and each time, he hung up the phone. 

"It's very common and it has been going on for several years," said Sherri Aaron, with the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors.

She said these scams aren't new, but technology is making it even easier for crooks to trick consumers.

And on top of that, the North Texas housing market is putting pressure on renters to act fast.

"Some of these landlords...They go to home depot to buy a fifty dollar combination, you know lockbox," Aaron said. "Somebody gets the combination. Then they can share it or if they know it, then all of a sudden they go over there, take the key out, and put it in their own lockbox. The technology has helped in a way, but it's hurt in a way."

If you or if someone you know is looking to rent, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• It's advised that you meet with a licensed realtor or the property owner in person. If they don't want to meet face-to-face, that's a red flag.
• You should also check with your county's appraisal office to verify who owns the property. You can do this online.
• Never wire any money to someone you've never met.
• Check the prices on nearby homes to see if the proposed rent is too good to be true. For instance, in the Royse City ad, the home was listed for $1,000 a month with utilities. In reality, that home is going for just under $1500 a month, with no utilities included.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Springtown Family Home Up For 'Rent' Without Their Knowledge]]>Tue, 19 Sep 2017 02:56:25 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/stolen+homes.jpg

A growing scam online shows houses up for rent without the knowledge of the owner or realtor. One family in White Settlement said pictures of their home were posted on Craigslist, and the poster was looking for more than money.

Tiffany Schmalken and her family just moved into their dream home in Springtown.

"We found this house on three acres, so [my husband] got the land he wanted and I got my garden tub and my craft room, so we both ended up winning," Schmalken said.

After they moved in, they put their old home in White Settlement up for sale, which allowed the realtors to show it without having to inconvenience their family.

"We had the realtor come in and take pictures of the house vacant. Then she posted our listing online with the vacant house pictures," Schmalken said.

Those pictures, showing the vacant home with newly renovated kitchen, should speak to buyers, but apparently they also spoke to someone else.

"I got a message from a Facebook friend, saying, 'Hey! I love your house, and that price is so good, can I rent it from you?' I asked her why do you think I'm renting my house? My house is up for sale," Schmalken said.

An ad that appeared on Craigslist used the photos Schmalken's real estate agent had posted online to sell the house, but the Craigslist poster claimed to be renting it.

It was all revealed by a Facebook friend of the Schmalkens, who stumbled upon the ad renting the three-bedroom home for just more than $1,000 a month.

The poster even went so far as to create an email address with Schmalken's name.

Their friends decided to send an email to the address just to see how far this mystery landlord would go in trying to rent Schmalken's home.

"[They said] you could go see it, but they had the keys with them, so they would all just have to look through the windows. Once they received the deposit then they would overnight the keys, 'cause they were located in Louisiana for work. [It is a] very elaborate scheme," Schmalken said.

There was an application asking for all sorts of personal information — an identity thief's dream. Then potential renters would wire hundreds of dollars for the deposit and rent.

"The fact that somebody was impersonating me online was disturbing to say the least. Especially the fact that people may be sending them money, and my names associated with that? It was disturbing," Schmalken said.

A simple note to Craigslist got the listing pulled down. But there's nothing stopping it from going back up.

"It goes back to that old saying, if it's too good to be true, it probably is," Schmalken said.

If you're selling a home, take photos with the furniture still inside. Realtors tell NBC 5 Responds that vacant houses are the ones typically used in this scheme so there’s no one inside the house to interfere.

Never send anyone money for a house you haven't physically seen. We've even reported on situations where scammers have figured out ways to get you in a lockbox. So be sure to always ask to meet the landlord or realtor in person — and look them up.

And if their only way of communicating is an email, that's a red flag.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Consider Your Options for Dorm Insurance for Your Child]]>Mon, 18 Sep 2017 17:04:22 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/college-dorm.jpg

If you have a child in college, chances are there are some pricey items in his or her dorm room. Insurance companies offer policies to help protect them.

The threat of theft is relatively small — from schools that report crime data, there were only about 798 burglaries and larceny thefts for every 100,000 students enrolled — or less than one percent.

The FBI's website contains more detailed crime statistics for specific schools.

You also have to keep in mind just how responsible your child is. Are they really trusting with their belongings, and just how careful are they? If you decide you do want to insure their stuff, you have a few options.

A parent's homeowners policy will typically cover kids while they're living in an on-campus residence at no extra cost, but the coverage may only apply to 10 percent of your limit on the contents of your home. So if your policy covers up to $50,000 in losses, your student's belongings are covered for only up to $5,000.

A renters policy will be necessary if your child lives off-campus. Premiums vary based on the amount of coverage needed, but are usually around $10 to $22 per month.



Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA['Rental Property Scam' Leaves North Texas Families Homeless]]>Mon, 18 Sep 2017 05:56:41 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-scam-alert.jpg

After losing his mother to cancer, Micheal Jones said he just had to move on from the home they once shared.

“I told my wife I can't do it," he said. "I can't be here no more.”

The couple started looking online for a new home and quickly came across a Cragislist ad. Jones' wife, Elizabeth, was excited.

“My husband calls the man on the ad," she said. "The man tells him 'Would you like to go see the house? I'm at the hospital with my son. I can't make it there, but I have a lock box on the house.’"

After seeing the home in person, they both fell in love. They sent the landlord a text message and he responded with a code for the lockbox, which had the key inside.

The lease stated that the couple would have to wire the landlord the first month's rent and security deposit. So they sent $1,800 and the landlord sent them the signed lease. The house was theirs.

But a few days later, a woman showed up at their doorstep.

“She said that she was the property manager of this house and she said, 'Y’all are not supposed to be here,'” Elizabeth explained. “I said 'What do you mean we're not supposed to be here? I have a lease and the keys to the home.’"

The property manager explained the house belonged to Streetlane homes and they needed to leave immediately. The woman had no idea who the so-called "landlord" was; she didn't even recognize the name.

“Me and my husband, we look at each other and go, 'We're calling the Sherriff out here,'” said Elizabth.

It didn't take long for them to realize they were victims of what experts say is a growing problem. Thanks to technology, the fake landlord had somehow gained access to the lockbox and its code.

The Tarrant County Sheriff's Office released a scam alert during the weekend in regards to cases like this. The department says they are investigating.

As for the real owners of the property, Streetlane homes, they told NBC 5 Responds:

"We're extremely disappointed and disheartened to hear about this scam....We're actively looking into this matter and are 100% focused on getting to the bottom of it….For the time being, we're going to allow them to stay in the home, rent free, for the next two weeks, to give them some time. Should they find a new home and decide to move out, we'll also give them $900 to help with the transition."



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Lawmakers Starting to Put Pressure on Equifax]]>Fri, 15 Sep 2017 16:25:13 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/cms936.jpg

Anger is mounting, and Americans are asking for something to be done after the Equifax data breach and the issues surrounding signing up for protection.

More than 50 lawsuits have already been filed, and state attorneys general across the country are launching investigations into what Equifax may have done wrong.

"The investigation has begun. I know that consumers want to know how long will it take and when I can see action. It's going to take time. It's a massive date breach. Twelve million Texans alone are affected by this," said Marc Rylander, with the Texas Attorney General's Office.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., say they've come up with a list of demands from Equifax like notifying everyone if they're affected and promising 10 years worth of freezes.

"These five steps are common sense. They are the base line of decency. If Equifax can't commit to them, their leadership is not up to the job and their entire leadership should be replaced," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wants to change the law to make freezing your credit free by all three bureaus.

Across the country, lawmakers and enforcers are promising to push for protection.

"This company needs to make sure that it is footing the bills, that it is paying, and that we are not paying for their failures," said Massachusetts Attorney General Laura Healey.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Customers Targeted Via Text Message]]>Fri, 15 Sep 2017 06:09:54 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/amazon+huracan+irma+envios.jpg

The NBC 5 Responds team is warning consumers about a text message that appears to be from Amazon.

The people behind this scheme are using a method called "smishing." It's a new scheme that targets your text messages.

Cyber criminals are coming after your credit card information, addresses and even your social security number.

A viewer sent NBC 5 Responds' Samantha Chatman a text message via Facebook.

It says, "Amazon values your continued business! Receive a $50 gift card or reward simply by completing our short survey," and then there's a link. You can reply "STOP" for removal.

Amazon confirms that this is a scam.

The company said it will not send text messages for surveys, though the company does offer text alerts for package shipments.

If you've received one of these survey messages, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• If you are an AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint or Bell subscriber, you can report the text to your carrier by copying the original message and forwarding it to the number 7726 (spam), free of charge
• Delete the text
• Don't call the number back
• Never send a message back or click the link, no matter how tempting it may be

We also wanted to know how widespread this might be, but we're still waiting on a statement from Amazon.

Americans lost $1.3 billion to cyber crime in 2016, according to the FBI. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Credit Bureau Websites Overwhelmed After Equifax Breach]]>Thu, 14 Sep 2017 16:24:07 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Equifax_Next_Move_10p_09132017.jpg

The nation's three credit agencies are swamped with calls from millions of Americans trying to put a fast freeze on their credit report.

An estimated 143 million names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver's license numbers were all stolen in a security breach of credit rating agency Equifax.

"When the experts are saying, 'You should do this now,' it struck panic in me. I don't want people taking auto loans in my name or who knows what," said North Texas consumer Scott Teich.

The fear is real. Experts say as angry as you may be, few companies could handle the amount of demand the credit bureaus are getting right now.

"Typical web servers can only service a certain number of requests every second. If you have millions of Americans all trying at the same time, you're going to overload the web server," said Randy Haba, an ethical hacker with Frisco's DKB Innovative.

Haba dives deep into the hacking world and builds systems to keep the bad hackers out. He says freeze your report when the demand dies down, but in the meantime you can take steps to limit your risk.

"Make sure you call the people you do business with, update your security questions, change your answers, put notes on your account to not allow use of social to access my info. Put a special requirement, they must say this info to accept my account," Haba said.

Equifax told NBC DFW they are experiencing a high volume of requests for security freezes and are experiencing technical issues. They said they are working diligently to ensure an improved customer experience.

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<![CDATA[Plano Woman Fights to Clear Her Name, Identity]]>Thu, 14 Sep 2017 08:35:26 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/car-loan-id-theft.jpg

Peggy Sharrieff moved to the Lone Star State with dreams of opening her own business.

But to do that, she realized she needed to have good credit.

It's something Sharrieff's been working on for a while now: paying bills on time and monitoring her credit.

However, last week she received an email that could be the beginning of a major problem.

"They basically said that my loan was approved at a dealership in Peoria, Illinois," she said. "I'm freaking out because I didn't submit an application for a car. I'm not looking for a car."

Sharrieff said she moved from Illinois last year but has never lived in Peoria. The number on the application was from St. Louis, so she figured it was spam.

"But then, when the second one came in I'm like, somebody is trying to get a car in my name!"

The man who emailed Sharrieff told NBC 5 Responds that loan applications are submitted through the dealership's website and they have no control over who sends them in.

He said this isn't the first time something like this has happened, but he confirmed the application will be thrown out.

"I'm just worried that there is going to be more things like this to come," Sharrieff said. "You could know anything about me at any given time. That's not a good feeling."

Sharrieff said her next step is to meet with a financial adviser to help clear her name.

The NBC 5 Responds team continues to reach out to Equifax and have yet to receive a direct response. The agency continues to offer credit monitoring through its website.

It is important for all potentially impacted consumers to do the following:

• Monitor your credit reports and bank statements closely
• Consider freezing your credit through the three major credit agencies. Experian and Transunion charge about $10 for the freeze if you aren't currently a victim of identity theft. Equifax is waiving its fee for a limited time.
• Not sure how to authorize a freeze? Click here



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Hurricanes Could Cause Airfare Prices to Drop]]>Wed, 13 Sep 2017 16:35:44 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/107846315-airplane-generic.jpg

If you're shopping for airfare for an upcoming trip, you might want to wait a little bit before you book.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused prices to spike for the short-term, but experts say that could change based on the recovery process.

The hurricanes significantly impacted operations for DFW-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, and they are still calculating their losses.

Almost all of Southwest's flights to the Caribbean were canceled, while Houston's Hobby Airport was closed.

Now, American Airlines is canceling flights to the Caribbean and also others out of Florida.

Rick Seaney, CEO of Farecompare, said travelers must do research before booking a flight, especially to Florida or the Caribbean.

If the rebuilding process doesn't happen quickly, you can expect airfare to drop.

"If demands goes down, tickets prices will have to go down, or airlines have to move those flights to other locations," Seaney said.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Texas Businesses Sued for Price Gouging During Harvey]]>Tue, 12 Sep 2017 21:17:57 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ANA_RESPONDE_PRICE_GOUGING_1200x675_1037222467681.jpg

A North Texas gas station chain is among the Texas businesses named in price gouging lawsuits filed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, attorney general Ken Paxton's office announced Tuesday.

Texas law prohibits businesses from charging exorbitant prices for drinking water, food, clothing and fuel during a declared disaster.

NBC 5 Responds reported earlier this month that investigators were looking into the complaints and trying to prove the pricing was unfair. Now, they feel the proof is there, and they are ready to take it before a judge.

A reader sent the Arlington Voice a photo indicating he paid $6.99 a gallon for regular unleaded gas at the Mobil station on Green Oaks in Arlington on Aug. 31. Signs posted at the stations reportedly advertised prices between $3-$4 per gallon. The station is owned by Bains Brothers Petroleum, which owns several Texaco-branded gas stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The AG's Office filed suit against the gas station owner for the gouging reported to them. We left messages for the owners of Bains Brothers, but our calls weren't returned.

Robstown Enterprises, Inc., which operated the Best Western Plus Tropic Inn in Robstown, charged three times its normal room rate during the weekend Hurricane Harvey hit, authorities said. The news release said Best Western has since ended its relationship with the company.

"We called the hotel chain and they refunded the difference of a fair price and what the hotel was charging. [They] also refunded the other 39 rooms their price difference, and the next day the national chain whose name was on the sign jerked their name off that hotel and no longer allowed that owner to be a franchisee," said Marc Rylander, with the Attorney General's Office.

A Chevron-branded gas station near Laredo was also accused of charging customers $8.99 and $9.99 a gallon for regular unleaded gas on Aug. 31.

State prosecutors say they've received more than 3,300 price gouging complaints resulting from Hurricane Harvey.

Assistant Attorney General Brad Carpenter told said investigators got many complaints but are going after cases they know are air-tight.

"The hardest things about these cases are proving that they happened," Carpenter said.

Photos certainly help, because they offer some type of proof. It's even better when they show the specific location. It's something to remember as a consumer when documenting possible price gouging.

Price gouging penalties can reach $20,000 for each violation and an additional amount of up to $250,000 in cases where victims 65-years-old or older were targeted.

Texans who believe they've been scammed or price gouged should call the attorney general's Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-621-0508, email consumeremergency@oag.texas.gov or file a complaint on the attorney general's website.

Online: Filing a price gouging complaint

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<![CDATA[Things to Know Before Returning to the Equifax Website]]>Tue, 12 Sep 2017 06:15:07 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/cms936.jpg

If you checked the Equifax website last week, you may have gotten a message like this: "Based on the information provided, we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident."

You're then asked to enroll in Trusted ID Premier, an identity theft protection program. But you have to return to the website on a later date to finish enrolling.

You'll have to provide more information like your name, date of birth, full social security number, home address and email address. After that, the website says to wait for an email to complete enrollment.

There are a lot of people that are skeptical about this process. Some people have questioned if they should give Equifax more information.

Here's what you need to know:

• Equifax has changed its terms and conditions and confirms that enrolling in Trusted ID Premier does not waive your right to take legal action.
• If you sign up for the program, it's free. You won't be charged after your free year is up.
• Trusted ID Premier includes credit bureau monitoring, identity theft insurance and internet scanning for social security numbers. However, there are other identity theft protection programs on the market.
• Financial experts say your best bet is to authorize a credit freeze. It's not a walk in the park, but we're told it's the only way to protect yourself in this situation.

To learn more about how to authorize a credit freeze, click here



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Construction Material Cost Expected to Rise After Hurricanes]]>Mon, 11 Sep 2017 16:39:27 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Construction-generic-worker.jpg

If you're planning to do some home improvement work, watch out. Prices for materials are rising across North Texas. And the cost is only expected to go higher as more material is needed to help rebuild after hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The amount of the increase depends on which product and on the damage reports from Hurricane Irma which are still coming in, but the material we're most likely to see go up in price is wood.

Let's face it, we go through a lot of lumber in North Texas. Our booming housing market keeps those pallets of wood coming in.

Experts tell NBC 5 Responds plywood, softwood lumber and fiber board are all in short supply and prices have been climbing long before any hurricane entered the Gulf of Mexico.

"The Trump administration decided to slap a 10-percent tax on Canadian soft wood lumber at the beginning of the year," said David Lei, strategy professor at Southern Methodist University. "Most of the lumber does come from Canada. You're exasperating a shortness of supply when you have a huge demand."

Lei said the tariffs, along with the demand for home building both in DFW and in Houston, will likely lead to lumber prices rising about 20 percent.

With interests rates holding steady, the building will keep demand high for wood and other building materials, but another factor is the rising cost of fuel which can mean higher prices for consumers.

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<![CDATA[Don't Expect Gas Price Spike After Irma: Expert]]>Mon, 11 Sep 2017 05:47:43 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Gas_Shortage.jpg

As Hurricane Irma continues to rip through Florida, many consumers in North Texas are bracing for another round of increased gas prices.

The current average gas price is at $2.67, which is about 45 cents higher than last year.

Nonetheless, some energy experts are telling drivers not to worry about another spike at the pump. In fact, they say drivers may start to see prices drop at local gas stations over the next week or two.

You may be asking yourself the following question: If prices skyrocketed after Hurricane Harvey, why wouldn't they climb after Irma?

Energy expert Bruce Bullock said it had a lot to do with the shutdown of refineries near the Gulf Coast and sheer panic at the pump.

"Those two things combined raised the price 50-75 cents a gallon here locally, and it's going to take a while until that pipeline gets back up," Bullock said.

"I'm not worried about gas going up," he said. "The fact of the matter is the single biggest determinant of gasoline prices is crude oil prices, and crude oil prices are flat to heading downward this time a year and should through the remainder of the year."

If you're wondering if you should fill up today or not, Bullock said if you're at a quarter tank of gas, don't wait. Go ahead and fill up.

He believes gas prices should go down, but it won't drastically drop overnight.

You'll likely start to see it go down a couple of cents each week.

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<![CDATA[How to Protect Yourself From the Equifax Security Breach]]>Fri, 15 Sep 2017 09:02:45 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Equifax_Credit_Freeze.jpg

People all over the country are looking to protect themselves after credit reporting giant Equifax announced its computers were hacked, potentially exposing the personal information of millions of Americans.

The breach exposed Social Security numbers, current and past addresses, birthdays, and even driver's license numbers.

Equifax has set up a free credit monitoring and identity protection service that will help those affected.

You can use the site to check to see if you're a victim, and then join the monitoring program. That monitoring will only let you know what's happening moving forward.

A recent FTC study found that thieves pay top-dollar to get fresh, recently obtained stolen data, often within minutes. So, you could already have someone opening accounts in your name that just haven't popped up yet.

People are hesitant to sign up for Equifax's free monitoring because they don't want to give them their Social Security numbers again.

"I got to the website and it was like, 'Add your Social Security number, and the last four digits of your Social Security number, and your last name,' and I thought, 'No, you're already hacked. I'm not giving you more information.' So, I got nervous to be honest, and I didn't check," said one consumer.

Equifax's competitor, Experian, is saying it will give you free credit monitoring for a year, if you sign up with Experian.

There's another option that will give you much more protection than credit monitoring: credit freezing. It makes life a little harder, and costs you a few bucks, but it will keep your information safe.

To freeze a credit card, contact Equifax, Experian, and Transunion and tell them you want to freeze your account. They will lock it each credit report, but you still get to use credit cards and spend as normal.

The lock prevents new accounts from getting opened. So, you can't buy a house, a car, or open a new credit card while your account is frozen. However, they will give a PIN that allows these big purchases. Before making these types of purchases, call the credit bureau and give them the PIN.

They will release a credit report only to the company where the purchase is being made.

This protection that a credit freeze provides comes at a cost.

To lock it with Equifax, Experian, and Transunion, it costs $10.83 for each company – that's $32. 49 for all three.

It will also cost $10.49 each time your credit report is unlocked.

Equifax has said it will waive those fees for the time being.

LINK:

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said that using the Equifax's credit monitoring service forfeits your right to sue or join the class-action lawsuits already being filed. Equifax has clarified its terms, and said that using its credit monitoring service will not impact your rights to sue for the earlier credit breach. 


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<![CDATA[Harvey Shouldn't Impact North Texans' Insurance Premiums]]>Fri, 08 Sep 2017 06:17:26 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/harvey-houston-flooding.jpg

The estimated loss from hurricane Harvey is about $30 billion in property damage. This has many worried that insurance companies will have to raise premiums to pay for all of that damage in Southeast Texas.

Much of the damage in Houston was caused by flooding, and most homeowners' policies don't cover flooding. Typically, you have to buy flood insurance through FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program. Therefore, the government will be responsible for covering that damage, not private insurers.

But if we do happen to see a premium increases in the coming months, another storm could be to blame.

"There have been two very catastrophic storms that have come specifically through the North Texas area," said Lynsie DeCet, from Independent Insurance Agents of Dallas. "In March and April we suffered significant hail damage. That could be more likely because hail is specifically addressed on an insurance policy. So, that has more of a direct relation to more private insurers and not the federal government who is issuing the national flood insurance."

If there's another storm that could cause our premiums to go up, DeCet said it's hurricane Irma, but the entire country would have to deal with those effects. This would depend on what kind of damage Irma brings to the U.S.

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<![CDATA[Equifax Data Breach Could Impact Nearly Half of the U.S.]]>Fri, 08 Sep 2017 11:39:44 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Equifax-Generic.jpg

The FBI is investigating a massive cyberattack at credit reporting agency Equifax that affects nearly half of the entire population of the United States.

About 325 million people live in the U.S., and Equifax reports more than 143 million of them could have had their information taken.

Hackers found a hole in the Equifax system which allowed those criminals to get in and access everything from credit card numbers to what Equifax is calling "identifying information," such as names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birthdays and driver's license numbers.

If you disputed something on your report, that information may have been stolen as well.

Equifax says this went on from the middle of May until July 29, when the company realized the breach and shut the hackers out.

The company is sending letters to people impacted by the incident.

Equifax has set up a website to let you see if your personal information has been accessed.

The system has been struggling to keep up with the number of people attempting to access the website in the hours after the breach was announced Thursday, so you may need to keep trying.

MORE: Click here to check your status with Equifax



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bureau Doesn't Expect Grocery Price Spikes After Hurricanes]]>Thu, 07 Sep 2017 17:08:03 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Wayne_Explains_Groceries_5p_90717.jpg

Farmers in South Texas were expecting a banner year when it came to cotton. After several slow years, they were expecting a lot of product this summer, but then came Hurricane Harvey.

"The hurricane could put several farming families out of business," said Roger Hall, with the Texas Farm Bureau.

Hall said the damage doesn't necessarily mean prices will spike.

He said cotton is produced in so many places that there will be a steady supply despite the loses in Texas.

The same is true for other popular Texas crops, like rice, soybeans, and even cattle, which died in floodwater.

Hurricane Irma is expected to hit Florida, which is known for its orange groves.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Citrus says it could be weeks before they know the impact on orange groves and any increase in price.

However, Hall says, like the crops grown in Texas, oranges are found elsewhere, and price spikes should be small and not long-lasting.

Sudden rushes on oranges, much like those seen with gasoline after Harvey, could impact pricing and supply, but if left alone, Hall expects the impact to be minimal.

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<![CDATA[Protecting Hurricane Harvey Victims From Vicious Contractors]]>Thu, 07 Sep 2017 05:54:59 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/contractor-construction-generic.jpg

Time and time again we hear from storm victims who gave a roofer their last dollar, only to learn their project would be abandoned.

It's sad to think that someone would stoop this low, but when disaster strikes, there are contractors out there with bad intentions.

Many people call them storm chasers: Workers that travel to devastated areas, pressure you to put down a deposit and never come back.

There are a number of good, honest contractors in Houston right now doing great work for those in need. But the bad ones will try to slip through the cracks and take advantage of you when your guard is down.

There are many steps homeowners should take before trusting someone to rebuild their home.

"Make sure you check their qualifications, look into their background," said Steven Badger, a North Texas-based attorney. "Make sure they have a website and do your research on them. Do not hand over your insurance checks until they're there to begin the work."

Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Watch out for doorknockers. If someone comes to your home, write down their information. Take their business card and do your research before signing any paperwork.
• If a contractor says he'll waive your deductible, that's another red flag. Badger said it's illegal to wave a deductible in Texas.
• Also, if the price seems too cheap, that should make you raise an eyebrow, too.
• If you're going to put down any money, ask the contractor to buy your materials first. If they can't afford it, you may want to shop around.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Woman's European Vacation Is Canceled After Cancer Diagnosis]]>Wed, 06 Sep 2017 17:03:26 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Holly+Everitt.jpg

Once you buy an airline ticket, it's usually yours. Change fees can often cost as much as what you paid for a low fare.

Holly Everitt and her daughter, Brandi, bought a non-refundable fare for a flight to London. But after making their reservation, Holly was diagnosed with cancer.

She's undergoing chemotherapy and her doctor says she's not medically fit to make the trip.

Her travel agent wasn't able to honor a refund on their non-refundable ticket, so she contacted NBC 5 Responds.

We passed along the doctor's note to British Airways, and they quickly issued a refund saying, "We apologize for the inconvenience this caused during a difficult time for our customer."

Brandi said the refunded money will help them pay medical bills.

Refunds are considered on a case-by-case basis by most airlines, including British Airways.

They may not always give you any money back, but British Airways says with documentation of your illness they will allow you to change the date of your trip to a date after you are well.

The policy is different for every airline.

A spokesman for Fort Worth-based American Airlines said usually with a doctor's note they will allow you to re-book within a year.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines offers changes without a fee for any reason.

The best way to ensure you will get actual cash back is to purchase travel insurance, but always double check the policy to make sure you're aware of all the conditions impacting a medical claim.



Photo Credit: Everitt Family / NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Rumor Control: FEMA Addresses Gas Supply, Relief Efforts]]>Wed, 06 Sep 2017 05:55:20 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/fema+response.jpg

The Federal Emergency Management Agency wants to set the record straight about the effects of Hurricane Harvey.

According to FEMA, there are rumors that fuel supply issues in North Texas are due to the agency blocking sales. FEMA says that is false and blamed Harvey.

"With tight supplies due to Hurricane Harvey impacts, gas stations that purchase fuel on the open market may not be able to acquire fuel supply since pre-existing supply contracts will be met before gasoline is placed in the open market," FEMA said.

The agency also wants to warn the public about employment scammers. There are reports stating FEMA is looking to hire more than 1,000 people for $2,000 per week for 90 days. The phone number to call may start with 888-776-xxxx. FEMA says this is a scam.

FEMA officials said they do need field inspectors as soon as possible at a rate of $4,000 to $5,000 per week. The flyer instructed those interested in the position to call 214-284-XXXX for instructions on how to apply between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m. up to Aug. 31.

And then there's robocalls. There are reports that Texas residents are being told their flood premiums are past due and in order to have coverage for hurricane Harvey, they need to submit a payment immediately to a website.

FEMA said this is a scam. If you receive a call regarding your flood insurance policy:

• Hang up the phone.
• Don't press any numbers.
• Instead, contact your insurance company to verify the information.
• If you have a policy with the national flood insurance program, call directly or dial 1-800-638-6620.

For more rumor reports, visit www.fema.gov/hurricane-harvey-rumor-control.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[SOS Roofing Owner Faces Charges After NBC 5 Investigation]]>Tue, 05 Sep 2017 10:20:38 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/will-jenkins.jpg

A North Texas contractor accused of ripping off homeowners faces property theft charges after several NBC 5 Responds investigations.

Will Jenkins of SOS Roofing and MGM Contractors turned himself into police during the weekend. He has since been released on bail.

Earlier this year, NBC 5 Responds heard from several consumers who said they paid Jenkins thousands of dollars to fix their roofs and that he never came back.

Since the first story aired, homeowners from across North Texas have come forward with similar stories. We even heard from former employees who say Jenkins ripped them off, too.

Jenkins has been charged with two counts of theft of property greater than $150,000. The indictment includes dozens of homeowners. He’s expected to appear in court Sept. 13.



Photo Credit: Tarrant County Sheriff's Department | NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Consumer Reports Poll Finds Best Used Cars]]>Mon, 04 Sep 2017 06:35:37 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Responds_Used_Car.jpg

Consumer Reports polls more than 200,000 subscribers to find out how satisfied they are with their 3- to 10-year-old vehicles and whether they'd buy them again.]]>
<![CDATA[Major Gasoline Pipeline Could Restore Service Tuesday]]>Sun, 03 Sep 2017 10:37:07 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/4p+5hd+LABOR+DAY+GAS_KXASEKYT_2017-09-01-17-48-18.jpg

Colonial Pipeline Company, which delivers more than 100 million gallons of gasoline between Houston and the East Coast, said it may be able to return to service as early as Monday or Tuesday.

The company said restoring the line will depend on safe access to locations and no major flood damage during facility inspections. So more fuel could be on the way to North Texas.

The NBC 5 Responds team is still seeing a number of gas stations in the DFW area that are out of fuel, but transportation experts say the projected shipments could help alleviate this issue.

Many drivers said the long lines at the pump have shortened a bit each day, giving many North Texans hope as they enter the holiday weekend.

 If you're looking for gas right now, click here for our interactive gas map. 

The QuikTrip app has also proven to be very helpful and reliable for our viewers. https://www.quiktrip.com/Gasoline

As for the increased gas prices, AAA said they should start to drop next month.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Some Useful Tips for Saving Gas]]>Fri, 01 Sep 2017 05:49:26 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Gas_Drama_6p.jpg

North Texans are lining up to get gas, worried about a possible shortage in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. But there's some things you can do to make your gas last longer.

  • Make sure you're driving at moderate speed. Wherever you're going, don't push that speed limit. Transportation experts say driving around 55 miles per hour instead of 65 can get you an extra couple miles per gallon.
  • Try putting your car in idle mode. Many cars have this feature, check your manual. You may see a button near your steering wheel with an "A" on it. When activated, it'll shut off your engine if you're in traffic or waiting at a red light. Auto experts say this should help preserve your fuel.
  • If you can handle it, turn off that air conditioning. The Department of Energy says blasting the cold air can reduce your vehicle's fuel economy by more than 25 percent.

If you need help finding gas near you, be sure to check out our interactive map.

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<![CDATA[Answering Your Most Common Questions on Gas Outages]]>Thu, 31 Aug 2017 22:22:59 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GAS+PUMP+GENERIC2.jpg

NBC 5 Consumer Reporter Wayne Carter answers some of your most common questions to the North Texas gas outages.]]>
<![CDATA[Gas Drama Impacts North Texas Businesses]]>Thu, 31 Aug 2017 16:49:16 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Harvey_Gas_Facts_5p_83117.jpg

North Texas gas station owners say they got a huge rush of business beginning late Thursday. The problem, they say, isn't a lack of gas coming into town as much as it is so many going to fill up on the same day. And as fast as the problem started the experts say it will end.]]>
<![CDATA[Friday Deadline for Insurance Claims — What's True and Not]]>Wed, 30 Aug 2017 16:33:23 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/160*120/Kris+Gutierrez+02.jpg

Some Texans forced out of their homes by Hurricane Harvey may soon return and start thinking about rebuilding. That means filing insurance claims so they can start with repairs.

Insurance companies are inundated with calls right now from people trying to file before Friday, when a new state law takes effect.

But the rush to file may not impact many homeowners.

House Bill 1774 puts more work on the consumer and could cost some consumers money, but it only kicks in if your insurance company doesn't pay what you think is fair and you file a lawsuit against them.

If there's no lawsuit, nothing's any different under the new law.

"They ought not be concerned not being able to claim by Friday," said attorney Steven Badger, who represents insurance companies who supported the bill.

Badger is backed up by the Texas Department of Insurance, Federal Emergency Management Agency and even the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. The new law does not affect the claims process.

Most Harvey insurance claims will go to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which covers those along the coast. The National Flood Insurance Program will handle the high water claims in Houston. The bill has no impact on those claims.

The people who file with homeowners insurance and then sue over the outcome are impacted.

If you file before Friday and win a suit with your insurance company, you get a check for 18-percent more than what the judge ordered. After Friday, when the new law kicks in, that payment drops to about 10 percent.

Wade Barrow, president of Tarrant County Trial Lawyers, points out lawsuit numbers are higher after a disaster like this. He says there will be more disagreements and more people who will benefit from filing before Friday.

"There are adverse consequences if you don't act. It's going to happen to people who can least afford them: victims of the worst storm in this state's history," Barrow said.

Bottom line, if it's safe and you're able to file a claim now, go ahead. If you choose to sue your insurance company, this could help you a bit.

If you don't file the claim now, and you don't sue your insurance company, it will have little to no impact.



Photo Credit: Kris Gutierrez, NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[AG Investigating More Than 600 Complaints of Price Gouging]]>Tue, 29 Aug 2017 22:06:54 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/water+jugs+harvey.jpg

For the past week, store shelves have been clearing out across the Houston area and southeast Texas amid Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.

Bread, water and other staples are becoming hard to find, and some customers say they are coming across items that are marked up so high people are leaving them behind.

The Texas Attorney General's Office has received more than 600 complaints so far from customers saying they're being overcharged.

NBC 5 Responds used the Freedom of Information act to get some of those complaints. In one report, a sporting goods store in San Antonio was accused of charging $41 for a 12-pack of bottled water.

There's a complaint from a gas station on Sam Houston Parkway near Houston saying their water had no price marked, but at the checkout the teller said it was very expensive and he had to think of a price. Then said it was $45 for a 12-pack of water.

"You can't charge 10, 15, 20-times what the product costs at a normal time," said Brad Carpenter, with the Texas Attorney General's Office.

Carpenter said the office's investigators have been checking these complaints since the weekend and hold businesses accountable for price gouging.

"It's unrealistic for people in need that may have lost everything to pay a crazy amount of money for something that people are getting free," he said.

Carpenter said water costs have been one of the biggest complaints. Another complaint has been the cost of hotel rooms. One report we found was from a man who felt he was overcharged paying $289 by a low-budget hotel chain.

The attorney general's office intervened, and the rate was lowered to $159, and the hotel taxes were refunded.

If you're looking to file a complaint about price gouging, find more information from the Texas Attorney General's Office.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Research Charitable Organizations Before You Donate]]>Tue, 29 Aug 2017 03:11:41 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/American+Red+Cross+1200.jpg

Greg Small has been manning a forklift for much of the day helping load trucks at the Red Cross Disaster Relief warehouse in Arlington.

"I retired a couple months ago after 38 years with the air force. I was lacking mission and this gives me a mission."

He's working loading trucks from the largest Red Cross warehouse in the US.

They have pallets of everything from garbage bags to food and it's all bought and paid for through donations, waiting to get put to use at a moments notice.

Ed Martelle of the Red Cross says it's easy to see where the money goes.

"I think you can feel good that anything you donate is going to the people who need it the most," said Martelle.

Some charities do seem to pop up overnight.

"If someone promises 100% of the donation goes to the cause that should be a red flag, it's very hard to believe 100% is going directly to someone in need there's always administrative costs," said Adam Price of the Better Business Bureau.

If you're concerned about any specific charity, including the ones we mentioned, you can research them at give.org or charitynavigator.org.

Also, check with your own church that you trust to see if they're partnering with a church in the disaster area.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Cruise Lines Offering Future Cruise Credits]]>Fri, 25 Aug 2017 21:35:00 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/carnival-valor.jpg

Two carnival ships due into Galveston, Texas, Saturday are now headed to New Orleans to pick up more food, fuel and supplies.

More than 15,000 people aboard three Carnival Cruise Line ships scheduled to return to Galveston this weekend face delays or detours due to Hurricane Harvey in the Gulf of Mexico. The Port of Galveston was closed Friday amid the hurricane threat. 

Carnival said they would give future cruise credits to anyone who chooses not to sail.

The Carnival Valor and Carnival Freedom will make a brief stop, where passengers can choose to end their cruise, but are being asked to stay onboard and sail back to Galveston once the port reopens.

Even after the storm passes, the port has to be inspected to make sure ships can safely get in and out.

A third Carnival ship, Breeze, was scheduled to return to Galveston on Sunday. It's spending Friday night in Cozumel, Mexico. That ship has more than 6,000 on board. The Carnival statement said the ship would depart Saturday for Texas to be in position when the Port of Galveston reopens.

Royal Caribbean said its Texas-based ship, Liberty of the Seas will stay safely behind the storm for now.

"Liberty of the Seas is keeping a safe distance behind the storm as she making her way back to Galveston. We are actively monitoring path and progression of Hurricane Harvey and will make sure to inform our guests of any itinerary changes," the company said.

Liberty of the Seas isn't set to arrive in Galveston until Sunday, so they will have time to make a decision on its fate after landfall.

The Port of Galveston is shut down and passengers are asked not to drive to the port until it is reopened.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Harvey Impacting Cruise Vacations Out of Texas Ports]]>Thu, 24 Aug 2017 21:17:00 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/galveston-port-cruise-ship.jpg

Hurricane Harvey has many vacationers worried about how the storm will impact their plans, especially people planning to take cruises out of Galveston.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines are both monitoring the storm to figure out the best course of action between now and the weekend.

Cruise lines typically will not sail their expensive ships anywhere near a potentially dangerous storm.

Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas did sail into a storm off the Atlantic coast last year, forcing the ship to turn around, and subjecting the passengers to the consequences of high wind and waves.

To avoid those situations, the ships — which are currently positioned in the southern Caribbean and along the Mexican coast — could stay on the back side of the storm until it passes. It would mean an extra sea day or two for passengers currently on board and less time on the ship for those expecting to cruise next week.

Even if the ships make it to port, some passengers may not be able to make it to Galveston if roads are flooded in the low-lying areas leading to the port city.

Right now, Carnival tells us their customers should sign up for text messages alerts to keep up with updates from the company.

Royal Caribbean didn't respond to requests for comment on their plans, but their ship isn't slated to arrive until Sunday and may be able to keep its schedule.

Refunds are not likely, but credits are possible for those whose cruise is shortened. The best protection against bad weather and other interruptions to your vacation is travel insurance.

The insurance needs to be purchased ahead of time.

You can also follow the cruise lines on Facebook and Twitter for possible updates regarding for your trip.



Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[New Fake Amazon Email Scheme Targets Online Shoppers]]>Thu, 24 Aug 2017 05:55:40 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/amazon-email-scheme11.jpg

There are new reports of a a phishing scheme that targets Amazon customers.

Some call it the "Amazon Prime Day Scam." Users receive an email that appears to be from Amazon.com with a subject line like "your order is out for delivery." The body of the email includes a links for details, a survey for a free gift and the option to unsubscribe.

Amazon has confirmed that this is a phishing scheme.

Many of these emails are trying to install malicious software on your computer or obtain personal information to steal your identity.

Here's what you can do to spot a fake Amazon email:

• If the "from" line has anything other than Amazon.com, then it's not from Amazon. It shouldn't contain any symbols or numbers.
• If you can't remember if you placed an order or not, check your order history directly on Amazon.com under "your orders."
• Don't open any attachments or click any links from suspicious emails. If you've already done so, click here to visit Amazon's help page.

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<![CDATA[Hackers Reportedly Stealing Phone Numbers to Access Accounts]]>Wed, 23 Aug 2017 17:21:29 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Cell+Phone+Generic.jpg

There's a warning about a new way scammers are stealing your personal identity and your money. All they need is your cellphone number.

They've found a hole in one of the newest and supposedly safest ways to verify your identity: two-step verification.

The two-step authentication security process is when a company will send a text message to your cellphone number on file. The text they send has a code.

You then have to type the code online in order to get into your account. It's all to make it harder for scammers to get in.

However now they'll just steal your phone number.

The New York Times was the first to report the problem.

Scammers are reportedly going to cellphone stores with a smartphone and saying they want new service but don't want a new phone number.

They give the cellphone company your number, and with the push of a button those texts asking you to verify your account are going to their phone, not yours.

They can access your account in minutes.

The process may seem complicated, but experts say all it requires is a convincing story, a bit of acting and a sympathetic customer service agent.

"If I called AT&T and came up with a big story about how my buddy is in the ICU and he's lost his phone, I need to get his phone number ported over to another phone without providing all that passcode information, then suddenly I've taken your phone number, and I can get into your bank account," said Keith Barthold, of DKB Innovative.

A spokesman for the trade group that represents the wireless companies tells NBC 5 Responds, "Hackers and cyber-criminals are increasingly mounting ever sophisticated attacks. The wireless industry is continually advancing new techniques and practices to defeat illegal behavior."

There is something you can do to help.

Call your cellphone provider and ask for a password or PIN to be put on your account.

Inform the phone company that you don't want your number changed to a new device unless the person has the PIN code.

It creates another layer of protection.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Viewer Helps Plano Teacher Who Lost $2,500 in Scheme]]>Wed, 23 Aug 2017 05:50:15 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/Mystery_Shopping_Chatman_Responds.jpg

A Plano teacher who lost thousands of dollars in a mystery shopping scheme thought the culprits had won until an NBC 5 viewer stepped in to help.

Skyla Harvey thought she signed up for a mystery shopper job. She received three checks in the mail with a list of instructions. 

“Go cash these three cashier checks and said go down to your local Walmart and get five gift cards of $500 and let us know about your experience," the letter read. "Do not tell them that you are a secret shopper.”

The warning signs were there, but Harvey said she was too caught up to see them. When she checked her bank account, she was shocked.

“I am negative $2,000 and I have nothing in savings," she said. "How do I not have any money? How do I not have anything?”

Harvey's children's back-to-school clothing and supplies for her classroom would have to wait.

“It hurts when you feel like you have nothing. Like when you don't even have $25 to open up another banking account to have some sort of money,” she said.

A viewer, who asked to remain anonymous, saw the story and reached out to NBC 5 Responds. He said:

“I see teachers like Skyla as heroes doing great things for our kids. Now, at the beginning of a school year, because of her unfortunate encounter with a scam she can't prepare for the school year as she had planned. My heart went out to her. I told my wife about it and she was completely on board to try to help. Wouldn't it be great if at the end of this school year she can say it was one of her best yet? The scammers didn't win.”

We connected the viewer with Harvey and he sent her a $1,000 donation.

"That meant the world to me,” she said. “In a time I felt like I had just been stripped from everything. But there was an angel out there that wanted to say there's people out there that care and we want to help and that's what he did.”

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<![CDATA[Publishers Clearing House Scheme Circles Back to North Texas]]>Tue, 22 Aug 2017 05:49:59 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/pch-scheme.jpg

Publishers Clearing House is a real company with legitimate sweepstakes, but imposters are using this prize of a lifetime to trick consumers in a scheme that is making its rounds in North Texas.

A 79-year-old viewer named "Lonnie" told us he received a letter in the mail saying he won $550,000 and he couldn't believe it.

He also received a check for nearly $8,000, which was supposed to cover legal and administrative fees. The letter told him to call the claim manager before depositing the check for further instructions.

Lonnie became suspicious and wanted us to look into this before he made his next move.

And folks, we're here to tell you that this is fake.

• Publishers clearing house will never ask you to pay a fee to collect a prize.  In fact, no legit prize promoter will ever charge you to win.
• If you're ever lucky enough to win, that prize patrol will show up on your door step. They won't send you a check.
• If you're ever asked to send money to collect a prize, report it to the FTC.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Credit Card Debt a Mounting Concern for College Students]]>Mon, 21 Aug 2017 17:21:31 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/College_Credit_Card_Debt_5p_82117.jpg

Financial planners say parents and students need come up with a budget for credit card spending while in college.

Four out of 5 college students amass more than $900 a year in credit card debt, according to Cathy Dewitt Dunn, a financial planner.

"If you have a $10,000 limit on a credit card you should only use 30 percent of that in short term debt. That lets the credit card companies understand you know how to live within a budget, you're not maxing out your credit card on a monthly basis," said Dunn.

Parents should talk to the students about credit cards early on, make sure their children know not to use money they don't have and use resources available to keep them on the right path.

"Go ahead and sign up for overdraft alerts. The fact that we have these smartphones, there’s so many ways you can really help save yourself a lot of money by just signing up for some online apps," said Dunn.

Some financial advisors say having an emergency savings that equals how much you make in six months should be your first priority before paying off anything extra.

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<![CDATA[Prosecutors Building Case Against Local Contractor]]>Mon, 21 Aug 2017 06:00:39 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/will-jenkins-responds.jpg

Melisa and Jayson Mathewson were looking to upgrade their backyard with a new patio — a space where they could both entertain and relax.

“So I jumped on Facebook and said ‘hey, if anyone knows of a great patio builder or somebody that does that line of work, have them contact me,’" recalled Melisa. "Will was the first one to chime in. He said, 'Hey, what about me?’”

The man she's referring to is Will Jenkins.

Melisa said she worked with Will Jenkins at another company a few years ago and they became Facebook friends. He eventually started his own business, MGM Contractors.

“Will was a very charming guy. Just very polite,” said Melisa.

“He was a small business and we're into helping small business,” Jayson explained.

They brought him in to see the backyard and discuss their vision.

“He said look, I’ll basically build you a deluxe patio for the cost of a basic. And I was thinking, awesome, okay! You're hired,” Melisa said.

The couple said the total cost of the project would be $5,500, but Jenkins needed money for materials, so the couple paid him $2,750 up front in cash.

Jenkins agreed to start the project on June 18 and said he'd have the job done within a week, just in time for Jayson’s birthday.

But as they got closer to their completion date, they realized nothing was done. They said Jenkins blamed the delay on his concrete guy and would be back soon.

But not long after, they told us his number was disconnected.

“So I called the business number that's listed on the MGM folder. It's disconnected,” Melisa said.

She said they called Will's wife and business partner Emilee to find out what was going on. She informed them that her husband was in a car accident and wasn't able to work, but assured them they'd get their money back.

Days later, they say her number was disconnected, too.

“At this point I’m like, something's going on,” Jayson said.

The couple wanted to know exactly who they were dealing with. They started browsing the internet and discovered NBC 5 Responds investigations with Will Jenkins at the center of those reports.

“I was like, you got to be kidding me,” said Jayson. “How did we not know this guy has this past?”

When we first introduced you to Jenkins he was known as the owner of SOS Roofing and Construction. Consumers across North Texas accused Will and Emilee Jenkins of ripping them off. We've even heard from former employees that claim the Jenkins owe them money, too.

Melisa blasted Will and Emilee on social media, warning the public about their business practices and reputation.

Much to their surprise, they say that post got the attention of someone from the Tarrant County District Attorney's office, who was already looking into Will Jenkins.

“Next thing I know, I’m getting a call from them,” said Melisa.

The DA told NBC 5 Responds their next step will be to present these cases to a grand jury for consideration.

“The public awareness raised by NBC5 5’s coverage has been integral in encouraging more victims to come forward and report their own incidents," said Tarrant County DA Sharen Wilson.

Earlier this year, Will Jenkins told us:

"They have been pretty dead set on ruining my company and reputation for some time now it seems...I do acknowledge and accept responsibility for the amount of time it is taking to do their projects...My company took on a massive workload this past year. We've faced great adversity, and are behind on our schedule. I am sorry to all of my homeowner's that have been bearing with me...But i promise when your home is next on my schedule I will be 100% focused on your project from start to finish."

As for their new business, MGM Contractors, it's registered under Emilee Livingston, Will's wife. Will is now using her last name on his business cards.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Scam Caller Claims Loved One Is Hurt in Crash, Demands Money]]>Fri, 18 Aug 2017 21:47:19 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/phone+scam3.jpg

In an elaborate scheme for scammers to get cash, some people are being led to believe their loved ones are in danger.

Maria Mejia said she was working at a North Texas hospital when her phone began ringing repeatedly one afternoon.

When she answered, the person on the other end of the line claimed to a paramedic and had a man hurt, who listed her as an emergency contact.

"I said, 'What's his name?' They said, 'Ma'am, he's unidentified, unconscious,'" Mejia said.

The caller asked Mejia for the name of her father, husband or brother and what type of car they drove. When she told him, she said he screamed to someone to check to see if the crashed car was a black Suburban and then came back to the phone.

"He says, 'That's your dad in the accident.' I started crying, I was shaking, I was scared," Mejia said.

Her co-workers saw she was shaken and rushed to her side as the call went on.

"He said, 'Your dad was exiting Exxon, and he hit a 17-year old on a motorcycle, and the 17-year old was my son, and now your dad is going to pay for the damages,'" Mejia said.

The story had changed. Now, she's got an angry family member, wanting money.

Before she could wrap her head around that, it changed again.

"He said he was kidnapped, they took him to apartments, and that he had my dad's phone, and if he received call or texts from you or anybody, 'We're going to put a bullet in your dad's head,'" Mejia said.

The caller wanted $3,000 in ransom. She didn't know any longer if this was an angry father, kidnapper or a paramedic.

"My coworker told me ask him for a picture of your dad. So, I said I want a picture of my dad. He said, 'Lady are you listening? We have your dad kidnapped and we're going to put a bullet in his head.' He said, 'You can save the money for the funeral.' He said, 'Maria are you there?' I started to respond but he hung up," Mejia said.

Mejia said she was too panicked to doubt the story.

She didn't want to call him back either.

"I was scared, because he said if he gets a call they're going to blow his brains out," Mejia said.

Instead, she called 911, and reached a dispatcher who called her dad, conferenced him in, and her dad said he was home, safe and doing chores.

The 911 dispatcher told her they've gotten calls like this before, but the Dallas Police Department said it wasn't familiar with them.

Other departments were saying the scheme almost always starts with a loved one who is hurt and a paramedic needing cash.

Macara Trusty is a paramedic with MedStar. She says anytime you get a call from someone claiming to be an emergency responder with a critical patient, that's a red flag.

"If the patient is so critical that they can't talk on the phone, we don't have time to make those phone calls," Trusty said.

Police are investigating these calls but want you to know just because the number pops up as local doesn't mean the caller is in town or even in the country.

If you do get a call like this, police ask you to file a report.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Rapid Cookers]]>Fri, 18 Aug 2017 16:42:42 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N5R_Rapid_Cooker_5p_81817.jpg

A new product claims it can make ramen noodles, bake brownies and cook other items quickly and easily in the microwave.

Rapid Brands' Rapid Ramen cooker promises to make it easier and faster to cook cheap eats.

Ricky Musgrove and Maia Gunn are getting settled in on campus at Texas Christian University. The upper-classmen say cooking for themselves is one of the hardest adjustments to living off campus.

There's no time and it can be expensive. It's one reason Musgrove likes ramen noodles.

We opened the Rapid Ramen cooker, followed the directions, printed right on the pan and microwaved the noodles for three minutes.

Musgrove says they came out cooked perfectly.

We asked Gunn to tackle dessert.

She tried the Rapid Brownie baker, promising to make that in a snap as well.

It came with its own handy measuring cup, which was a good thing because Musgrove didn't have one in his kitchen.

We ran into an issue where the brownie mix told us to use two eggs, and the cooker wanted just one, so we listened to the cooker.

It was a messier process than the ramen noodles, but after three-and-a-half minutes in the microwave, the brownies didn't look too good, but the students felt they tasted great.

Rapid Brands told us results vary with different microwaves and brownie mixes. Betty Crocker is their favorite.

The cookers were on sale for $3.99 each at Target. They normally cost $4.99, and they have rapid cookers for other types of food as well.

If you have a product you want Wayne to buy, send him a message on Facebook.

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<![CDATA[Perfect Back To School Sales for Last-Minute Shoppers]]>Fri, 18 Aug 2017 06:05:05 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/120916+cash+money+generic.jpg

NBC 5's Samantha Chatman tracked down the best weekend deals in town for back to school shoppers.

The Children's Place is offering 50 percent off kids clothing items, including school uniforms. Shoes and outerwear are not included in this deal, but free shipping is included. No promo code necessary.

ONLINE: The Children's Place

It's Friends and Family weekend at Aeropostale, which means you can take an extra 30 percent off your purchase. The deal is available in-stores and online. That sale is good through Monday at all Aeropostale & Aeropostale Factory stores.

ONLINE: Aeropostale

Kohl's is knocking 20 percent off purchases as well. The deal is available in-stores with a coupon, and online with the promo code "saver."

ONLINE: Kohl's

If your kids still need glasses, you can get two pairs with single-vision lenses for $29 at Visionworks or two pairs with multifocal lenses for $69. The offer expires on Aug. 31 and is only available in stores.

ONLINE: Visionworks

For our teachers who are still looking for that first day outfit, Banana Republic is offering 15 percent off your full priced purchases. The deal ends in 2020 so you have plenty of time to save. This deal is only available in stores. Be sure to have a valid teacher I.D.

Online: Banana Republic



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Buy Eclipse Glasses From Approved Vendors to Stay Safe]]>Thu, 17 Aug 2017 19:08:31 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/eclipse_glasses_photo_1200x675_1025480259597.jpg

Many Americans will have the chance to take in one of nature's greatest shows on Monday with the solar eclipse across North America.

But with all of the excitement around the astronomical event, it might be easy to overlook the extreme health risks involved with staring at the sun.

Glancing at the sun without proper protection can cause permanent damage. Solar retinopathy is irreversible damage to the retina, creating a blind spot.

The simplest way to protect yourself is by viewing the eclipse through eclipse glasses that have special solar filters that make it safe to look directly at the sun. Consumer Reports recommends ones labeled with the safety code ISO 12312-2, which designates the international standard for solar filters.

There have been cases of counterfeits sold with this code on it, so make sure to buy them from a reputable vendor listed on the American Astronomical Society's website.

Remember, the timing of when the eclipse will happen is dependent on where you live. You can go to NASA's website to get the exact eclipse time in your area. And if you haven't yet purchased a pair of eclipse glasses, don't wait much longer. Supply is dropping, but you can still order them online from a few sellers and get them in time.

For more on eclipse viewing safety and recommended eclipse glasses, check out Consumer Reports.org.

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<![CDATA[Back to School Fashion You Need to See]]>Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:22:03 -0600https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/bts-fashion-lead.jpg]]>