<![CDATA[NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth - Dallas-Fort Worth News - NBC 5 Responds]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/localen-usThu, 21 Jun 2018 22:22:54 -0500Thu, 21 Jun 2018 22:22:54 -0500NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[If Your Luggage Is Delayed, Airlines Can Offer Compensation If You Ask]]>Thu, 21 Jun 2018 18:05:23 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Photo0000221.jpg

Flights are full this summer travel season as many of us get away for a little R & R.

Most of us come prepared for delays and cancellations but the big hiccup most of us fear is a lost bag. It's a horrible feeling when you're standing at the baggage claim watching the bags go round and yours is no where to be found.

It happened to Kenyatta Henderson last week coming back from the Dominican Republic.

"Shoes, bags, purses. I lost expensive purses," she said.

Kenyatta luckily was coming home so she had more clothes and toiletries at her house.

When your bag disappears in the middle of a trip, airlines will often help you get by until they have a chance to find your bag.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines tells us they will compensate for reasonable expenses to purchase items needed for immediate use.

It's on a case by case basis and this compensation varies airline to airline and in some cases city to city.

Only seven percent of bags truly disappear, they're usually found within a few days but certainly after a while of waiting it's hard to be positive.

Laws in the U.S. can give you up to $3500 for lost bags. If you're traveling internationally, it depends on the rules with that country and is typically less money.

Keep all your receipts, not just what you bought but even the cab fare to the mall.

Sometimes airlines will reimburse that as well.

Don't be afraid to ask for help if it's not offered.

Explain your situation and they will often help.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Senior Says Contractor Ran Off With $2,100]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 07:16:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/fireplace-contractor.jpg

A 91-year-old North Texas woman says she was ripped off by a shady contractor.

Irene Ferrari, 91, hired James Michael Winkler back in 2016 to upgrade her fireplace and her floors. But nearly two years later, she says he still owes her more than $2,000.

"He said no problem. I can do it," said Ferrari.

Ferrari's daughter, Tina, said Winkler told them he could start the project the second week of December. They said he signed an invoice and told them he needed half of the money up front, which came out to $2,300.

But a few days before the start date, she said she got this text from Winkler saying his tools were stolen.

Ferrari said she started getting nervous, so she asked him to send her a completed invoice.

But she said she never got it.

"I said, ya know, this is not working out for us. Let's part ways. Give us our money back. You go your way. We'll go our way. Thank you very much," she explained.

In a text, Winkler agreed to give the money back and said, "please don't contact me anymore."

But she said months went by and they didn't get a dime.

Ferrari and her daughter went to small claims court and a judge ruled in their favor, ordering Winkler to pay the $2,300 he owed.

But they said that didn't work either. They were told he didn't have assets from which they could collect, and he never paid up.

"He's a crook. He's a crook. He took advantage of me," said Ferrari. "He should be in jail."

The ladies filed a police report with the North Richland Hills Police Department. They said a detective followed up with them and called the contractor on their behalf.

A few months later, Winkler mailed them two checks totaling $200. But as for the remaining $2,100, he said he didn't have it.

So, the ladies called the NBC 5 Responds team. 

Winkler declined to talk on camera, but he did speak with us over the phone.

He said he was robbed, and never said he wouldn't pay them back, he just "doesn't have the money today."

He told us he's a small business and is still taking jobs.

He said it doesn't matter if she's 30 years old or 90 years old; bottom line: he doesn't have it.

"I want him to be caught," said Ferrari. "I'm not going to be satisfied until I get my money."

We reached out to the North Richland Hills Police Department, and here's what they had to say:

"While the case was initially determined to be a civil matter and closed unfounded, the criminal investigations division is currently reevaluating the case to explore any potential criminal charges….We will work with our crime victim's assistance coordinator to determine if any other forms of relief may be available."

<![CDATA[Weekend Appliance Repair Makes for a Costly Lesson]]>Tue, 19 Jun 2018 17:47:37 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/broken-freezer-responds.jpg

Xiao Bentley invested in Gobi Mongolian restaurant off Interstate 35 in Denton where diners pick their protein, veggies, and sauce, and then cook the meal on a large grill.

The restaurant goes through a lot of chicken, beef and seafood, which is why Bentley panicked one morning when she walked into the freezer and the termperature was moving toward the dangerously warm zone.

Bentley said she went online and found a 24-hour repair company to come help over the weekend.

Appliance Repair Squad agreed to come out immediately and the tech told her he would have to go to the supply house for the needed part.

Bentley told NBC 5 Responds that the tech said she had to pay $400 for the part before he could order it -- so she paid him.

But Bentley said the tech didn't come back, saying the part wasn't in stock and he would keep trying to get it.

"I bought a temporary freezer from Walmart. It’s a small freezer. I put everything there, just so every day we order, we just order one or two days, and even three, I just did the thing like that," said Bentley.

After losing food to spoilage and incurring the cost of a new freezer, Bentley had spent thousands of dollars.  A week later there was still no part and Betley demanded a refund. The company promised one, but Bentley said she never got a check.

We reached out and the owner of Appliance Repair Squad apologized, saying he mailed the check and it must have gotten lost in the mail.  He promised to hand-deliver a refund by the end of the week -- which he did.

Remember, if possible, ask a company to pay for a needed part, especially for an emergency repair, as the item should be fixed that day.

If the company refuses, ask to go along to the part supply house and make payment yourself or to call and pay with a credit card.

Credit card payments give you the best protection for those purchases.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Answers Your Consumer Complaints]]>Tue, 27 Dec 2016 18:32:28 -0500https://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.

<![CDATA['Use By' Dates on Food Create Consumer Confusion]]>Tue, 19 Jun 2018 07:10:20 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-food-labelling.jpg

A confusing system of food labeling has led to consumers throwing away billions of dollars worth of food products every year, and much of that food is completely safe to eat.
As a result, the U.S. grocery industry is taking steps to simplify food labels, with the goal of reducing waste and helping households save money.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Consumer Confusion Over 'Use By' Dates on Food]]>Tue, 19 Jun 2018 09:55:00 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-food-labelling.jpg

A confusing system of food labeling has led to consumers throwing away billions of dollars worth of food products every year, and much of that food is completely safe to eat.

As a result, the U.S. grocery industry is taking steps to simplify food labels, with the goal of reducing waste and helping households save money.

"A lot of people confuse quality and safety," food research scientist Linda Harris said. "That's a big problem."

Harris is the chair of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis. She said most food is perfectly safe to eat past the date on the label. That's because most dates on food are not "expiration" dates. They actually tell consumers when peak freshness or flavor drops off.

"The date is meant to signal quality," Harris said. "It's not a safety issue."

Some consumers may be surprised to learn federal law requires an actual expiration date on only one food product: baby formula. Every other date you see on food is voluntary, under federal standards.

"It's not illegal to sell a product past its 'best-by' date," she said.

So, even the beef with no date at all meets federal criteria.

Without clear government guidelines, we're bombarded with terms:

  • Best By
  • Expires On
  • Use By
  • Best Flavor By
  • Sell By
  • Enjoy By

The meanings vary, and so does the science used to calculate the date. Megan Stasz of the Grocery Manufacturers Association says that's a problem for ordinary shoppers.

"What the confusion leads to is consumers unnecessarily throwing away some food when it might still be good to eat," Stasz said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates as much as 40 percent of all food grown, produced and shipped in the U.S. will never be eaten. That amounts to about 218 pounds of food per person per year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It will end up in landfills, in part because consumers don't understand the labels.

That should change this summer. The Grocery Manufacturers Association is telling companies to start using either "Best if Used By" or "Use By."

"Rather than having 10 or 20 phrases on your food products now, you'll just see one of two," Stasz said.

Most products will get "Best if Used By", since the association said most food "is safe to use or consume" after the date.

The remaining few product date labels will read "Use By." Stasz said that's reserved for highly perishable food, that could pose a health risk after the date on the label. "Maybe something like a sliced deli meat or raw shellfish that would have that food safety concern over time," she said.

Food experts are hungry to teach families about the new labels and help them stop wasting so much food.

"In turn, that can help them save money, which I think is a win for everybody," Stasz said.

The new labels are voluntary, and federal law remains mostly silent. If you ever suspect you were sold spoiled food, you may report it locally.

Online: Texas Department of State Health Services

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Concerns Over Counterfeit Baby Products on Amazon]]>Mon, 18 Jun 2018 07:14:00 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/counterfeit-baby-shusher.jpg

Just when you thought your baby would never sleep through the night, a device with a simple concepts is said to get the job done.

The Baby Shusher started as an app developed by an Austin couple who, like many parents, struggled to get their baby to sleep.

pNeo, a company out of Denton, was so impressed with the app that they teamed up with the couple to take their concept a step further.

"We are a licensed FDA medical manufacturer," said Charlotte Wenham, brand evangelist for pNeo. "We have sold hundreds of thousands of Baby Shushers, not only here but internationally as well."

But about two months ago, Wenham and her team said they started getting dozens of complaints from consumers about defective Baby Shushers purchased on Amazon.

"They have been failing when people get them out of the box," Wenham said. "They’re just not working. Other people are saying that they have been coming with corroded batteries and that they are coming with protruding wire, which for us is a huge concern."

After looking over the Amazon orders, Wenham said they discovered unauthorized sellers had been putting bogus products on the market to make money off their brand name.

"We did a couple test purchases and found that the Baby Shusher had been counterfeited," said Wenham.

The outside looks nearly identical to the real Baby Shusher, but she said the inside is completely different.

"The internal circuitry is completely off. What are people putting into these products? They’re putting babies lives are risk; they’re putting consumers at risk," she said.

Wenham said they’ve identified nearly a dozen fake sellers on amazon who’ve sold a number of counterfeit Baby Shushers online.

"I don’t believe amazon is doing enough to protect consumers," she said.

Wenham told us that her company signed up for Amazon Brand Registry, a feature that “uses information that you provide about your brand to implement additional predictive protections that attempt to identify and remove potentially bad listings.”

Wenham said the company has used this platform to report unauthorized sellers and counterfeit products, but she doesn’t think it’s working.

"There was one seller in particular that we did over 30 reports on through the Amazon channels and they still were not taking down this counterfeit seller," Wenham explained.

Amazon told us they’re on Wenham and her company’s side.

"We believe pNeo is referring to one seller against whom they sent multiple (but not 30+) notices over a few days (but not months)," an Amazon spokesman said.

"Our global team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to and take action on reported violations and notices of potential infringement. Amazon investigated and took action on 95% of all notices of potential infringement received from brand registry within eight hours. In this case, the notice submitted required additional investigation which resulted in action being taken a few days later," said Amazon.

Amazon said counterfeit is an age-old problem, but one they will continue to fight and innovate on to protect customers, brands and sellers.

But Wenham wants consumers to look closely at their orders to make sure they don’t end up with a bad Baby Shusher.

"My biggest fear is that someone inadvertently purchases a counterfeited product and they get hurt because of it," she said.

pNeo said there are only four authorized sellers for the Baby Shusher on amazon: “Sproutley, Healthcare Zoo, Cloud Ladder and Healthcheck Systems Inc,."

Since we reached out to Amazon, pNeo said they have not spotted any unauthorized sellers on the site.

Before you buy any product on Amazon, check the sellers history and reviews.  When in doubt, contact Amazon at 1-888-280-4331.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[North Texas Driver Gets Tollway Bill for Towed Vehicle]]>Fri, 15 Jun 2018 15:54:59 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/ntta+toll+plaza.JPG

Getting a tow to the repair shop can be costly, but there's another fee tacked on you may not know about.

It all has to do with the route the tow truck driver takes to the mechanic shop.

It's not a huge amount of money, but it's a bill you may not realize is coming your way. It's a bill Steve Gill didn't expect either.

"I travel early morning, so I'm usually at work by 5 a.m.," Gill said.

He was on the road one of those mornings when he experienced car trouble.

"My car just stopped. The engine failed," he said.

A wrecker picked up his truck and gave him a ride to the repair shop.

"I was riding in the cab of the transport vehicle. I did see on their windshield they had a toll tag," Gill said.

Even though his car never touched the road, and it was the tow truck driver who chose the toll roads, the bill for the toll went to Gill — not the towing company.

"I avoid the toll roads at all cost. I never take the toll roads unless I specifically have to," Gill said.

But he got a bill for $22, and the North Texas Tollway Authority says he has to pay.

The Texas Transportation Code says that if they don't collect a toll while the car is being driven or towed, the authority shall send an invoice.

"It did not seem right at all," Gill said.

Gill contacted NBC 5 Responds for help, and since he was towed on a TEXpress lane we encouraged him to contact the Texas Department of Transportation for help. TxDot agreed to pass the toll charge to the tow company instead of Gill, and he was finally credited $22.

"There was a lot of research to be done. There's a point to be made. It was very much the principle of the thing," Gill said.

NTTA tells NBC 5 that because the camera system that does the billing is automated, the bill could go to the tow truck, the car being towed or even both of them. The law allows them to collect tolls from everyone. But if you reach out, they may consider an adjustment for the tow, just like they did in Gill's case.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[New Rule Helps Combat High-Interest Payday Loans]]>Fri, 15 Jun 2018 15:10:02 -0500https://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.

<![CDATA[Honey Smacks Cereal Linked to Texas Salmonella Infections: DSHS]]>Fri, 15 Jun 2018 11:05:02 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/honey+smacks+recall.jpg

Photo Credit: FDA]]>
<![CDATA[State Agency Helps Texans Resolve Medical Bill Problems]]>Thu, 14 Jun 2018 15:22:12 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/doctor+medical+generic.jpg

Medical bills are often confusing. There are so many companies, plans and procedures, and costs can vary. But if you get a surprise bill, the Texas Department of Insurance may be able to help.

When Camille Eckersley had a pain in her belly that wouldn't go away, doctors in the emergency room quickly told her why.

"He said, 'Do you realize you have a golf-ball size mass on your pancreas?'" Eckersley recalled.

She didn't know, nor did she expect a diagnosis of advanced cancer.

The news was grim at best, but Eckersley wanted to fight. Her doctor scheduled surgery to remove the mass, and the treatment went well.

But she was surprised to see a medical bill from one of the doctors in the operating room.

"It was the physician's assistant, and I had no clue there was one in the operating room. It was $15,600," Eckersley said.

She had more than a half-million dollars of medical bills, but $15,000 for one doctor who was out of network was where she drew the line.

Something at the bottom of the bill caught her eye.

"It had a sticker on there that said if you disagree with this bill you could call Texas Department of Insurance," she said.

She did and filled out a form giving the state agency her insurance information and her bill.

They reached out to her insurance company to discuss how much money the insurance company paid on Eckersley's behalf and to set up a meeting to discuss the amount of money the insurance company paid.

But Eckersley says no meeting was needed.

"The insurance company said no mediation, we'll pay the doctor and Camille will owe nothing," she recalled.

The Texas Department of Insurance is the state agency that regulates insurance companies that do business in Texas.

The state agency helped more than 1,200 Texans hold health insurance companies accountable for balance billing in the past few months, and they're 94-percent successful in getting the insurance companies to pay more.

The TDI wants more people to know it is able to help. The agency created a video telling Eckersley's story and encouraging others to call if they have medical billing issues similar to hers.

MORE:Click for more information on the Texas Department of Insurance

Photo Credit: Getty Images/OJO Images RF
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<![CDATA[Rentals Provided to Drivers Affected by Takata Recall]]>Thu, 14 Jun 2018 07:15:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-takata-rental.jpg

When Sharon Austry learned her Lincoln was a part of the Takata airbag recall, she thought the airbag parts would be available in a matter of weeks.

"Until remedy parts become available, do not allow anyone to sit in the first row passenger seat," her notice stated.

But nearly two years later the parts are still unavailable.

Austry said Ford, the parent company of Lincoln, declined her request for a loaner car on more than one occasion, and that’s when she called the NBC 5 Responds team.

Ford first told us they didn't have record of Austry calling their customer service line. The company said "Ford may be able to provide loaner vehicles to customers in certain instances...Ford does have some parts available now for some repairs... We are working with our suppliers to expedite parts as quickly as possible."

But after our first story aired, Ford agreed to provide Austry with a rental car.

We're now learning she's not alone. 

The company recently sent out a notice to consumers: ”Lincoln is offering to pay for the use of a rental vehicle as a means of alternate transportation…Your dealership is authorized to provide you a rental vehicle…”

Ford confirmed to NBC 5 that anyone who was told their parts are not available is eligible for a rental car.

Austry is applauding the automaker for what she calls a good move.

The rental cars do come with some guidelines:

• Drivers can rent up to $45 per day.
• Fuel and insurance are not included.
• Rentals are only to be used for personal transportation.

Owners should check with their dealerships or contact the Ford Customer Relationship Center in the U.S. at 866-436-7332 and in Canada at 800-565-3673. 

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Mother Says Google Listing Led a Stranger in Her Home]]>Wed, 13 Jun 2018 15:18:03 -0500https://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[Maintaining Your Home Foundation in the Texas Heat]]>Wed, 13 Jun 2018 07:10:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/home-foundation-crack.jpg

We’re expecting another hot day in North Texas today. While you might be prepared for the heat, is your home ready?

After living in her North Texas home for nearly a decade, Candace Harris started noticing cracks. 

"Cracks in our floors, cracks in our walls," she said. "Our driveway is in four pieces it’s buckling.

Harris also saw nail pops, sticking doors and other sudden changes she couldn't explain, problems that were new to Harris, but very familiar to foundation expert Greg Cole of Perma-Pier. 

"You could almost get a dime in these holes. It’s showing signs of foundation issues and this is something that needs to be looked at," said Cole. 

Cole said about two thirds of the homes in North Texas are sitting on Houston Black Clay, an expansive soil.

As the weather becomes dry and extremely hot, that soil will contract, causing your house to shift.

"If it starts to dry up and a house has differential movement, it starts to show and cracks will reappear, doors will stick, doors will swing, windows will separate," he explained.

The foundation problems don’t discriminate.

"Plano, Frisco, McKinney, Rowlett, Carrollton, all over the Metroplex. They’re moving from other parts of the country that don’t have these issues so it’s scary. It’s frightening," said Cole.

Some homes are more severe than others. But he said there are steps you can take now to prevent your home from ending up like Harris'.

"If you start seeing signs of the dirt separating from the foundation or creating crest that means it’s too dry and that means you need to start a watering program," he said.

You can hydrate your soil with a sprinkler system or soaker hose three times a week for about 30 minutes.

But be careful not to add too much water to your foundation. It should be slightly damp, and not soaking wet.

Cole said draining water away from the home is also key to keeping a healthy foundation. You’ll also want to make sure you have proper grading, which is the slope that’s needed around your foundation.

"Negative grade away from the house. Make sure the water is not grading directing up against the slab," said Cole.

Before you even close on a home, he believes consumers should go beyond the house inspection and hire a foundation inspector.

It’s something Harris wishes she’d known before moving 10 years ago.

"It is going to hit us hard. This is a huge expense for us. We are middle income people, just trying to get by like everybody else, pay our taxes like everybody else, and now we have to deal with all of this," Harris said.

Between permits, engineering, plumbing and labor, Harris’ foundation repairs came out about $6,500.

But based on the severity and size of the home, repairs can cost as much as $150,000.

Harris said she thankful that she brought the Perma-Pier crew in when she did because it could have gotten even worse over time.

For more foundation tips, click here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[How to Avoid Summer Hotel Booking Scams]]>Tue, 12 Jun 2018 08:20:59 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/215*120/hotel+bedroom.JPG

If you're planning a last minute family getaway for the summer, be careful before you book online.

New research shows consumers spent more than $5 billion last year in fraudulent and misleading hotel bookings.

Nearly one in four people say they've been misled by third-party travel companies.

You've seen the messages...

"Other people are looking at this hotel right now."

"Only two rooms left!"

Brian Crawford with the American Hotel and Lodging Association has a warning for you: Don't fall for it.

"Those are marketing gimmicks to try and draw the consumer in and pressure them to book immediately," he said.

There are more than 7,000 online re-sellers of hotel rooms.

"Most of those are good faith actors who are not deceiving or misleading the consumer. But unfortunately there are some that will take your information and use it inappropriately," Crawford said. 

Here are four things you need to know to protect your next trip:

-Look before you book. Pay special attention to the URL of the web site.

"The URLs that you speak of will have the keyword of the hotel that you're looking for but then will have additional words on there," Crawford said.

-Take advantage of loyalty programs.

"Loyalty programs and affinity programs offered by many of our brands provide you with freebies. Free Wi-Fi, free water, best rate available," he explained.

-Ask the right questions before providing credit card information.

"Call the property. Make sure you speak to somebody on the phone and say 'are you the actual property?' Talk to them about cancellation policies so you know what you're signing up for," Crawford said.

-Book directly with the hotel or a trusted travel agent.

"The online travel companies are in a transaction business. Once they get your credit card they're out of the equation."

That means if there's an issue when you show up at the hotel, you may be out of luck.

If you think you've been tricked into a fraudulent booking, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Don't Get Roped Into Scam for Wrapping Your Car]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 16:14:17 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Car+Wrap+Scheme.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[How Car Washes Could Cause Damage]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 07:09:07 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/car-wash-damage.jpg

If you plan on getting a car wash this week, auto experts say be careful before you drive in.

Cynthia Cathcart usually gets her car washed at her local dealership. But by the time she got off work, it was closed.

So, she drove around Dallas to find another one.

"I'll just zip through a sweet little car wash," she said. 

But $5 later, she said her car came out with her driver side mirror dangling. Cathcart said the manager and owner were nowhere to be found, but an employee said they'd handle it.

"He said, 'go get an estimate from your car dealership and bring it back.' They wouldn't give me a phone number to call or fax or email. He said you need to come back," she explained.

The repairs came out to $539.

But when she came back to the car wash, Cathcart said she was told the owner wasn't there and she'd have to come back between 8 and 9 the next morning.

"It's a wild goose chase," she said. "I don't think that they care."

Cathcart said she went back five times, to no avail. She's not the only consumer upset with a local car wash.

We've heard from about a dozen people who say their cars were damaged. And as the weather starts to heat up, Tarrant County College auto expert James Martin said we should expect more.

"There is a huge convenience factor by going through a car wash," he explained.

But with convenience sometimes comes problems, and it's up to drivers to know the risks.

According to Martin, paint is the number one victim of a car wash. He said cars are more susceptible because of the type of paint manufacturers are using on newer cars.

"After a while you start to see scratches on the hood, top of the car and it's the clear coat that your scratching," said Martin.

With some older cars, he said, antennas usually won't survive the car wash either, so it's up to you to make sure it's down before you drive through.

Another common complaint he hears from drivers: damaged side mirrors.

Cathcart said the car wash employees forgot to collapse her side mirrors before she went through the wash.

Big mistake.

"We're talking about components that are largely made of plastic," Martin explained.

If you're in a rush, he said a touchless car wash is a better option.

"That's where you pull in and you use what would look like a pressure washer nozzle and wash the car," said Martin. "I would opt for that."

But if you have more time on your hands, he highly recommends doing it yourself.

"I take some rags with me and I wash the car and I wipe it down," he said.

We reached out to the local car wash to find out if they were planning on covering Cathcart's mirror.

The owner at the time said this was the first time she's heard about the incident, and because Cathcart doesn't have her receipt, she can't prove that she was there.

Before you drive into a car wash, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Make sure you have a receipt and keep it just in case something goes wrong.
• Read the signs that tell you what the car wash does not cover, and it might be a good idea to take a picture of it.
• Make sure your mirrors are collapsed, windows are up and your antenna is down.
• Take plenty of pictures on site if you notice damage.
• Check with your auto insurance to see if it covers car wash damage.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Senior Turns To NBC 5 Responds After Losing Apartment Deposit]]>Fri, 08 Jun 2018 18:36:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/wayne+apartment.jpg

Moving into senior living, or any apartment for that matter, comes with lots of paperwork and sometimes fees. It's so important to fully understand what you're doing as you're shopping around.

Mattie Graham told us she applied for a 625-square-foot apartment and put down $453 in deposits and fees. She says her application was approved but when it was time to sign the lease the 625-square-foot apartment wasn't available and there was another apartment that was smaller but more expensive because it was on a higher floor.

She says she was told her $453 in fees were non-refundable. Mattie said she felt she deserved at least some of the money back

We reached out to the apartment managers. They said Ms. Graham was told from the beginning that the 625-square-foot apartment she had seen on a visit months earlier wasn't available.

She signed a document saying that the $200 deposit was not refundable. They did say the remaining money of $253 was owed to her and a money order was already waiting for her to pick up.

It's easy to get excited about a new place to live but when signing paperwork, going over applications and putting down deposits and fees, but  it's important to full understand everything you're signing, and what you're paying. It may even be good advice to bring a second set of eyes along to make sure everyone is understanding everything before you pay up.

Reading the details of your lease is important, but also ask for details about the applications payments, fees, and what happens if the apartment you want isn't available.

<![CDATA[What You Should Know Before Buying a Hail-Damaged Car]]>Thu, 07 Jun 2018 18:20:43 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Hail+Damage+Cars.jpg

Many cars were damaged in this week's hail storm, and now they may be on sale at rock bottom prices.

The dealership will put out the signs and suddenly that $30,000 car is just $18,000 with some damage, all you have to do is replace a windshield and maybe a hood or roof, but hail damage can come back to bite you in many ways.

Once it's reported as hail damaged, the value of the car is lowered even if the repairs are made. You pay less, but the car will always be worth less.

Some banks won't even finance them and some insurance companies won't give you full coverage.

Something else to consider, is the future sale of your car.

When you're ready to trade in or sell that car to someone else, they'll see that car was hail damaged in the past and suddenly the car you're trying to sell isn't as appealing as one without repairs.

Shoppers may also wonder what else may be lurking that you can't see.

Accidents are something to be mindful of as well. Your insurance company could pay you less for the value of your car because of the previous damage, so those few dents do have a lingered effect.

Hail sales aren't always the wrong call. Sometimes cars get very little or minor hail damage. Those repairs can sometimes be done paintless and cheaply.

With minor hail damage sometimes the dealer never reports the damage to the insurance company, so those few dents are repaired and essentially erased from the car's history and you get the savings all because the dealer didn't want to bother making the repairs.

CarFax has more tips on what happens with a hail damaged car's title (CLICK HERE).

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Marketplace Adds Home Plumbing, Cleaning]]>Thu, 07 Jun 2018 06:20:38 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/facebook-marketplace-home-improvement.jpg

Facebook recently announced it has expanded it's Marketplace to home improvement services.

Facebook has become a popular way for users to buy and sell items. You can browse through listings or search for items near you.

One in three people on Facebook use Marketplace, but many have been asking the social media site to add home services. So, Facebook responded.

Facebook Marketplace is working with Home Advisor, Handy and Porch to make it easier for people to find the right service, right on the Marketplace app.

It’s said to provide consumers with an "all-in-one place to complete your next home project, from proposal to completion" with rated professionals across the U.S.

They’ll show you ratings, reviews, credentials and location.

To get a quote, users can describe the project they need help with, and send out to multiple professionals at once.

But what if the deal goes bad?

We’ve heard from people all across North Texas who were ripped off by roofers, plumbers and contractors. 

Marketplace tells us if something goes wrong, they have built in capabilities for people to report professionals who aren't acting in good faith.

If you have a problem with your home professional through Facebook Marketplace, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Click “report pro” on the service professional’s details page.
• Marketplace says a live customer service rep from the respective partner (Homeadvisor, Handy, or Porch) Will evaluate and respond within 24 hours.
• It also has processes in place designed to monitor professional and partner responses over time.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[How to Protect Your Tires in the Texas Heat]]>Wed, 06 Jun 2018 07:41:34 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+summer+tire+ti_KXASHND9_2018-06-06-05-08-54.jpg

Auto experts say tires are one of the most important parts on your vehicle. 

Yet, they’re often neglected.

That’s according to Chaz Morris at Discount Tire.

He said it’s easy for drivers to forget about their precious wheels, which could pose a big problem during the hot weather months. 

"When we see those hundred degree stretches, it can definitely put some stress on the tires that they don’t see in the winter months," Morris said.  "Tires are rubber of course. It is an oil based product.  In excessive heat and sunlight, that oil starts to dry out. It basically is going to take the elasticity out of it. It’s going to become more brittle."

That can cause tire failure, and worse, accidents.

So, Morris provides these maintenance tips to get eveyone’s tires ready for the dog days of summer.

1. Check your tire’s tread depth. 

"Tread depth is going to be how much rubber you have left on the tire between the grooves," Morris said.

When the tread is worn off, it can limit the tires effectiveness in providing traction, compromising your ability to stop and make turns.

You can check your tire’s tread depth by using a penny.

"If you look at where the tread depth meets the penny, it’s covering Abe Lincoln’s head," he said.

If it’s covering his head, that’s a good sign that the tread depth is in good shape.

If there's barely any depth, that means it’s probably time for a new set. 

2. Make sure your tire has proper air pressure.

Low tire pressure can lead to poor handling and gas mileage.

Morris said drivers should check their air pressure once a month.

3. Have your tires rotated every 6,000 miles.

"A rotation would be to take the tires off of one axle and rotate them to the opposite axle," Morris said. "Generally, you want to take front tires to the rear, rear tires to the front. On vehicles that may be rear wheel or front wheel drive, they tend to wear the drive axle tires faster, so if you don’t rotate regularly you’re going to run through the tires much more quickly than you should," he said.

4. Check your spare tire.

"Many new vehicles don’t come with spare tires. A lot of people are unaware of that. So checking what’s in your trunk to see if you have a spare tire, what kind of air pressure it has in it, especially the age," Morris said.

5. Don’t overload!

"People like to take their worldly possessions with them when they go on a vacation," Morris said. "If the tires are under inflated and overloaded with too much luggage or too many people, that can cause tire failure."

Even if you have roadside assistance, Morris said knowing how to change a tire is crucial, especially during these hot weather months.

Not sure how to do it? Click here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Federal Agencies Want to Know About Schemes to Steal Money]]>Tue, 05 Jun 2018 18:38:12 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/bbb+lotto+scams.jpg

The offers come in text messages, email and even letters in the mail claiming you've won the lottery, a business prize or sweepstakes.

Last year, we met a women who supposedly won the Publisher's Clearing House, then her Mom got a letter saying she won too.

"I called her and I said 'you'll never believe this, I got a letting from the publishing house as well, I won $600,000,'" said Billie Bost.

The Better Business Bureau has been studying reports about sweepstakes, and lottery schemes, how they work and how to help you protect yourself.

They found out often times senior citizens are the ones most at risk and often times are too afraid to tell others how they were tricked and that only helps the crooks.

"Others are coming for victims just like yourself it may end up to be a support group and help each other but also the federal agencies only know what's going on by hearing from the victims," said Jim Elliott with the Federal Trade Commission.

Elliott said the government learned how to combat these crimes by hearing how often they're happening and where.

He and representatives from the U.S. Postal Service, and other groups are discussing ways to combat these schemes and encouraging all victims to make sure they report even an attempt as trying to trick you out of your money.

He said the tips lead to consequences for those breaking the law.

The Consumer Investigative Center at NBC 5 Responds can help you find the right agency to report your incident to, to reach out click here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Wedding Day Disaster? Insurance Offers Peace of Mind]]>Wed, 20 Jun 2018 09:24:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/repsonds-wedding-insurance.jpg

For Allison and Shawn, the big day is approaching fast. They’re spending a lot of money to make their matrimony memorable.

They expect everything to go just right, but weddings are not always perfect.

"You never know what happens, unfortunately," said Patty Speirs, who has planned weddings for 20 years. "Everything from planning every last detail, hence, the name of the business, to playing psychologist sometimes, and talking down brides."

She knows from experience that some problems just can’t be avoided. Like, say, a heat wave. That’s why she recommends the one thing we didn’t see a booth for at the expo: wedding insurance.

"I’ve had success with having my couples do that just in case," she said.

Wedsafe.com, a company that sells wedding insurance, says an event policy might cover the following:

• Postponement or cancellation when events are out of your control, like a medical emergency, severe weather, or military deployment.
• Some policies might even cover you if the bride or groom gets cold feet — or if either loses their job, and can no longer afford to pay for the reception.
• Insurance can also help you recover money when you pay a vendor who doesn’t deliver.

How much does wedding insurance cost? Wedsafe says its policies start at $75 and average around $250.

But if your Texas wedding budget is over $50,000, you could be looking at a premium of $300 to $800.

As with all insurance, it’s vital to know what is not covered, so you can decide if the cost is worth it, for you.

• Disputes over the taste of food probably won’t be paid.
• Canceling due to a pre-existing medical condition, is unlikely to be covered.
• If the bride or groom get arrested and you have to cancel, that’s not covered, either.
• Stolen gifts might be covered. But if you left them in an unattended vehicle, you can probably forget an insurance payment.

These restrictions vary, so you’ll want to read your wedding insurance policy. It won’t be as fun as sampling cake, but it’s critical.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Fights Home Warranty Company Over HVAC Unit]]>Mon, 04 Jun 2018 17:53:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Home-Warranty-060418.jpg

Home warranties are one of the items we hear about the most in the Consumer Investigative Center and NBC 5 Responds stepped in after a woman’s A/C broke and she couldn’t find a solution with her home warranty company.

Home warranties are helpful if you don’t have a big savings account to handle unexpected breakdowns. But just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you get to make all the same choices you would if you were fixing an HVAC system on your own.

JoeAnn Taylor had her A/C serviced in March and a tech told her some of the parts inside were failing.

He gave her a quote of $1,356 for replacing her furnace only, and one for replacing the entire system which she said the tech recommended at a cost of $5,068.

She sent the paperwork to her home warranty expecting them to upgrade the system but she didn’t hear back. Frustrated, she called NBC 5.

The warranty company apologized saying they lost her paperwork.

That whole system upgrade wasn’t covered. They felt only the furnace on her system needed replacement.

As a gesture of goodwill, the company offered her a total of $3,402 to cover additional work.

Know the details of your warranty. Often times you’re at the mercy of the repairman who the warranty company sends to your house.

You can ask for a second opinion, but again that second company will be chosen by your home warranty company.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Viewers Help Family Battling Medical Debt Get New Home]]>Mon, 04 Jun 2018 06:58:53 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Katithomson.gif

Imagine having a child who has battled cancer twice, fighting to keep your kid alive while facing thousands of dollars in medical debt. It’s a struggle one Burleson family knows all too well. But people in North Texas refused to let them fight it alone.

It was just a week ago when Katie Thomson was sharing a room with her brother.

She and her family lived with relatives to make ends meet.

"I remember thinking, I just pray we can find happiness again," her mom Jessica said. 

Katie's first battle with leukemia started in 2015.

As she fought to stay alive, her parents' financial battle was just beginning.

About a year later, Katie's cancer went into remission, but in the following months, the leukemia came back.

"It was so hard when Katie relapsed," her mom said. "The hardest part was seeing her struggle and fight again."

Their bills showed no signs of letting up.

The Thomsons' struggles captured the hearts of people across North Texas, inspiring dozens of people to donate to RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that pays off medical debt for strangers at a fraction of the cost.

"I'm just a citizen. I saw their story. It touched my heart. And I thought, how can I get involved," Linda Hastings said.

She called her friends in construction to help finish this home for Katie and her family.

Over the last three months, local business owners sent out crews to their land in Burleson.

"I remember thinking, will I ever get to take her there? Will she ever live in that home? And I remember praying, just praying," her mom said.

But North Texans stepped up.

Last week, Katie and her family were finally able to move in.

"I really like it. It's better than I even thought it would be," Katie said.

The bills are still coming, but the Thomsons are choosing to ignore them.

"We're not allowing them to steal our praise or our joy," her mother explained.

Because at this moment, their home and Katie’s happiness is all that matters.

"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me," Katie said. "It just reminds me that I can do anything with God's help."

Katie's cancer is currently in remission.

There's still some work to be done at her new home, but the family tells NBC 5 they're just happy to be all moved in.

Katie’s story has inspired so many of viewers to take action and take on this medical debt crisis.

People in our area have donated enough to pay off more than $20 million in medical debt for people in our area.

If you'd like to join the movement, click here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Echo Versus Google Home]]>Fri, 01 Jun 2018 18:16:22 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Echo+and+home.jpg

We all had to have one. A speaker with a robot inside you can ask almost anything. Tech expert Javier Cazares from Best Buy helped us harvest the power of Amazon's Echo and Google's home.

If you have Chromecast Google Home can send videos to your TV.

Have an Amazon Firestick? It can be controlled with an Echo.

Some more traditional DVR's like TiVo work with them too.

Research which one works with the most stuff you own.

Both have the drawbacks, like not always hearing you.

If you run out of paper towels, or cheese you can tell Alexa and she'll have Amazon ship you more.

There's parental guard to make sure your kids don't order cupcakes when you're not looking.

If you're into smart homes, the devices can certainly look your doors and adjust your lighting.

Know you'll spend about $40 for each light or fan control you have.

There's an Echo Show with a screen to give you recipes for the food you have in the fridge.

A Google Home Max is smart enough to tell your voice from your kids and play music that each of you like.

Both devices will add items to your calendar, tell you the news and weather, but only the Echo has updates from NBC 5.

Take some time to research which one works best and what are some favorite Echo Skills or Google Actions you should try.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Get Bumped Off a Flight? Make it Worthwhile]]>Thu, 31 May 2018 07:54:01 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/212*120/Money_generic1asdf11.jpg

Allison Preiss became a hero to airline passengers this spring when she scored a $10,000 travel voucher for losing her seat on an oversold flight.

Negotiating skill mixed with a bit of luck helped Preiss land the elusive payoff.

With the peak summer travel season right around the corner, other passengers can learn from Preiss's example if they wind up on an overcrowded flight.

There are two situations that passengers might find themselves in, and their rights -- and bargaining power -- vary greatly between them.

In the first, an airline forces a passenger off a flight for lack of space -- called bumping. Under federal rules, the passenger is entitled to cash compensation, not just a voucher, and a seat on a later flight. Bumped passengers whose travel is delayed for at least an hour are entitled to up to $1,350 in compensation, with the amount based on the length of the delay and the one-way price of the ticket.

"The vast majority of Americans take one airline trip a year, and since vouchers are usually valid for just one year, most people should ask for cash," said George Hobica, a travel expert who founded the airfarewatchdog.com website. But, he added, frequent fliers might want to negotiate to see how high the airline will go with a voucher.

That's what Preiss did back in March. Thanks to a broken seat, United bumped her from a flight from Dulles Airport outside Washington to Austin, Texas. But Preiss had leverage because United couldn't find anyone willing to give up their seat. She calculated that she was entitled to about $650 in cash based on the price of her ticket, and she turned down a $2,000 voucher. Then a second United employee said she could offer a voucher up to $10,000 plus a seat on a later flight, and Preiss took it.

The second situation occurs when the airline hasn't yet kicked anyone off an overbooked flight but instead looks for people to take a later flight in exchange for compensation -- usually a voucher; the airline is not legally required to pay cash to volunteers.

When airlines know a flight is overbooked, they will make lowball offers to customers at ticket counters, kiosks and gate areas. They will raise the amount of the vouchers until they find a taker, pitting passengers against each other in a kind of reverse auction.

"My advice would be to start high," said Brian Kelly, CEO of travel website The Points Guy. "If you're going to be displaced for several hours, don't take the quick and easy $200 (voucher)."

Kelly said a $400 voucher for getting off a domestic flight or $800 for an international one would be "a solid starting point."

Travel experts suspect that airlines prefer vouchers partly because a high percentage of them never get used. The airlines do not disclose redemption rates.

Airlines have gotten very good at buying off passengers on overbooked flights. Last year, about 23,000 passengers were forcibly bumped -- the lowest rate since the federal government started keeping track in 1995 -- while nearly 342,000 people took an airline's offer and gave up their seat.

You might wonder how airlines ever come up short on seats.

Airlines can legally oversell flights -- although some, like JetBlue, say they don't -- on the assumption that some people won't show up. Overbooking can also occur when bad weather or a mechanical breakdown causes flights to be canceled, forcing the airline to scramble to accommodate stranded passengers.

Sometimes airlines switch a flight to a smaller plane with fewer seats. Occasionally, they need to make room for an air marshal or employees. And airlines may cancel flights or limit seating on smaller planes in hot weather because the thinner air makes it harder to generate enough lift for takeoff.

If you take a voucher for getting off a flight, there are some rules you should know. For instance, most airlines won't replace lost vouchers, and they can't be sold, although Delta allows them to be transferred to someone flying on the same reservation as the person who got the voucher.

On Southwest, vouchers can only be applied to airfare while American also lets them cover taxes and fees and Delta vouchers can be applied to government taxes. But you can't use vouchers to purchase extra legroom or an in-flight meal.

If your airline looks for volunteers to get off an overcrowded flight, experts offer this advice before accepting a voucher:

• Insist on a confirmed seat, not standby, on the next available flight in addition to the voucher for future travel.

• If you will be stuck for an extended time, ask for meal or hotel vouchers too.

• Ask when the travel voucher expires -- typically they are good for one year and whether it can be combined with other discounts.

• Find out if the voucher can be used on other airlines; American and Delta vouchers can be used on some partner airlines, United and Southwest certificates cannot.

Kelly, the travel-points expert, advises that no matter what, "don't get stressed."

"Look at it as an opportunity for a nice little payday."

Major airline guidelines on vouchers:





U.S. Department of Transportation

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

<![CDATA[Advice for Staying Financially Responsible in College]]>Thu, 31 May 2018 06:08:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/college-money-advice.jpg

One of the best parts about graduating high school could be raking in hundreds of dollars in congratulations money from family and friends. 

Students will often spend that money on a vacation — a way to reward themselves for all of their hard work. 

But before your graduate books that summer trip, financial expert Dale McCarty urges parents to pull the emergency break and help them focus on saving. 

"I feel more of the kids I grew up with had jobs in the summer and worked more," said McCarty. "It doesn't seem like as many kids have jobs. So, I don't know that they have the basic understanding of money."

"When it comes to graduation, congrats to all the graduates, but we're heading into adulthood. It's kind of our first sign of independence so it's time to start doing I think adult things with our money," explained McCarty.

McCarty said students should save about 75 percent of their graduation money and put it into a savings account. Those funds should be seen as rainy day money, something he said many adults don't even have. 

Next, McCarty said parents should help start their kids with off with checking account. The money in the checking account can be used for day to day expenses like food, toiletries, a new book for class and even a fun time with friends.

"Then the parents can say okay, so you've got this money to last you the first semester or maybe the first year," McCarty said. "If you run out, you're kind of on your own."

McCarty strongly suggests signing your soon-to-be college student up for a credit card.

"I think it's very important because eventually they're going to have one. And credit card to many people feels like free money," he said. "Getting in trouble at $200-$300 when your parent sets a low limit for you, versus maybe you get $3,000 in college without the parents knowing, it's a lot different debt. So, if they can learn that early, I think those are some important lessons."

He said parents should guide their student through the consequences of abusing a credit card, like penalties, interest and the worst: credit card debt. 

"By helping guide them and teach them, I think you can help them learn less expensively," he explained. 

"And set up an investment account. I mean, what a huge advantage it would be to possibly come out of college with a net worth as opposed to a bunch of debt," McCarty said.

With all of these tips, adult supervision is essential. Monitoring each account should be a part of every parents weekly duty to make sure their students are on the right path.

<![CDATA[Paying Someone Else's Electric Bill? North Texan Says Check!]]>Wed, 30 May 2018 18:34:19 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ELECTRIC+METER1.jpg

It's not unusual you think your power bill is just too high.

Many of us ask ourselves how we could be using so much.

Linda Mims was in her apartment on a Friday when all the power went out.

All her neighbor’s lights were still on, but hers were out and her meter had a big red tag on it.

She called the City of Garland's utility department and no one could tell her why the red tag was on her electric meter.

Until they realized her neighbor had moved out and had her power turned off.

The power company had the meter numbers wrong.

Linda was getting her neighbors bill and the neighbor was getting hers.

Garland got the power back on and gave both Linda and her former neighbor a credit.

The City Of Garland's utility department told us, “Ms. Mims is an excellent Garland Power & Light customer and we apologize for the time she spent dealing with the situation we caused and the inconvenience of being without electric service power for several hours.”

NBC 5 has heard of several cases in our Consumer Investigative Center lately of mislabeled meters, across the area, especially in apartments, and townhomes.

Most meters have an ID number. Go outside find yours and look for it on your power bill and make sure they're the same. If you don't see a meter number, call your power company and they should be able to help.

You could be paying for someone else to run their a/c all day and not even know it.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas Mom Says Natural Gas Detector Saved Her Family's Life]]>Wed, 30 May 2018 12:55:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/215*120/gasdetector2.JPG

Tara Rasheta cherishes the time she spends with her two little girls.  

"We have a lot going on right now. I'm battling breast cancer," she said.  "Nothing is more important to me than my family, my staying healthy, keeping my kids safe."

But earlier this year, she questioned just how safe her Dallas home was.

"I had been seeing a lot of reporting about the gas explosions here in Dallas and that was alarming! This is our first home we ever owned, so to me, I didn't know a lot about gas safety," she explained.

Back in March, NBC 5 introduced viewers like Rasheta to natural gas detectors.

"It really stuck with me. So, I bought one right then and there," she said. 

Rasheta got it the very next day, but she admits it was neglected.

It sat in her garage for a good two months, and quite frankly she never thought she'd ever need it.

"All of a sudden, I started smelling a stinky smell in our house. I smelled a stinky smell for about a week. I kept thinking, oh I need to take the trash out." said Rasheta. "We have chickens so we literally have eggs almost every day that we're eating."

But the odor wouldn't go away.

"And then finally I thought, oh my goodness! I have that gas detector sitting in a box in a garage," she said.

Rasheta rushed to get the natural gas detector, and when she plugged it in, the alarm went off.

She called Atmos Energy's emergency line. 

"The operator said you need to evacuate the property immediately," she explained.

Later that day, she said a technician confirmed that they had a gas leak.

She believes it was a close call for their family.

"While I'm lighting candles around the house to mask the smell, that was the worst thing that I could have done," she said.

It was a $42 purchase she believes saved her home, and more importantly, their lives.

Rasheta said she now swears by her natural gas detector, so much so that she purchased a second one for her bedroom.

There are several different models available online. We found a natural gas detector online for as low as $18 on Amazon.

The one that Rasheta purchased is a dual detector for both gas and carbon monoxide. The dual detectors are highly recommended.

Most home insurance policies don't require gas detectors, but plumbing experts tell us they encourage them because in many cases, they can save lives.

We reached out to Atmos to see if they'll provide natural gas detectors to residents upon request.

Atmos said until further testing is complete, Atmos Energy believes your best line of defense is using any and all your senses to detect a natural gas leak.

Smell the distinctive odor that makes natural gas detectable. Natural gas in its original form has no smell or color, that’s why gas companies add a “rotten egg” odor called mercaptan.

Listen for a hissing or whistling sound near a gas appliance or a roaring sound near a pipeline.

Look for blowing dust, bubbling water or dead vegetation near a gas line.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Bugs Are Making Their Way Into Your Spices]]>Tue, 29 May 2018 07:52:10 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+hd3-bugs+in+spices_KXASHK62_2018-05-29-04-54-58.jpg

Next time you use that jar of spice, take a closer look, because it's possible you might find a bug lurking around. 

"It's definitely more common than we think. The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has done a study that estimates about 12 percent of imported spices are actually contaminated with insect parts," said Jackie London, Good Housekeeping magazine's nutrition director.

In an FDA document from March, there's a handbook of the "defect levels" allowed in certain foods "that present no health hazards for humans."

For example, with ground pepper, the FDA allows an average of 475 or more insect fragments per 50 grams.

"Definitely more likely to see bugs in any type of spicy spices so things like paprika, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, chili flakes, turmeric," London said.

To reduce the risk of finding a creepy crawler, she gave us this tip:

"When you get home, you can put these into the freezer, which can kill off the bugs," London said. "It should definitely be in there for three days plus."

So, it may be time for all of us to make a little more room in the freezer.

The FDA says it set these "defect action levels" for certain foods because they say it's economically impractical to process products totally free of non-hazardous, naturally occurring defects. But they point out products harmful to consumers are subject to regulatory action whether or not they exceed these action levels.

<![CDATA[Red Flags to Look Out for at Texas Nail Salons]]>Mon, 28 May 2018 14:09:47 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/6a+p-n5r+nail+salon+ins_KXASHJNX_2018-05-28-06-26-36.jpg

Nail salons can be breeding grounds for some nasty germs and infections. NBC 5's Samantha Chatman walks you through what to look out for during your next salon visit.

There are plenty of salons across North Texas.

Susan Stanford with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and her team of inspectors travel across the state to see which salons are up to code and which ones are in violation.

"By performing these inspections, we're making sure that the nail salons and any cosmetology salon or barber facility is meeting the required laws and rules that set out for the industry," said Stanford.

She said the first thing you should do when you walk through the door is check to make sure the salon is licensed.

It should be posted in plain sight, typically near the front desk.

"Every salon in Texas should have a Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation license," she explained. "They can look for the last inspection report, and by looking at that report, they can see if the salon received any violations."

Next, do a walk-through of the entire salon.

"Is the garbage overflowing in the trashcan? Are there dirty towels lying on the floor? If the furniture is in disrepair, I wouldn't want that type of thing to be in my home, so I don't want it in a salon that I'm having services performed in," Stanford said.

"Look closely at the individual pedicure and manicure stations. They should be tidy: no left over nails, spilled polish or filing dust," she said. "The different instruments that are used should be clean and sterilized for just for you. The foot spa bowl cleaned after the consumer that's before you."

Salons that aren't licensed or up to code could face thousands of dollars worth of fines and even be shut down.

"There are some salon owners that have become aggressive with our inspectors. That in itself is a violation," she explained.

Their job isn't easy. There are 40 inspectors to cover the entire state of Texas. 

"It's a team effort to keep people healthy when they're getting a manicure or pedicure," said Stanford. 

There are some things you can do before you even set foot in a salon:

  • Visit TDLR's website to find the 10 most common violations to look out for.
  • Check online reviews when selecting a new salon.
  • If you have any cuts, an infection or a rash, it's advised that you pass on the salon until you're fully healed to keep everyone safe.

<![CDATA[Fiat Chrysler Warns 4.8M: Don't Use Cruise Control]]>Mon, 28 May 2018 17:44:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/806423300-fiat-chrysler-jeep-dodge.jpg

Fiat Chrysler is recalling 4.8 million vehicles in the U.S. because in rare but terrifying circumstances, drivers may not be able to turn off the cruise control.

The company is warning owners not to use cruise control until the cars, SUVs and trucks can be fixed with a software update.

Fiat Chrysler says the condition can occur if the cruise control accelerates at the same time an electrical short-circuit happens. But the brakes are designed to overpower the engine and the vehicles could still be stopped.

Shifting into park would cancel the cruise, but tapping the brakes or turning off the cruise control button won't work.

The recall includes 15 Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler and Ram models from six model years with gasoline engines and automatic transmissions. Models in Canada, Mexico and other countries also are affected, but the company is still sorting out which ones.

So far, FCA said the affected models include:

• 2014-2019 Ram 1500 pickup, as well as the 2014-2018 Ram 2500, 3500, 4500 and 5500 pickups and chassis cab trucks
• 2015-2017 Chrysler 200
• 2014-2018 Chrysler 300
• 2017 and 2018 Chrysler Pacifica minivan
• 2015 to 2018 Challenger
• 2014 to 2018 Charger, Journey and Durango
• 2014 through 2018 Cherokee and Grand Cherokee
• 2018 Wrangler

The problem was found in testing of the vehicles' computer network. FCA said it has no reports of crashes or injuries. After the testing uncovered the trouble, FCA said it reviewed consumer complaints and found one that may be related.

In the complaint filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an owner from Olathe, Kansas, said a 2017 Dodge Journey SUV rental vehicle was being driven about 70 miles per hour with the cruise control on when the windshield wipers came on by themselves and the throttle locked up.

The owner, who was not identified in the agency's complaint database, wrote that the cruise control would not disengage by tapping the brakes or turning off the button. The driver was able to brake and get the SUV to the side of the road. "It was still running at an engine speed to support 70 mph and fighting the brakes," the driver wrote.

The engine stop button also wouldn't work, but the driver was able halt the SUV and shift into park while the brakes "smoked significantly."

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government's road safety agency, urged drivers not to use the cruise control until repairs are made. The agency says that to stop the vehicles, drivers should shift into neutral, forcefully apply the brake and put the vehicle in park once it's stopped.

Fiat Chrysler will begin notifying customers as early as next week. The company is urging customers to follow the recall instructions and get the repairs done as soon as possible.

Owners with questions can call their dealers or Fiat Chrysler at 866-220-6747.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Photo Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Suppl. Insurance Plans Help Avoid Surprise Medical Bills]]>Thu, 24 May 2018 18:47:50 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/supplemental-health-care-052418.jpg

Emily Jackson says she had health care through her employer, but medical costs for her and her family were skyrocketing.

"I was never able to pick anything. I was just given what I was given," Jackson said.

Jackson and her husband eventually went into business for themselves, but it was costly to buy health insurance on their own.

The Jacksons talked to a insurance adviser who helped them find savings through insurance designed for small business owners.

"I didn't think we would qualify. I run an online shopping fashion blog," she said. But her small online business was enough for her to qualify.

Jackson said she saved thousands of dollars on health care after she made the switch. Many people could do something similar by taking the time to know what options exist.

Mike Martin sells insurance plans and said most people don't understand their health care policies.

More families look under the hood at their employer's health insurance offerings, he said, and try to find ways to avoid surprise bills that arrive after a doctor's visit or hospital stay.

"There are other supplemental plans you can buy to cover the holes in the plan that aren't covered," Martin said.

For example, if you broke your leg and your primary insurer paid 80 percent of the bill, but you were left with $1,200 to pay, a supplemental plan could drop that number to just $200. A supplemental plan could cost anywhere from $7 to $30 per month.

Emily Jackson said shopping around made a massive difference for her family.

"I have the peace of mind to go about to take care of my family and I didn't have to worry about what bills come up," Jackson said.

Many supplemental plans kick in if something specific happens, like a long-term hospitalization or a serious illness diagnosis. Others work as a secondary policy.

Before signing up for a supplemental insurance plan, it's important to check with your primary insurer and understand how the two policies work together, if at all.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Deadline Approaching to File for Western Union Refund]]>Thu, 24 May 2018 06:55:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Western_Union_Offers_Refunds_for_Scam_Victims.jpg

Time is running out to file a claim for consumers who were tricked into wiring money through Western Union. The company agreed in January 2017 to pay a $586 million settlement, which the Department of Justice is using to pay scam victims.

The Attorney General's office said 39,000 Texans may be eligible refunds.

But the deadline to file a claim is May 31, so consumers are advised to act fast.

Western Union settled with the DOJ and Federal Trade Commission for "willfully failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering (AML) Program and aiding and abetting wire fraud."

"We're thrilled when we know anyone who has lost money this way can get some of it back," said Phylissia Clark with the Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas. She she said consumers still need to be on high alert.

"It's very sad. People that have already lost money, had heartache over these particular scams are being targeted again," Clark said.

We're told consumers are receiving emails stating "you're part of the party that is eligible for a refund."

Don't fall for it. You cannot apply for a refund by email.

We've also heard from a consumer who got a call from someone saying they were eligible for a refund. Don't fall for that either.

If you get one of those bogus emails, don't respond or click on any links, just delete it.

Over 500,000 petitions have been mailed to identified victims.

Instructions on how to file a petition are included.

Make sure it says United States v. The Western Union Company and a Department of Justice seal.

But if you're ever unsure and want to contact the DOJ, click here.

Photo Credit: File photo]]>
<![CDATA[Car Rental Company Reviews After Hours Return Policy]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 18:02:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/After+Hours+Rentals.jpg

Donna Akin decided to spend the holidays on the road catching up with friends. She flew to Memphis, rented a car with Avis, and spent a few days enjoying Blues and BBQ then drove east to Hendersonville, Tenn., to visit friends and return her rental car, but there was a problem.

"I sat there for a minute and looked at it and was like year this place is clearly closed," said Akin.

She found a dropbox where you can leave keys for a car.

"I said I'm not comfortable putting this in there, so I called the number on the building and they said 'yeah, fill it out, put in in there and we're fine.' So I did that and drove away thinking everything was fine," said Akin.

A check of her credit card statement showed an extra $178 charged on her account. Avis said since no one there to verify when she actually returned the car, she would be charged until the office reopened two days later.

Donna's reservation clearly shows she was scheduled to return the car on a day and time when they were closed.

She says the telephone agent never said there would be a problem. She took it to corporate, disputed it with her credit card company, but Avis insisted they were justified in charging her for the extra days.

She called NBC 5 Responds for help, Wayne Carter reached out and Avis gave her a refund.

"When a location is closed, our reservation system will not allow the customer to book the reservation... We have looked into Ms. Akin's matter and found that there was a system error... We pride ourselves on delivering an excellent level of customer service, and regret that on this occasion there was breakdown in the handling of this matter," Avis said.

Sure enough when trying to book a reservation online Avis' website warns you against this, but Donna had made her reservation over the phone.

NBC 5 decided to do the same. We called and scheduled a return during a time the office would be closed to see if the system wouldn't allow it like Avis claimed.

Turns out, we were in fact able to make the reservation when the office was closed, just like in Donna's case.

Avis even emailed us a confirmation showing we were to return the car outside of hours, something again the system is supposed to prevent.

This time Avis said, "Some locations allow rentals to be returned after-hours and others do not. We thank you and Ms. Akin for bringing this matter to our attention. We will be implementing an alert system to notify our reservation agents and customers who call our reservation center when a selected rental's return time is outside of operating hours."

Donna is glad to help others avoid what happened to her and of course be made whole again too.

"I appreciate your help getting my money back," said Akin.

There is no clear way to tell what will happen with after-hours returns and this scenario isn't limited to Avis.

We heard similar complaints at other rental agencies.

Always double check that the location is open and staffed when you plan to return your car to be sure you want get any surprise charges.

NBC 5 will check on Avis promised alert system to see if it helps warn consumers of a potential problem.

<![CDATA[Consumers Say Their Bank Accounts Were Hacked Through Zelle]]>Wed, 23 May 2018 10:17:07 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AM+PKG+N5R+-+Zelle+Fraud_2018-05-23-04-34-49.jpg

Zelle is an app that is supposed to make it easy and safe for you to send money to friends or relatives. But some consumers who never signed up for Zelle said strangers are using the service to steal money in a matter of seconds.

Zelle is said to be the new fast, safe and easy way to send money from one bank account to another in a matter of minutes.

But consumers like Brad Miller say they've been robbed in a matter of seconds.

Miller said he's banked with Wells Fargo for more than 29 years. He said everything was fine until recently, when he got an alert on his phone saying his Wells Fargo password had been changed.

"I immediately hop on my computer and try to log in and of course I'm locked out," he said.

Moments later, he received another email saying he added Lori Miller as a new Zelle recipient and can now send her money.

The McKinney, Texas, man said he doesn't know a Lori Miller, so he called his wife.

"She says, 'No. I have no idea what you're talking about,'" he explained.

Not long after, he received a third email informing him he sent Lori $2,500 through Zelle.

"I'm watching all this stuff getting changed in my account. I'm watching money go out of the account and there's nothing I can do about it," Miller said.

He said he's never used Zelle before, but he has seen the commercials.

Tommy Green noticed two withdrawals from his account totaling almost $4,000, so he called Bank of America.

"She said, 'We can't stop it.' And I'm like, lady, I'm telling you that this isn't me. Somebody's stealing my money," he said. "That's a whole month's of Social Security."

Green and his wife filed a report with the Rockwall Police Department in Texas.

A detective looked into his case and confirmed someone transferred money from his account, using Zelle.

"Somebody had opened up a Zelle account, transferred the money and then closed the Zelle account," Green said. "I don't know how this could happen."

Cybersecurity expert Keith Barthold said hackers are using consumers' email addresses and cell phone numbers to tap into their bank accounts and send money to a Zelle user.

Zelle has partnered with 60 financial institutions, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, Capital One and USAA.

Even if you haven't enrolled with Zelle through your bank, Barthold said hackers can still enroll for you, at your expense.

"It's directly tied to your bank account, and if someone is in it, they're able to very quickly and irreversibly transfer money from your account to another," said Barthold.

Zelle tells NBC 5 Responds it requires financial institutions to verify that the customer has control of the email address or mobile phone number, most commonly through verification codes.

But Miller and Green tell us they didn't receive any verification code whatsoever.

In a statement, Early Warning Services, the network operator behind Zelle tells us, "We are listening to, and acting on feedback, working closely with our financial institution partners to resolve issues quickly, or addressing situations directly when the Zelle app is used to originate a transaction.... We and our partner financial institutions each apply multiple layers of protection across both the Zelle app and the mobile banking apps, respectively, alongside 24/7 fraud monitoring at the network level."

But Miller and Green said they're holding their banks accountable. They're both demanding refunds and answers.

"I got my mortgage attached to this account. Where's my money going to come from?" Miller said. "If there's a hole in the boat, how long are you going to wait to patch that hole?"

Wells Fargo did refund Miller the $2,500 about a week after it was taken.

"While threats continue to change and evolve, we continue to evolve our multi-layers of controls to further help our customers avoid becoming victims of fraud," the bank said.

But Green said it took Bank of America months to refund his money.

Bank of America said: "We do apologize for the delay in resolving their claims as internet fraud can be complicated to uncover and these cases required additional investigation before the fraud was confirmed…We are cooperating with law enforcement."

If you see fraudulent charges on your bank account, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions: 

<![CDATA[Dallas PD Opens Safe Meeting Spot for Online Buyers, Sellers]]>Tue, 22 May 2018 18:04:52 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dallas-police-zone-exchange.jpg

Dallas police partners with OfferUp, an online marketplace app, to create safe zone for buyers and sellers

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dallas PD Opens Safe Meeting Spot for Online Buyers, Sellers]]>Tue, 22 May 2018 18:05:28 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dallas-police-zone-exchange.jpg

Dallas police partnered with OfferUp to open the city's first "Exchange Zone," a specially-equipped parking spot outfitted with cameras and bright lighting where sellers can safely meet buyers found in an online marketplace.

The Exchange Zone is located at the Dallas Police Department's Oak Cliff substation at 1999 E. Camp Wisdom Road.

"This is just one step, but it's a very important step for making Dallas one of the safest cities in the country," said U. Renee Hall, Dallas Police Chief.

While it's not the first safe exchange space in North Texas, it is the first in the city of Dallas. Hall said more are planned.

DallasNews.com reports the cameras aren't monitored by a police officer 24 hours a day, but that the footage is recorded and accessible to police.

See a list of North Texas safe exchange locations here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Instacart Service Charge: Do You Know What You're Paying For]]>Tue, 22 May 2018 06:46:02 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Instacart-Hero.jpg

Many of us have crossed grocery shopping off our to-do lists, and we're hiring someone else to do it for us. But some say a popular grocery delivery service is misleading consumers and cheating its employees.

Instacart is a popular grocery shopping and delivery service. There's a fee to use it, which is clearly disclosed. But there's another fee many consumers pay, and they say Instacart isn't so upfront about that one.

Georgia Pine orders her groceries using the Instacart app on her iPad. And a few hours later, they’re delivered to her doorstep.

It's a service she likes and relies on. But she's also ticked off at Instacart.

"I really feel they need to value both their employees and customers a little more,” Pine said.

The issue was a 10 percent “service fee" added at check-out. Pine assumed it was a tip for the shoppers and delivery people.

"People who do read that and see it, say, ‘oh that's the tip,’” she said.

But it's not. Instacart employees told Pine they don't see that money.

"They were angry, because they weren't getting tips,” she said.

As NBC Los Angeles reported, Instacart employees complained, too.

"We've all been wondering where that money's going. Because we're not getting it," Sergio Betancourt Jr., an Instacart delivery person.

NBC LA wanted to talk to Instacart on camera, but after repeated requests, the company wouldn't schedule an interview.

But, in an email Instacart confirmed the service fee is not a tip, saying: “It can be used for shopper wages, customer support and operational expenses.”

Attorney Julie Erickson has an issue with that. She filed a class action lawsuit against Instacart, saying the company was misleading consumers, who assume the service fee is going to the shopper who's picking up their groceries.

"What they thought they were leaving as a tip was actually not reaching the shopper, it was going in Instacart's pocket,” Erickson said.

Erickson reached a settlement with Instacart. The company agreed to modify its website and app — making it clear to consumers where the service fee money goes.

"The goal is two-fold. First, hopefully the shoppers will see their take home income go back up,” she said. “And two, the customers know where their money is going."

Pine is happy to see the changes.

"They need to explain to their customers — exactly where this 10 percent is going. And to their employees,” she said.

Instacart says it has completely changed its service fee and tipping functions on its website and smartphone app on Tuesday, April 24.

Instacart now suggests a default 5 percent tip for the shopper. You can change the tip amount at checkout or up to three days after delivery. The entire tip goes to the shopper who delivers your order. Secondly, Instacart has changed the service fee from 10 percent to 5 percent and moved it from waivable to fixed.

The company said it’s excited about this change because it believes it’s a better experience for the Instacart community.

Photo Credit: Instacart]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Out Thousands After Rats Invade Storage Unit]]>Mon, 21 May 2018 17:59:26 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/RATS+INVADE+STORAGE+UNIT.jpg

Arlene Beasley is warning others to pay attention to their insurance policy when storing items in a storage unit.

She just moved into a new home in Rockwall, but most of the furniture inside is second hand.

“My brother gave me the table and chairs," said Beasley.

Most of Beasley's furniture had to be thrown out after it was damaged in a storage unit at Public Storage on Kingsley Road in Garland.

“The first time I checked on it, I could tell that there were lots of vermin in there, feces, rodents, feces, urine on everything,” said Beasley.

She submitted documentation of everything she said was damaged to her insurance company Orange Door, a subsidiary of Public Storage. She detailed urine on mattresses and upholstered furniture. She said wiring was chewed out of her refrigerator and even her clothing was ruined.

“Now clothing, you can wash those, but as far as the furniture and the piano, there’s nothing you can do with the piano. It has rat feces all over and they urinated on it. There’s nothing you can do with that piano. It’s in the garage now,” said Beasley.

She also showed us a bedroom set where the wood drawers had been chewed up and that piano with what she says are urine stains and keys that didn't work.

Beasley's policy with Orange Door covers all sorts of perils, including rodents, but it said right in the contract that no matter how much coverage you buy, if your items are damaged by rodents the most they will pay is $250 and there’s a $100 deductible.

The most Arlene could get for all her items is $150 which they offered her.

“I was just devastated. I could not believe it. I said this is not true,” said Beasley.

Public Storage is the largest storage company in America. It's right in their in-house insurance company's contract that the max award for any type of vermin is $250.

Competitor U-haul offers no rodent coverage at all on their SafeStor in-house insurance.

Extra Space storage, the nation's second largest storage company, tells NBC 5 they do cover damage from vermin up until the max amount of the policy. You just can’t have any food inside your unit. They said they're one of the only companies to do it but added the coverage about a year ago to provide more peace of mind to their customers.

Beasley filed complaints and tried to get Public Storage to reconsider her case, but said she was denied.

NBC 5 reached out repeatedly to the manager of the local Public Storage on Kingsley Road to ask about their pest control practices and insurance policies.

We also called and emailed several representatives at Public Storages corporate offices for weeks and never received a call back.

Insurance agents said outdoor storage units are especially vulnerable to rodents which is why many policies don't offer coverage.

It does exist and is out there, but you have to ask to see if you're covered. In fact many renters and homeowners policies will cover items in storage automatically.

First, check to see if rodents are covered under your policy.

Next, don't be afraid to ask storage companies about their efforts to fight rodents.

We checked with several self-storage places around the area and many were willing to show us their pest control contracts showing the steps they take to protect your items.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Wells Fargo Opens Auto Insurance in Consumer's Name]]>Mon, 21 May 2018 07:24:35 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/wells-fargo-sign-generic.jpg

You may recall that last year Wells Fargo admitted to charging as many as 570,000 consumers for car insurance they didn't need.

The bank apologized and agreed to pay back all of its affected customers. But after waiting on his refund for months, one Carrollton man called NBC 5 Responds.

Alex Kanadjian had his car financed through Wells Fargo and thought he had a good deal.

"Signed up, was good rate and I went ahead and said, ok, let's do it. I went ahead and signed up auto debit," he explained.

Kanadjian said Wells Fargo charged his account once a month and everything seemed to be smooth sailing. But last year he got a letter informing him that the bank may owe him money.

"Unbeknownst to me, they placed an insurance policy on my car when I already had insurance," Kanadjian explained.

Here's what happened: Well Fargo admitted that it purchased insurance on a customer's behalf if there was no evidence the customer already had insurance.

Kanadjian said he had auto insurance from another company and had no idea that Wells Fargo had charged him for a second insurance policy.

He's among the nearly 570,000 customers who were financially harmed by the bank's "Collateral Protection Insurance" or CPI program.

Last month, Wells Fargo was fined $1 billion for its abusive auto insurance and mortgage practices.

In a statement, Franklin Codel, former head of Wells Fargo Consumer Lending said in part, "We take full responsibility for our failure to appropriately manage the cpi program and are extremely sorry for any harm this caused our customers, who expect and deserve better from us…Upon our discovery, we acted swiftly to discontinue the program and immediately develop a plan to make impacted customers whole."

"It's shameful that a bank would operate like this," Kanadjian said.

After sending in his paperwork, he learned the bank owed him more than $1,500. He said Wells Fargo told him he'd get a check in about 30 days.

But three months went by and the check never came, so he called the NBC 5  Responds team. We reached out to Wells Fargo and the bank responded, apologizing for the delay.

Wells Fargo said "Our CPI remediation outreach is taking place in phases, as we work with customers to understand their situations and make sure we deliver the appropriate refund."

The bank told us it would work with the consumer to make things right, and not long after, he received a check for $1,502. He said he hopes others who were affected by Wells Fargo's practices will soon get their refunds, too.

We heard from another consumer in North Texas whose case was nearly identical to Kanadjian's. Wells Fargo tells us they're working to make things right with that consumer as well.

As for the refund delays the bank says, "this situation has been widely reported and we've developed an remediation program (announced it last summer) And we continue to work with regulators to finalize it. Because the program is ongoing, refund estimates change over time - and we won't know for some time exactly how many customers were impacted."

If you're one of the 570,000 people who may have been affected by this incident, you should have received a letter in the mail from Wells Fargo.

If you believe the bank owes you money, click here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[North Texans Airlines Top Award Availability Survey]]>Fri, 18 May 2018 18:13:24 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/southwest-airlines-generic-frequent-flyer.jpg

Many of us have a favorite airline or two that we fly, perhaps even a credit card linked to an airline to get miles. When you go to book a seat, sometimes if can be hard to actually find one.

A survey from the group IdeaWorks measures how easy it is to get a ticket using the lowest amount of awards miles.

Dallas-based Southwest won first place for having the most seats available for the least amount of miles.

When counting only U.S. airlines, JetBlue was number two and Fort Worth-based American Airlines came in at number three.

Southwest was number one last year as well but this is a huge improvement for American which has been near the bottom of the survey for several years.

American's management promised frequent flyers they would do better and this year they came through.

"I'm in a top elite tier on American Airlines, I was having a hard time finding seats and if that's the case that's great for everybody,” said Onur Inanoglu.

ONLINE: Full airline survey

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dish Network Could Owe You $1,200 for Telemarketing Calls]]>Thu, 17 May 2018 09:23:24 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dish-network.jpg

Telemarketing calls can seem endless and annoying, but what if we told you that receiving one of those calls could make you $1,200 richer?

A lawsuit against Dish Network could mean more money in your wallet.

It all started with a man in North Carolina who claimed that Dish Network made telemarketing calls to him despite that fact that his number was on the Do Not Call List, which violates the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

He sued the satellite TV company and his case developed into a class-action lawsuit.

After a trial in January 2017, a jury found that Dish was liable for calls placed by the retailer to certain telephone numbers on the do not call registry.

So what does this mean for consumers?

If you received a telemarketing call from Dish in 2010 to 2011 and your number was on the Do Not Call list, you could receive up to $1,200.

If you're one of the thousands who got a call, you may have already received a form to fill out in the mail.

But if you'd rather not wait and want to check to see if your number was included in this lawsuit,click here.

In a statement, Dish told NBC 5: "Dish is being held responsible for telemarketing activities conducted by an independent third-party, which disobeyed Dish's express instructions to complying with telemarketing laws….Dish respectfully disagrees with the court's judgment and is appealing the case."

Photo Credit: Paul Sakuma/AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Viewer Helps Plano Teacher Who Lost $2,500 in Scheme]]>Sun, 20 May 2018 18:11:15 -0500https://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.”

If you want to sign up for a mystery shopping job, check out the mystery shopping providers association of North America website by clicking here.

<![CDATA[Cloud Based DVR Offered For Cord Cutters]]>Tue, 15 May 2018 18:40:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/186*120/TV+remote1.jpg

DVR's changed the game for so many of us. You can record not one but two or more shows at the same time, not to mention fast forward and rewind.

TV providers are turning to the cloud now.

Dallas-based AT&T launched "Direct TV Now" at the end of 2016.

It's an offering of TV channels designed for cord cutters. It didn't have that traditional DVR feel until now.

AT&T started rolling out the cloud based service today and it will continue to roll out on future devices over the next few weeks.

The cloud based DVR will let you fast forward and rewind, and record one show while watching another.

It’s all the traditional uses of a DVR but now on the streaming service.

This is a trend that more service providers are moving toward.

Sling TV and Hulu both offer cloud based DVRs already.

Now we're seeing more TV service providers offer a similar service.

AT&T charges anywhere from $35 to $70 a month for their Direct TV Now service, adding DVR capabilities is free right now but will be an extra $10 a month later this summer.

Keep in mind you still have to pay for an internet connection. You have to crunch the numbers for yourself and see if it's really worth it for you.

<![CDATA[Deadline Today to Protest 2018 Property Tax Appraisals]]>Tue, 15 May 2018 09:22:50 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Property+Tax.jpg

Every time another home in your neighborhood goes on the market and sells at top dollar, it's not good for your tax bill.

Homeowners who paid $350,000 for a house 10 years ago are finding their tax bills doubled as those same houses are selling for much more in 2018.

Realtor Chandler Crouch said he's been able to figure out a way to lower his tax bill without a hearing and you can do the same.

"They are trying to tax you based on the value, but when you go to protest they use a different set of numbers as their evidence to back up the valuation," said Crouch.

He said you have to ask for two numbers, the sales indicated value and the equity indicated value.

He said the tax district will give them to you if you ask and in Tarrant County, you can pull them up online on your own, by logging into your account.

Once you get those numbers, pick the lower of the two and then drop it by three percent and chances are the tax district will take your offer no questions asked.

"It's not a given, it's not 100 percent, but odds are you're going to win," said Crouch.

He's saved homeowners thousands of dollars depending on their situation, just by taking the time to protest.

He's not the only one urging you to protest.

"In Denton County, more than 80 percent of the people who protested got something taken off," said Dave Lieber, Dallas Morning News Consumer Watchdog. "The housing market has just exploded. We are now big-time housing, we're not the little guy everybody forgot. We're paying big, big prices for housing."

If you don't want to try Crouch's method, and you want to protest more, you'll need to gather comps and receipts and paperwork to show why your house is worth less money.

You need to file that you're protesting the value and get that postmarked by the May 15.

You'll have until your hearing date to get all the paperwork to back up your case.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Local Gas Station Pumps Water Instead of Fuel: Consumers]]>Tue, 15 May 2018 11:53:53 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/water+in+fuel.jpg

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen gas prices soar in North Texas.

But if you thought the prices were bad, some consumers tell us there’s another problem at the pump you need to know about: water in the fuel.

Sarah Lyons bought her 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid to save money on gas, and that’s what she thought she was doing when she went to Mobil Gas Town in Springtown.

But a few hours later, she said all of the lights started coming on inside her new car.

"The brakes, lane assist, everything was just coming on," she said.

Lyons said she had the car towed to a nearby dealership, and about an hour later, a mechanic discovered the problem: water.

"[He said] you have water in your gas. We’re going to have to remove your gas tank from your car. We’re going to have to flush everything out," she said.

She learned the damage would cost her about $900, so she called the gas station.

"I said, 'You need to stop selling gas. You’re selling bad gas.' And he said, 'I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re the first person to call,'" Lyons explained.

But a community Facebook chat led her to others.

"I was like, oh my God.  I’m not the only one," she said. "Tons of people saying 'Me too, me too.'"

The NBC 5 Responds team has heard from seven consumers who said their cars broke down that same week after filling up at Mobil Gas Town in Springtown.

John Hill wrote, “I filled up a full tank of gas and made it almost two miles when my jeep started acting like it was out of gas and the engine light came on.  I had it towed to a local mechanic….He immediately told me I had water in my tank.”

Mari Swain told us, “After filling my tank…my check engine light came on right away. I eventually learned I had water in my gas.”

Lyons said they have all delivered their receipts and called the owner, but nothing was happening. 

"So, we’re hoping NBC can help us fix this," she said.

The NBC 5 Responds Team obtained a copy of the station’s inventory report from a former employee, which shows 64 gallons of water that was found in the regular gas on March 5.

When we reached the owner, he admitted that the inventory report we obtained was from his gas station.

The owner said he’s not sure how so much water got inside the tank, and said it must have been a heavy rain day.

The area did receive two inches of rain earlier that week, but he said they cleared out the gas that Monday, March 5, and everything is fine now.

The Texas Department of Agriculture told us they’ve received 10 complaints about Mobil Gas Town between March 2 and March 4.

The TDA said according to lab results received on March 16, the gas station tested negative for water in fuel.

The owner told us the tanks should be fine now, and he’s been waiting on his insurance company to handle claims.

But the owner agreed to expedite Lyons' case and pay her out of pocket.

That same day, she got two checks totaling $913.

"There are a lot of people with hundreds of dollars of damage on their cars," she said.

Lyons told us she won’t leave this alone until everyone affected is paid.

"If they’re doing this in our community, it needs to be fixed," she said.

TDA Commissioner Sid Miller said he wishes he could have responded to Lyons sooner, but a recent bill has made it almost impossible for them to protect consumers against bad fuel, and that's House Bill 2174.

The TDA said prior to this bill, if they received a fuel complaint, they were able to send an inspector out almost immediately to test the fuel.

If they detected a problem, they could shut the business down until the problem was fixed.

But as of Sept. 1, 2017, if the TDA gets a fuel complaint, all they can do is give the gas station a fuel kit and the business has 10 days to send in their results.

Commissioner Miller calls this one of the worst bills ever.

“We cannot protect the consumer. They have zero protection now when it comes to dirty fuel, contaminated fuel or people shorting you at the pump,” he said.

You can see our full interview with Commissioner Miller in the video below.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 Responds]]>
<![CDATA[How to Make the Most of Your Smart TV & Make Your TV 'Smart']]>Fri, 11 May 2018 18:40:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5p+p-n5r+smart+tv+tech_KXASHD47_2018-05-11-16-25-32.jpg

Smart TVs are becoming more popular but consumers don't have to own one to get the same benefits.

Remotes for Smart TVs have buttons that connect to apps, such as YouTube or Netflix. Consumers can check Facebook or download movies.

Videos on your smartphone or tablet can be shown on the TV.

"I have a projector at home and then in the bedroom I've got a big honking TV," said Javier Cazares.

He sells smart TVs and helps people figure them out.

"To have a smart TV means that it actually can connect to the network," Cazares said. "By having it connect to your home Wi-Fi, you can interact with it with certain devices like other smart devices, such as phones, get on the internet to do your Netflix and all the entertainment that's out there on the web for you."

You don’t have to have a smart TV to do all this, though.

Many cable DVRs, gaming consoles and Blu-ray players have a lot of the functions of a smart TV built in to them. These devices can do many of the same things and you’re saving money.

Javier tells us most new TVs are automatically smart, at least the ones with the great picture quality, so you don’t necessarily need a new TV to check it out.

<![CDATA[Problem Surfaces With Keyless Ignitions]]>Thu, 10 May 2018 19:07:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/keyless-ignitions-consumer.jpg

A simple mistake could have deadly consequences for owners of cars that have keyless ignitions.]]>
<![CDATA[Mom Learns Hard Way, Don't Buy Plane Tickets on Snapchat]]>Wed, 09 May 2018 18:33:04 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Snapchat+Plane+050918.jpg

A single mom lost money via a travel agent she met on Snapchat.

Doniqua Arnold and her 15-year old son Savion share laughs and smiles all the time, even more so since they’re preparing for a little distance.

"I got two more years of high school," said Savion.

College is on the horizon and Savion is competing for a basketball scholarships. Try outs before the scouts are starting this summer and single mom Doniqua has been trying to save for the plane tickets.

She contacted us after wiring money to someone she met on Snapchat who promised her an amazing deal on airfare.

But that person walked away with all of her cash and gave Savion a little ammo to tease his mom.

"I just laughed to be honest. She always told me don’t trust nobody you don’t know and she fell for it," said Savion.

A recent study from the American Hotels and Lodging Association found that 55 million bookings a year are made on with phony travel agents or agencies it's one of the hottest growing cases of fraud out there and it hits everyone.

"I am a single mom and I am trying to provide for him and I want the best education for him," said Doniqua.

When she shared Doniqua’s story an NBC 5 viewer responded offering to buy airline tickers for both Doniqua and her son.

"I was excited. I almost cried," said Doniqua. "I reached out to him and thanked him multiple times. And told him he was God sent. He was like 'No, you just come on a good day, you know I don’t want the recognition.'"

Snapchat also reached out and report they shut down the person’s Snapchat account in hopes of protecting others.

Now Doniqua has been made whole, her tickets are real this time and her son is taking steps to finance college by being able to show his stuff on the court with his very best cheerleader right by his side.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines advises you always buy tickets directly from the source to protect yourself against fraud.

<![CDATA[Why Some Websites Are 'Going Red' Wednesday]]>Wed, 09 May 2018 06:50:20 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AdobeStock_62370310-keyboard.jpg

This morning-some of your favorite websites are expected to "go red." 

Website such as like Reddit, Etsy and Consumer Reports are taking part in an online protest, calling on the U.S. Senate to block the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality.

U.S. Senate Democrats are expected to present their petition to undo the FCC's ruling on Wednesday. 

Net Neutrality is the idea that all information on the internet should be treated equally; no matter who your internet provider is, you get the same access to the internet as everyone else. 

Critics call this is the government's "micromanaging of the internet."

Senate Democrats and some consumer advocacy groups argue that ending net neutrality would lead to high prices and slower internet speeds for consumers.

"We fully support the Senate's effort to get rid of the repeal of FCC's repeal Net Neutrality rules," said Johnathon Schwantes, Senior Policy Council for Consumers Union. "If you look at the cable packages, they're expensive and they add a lot of fees. If you want more, you pay for it...I think a lot of that's going to come to your internet services now.  Whether it's additional fees or whether it's a new package that you need to pay more to stream video from Netflix or Amazon, that all could be coming without Net Neutrality rules in place saying they can't do that sort of thing."

Groups like Consumers Union also said the internet service providers could block certain websites altogether.

Big telecom companies have said net neutrality rules could undermine investment in broadband and introduce uncertainty about what are acceptable business practices. Net-neutrality advocates say the FCC decision harms innovation and make it harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests.

The FCC's new rules are not expected to go into effect until later this spring.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer plans to file a discharge petition signed by 30 senators Wednesday. The petition needs a simple majority to pass the Congressional Review Act resolution, which would block the FCC's ruling.

From there, it would need the majority of the House.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Choosing a Virtual Private Network For Your Home]]>Tue, 08 May 2018 17:47:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/VPN+Networks.jpg

With stories of widespread hackings and websites selling your data, we all want to know how to keep our digital lives private and secure. One easy way is to use a VPN, or virtual private network, on your computer and smartphone. But how do you know which one is right for you? Consumer Reports offers some guidelines.

Most good VPNs will have encryption. That will secure your data going back and forth. And it’s not just for businesses. Consumer Reports says anyone who uses public WiFi, like at a coffee shop or airport, would be wise to use a VPN. But, if you have to add in codes or put in a password, it may not get used and a VPN that isn’t used is not going to protect you.

Another thing to look for is whether the company keeps a log of your activity. Some VPNs make no bones about the fact that they are collecting and selling your data, which is kind of antithetical to the idea of a VPN in the first place.

This is more common among free VPNs, but if you’re willing to pay for privacy, a typical service for consumers will run you about $5 to $10 a month. Businesses will likely pay more. But the peace of mind really sweetens the deal.

And this isn’t just for people who use public WiFi. Consumer Reports says you can also use it in your own home so that your internet service provider can’t keep track of what you are looking at or shopping for, because they can collect your data too.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Travel Insurance May Not Cover Hawaii's Volcano Eruption]]>Tue, 08 May 2018 06:50:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-955306462_master.jpg

The Kilauea volcano erupted on Hawaii's Big Island last week following a magnitude 5.0 earthquake.

Since that eruption, the volcano has been shooting out fountains of lava, destroying more than 30 homes and forcing more than 1,700 people to evacuate.

Scientists say it's unclear how long the eruption will continue and that's leaving many travelers in a panic.

If you're thinking about canceling your trip to the Big Island, your travel insurance policy may not back you up.

According to Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site, the volcano isn't in an area where many tourists frequent and hotels and resorts shouldn't be affected.

But what if there's a travel advisory? 

For example, American Airlines issued a travel advisory for people traveling to Hilo or Kona, Hawaii.  If you're scheduled to travel between May 5 and May 13, American Airlines will waive the change fee.

Squaremouth said this advisory would not qualify for a trip cancellation benefit under a travel insurance policy.

We're told canceling a trip by choice typically isn't covered.

In order for an insurance policy to reimburse the cost of the trip, the traveler must have been prevented from going.

If you're simply afraid to go to the Big Island and the thought of the volcano is putting a damper on your vacation vibes, unfortunately, fear of enjoyment is not covered either.

Unless there's an evacuation notice in the city you're traveling to, you will likely be on the hook if you cancel.

So what does your travel insurance cover?

Family or medical emergencies are standard.

Premium insurance policies are more expensive, but many allow you to cancel for any reason, so you may want to consider that option.

Do your research on the policy. Travel agents may have preferred relationships with only a couple of insurance providers, but there could be better ones out there.

You can visit comparison sites like squaremouth.com. There you will find more than a hundred policies from many companies.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Service Gives Cliff Notes Version of Company Terms and Conditions]]>Mon, 07 May 2018 17:56:38 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Magnify+050718.jpg

It's smart to always know what your contract says, before you agree, and this service promises to help make that process easier.

"Accept the terms and conditions" you get asked to do that all the time, whether booking an airline flight or ordering a pizza.

We all hit agree and have no idea what we're agreeing to and that's where JoinMagnify.com comes in.

"We have a team of contract readers, they spend hours digging through the fine print pages and pages, and we have one simple question what would the average American want to know that's inside this contract," said Simon Boehme, the company's CEO.

You have to install the JoinMagnify.com extension to a Chrome web browser and it will give you a summary of many of those terms and conditions as you come across them.

Keep in mind those contract readers aren't lawyers, but employees tasked with finding the most important information and highlighting it.

It's not just knowing what rights you have when something goes wrong.

"We talk about ways people can get refunds, can avoid hidden fees and how they can cancel subscriptions," said Boehme.

They uncover things like the fact that JetBlue Airlines will give you a $50 refund if your plane lands but you can't exit the plane after an hour. That Amazon will give you money back if the package they deliver is late, and those photos you and your kids take on Snapchat are not deleted and are owned by Snapchat, essentially forever.

The service is free and right now now hundreds of user agreements are loaded in there and they're always adding more.

As the company grows they plan to get even more personal.

"We're hoping to have the ability for the consumers to upload different lease agreements, mortgage, employment contracts personal contracts and summarize the fine print," said Boehme.

That service would come with a fee, but the rest of the service is free.

MORE: JoinMagnify.com

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[TX Company Recalls 25 Tons of Smoked Sausage]]>Mon, 07 May 2018 10:45:06 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/smoked-sausage-recall.jpg

A Texas company has recalled nearly 25 tons of smoked sausage products due to possible plastic contamination.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a statement Friday saying the recall by Eddy Packing Co. involves products with packing dates of April 5 and April 6. The products were shipped to food service and retail locations in California, Georgia, Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

The problem was discovered when Eddy Packing received complaints from a restaurant about white, hard plastic found in some sausage during slicing. No injuries or illnesses have been reported.

The recalled products have "EST. 4800" inside the USDA mark. They should be discarded or returned.

The recall includes Eddy Fully Cooked Premium Smoked Sausage, Dickey's Barbeque Pit Original Smoked Fresh Polish Sausage Made With Pork and Beef, Lowe's Original Recipe Naturally Hardwood Smoked Sausage Made With Pork and Beef, Eddy Smoked Sausage Made With Pork and Beef, Carl's Pork and Beef Smoked Sausage, Eddy Southern Style Pork and Beef Smoked Sausage and Dickey Cheese/Jalapeno Pork and Beef Sausage Ring.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Photo Credit: USDA]]>
<![CDATA[Gas Prices Leave North Texas Looking for Relief]]>Mon, 07 May 2018 06:32:00 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dfw-gas-prices-generic-gasoline.jpg

Gas prices continue climbing across North Texas, leaving many looking for ways to ease the pain at the pump.

“It’s definitely rising and it’s hitting me a little bit because I always put supreme in. So I definitely feel it in my pockets here and there,” Kurt Baker of Fort Worth said. “I guess it is what it is. I’m just hoping they will come down eventually.”

According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.81 and the average for Texas is $2.60.

Drivers in North Texas are finding unique ways to make sure filling up the gas tank doesn’t empty their wallets.

“[The] Kroger’s reward program is incredible. I love the 10 cents [and then] 20 cents," Baker said. "So, we do all of our grocery shopping at Kroger’s so that we can rack up on those points.”

Many swear by grocery store rewards cards.

North Texas stores with rewards programs include Kroger, Albertsons and Tom Thumb.

The programs are simple. For every dollar spent at the grocery stores, you earn points. After collecting enough points, you’ll see the price for a gallon of gas drop (usually in 10 cent increments) when you are ready to cash in.

The Penny Hoarder Blog has a list of many of the store programs and how each works.

You can also use gift cards at Walmart and Sam’s Club. Using their cards will lead to discounts per gallon on gas that is often a little cheaper than regular gas stations.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Falls Victim to Facebook Hack Scheme]]>Mon, 18 Jun 2018 15:52:48 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/facebook-hacking.jpg

After an Arlington woman's Facebook account was hacked she called what she thought was a Facebook customer service number, and that landed her in even more trouble.

Suzanne Dougherty uses Facebook to connect with friends and family both near and far.

"My oldest granddaughter is in Africa, a Peace Corps worker," she said. 

Her granddaughter doesn’t get phone service, but occasionally, she finds areas where she can get online and chat with her grandmother on Facebook.

But last month, those conversations stopped.

"When I entered my password it wouldn’t accept it," Dougherty said.

She tried to have a new Facebook password sent to her email address and her cell phone, but the password never came. And later that day, she started hearing from concerned friends and relatives.

"I'm getting phone calls saying 'are you in Manila. Do you need $500?'" she explained.

That’s when Dougherty realized her account had been hacked. She Google’d "Facebook customer service" and came across an 844 number.

"I specifically asked 'are you with Facebook?  And they said yes," she said.

Dougherty said the person on the phone asked if she could get on her laptop so he could log into her account remotely. She did so, and the man confirmed that she had been hacked. 

"He said I show that 20 people have reported you for posting pornography," she said. "I felt violated because that’s something I would never do and so that was very frightening to me."

She said the man told her he saw 13 people from Spain that were logged into her account.

"He said these people now have access to your bank account, your credit card, your Amazon account," said Dougherty.

She asked the man on the phone if he could delete her account completely, and was told he'd have to charge her about $250 to do so. 

And that’s when she knew.

"This was not Facebook and that I had been scammed. I’ve given access to my laptop to a scammer," she said.

Cyber security expert Keith Barthold with DKB Innovative calls this "social hacking."

"Social hacking is some of the easiest hacking because it’s getting someone on the phone and tricking them into thinking that you’re someone else and then socially engineering and drawing that information out," he explained.

Barthold said it’s likely the hackers installed something malicious on her laptop to log her keystrokes and tap into other accounts.

Dougherty has stopped using the laptop and plans to take it in to a computer shop to get it cleaned. But even using her phone, she couldn’t get control of her Facebook account, so she called the NBC 5 Responds team for help.

Facebook says it does not have a customer service number and encourages users to search facebook.com/help.

Facebook told us “while these groups are persistent and work continuously to spread false information, we have taken down a large number of the sites offering fake support numbers and we will continue to do so."

With facebook’s help, Dougherty was finally able to regain control over her account.

She's been through a lot! She has a message for the person or people responsible or her stress.

"They prey on people that are most vulnerable," she said. "Shame on you!"

When we called that 844 number it appeared to be disconnected.

If you’re ever having problems with your Facebook page, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Remember, there is no Facebook help number.
• Visit facebook.com/help instead
• You can also visit facebook.com/hacked
• Make sure you’re using different passwords across multiple social media accounts.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Protect Your Belongings Before Hiring Movers]]>Fri, 04 May 2018 17:39:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-broken-tv.jpg

Lyndzee Torr was making a simple move from Denton to Allen.

“I filled out a Google search, you know, affordable movers, and I don't remember the exact search that I did, but it came back with a few different kinds of moving companies that would give me quotes,” said Torr.

She went with the cheapest company without doing much research on them or what was promised in her contract. As you can imagine, things didn't go well.

“They scratched the floors of the old place, and it wasn't like just a surface scratch,” recalled Torr.

Not only that, she said when she got to her new home, her TV no longer worked. When you fire it up you can see the cracks.

“I definitely came out losing money 'cause the first couple days I couldn't watch TV. I'm paying for cable I can't use. Thankfully, I did have a smaller TV, but I really did like that TV,” said Torr.

Here's the problem. Torr did not take out insurance for her move. She says she wasn't offered any, but that doesn't mean you're covered.

All licensed movers carry a basic liability of sixty cents per pound of items lost. Her TV is sixteen pounds, so she's owed about $9.60 for the broken TV.

Insurance for a move is out there. You can research policies online and often times get a good quote with your auto or home insurance company. State Farm, Geico and Allstate all offer moving insurance.

Tips to remember:

• Always supervise the packing and wrapping of your items.
• If you don't think something like your TV or your mom's antique cabinet are getting the right attention, speak up.
• Explain the care and ask for better.
• You may want to pack anything extra fragile or valuable and move it yourself.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Viewers Help Joshua Couple Battling Medical Bills]]>Thu, 03 May 2018 17:46:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/med-debt-foutch.jpg

John and Regina Foutch's struggles with medical debt made it difficult to get by. NBC 5 viewers stepped up to help, and we were able to deliver the good news.

We first met John and Regina Foutch next to their damaged mailbox.

“You gotta put a screw in it,” said Regina.

“I’m going to”, responded John.

John didn't care much to fix that mailbox. He says it's always filled with bills.

That is until one day when the couple got their golden ticket — a letter from the charity RIP Medical Debt, saying an $1,145 medical bill had been paid off using a donation from NBC Owned Television Stations.

“This is the first good news we got out of this mailbox in years,” John said.

The couple shared with us how tough life has been lately. John was a master horse trainer, buying horses people thought didn't have what it took to race and turned them into champions, until he couldn't any more.

“I had my 11th, 13th stroke,” recalled John.

It kept him off the race circuit, making no money and racking up medical bills.

“They called me every day from different places saying, ‘Mr 'Foust,' you owe this, you owe that.’ I said, I’ll tell you the same thing I did when they did the work. I don't have the money,” said John.

“We're living on what little check I draw to try to pay the light bill and the water bill, and try to have a little money left over to get a little food to eat," Regina added.

Their struggle inspired many of you to donate like we did and help RIP Medical Debt buy more medical bills for pennies on the dollar for people like the Foutchs.

That's not where this story ends.

We visited John and Regina again recently and delivered a check for $500 and a note from a viewer in Fort Worth, who's battling a cancer diagnosis, but still was inspired.

It said, "We heard you saying how it was hard to get from day to day. We wanted to make sure you both treat yourself to a little celebration.”

John and Regina called the gift a blessing, and said they would go out for a “good supper” and let Regina save the rest and stretch the dollar for their needs.

Then we handed them a second check, for another $500, from yet another viewer who wanted to help. John and Regina said they also got a card in the old trusty mailbox with a $50 bill inside.

“That old mail box has produced some good news the last month for sure,” said Foutch.

They thanked everyone for their help.

NBC 5 is still working to help more people like the Foutch's eliminate medical bills through RIP Medical Debt, a charity able to buy $100 dollars worth of medical debt for just $1.

If you'd like to help us reach more families, donate here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds After Promised Refund Doesn't Show Up]]>Wed, 02 May 2018 18:58:47 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Golden+Retreiver+Dog.jpg

We met up with Madison Coyle and her Golden Retriever puppy Oliver who is all pup and will take off running if let off his leash.

It’s one reason why Coyle turned to a trainer at "Man's Best Friend" of Grand Prairie for help.

"He would even be able to be off leash and be able to do all these things. So I was very excited," said Coyle.

Oliver attended a two week long boot camp at Man's Best Friend and Coyle was encouraged to stay away during that time.

The day she picked him up she filled out a survey calling Oliver's obedience "excellent" at the time.

Coyle said when she got him home, things weren't so positive.

"He started going to bathroom in the house," she said.

She said the new commands she marked as excellent when she picked him up weren't happening for her at home.

Oliver's training requires weekly follow-up sessions and work at home to keep up the success she saw.

Madison said she did work at home with her dog and would show up for those follow-up sessions.

She said staff would tell her she didn't have an appointment or no trainers were available.

Suddenly, her more than $1500 in dog training didn't seem like such a good deal.

"I spent a lot of money on it and I had been told all these things would be improved," said Coyle.

Man's Best Friend's contract clearly states they are under no obligation to provide a refund and that there are no guarantees. It says, in bold "behavioral problems like biting, house training, barking, digging, chewing, jumping" are not guaranteed.

Despite all that Coyle said the trainer sympathized with her and agreed to refund half the money she spent.

But that agreement was made in June of last year, and when she contacted us in April she still hadn’t been paid.

Our Consumer Investigative Center reached out and Man's Best Friend immediately responded and apologized for the delay.

The current owners told us they bought the company just weeks prior to Coyle first expressing she was unhappy and approved refunding half money, even though Coyle's contract said no refunds.

The owners said the payment fell through the cracks. They apologized and issued Coyle a new check in just three days.

As for the training issues, the owners said they could only go by what was in the computer from the previous owner.

Their records show Coyle failed to go to her follow up appointments. Something she completely denies.

Still the company was happy to provide the refund and try to make everything right with Coyle.

The company saying in part, "We aim to be the leader in the pet care industry that will always meet our customers' expectations for the health, happiness, and overall well-being of their pets."

Coyle was just relieved to get her money back, and said she’s worked on her own to get Oliver's obedience in check.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Local Moving Company Ordered to Stop Doing Business]]>Wed, 02 May 2018 06:49:10 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/DS_Presidential+Movers+-+Biz+BROLL_2018-05-02-05-07-51.jpg

An Arlington moving company has been ordered to stop doing business by the federal government. This comes after a series of reports by NBC 5's Samantha Chatman.

We recently told you about a woman who said the moving company was holding her items for ransom.

Back in February, Theresa Riley said Presidential Moving Services added thousands of dollars of erroneous charges to her balance.

Her claims caught the attention from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

The DMV told us, "After seeing NBC 5's story in February, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles contacted the consumer and assisted her with filing a complaint regarding Presidential Moving LLC."

Today, Riley finally has her belongings back, but she couldn't help but think that there were others out there.

"It wasn't just me. They were holding other people's stuff, too," she said.

According to the state documents, she was right.

The Arlington moving company is charged with 256 violations, which include failure to give up possession of household goods, failure to prepare a binding estimate and providing false and misleading or deceptive information in advertisements.

The Texas DMV is now ordering the moving company to pay a penalty of $648,000, and the federal government is taking it a step further.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an "out-of-service" order and revoked the company's moving registration.

We're told the company did not allow the government to perform a safety audit, which is against the law.

None of this information surprised Riley, but she is glad she didn't stop fighting to get her things back.

"Sometimes, I wanted to give up, but i didn't," she said.

Riley believes her mom, who passed away right before she hired the company, would be proud.

"She probably would say 'Good girl. You did well,'" Riley said.

Presidential Moving Services will have to reapply with the federal government and pay the state that $648,000 fine if it wants to continue its business.

We tried calling the company but kept getting a busy signal.

Earlier this year, a representative for with company denied all claims of wrongdoing and told us if they weren't up to code with the state, they would have been shut down a long time ago.

<![CDATA[Texans Could See Decrease in Car Insurance Bill]]>Tue, 01 May 2018 17:05:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-88904197+edited.jpg

Texas drivers could pay less for their car insurance starting in May, State Farm announced this week.

State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, by far the state's biggest auto insurer, said that, thanks to increased efficiency across the company, it's planning to decrease its overall rate by 3 percent, saving its customers a total of $100 million overall.

Click here to read more from our partners at The Dallas Morning News.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Decision Day: Choosing the Most Affordable College]]>Tue, 01 May 2018 07:02:42 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-decision-day-college.jpg

Tuesday is the day that many students and parents have been anxious about all year: Decision Day.

Thousands of high school seniors will choose which college they will attend in the fall, and it's arguably one of the most important decisions they'll ever make.

Parents may be interested in a prestigious college while students may be looking at the social scene.

But is the school a good financial fit?

Colby Frazier, a high school senior we spoke with, has been accepted into 10 colleges across the country. The DeSoto student has been anxious about Decision Day. 

"It's a bittersweet feeling because you're just like, wow. I've been accepted to such a great university but you're also like, how am I going to pay to be able to go here?" she asked.

Consumer Reports Editor and financial expert Donna Roseto said students like Frazier should be focused on the money.

"A lot of people think about the academic fit, the cultural fit of the college but they really don't think about whether it's going to be a financial fit," she said.

Roseto said many families won't delve into the financial aspect of college until after Decision Day, and she believes this is a huge mistake. 

"There's a student debt crisis in the United States. Students owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loans and the average student graduates with more than $37,000 in debt. 

Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions that can help you and your student make the best financial choice on Decision Day.

Read over your financial aid award letter. It should give a break down of how much the school costs and how much you'll have to pay to attend. 

If you're not happy with what the school is offering, submit an appeal to the financial aid department at the school.

"If you've had a change in your circumstance, say a parent has lost their job, you've had big medical bills, you may be able to reword the offer and give you more aid," said Roseto.

If your second or third choice is offering more money than your first choice, ask them if they can do better.  

Much like a job offer, Roseto said colleges may be willing to match when it comes to financial assistance. 

But not all schools will be able to make that happen, so, a student loan could be inevitable for some students. 

If that's the case Roseto said students should not borrow more money than they expect to make annually coming out of college

"You know, the same rule of thumb for a student applies for parents. Don't take on more debt than you can handle, especially if you have more than one child in college, especially if it's going to cut into really important things like saving for retirement, your daily living expenses," she said.

Frazier told us she's narrowed her choices down to two schools. She does have a favorite, but plans to key her eye on the money.

"Hopefully some of these scholarships come through and provide a miracle," she said.

For more information about obtaining a last-minute scholarship, click here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[You May Want To Look At Next Year's Tax Return, Now]]>Mon, 30 Apr 2018 17:42:29 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Tax_Day_Deals.jpg

Tax day may have come and gone but it may be time for all of us to take a look at our tax forms for next year.

Congress passed the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" last December.

A spokesperson for the IRS tells NBC 5 a large number of Texans will be impacted by the amount of taxes we pay now especially if you’ve had a life event like a marriage or divorce.

Look at your with-holdings. You have to make sure the amount of money you're paying in taxes each paycheck is enough to meet the new law's requirements.

The IRS has a new withholding calculator to help you figure that out. This one change alone could help you avoid a big surprise come tax time next year.

Also, the standard deduction is much bigger now. You may not need to itemize your taxes any longer meaning all those receipts from charities may not be necessary for you any longer.

It depends on your personal filing situation, but it may be worth it to sit down with an accountant, or tax preparer now to make sure you make the right changes to avoid a surprise next year.

Click here for a withholding calculator from the IRS so you can crunch your personal finances.

<![CDATA[These Are Robocallers' Favorite DFW Area Codes]]>Mon, 30 Apr 2018 11:21:04 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/What_to_Do_About_Robocalls.jpg

A mind-boggling statistic: The record number of robocalls are made in the U.S., jamming phone lines and frustrating consumers, around the clock.

Dallas is no exception, crowned the third most robocalled city in the country during the month of March with an estimated 120 million robocalls received.

Robocalls were made more than 1,000 times per second last month.

"I'm getting these (calls) over and over again," said Meagon in Hurst. 

She works nights and tries to sleep during the day, but the phone keeps ringing off the hook. 

"They're calling five to six times a day," she said. "I just don't want to have to deal with it. It's unfair."

According to a report released by YouMail, a private telecom company that monitors these numbers, the two DFW area codes hit the hardest are 214 and 817.

But what comes in also goes out.

The DFW area has another dubious distinction in these numbers: Home to some of the nation's biggest robocall offenders, putting out a whopping 82.9 million of the dreaded messages last month, ranking us at number four among the list of cities that generated the most robocalls.

It's sobering news for Meagon, who has an 817 area code.

It's a growing crisis reaching epidemic proportions, according to federal regulators, who say cheap access to internet calling services plus the ability to spoof, or hide their true identity, makes robocallers all the more brazen.

The government has hit offenders with increasingly larger fines.

For example, the FCC proposed a record $120 million fine for a Florida man last year, punishing him for spoofing caller IDs.

Here are Samantha Chatman's solutions:

• If you have received any illegal calls, go to FTC.gov to report it.

• Consider downloading apps like NoMoRobo.

• Also, don't answer any unfamiliar calls. An answered call notifies the telemarketer that the number is active and encourages more calls to that number.

• Don't press any numbers and don't wait to speak with an agent. That'll usually lead to more calls.

• Consider downloading apps that help to block robocalls.  

<![CDATA[What You Should Know About Home Warranties]]>Fri, 27 Apr 2018 19:27:20 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5p+tz1-home+warranties_KXASH7Q7_2018-04-27-16-44-39.jpg

Many homeowners rely on home warranties to help cover the cost of repairs and even replace broken appliances. But that's not always what they get.

Hughie Barnes' fridge started to show signs it's days were done.

She called her warranty company for help but Hughie says the technician that the company sent couldn't fix the problem.

"Finally after the 7th or 8th visit, I told him, 'Don't come back. I'm tired of you, I know you're tired of me,'" Barnes said.

Hughie went and bought a new refrigerator to replace the broken one. She asked the company to reimburse her for the money she spent on the new fridge with the money allowed in her policy. The company said no, because a replacement was the company's decision, not Hughie's.

"Sometimes they just keep stringing you along and keep repairing something that should really be replaced," said Liz Weston of personal finance website NerdWallet. "They prefer the Band-aid over the surgery."

Weston also hears from consumers who are frustrated with home warranties. She says if you buy one, keep your expectations in check.

"You want to be realistic about what you're actually going to get and what you're going to get is a service person that you didn't necessarily pick," Weston said. "You're going to get possibly the appliance repaired rather than what you would prefer, which is to have it replaced. If you do get it replaced, it may not be the quality of appliance you'd pick for yourself."

Hughie's experience is similar to what we've heard from many consumers who have many different home warranty companies.

Repairs are usually first choice before replacement. Some policies will let you decline the repair and take a cash payment instead. The company decides how much that payment would be. 

Check your contract and know what your options are before purchasing a home warranty.

Weston says home warranties can be a good idea for first-time home buyers who don't have a lot of savings.

Otherwise, you might be better off without one.

<![CDATA[Granite Contractor 'Ripping Off North Texans': Consumer]]>Fri, 27 Apr 2018 06:48:12 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-granite-counters.jpg

A North Texas man is warning consumers to avoid a local granite company, accusing the business of taking money and running.

Micheal Williams admits his kitchen looks a bit bland, so he decided to invest in granite counter tops to make it pop. Williams said he went online and found an ad on Craigslist advertising granite installation.

The name on the ad was a woman named Jennifer.

"She said, 'thanks for contacting. We can schedule someone for the next date,'" recalled Williams.

The next day, he said Fortino Solorzano, the owner of Legacy Granite and Marble, was at his doorstep.

"Honestly, I felt like I had got lucky. He came in. He was well dressed, professional," he said. "I really did like him."

For the kitchen counter top he said the owner told him it'd only cost him $1,800.

He said Solorzano even said he'd do the back splash and the bathroom counter tops, all for $2,600. He'd just have to pay half up front so he could get the materials.

"I asked him could I pay by credit card. He told me he was having problems with his machine," said Williams.

So, Williams reluctantly wrote the owner a check for $1,300.

Per the contract, Solorzano was supposed to complete the job by March 17. But Williams said Solorzano never even started.

He said he was stood up by the contractor several times and eventually asked for his money back.

He said the contractor agreed, but never showed up.

"At this point, I know that he's not a legitimate contractor," he said. "I know I just got scammed."

Williams called the NBC 5 Responds team to look into this business and the man behind it. We started with the woman whose name was on that Craigslist ad: Jennifer.

She told us she's not affiliated with any business and that she's "just a middleman" who gets a small cut from connecting customers with contractors.

But in this case, she said she didn't get a dime. 

We did some more digging and learned his company also goes by Eagle Granite and Marble.

We came across these complaints online like "Fortino Solorzano stole my countertop deposit check of $3,000," and, "he also did the same thing for me and took my $1000 deposit."

We called the owner to get his side of the story.

He told us his name is Fortino Solorzano and the delays were due to problems with the job and family issues. He said the bad reviews online aren't true.

And per contract, the deposit is non-refundable, but he'll make an exception for this customer to stay off the news.

He told me he'd hand deliver his $1,300 refund to Williams by Saturday at noon. But that day came and went, and he was a no show.

There is no business address listed on the contract. We went back to the contractor and asked him if he had a business address and he's now telling us he's no longer in business.

Williams said he went to the Glenn Heights Police Department and was told this was a civil matter.

He said he may never get his money back, but the least he can do is warn the public.

Williams admits that he made some mistakes; things that he wishes he could do all over again.

  1. Googling the contractor's name. He did so after the fact when it was too late.
  2. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  3. Never hand over that much money up front. Deposits are not uncommon in Texas, but half is too much of a risk. If a business doesn't have enough money to buy materials up front, you may want to shop around.
  4. This business did not have a known physical address. If a contractor can't provide you with a business address, take a pass on giving them cash or a check. It's not a good sign.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Ford Cutting Car Lineup to Save Money ]]>Thu, 26 Apr 2018 17:16:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Ford-Logo1.jpg

Ford will shed most of its North American car lineup as part of broad plan to save money and make the company more competitive in a fast-changing marketplace, one that includes a dramatic shift toward trucks and SUVs in the U.S.

The changes include getting rid of all cars in the region during the next four years except for the Mustang sports car and a compact Focus crossover vehicle. Ford will no longer sell the Fusion midsize car, Taurus large car, CMax hybrid compact and Fiesta subcompact in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Ford says its net income rose slightly in the first quarter due largely to a lower income tax rate.

The automaker says it made $1.74 billion, or 43 cents per share, compared with $1.59 billion, or 40 cents per share a year ago.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $41.96 billion.

Ford also says it has found another $11.5 billion in cost cuts and efficiencies.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Local Couple Stuck With NYC Parking Ticket]]>Thu, 26 Apr 2018 06:56:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-nyc-parking-ticket.jpg

A North Texas couple says their car has never left Texas or Oklahoma, yet they received a parking ticket from New York City.

When their appeals to NYC kept getting denied they called NBC 5's Samantha Chatman.

The Browns said their car has been up and down Interstate 35 on occasion and driven to Oklahoma a couple times, but that's about it.

When they got a parking ticket in the mail from New York City, they thought it was fraudulent. But, they took a closer look and saw their license plate number.

"I pulled up on their website expecting to see an image of our car, but of course there wasn't one," said Kathy Brown.

The couple disputed the $75 ticket online, adding documents that they believed would proved they weren't in New York on Aug. 18.

They said they submitted debit card purchases from a Sonic and Jimmy Johns in Coppell, Texas and a Texas Toll Tag charge from the night before the ticket was issued.

"They came back and denied it. We couldn't believe it," said Brown.

A few months later, they got another notice, this time for $95. They appealed, and it was denied.

And then another one, now for $125, and once again their appeal was denied.

When they realized the consequences of not paying, they decided to pony up the dough and call NBC 5 Responds to try to get it back.

We called New York City's Department of Finance to look into the matter. When we heard back, they believed they had figured out the problem.

The ticket belonged to someone with the same make, model and license plate number as the Browns. They said the only difference was the state. An employee must have accidentally clicked Texas instead of New York.

That same week, the browns got a letter saying their car was "not at the place of occurrence at the time of offense."

"We were able to get the charge reversed and now we're scot free," said Joel Brown.

It's $125 that the Browns no longer have to worry about.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Send the city as much proof as possible, just like the Browns did.
• Include pictures, invoices and even toll tag records to prove where you were at the time of the citation.
• Keep all of your documentation. Don't throw anything away.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Selling A Car? There May Be Money You're Owed]]>Wed, 25 Apr 2018 18:22:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Car+Warranty.jpg

When you sign the dotted line for a new car, you're typically offered the chance to take out an extended warranty.

But what happens if you sell the car before you use that warranty?

Leo Delleon decided it was time to trade in his trusty SUV for something that gets better gas mileage.

It said right in his contract he's due a refund for leftover mileage if he sells the car early.

"I sold the vehicle at 125,000 miles. So, that leaves me 75,000 miles worth of warranty that I should be getting back."

He said he called AA Auto Protection and confirmed he could get the refund and sent in all the documents required.

"She said 'Um, we never got paper work from you' and I said 'well I’m looking at my receipt here from the post office,'" Delleon recalled.

He sent it all again, and waited. Weeks turned into months.

"They said due to the hurricane in Houston, we had a lot of cancellations. OK but mine was before the hurricane hit. There was always an excuse," Delleon told us.

He called NBC 5 Responds. Our consumer investigative center got to work.

AA Auto Protection told us the process was taking entirely too long and they didn't know why.

They are like an agent and were waiting for the corporate insurer to issue a check. They reached out again and problem solved, a refund of $513.50.

"Without y’alls help, I still probably would have been sitting here."

We also thanked him for letting us know to check to see if we can cash in those extended warranties if we sell our car.

"I think a lot of people don’t know that and they let it go, they just let it go down the drain," said Delleon.

Remember the refunds may not be on all warranties but we checked several and found you could get money back.

It's just another lesson to read your contract and if some hiccup pops up and you can't get it worked out, call us at NBC 5 Responds.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Problem Solved: Woman Gets Loaner Car After Calling NBC 5]]>Wed, 25 Apr 2018 06:53:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+takata+airbag+_KXASH0TB_2018-04-11-05-35-25.jpg

Earlier this month, we told you about a North Texas driver who was riding around with a defective airbag in her car for nearly two years. She said the dealership and manufacturer refused to give her a loaner car. When she couldn't get help, she called Samantha Chatman with NBC 5 Responds. 

In July of 2016, she learned her car was a part of the Takata airbag recall.

"Give me something else that doesn't have death seat," said Sharon Austry.

She received a letter in the mail that said "Warning: Until remedy parts become available, do not allow anyone to sit in the first row passenger seat."

She thought it'd be easy to get that defective airbag out of her car and replaced with a safe one, but nearly two years later, she's still waiting.

"I asked if we could get a loaner car. They said no. I asked if we are going to get any kind of compensation. They said no," Austry said.

That answer didn't sit well with Austry or David Friedman with Consumers Union.

"First of all, they should have the parts. It's inexcusable for car companies or dealers not to have the Takata airbag parts anymore," said Friedman.  "Two, if you don't have the parts, give your customer a rental car. Period!"

We brought these concerns to Ford and asked them why it hadn't offered Austry a rental car to begin with.

Ford told us they didn't have record of Austry calling their customer service line. The company said "Ford may be able to provide loaner vehicles to customers in certain instances ... Ford does have some parts available now for some repairs... We are working with our suppliers to expedite parts as quickly as possible."

After our first story aired, Austry says she got a call from a Ford executive saying they'd like to provide her with a rental car for 30 days, and if the parts still weren't available past 30 days, she'd get another rental car at no cost to her.

Austry says she feels safe in the rental car and is happy that she's no longer riding around with "a death seat."

Austry says the dealer told her the parts may not come in until summer 2018.

If you're having issues getting your recalled airbag replaced, you can file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration here.

<![CDATA[Atmos Discontinues Estimated Billing During Cold Months]]>Tue, 24 Apr 2018 07:50:04 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/atmos-truck-generic.jpg

Earlier this month, we heard from dozens of consumers who were angry over their high Atmos Energy bills. One woman’s bill went from $50 to $500 in just one month.

Some consumers argued that the company’s estimated billing practices were to blame.

The company is now admitting to NBC 5 that estimating during cold weather months "did not provide the excellent customer service that we strive to provide."

This won’t be news to Ashley Hine. She questioned Atmos’ estimated billing system all along.

Earlier this year, she told us her bill nearly tripled. "You‘re not going to try to screw me," she said.

When we first brought her concerns to Atmos Energy, the company said weather was to blame.

Atmos told us, "consumption last year vs. this year would be vastly different as the colder the temperature is outside the harder the heating appliance must work to maintain the warmer temperature inside the home… More than likely, a customer who saw a larger bill in February were estimated too low in January… and that usage then caught up in February."

"That can’t triple my bill. It just can’t happen," said Hine.

She wasn’t the only consumer who wasn’t buying Atmos’ response.

We’ve heard from dozens of consumers whose bills had skyrocketed, some demanding that Atmos do away with its estimated billing system altogether, claiming it wasn’t accurate.

Those consumers may have gotten their wish, sort of.

Atmos is now telling us they will no longer estimate during the heating season moving forward.

At a recent Dallas City Council meeting, Atmos' CEO Michael Haefner said Atmos made the decision to discontinue estimated billing for winter months in the future after bills spiked this winter with higher than expected usage.

“We tried winter estimation. It did not work. Certainly didn’t work as we had hoped and we are changing course,” said Haefner.

Moving forward, Atmos will not estimate in November through April.

Consumers like Ashley Hine see this move as a win for Atmos customers.

Atmos tells us that estimating is one of the many ways that they can help keep customers’ bills lower by minimizing the labor associated with reading meters.  But there is never a month that all of their customer’s bills are estimated.

For customer’s who are questioning the accuracy of their bill, you can call Atmos at 888-286-6700 or click here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Free Tools to Avoid Online Fraud]]>Mon, 23 Apr 2018 17:46:39 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Online+Fraud+-+Online+Car+Sales.jpg

The Sorrento family's vacation plans almost were ruined when a phony landlord tried to get thousands of dollars out of them for a beach rental in Florida. Now they're using their experience to help others avoid a similar mistake.

It’s a scheme we’ve reported on time and again - people renting homes they don't really own. The pictures and price may look great, until it's time to move in and the house isn't there to rent.

Tammy Sorrento thought she found the perfect deal for a family vacation home in Key West.

“Our family, we get together once a year and we rent a home because it is cost prohibitive for us all to rent hotel rooms,” Sorrento said.

When something didn't seem quite right, she trusted that nagging voice in her head.

“I’m an insurance professional, so I started off investigating claims. I also was an agent,” she said.

Using the skills she learned on the job, she searched and learned the man trying to get money from her didn't own that vacation home. Ultimately, she saved herself from losing thousands of dollars.

Sorrento wants to help others do the same, recently launching the company “Fireball Approves.” Through it, she searches and vets people selling cars and homes. Sorrento said she provides as much detail as she can about the true owner, so clients can make a smart decision.

“It’s really gratifying to be able to say yes that person really does own that vehicle, everything lined up and that vehicle hasn’t been stolen. So that person now has the assurance to make that transaction,” she said.

Sorrento said she gives assurance, not insurance. She can only confirm someone actually owns a house or a car as of the day she conducts the search. She also verifies their contact information. Anything that happens after that, she said, is beyond her control.

“We’re making sure that you are dealing with the owner. We are not confirming that the pictures on the inside are correct. That is not our business,” Sorrento said.

The company has already helped hundreds of people get more information about the homes and cars they're buying and it’s looking to grow. So far, the search is free, but there will be a charge in the future. 

Sorrento uses databases to check the information. There are free tools available to look up ownership – but they take some digging. Many counties have their own websites where people can find a property owner. For instance, Dallas has an online database under the Appraisal District where users can search by address. The tax assessor’s office can provide public information free, either online or in person, depending on the rules of each jurisdiction.

Verifying vehicle history for free can be tricky, as information can be limited. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has a list of approved providers for title checks. Fees range from a few dollars on up, depending on the company selected.

The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is a great resource to help consumers avoid fraud.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Problem Solved: Consumer Gets Items Back From Moving Company]]>Mon, 23 Apr 2018 07:02:01 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/presidential-moving-company.jpg

We recently told you about an Arlington-based moving company that’s accused of holding people’s items for ransom.

Theresa Riley said Presidential Moving Services added outrageous charges to her move and told her she’d have to pay $5,500 to get her stuff back.

She had just lost her mother, and at the same time she was fighting with Presidential Moving Services to get her things back.

"To them it might be junk. To me, that's my life," said Riley. 

Last year, Riley hired the company to move her back to Texas after her mom passed away.

She said she was given a quote of $3,500, which included break down, packing, loading and delivery.

Riley said she provided a full list of items she needed moved and paid $895 over the phone to secure the date.

But she said it wasn't until everything was loaded on the truck that she was given a contract to sign, and her balance increased $1,300 to a total of more than $4,200.

According to movers, Riley had more items in her home than they had on their list. Riley said she gave the company an accurate list and someone clearly dropped the ball.

And after months of trying to fight the balance, Riley learned that between storage and re-delivery fees she’d now have to pay $5,500 in addition to the money she already paid to get her items back.

"Just give back my things," she said. "I made a box with my mother's personal things in it and that's on that truck. If I could get anything else back, I just want that little box."

The Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas says it’s received dozens of negative reviews and complaints about presidential moving services over the last four months alone.

The BBB says many consumers claimed the company never delivered after requiring thousands of dollars over the initial estimate to complete their move.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles oversees moving companies in the state. The Texas DMV told us they’ve received 136 complaints on this company, which also goes by Presidential Moving and Storage, Presidential Moving LLC and Presidential Moving Services LLC.

After our first story aired an investigator with the Texas DMV reached out to Riley to learn more about her case and help get her things back.

Riley thought this was too good to be true, but about a month later, she was finally able to get all of her items from the company and move everything into her new home.

The balance of $5,500 was eliminated.

Riley has spent the last few days unpacking, starting with her mother’s boxes.

"I smelled her," she said. "When I opened some boxes I smelled her in the air."

Riley is now a happy consumer who can finally make her North Texas house a home.

When we first talked to Presidential Moving Services, a representative told us that Riley wasn’t up front about how many items she needed moved the bad reviews online were from ex-employees.

The representative said if they weren't up to code with the state, they would have been shut down a long time ago.

We tried calling the company back several times, but kept getting a busy signal.

The Texas DMV told us they are still investigating the company and could not provide additional comment.

Consumers are advised to make sure they’re given a written estimate, an in-home estimate, so there’s no dispute on how much is actually moved.

According to the DMV, the mover is required to provide consumers with a moving services contract prior to loading, which Riley said didn't happen in her case.

If you have a problem with a Texas moving company, click here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA['Belong Tour' Ticket Holders Waiting for Refunds]]>Fri, 20 Apr 2018 17:47:02 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Ticket+to+Event.png

NBC 5 Responds looks into what you should know before buying tickets to an event.

Fresh out of college, Christina Shelton and her family went to an inspirational concert put on by the group women of faith.

“I remember thinking this is so cool, I want to be a part of it,” said Shelton.

Shelton applied for a job and moved from Chicago to Plano where she was in charge of selling group tickets often times to local church groups across the country. Suzanne Bottoms belonged to one such group in Virginia.

“There are other women that were just like us, excited about this,” said Bottoms.

In 2016, the company launched something new, The Belong Tour, aimed specifically at younger women.

“It was brand new, it wasn't women of faith we had a lot of work to do to grow and become this live events company we had been,” said Shelton.

That never happened though. The Belong Tour was cancelled after its first year.

The company was bought by GJ and Alita Reynolds and before long there were moving trucks outside the Plano headquarters.

“I walked into the office and he said, 'We’re taking the company in a different direction' and he let the whole team go,” said Shelton.

Plans had been made, tickets already sold. Remember Suzanne Bottoms?

She and her church group had bought ten tickets totaling $790.

“They didn’t tell us it was cancelled. Susan kept on saying “Where are our tickets?”

The tickets were sold as non-refundable, but GJ and Alita Reynolds promised in a video posted on the tour’s website that they would still pay everyone back.

“Soon after purchasing the company we quickly realized the company had huge holes and financially it was a sinking ship we felt that it is the right thing to do, to provide refunds,” said GJ Reynolds.

The Reynolds blame the cancellation on low ticket sales and high venue costs.

“The entire video is an excuse as to why he is not responsible and i think that’s probably the biggest issue at hand is that he does not believe that he is responsible for any of this,” said Shelton.

Reynolds told NBC Responds that refunds are still being issued but he didn’t have a timeline for when that will happen.

“We continue to ask for your Christ-like patience and understanding in this process,” said Reynolds.

Patience has run low for women like Suzanne Bottoms and that’s what stings the most for Chrissy Shelton.

“We put so much energy, our ideas, our heart," said Shelton. “I just want him to put together a plan and figure it out, and I’ll help him do it if he wants to call me.”

If you bought the tickets with a credit card, you can try to reach out to your credit card company for a refund.

Many companies only give those if reported within the first few months, so it may be too late, but some customers have had luck getting money back.

When buying any tickets make sure you read the fine print.

If the tickets say "final sale" or "non-refundable" you may be out of luck if the event is cancelled.

Also, buy from a site that has a guaranteed. Stubhub's web site says it will refund customers if an event is called off.

<![CDATA[Starbucks Says Coupon for 'People Of Color Only' Is Fake ]]>Fri, 20 Apr 2018 07:04:46 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Fake+Starbucks+Coupon.png

There are fake Starbucks coupons that are circulating on social media. 

This comes after Starbucks recently announced it would close more than 8,000 stores to conduct racial-bias training.

The so-called promotion offers is a free beverage of any size, any variety, but it’s only "for people of color."

In light of the controversy involving Starbucks and racial-bias, some people thought the coupon was legitimate. 

But NBC DFW's Samantha Chatman found out it was fake. 

One coupon says -- “We’re sorry... We know we can do better. Starbucks values all people and we are working on employee sensitivity training.”

At the bottom it says one free beverage, and near the bar code, it says “people of color only.” 

There are other versions of the freebie popping up as well.

One promotion blames "Russian internet trolls" for the first coupon and goes on to say, “although this started as a hoax, after mountains of positive feedback on social media, we’ve decided to make it a reality… we will be providing all of our customers one free beverage of their choice in addition to 50 percent off all food items.” 

Another ad says, “the best dialogue starts over a cup of coffee and we’d like to buy you one.” 

We reached out to Starbucks and the company tells us the promotions are completely fake and in no way associated with Starbucks.

We asked the company what its workers were instructed to do if they were given one of these coupons, but we haven’t heard.

It’s unclear if Starbucks will offer any promotions in light of the recent incident, but, as noted, the coupons that are being shared are bogus. 

<![CDATA[Texas Towing Laws that May Surprise You]]>Thu, 19 Apr 2018 08:02:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Towing-Sign-031312.jpg

It's a sight no driver ever wants to see: their car being towed away on a tow truck.

We've heard from dozens of consumers who believe their car was wrongfully towed, but most drivers don't do anything about it or, at least, they don't know what can be done about it. 

"If we don't know about it, we can't investigate it and we can't help you," Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation's Susan Stanford said.

Stanford said motorists can help put an end to wrongful towing, but knowing the law is key. For example, if you see your car being loaded onto a tow truck but it's not fully hooked up and ready for the driver to pull off, the driver must drop your car for free if you ask. No charges.

But what if your car is already hooked up? If the tow truck driver hasn't driven away, the driver must offer you a drop fee of no more than $125.

If your car ends up in a tow lot, you have to pay to get it out. But you can dispute it with a Justice of the Peace within 14 days. If the court sides with you, you'll get your money back.

If you can prove the driver knew your car was parked legally but towed it anyway, you may be entitled to receive three times the amount you paid plus an extra $1,000 for your trouble. That means if you paid $250 to get your vehicle out, you could walk away with $1,750 if you win a dispute. 

But it's up to drivers to know the rules to protect their cars and their pocketbooks.

If your car is in the process of being towed, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

  • Record the towing that's taking place on your cell phone
  • Take several pictures of where you parked
  • Before parking, always be sure to read the signs carefully
  • Never chase a tow truck. You can follow them to the storage facility

    Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
    <![CDATA[It's Tax Day - Again!]]>Wed, 18 Apr 2018 17:52:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/shutterstock-irs-foto-portal-2043433.jpg

    It's Tax Day - again. The deadline to file your taxes was pushed back one day after the Internal Revenue Service website was down for much of the day Tuesday. Filers, who were told the site would be down until the year 9999, had a much smoother time accessing it Wednesday.

    By afternoon, most filings appeared to be going through without an issue.

    The IRS said the hiccups had to do with the sheer volume of people trying to file and pay online at once.

    Members of the IRS operations team testified before Congress just last year that they have an aging computer system in need of updates.

    If you’re trying to file taxes and run into a technical issue, there are other options:

    You can pay with a debit or credit card for a four dollar processing fee, file through one of the tax preparer companies, or drive to the post office and hand it to the clerk so it's postmarked today.

    Unable to make the deadline? You can file an extension on the IRS website, giving you until October 15 to file a return.

    Keep in mind, if you pay later, interest and penalties will be added. Special rules apply for anyone in the military or living outside the U.S.

    <![CDATA[Beware of Puppy Mills]]>Wed, 18 Apr 2018 05:13:35 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/DIT_DFW_PUPPIES_RESPONDS_web_1200x675_1213542979595.jpg

    Consumers in North Texas say they paid a woman hundreds of dollars for a shih-tzu puppy. But when it was time to take their dog home, the seller disappeared.]]>
    <![CDATA[Dallas Woman Accused of Running 'Puppy Scheme' in Apartment]]>Wed, 18 Apr 2018 06:49:37 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/craigslist-puppy-scheme-responds.jpg

    Consumers in North Texas said they paid a woman hundreds of dollars for a Shih-Tzu puppy.

    But when it was time to take their dog home, the seller disappeared. NBC 5 Responds heard from two women who said it's not about the money, but the new addition to their family that never made it home.

    On Feb. 2, Keisha McKinsey and her husband said goodbye to their dog, Lady.

    "She was my baby, pretty much because we don't have any kids. So, it was pretty hard. Pretty hard," she said.

    Nothing could ever replace Lady, but she and her husband decided to look for a puppy to help them heal. McKinsey went online and saw an ad on Craigslist.

    "She was black and white, a little Shih-Tzu puppy," she said.

    McKinsey said she called a woman, named "Kay," and set up a time to see the puppy that week.

    She was even welcomed inside the seller's Dallas apartment that she shared with her wife. And when she finally met the puppy, she fell in love.

    The puppy was only 4-weeks-old. McKinsey was told she could pick her up at eight weeks, but she had to sign a contract and pay $200 up front to reserve her.

    McKinsey said she did so with no hesitation.

    The next month, she said Kay told her to come by her apartment to pick up the puppy. But when McKinsey arrived, she said Kay and her wife weren’t there.

    And while she was waiting at the complex for hours, a woman named Monica Miranda showed up. She was looking to pick up the same dog.

    "This can't be happening. I felt like i was in a twilight zone," said McKinsey. 

    Miranda paid the seller $240 to reserve her puppy, but when it was time to pick her up, she said she got no response. 

    They learned they weren't the only ones vying for this dog. They said they’ve heard from five other consumers who were ripped off by the same seller.

    We reached out to the apartment complex, but they wouldn't give us much information. So, a few days later, we called the complex developer.

    He told us the couple was evicted for ripping people off on their property. The property manager said the name on the lease is Edmy Samuels and she's believed to be the partner of the woman going by "Kay."

    The Dallas Police Department confirms that they are looking into Edmy Samuels and the consumers’ claims.

    This brings McKinsey and some comfort, but she can’t help but think about those puppies.

    "Because they could be in danger," said McKinsey. "Anyone that would do that, could do anything."

    We tried calling the alleged puppy seller but we haven’t heard back.

    The consumers have been in touch with police and we'll be sure to update you on this story as it develops.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Taxpayers Get 1-Day Extension Due to IRS Glitch]]>Wed, 18 Apr 2018 00:54:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/Tax_Deadline.jpg

    The IRS is giving all taxpayers an extra day to file after its website went down on deadline day. The agency announced that individuals and businesses with a filing or payment that was due Tuesday now have until midnight Wednesday. It said no additional paperwork is needed to get the extension. The agency's website for making payments and gaining access to other key services crashed amid the filing flood. The website appeared to be back to normal late Tuesday.

    There are other options out there. You can pay with a debit or credit card with a four dollar processing fee.

    You can file through one of the tax preparer companies or do it like your mom and dad did and just drive to the post office and hand it to the clerk so it's postmarked by April 17.

    If you're still preparing your forms there are some things that can help.

    Get out last year's tax return. They're a great guideline to help you see if it makes since to itemize your deductions.

    Proofread. The most common mistakes last minute filers make is putting down an incorrect social security number, often times for their kids.

    Sign your return. When you're racing to beat the clock save yourself some time and slow down and check for everything including if you signed on the dotted line.

    If you just won't make the deadline, you can file for an extension on the IRS website. At last check that was working but keep in mind the payments will still be due April 17.

    If you pay later, there's interest and penalties.

    <![CDATA[6 Things to Do Before Hiring an Auto Mechanic]]>Tue, 17 Apr 2018 09:52:08 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/mechanic+tips.jpg

    Sometimes it starts with an accident. Other times, a strange noise tells the tale.

    We've heard from North Texans like Brenda McNaughten and Patricia Chapman who were stuck in bad situations with their mechanics. They thought their vehicles were in good hands. The women went to two auto different shops and both ended up with buyer's remorse.

    There's a lot we can learn from their stories. Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions for hiring an auto mechanic. 

    • Search for mechanics online.
    • Check the Better Business Bureau for ratings. This will usually give you a good idea if it's a shop you'll want to do business with or avoid.
    • Next, call the auto mechanic before you go in. Ask if they off free estimates. That could save you a lot of money.
    • Before you authorize repairs, make sure you receive an estimate in writing.
    • If the mechanic cannot return your vehicle the same day you drop it off, ask for an estimated completion date and get it in writing.
    • Still need help? Submit a complaint with the NBC 5 Responds team here

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds When Internet Rate Increases For Customer]]>Mon, 16 Apr 2018 17:37:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ATT+Home+Internet+Box.jpg

    There's always a company out there wanting you to switch to their services. Whether cellphones, a power company, or cable and internet company.

    They offer great deals to do it, but you have to pay close attention to the offer.

    In Trophy Club, Roger Saddy's newer neighborhood only has cables underground from one company, AT&T. They are his only option for cable TV and internet services. Still, they offered him a great deal when he moved in and connected service.

    Saddy recalls a quote of $60 a month, for life.

    But Saddy said last month his bill increased suddenly by $10 and he didn't know why.

    "They said this is not what the deal was," said Saddy.

    Despite Saddy's memory of the deal, AT&T said his $60 pricing wasn't for life and it had expired.

    Saddy reached out to our Consumer Investigative Center where we went to work. AT&T agreed to honor the $60 price for another year and give Saddy a credit of $130 dollars on top of that.

    It's enough to cover the price increase for another year when it does kick in. Saddy was pleased with that outcome.

    AT&T told us "We have reached out to the customer to apologize for the confusion and have adjusted his bill."

    It's hard making deals on the phone, as there's often no physical contract that you have a copy of, sometimes they can send you one, ask them to do so on that first call when you sign up.

    If not, ask the agent to make notes in the system of you call, and specially ask them to note the rate and length of time promised, to help generate a record in case of a dispute down the road.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Best Laundry Detergents]]>Mon, 16 Apr 2018 06:02:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Laundry_Detergent.jpg

    Consumer Reports rated laundry detergents to help you avoid a laundry loser.]]>
    <![CDATA[State's Unclaimed Property Division Is Backlogged]]>Fri, 13 Apr 2018 18:43:37 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Cash+Money1.jpg

    NBC 5 Responds looks into complaints that it takes months to get money back from the state's unclaimed property division.

    Military veteran Chris Shelby reached out to NBC 5 Responds after getting a note promising to help him get money he's owed from the state for a fee.

    He saw our story saying he could do it himself and we walked him through the process and found out he had even more, almost $500 was owed to him.

    "As it turned out, I've got some money sitting in the comfortable hands of the state of Texas," he told us. "It's a very good thing if I could just pry it loose."

    He's filled out paperwork but has waited weeks and still no check. He's not the only one.

    Shantay Thompson has $500 sitting in the state's bank account. She says she's sent in a ton of information verifying she's her but has been waiting months for the cash because that state hasn't been able to verify who she was.

    NBC 5 Responds reached out to the state comptroller's office, they apologized for the delay, saying it normally takes two to four weeks to get money into your hands but right now it's taking two to four months.

    They have more than 40,000 still waiting for someone to work on them.

    The state blames its new website, which makes it easier to claim money and more people learning about the program.

    The state says in one year they normally handle 190,000 cases but hit that number in six months now. So the state asks you to be patient.

    Chris Shelby received his check Friday.

    Shantay Thompson needed a new driver's license with her updated address before she could get her money.

    We helped her get that quickly and her check shouldn't be far behind.

    If you file for unclaimed money, know that it will take a while but the state has hired more workers and hopes to get caught back up soon.

    If you want to check to see if you're owed something CLICK HERE to go to ClaimItTexas.org.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Concerns Grow Over 'Questionable 'Hamilton' Tickets']]>Thu, 12 Apr 2018 16:58:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-hamilton-dallas-tickets.jpg

    The countdown is on for one of the hottest musicals to make its way to North Texas: "Hamilton."

    But before you pull out your wallet, individual tickets for the shows are not for sale just yet.

    Dallas Summer Musicals, the official venue for "Hamilton" shows in Dallas, said they could start selling tickets in the fall. But Sarah Turner, of Carrollton, recently spotted Dallas "Hamilton" tickets for sale online and wasn’t sure if they were legitimate or not.

    "I’ll go with my whole family," she said.

    Turner found a "Hamilton" Facebook page that had 34,000 people interested.

    "They posted that the tickets were available," she said. 

    She clicked a link and was redirected to a ticket website, and there they were, tickets ranging from $400 to $2,272.

    "I thought, that can’t be right because the show's not for a year from now," she explained.

    Turner checked Dallas Summer Musicals' website.

    "And it specifically said that tickets were not available yet," she said.

    Turner was even more confused, so she asked NBC 5 Responds to look into this. We asked Ken Novice, the President of Dallas Summer Musicals, if there’s any way you can get your hands on tickets before the fall.

    "Well, you can, if you want to see it in New York on Broadway," he said.

    According to Novice, the actual tickets don’t even exist yet. Season ticket holders haven’t even gotten them. But we’ve learned that some season ticket holders are selling their seats through websites and brokers with the promise to deliver the tickets once they receive them.

    Novice said if you go that route, you’re buying at your own risk.

    "You don’t know if it’s a fraudulent site or a real site," he said. 

    One site offers a 100 percent money back guarantee if a buyer has an issue with their ticket order. But still, Novice said it’s too hard to tell which third-party site is legitimate or bogus.

    "If you do end up buying tickets through a site other than dallassummermusicals.org or ticketmaster.com, we won’t be able to guarantee those seats," he said.

    Meanwhile, Turner said she got her answer and plans to only go through Dallas Summer Musicals to get her tickets for what’s being called one of the greatest musicals to ever hit the stage.

    We brought the "Hamilton" Facebook page to Dallas Summers Musicals' attention. It has since been taken down.

    The ticket site is still up, and the people behind it maintain that it’s a safe way for buyers and sellers to conduct business, where ticket sales are guaranteed.

    Nonetheless, Dallas Summer Musicals still recommends that you buy your tickets through them once they go on sale to guarantee your seat.

    Performances for "Hamilton" in Dallas will begin in spring of 2019.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Baby Boomers Stuck in a Financial Sandwich]]>Tue, 10 Apr 2018 17:46:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Cash+Money1.jpg

    The numbers are pretty convincing. Eighty percent of parents with adult children are paying or have paid expenses for those kids after age 18 according to a poll by Nerd Wallet.

    The poll found more than half were buying groceries, 40 percent were paying for health-care and about the same amount were paying cellphone bills.

    As many as 60 percent of baby boomers are helping their own parents too with groceries and medical bills.

    The end result is those baby boomers are spending money they should be saving for their own golden years.

    It means their kids will likely have to pay for them and the cycle continues.

    “You really can't finance retirement, whereas you could've financed maybe the college loans or something else,” said Lora Hoff.

    Hoff is a financial planner who tries to help people caught between funding their parents and their kids.

    She said the problem is growing and encourages the so called sandwich generation to stop being so generous and instead be honest of their finances and what they can realistically afford to provide for others.

    “All parties really need to sit down and kind of set expectations and parameters so you could say, 'OK, I'm willing do this much, this many hours per week, per month, this many dollars' really try to get other sibling involved," said Hoff. "I mean, don't let it just all fall on one person just because maybe that person lives in the same town as the parents and the other siblings are able to, you know, keep it out of sight, out of mind. You really need to make it a team approach [with] as many people as could possibly be involved, involve them.”

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Couple Hits Turbulence While Trying to Redeem Voucher]]>Tue, 10 Apr 2018 06:50:47 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5P+P+AA+VOUCHERS+022818_2018-04-10-05-16-24.jpg

    One family said they almost lost hundreds of dollars worth of airline vouchers they got from American Airlines.

    A maintenance issue with American Airlines caused the Gagain’s family trip to Hawaii to be delayed six hours later than scheduled.

    “We lost a day in Hawaii and not everybody gets to go to Hawaii,” Kelly Gagain said.

    To make up for the inconvenience, American Airlines issued Russ and Kelly Gagain four electronic vouchers worth $100 each.

    Before the vouchers expired in January, Kelly Gagain decided to use them to join her husband on an upcoming business trip to Florida. Russ Gagain booked the flight online at the end of December entering each voucher individually before checking out.

    Kelly Gagain received e-mail confirmation of the trip, but she didn’t look at the total. It wasn’t until their credit card bill arrived that the Gagains noticed they were charged the full $490 for the tickets and the vouchers hadn’t been applied.

    Kelly Gagain said her husband contacted American Airlines three times to get the issue straightened out and each time he received the same answer.

    "They said that the e-vouchers have expired and that there was nothing that they could do," Kelly Gagain said.

    American Airlines let Gagain cancel the trip, waived the change fee and applied 2,000 airline miles to Kelly Gagain’s account.

    But she didn't want to lose those $400 in vouchers.

    NBC Connecticut Responds explained the situation to American Airlines and asked if there was anything they do could for the Gagains.

    Kelly Gagain said the next day American Airlines called and offered her $400 worth of vouchers.

    “We apologize to the Gagain family for what transpired during their recent booking with American Airlines. We have reached out to the family, provided new vouchers, along with a gesture of goodwill, for future use on American,” an American Airlines spokesperson told NBC Connecticut Responds.

    <![CDATA[How to Avoid Crooks Pretending To Be the IRS]]>Mon, 09 Apr 2018 18:09:26 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/IRS+building.jpg

    Beware, scammers are posing as IRS agents and asking for money, claiming there's a problem with a person's tax return.

    There are many tell tale signs, however, to help you avoid falling victim to someone stealling your money.

    First, know that if the IRS has an issue with your tax return they will always reach out by mail first.

    They do call, but it's only after sending you a letter.

    No matter what the person said or how real their page looks the IRS also won't send you a message via social media.

    Rushing you to pay is also a warning sign. The IRS just doesn't do that.

    Not only do they give you time to pay, but also time to fight back if you disagree with their decision.

    Remember, it's the IRS, not some back alley bill collector.

    Yelling, cursing, threatening to have you arrested or deported isn't the real government agency.

    Paying for wire transfers, gift cards, or prepaid debit cards are also warning signs.

    The IRS won't even ask for credit card information over the phone.

    You can always look up information for yourself at irs.gov.

    Photo Credit: NBC]]>
    <![CDATA[Telemarketers Use New Tactics to Get You to Pick Up]]>Fri, 06 Apr 2018 22:12:13 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N5R_Number_Robo_Call_5p_40618.jpg

    Robocallers are using new tactics to get you to answer their call.

    They call, all the time -- The long pause, then the sales pitch for roofing, car warranties or student loans.

    They do it so much most of us know their tricks. They call from a number with the first three numbers as your own.

    We've learned to ignore those calls, so they've come up with a new way, calling you, as you.

    “People immediately see their number show up on their caller ID and you have this panic moment, this urgent reaction and people are enticed to pick up the phone," said Phylissia Clark of the Better Business Bureau.

    If you're one of those people who still have a home phone, you may wonder if your spouse or kids are calling and you answer.

    The Better Business Bureau says this new tactic is just the beginning.

    “They're getting really specific and sophisticated. The scammers know a little bit more about you,” said Clark.

    They've seen telemarketers taking the time to figure out where you work and calling your from your office number. They will try anything they think will get you to answer the phone.

    We've talked about the Do Not Call Registry, making sure you’re on it. We’ve also told you about apps that block robocalls from your cellphones.

    They all help a little bit but the annoying calls keep getting through.

    The FCC and phone companies have created task forces to try to come up with ways to outsmart these robocallers.

    There is no fix just yet, but they're actively working to find a solution.

    Here's one idea you may not have thought of: When filling out forms online, don't put in your phone number unless required. Sometimes those numbers get into the wrong hands.

    <![CDATA[Dallas Man Warns Public About 'Guitar Bandit']]>Fri, 06 Apr 2018 07:29:00 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+guitar+scheme_KXASGYPE_2018-04-06-05-04-16.jpg

    Twenty years ago, Cody Gleason got his hands on his first guitar, and from that moment on, he was hooked.

    "When I pick it up and play it, it has its own voice," he said.

    But not only does this Dallas man play the guitar, he buys sells and trades them on marketplace sites like Craigslist and Ebay.

    "And then clean it up and put it back on the market," Gleason explained.

    His hobby eventually matured into a side-job.

    "I frequently post ads on Craigslist with my guitars and I'm opened to trades on lots of various items," he said.

    Last November, he advertised his Gibson Les Paul guitar for $3,000, and a man named "Jason" responded, offering gold bullion.

    "Having dealt with gold bullion in the past, I was fairly comfortable with accepting a trade like that," said Gleason. "We came to an agreement on the amount of bullion that was going to be traded for the guitar."

    They agreed to meet at a Guitar Center parking lot in Dallas, but Gleason said the man was only available to meet after 7 p.m. 

    "That was fine. There's a lot of lights in the parking lot. So, I felt comfortable with that," he said.

    Gleason said he brought a magnet to test the gold and everything checked out.

    "I was very comfortable with him in the situation. He sold me. I took it hook line and sinker," he explained.

    The next day, Gleason said he took the bullion in to a gold and silver exchange to trade it in for cash.

    "So, they were gone for about 2 minutes before they came back with a very somber look on their face. Zero for four. Zero bars for four were real gold.  I thought he was joking. I laughed. I seriously laughed until I realized that no one was joking and this was fake counterfeit bullion," said Gleason.

    After receiving the bad news, he said he called Jason, who told him he had no idea what he was talking about and would call him back later.

    But Gleason said never did.

    "He's disappeared. He ghosted me," he said.

    His number was blocked. So, the Dallas man went to the police. 

    His case was eventually picked up by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, and about a month later, the man whose real name is Gabriel Carter, was arrested on a felony theft charge.

    A spokesperson with the DA's office wouldn't comment on the case, but court documents refer to Carter's actions as a scheme "by acquiring and exercising control over the said property…namely by deception."

    Gleason said he's heard from other guitar traders who were ripped off by the same person but are too embarrassed to tell their stories.

    "If I can do something to help other people not be susceptible to this kind of scam, that's what I'm going to do," he said.

    We reached out to Gabriel Carter's attorney for comment but we have not heard back. He's expected to appear in court on April 24.

    When buying, selling or trading items online, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions: 

    -When using sites like Craigslist, talk to the person on the phone.  If they're only willing to text or email you, that's a red flag.

    -Consider meeting at a police station to conduct your transaction. If everything is on the up-and-up, the seller or buyer shouldn't have a problem with that.

    -And last but not least, consider your safety. The consumer in this story met this person at night in a parking lot, which he admits, wasn't the safest scenario.

    <![CDATA[Woman Involved In Car Crash Turns to NBC 5 Responds For Help]]>Thu, 05 Apr 2018 17:41:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/NBC+5+Responds+After+a+Crash.jpg

    Commuting can be chaotic in North Texas as we all try to get where we're going.

    Barlaine Elijah was headed to Children's Hospital in Downtown Dallas, taking her son in to get a cast removed.

    “I come up on a white pickup truck and he's speeding up, slowing down, swerving. We literally locked eyes, and we're looking at each other and he just slams into my truck, and I go he hit me,” said Elijah.

    She said the truck didn't stop. Her son snapped photos, and they drove to the police station and filed a report.

    “You've got the whole door that has to be replaced, the front panel has to be replaced,” she said.

    Her son's photos were enough to make out a number on the side of the truck for a business.

    “He was very apologetic, saying I'm sorry that this happened, we'll take care of it, don't worry about it.”

    Elijah said several days went by without an answer and the one she eventually got, didn't make her happy. They went back and forth for about two months with no solution so she called NBC 5 responds.

    After our call, the company agreed to meet with Elijah at the dealership and pay for all of her repairs. We followed up and the company confirmed it repaired the car as promised.

    Accidents are difficult and there's usually a lot of back and forth that goes on.

    Elijah took some good steps in taking photos and contacting police. In that situation, never leave the scene of an accident.

    Pull over to the shoulder or take the next exit if there is no shoulder and call police. Let them guide your next steps.

    If it's more than $1,000 of damage a report will be filed. if not, you can still get what’s called a blue form to exchange information.

    Don't take on work yourself, let officers and your insurance company handle the back and forth with the other party. It gives you the best protection and least amount of stress.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Hail Damage? Here's a Warning for Storm Victims]]>Wed, 06 Jun 2018 05:08:46 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dfw-hail-damage-060618.jpg

    If you have hail in your neighborhood, you can expect a knock on the door this week.

    The NBC 5 Responds team hears a lot of horror stories that usually start out like this: A big storm came through, damaged my home and a roofer came knocking on my door the next day wanting to help. He told me I had roof damage, I signed a contract and paid thousands of dollars but a few months later I never heard from him again. 

    The sad truth is that some contractors prey on storm victims to rip them off.

    So before you sign up for any work after a storm, here are Samantha Chatman's solutions:

    • If a contractor comes to your door, do not sign any paperwork that same day.
    • Take their business card and spend the next few days researching the company.
    • You can check reviews online, ask for references and see if anyone else in your neighborhood has worked with them.
    • If you decide to move forward with the contractor, never pay a large percentage of the money up front.

    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
    <![CDATA[Consumer Reports Readers Choose Top Airlines]]>Wed, 04 Apr 2018 17:48:10 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/american-and-southwest1.jpg

    Are you planning your dream getaway for the summer? Of course, you want everything to go perfectly, including your flight.

    Consumer Reports surveyed over 53,000 of its members, asking them to rate their most recent economy domestic flight experiences.

    One of the things that really stood out was just how satisfied people actually are with the service that they receive by the airlines. But there were notable exceptions.

    Discount carriers Spirit and Frontier received low marks across the board, including flight status updates, WiFi connectivity and food selection.

    Rising to the top are Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, Virgin America, and Hawaiian led the way with economy flights. Southwest really stood out, especially for their price transparency.

    They were the only one that received such high marks, in terms of, just how well they explain all the fees that get added onto passengers tickets when their booking.

    All eleven of the airlines in the survey though, received low marks for seat comfort, legroom and food selection. For many flyers, prior history and experience with an airline, was not a major factor when picking their flight.

    So, why do consumers choose one airline over another? Some factors are price, convenience, layovers and destination. And when you’re looking for a flight, Consumer Reports advises to pay close attention to those ancillary fees, and not just look at the base fares.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Customers Question Atmos Energy's Estimated Billing Practices ]]>Tue, 03 Apr 2018 16:22:05 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/ATMOS_BILLING.jpg

    The NBC 5 Responds team continues to look into reports of high Atmos Energy bills.

    We've heard from dozens of Atoms Energy customers who said their bills have skyrocketed.

    Atmos points to the cold weather we had earlier this year as the culprit, but many customers are convinced that Atmos' estimated billing system is to blame.

    One viewer told us, "My bill was $500 and something last month. I never pay that kind of bill, and then I already got a bill for this month and it's another $500 and something dollars."

    Another viewer said, "I have lived in my house in North Denton for 26 months now. The highest my bill has ever been previously was $77 (last month). This month my bill is $307, almost exactly quadruple what my bill was last month.

    Ashley Hine of Fort Worth said her energy bill nearly tripled. She believes Atmos' billing practices are creating a lot of confusion.

    "It's like nothing is making sense between these estimated and actual readings," she said.

    On the back of each Atmos Energy bill, customers will either see "estimated" usage or "actual" usage.

    Atmos told us estimations "are based on prior usage history for that account... Estimated readings can be higher or lower than actual usage. However, bills self-correct when the meter is read, ensuring a customer never pays for more energy than actually used."

    But Hine said the estimations leave too much room for error.

    Energy expert Bruce Bullock told us that estimated meter readings have lead to some volatility among consumers. But, he said the practice is not uncommon and believes there's a number of reasons why gas companies like Atmos don't do actual meter reads every month.

    "One is manpower, in a sense that if they put that many meter readers out there, it's ultimately the rate payer that's going to end of paying," Bullock explained.

    Atmos said its meter readers are on a rotation system and there is never a month that all of its customers' bills are estimated.

    Bullock believes the idea of having a meter reader come to every home, every month, is not realistic, but he said there is good news. "Technology is slowly but surely making that a thing of the past," Bullock said.

    He said smart meters have made things easier for both utility companies and consumers.

    "On the electricity side, for instance, most North Texans have smart meters, which can be read remotely," he said.

    Bullock told us that gas companies are further behind on these devices, but they are making progress.

    Atmos told us in North Texas, 127,000 customers have wireless meter reading devices, including residents affected by its planned outage in northwest Dallas.

    These devices allow the meter to be read electronically.

    As the company continues to install more smart meters, Bullock believes the practice of estimated billing will be a thing of the past.

    In the meantime, customers are encouraged to contact Atmos to have a meter reader come out if they have billing concerns (CLICK HERE).

    You can file a complaint with the Texas Railroad commission, which oversees gas companies (CLICK HERE). 

    If you're struggling to pay your energy bill, CLICK HERE for a list of resources.

    <![CDATA[Local Church Eliminates $10 Million in Medical Debt]]>Mon, 02 Apr 2018 07:02:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz5-sam+chatman++pkg_KXASGWY7_2018-04-02-05-49-54.jpg

    A pastor in Carrollton heard about NBC 5's medical debt initiative and wanted to get involved. He said with a problem this massive, he knew he had to do something big to help make a change.

    Joined hand-in-hand, members of Covenant Church in Carrollton arrived on Resurrection Sunday anxious, eager to be uplifted by song and inspired by the word of God.

    But even with all of the pomp and circumstance that occurs on Easter Sunday, the message delivered by lead pastor Stephen Hayes is one that no one in the pews was expecting, a message he said came directly from Jesus as he lie on the cross.

    "Jesus in that moment was saying, 'Guess what? All the debt to sin that has been committed and all that ever could be, it is finished. The debt to sin has been paid,'" the pastor explained.

    For those who remained uncertain about this message of unpaid debts, Pastor Stephen used numbers to help drive it home.

    "If you give $100, then you're paying off $10,000 of debt, right? Well, what if you gave $100,000? If you pay off $100,000, you pay off $10 million of debt that is potentially crushing and/or keeping people from taking their next step in life and fulfilling what they're called to do," he said.

    The announcement that followed would surprise his congregation and make his words that more real.

    "Covenant, we committed $100,000, and this week 4,229 families in our area will get a letter saying your debt is completely paid," the pastor revealed.

    With the help of the non-profit organization RIP Medical Debt, Covenant made a $100,000 donation that will help thousands of families with medical debt.

    "I think that is amazing. Definitely something I support 100 percent," one church member said.

    A portion of the donation will go to veterans in North Texas, news that left one church member in tears.

    "I have grandparents who are veterans, too. So just thinking about the hardship that would cause for someone. It wasn't their choice. They didn't go into debt because they ran up the credit card. It's because something that  happened to them. So I just love that we were able to help people where it wasn't their choice. But we got to choose to help them. I just love that."

    It's a problem that affects people from all walks of life: veterans, seniors and even children.

    But as the communities in North Texas come together to erase debt for their neighbors, those who are struggling will begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel, one dollar at a time.

    With covenant's contribution, NBC 5 viewers have donated enough money to eliminate more than $15.5 million in medical debt.

    If you'd like to donate, click here.

    <![CDATA[Covenant Church Donates $100K to Forgive Medical Debt]]>Mon, 02 Apr 2018 07:02:54 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Covenant+Church.jpg

    Christians around the world celebrated Easter Sunday in church, but for one congregation in Carrollton that service came with a twist, one that will impact families of all faiths and walks of life.

    Stephen Hayes was 17 years old when he was hit by a car while crossing a street. He was in a coma, a blood clot removed from his brain and doctors told his parents he would not walk or talk again.

    Mike and Kathy Hayes, pastors of a Covenant Church in Carrollton, turned to their faith and their congregation, praying around the clock for a miracle.

    After 12 days in intensive care and no hope from doctors, Stephen woke up.

    "I asked her for a drink of water and this nurse fell to her knees," said Stephen Hayes. "This woman had given 12 hours of her day for the last 12 days to care for me on rotation and knew my story -- my family, my church, they'd been doing 24-hour a day prayer at the hospital. And to see me awake and talking and knowing my base, it just blew her mind."

    Six days later, he walked out of that hospital, back to his family and church, with a miraculous new lease on life, that led him closer to God.

    When his father retired, he took over as pastor. "It was just a natural transition," Hayes said.

    As pastor, Hayes was able to connect to the many families, who not only prayed, but gave money to help pay off the medical bills his family racked up.

    "I felt the pressure of that, and just the thought -- what brings me to tears -- is the thought of people who don't have that kind of support but are under the same amount of pressure," said Hayes.

    In his Easter sermon, Hayes told his church about one of the statements Jesus made on the cross before his death, he said the word 'tetelestai.'

    "When you were in debt to someone, when you reached the end of your payment plan and paid off whatever you were in payment toward, they would write like the big red 'paid' stamp they would put on the invoices, they would write the word, 'tetelestai.' Jesus in that moment was saying 'guess what, it is finished, the debt of sin had been paid,'" Hayes said during his sermon.

    Thinking of that scripture, Covenant Church is giving the community its own Easter gift. Covenant is donating $100,000 to the charity RIP Medical Debt. A debt collector turned debt forgiver, RIP Medical Debt buys medical debt for pennies on the dollar and then forgives it.

    "The $100,000, you invested Covenant, paid off a total of $10,551,618! Gone, gone, gone, done!" Hayes told the congregation.

    The gift from Covenant church will eliminate medical debt for nearly 5,000 families in Carrollton, Crossroads, Colleyville, and McKinney, all places where Covenant has churches.

    Hayes said this is money they would have normally spent trying to get new members for their growing, diverse, congregation.

    "Historically a lot of churches have done it, we've done it -- where you spend upwards of six figures to send out a mailer in a creative ways. I don't think [it's] a wise investment, so we decided this year for Easter to send a different kind of mail, it may not be to as many people but it will have a much great impact," said Hayes. "An 'it is finished' kind of letter in the mail just like Jesus did for us. What we celebrate on Easter, these families will get to celebrate that personally in their home. The bill is finished, it's been paid, it's forgiven."

    Covenant heard about RIP Medical Debt as part of our coverage of the medical debt epidemic in North Texas.

    Covenant's donation combined with one made by our parent company NBC Owned Television Stations, and many of you who have sent in checks have led to more than $18 million in medical debt eliminated in North Texas in the last six weeks.

    Envelopes will go out soon letting you know if your debt has been eliminated and if that happened thanks to the donation made by Covenant, NBC Owned TV stations, or our viewers.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[How to Avoid Payment App Schemes]]>Fri, 30 Mar 2018 19:26:37 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Cell+phone+generic.png

    The majority of Americans now use their phones to send and receive money, but payment apps are also becoming popular with scammer which means you have a few more things to think about before you hit send.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[How to Convert Your Home Movies to Digital]]>Fri, 30 Mar 2018 07:18:04 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz5-going+digital_KXASGVYO_2018-03-30-05-17-10.jpg

    Family memories are priceless. Until you go to convert them to digital, then you’ll see how pricey they can actually be.

    “The technology keeps evolving and it's left a lot of people with home videos they can’t even watch,” said Elias Arias of Consumer Reports.

    Experts at Consumer Reports have some guidance on getting your old media out of the attic and onto your computer. Including how to do it yourself.

    If you’ve got VHS tapes, you’ll need a VCR.

    Sites like eBay and Craigslist may have low-priced options.

    You also need to pick up something called an analog video capture device. 

    Look for one that comes with software. It has audio and video inputs on one end that you connect to the VCR and a USB on the other end, which plugs into your computer.

    It allows you to capture what’s on your old tapes and digitally transfer it to your computer.

    “The biggest investment is probably time. It’s an analog process, and an hour of video is going to take an hour to transfer,” Arias said. 

    More work than you bargained for? You can also pay a service.

    Several chains, including Costco, Walgreens and Walmart Photo, can transfer old photographs and videos in many formats and even film.

    Besides the expense, the only other potential drawback is that you’ll be sending irreplaceable memories through a shipping service.

    So, make sure your package is trackable.

    Now, imagine that somewhere down the line, even today’s digital format may also become obsolete. Consumer Reports suggests saving your files in well-labeled, easy to find places places on your computer. And also consider backing them up to an external hard drive and to the cloud.

    <![CDATA[Community Steps Up After Improper FW Church Paving Job]]>Thu, 29 Mar 2018 18:34:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Church+Parking+Lot.png

    All it took was dragging the heel of a shoe across this church parking lot and the brand new paving job crumbled to pieces.

    Jimmie Florence, who handed over $12,000 of church money to the man who did this crumbled too.

    "We thought this man was from God," she said. "He said he was a little country guy who loved the Lord."

    The night we shared the church's story, James Hand was sitting in front of the TV. "It broke our hearts we wanted to try to do something," said Hand.

    Hand is a project managers with Elite Asphalt. A family company, repaving everything across DFW, from concrete slabs, to city roads and now church parking lots.

    "Seeing someone like that who's a good person and got taken advantage of and being able to come together and help her out," said Hand.

    They helped the church out free of charge. They got other companies like Lane, Ergon Asphalt and Hanson to donate the material.

    They did the scraping and sanding and Jimmie Florence, she did the smiling.

    "This is the way you do a parking lot, all this equipment and everything," said Florence. "I'm elated over all this. I walked up and there's a lot of guys working and I wanted to hug everyone of them."

    Florence says it never crossed her mind, someone would come to her aid.

    She just wanted to warn others not to make a deal with anyone without a contract to make sure they didn't make the mistakes she did with the church's money.

    "I messed up but God came through and NBC 5 responded," said Florence. "Oh you responded."

    When the work was all done the church not only got new asphalt but new striping and parking markers.

    "We're glad to be able to do it. It warms everyone's heart that we can do this work for this community for this church," said Hand.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[A Look Into Toys R Us Unused Rewards Points, Gift Card]]>Tue, 03 Apr 2018 06:24:07 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/4_Things_to_Know_About_Toys_R_Us_Liquidation_Sale.jpg

    As Toys R Us stores prepare to close nationwide, many customers are wondering what will happen to their rewards points.

    Beth Clark of North Richland Hills thought she had more time to use her points, but the customer was greatly disappointed when it was time to cash them in.

    When Clark's nephews ask her for something, she has hard telling them no.

    "I never had kids of my own so they were like mine," she said.

    And when it comes to toys, there's one store that stands out among the rest:  Toys R Us. She's been shopping there for about 30 years, and when she heard about its plans to file for bankruptcy, she was hurt.

    "But then it was like, I have rewards points. I need to see about using those," said Clark.

    She's a Toys R Us credit card holder, so Clark called Toys R Us and had her points converted into 115 rewards dollars.

    "I was told they were good until April 15th, even though it says 60 days on the certificate, she reiterated at least 5 times that it was only good until April 15," she explained.

    Last weekend, she and the kids went shopping at a Toys R Us store in Hurst. When they got to checkout, she said her nephew's gift card worked just fine, but her rewards dollars were turned down. 

    "I was told they were no longer accepting those," Clark said.

    She explained she just got the certificate and was informed it was good through April 15th.  But she said the cashier said they were not acceptable. She didn't want to disappoint the kids so she paid for the toys out of pocket.

    But she wasn't going to let it go. Clark said she called Toys R Us again and was told Toys R Us and the liquidation company chose not to accept them anymore.

    "I know they're going out of business," she said. "But you still have an obligation to the people that shop there and enter the programs that you began."

    Clark's concerns are not uncommon. When a store closes for good, rewards points and even gift cards are often impacted. Consumer Attorney Jerry Jarzombek said consumers can file a claim against a company in bankruptcy court. 

    But is it worth it?

    "By the time they file a claim or get an attorney to file a claim for them in bankruptcy, that would far diminish or surpass the value of any claim they have for a gift card," he said.

    We've also heard from consumers who are concerned about the warranty on their toys and electronics.

    "If a person has manufacturer's warranty, the manufacturer's warranty will always be good no matter where they purchased the toy. If it's a warranty specific to Toys R Us, then the warranty is gone," said  Attorney Jarzombek.

    If you're taking advantage of liquidation sales, he said be careful what you buy.

    "All sales are going to be final so you're not going to be able to take it back," the attorney explained.

    Meanwhile, Beth Clark now believes her rewards dollars are long gone. She encourages all parents heading to Toys R Us to bring cash, just in case.

    We reached out to Toys R Us and the company confirmed that rewards dollars are no longer being accepted. An executive told us it's likely that the consumer was misinformed about the date, and that the court process has been confusing.

    As for gift cards and other store closure concerns, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions: 

    -If you have a gift card, use it fast. The company said they'll be honored through April 21st, but as we saw in Clark's case, things can change, so use them as soon as possible.

    -Consider buying gift cards with a credit card.  If they can't be used for some reason, your credit card company should back you up.

    -If a business closes and they haven't delivered you your stuff, send the company a letter.  Their mail is most likely being forwarded.  Also, talk to a neighboring store or to the landlord to get a forwarding address.

    -If the company files for bankruptcy, the money gained from selling their assets goes to their creditors and employees. Anything left over will go to the customers who are on the record as losing money.

    -To get on the record, you can file with the attorney general's office or file a police report.

    Bed Bath & Beyond is allowing customers to exchange their Toys R Us gift cards for e-gift card credit that can be used at bedbathandbeyond.com or in Bed Bath & Beyond stores. Bed Bath & Beyond will offer only a portion of the original Toys R Us gift card amount, and the offer ends Thursday at 11 p.m. CST.

    <![CDATA[Facebook Privacy Changes Are Coming, To Combat Data Concerns]]>Wed, 28 Mar 2018 17:43:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Check_Your_Facebook_Privacy_Settings.jpg

    Facebook's new privacy controls are supposed to give you the steps to make it easier to tighten your privacy settings.

    If you try to accomplish this on your phone currently, it could take 20 different screens to locate and delete everything. Facebook's change will take all that and reduce it to just one screen.

    Got your phone in hand? ready to check it out?

    Well, Put the phone away!

    The changes are being rolled out in the coming weeks, most of the settings are the same right now but some have already been simplified.

    Something you can do right now is download your entire facebook history every post you've made since you signed up.

    You have to then dig through it line by line and selectively delete what you want.

    It's a little time consuming.

    Facebook released a photo of what it will soon look like. There are graphics, in a chart, in one page, to make it easier to go online get your information and choose what you're ok with sharing with the company.

    All these changes are coming after news the data firm Cambridge Analytica obtained the facebook profiles of 50 million users  and a campaign encouraging people to delete facebook has picked up steam.

    Now the company says they're making it easier for you to stay signed up and control the data that is kept on you.

    <![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Helps North TX Woman Get New Fridge]]>Wed, 28 Mar 2018 07:40:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz4-s-responds+tease_KXASGUY8_2018-03-28-06-00-20.jpg

    Lianne Duong had a difficult time finding a house in the Dallas area. So, she visited Wylie and fell in love with what is now her second home.

    But her first year in the house was a challenge, from a pipe leak to damaged floors to dinged furniture.

    When Duong opened her cabinets below the sink, she heard water running behind the wall.

    "I saw water coming from underneath the hardwood to the tile near my laundry room," she said.

    She brought a plumber in to investigate and learned she had a major pipe leak on her hands.

    The leaking water damaged about 90 percent of her home's flooring.

    Duong said she called the home builder, Calatlantic Homes, and Calatlantic contracted a flooring company.

    "They had to move everything from the kitchen, the living room to the office, which is near the front door," she explained.

    But the move didn't go as smoothly as she'd hoped. She noticed her living room table was damaged.

    "There was an area where you could see raw wood," Duong said.

    She called Calatlantic, hoping they'd take care of it.

    The builder eventually sent someone out to fix the table. But she later noticed another problem.

    She said she came home and a worker told her he bumped into her fridge and created a ding, but he asked her not to call his supervisor, and that he'd take care of it himself.

    "I was confused on what to do," she said. "Either let him take care of himself and not get in trouble by the company or tell the company and have them resolve it."

    The fridge cost more than $1,000, so she chose the latter.

    Duong said she reached out to Calatlantic and was told they would order three new panels for her fridge.

    Duong received the bottom fridge panel but the left and right panels of the fridge never arrived.

    "It is frustrating and it's exhausting," Duong said.

    She said she was told the parts got sent to South Carolina on accident, but she'd get a brand new refrigerator to make up for her troubles.

    But after waiting several more weeks for her new fridge, she got fed up and called NBC 5 Responds.

    We reached out to Lennar Corporation, which recently acquired Calatlantic.

    We didn't get a response, but this Wylie homeowner did.

    "He called me and this was resolved within, I would say, less than a week," she said.

    The North Texas woman now has a new fridge that's completely ding free.

    She said finally able to enjoy her Wylie home in peace.

    When home repairs don't go as planned, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions

    -Always take pictures

    -Jot down a timeline

    -Keep a paper trail

    <![CDATA[New "Green" Lawnmower Has Owners Seeing Red]]>Tue, 27 Mar 2018 17:36:16 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/WORX+Lawnmower+Lawsuit.jpg

    A busted battery is undercutting one man's ability to cut his lawn, and he's not alone.

    Keith Patterson bought what he thought was an environmentally friendly mower that would help him cut his grass and reduce his carbon footprint, but instead he and others are cycling through battery after battery - and their grass remains long.

    The mower maker - Worx - is now named in a class-action lawsuit filed by a lawyer representing other disgruntled customers.

    Worx says its machine, "has a long battery life, plus plenty of power to tackle the toughest lawns," but Patterson said the mower runs for only minutes at a time.

    "The lawnmower, in a nutshell, doesn't work," he said. "It's a piece of garbage."

    Patterson said the company sent him replacement batteries, but those have been a bust, too. Those batteries are going into the landfill, meaning that environmentally friendly mower isn't so environmentally friendly, after all; "I don't think that's eco-friendly," Patterson said.

    Attorney Brian Kabateck, who filed the lawsuit, points to online reviews from other customers. "The battery dies really fast," reads one review. "Battery did not even last five minutes," reads another. "I'm throwing my mower in the trash...waste of money," wrote another exasperated customer.

    Kabateck said Worx needs to either refund customers for the $250 lawnmower or come up with a battery that actually works.

    NBC Responds contacted the company about Patterson's complaint and the lawsuit. Worx did not respond to Patterson's issue, but said in a statement that it "does not comment on pending litigation."

    So for now, Patterson is stuck with a worthless mower and uncut grass.

    For consumers, this should be a good reminder to read the reviews when they buy a pricey product. If the same gripe appears over and over again there might be something to it.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Check Your Mail, Good News Could Be Inside!]]>Tue, 27 Mar 2018 08:32:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz5-medical+debt_KXASGULT_2018-03-27-05-11-04.jpg

    The NBC 5 Responds team wants you to be on the lookout for letters with yellow envelopes that will save you money. It's part of our medical debt initiative.

    Thousands of people in North Texas will soon find out their medical bills have been paid, no questions asked.

    If your name is on the list, you'll receive a yellow envelope with RIP Medical Debt at the top left corner.

    Inside of this envelope is a letter informing you that your medical debt has been paid.

    There are no forms to fill out; no extra steps you need to take. It's simply a bill that has been erased.

    We often say if it seems too good to be true it probably is, but this is the exception!

    Thanks to the donation from NBC-owned stations, we were able to buy $2 million worth of medical debt for people in North Texas.

    We partnered with the non-profit RIP Medical Debt, who will be sending out those letters.

    As for who will get those letters, NBC 5 doesn't get the list of the people who were helped.

    So, make sure you're on the lookout to see if you're one of the thousands of people who had their debt eliminated.

    But just because we don't know who you are, doesn't mean we don't want to know who you are.

    So if you get one of these letters in the mail, please call us at 844-573-7763.

    We want to know your story and how this letter has helped you and your family.

    And this effort is far from over!

    We still have people in our area donating to the cause, helping their neighbors get out of medical debt.

    So far, our viewers have purchased more than $5 million worth of medical debt.

    If you'd like to join the movement and donate, click here.

    Remember, donating $1 will help eliminate $100 in medical debt for people right here in North Texas.

    <![CDATA[North Texans Frustrated About High Energy Bills]]>Mon, 26 Mar 2018 12:59:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/216*120/atmosbill.JPG

    The NBC 5 Responds team has received more than a dozen complaints from consumers who say their Atmos Energy bills have skyrocketed, including Nancy Coleman, who has lived in her South Dallas home for 44 years.

    But in all the years she's been there, she said she doesn't recall any of her energy bills getting close to where they are now. 

    Her January bill was $41, but her February bill soared to $539.

    "I couldn't believe it," she said.

    Coleman said she called Atmos and was given a case number.

    She said a representative told her they'd investigate the situation and call her back, but that didn't happen.

    She began looking around her house to assess the problem on her own.

    Coleman told us she barely cooks, rarely cranks up the heat and doesn't take hot showers.

    "There's got to be problem," she said.

    After placing more calls, Coleman said Atmos sent out a technician to check her house and her meter.

    She said they didn't detect a leak or any other problem and based on the meter reading, she was told her bill was accurate, so she'd have to pay.

    "There's no way that this could be just from usage. There's something wrong," said Coleman. 

    North Texans Frustrated

    Coleman's concerns are far from isolated. Ashley Hine's bill went from $84 in January to $222 in February. The Fort Worth woman said the bill caught her completely off guard. 

    "We were gone out of town for a week in January. So, how is it gonna go up you know $140 [or] $150 dollars?" she asked.

    Atmos Energy Responds

    Atmos points to the record setting temperatures across the Dallas/Fort Worth area earlier this year.

    Atmos says, "January's average was 46 degrees with several days in that month where the temperature lows were well below freezing.  February's average was 50 degrees with a few days at or below freezing..."

    "In winter 2017 February's average was 61 with zero days close to freezing. January 2017 average temperature was 52 with only two days at or below freezing. So consumption last year vs. this year would be vastly different as the colder the temperature is outside the harder the heating appliance must work to maintain the warmer temperature inside the home."

    Atmos also says that more than likely, customers who saw a larger bill in February were estimated too low in January, and that usage then caught up in February.

    "That can't triple my bill. It just can't happen," said Hine.

    She said she isn't buying Atmos' answer, and neither are some of her neighbors.

    Many posted on a community Facebook page questioning Atmos' billing estimates.

    "You're not going to try to screw me," said Hine.

    Atmos' Billing System 

    We reached out to Atmos Energy again to learn more about it's billing system.

    Atmos says "in Texas, per the rules of service, estimated bills may be submitted provided that an actual meter reading is taken at least every six months. Atmos Energy's practice is not to estimate more than two consecutive months. This is not a seasonal practice, but one we utilize year round."

    Atmos tells us that estimated readings can be higher or lower than actual usage. However, bills self-correct when the meter is read, ensuring a customer never pays for more energy than actually used. If the bill is estimated higher than actual usage, Atmos says it will apply the difference to the next bill as a credit. However, Atmos says it will issue a refund if requested by a customer.

    But Coleman is convinced there's something wrong.

    Her March bill is $309, more than twice the amount she paid this time last year.

    She plans on calling Atmos again to ensure their estimate is correct.

    The NBC 5 Responds team has heard from two local organizations that assist with energy billing. They tell us they've seen an uptick in calls regarding high energy bills. Those groups believe weather could be to blame.

    Atmos Energy tells us that by law, they never mark up the cost of natural gas.

    "Our customers pay what we pay. We secure the most competitive prices for natural gas when we purchase gas supplies for storage to be used during cold spells."

    If you've received a high energy bill, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

    -If a customer has a question about the accuracy of their bill, you can contact Atmos Energy at 888-286-6700 and request that the meter be read to confirm your actual consumption. For even faster results, you may take a picture of the meter and submit it to Atmos' website through its Account Center

    -Atmos Energy customers can contact Atmos Energy at 888-286-6700 to make payment arrangements, such as an installment plan.

    -Eligible customers in financial need may receive assistance through Atmos' Share the Warmth program. To see if you qualify for assistance, call 211.

    -The Dallas County Health & Human Services' Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) program assists low-income residents who are experiencing financial hardship. Residents may contact their office at 214 819-1848 or visit the DCHHS website here to learn if they are eligible for relief.

    Paying a high proportion of household income towards energy assistance can cause a number of financial burdens. The purpose of our program is to assist low-income residents who are experiencing financial hardship. Residents may contact our office at 214 819-1848 or visit the DCHHS website at www.dallascounty.org/department/hhs/ceap.php   to learn if they are eligible for relief.   

    <![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Power Air Fryer XL]]>Fri, 23 Mar 2018 17:50:11 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/power-air-fryer.jpg

    Many of us love fried food, but know it comes with a high number of calories from all that oil.

    Air fryers have become very popular. They promise to eliminate the oil, but still give you the crispy crunchy fried food you crave.

    We took the Power Air Fryer XL to Maple & Motor in Dallas, a simple counter serve burger joint where they worry about the taste of the food more than the calories inside.

    Owner Jack Perkins heard of the device, but wasn’t sold on it and doubted that it could produce crunchy food.

    Directions were pretty simple. You put the food in the fry basket, press the power button once, and choose the icon for the food you're cooking.

    The machine does the rest.

    We used an included divider and cooked Maple & Motor's french fries and tater tots at once.

    It took 18 minutes, longer than traditional frying, but when the timer went off the deep fried and air fried versions looked and tasted almost the same.

    “You know they are not bad,” said Perkins. “For saving the oil. I don’t know what the caloric difference is, but it got to be significant and got to be better for your heart. I mean, I think it’s worth it. I got to tell you, it’s delicious.”

    We decided to up the ante, seasoning chicken thighs. We again used the preset button. We had to flip them over once halfway but when they were done you could hear the ooh’s and ahh’s.

    Side by side with chicken cooked in a deep fat fryer, it was hard to tell one from the other.

    We agreed the air fryer chicken even tasted better than the deep fried one and it's healthier since the air fryer subtracts oil and the deep fryer adds it.

    We paid $99.99 for the Power Air Fryer at Target.

    It comes in different sizes, the smaller one is great but we could only make two chicken thighs in it at a time. You may want to throw in an extra $30 for the larger version.

    It does take a little bit longer to cook but the results were pretty impressive.

    <![CDATA[Computer Warranty Expires During Dispute Over Repair]]>Thu, 22 Mar 2018 17:42:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-685007437.jpg

    Lillie Testa is a court reporter, she spends a lot of time working on documents on the go. 

    She wanted a notebook computer to help stay organized.

    She bought a Lenovo Ideapad in November of 2016. 

    About 8 months later she says her computer started shutting itself off with no warning.

    She called tech support and did troubleshooting over the phone. Then she says, Lenovo asked her to ship the computer to them for repair.

    She got it back after a few week, but the computer kept shutting down on it's own.

    She shipped it off again, there were more repairs but the problem remained.

    When Lillie asked for help again she was told her warranty was up and they could no longer help her.

    NBC 5 Responds reached out to Lenovo. They wouldn't say why Lillie had so much trouble but they did send her a brand new replacement computer and thanked us for bringing the matter to their attention.

    This isn't the first time NBC 5 Responds has heard from someone who said their warranty ran out while trying to resolve an issue.

    In most cases, if you report a problem but the warranty expires, you're in the clear.  Look at a written copy of the warranty to be sure.

    You have a right to see the warranty before you buy a product.

    Don't expect a service tech to know about your rights. You may need to go up the corporate ladder to get satisfaction.

    Also remember many credit card companies have protection built in which can help when the manufacturer won't.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cultura RF, File]]>
    <![CDATA[Allen Woman Warns of 'Shady Extended Warranty Company']]>Thu, 22 Mar 2018 15:21:54 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-warranty.jpg

    If you drive to work in North Texas you know how rough the roads can be on your car. That's why Stephanie Mata purchased an extended warranty for her 2008 Mercedes Benz.

    Her manufacturer's warranty had already expired. So, her mechanic recommended that she purchased an extended warranty.

    "That way if anything happens it was covered. And so that's what I did," said Mata.

    She Googled "extended warranty for cars" and came across American Standard Auto Protection, also known as "ASAP."

    She liked what she saw and decided to give them a call.

    "One of the representatives, he was very, very informative, very friendly and very assured me that it was a very reputable company," she said.

    Mata said she confirmed the warranty package she wanted and paid $1,700 over the phone.

    "So, for the first year, nothing happened," she explained.

    But earlier this year, she noticed a leak underneath her car.

    "I decided better take it in because I don't know what's going on and it's an expensive car," she said.

    When Mata took the car in, she said her mechanic called ASAP to verify her extended warranty coverage. But when he called, no one answered.

    "He called twice day for two weeks, for two weeks he called twice a day. Then he finally called me and said 'look I'm not getting a response, you need to try it yourself,'" she explained. "So then I tried."

    Mata said when she called the company, she was told her message would be forwarded.

    "I was calling 10 times a day for almost a week," she said. 

    Mata started looking online and saw dozens of negative reviews from consumers in need of repairs, but ASAP was nowhere to be found.

    Mata sent ASAP emails begging and pleading, hoping someone would call her back.

    "To this day, American Standard Auto Protection has not called me," said Mata.

    Her car is now sitting in the garage, and her $1,700 extended warranty now appears to be useless.

    "Why don't you answer my phone," she asked. "I did my part. I gave you cash. I trusted in you. Where are you?"

    To find that answer, we started in Delaware, where the company is licensed.

    We've learned ASAP also goes by "Ultra Auto Protection" and "Motor Vehicle Service Contract Administrators, Inc."

    According to the Delaware Department of State, "This entity is currently delinquent in its tax obligation and required annual report submission for 2017. Records indicate that the business also was voided for a short period in 2016 for delinquent taxes/reports."

    We tried called ASAP to get its side of the story, but got this message instead:  "The company is no longer able to take on new clients. ASAP cannot manage or maintain the obligations to their current customers."

    "I'm mad," said Mata. "Us consumers got ripped off by them."

    According to that recording, ASAP customers will receive a letter in the mail with steps on how to file a claim with the company.

    Unfortunately for Mata, she paid with a debit card, but she said she filed a claim with her bank and hopes to get at least some of her money back.

    When dealing with a business you're not familiar with, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions

    • Check reviews online.

    • Only pay with a credit card.

    • If you're considering purchasing an extended warranty, click here for tips.

    <![CDATA[Woman Falls Victim to Travel Points Scheme]]>Fri, 16 Mar 2018 07:08:47 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-travel-points-disney.jpg

    A North Texas grandmother just wanted to take her grand kids to Disney World. She thought she was buying travel points at a huge discount, but she said the person selling the points took her money and ran.

    Kids can be a handful, but Lynn Hermann wouldn't have it any other way.

    "I'm the vacation planner. We love vacations," she said. "This year we have nine babies, eight adults. We're going to need a lot of space. I didn't have enough points in my own account to use for that trip."

    Hermann is a Disney Vacation Club member. She visits different online Disney forums to transfer points with other members.

    "I have bought points from them before. And you do a transaction and there is some trust involved," she explained.

    Here's how it works:

    Hermann said club members sell and transfer vacation points. She said it's much cheaper than buying directly from Disney and has saved her a lot of money on resorts in the past. So earlier this year, she put out a request for points.

    "Less than 24 hours, I had someone contact me," Hermann said.

    A man named Gary sent her an email. He even sent her a screen shot verifying that he had points. They spent the week negotiating and eventually agreed on a price: 347 vacation points for $4,500.

    "I was trying to explain to him how I wanted to do a three-way call with Disney. I would put the money in his account, he would transfer me the points," she said. "He said his phone connection was not very good."

    He emailed her saying he wanted to transfer through PayPal. If she paid half up front, he'd send her all of the points.

    So, Hermann sent $2437 to his PayPal account. But the points hadn't been transferred.

    When the responses eventually stopped, Hermann realized she may have a problem, so she called her bank.

    "The gentleman said once you do those money deposits, those direct sent to PayPal, we can't stop it. I said I don't care what you have to do, stop it," she said.

    She struck out with the bank and called PayPal.

    "He put me on hold and I think he was talking to some manager. He came back and said we're going to put a note on your account. We're going to do the best we can you know to stop this," she said.

    But two days later, they got an email from PayPal denying their claim because the transaction "was not unauthorized."

    "I was kind of sick to my stomach and didn't know what to do," Hermann said.

    She spent the next month trying to track the man down. After looking online, she found other consumers discussing "Gary" on forums, travelers who had also been ripped off.

    She said she filed a police report and sent PayPal more evidence of what she considered fraud. When PayPal disagreed, she contacted NBC 5 Responds.

    PayPal told NBC 5 it recommends that customers understand who they are buying from and, as an additional safeguard, use the "goods and services" option instead of the instant transfer option, which is intended for friends and family.

    Consumers should select the "Goods" payment when paying for something that they didn't buy on EBay. They should use the "Services" payment option when the purchase is not a product but a service.

    PayPal said "While there was not sufficient information to confirm any fraudulent activities had occurred, our teams have worked with the customer to positively resolve the issue."

    That same day, Hermann got a refund of $2,437.50.

    It's a lesson learned for the busy grandmother.

    "I wasn't going to tell anybody because I'm embarrassed of what I did. But if it helps somebody then it will be worth it." she said.

    Regardless of the nature of your transaction, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

    • Never send money to an individual that you've never met.
    • Also a little research goes a long way. Do your homework! Don't get caught up on a good deal. It can wind up costing you thousands in the long run.
    • Trust your gut. If it doesn't feel right, take a pass!

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Man Left With Hole in Ceiling After Satellite Installation]]>Wed, 14 Mar 2018 06:51:28 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ceilingsatellite.jpg

    A satellite TV technician tripped and fell through a Fort Worth man's ceiling. He called NBC 5 Responds after he said he was being ignored by the company as the hole remained for nearly eight months.

    It started with Brian Johnston's deep love for professional basketball.

    Problem is, he broke things off with his satellite provider.

    "It was during the NBC Finals when we were trying to figure out how am I going to get these games," he said.

    The streaming method just didn't cut it for Johnston and he wanted his satellite back.

    "We finally just gave up on any pull the plug strategy and went back to DirecTV," he explained.

    Back in July, Johnston set up an appointment for an installation. He said a technician was there that same week and started in the attic.

    "That's when I heard the sound," he said. "This boom! It was just insulation and sheetrock all over the place."

    He said the technician tripped and his foot came through the ceiling.

    "He was very apologetic and embarrassed. This hasn't happened before. We're going to get it fixed," Johnston said.

    The technician's supervisor came by that same night to look at the damage.

    Johnston said they patched up the hole with cardboard and assured him it'd be fixed by Monday.

    But Monday came and went and no one showed up.

    By August, Johnston said he reached out to AT&T, the owner of DirecTV, on several occasions.

    He said a representative told him the case had been escalated, but months continued to go by.

    "It was defeating because I kept reaching out and every time they would calm me down by telling me it was being escalated," he said. "It really it wasn't until winter and it's cold and I became more angry about it."

    Johnston said he struck out with AT&T and DirecTV, so he called Mastec Advanced Technologies, the installation company.

    He said he was told they were going to fix it, but nearly eight months later, he called NBC 5 Responds.

    We then reached out to Mastec Advanced Technologies, the home service provider for DirecTV and AT&T.

    Mastec told us: "We are investigating this incident and taking quick action. We are contacting the customer to apologize, and we prepared to fix his ceiling as early as tomorrow if possible. The delay was a breakdown in process between our company and our third-party partner for claim resolution. But, we view this as our responsibility."

    That same week, he had workers at his home repairing his ceiling.

    "It took one phone call," he said.

    Johnston is now reunited with his satellite service and no longer distracted while watching his beloved basketball, just in time for the playoffs.

    AT&T released this statement: "Obviously this is an unfortunate, unacceptable situation. The ceiling by now has been fixed, and our contractor is taking steps to prevent a similar situation like this from happening in the future."

    When you're having work done in your home, sometimes accidents can happen. But if a problem does arise, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

    -Document as much as you can.

    -Take pictures of the problem spot.

    -Keep a paper trail.

    -If a company says they're going to fix the problem, jot down the person's name and the date they expect it to be fixed.

    <![CDATA[NBC 5 Investigates Online Company Advertising Free Dog Beds]]>Tue, 13 Mar 2018 07:03:50 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/6a+ts1-v-flip+the+trend_KXASGOPY_2018-03-13-05-05-53.jpg

    Freebies can be really hard to pass up, but one North Texas woman tells us an online retailer is using a giveaway to loop shoppers in and take their money. For many, it all started with a free dog bed.

    "Flip the Trend" offers a variety of products: clothing, gadgets and even furniture.

    But its most popular item could be a free dog bed. You just pay the shipping.

    Valerie Session of Fort Worth woman thought it was a sweet deal. She was only charged $4.99.

    But that bed never came and the Better Business Bureau said she's far from alone.

    "In fact, we've gotten dozens of complaints in about 24 states, including Texas. So that company is definitely on our radar," said Rick Bousquet, Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau Heart of Texas.

    Session says she contacted them numerous times but got no response.

    "I tried chat and they are always closed," she said.

    Other consumers across the country sounding off as well. One consumer said, "'Flip the Trend,' what a scam you are. Taking tons and tons of innocent people's money without providing a product."

    "Unfortunately, they have not been responding to any of those complaints as well," said Bousquet.

    The Bureau said when it tried to contact the company at its listed address in Chicago, the post office sent the letter back of "undeliverable."

    There's another major concern.

    "This company did try to align themselves with a non-profit organization," Bousquet explained. 

    The Forgotten Dog, a non-profit that rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes dogs-put out this warning:  "We have never been involved with Flip the Trend, nor did we ever agree to sponsor any free giveaways through them."

    After demanding a refund for weeks, Session finally got her money back.

    Flip the Trend's website has since been taken down.

    We tried calling the business but the number was disconnected.

    Online shopping has become more popular than ever, but unfortunately, every website cannot be trusted.

    So before you click purchase, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

    -Check company reviews on the BBB's website, Yelp and also Google reviews.

    -Pay with a credit card if you're shopping with an unfamiliar business, you'll have more protection.

    -Keep a paper trail.  That way, if you need to dispute a transaction with your credit card company, you'll have proof that can back up your claim.

    <![CDATA[TX Couple Suspects Odometer Tampering, Calls NBC 5 Responds]]>Mon, 12 Mar 2018 06:49:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+odometer_KXASGO6X_2018-03-12-05-09-04.jpg

    Watching your kid get behind the wheel of a car can be nerve-racking for most parents. But putting them in a safe car could give you a little peace of mind. A Texas couple was looking for a Jeep for their college student. But their hasty decision ended up costing them big time.

    Caleb Hough needed some new wheels to get back to college.

    He had an internship waiting on him, so his parents needed to find a vehicle fast.

    They went online and started looking at used cars and trucks.

    "One in particular was 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee," said Samford Hough.

    They thought the Jeep had decent mileage for its age, just over 143,000 miles.

    Their son went to local shop in Fort Worth to check it out, and he liked it so they bought the car for about $3,800.

    "He calls me the very next day," his dad said. "It died on the way home several times, oil pressure light dropped to zero at one point in time and a couple of little check engine warnings."

    They brought the Jeep back to the shop that weekend.

    They say mechanics worked on the car and eventually told them it was good to go, but mom wasn't taking any chances.

    She wanted to test drive it herself.

    "A few miles south of Dallas and the engine light comes on, so I pull over," she said. "It's overheated and it locks up on me, the transmission completely locks up."

    They took the car in to an auto shop and were told they had a bad transmission; it needed to be completely rebuilt.

    "At this point, I was panicked there was more problems than I didn't know about," Rebecca Hough said.

    That's when they decided to do some research on the vehicle, starting with the Car Fax and they were stunned.

    "It was the mileage that was the first thing that popped out to me was the mileage," said Rebecca.

    According to the ad and their contract, the Jeep had a little over 143,000 miles, but according to the Carfax, the last odometer reading in 2014 was 190,000 miles.

    The couple said they brought this information to the owner and were told all sales were final.

    As for the odometer, they say the owner reminded them that car was more than 10 years old, so the odometer was exempt.

    According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, vehicles over 10 years of age are exempt, meaning the seller is not required to list the odometer reading on documentation.

    However, the seller isn't allowed to make up any number.

    The DMV says "a person advertising motor vehicles shall not use false, deceptive, unfair, or misleading advertising…" and falsifying odometer information would constitute a misrepresentation to the consumer purchasing the vehicle.

    Another problem: the couple says they didn't get the title at the time of purchase and had to wait weeks before it arrived in the mail.

    "I felt even more betrayed and foolish, honestly, for not doing my homework," said Rebecca. "But I was in a hurry to get my son a car for that internship so he could get that offer and we just rushed a decision."

    The couple said the shop only offered them $200 to settle the dispute.

    They declined and vow to never let something like this happen again.

    That couple ended up giving their son their car to ensure his safety and they bought a new transmission for the used Jeep, which cost them another $1,800.

    They're chalking this up as a loss and want others to learn from their mistakes.

    Before you buy a used vehicle, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

    -Google the name of the shop.

    -Get a free vehicle inspection report from the Texas Department of Public Safety's website.

    -You can also get a vehicle history report with Carfax, Autocheck and Vinaudit.com. The DMV says keep in mind, the information is only as good as what is reported to the system.

    -If someone is trying to sell you a car, don't leave without the title.

    <![CDATA[Travel Agent Scam Costs Mother Hundreds of Dollars]]>Fri, 09 Mar 2018 18:33:33 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Travel+Scheme.jpg

    Phony travel agencies are a fast growing scheme designed to get you to pay them money for canceled tickets.

    Doniqua Arnold couldn't be more proud of her 15-year old son, Savion.

    "He's been athletic all his life. He's started playing sports when he was three," said Doniqua.

    Savion is focused on basketball now. He's tailoring his talent, honing his skills and having dreams of playing college hoops.

    The dream is closer to a reality thanks to one of Savion's coaches.

    "He always takes a group of kids out to Vegas to play in different tournaments, to showcase them front of college coaches to showcase their talent, to help them get college scholarships," said Doniqua.

    Doniqua's been saving up for the trip, but airfare has been pricey. Then a friend told her about a man offering airfare deals on the app Snapchat.

    "You find the flights you want, the dates, times, airline you want to fly and he books it with that airline company," she said.

    She picked her flights, texted the info to him and got back a confirmation page from American Airlines complete with a confirmation number.

    She called American and an agent told her the reservation was legitimate but needed payment. The pseudo travel agent told her to wire the money.

    "He gave me a lady's name. Yolanda Jackson in Chicago, Illinois, and we'll release the ticket and you can go and pick them up," said Arnold. 

    Despite her friend's experience, the man with the great deals started ignoring Doniqua and American Airlines told her the reservation made for her was cancelled.

    A study from the American Hotels and Lodging Association found that 55 million bookings a year are made with phony travel agents or agencies and it's one of the hottest growing cases of fraud out there.

    Customers are finding a deal that sounds so good they can't pass it up and the wind up losing a small fortune.

    It's good advice to meet a travel agent in person. If you're not dealing with anyone local, search reviews online and ask if they're associated with any bigger companies or travel agent associations.

    Some agents work from home, but make sure you know how to find them. The Better Business Bureau is a great resource as well.

    Doniqua said she's still perplexed how her friend was able to fly using this man, but her lesson is learned.

    Now she's just focused on finding a way to help her son compete for scholarships so he has a shot at a few lessons on a college campus.

    We asked American Airlines if they could trace the credit card to the confirmation code and they could not. They told us the best way to know you're buying a legitimate product is to buy directly from the source.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Consumer Fights for PayPal Refund After Scam]]>Fri, 09 Mar 2018 08:04:59 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/paypal-problem.jpg

    It all started with an Anki Cozmo Robot. A viewer named Molly wanted to buy the hot techie toy for a Christmas donation.

    “I went online. It was the cheapest price. I clicked it in Google. I went to this website I had never gone to before. I went ahead put it in the cart and immediately I got an order confirmation,” explained Molly.

    She paid $139.99 for the robot at a site called, babydiapersmart.com. She used her credit card through PayPal. When Molly didn’t get a shipping confirmation for the robot, she reached out to the company.

    “I emailed the email address and asked for a shipping date or when could I expect it and that came back undeliverable,” said Molly. “ So then that was my red flag. I called my credit card and told them I think this is a scam. Right away they credited my account and said you won’t have to make this payment.”

    About a month later, Molly received a letter from her credit card company, refuting her chargeback. It said that PayPal had argued that the transaction was valid. She notified the credit card company and PayPal that she never received the product and again asked for a refund.

    Molly also did a little detective work.

    “I called the phone number on the website and it went to a lady’s personal address in New Jersey. She was sick of receiving all these phone calls,” said Molly. “I called Cape May, New Jersey Consumer Affairs. They sent police to the address. It’s not the business.”

    Molly filed a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs. She found similar complaints about babydiapersmart.com on the Better Business Bureau website, where the company gets an “F” rating.

    And she contacted NBC 10 Boston Responds for help.

    “It’s frustrating that other people are out there getting scammed,” said Molly.

    We contacted PayPal and asked them to take a look at the situation and they responded immediately.

    PayPal responded, “Customer service and the positive resolution of buyer and seller issues are an important focus for PayPal. Purchase protection covers all eligible purchases where PayPal is used, as well as payments made through our website. PayPal will terminate relations with any merchant or customer if fraudulent activity is detected.”

    Although the PayPal option still appears on babydiapersmart.com, PayPal tells us the website can no longer conduct transactions.

    Molly was credited $139.99

    “When I got that phone call to me from the PayPal executive assistant — that’s magic,” said Molly. “I had no waiting on the phone. She called me to say, 'sorry there was a misunderstanding, We aren’t going to be arguing that charge. It’s going back on your card.' It made it really easy so I was really appreciative, really appreciative.”

    PayPal recommends that customers take the time to research merchants that they are buying from. They say products that are hard to find or expensive, such as electronics require extra caution. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of sellers offering very low prices or large quantities of hard to find items.

    <![CDATA[Hackers Don't Just Have Their Eye On Your Bank Account]]>Thu, 08 Mar 2018 18:33:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-685007437.jpg

    If you talk about hacking something like Netflix most people think about those folks who try to get the service for free.

    That's still happening but now they're getting it on your dime.

    NBC 5 Responds received calls and messages on social media from people who said they went to log on to their streaming TV service only to get a notice that other people were already logged in and watching it.

    This first popped up a couple years ago when the internet security site McAfee reported hackers had stolen and were selling Netflix logins.

    It often happens because someone had guessed the password and was logged into your account.

    They're using the service you're paying for.

    We hear so much about hackers going after bank accounts and credit cards, but cyber security experts tells us accounts for things like Netflix or even your pizza reward points are targets for more junior level hackers, trying their hand at the crimes from home.

    "It's getting more difficult to hack bank accounts that hold sensitive information but they know if they can get to the easy stuff," said Keith Barthold from cyber security firm DKB Innovative.

    "They can apply the information they collected about you personally, and those easier passwords and use that for your bank or car payment."

    Netflix told us, "We take the security of our members' accounts seriously and Netflix employs numerous proactive measures to detect fraudulent activity to keep the Netflix service and our members' accounts secure."

    If you notice someone logged in you should change your password immediately.

    Another tip is to look at your suggestions and your recently watched tabs.

    If someone's watched 3 seasons of Seinfeld and it wasn't you, you might have a problem.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cultura RF, File]]>
    <![CDATA[Hotels Offer Incentives to Ditch the Housekeeping]]>Thu, 08 Mar 2018 05:13:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/N5R_No_Housekeeping_5p_30718.jpg

    Did you make your bed this morning? Did you change the sheets?

    If sleeping in an unmade bed on the same sheets doesn't bother you, then hotels are asking for permission to skip housekeeping in your room.

    Many chains have given you the option of skipping fresh towels before, but now they're rewarding you if you take them up on it.

    Some hotels are offering free food and drink vouchers if you go without housekeeping for an extended stay.

    Other chains will give you additional reward points which you can cash in for things like upgrades or a free night stay.

    It's incentive to save the hotel on laundry costs and protects the environment.

    Starwood hotels currently offers the program as does Caesar Entertainment Resorts.

    <![CDATA[Consumers Upset About High Toll Fees From Rental Companies]]>Wed, 07 Mar 2018 07:52:05 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz5-rental+car+toll+_KXASGMB9_2018-03-07-06-09-59.jpg

    A Plano woman received a high toll bill from a rental company and she wants to warn the public about additional fees that others could rake up.

    Kimberly Scarlett spends a lot of time behind the wheel commuting all over the state of Texas.

    Last year, she made several trips from Plano to Houston.

    "A few months after Hurricane Harvey, I knew the rental car companies would be a little more pricey so I went with a rental car company I wasn't familiar with," she said.

    Scarlett said she passed through four tolls throughout her trip.

    But earlier this year, she got a bill from the rental company that she said made no sense at all.

    Her toll charges came out to $66.50.

    "I was shocked because I knew how much I travel, what my tolls are usually accrued at for each city that I travel to and it wasn't anywhere near where it should be," she explained. 

    Each toll amount was under $2, but along with each charge came an administration fee of $15 charged by the rental company.

    "They did not explain in detail what these are or why they charge them," said Scarlett.

    When she called the rental car company, she said a representative redirected her to the rental agreement.

    Problem is, she already threw it away.

    "They said that I had signed the contract declining a flat rate of $8.50 that would have been the charge if I had accepted it," she said.

    Scarlett is like dozens of consumers in North Texas filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

    "A simple roll road can cost you a significant amount of money," said BBB President Claire Rosenzweig.

    Planning is essential when it comes to road trips.

    So before you head out, utilize online maps and toll trackers.

    Then, go to that toll road authority's website for options to pay for crossings.

    And when renting a car, Rosenzweig said consumers need to be sure that they ask about what their policies are regarding cashless toll roads and ask to point it out to you on the contract because it's usually hard to find.

    Also, do your homework, because fees vary.

    Avis and Budget charge $3.95 a day for each day of your rental after crossing your first electronic toll, up to a maximum of $19.75.  But you do have the option of using your own personal toll device.

    Hertz also says you can use your personal transponder. If you don't, and you drive through an electronic toll, they'll charge $4.95 a day with no maximum.

    Thrifty says if you opt out of their toll program and drive through an electronic toll, you'll be charged the toll and a $15 administration fee each time.

    They also say that "personal transponders may not transfer to the rental vehicle and you will be charged a toll violation."

    Scarlett said she filed a complaint with the BBB and the rental company quickly responded.

    She said they ended up adjusting her bill, removing the admin fees. Her new bill is $6.50.

    <![CDATA[Hospital Charities Help If You Can't Afford Medical Bills]]>Tue, 06 Mar 2018 18:33:53 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/medical-debt-responds.jpg

    Approximately one out of every four people in Dallas County doesn't have health insurance.

    Still, hospitals must provide care to those people who can't afford the debt they incur. Hospitals work with individuals and come up with a plan to tackle medical debt, says Stephen Love, who runs the Dallas Hospital Council, an association of area hospitals.

    "I know it is complicated, and it's difficult for consumers," Love said. "That's why we have financial counselors and patient navigators at our hospitals."

    Love said all hospitals have financial teams with whom patients can meet and come up with a plan to address the bills someone faces.

    If an individual can't pay the hospital bill, they need to show it. Don't sugar-coat it. Be honest about your finances and what you can and can't afford.

    "If you look at bad debt and charity care, hospitals write off millions of dollars every year," Love said.

    Millions of dollars may sound like a lot, but but it's less money than hospitals have spent on charity care in years past.

    In 2015 and 2016, the total uncompensated care fell to a 25-year low, according to the American Hospital Association.

    Out of all the hospitals in America dishing out money to help people who can't pay, North Texas' Baylor Scott & White is in the top three.

    It helps more people without insurance than most hospital systems in America.

    "That costs money, but it's the right thing to do. The business model is we want to do what's right," Love said. "We want to treat everyone fairly. We certainly want to be a good community servant to the people. There's no question about it, but we still got to make a margin."

    There are other resources for people besides working directly with the hospital.

    Transformance offers free debt management help for people who are struggling to pay bills. They are available at 1-800-249-2227.

    GreenPath Financial offers credit counseling and debt counseling. In Plano, call 972-423-0600, and in McKinney, call 972-542-0257.

    Incharge Debt Solutions is a charity that helps with medical debt. For assistance, call 1-800-565-8953.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[5 Ways To Avoid Airline Baggage Fees]]>Tue, 06 Mar 2018 12:22:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-avoid-baggage-fees.jpg

    Whether you're traveling domestically or abroad, baggage fees have become much harder to avoid.

    As more airlines fight to win customers over with lower fares, the cost of checking a bag isn't as generous.

    But NBC 5 Responds is all about saving money, so here's your guide to avoid baggage fees on your upcoming spring break trip.

    Freeload on the freebies

    Child car seats and strollers can be checked at no additional cost to travelers. Before you zip them up in their travel bags, pack some items inside like diapers, beach towels or lightweight clothing. That'll help free up a lot of space in your luggage, and could help you save some extra cash.

    Pack your heaviest items in your carry on bag

    The luggage you bring on board typically isn't weighed at the gate. This will allow you lighten the load inside your checked bag and stay within the 50 pound limit.

    Wear your luggage

    We know, you're probably going to a warm, tropical island! But the plane ride can get a little nippy, so don't be afraid to layer up. If you have a jacket with multiple pockets, pack those full and wear it. If you get too warm in the jacket, you can always stow it once you get settled on the plane.

    Consider flying first class on certain flights

    We know what you're thinking: first class means more money. But if you expect to bring a lot of bags, flying first class — which could include waived fees for checked bags — might be the same price as flying coach and paying for all that luggage. So, if the price comes out to be the same, you may as well fly in style.

    Sign up for an airline's credit card

    If you're faithful to one airline, consider signing up for that airline's credit card. Many carriers will waive the baggage fees for airline cardholders and companions.

    Choose your airline wisely

    According to farecompare.com, Dallas-based Southwest is the only airline that checks not one, but two bags at no cost.

    If you're traveling for spring break and want to know how much your luggage is going to cost you, click here.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Filing Your Taxes Early Can Help Prevent ID Theft]]>Mon, 05 Mar 2018 19:54:22 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N5R_ID_Theft_Tax_Filing_5p_30518.jpg

    Many people procrastinate when it comes to filing taxes, but waiting until the last minute can come with consequences. Filing early can help protect you against criminals who try to collect your refund.]]>
    <![CDATA[Plumbers Check for Potential Gas Leaks]]>Fri, 02 Mar 2018 20:18:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Plumber_Checks_030218.jpg

    Licensed plumbers often run install, and inspect gas lines. Plumbers tell us they've heard from more people concerned about leaking gas lines and asking them to come out and quickly check in and around their homes.]]>
    <![CDATA[Consider Buying a Natural Gas Detector]]>Fri, 02 Mar 2018 07:51:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/6a+tz1+v-gas+detectors_KXASGKDL_2018-03-02-05-57-48.jpg

    The recent gas shutdown for a Northwest Dallas neighborhood has many families asking themselves, "What can I do to make my home safer?"

    Experts say a natural gas detector could give homeowners a little peace of mind.

    We found a number of natural gas detectors and alarms online of all shapes and sizes. Retailers like Home Depot, Walmart and Amazon also sell these devices.

    Drew Barbosa owns Barbosa Plumbing and Air Conditioning, which is just minutes away from that Northwest Dallas neighborhood.

    His company works on gas lines all the time. He said there are a lot of expensive gas detectors on the market with a lot of bells and whistles, but the basic wall plug-in detectors work just fine.

    "You can do it yourself. They just plug in to the 110 outlet," he said. "We recommend it in the central part of the house. A lot of times, in the central part of the house, you have your AC returns and the air is circulating. It's a good place. If there is a leak, its usually going to come back through that return and its going to be picked up."

    Barbosa also recommends that you read your manual and test your gas detector every year. He also said to make sure your detector specifically says "natural gas."

    We can't say if this would have made a difference in last week's home explosion, but we're told they can help in some cases, and having one in your home as a precaution certainly won't hurt.

    <![CDATA[Equifax Says Additional 2.4 Million Impacted By Data Breach]]>Thu, 01 Mar 2018 18:10:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Equifax_Data_Breach_030118.jpg

    Equifax said Thursday that an additional 2.4 million Americans were impacted by last year's data breach.]]>
    <![CDATA[TX Couple Considers 2nd Bankruptcy to Survive Medical Debt]]>Thu, 01 Mar 2018 08:02:56 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/medical-debt-bankruptcy.jpg

    NBC 5 has seen how crushing medical debt can be for North Texans. Some of the lengths people are willing to go to avoid this financial epidemic are jaw-dropping.

    For Arthur Wright, the football field used to be his second home. The Forney resident has been coaching youth football for more than 25 years.

    "I have to see a psychiatrist to process everything that we've been through. It never stops," said Wright. "I was walking up and down the football field and I found that I couldn't make it from one end of the field to the other end."

    Wright thought has breathing complications may have been due to the Texas heat, or perhaps, his diet.

    He said he gave up drinking and eating red meat, but the problem continued.

    In 2008, things got worse. He was admitted to the ER due to a heart attack, which was caused by congestive heart failure. Wright spent months going back and forth to the hospital for treatments, fighting for his life each day. But as his health continued to spiral out of control, so did the bills.

    "You get billed from the hospital. You get billed from the surgeon," he explained. All those bills come in at the same time."

    Bill after bill after bill, Wright said his medical debt has gotten so bad he stopped trying to keep up.

    "We are somewhere in between half a million and one million dollars in debt right now," Wright said.

    And his health problems would take yet another nose dive. After a failed medical procedure, doctors informed Wight that he'd need a heart transplant to live. But Wright's health problems are only part of the story.

    "They would let him go home and he would literally have to drive me to the hospital with a Crohn's flair due to the stress of him getting sick," said CaTrina Wright.

    His wife is dealing with her own medical battle with Crohn's disease and debt that keeps on growing.

    "Each hospital stay was thousands of dollars, which I couldn't pay," she said.  "I was on a lot of medicine. The medicine ran about $1100. I have to see a psychiatrist to process everything that we've been through. It never stops."

    The couple lost their house and their cars, and in 2011, they made a decision that still haunts them to this day: bankruptcy.

    "Honestly, to be honest with you, the possibility of filing bankruptcy again is probably going to be on the table," Arthur said. 

    Medical debt is the single largest cause of bankruptcy in America.

    But credit counselors told NBC 5 it should be seen as a last resort

    It can stay on your credit record for up to 10 years and could make it more difficult to obtain credit in the future.

    "if you have a $100 medical debt on your credit report, it can drop 30-100 points. That puts you out of a mortgage, puts you up on the chart for insurance," said Chris Antico, a former debt collector. 

    Antico has seen credit scores tank time and time again. Wright told us his credit score has dropped to 369. 

    "That's even depressing to look at," he said.

    Between his credit score and constant medical debt, Wright's optimism has run its course.

    "Because tomorrow, I don't know if I'm going to be here. I have no idea. I have no faith that I'm going to get a transplant. I have no faith that I'm going to live tomorrow," he said.

    If that day comes, he said he's willing to do whatever he can so his wife and son aren't left with his medical debt burdens.

    "We don't really have a plan," he said. I'm a man. I should be working. I should be able to take care of my family. I feel like I'm less of a man.

    NBC 5 is committed to helping North Texans who need a lifeline. If you or someone you know is struggling to pay off medical debt, click here.

    If you'd like to help your fellow North Texans, click here.

    Remember, a $1 donation can erase $100 in medical debt for someone in North Texas.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[NBC 5 Viewers Donate, Relieving $1.6 Million in Medical Debt]]>Wed, 28 Feb 2018 07:54:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-medical-debt-response.jpg

    Over the past five days, an incredible movement has grown across North Texas: The fight to end medical debt. Our consumer team started the initiative, but our viewers have helped pick up the load in a major way.

    We've heard from viewers who've had to sell their homes or forgo medical treatment altogether to avoid more debt.

    We also shared Katie Thomson's battle with cancer.

    "I didn't want to slow anything down. I just wanted life to go on so it could be almost ready whenever i got out of the hospital," she said.

    Katie sees her new North Texas home as motivation. 

    "It's a safe place for us to spend time together and enjoy ourselves," she explained.

    It's place where she can start fresh and focus less on her battle with cancer.

    "We knew when the doctor walked in, and following her was the chaplain, and following her was another doctor, and they didn't even have to say anything.  We knew what they were going to say," her mother, Jessica Thompson, said.

    On April 7, 2015, their emotional and financial battles had just begun.

    "The bills just started, just collecting," said Jessica.

    That meant Katie's place of refuge would be put on the back-burner, and the family of four would have to stay with relatives to get by.

    It's a story we've heard far too often, prompting NBC 5 to take on the medical debt crisis.

    NBC Universal Owned Television Stations, the owner of NBC 5, partnered with the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt in an effort to give back and allow other North Texans to pay it forward, too.

    "I am personally doing this because I want to make a difference," said Alice Puente.

    Puente is a cancer survivor, and after seeing Katie's story, she and her foundation, The Alice and Buddy Puente Foundation, were moved to donate $5,000, which covers $500,000 in medical debt for North Texans through RIP Medical.

    "Other philanthropists are going to see this and they're going to step up," she said. 

    Wipe Out Kids Cancer, a local non-profit organization, is also on board, donating $2,500, which comes out to $250,000 in medical debt to help families survive this medical debt crisis.

    "If we do partner together, our money goes further," said Chandini Portteus, President and CEO for Wipe Out Kids Cancer. "We are here to collaborate."

    Their donations are forgiving debt for North Texas strangers in need, but Linda Hastings' donation is a bit more personal.

    "I saw your story on the news and it touched my heart," she said. 

    Hastings watched Katie's parents struggle to finish their house and couldn't let it go.

    "I come from a long line of people who like to give and we just wanted to help you guys out," she explained.

    Hastings made a $1,000 donation for materials and brought construction workers by to check out the house. With the help of area businesses, the Thomson's house should be finished by the end of the week. They hope to move in by mid-March.

    This is medical debt relief provided by North Texans, for North Texans.

    "That's just really a blessing," Katie said. "There's nothing I can do to repay them but I'll try. I praise God every day."

    As of Wednesday, NBC 5 viewers have donated enough to purchase more than $1.6 million dollars in medical debt. That money will go to thousands of people right here in our area.

    Recipients will get envelopes in the mail letting them know that their debt has been forgiven.

    We don't know who you are and this process is completely random, but all of the debt will be relieved right here in North Texas.

    If you'd like to donate to help but an end to the medical debt crisis, click here.

    ONLINE: Donate here to help end medical debt crisis

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[No Law That Removes Medical Debt From Credit After 4 Years]]>Wed, 28 Feb 2018 05:05:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/debt+collection.jpg

    NBC 5 Responds logged several hundred calls in the past week, many telling stories of the debt they face and no idea how to dig out.

    We turned to the Director of SMU's Civil Clinic, Mary Spector.

    Spector and her students at SMU have been helping North Texans deal with consumer issues like Medical debt for more than 20 years.

    "It's very very difficult for a consumer to sort through the medical debt," said Spector.

    Most of the questions you asked, she's heard repeatedly.

    Elexis from Addison asked if it was true that a new law forced medical debt off of a credit report after four years.

    It doesn't. Medical debt in most cases will stay there up to seven years before you can ask that it be deleted.

    That 7-year clock can be reset if you make any type of deal with the debt collector to pay the bill over time. Know this before you make any agreement.

    "The collector tries to reage it, but the time should start when you occurred the original debt," said Spector.

    So why's everyone talking about this new four year law?

    The law states that after four years debt collectors can't take you to court they can't file a lawsuit after four years. 

    If you are sued or asked to appear in court within four years, take it seriously.

    "Ignoring it, not showing up in court, on the day you're supposed to means the collector is going to win without anything and they can take a default judgment and it's more valuable than the unpaid debt," 

    That's because they can now go to your bank and garnish the money in your checking or savings accounts.

    Many of you called us to say how do you get the debt collectors to stop calling you over and over again.

    "There are state and federal law to protect consumers who are being harassed by creditors. Phone calls can’t come before 8 in the morning and 9 at night," said Spector.

    She says you should log the calls and turn them in to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    Another way to get them to stop calling is to just ask.

    "You can say don’t contact me, and if they continue to contact you after that that can be a violation," said Spector.

    Professor Spector recommends asking them to stop in writing and copying the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    You may have heard that agency could be dismantled by lawmakers but Spector says they’re still up and running right now and should help make sure the rules are followed.

    There are lots of resources and legal advice like SMU’s clinic which can help you make some of these tough decisions.  Spector says one of the best self help sites out there is texaslawhelp.org.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Freestanding ER Bills Still Confusing To Some, Despite Law]]>Mon, 26 Feb 2018 23:37:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/freestanding+er%27s.jpg

    Freestanding ER’s are a relatively new business across North Texas.

    They are private businesses which provide convenient service. But some patients tell us, the convenience has brought confusion.

    They are receiving large bills after treatment, as insurance companies and the Freestanding ER operators haggle over what treatment is covered.

    Lou Marchant first called us back in 2016.

    A new Emergency Room and Urgent Care center opened in her Keller neighborhood.

    She tried them out when she had a pain in her side and a few weeks later received a bill for more than 14-hundred dollars after insurance.

    The bill was $4,325 and I still owed $1,420," she said. "I called Channel 5 News because I saw how successful you were with getting these kinds of things resolved.

    NBC 5 Responds got the issue resolved for her back then.

    The company said the bill was just an estimate and told us Lou was right it was confusing so they took care of it and left her with a zero balance.

    Complaints like hers were not unique. Stories like Lou’s were hitting the desks of Texas lawmakers, stories of people getting hit with huge bills from freestanding emergency rooms.

    The house passed a bill requiring freestanding ER facilities to tell you upfront whether they're in network and how they bill upfront.

    Our partners at the Dallas Morning News examined dozens of documents from different freestanding ER's.

    They found that there we inconsistencies between the different ER’s. In some cases it wasn’t clear whether the ER’s were in insurance networks or not.

    State Representative Tom Oliverson of Cypress introduced the bill. 

    It dictated the businesses had to point out their services would be billed much like a hospital.

    It also required them to disclose if they charge a facility fee, and whether the visit was in-network or not.

    He looked at the same documents our partners at the Dallas Morning News did. He saw some improvement since the bill became law but not enough.

    We called Lou back in for her take on if the law made things better.

    "When I read this, they're really not telling you what things are going to cost," said Marchant.

    The Texas Health and Human Services Commission licenses the stand-alone ER's. They have inspected 15 freestanding facilities since the new law took effect, and none were cited for not meeting the requirements of the new law.

    They told us "we generally try to work with facilities to get them into compliance," "We welcome consumer complaints and if any facility is not compliant with the law, we would want to know about it."

    Lou says while lawmakers were trying to help, it's clear more work needs to be done to help consumers avoid unexpected medical debt.

    "It used to be your big bills were your house and your car, not it's your big bills are your medical bills," said Marchant.

    The Texas Association of Freestanding Emergency Rooms told us the law protects patients and said "If processed properly by the health insurance company the patient responsibility shouldn't be different whether that facility is in network or out."

    Representative Oliverson is planning to push for stricter enforcement of the law to make sure it’s being followed and patient’s rights are being protected.

    You can read more about what's next for freestanding ER's from our media partners at The Dallas Morning News by clicking here.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Here's How Medical Debt Grows, Gets Out Of Hand]]>Fri, 23 Feb 2018 20:07:03 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/rip+medical+debt+envelope.JPG

    One in five Americans struggle to pay off their debt. Over time, that same debt is multiplied, making it impossible to get out of that financial hole.

    Medical debt is the single largest cause of bankruptcy in America. As the cost of health care keeps rising, tackling it becomes an even bigger challenge.

    But NBC 5 Responds is on a mission to help families get out of medical debt.

    The Problem

    Chances are, you or someone you know is facing medical debt, buried in bills and doesn't know how to get out.

    The problem is so widespread, it contributes to more than 60 percent of bankruptcies in America.

    "You're one illness away, or accident away, from financial ruin in this country," said Craig Antico.

    He knows all about medical debt, after all, he used to be a debt collector.

    How Medical Debt Gets So Bad

    Typically, medical institutions take your debt and sell it to a debt buyer at a deep discount.

    That means you now owe the debt buyer, which is oftentimes a collection agency.

    If the debt buyer can't collect, they bundle your debt with other debts into a debt portfolio.

    That portfolio with your debt is then sold to another debt buyer.

    The cycle continues and interest piles up until the debt is paid.

    Taking on the Crisis

    Chris Antico founded RIP Medical Debt, which is a non-profit organization that pays and forgives medical debt for people across the country.

    "Once you do something and you know how to do it, you do it well, you oftentimes stay in it," Antico said.

    He's turning knowledge into power.

    But even his group can't reach everyone.

    "It's very, very difficult for a consumer to sort through the medical debt," said Southern Methodist University professor Mary Spector.

    She said consumers are living in fear.

    "They're worried to pick up the phone. They're worried to answer the door. They're worried to pick up the mail. They don't know what they're rights and responsibilities are and so they're fearful," she explained.

    Don't Ignore Your Debt

    "Ignoring it, not showing up in court, means the collector is going to win without anything and they can take a default judgment and it's more valuable than the debt that can go to your bank and start garnishment proceedings," Spector said.

    Medical debt can be unpredictable, but it will impact your life if ignored.

    "If you have a $100 medical debt on your credit report, it can drop 30 to 100 points. That puts you out of a mortgage, puts you up on the chart for insurance," Antico explained.

    But with the help of rip medical debt-and other organization, this financial epidemic is being challenged-head on.


    NBC 5 Responds is opening up a phone bank to answer anyone's questions and concerns about medical debt. The phone bank will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday.

    If you have a bill you can't pay for:

    Transformance is offering a free debt management help session. Call 1-800-249-2227.

    GreenPath Financial Wellness offers credit counseling and debt counseling immediately. Call their Plano office at 972-423-0600 or their McKinney office at 972-542-0257.

    For financial education:

    Transformance financial education provided in depth financial education webinars to impact people’s financial wellness. This includes issues on credit, family life and events, and other issues. Call 1-800-249-227.

    GreenPath Financial Wellness offers credit counseling and debt counseling immediately. Call their Plano office at 972-423-0600 or their McKinney office at 972-542-0257.

    Ways You Can Help

    If you'd like to donate to help relieve someone in North Texas of medical debt, click here.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Fear of Medical Debt Kept Cancer Patient From Chance at Life]]>Thu, 22 Feb 2018 20:31:52 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/betty+roberson.JPG

    Medical debt fears keep treatment out of reach, but one debt collector is working to try to help make things easier for those who are sick. 

    We met Betty Roberson in March 2017, when she was two years into a fight with cervical cancer.

    "I did 30 rounds of radiation and then I did a bunch of rounds of chemo," Betty told us back then.

    Doctors said her body couldn't handle more chemo or radiation, but her tumor was still there.

    There was only one other option, proton therapy.

    It's where doctors aim the radiation exactly at the tumor, and it doesn't go elsewhere in your body.

    Insurance wouldn't cover the procedure, Betty would have to pay out of pocket.

    There was a $27,000 down payment and $27,000 more after the treatment.

    Craig Antico, who worked for years in the debt collection industry, has seen it happen to many families.

    If they say yes to treatment, then they're in debt.

    "You're one illness away, or accident away, from financial ruin in this country", said Antico.

    When hospitals are unable to get a family to pay their bill, they put those accounts in one big file.

    Antico, and debt collectors like him, would pay just pennies on the dollars for those bills that people aren’t paying.

    "I can buy debt for $10, $1,000 of debt for 10 bucks. I can buy a million dollars of debt for $10,000," he said.

    At that point, normally collectors will try to get you to pay the full or some slightly discounted amount and they keep the difference.

    Antico decided it was time for a change.

    He took his knowledge of debt collection and came up with something the industry hadn't really seen before.

    He would still buy debt at pennies on the dollar except instead of trying to collect on it he would forgive it, wipe it away.

    Antico works now to raise money allowing him to buy more debt.

    It's a lifeline to people who have racked up bills.

    The problem's bigger though.

    Betty and her husband Danny never racked up the debt because they knew they couldn't pay it off.

    In sickness and in health, Danny didn't know he would watch Betty suffer when he proudly made that vow.

    "I married her on top of a mountain in Colorado 16 years ago, as close to God as I could get her,"

    Tonight Betty is even closer to God. Betty lost her fight with with cancer about two weeks ago.

    She didn't get the extra time with her grandkids that she wanted so badly when we spoke to her last year.

    No one knows if that other treatment would have worked, but it was a shot, and it just cost too much to toss the ball.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[NBC 5 Pays Off $2 Million in Medical Debt for North Texans]]>Fri, 23 Feb 2018 05:03:01 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-medical-debt1.jpg

    Whether you're insured or uninsured, medical debt shows no mercy. It's a financial epidemic that has claimed more than 64 million Americans, and that number keeps going up. NBC 5 has found a solution; one that is going to help thousands of people in North Texas.

    We often tell kids they can be anything they want to be: an athlete, a doctor or maybe a veterinarian. But for 13-year-old Katie Thomson, she plans to be a cancer survivor.

    Katie's first battle with leukemia happened in January of 2015. Her precious youth placed on hold.

    “[It was] intensive chemo, very intensive chemo treatments. It was really awful, 2015, it was a really awful year,” said Katie's mom, Jessica Thomson.

    Their financial battle was just beginning. Katie’s parents say they will do anything to keep their daughter alive, but the price of life is costing them nearly $10,000 out of pocket.

    So how do you handle the debt?

    It's a question nearly 64 million Americans are asking.

    When you or a loved one is sick the bills are usually the last thing on your mind.

    But when creditors start calling and sending notices about missed payments.

    That's when the harsh sting of reality strikes.

    “You're so hyper-focused on getting your child well, and then the reality [hits] that the world doesn't stop, these bills are still coming,” says Jessica.

    The following months would show more mercy to Katie and her family.

    “That second month of chemo, thank God, it did get her into remission. Life was starting to get back to normal,” Jessica explained.

    The couple decided to sell their home and use that money to give their family a fresh start.

    Her husband used his construction background and YouTube videos to build hope for his family, but months after starting the project started, Katie relapsed.

    “We knew when the doctor walked in, and following her was the chaplain, and following her was another doctor, and they didn't even have to say anything, we knew what they were going to say,” Jessica said.

    Even with insurance and charitable donations the Thomson family is now facing thousands of dollars in growing medical debt.

    Their debt nearly doubled with the second round of treatment and they couldn’t keep up with payments.

    “Our debt grows by about $500 a week during her treatments,” said Katie’s Dad, Roy Thomson.

    The Thomson family, now living with relatives, was unable to finish the home they started building because of medical debt incurred when their daughter Katie was diagnosed with cancer.

    "We weren't financially recovered from the first battle when the second battle hit," she said.

    Katie's parents would not allow the bills destroy the family. And Katie refused to let her health slow things down.

    "One of the first things Katie said when she was diagnosed was, 'Dad you can't stop building.' So, he kept building," Thomson said.

    The Thomsons have made it their mission to finish what they started, but the bills – they're still coming.

    "I don't prioritize it like I do getting on with our lives," Thomson explained.

    "For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future," Katie said, while reading scripture from the Bible, written on her family's partly constructed home. "It's basically saying that God's plans might not seem like they're going to help you or going to lead you the right way, but they are cause he works in kind of weird ways."

    An estimated 17 percent of adults in America are struggling to pay debt, just like the Thomsons. It's a critical situation and can sometimes mean life or death.

    So NBC 5 is doing something about it. NBC 5 has partnered with the nonprofit organization RIP Medical Debt. The organization takes debt that has gone to collections, buys it with the help of donors and then forgives the debt.

    NBCUniversal, NBC 5's parent company, is making a donation — enough to forgive $2 million in medical debt in North Texas. More than 2,000 people in North Texas will receive letters, and if you get one your debt is erased.

    We couldn't choose what debt to pay, or who to pay for, and the debt could range anywhere from $100 to $100,000 – but all the debt will be relieved in North Texas.

    The Thomson family said they're just taking things one day at a time.

    They may be facing medical debt-but their daughter Katie's cancer is in remission, and to them, that's all that matters.

    NBC 5 Responds will bring you continuing coverage of the Medical Debt Epidemic in the coming days to help you better understand how medical debt works and come up with a plan to tackle it in your family.

    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
    <![CDATA[Family Forced to Sell Home to Pay for Medical Care]]>Thu, 22 Feb 2018 18:15:14 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/medical-debt-responds.jpg

    Medical debt is the single biggest cause of bankruptcy in America. As the cost of healthcare keeps rising, tackling it is almost impossible for families and taxing for experts.

    Some families, like the Wilzbach's of McKinney, are having to take drastic measures to combat medical debt.

    Whether it's volleyball, church activities, or carpooling, Marlena Wilzbach is there enjoying life with her daughters.

    One afternoon after school, with the family van filled with carpooling kids, the driver of a truck ran a red light and sped straight for the passenger side of her van.

    "I twisted (the wheel) as hard as i could and saved my daughter’s life," said Marlena Wilzbach.

    They were hit head-on and Marlena took the brunt of the impact. She now has a severe spinal injury and each step is a struggle.

    Doctors said she needs an invasive back surgery to have any hope of normal mobility, but there's a price tag. 

    "I assumed it would be a lot like a car, which is a lot," said Marlena Wilzbach. 

    It was more like 10 cars. The family would need $300,000 to repair her back.

    Mark Wilzbach, Marlena's husband, is self-employed so there’s no medical insurance for him; the man who smashed up the family's minivan is unemployed with no assets and no insurance.

    "We're screwed. We're financially behind the 8-ball and the only financial asset we have is our home," said Mark Wilzbach.

    The place they raised their daughters is the only thing they own worth enough money that will allow them to put a down payment on the surgery that will allow Marlena to be herself again.

    So, they’re putting their home on the market, selling the place filled with so many family memories in order for mom to have mobility and not be in pain for their future memories.

    Right now, they’re remodeling, trying to improve the home to get the most money out of it once the "For Sale" sign goes up. But they’re having a dispute with the contractor and this last-ditch effort to raise money to tackle medical debt has led them to yet another dead end.

    It caused Marlena Wilzbach to break down in tears.

    This family's story is not the only one like this.

    Mary Spector runs the Civil Clinic at Southern Methodist University. For more than 20 years she and her students have helped families just like the Wilzbach’s who are forced into financial ruin.

    Spector said many times it’s not even an accident or major illness that causes the debt.

    "Insurance companies, medical providers, hospitals, doctors, labs, from one visit to the emergency room you can have four different creditors trying to collect their portion of the debt," said Spector.

    She said many patients can’t keep track of all the different bills that come in. They don’t recognize them and while trying to figure it out it’s easy for one of those bills to get ignored.

    "The most important thing to do is not ignore it," said Spector.

    Here’s why.

    Medical debt is assigned interest and can grow every day it goes unpaid.

    Eventually medical providers will give up on getting paid and they sell outstanding debt to debt collectors who buy it for a fraction of what is actually owed.

    A debt collector can buy $1,000 in outstanding debt for just $10.

    Not only can they still charge you the full amount, but they can add more interest and even take you to court.

    Spector said the Texans dealing with that debt are terrified.

     "They're worried to pick up the phone, they're worried to answer the door, they're worried to pick up the mail, they don't know what they're rights and responsibilities are and so they're fearful," said Spector.

    Marlena Wilzbach shares some of those fears, but is trusting in her faith to help her family find a solution. For now, she struggles with each step.

    A simple trip to the mailbox means back pain and even more medical bills for the doctors she’s seeing while they save for surgery.

    "I was not willing to just watch my kids play Frisbee or kickball or four square or any of the things we like to do," said Wilzbach.

    The family will move, find a new, cheaper place to live and still owe some $200,000.

    The Medical Debt Epidemic

    The Wilzbach's are not alone, not in the least. Medical debt is one of the biggest complaints in the NBC Consumer Investigative Center every day.

    NBC 5 is stepping in to help and is spending $20,000 to purchase $2 million in outstanding medical debt.

    We bought the debt for pennies on the dollar, just like the debt collectors do. While we couldn't ask for the debt of specific families, like the Wilzbach's, we were able to buy it in bulk for 2,000 families who live in North Texas.

    Later this week, those 2,000 North Texas families will receive letters notifying them that we are now their debt collector and that we've forgiven every single penny of what they owe.

    As for the Wilzbach's contractor issue, NBC 5 Responds is trying to resolve that issue for them as well.

    NBC 5 Responds will bring you continuing coverage of the Medical Debt Epidemic in the coming days to help you better understand how medical debt works and come up with a plan to tackle it in your family.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
    <![CDATA[Texas DMV Investigating Arlington-Based Moving Company]]>Wed, 21 Feb 2018 15:52:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-moving-company.jpg

    The pain of losing her mother is unbearable for Theresa Riley.

    "That was my best friend and she was amazing," she said.

    Unable to cope with her loss, she decided to hire movers and leave Florida for good.

    Riley said she came across Presidential Moving Services online and was given a quote of $3,500. She said the price included break down, packing, loading and delivery. Riley said she provided a full list of items that she needed moved and paid $895 over the phone to secure the date.

    "He said all you have to do is point and tell them where you want it," Riley explained.

    But she said the movers arrived a day earlier than the scheduled pickup date. Riley said they came in a rush and began shoving her stuff in boxes.

    She said it wasn't until everything was loaded on the truck that she was given a contract to sign, and her balance went from $3,500 to more than $4,200.

    "I was like, what in the world!"

    According to movers, Riley had more items in her home than they had on their list. So her price was going up.

    "I was like, how is not on the list? How was a dryer on the list and not the washer," she asked.

    Riley said she gave the company an accurate list and someone clearly dropped the ball.

    But her items were already on the truck and she felt she had no other options. So, she reluctantly paid the deposit of $1,300, with the balance to be paid when the truck arrives at her new home.

    That same day, Riley said she called customer service and was told "shouldn't have hired us if you couldn't afford us."

    But she's not the only consumer with sticker shock.

    We heard from another consumer who had similar experiences with this business: Movers coming in a rush, claiming items weren't on the list, not presenting the contract until after everything was loaded and significantly overcharging for the move.

    One couple tells us they ended up paying to get their stuff because they felt they had no choice. But they did file a complaint with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

    The Texas DMV told us they are investigating this business. They've received 136 complaints on this company, which also goes by Presidential Moving and Storage, Presidential Moving, LLC and Presidential Moving Services, LLC.

    So, we wanted to know more about the rules that Texas moving companies must follow.

    First, movers are required to provide a written proposal, which includes an estimate, accepted forms of payment and when payment is due.

    The consumer must provide the company with an accurate list of items, and both parties must sign the proposal prior to loading.

    As for the contract, the mover is required to provide consumers with a moving services contract prior to loading, which Riley said didn't happen in her case.

    "To them it might be junk. To me that's my life," she said.

    Riley moved into a home Haltom City but her items have been sitting in storage.

    The company continues to go up on the price due to storage fees and it'll now cost her more than $5,500 to get her things back, money she said she just doesn't have.

    "Just give back my things," she said. "I made a box with my mother's personal things in it and that's on that truck.  If I could get anything else back, I just want that little box."

    A representative with Presidential Moving Services told us customers like Riley are not being up front about how many items they have to move, and that's why their prices go up.

    He said Riley signed the contract prior to loading and is now trying to avoid paying the balance.

    As for all of their negative reviews with the BBB, he said ex-employees were slandering the company's name.

    He then said if they weren't up to code with the state, they would have been shut down a long time ago.

    President Moving and Storage LLC has also become the focus of a BBB investigation. Since August of 2017, the BBB says it has received 61 complaints against President Moving and Storage LLC, 42 of which have never received a response from the business.

    The company is not budging with Riley and said she still owed $5,500.

    Riley plans to file a complaint with the Texas DMV to dispute the charge and hopefully get her things back.

    <![CDATA[Airfare to Europe Drops as Low as $330 Round Trip from DFW]]>Tue, 20 Feb 2018 18:48:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/107846315-airplane-generic.jpg

    If you're taking off for vacation this year, you may consider a flight to Europe. Airfare experts say European travel fares are the lowest Texans have seen in many years.

    We found round-trip flights to Berlin for $330.

    Flights to Amsterdam and London were on sale, too.

    "You will probably be able to go to London, Paris and Rome cheaper than Hawaii, Anchorage and Seattle this year," said Rick Seaney, with Farecompare.com

    You can thank two new airlines for adding flights and increasing competition at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

    IcelandAir and Wow Air are both launching service at D/FW.

    Typically flights to Europe are direct, but these airlines stop in Iceland, where you change planes but still pay much less to complete the trip.

    The new airlines are driving prices lower on the legacy carriers, so chances are you can find a deal on your favorite carrier.

    The $330 flights did take a little work to find — you have to be flexible on dates and can't take a lot of bags.

    If you want more flexibility, you can find that, too, for around $550 round-trip, which is still a huge discount over the typical average fare of more then $1,000.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
    <![CDATA[Consumers Say Auto Shop Holding Cars, Ripping Off Consumers]]>Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:15:59 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-auto-repair.jpg

    Brenda McNaughten was on her way to work when she was rear-ended. She walked away from the crash without a scratch, but her car was a different story. 

    "It was all crushed in the back. All crushed in," she said. 

    Her auto insurance provider wanted her to take the car to Caliber Collision, but she had another shop in mind: Dynamic Auto Collision Repair.  

    She's known the owner, Larry Dyson, for years.

    "I knew my car would come back in excellent condition," she explained. 

    McNaughten said her insurance sent Dyson a check for more than $5,500 and it was cashed a few days after.

    "Well, he told me it would be ready in a couple weeks. It wasn't," she said. 

    Over the last year, McNaughten said she's gone up to the shop dozens of times but her car still wasn't ready. She said excuses ranged from the owner not having money for the parts to workers quitting on him.

    Unlike McNaughten, Edwin Jackson had a contract with Dynamic Auto, but he said it didn't do him any good.

    "This man is so good at lying to you," said Jackson.

    He signed it his contract on Jan. 26, 2016, but two years later, his truck is still in Larry Dyson's shop.

    "He's just a punk, just a punk that lies, cheats and steals," Jackson said.

    The two consumers have tried getting refunds, but said the owner claimed he didn't have the money. McNaughten even bought an anniversary card earlier this year and taped it to the door.

    "I put a dead rose on it and scotch taped it on his glass door," she said. "Dude, I have not forgot that you have my car."

    McNaughten called the NBC 5 Responds team and we reached out to Larry Dyson. He told NBC 5's Samantha Chatman that he's been in the business for 21 years and that most don't last over five.

    He attributes the demise of his business to "financial disasters, divorce," being a "single dad, and "corporate giants taking most of the insurance work."

    He said, "I wish i could turn back time. Samantha, the best answer I have for that is I wish I would have sold about eight years ago."

    Dyson said it'll take him about a month to pay Jackson back, but he said Brenda McNaughten's car would be ready on Feb. 7.

    That day came and it wasn't ready then. But a week later, McNaughten's car was finally repaired and ready for pickup.

    "I wasn't getting anywhere with him. I contacted y'all and y'all were on it," she said. "I greatly appreciate that. I don't think I would have got it back if it wasn't for y'all."

    McNaughten said she's happy to finally have her car back but is now trying to get Larry Dyson to pay her back for her rental car expenses.

    She said she refuses to wait another year and is prepared to go the legal route if necessary.

    When doing business with any company, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

    • Check the reviews online. Dynamic Auto Collision Repair has an "F" with the BBB and one star on Yelp.
    • Also, make sure you have a signed contract, whether it's a friend or even a relative! A signed contract doesn't always guarantee a successful outcome, but at the very least, you'll have some form of proof if the deal goes south.
    • Always make sure that contract has a deadline.
    • If you need NBC 5 Responds' help, click here.

    <![CDATA[Best President's Day Sales]]>Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:48:35 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/black-friday-sale-generic.jpg

    Some may have the day off or others may want to shop during a work break -- either way, here are some of the best deals.


    They're offering up to 50 percent off items store-wide.

    We found t-shirts for $7, jeans for under $20 and some cute dresses for as low as $15.


    Visit Macys.com, use the promo code "PRES" and get an extra 20 percent off your purchase.

    This sale ends Monday. 


    If you need to spruce up your home, Target is offering up to 30 percent off home items plus an extra 15 percent off indoor and outdoor furniture and rugs.

    We found dressers that were $150 off and TV stands that were $60 off.

    This sale Monday. Use the promocode "GEORGE."


    If you're traveling for spring break, Orbitz has a sale going on right now.

    You can save 15 percent on select hotel stays.

    You have to book by Tuesday and travel by Sept. 30.

    Use the promocode "vacayaway."


    For appliances, Best Buy is offering up to 35 percent off on items like refrigerators and stoves, no promocode necessary. The deal ends on the Feb. 28.

    Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
    <![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Air Dragon]]>Fri, 16 Feb 2018 19:37:50 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/LWBI_Air_Dragon_Compressor_021618.jpg

    Air Dragon, claims to help with low pressure in tires, basketballs, and more. NBC 5 Consumer Reporter Wayne Carter bought it to see how it works.]]>
    <![CDATA[Warning: IRS Scammers Posing as Police]]>Fri, 16 Feb 2018 08:36:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/mansfield-police-tax-scam.jpg

    The Mansfield Police Department is warning consumers about what they are calling an Internal Revenue Service scam.

    It's a scheme we're very familiar with. In fact, the NBC 5 Responds team received 27 complaints last year regarding similar cases.

    Mansfield PD said a woman was contacted by multiple individuals. They claimed to be IRS agents, and one person identified himself as a Mansfield police officer.

    According to police, the caller told her they were trying to collect payment for unpaid taxes, and if she didn't pay immediately, she would be arrested.

    Mansfield PD said the callers were impostors, but they did find a way to spoof the Mansfield PD phone number. Unfortunately, the victim did purchase $2,500 worth of gift cards and gave the caller the card information.

    This is just one of the many ways crooks are trying to capitalize on tax season.

    A spokesperson with the IRS told us it's something they work to combat everyday and it starts with consumer awareness.

    "They're scammers using technology to their advantage," said Raphael Tulino, IRS spokesman. "They're spoofing caller IDs, they could be calling from around the world if you will, acting like they're calling from a certain number by spoofing the ID number. The bottom line is that the IRS is not calling you out of the blue demanding tax payment.  It's just not something we're ever going to do, and certainly not in a threatening manner."

    As these scammers continue to try to catch us off guard, keep this in mind:

    • The IRS does not send uninitiated e-mails or calls.
    • The first correspondence with the IRS is normally a letter in the mail, it's not a random threatening phone call.
    • If you get a random phone calls, the best thing to do is to hang up. Do not engage.

    For some of the most common tax scams, click here.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Credit Card Chips Don't Offer Total Protection]]>Thu, 15 Feb 2018 19:51:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/credit-cards-generic.jpg

    A woman says someone used her ATM card to take $500 out of her account, but she had her card in her wallet the whole time.

    Kristin Grey was in the emergency room, having chest pains, and wanted to make a payment upfront on her bill.

    "I pulled up my account to see what I had in my account and there was a $503 charge and I was like, this is an ATM charge. I didn't do this," said Grey.

    She looked in her wallet and saw the shiny gold security chip on her ATM card staring right at her ... which in her head told her one thing.

    "I had it in my possession at all times. They can't steal my identity," Grey said.

    She called her bank who said that card was used to take $500 out of an ATM at the Bank of the West in Grapevine.

    Grey told them she didn't make the charge. Bank of America, Kristin's bank, investigated for several weeks before calling her with the decision.

    "They said, 'We decided we're not going to pay. You actually did the purchase.' And I said, 'No I didn't,'" recalled Grey.

    ATMs require a PIN. Combined with a chip it's great protection. There's a problem though: not all ATMs have the chip card reader.

    Some still use the magnetic strip and are still vulnerable to copies just like the old ATM cards.

    Bank of the West has a chip reader now but didn't late last year when Grey's card was used.

    "It was my card. My PIN, that's why they weren't going to give me my money back. They couldn't prove it wasn't me that did the transaction. I asked for tape, they said they couldn't pull the tape," Grey said.

    "I said, 'I'm done. I'm done talking to y'all. The next person you'll talk to will be my attorney," she said.

    Instead she called NBC 5 Responds. We had Kristin fill out a police report, giving a sworn statement to an officer that she didn't make that charge.

    She then sent the information to Bank of America and we reached out. Once the bank had the police report, they processed a refund and the $500 was back in Kristin's account.

    Bank of America tells us they can't comment on Kristen's account for privacy reasons but they look at each claim on a case-by-case basis and work to resolve their issues.

    You should know these new chip cards have dramatically dropped the number of cases like Kristin's. Most criminals have moved away from taking your card information to an ATM because of these chip cards. But there are still some banks out there --- just a few --- still waiting to upgrade their system  and criminals are still taking advantage of them.

    Photo Credit: Consumer Reports]]>
    <![CDATA[Stuck With Rent-to-Own Furniture Bills]]>Wed, 14 Feb 2018 07:48:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-furniture-rental.jpg

    Maria Lopez-McIntyre found a brown sectional that fit perfectly into her living room and her budget.

    "We were excited. We got what we wanted and it seemed to be a good deal," she said. "$218 each month. I thought it was a six-month payment plan and I thought, well, it's not too bad. The cash price was $1150. I'll take it."

    She signed the purchase agreement electronically in July and got the couch the same day. It wasn't until January that she kept receiving e-mails about payments that seemed out of place.

    "I called them and I said I think that's already paid. It's been seven months and you told me six months," she explained.

    Lopez McIntyre soon found out the couch she had been paying for the past six months wasn't purchased. The document she signed was a rental purchase agreement.

    "I said what do you mean lease? That is not a lease and she said 'yes, you signed for a lease.' I was like what?" recalled Lopez-McIntyre.

    It's a problem that can have ripple effects not only in your wallet. If you miss payments, your credit can be damaged. You can even end up in jail. That's all due to a Texas law written in 1977 that helped to protect rental companies from customers that would take off with their products with no repercussions.

    It's a thousand extra dollars and a lesson learned for Lopez McIntyre; one to which she hopes others pay close attention. 

    "It's six pages and sometimes you feel like, 'oh I'm not going to read these,' but then you end up in a bad situation," she said. 

    It's important to read your contract in full. But if you feel that skimming is inevitable, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

    ++ Always double check the numbers.
    ++ Understand what you're expected to do...To fulfill the contract.
    ++ And watch out for the words "rent" or "lease."
    ++ Also if you're ever promised anything by a salesperson - have them point out where it says that in the contract. 
    Word of mouth cannot help you, but having it in writing can

    • Always double check the numbers.
    • Understand what you're expected to do to fulfill the contract.
    • Watch out for the words "rent" or "lease."
    • If you're ever promised anything by a salesperson, have them point out where it says that in the contract. Word of mouth cannot help you, but having it in writing can.

    <![CDATA[Crooks Use Phony Romances to Trick You Out of Your Money]]>Tue, 13 Feb 2018 23:40:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/219*120/computer+keyboard.JPG

    Agencies around North Texas are joining forces to warn singles and seniors to protect themselves this Valentine's Day.

    Investigators from Better Business Bureau offices in five states worked together to look at the tactics being used to make you fall in love online.

    If you want to find true love and haven't, Valentine's Day can be a drag.

    Crooks capitalize on this, using fake photos and promising love but then, someway or another they ask you to buy them a plane ticket to visit or wire them money, some tactic to get you to get them cash.

    The Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Service, Better Business Bureau and AARP all joined together to warn you how these people you think are the loves of your life can be one of your biggest disappointments.

    "They take their time, they break you, they may even send you gifts, but they can't meet you, because they're in the military or international business. For whatever reason they can't meet you," warned Cosme Ojeda, with the Better Business Bureau.

    "The scam artists give small gifts or tokens of their love, and in turn very quickly are asking for funds," said Dama Brown, of the Federal Trade Commission.

    Here's how you protect yourself: Don't send money to someone you met online and haven't met in person, especially if the person claims to be overseas.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Postal Worker Suspected of Stealing $500 in Gift Cards]]>Tue, 13 Feb 2018 08:00:49 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-mail-theft.jpg

    Investigators say a postal worker suspected of stealing gift cards has been caught in the act opening mail — hours after an exclusive NBC 5 Responds report. That same employee is also suspected of stealing $500 in gift cards that a Lincolnshire grandmother mailed to her granddaughters last August.

    Postal authorities made the discovery after NBC 5 Responds brought her case to their attention last September. The employee works at the USPS Distribution and Processing Center in Palatine, and according to authorities, is still on the job, despite evidence they gathered against him. Investigators now say others may be involved.

    The story began when Janet Irgang said she wanted to do something nice for her granddaughters, both of whom are away at college. So using her debit card, she bought $500 worth of Amazon gift cards at Walgreens and mailed them from her local post office.

    "Just a little something to say grandma loves you. I’m thinking of you," Irgang said.

    When she never heard from the girls after several weeks, she said began to worry.

    "No thank you's from my granddaughters, which is out of character, no delivery notices," Irgang recalled.

    Fearing they’d fallen into the wrong hands, she asked Walgreens and Amazon to deactivate the cards.

    "I begged for them to deactivate, not to give me my money back, just deactivate the cards,” Irgang said. “And they said, ‘Sorry lady that’s your problem.’ I thought I would fall through the floor. I really did."

    So why wouldn’t the retailers help and deactivate the cards? One possible explanation: There’s no federal statute or regulation requiring any seller of gift cards to deactivate them when they are missing or stolen.

    NBC 5 Responds reached out to Amazon and Walgreens for comment. Both companies confirmed the cards were not deactivated.

    NBC 5 Responds has learned that employee theft within USPS is a nationwide problem. A Freedom of Information request revealed more than 145,000 lost or stolen mail complaints were filed with the service over the last two years. And more than 600 postal employees were arrested for internal mail theft in one year.

    They are statistics that hit home for Janet Irgang, who said she is having a hard time forgiving herself, and is the first to admit she made mistakes.

    "OK, I give her my debit card which was mistake number one—I should have never paid with it—with a debit card. But I didn’t know that at the time. Now I do," Irgang told NBC 5 Responds.

    Mistake number two? No insurance.

    "But now I know it’s like sending cash through the mail. It’s like handing them cash. Can you ask for your cash back? No," Irgang said.

    Her expensive lesson clearly learned, Irgang says she won’t rest until the suspected postal thief learns his too.

    "How can they not prosecute him? How can they not stop him?" Irgang asked. “He belongs out of their system."

    Postal authorities tell NBC 5 Responds the suspect connected to this case has been questioned but not arrested. The investigation is ongoing and could ultimately end up in federal court.

    <![CDATA[Apps to Help You Save Money When Dining at Chain Restaurants]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2018 19:29:49 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Cell+Phone+Generic.jpg

    I'll be the first to admit I like a clean, simple, app-free phone. I don't download a lot of apps — but consider the savings here.

    I normally spend about $50 a week on lunch. Using apps, I got my weekly lunch bill down to $19 in one week.

    Some restaurants offer free food just for taking up some space on your phone.

    Quiznos gives you a free four-inch sub, Baskin Robbins has a free scoop of ice cream and Chili's will give you 60 reward points, which is enough for a free item on their menu.

    Chick-fil-A's app keeps track of how much you order then rewards you. They'll send you an in-app coupon for a free sandwich, fries or ice cream.

    They say they choose your free treats based on what you normally buy, but I can't back them up on the claim. I get Greek yogurt all the time and I've been using the app awhile, but have not received a free yogurt yet.

    Still, Chick-fil-A's app will send you free food quite a bit.

    Last month, I got a free chicken biscuit, fries, fruit cup and sandwiches.

    It was more than $20 worth of free food. Some of the treats were because I used the app, or took a survey, but some I got "just because."

    McDonald's app will send you daily coupons like "buy one sandwich and get another free," or "get any sandwich for one dollar."

    I did the math. It was about $30 in savings for all the offers they sent me in one day.

    They send new deals all the time, so the savings can really add up.

    If you're not into fast food, don't worry there's an app for you, too. Panera, Zoe's Kitchen and La Madeline all offer discounts when you join their rewards program. Most restaurants do.

    Some are even have "buy one meal, get one free" offers that can save you up as much $20.

    Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
    <![CDATA[Chase Customer Says Money Transfer Sent to Stranger]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2018 08:00:01 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/zelle-money-transfer.jpg

    A Grand Prairie woman told NBC 5 Responds she tried to send $700 to her son, but it ended up in a stranger's bank account.

    The distance isn't easy for Cindy Sikorski. She thinks about her grandson, Cullen, every day.

    "You have a part of you that you never knew you were missing when you have a grandchild. It's just, they're wonderful," she explained.

    Sikorski said she'd do anything for Cullen and her son. 

    "He's a single dad," she said. "He's actually done really well in doing what he can. But there are times it is hard to stretch what he has."

    The Afghanistan war veteran hates to ask his mom for money, but when he does, she always comes through.

    "He and I both have accounts with Chase. Several years ago, I set up a QuickPay account with Chase," she said.

    But last year, Chase introduced Zelle, a third party network that allows chase customers to send and receive money in minutes with about 86 million customers. Bank of America, Wells Fago, Citi and several other banks also use Zelle.

    This past November, Sikorski tried to send her son $700, but it didn't go through.

    "I looked and couldn't figure out why," she said. "It went somewhere." 

    She visited her local branch and learned her son's old phone number was still listed on her account. Instead of using his email address like she normally does, she had accidentally selected that old phone number to send the money.

    "I talked to Zelle, who told me they don't have any control of it. They are just the middleman," she said. 

    When she talked to Chase, she said she was told the money went to whomever currently has that phone number, and there was nothing they could do.

    She said the money went to a Bank of America customer, and when she checked her account, the transfer was accepted.

    Sikorski tried calling that old number, left a voice mail and even sent a text begging the person to send the money back but she never got a response.

    "I'm a retired teacher so $700 is a whole lot to me," she said.

    The NBC 5 Responds team got on the case. We reached out to JP Morgan Chase and received this response:

    "Before sending money, consumers should always verify that they've used the correct contact information for the intended recipient to prevent the payment from going to the wrong person."

    But given the circumstances with a family member who served overseas, Chase agreed to refund Sikorski, putting the $700 back into her account.

    Sikorski said little Cullen will soon be getting something extra special from his grandma, and she'll be sure to triple check before she clicks send.

    Before we reached out to Chase, we called that old number and someone answered. He said he didn't recall getting the calls, messages or voice mails and didn't recall seeing the $700 in his account.

    Let this be a reminder when you're transferring money:

    • Always check to make sure you're using the correct email address or phone number.
    • Make sure your all of the information on your account is updated.
    • If you ever do send to the wrong person, call the bank immediately to find out your options.

    <![CDATA[Woman Tricked Into Wiring $53K From Her Boss's Bank Account]]>Mon, 12 Feb 2018 16:48:53 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/counting+money+generic.jpg

    A Duncanville woman lost more than $50,000 after someone got control of her email account.

    Karen Cherry owns a medical consultant company and travels for work frequently.

    One morning while she was on a plane to New York, her chief financial officer, Donnie Payne, got an email asking her to pay a bill. The email looked like it came from Cherry

    The email message asked Payne to wire $53,000 to someone in Arizona.

    Since Cherry was was on her way to a big meeting in New York, Payne assumed her boss was emailing from the plane.

    "I knew we had a lot going on, I said she must be really busy emailing right now to try to get something done," Payne said.

    Wire transfers are nothing unusual for their business. The amount of money was significantly more than they typically transfer, but not totally outlandish.

    Payne did as she was instructed, and when the boss landed it soon become clear those instructions didn't come from her.

    "Donnie said, 'We took care of the wire transfer,' and I said, 'What wire transfer?'" Cherry said.

    Panic set in. Payne and Cherry both contacted Chase Bank immediately, and Cherry says at first they got good news.

    "The customer service, the people in the branches, they said, 'Oh, it's another Chase customer. We can get it taken care of,'" she said.

    They say Chase froze both accounts while they investigated. After the account was frozen for more than a week, Chase told her no fraud was committed and the money was released to the other person.

    Cherry is out of the $53,000.

    NBC 5 Responds contacted Chase, asking why the banks said they would stop it but then released the money.

    They told us, "We completed the transaction only after receiving instructions from Ms. Payne, who is fully authorized to transfer funds. The funds were then wired to a valid account number provided by the customer. Unfortunately, our attempt to recall the funds was not successful. This fraud is a police matter and should be directed to the proper law-enforcement authorities."

    Chase wouldn't answer any additional questions about the account.

    What happened to Payne and Cherry is increasingly common. Hackers are taking the time to learn your habits, whether at home or the office.

    "Email spoofing is actually pretty common. It's when a hacker impersonates another," said Keith Barthold, of DKB Innovative.

    He tracks these kinds of cyber attacks over email and says all it takes is a virus to let a hacker into your email account so he can learn and mimic your behavior.

    "They're impersonating down the to language, the greeting and the signature of the email," Barthold said.

    Cherry's office has taken steps to help prevent this in the future, and she has one bit of advice: always verify who you're talking to before making a transaction.

    Remember not to trust any texts or emails even if they come from the right account.

    If someone emails you asking to wire money, pay a bill, or send personal information, be on guard.

    Pick up on the phone and verify that the email really came from the person you think.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Fence Company Accused of Taking Deposits, Never Returning]]>Tue, 13 Feb 2018 09:24:54 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-fence.jpg

    Feb. 13 editor's note: Ruby Valentine received her refund a week after this story aired on NBC 5. Below is the original article.

    Two North Texas women called NBC 5's Samantha Chatman after paying Condor Fencing hundreds of dollars up front only to wait on their fences for months.

    Consuelo Touchette's family keeps getting bigger — her dogs are just like her children.

    "We don't want them to get out. We don't want them lost," she explained.

    Touchette said her pups have slid through the cracks of her rundown fence on more than one occasion. Her neighbor eventually called Condor Fencing so that both sides would feel secure.

    "We went in half and they did a really good job," she said.

    So good, that she decided to hire Condor to build the other two sides of her fences.

    Touchette said a man named Jon came by that same week. He took measurements and told her she'd need to pay half up front, which came out to $1,088.

    "He told us that hopefully in the next couple of weeks we could go ahead and get the job started and that he would give us a call," Touchette said.

    But she said Jon never called, and when she called him, he had a list of excuses for being a no show.

    "It's raining, the ground is too wet. Then it was workers, we're getting a new crew," Touchette recalled.

    After waiting nearly a year, Touchette had enough of Jon, so she reached out to the owner, Shawn Partain.

    "He asked me to send him documentation. He could not find my contract," Touchette explained.

    She said she emailed her contract and sent it by certified mail, but the owner said he never got it.

    However, she's not the only one in North Texas faced with this problem.

    Ruby Valentine of Dallas needed a new fence to keep her chickens from getting out.

    "They took my money and never showed up to do the job," Valentine explained.

    She paid condor fencing $700 up front, but she said they left her high and dry. Valentine said the owner eventually agreed to a refund, but she never got it.

    The NBC 5 Responds team got on the case and called Partain. He told us he's "been swamped" trying to take care of everybody. The owner also said he had to fire a salesman named Jonathan that "messed everything up," but he'd make sure the ladies would get their refunds.

    He sent pictures of the checks as proof as proof.

    Touchette finally received her check for $1088 from Condor Fencing. Ruby Valentine is still waiting for hers to arrive in the mail. 

    Jon reached out to NBC 5 after our report and offered this statement:

    "I would like to clear my name in regards to the report you ran on Condor Fencing yesterday. I was the salesman for Consuelo and did everything I could to make things go as smooth as possible. But I was not the person in charge of deciding what jobs were done in what order or when, nor did I have the decision on financial making. I left on my own and was not fired due to lack of getting paid. Mr. Partain made those final decisions. When I left I even stayed an extra week to help out and make sure all jobs sold were given to him. Every time a customer called I would communicate their message to him and things did not get accomplished.

    I want to make sure that people know that I did not 'mess anything up' nor was I to blame for anything.

    I am being used as the escape goat and that’s a sad situation."

    Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions for hiring a contractor:

    • Always do your research. We checked with the BBB online and found that Condor Fencing has an F rating and one star on Yelp.
    • Consider holding your deposit until materials are purchased.
    • Make sure you have a deadline on your contract, an estimated completion date so that your expectations are crystal clear.

    <![CDATA[Large Stone Falls Out of Engagement Ring After Other Issues]]>Wed, 07 Feb 2018 18:37:05 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/ring+issues+n5r.JPG

    An engagement ring is supposed to be something to show off, but a Lewisville newlywed's dream ring turned into a prolonged nightmare after the center stone fell out.

    The incident was the latest in a string of fixes for the ring, so the couple called NBC 5 Responds' Wayne Carter for help.

    The engagement ring had a large yellow sapphire center stone that Bobby Clark designed with the staff at Kay Jewelers for his bride-to-be, Brandy.

    "When you're looking for a ring for the most beautiful woman in the world, it's hard to do it without getting a little bit of help," Bobby Clark said.

    He even paid extra for a replacement plan in case anything went wrong.

    It's a good thing he did. The Clarks went through an eight-month-long saga of issues with their engagement ring.

    First, one of the diamonds fell out, then a saleswoman convinced Brandy to have the band welded to the engagement ring.

    "When I got it back, it didn't fit. I couldn't even get it over my knuckle," Brandy Clark said.

    Once she got it back, there was a family dinner.

    "I just saw this look on my mom's face. She was like, 'What happened to your ring?'" Brandy Clark said.

    "I looked down, and I had this big gaping hole where my yellow stone was. I'm telling you, I was shaking. I started to cry, I was freaking out," she said.

    Her stone was covered under Kay's replacement plan, but when she got it back there was a whole new problem.

    Her big yellow sapphire had been replaced with four smaller princess-cut diamonds.

    Kay was willing to take it back and repair it again, but the Clarks wanted their money back, pointing out their ring had been repaired multiple times — gone for anywhere from six to eight weeks each time.

    They didn't want to go that long again without a ring.

    After they called NBC 5 Responds for help we contacted Kay. They told us, "We are dedicated to exceptional customer service at every stage of the consumer experience. Given this, we take all concerns very seriously and work with each customer to come to a satisfactory resolution."

    They let Bobby Clark pick out a another stone that was even bigger than the first. Brandy got her ring back in less than two weeks.

    One of the things that really helped the couple was that Brandy Clark did all the required inspections of the ring as well. So, her plan was in full force.

    Another option if you don't want to deal with all that is to protect your investment with an insurance company.

    You will then have the option of getting a cash payment if something goes wrong.

    Be sure to read the policy for all the terms.

    Photo Credit: Brandy Clark]]>
    <![CDATA[Valentine's Day Flower Tips for Stores and Online]]>Wed, 07 Feb 2018 08:03:01 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/valentines-day-flowers-responds.jpg

    Roses, tulips, sunflowers and Casablancas: the choices for Valentine's Day flowers are endless.

    With so many online company and arrangements to choose from, it's easy to get stuck on which bouquet to buy.

    So before you click purchase, keep these simple steps in mind:

    Find out if your flowers are coming in a box or a vase.  

    We've heard from consumers who were not too happy about breaking their arrangements out of cardboard and having to arrangement the flowers themselves.

    You should also check for a satisfaction guarantee badge on the website. This is a good sign that the company will be willing to work with you if you're not happy with your order.

    Check the reviews online, especially if it's your first time working with a company.

    When you get your order, have the recipient snap a picture as soon as the arrangement arrives. If it doesn't look similar to the picture online, you should send your photo to the company to find out what went wrong.

    If you're ordering flowers from a local florist, check this video for some in-store flower tips.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
    This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
    <![CDATA[Connected Homes Add Convenience and Caution]]>Tue, 06 Feb 2018 07:43:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/connected-homes-consumer-responds.jpg

    We are another step closer to living in a connected home.

    These days, you can turn on lights, change channels and get the weather report without even lifting a finger. But if you can connect, the fear is, so can other people.

    "As you open up all of your devices within your home, it's not just you that has the potential to access them," said Eva Velasquez with San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center.

    The world recently got a glimpse into the future of connected homes at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The show features the latest gadgets that could eventually change our lives. But it's a change Velasquez says we need to be cautious about.

    "Privacy needs to come first and then all of the cool stuff can be layered on it." said Velasquez, "But it should not be an afterthought."

    The privacy expert says whether it's a phone, a printer, a camera or TV, our privacy is only as good as our weakest device. She says one small pathway can potentially open up access to your entire home.

    In many cases, it's data that is the prize. Businesses can possibly collect it from our online, Bluetooth and wifi connected devices.

    "You are giving up some of your privacy for that convenience," said Velasquez. Even something as innocent as a connected thermostat can reveal valuable and personal information.

    "It can indicate when you are home and when you're not," said Velasquez. "It can indicate that you have a set schedule, it can indicate that you are gone for a long period of time. That's valuable information for someone who is collecting data."

    Velasquez says if you have connected devices, don't forget to keep up on the privacy settings. When you upgrade an app or an appliance, sometimes the privacy rules also change.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Church Members Lose Money After Parking Lot Repaving Job]]>Mon, 05 Feb 2018 19:07:02 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Church_Parking_Lot_Paving_5p_2518.jpg

    As you walk up to Love Sanctuary Church in Fort Worth, the sign right out front lets you know they're looking for a miracle.

    The problem is happening at their feet after a $12,000 repaving project of the church parking lot left the surface sticky and peeling away.

    It was a deal church members thought was the answer to their prayers.

    "We had a gentleman come by two years ago and offer to help us. We thought this man was from god," said church member Jimmie Florence. "He said he was a little country guy who loved the Lord."

    The man told them he was offering a significant discount to repair their old lot, which was cracking.

    It took the church two years to save the $12,000, and the man said he was still ready to help. Just days after they finished raising the money, he came back with construction equipment and got to work.

    "He said it would dry, and it didn't dry. And we knew then we were in trouble," Florence said.

    You can run your foot along the pavement and it would crumble to pieces.

    Calls back to the man weren't returned.

    The church members made a mistake by not having a real contract with this mystery man. All he gave them was a business card.

    The address was a self-storage place, and NBC 5 tried calling the number on the card for weeks before a woman answered and told us the man who did the pavement job had died.

    There's no business, no corporation to hold accountable for the $12,000 the church members spent for this.

    "I'm really hurt. I don't know what to do, they church doesn't know what to do," Florence. said

    They can't fix the parking lot. They just don't have the money in this small neighborhood church. Despite all they've been through, they're supporting one another and trusting in their faith.

    <![CDATA[Local Woman Says Bank Let Her Down After Account Was Hacked]]>Mon, 05 Feb 2018 07:45:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Respondsfeb5.jpg

    Despite being a busy wife and mom, Jenee Simmons says she always finds time to stay on top of her finances.

    She was checking her account last year when she noticed several charges that instantly made her panic. 

    The transactions were from a Pep Boys and Chevron in California, charges Simmons said she never authorized.

    "I immediately called the bank and got in contact with the fraud department," she said. 

    Simmons said Bank of America canceled her card and told her the funds would be returned back to her account.

    "I was thinking that was the end of it," she said. 

    But it wasn't. She saw new charges from the same places and her account was drained.

    "We couldn't pay our electric. It was hot outside," she said. "We got a mortgage. We need food. It's kind of at a standstill."

    Simmons said her local branch told her corporate failed to put a hold on her account. 

    After that, she thought the problem had been resolved, until she noticed more charges.

    She said she kept reporting them, but ended up with letter from Bank of America determining "no error" had occurred and they're "unable to credit her account."

    "Your heart drops because you're in debt for something you didn't do and the bank's not going to help you," she explained.

    And after receiving more than $12,000 in charges, Simmons got NBC 5 Responds on the case.

    "As soon as I got a response back from you guys, the bank called me the next day," Simmons said.

    She said after looking into her case, a representative confirmed the charges from Pep Boys and Chevron were fraudulent.

    A spokesperson for Bank of America tells NBC 5 they won't discuss the case for "privacy reasons," but did tell us "we have connected with the customer and resolved the fraud claim."

    She had $12,800 restored to her account.

    "All I can recommend to people is keep an eye on your bank account," she said.

    Those are lessons Simmons and her husband are teaching their girls early on.

    Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions for keeping your bank account safe:

    -If you ever spot fraudulent activity, let your bank know immediately.

    -Consider signing up for alerts so that you'll know as soon as a suspicious transaction is made.

    -You may also want to consider having a backup account, funds you can use if your primary account is ever compromised.

    <![CDATA[Woman Claims Airbnb Ignores Fake Listings]]>Mon, 05 Feb 2018 05:13:16 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/airbnb+listings.JPG

    Airbnb has proven to be a good alternative for travelers across the world. But one Denton woman has a warning: be careful before you book. When it comes to certain listings, she says the company has a lot of explaining to do.

    This year was Kelley Long's turn to plan this year's family summer vacation.

    "We were going to New York City. We were going to see the Rangers play the Yankees."

    Her first step was booking a place for her family of seven to stay.

    "After looking at hotels and stuff, it was going to be $300 a day for one couple," Long explained. 

    It wasn't quite in the family's budget, so they turned to Airbnb and came across an impressive listing.

    "It's heart of the city, 15 minutes away from the Yankee stadium, 10 minutes from Times Square. Perfect location," said Long. 

    The listing was $449 a night.

    "Way cheaper, nicer, better location and we get to stay together. It's a big happy family," she said.

    Long said she wanted to know more about the home, so she googled the address and came across a listing on Zillow.

    She said she found the same address and photos online, but the property was for sale for $2.1 million. 

    "Something told me that you can't be on Airbnb and be for sale. That doesn't make sense," she said. 

    Long said she reached out to the property owner listed on Airbnb to check things out and quickly got this response:

    "Don't worry! That was only a test on the market. Your booking is not in danger."

    After being reassured, Long paid the $500 deposit. But she still had a bad feeling about it.

    "I contacted Airbnb and said, 'This listing is for sale. I don't think this is accurate.'"

    Airbnb's response: "After an investigation, we confirmed that the listing you reported is a good listing."

    But Long said she still had doubts.

    "I just couldn't understand how something so beautiful was going for $500 a night, while other listings were about $1,200 a night," she said. 

    "My mom told me to contact the listing agent. I emailed her and within three minutes I got a response that this is 100 percent a scam."

    The realtor for the property told NBC 5 that at least three consumers from different parts of the country have lost money on that fake listing.

    The realtor said they've reported it to Airbnb a number of times but the company "was less than helpful."

    Long said she called Airbnb to inform them of this scam. She said she did get her money back, but the company never addressed the problem.

    "They didn't take the listing down, so people were still booking on it," she said.

    This isn't the only fake listing Long said she found on Airbnb.

    She discovered a three bedroom, three bathroom condo in New York's Financial District. She thought it was gorgeous, but a Google search lead her to the real listing: a three bedroom, three bathroom condo, with the same pictures, on the market for $3.4 million.

    Long said she flagged this listing on the site, thinking Airbnb would take them down. But when the NBC 5 Responds team checked, the listing was still there.

    "It makes me wonder what type of background checks are they doing on their owners," Long said.

    The NBC 5 Responds team had the same questions, so we reached out to Airbnb.

    A spokesperson told us, "Fake or misrepresented listings have no place in our community, and our team is constantly working to strengthen our defenses and stay ahead of bad actors. Our original handling of this incident fell below the high standards we set for ourselves, and we'll be reviewing what happened with our agent."

    Airbnb said the user and listing have been removed from its platform for violating our community standards. The company has also removed other listings and users that Long reported for violating its community standards.

    "We have removed the listing in New York flagged by this user. This bad actor did not receive any payments or complete any reservations." -Airbnb

    As for background checks, Airbnb said it screens all hosts and guests and also runs background checks looking for prior felony convictions, sex offender registrations, and significant misdemeanors.

    But Long believes more needs to be done to prevent fake listing from appearing on Airbnb again. 

    "If somebody can just put it on their site, what if we were to show up?" she said. "If i hadn't done my research, what would have happened."

    When using lodging services like Airbnb, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

    • Never pay anyone outside of the site.  Only send your payment through Airbnb.
    • Try googling the address of the home you plan on staying in.
    • Look for reviews. Long said the home she booked didn't have any reviews on the site.
    • If you ever notice a suspicious listing, Airbnb wants you to flag it on the site and call them directly at 1-855-424-7262.
    To read what Airbnb is doing to prevent fake listings, click here.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Let Wayne Buy It: Spray Perfect]]>Fri, 02 Feb 2018 18:46:03 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Spray+Perfect.jpg

    Spray Perfect, a spray-on nail polish, says it's the world's fastest manicure and adheres to the nails but not the skin. NBC 5 Consumer Reporter Wayne Carter bought it to see how it works.

    To test it out, we enlisted a woman who loves manicures

    "I'm a girl. I've been getting manicures since birth," Christy Smith said.

    She runs the popular blog, SoFortWorthIt, a one-stop shop for everything entertainment, style and beauty.

    When it comes to looking your best, Smith is your girl. But even she admits it's hard to find the time for a manicure.

    "There's so much to do in a day that is sucked up by emails and writing and attending things and luncheons. At the end of the day, I just want to kick up my shoes and have a cocktail," Smith said.

    She went over the directions for the Spray Perfect, first covering her marble counter top to protect it from over spray.

    We had to put on a base coat first, then spray, and finish with a top coat, waiting a few minutes between each step.

    The spray did get on the towel we put down to protect the counter, as well as all over her fingers.

    While it dried, we tried the spray on Wayne's nails without the base coat and saw quickly how essential it is. The paint washed right off.

    But when following the directions to the letter, on Smith's nails, it worked and she was impressed with it for everyday use.

    "I would say this is a good product," Smith said.

    After a few days she did report some chipping with the Spray Perfect, and she's not alone on that. We found several reviews online with the same complaint.

    Smith says she was still impressed and would keep it around for a quick fix when she doesn't have time to go to the salon.

    If you have a product, you want Wayne Carter to buy for you, send him an email or a message on Facebook.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Texas Company is Focus of Consumer Complaints: BBB]]>Fri, 02 Feb 2018 09:07:11 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+all+things+cou_KXASG7SQ_2018-02-02-06-09-55.jpg

    All Things Country offers a variety of western-themed merchandise online — items like flip-flops, boots, purses and belts.

    But the Better Business Bureau is now urging consumers to beware of this family-owned business.

    "If we get too many complaints in a short amount of time against a particular business, then we will open up an investigation," said BBB Regional Director Adam Price. "That's where All Things Country comes into play."

    Within the last three years, All Things Country, LLC has received 447 complaints from consumers in 46 states and Canada. More than half of those were received within the last 12 months.

    The BBB said a vast majority of those complaints are people who never received their product or received the wrong product. When they asked for a refund, they were either denied or never got a response at all.

    "We purchased something back in October, a wallet for $43, and we received an email that said it would be shipped in 6-10 business days," said Price. "Two months later, not two weeks, but two months, we get an email saying that the product had been shipped.  Once it arrived, it was a Chinese knockoff bracelet, wasn't even remotely close to the product we purchased."

    We called and emailed the online retailer and received this response:

    "Over the last two years all things country has been plagued with events that have hit us emotionally and financially, which caused problems in our inventory and elongated shipping times dramatically. We have been working with our payment gateway to get back of track in order to go out of business in good standing with all of our customers. We would also like to sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused and want to reassure everyone that has placed an order with us will receive the product they ordered, or a refund." 

    "The problem here is that, whether they were trying to go out of business or not, they were still taking brand new orders until yesterday," Price explained.

    The Waco-based company has since disabled its checkout page and is not accepting orders online.

    Meanwhile consumers across the country are still wondering when they'll receive their refunds, if ever.

    If you have an outstanding order with All Things Country, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

    • Call your credit card company and dispute the charges.
    • When shopping with an online retailer, check the site's security settings. If the site is secure, its web address should start with https and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page.
    • Always do your homework. Check with the BBB and Google a company's name with the words "scam" or "ripoff" and see what pops up.

    <![CDATA[Fmr. Parker School Uniforms Workers File Lawsuit]]>Thu, 01 Feb 2018 07:44:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+parker+employe_KXASG7GE_2018-02-01-05-14-22.jpg

    At least two Texas-based workers who were suddenly laid off soon after the holidays are now fighting back against their former employer, Parker School Uniforms.

    Brent Crowley thought he'd spend the next several years managing the Parker School Uniforms store in Dallas.

    "I loved my job. I loved going to work every day," he said. 

    But earlier this year, he received an email that would change everything.

    "My son instantly knew something was wrong. He said 'what's wrong daddy.' I said I think something very bad just happened," Crowley explained. 

    The emails said the company continued to "struggle to meet financial obligations" and asked employees to "not report to work tomorrow."

    Crowley said a stunned regional manager told him they would be paid in a few days, but that money never came.

    "If I work hard and it's my sweat and it's my time, even if I love what I do, you should still get paid for your hard work," said Joe Lara, a former Parker employee.

    "I had no money and I never thought in a million years I would have to tell my son, he's asking can we go here and I'm telling him no we can't because I don't have any money," Crowley said.

    Store workers in Houston have filed a federal lawsuit claiming Parker violated the Warn Act, which requires employers to provide 60 days notice before a mass layoff.

    In a notice to the state, Parker said it was "actively seeking capital, financing and refinancing" and that providing earlier notice "would have undermined its efforts" to secure that.

    That reasoning could fall under an exemption in the Warn Act.

    Meanwhile, Crowley said his heart aches for his former employees who are now left without jobs and medical insurance, and the customers that he loved so much.

    "I really feel bad for the families who ordered product and never received it. I'm sorry, I did the best I could," he said.

    Crowley said he is not involved in the lawsuit filed against Parker.

    NBC 5 Responds has left messages with Parker School Uniforms as well as their bankruptcy attorney and the two investment groups tied to the company. We haven't heard back from any of them.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Money Order for Gov't Paperwork Disappears, NBC 5 Respond]]>Thu, 01 Feb 2018 13:07:13 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Lost+Money+Order+INS.jpg

    It all started for Anita Butler on a vacation to Jamaica.

    "He was the DJ, the resort DJ, and we just started spending time together and talking and we kinda clicked," said Butler.

    She and her new beau Elvis stayed connected after that trip, fell in love, and eventually tied the knot.

    They began the lengthy process of Elvis becoming an American Citizen.

    "You pretty much have to have a degree to figure out the instructions of their paperwork," said Butler.

    She filled out everything, went to the post office and purchased more then $1,200 in money orders for the fees.  She says she put it all in one envelope and sent to Immigration.  

    They got the paperwork, but somewhere along the way, the money orders were lost.

    "I had faith the government was going to give me money back," said Butler.

    She started calling and visiting the post office. Workers told her they mailed replacements, but she never got them.

    Weeks turned into months, and Elvis' timeline to get paperwork was running out so she called NBC 5 Responds.

    "As soon as y'all contacted the post office, it was almost immediately I received my money order," said Butler.

    The post office reprinted the money order and stayed open after hours so Anita could get there after work and pick up the replacement money orders.

    "In fact I had an audience, because they wanted to know who was the lady so persistent in getting her money back," said Butler.

    The post office is looking into exactly why the process to get replacement money orders took so long for Anita.   

    They did give us a statement.

    "We became aware of the issue and took immediate steps to quickly resolve the customer concerns. In this specific case, local management has communicated with the customer to offer an apology and resolved the money order claim. We apologize for any inconvenience the customer may have experienced."

    Replacing lost money orders and checks can be a complicated process, make sure you keep all your receipts, case numbers, and paperwork and ask for someone higher up to help.

    If that doesn't work, contact NBC 5 Responds by clicking here.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Amazon, 2 Others Join Forces to Form Health Care Company]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 18:43:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Amazon_Health_Care_5p_13018.jpg

    Amazon, Chase and Berkshire Hathaway say they are tackling the rising cost of health care together.

    Their new group will aim to make health care more affordable for their employees.

    There are not a lot of details on the newly formed group, but it will be nonprofit and focused on providing low-cost, high-quality health care to employees at Amazon, Chase, and Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway.

    The company will be independent, according to executives and will be free from "profit making incentives and constraints."

    They want to cut out some of the middle men in the health care industry to create savings.

    Mike Davis, professor of business at Southern Methodist University, said we all could see benefits from this one day.

    "Eventually they're going to have to roll this out to consumers, but how to they do it? Ideally for a project like this you'd like to dip your toe in the water, but with health care you have to have big groups to really make money. They don't have the option of making a small, slow roll out. They may have to go big or go home," Davis said.

    Still, Davis expressed concerns that none of the companies have experience in the health care industry.

    <![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Helps Family Settle $4K Bill]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 10:25:02 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/student-insurance-responds.jpg

    Anevay Chacchia knows she's pretty tough, but her first high school wrestling match was one she and her family will never forget.

    "When we got her over to the trainer they said, 'No. You gotta take her to the hospital. She might have a broken collar bone.'  That's when we knew it was pretty serious," her father said.

    She was being pinned down by her opponent when they heard a loud snap. They rushed her to the hospital and learned her collar bone was, in fact, broken.

    They said the high school's insurance provider took care of the hospital and doctor bills.  But three months later, they received a physical therapy bill from Methodist McKinney Hospital totaling $4,246.

    "I was thinking, when did she go to McKinney Methodist Hospital? That's not the ER we took her to," her mother said.

    They said they didn't know Anevay's doctor sent her to a different provider for rehab, so they hadn't told Methodist McKinney about the school insurance.

    The family said they called the hospital and sent the insurance information to straighten things out. But months later, they received more bills from the hospital with the same balance.

    "It's overwhelming because it's in my name. You know, it's in my credit, which affects our family," her mother said.

    The couple said they called the school's insurance provider, Student Assurance Services. They were told the hospital didn't send them an itemized bill, so they couldn't cover the balance.

    When they called the hospital, they said they were told the insurance company never sent the injury report.

    The couple said the hospital and the insurance company spent months pointing the finger and the bills kept coming to their home. 

    After NBC 5 Responds' Samantha Chatman started digging, the family got a call from Methodist McKinney Hospital.

    The family said the CFO repeatedly apologized for their troubles and informed their bill would be taken care of.

    That $4,246 bill? It's now a thing of the past.

    The President of Methodist McKinney Hospital told NBC 5, "There were numerous things that caused this claim not to be billed and paid in the manner the patient's family had intended, including failure to notify us of a school insurance policy until after the timely filing deadline had expired. However, there were things that we could have done better on our end to follow-up."

    Hospital and doctor visits can get really tricky, so here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

    • Check to make sure every facility is aware of your insurance information, especially if your doctor sends you to another office.
    • If you're using your own insurance, make sure the provider is in network.
    • Reach out to the hospital as soon as you receive a questionable bill.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Some Companies Charge For Services You Can Get For Free]]>Mon, 29 Jan 2018 23:40:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/LET+ME+DO+THAT.jpg

    Marilyn and Ed Szafraniec couldn't help but give a letter they received in the mail a second look.

    $439 is owed to her and a lawyer offered to give it to her for just a 10 percent fee.

    "I've seen enough of these shows to see there are a lot of warning signs, the letterhead misspellings and all that. There didn't appear to be any of that, it did appear to be fairly legit," said Szafraniec.

    That's because it is.

    Marilyn has more than $439 in unclaimed money that's rightfully hers.

    A simple search of the Texas Unclaimed Property website verifies it.

    It's the place companies send money they owe to you, when they can't find you.

    All you have to do is fill out a few forms on the state website and it’s yours, all of it, no 10% fee.

    Know this. These types of offers aren’t limited to cash recovery and they don’t just come in the mail.

    Emilio Corsetti typed in "Texas Registration" on his internet browser so he could renew.

    "The first thing that popped up asked for my credit card which I thought was strange but I gave my credit card information and immediately after that, I got a message that said thanks for purchasing our guide," said Corsetti.

    Corsetti hadn't really gone to the Texas DMV but instead a site selling him instructions on how to renew that registration.

    These types of offers are out there from companies taking fees to help you do all sorts of things like forwarding your mail or paying taxes.

    They charge fees for something you can do yourself for free. It's not illegal, they typically have noticeable disclaimers that they’re not a government agency and simply a service.

    "Whether or not paying somebody to file on your behalf is a valuable service is for others to decide," said Corsetti.

    Marilyn Szafraniec is happy to have a little more clarity to make her choice.

    "It just sounds like money falling from the sky," she said.

    It was for her.

    NBC 5 Responds helped make it happen with no fee from our Consumer Investigative Center and that entire $439 dollars is headed her way.

    You can see if you have any cash headed your way from the Texas Unclaimed Property website by clicking HERE.

    If you have a consumer question, problem, or offer that seems too good to be true, call NBC 5 Responds at 844-573-7763.

    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[What You Can Do About Robocalls]]>Mon, 29 Jan 2018 18:37:55 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Man+on+Phone.JPG

    Whether it’s a home phone or smartphone, chances are robocallers have your number and the next thing you know, there’s someone on the line trying to sell you a timeshare or claiming to be the IRS. 

    “You pick up the phone, you say hello and there’s a long pause,” Mark Burgess, a San Diego IT Director said, “that’s a robocall.” 

    Unfortunately, nothing will stop robocalls all together so that’s why you need to lead the fight. How can you stop robocalls? Here are some suggestions from professionals:

    • Join the “Do Not Call” registry.
      Burgess said the “Do Not Call” registry has made a difference with businesses that follow the rules but for those who break them, you have to try the other tactics below. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the “Do Not Call” registry, hang up. The registry will never call you. To sign up for the “Do Not Call” registry, click here
    • Monitor and Ignore Calls.
      “If you answer a true robocall, you have just acknowledged that you’re a real human being and you’re going to get more calls,” Burgess said. Don’t answer if you’re not familiar with the phone number. Screen the call by letting it go to voicemail if you don’t know who it is. If the caller is a robocall, block the number.
    • Block Text Spammers.
      If you are registered with the “Do Not Call” registry, you can forward spam texts to 7726 free of charge.
    • Pay for a Service.
      Technology is fighting back against robocalls but there’s often a charge for the service. “There are services that will offer to block the call for you if you register your phone through them,” Burgess said. To read more about some paid services out there, click here.
    • If all else fails, complain!
      Write down the phone number you received the robocall from and file a complaint with the FTC. You can file a complaint by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or file online by clicking here.  

    For more information on what consumers can do to fight against robocalls, click here

    <![CDATA[Fort Worth Man Earns Nearly $10,000 on Resale App in 1 Year]]>Mon, 29 Jan 2018 07:48:23 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/241*120/appsamantha.JPG

    Johnny Francisco has mastered the art of turning old clothing and accessories into quick cash.

    His girlfriend introduced him to a number of fashion apps like Depop, Offer Up and Grailed, but he eventually struck gold on Poshmark.

    "I had this scarf literally since high school. It was a Ralph Lauren Polo scarf. That was really the first one for me. When I sold that scarf I said, 'Okay, this could be something,'" Francisco said.  

    And that something translated into nearly $10,000 in just one year.

    "It's not just used clothing. There's plenty of new clothing as well," he said.

    Fashion apps have made it easy for people like Francisco to scratch their entrepreneurial itch.

    They're free for to join, but there are seller fees:

    For Grailed there is a 6 percent commission, plus applicable Paypal fees.

    Depop automatically charges a 10 percent fee on the total transaction amount, including shipping costs and Paypal fees.

    Poshmark takes a flat commission of $2.95 for all sales under $15 and 20 percent commission for sales over $15.

    And Facebook marketplace doesn't charge any selling fees.

    But no matter the platform, Francisco's secrets to sales are the same:

    -His number one tip: always have good lighting.  He said you want to find a room with a lot of natural light, or even use your flash.

    -You'll also want to take clear pictures from different angles.

    -Be sure to have a descriptive title and caption.

    But he's not just a seller. Francisco said he likes to shop on the fashion apps, too.

    "If I have buyer's remorse, I can turn around and just post it again," he said.

    Francisco said his initial goal was to only make $1,000 off the fashion app, but he certainly surpassed that.

    For 2018, he says his goal is to make anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000.

    <![CDATA[Government Shutdown Could Impact Mortgage Loans]]>Fri, 19 Jan 2018 18:26:21 -0500https://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 18:45:59 -0500https://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 07:46:35 -0500https://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.

    <![CDATA[Dallas Catholics Respond to Parker School Uniforms Closings]]>Wed, 17 Jan 2018 07:48:15 -0500https://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.

    <![CDATA[CVS Pharmacy to End Touch Ups of Its Beauty Images]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 18:34:01 -0500https://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 23:40:23 -0500https://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 18:38:31 -0500https://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.

    <![CDATA[GroupMe Users Report Hacked Accounts]]>Thu, 11 Jan 2018 12:00:19 -0500https://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[Here Are 5 Ways to Reduce Your Energy Bill]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 08:21:08 -0500https://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 23:50:13 -0500https://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 07:44:36 -0500https://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 05:03:08 -0500https://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 14:55:06 -0500https://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 23:38:03 -0500https://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 18:45:03 -0500https://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 23:56:17 -0500https://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.

    <![CDATA[Chip Issue Makes Nearly All Computers Vulnerable to Hackers]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 19:02:23 -0500https://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 18:15:49 -0500https://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.

    <![CDATA[North Texas Consumer Gets Refund for Faulty Fridge]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 07:50:53 -0500https://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 17:16:15 -0500https://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 18:30:17 -0500https://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 07:55:37 -0500https://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 18:44:35 -0500https://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.


    Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
    <![CDATA[Email Warning of Student Loan Increases Not As It Appears]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 23:42:31 -0500https://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 18:56:18 -0500https://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 18:47:15 -0500https://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.

    <![CDATA[Driver Accuses Carmaker of Failing to Warn of Defect]]>Wed, 27 Dec 2017 07:44:51 -0500https://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.

    <![CDATA[Merchants Keep Lists of Who Returns Items Too Much]]>Fri, 06 Apr 2018 13:26:54 -0500https://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.”

    <![CDATA[Deadline Looming for Scam Victims Tricked Into Wiring Money]]>Sat, 23 Dec 2017 00:16:03 -0500https://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 20:30:19 -0500https://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 07:59:08 -0500https://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 18:38:04 -0500https://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 07:54:11 -0500https://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 18:40:33 -0500https://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 08:06:47 -0500https://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 05:45:55 -0500https://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:


    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 19:48:59 -0500https://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 07:56:35 -0500https://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