<![CDATA[NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth - Dallas-Fort Worth News - NBC 5 Responds]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/localen-usFri, 17 Aug 2018 23:40:16 -0500Fri, 17 Aug 2018 23:40:16 -0500NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Integrating Your Smart Phone into Your Car]]>Fri, 17 Aug 2018 18:10:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Smart+car+Technology.jpg

Smart phone addiction is a real thing. It's hard for many of us to go very long without a smart phone near by. That addiction has led to issues with distracted driving and lately car makers have tried to combat the problem by helping integrate your phone into your car.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Integrating Your Smart Phone into Your Car]]>Fri, 17 Aug 2018 19:37:10 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Smart+car+Technology.jpg

Smart phone addiction is a real thing. It's hard for many of us to go very long without a smart phone near by. That addiction has led to issues with distracted driving and lately car makers have tried to combat the problem by helping integrate your phone into your car.

Simply plug in your phone and what's on the screen gets mirrored onto the screen on the dashboard.

But you still don't have to look, it's all controlled by your voice and that's just the beginning.

Alphonso Baker works for Toyota of North America based in Plano. His job is to help get you connected to some of the technology in Toyota's cars and trucks, including making texting safer.

"I can tap the messaging icon here," said Baker. The Siri function inside the car then responds "to whom should I send your message?"

"Zachory Imaheizer," Baker Responded.

Siri comes back with "what do you want to say?"

"How was your day today," said Baker.

"Your message to Zachory says how was your day today? Ready to send it," said Siri.

Baker responds "yes."

"I'll send it," said Siri.

"It's just like you never have to take your hand off the wheel, that's really cool," said NBC 5 Reporter Wayne Carter.

"And it's safe," said Baker.

It works the same way when you get a message. Carter sent Baker a text.

"It says I have a message," said Baker.

"Wayne says: just want to let you know we're airing the story on car technology on Friday," said Siri.

The folks at Toyota surprised Carter with not just Siri in the car, but Alexa too.

"So I can order toilet paper from the car," ask Carter.

"If you have your prime account hooked up, you can order toilet paper from your car," said Baker.

If you have a smart home, you can have Alexa turn on the lights for you as you're pulling up in the driveway, or lower the a/c in the house.

It's all there to help you bring your smart tech on the road and have a little more fun behind the wheel.

This carplay technology is available on many late model cars everything from GM and Ford to Honda & Volvo. Alexa has a smaller list of cars out there, but Ford, Volkswagon, Toyota, and BMW are some of the big ones that do have the option.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[The Best Sunburn Remedies That You May Already Have at Home]]>Fri, 17 Aug 2018 09:29:54 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/215*120/sunscreen21.JPG

Soaking up the sun is one of the joys of summer, but it can lead to pain if you get sun burnt.

For tips on getting relief, Brian Underwood, the beauty director at O, the Oprah Magazine, shares his secrets.

"The first thing is to peer inside your medicine cabinet," he said. "What you want to look for a is a 1 percent hydrocortisone cream and what hydrocortisone does is, its an anti-inflammatory is in the same way that it takes the redness and swelling out of a bug bite or a minor kitchen burn, it can do the same thing for a sunburn."

Also, take a walk around your kitchen. Check the cabinets for hidden gems.

"There's the sort of cooling effect of the cucumber which is gonna feel great. It also has anti-inflammatory properties," he said.

Plano dermatologist Dornechia Carter said cucumbers are cooling to the skin, but may work better on your face.

But if you insist on going to your local pharmacy, there are plenty of options.

The products for after-sun care have come a long way from that green sort of goop that you would buy at the drug store.

"The Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration after Sun Ultra Hydrating lotion contains aloe and its from Hawaiian Tropic and it also has that amazing smell which we love," Underwood said.

He also said Goddess Garden is a great natural brand that makes an aloe spray.

"Bioderma Photoderm After Sun and the Avene Thermal Spring Water are also great," Underwood explained. "The Avene product is infused with spring water which has a lot of great minerals that help to re-balance your skin. And what I love about these products is that they’re very luxurious feeling, so you feel like you’re doing something nice for yourself, while also helping to heal your skin."

Underwood also suggests using plain yogurt on your skin for at least ten minutes.

We asked Dr. Carter about this and she says dairy products tend to be good for soothing heat. She also says oatmeal should also be added to the list. It’s great for inflammation and readily available in people’s pantries.

But Dr. Carter believes the best thing to help you is time. Sunburned skin is essentially dead, and you have to wait for a new layer to grow. And of course, prevention is your best defense.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![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[NBC 5 Responds After Man's New Smartphone is Lost Via Shipping]]>Thu, 16 Aug 2018 17:41:20 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/NBC+5+Responds+Placeholder.JPG

Many of us are shopping online these days and sometimes eagerly waiting for our delivery to show up.

John Diamond got a great deal on a Galaxy S9+.

He ordered it in April, but by the end of May it hadn’t come, apparently it was lost during shipment.

John says he called Samsung and they kept saying they were reviewing his case and apologizing but still no word on the phone.

NBC 5 Responds reached out and Problem Solved.

Samsung refunded his money and matched the sales price he paid for the phone if he chose to buy again.

Samsung told NBC 5, "We regret the experience that Mr. Diamond had with his delivery and we have followed up with him to resolve the matter to his satisfaction. We aspire to have best-in-class service for all Samsung customers."

In this instance the company was trying to figure out where the phone went and was going back and forth with the shipper.

It meant two levels of digging and waiting which stretched out this problem.

If you have a lost shipment talk to both the person who sold you the product and the shipping company who may have lost it.

Sometimes you have to help connect the two companies to get a resolution quickly.

<![CDATA[Latest Safety Ratings for 3 Popular Minivans]]>Thu, 16 Aug 2018 07:01:59 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz5-minivan+crash_KXASIDUM_2018-08-16-05-13-24.jpg

A recent round of crash tests is offering some mixed results for minivan makers in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's latest scores.

The institute focused on passenger-side front crash tests for three 2018-19 minivans: Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna.

"A vehicle may go off the road, strike a tree, or an object at the side of the road where only a portion of the front of the vehicle actually gets crushed," said IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby.

In these "small overlap" tests, the Sienna received a "marginal" rating overall and a "poor" rating for structure.

"In essence, the safety cage around the right front passenger has started to fall apart," Zuby said.

In a written statement, Toyota, in part, called the test a "severe, specialized test that goes beyond federal vehicle safety requirements," but pointed to steps taken "to improve the performance of Toyota vehicles" in the small overlap test.

The Pacifica earned a "marginal" rating for structure with an "acceptable" rating overall for passenger side protection.

The Odyssey fared best, scoring an "acceptable" rating on structure and a "good" overall.

"We'd ideally like to see all vehicles rating good overall," Zuby said. "But those that rate acceptable don't have too many problems."

The Odyssey and Pacifica each received the top safety pick award for front crash protection overall.

To read more about the safety ratings, go here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Construction Company Doesn't Complete Woman's Bathroom Remodel]]>Wed, 15 Aug 2018 17:36:56 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/bathroom+remodel.jpg

A Sachse woman says she lost thousands of dollars trying to remodel her master bathroom. She says the contractor ran into a snag halfway through the job and didn't come back.

"We’ve lived here for 27 years and our bathroom was in a 27 year old state of distress and we saved up a long time for it," said Mary Saathoff.

$8,000 is how much they had saved for a new bathroom.

She found Mike Mireles Construction to do the job and asked for references.

"I asked him over and over again, I said could I have the numbers to some of your people and it just never happened he kept being very positive. Oh yeah I’ll get those to ya but, he just never did," said Saathoff.

Still she hired Mireles and went forward with a full gut of that old bathroom.

"New tile, tile on the floor shower, you know the walls, a border, new vanity, new mirror, new lights just everything was gonna be new," said Saathoff.

The work began and progressed until they got to the shower.

"They were just saying that because of the way that the pipes were originally put in, it was just very difficult to put in the other pipes to go to the second shower head," said Saathoff.

Saathoff says her contractor needed more money to get a plumber to come up and deal with the tough job.

She paid it, but the shower never got completed and Saathoff says her calls stopped being returned.

Saathoff paid $5190 of the total $6300 bill for the job.

Her contract says the job would take just twelve days to finish and she’s entitled to a 10 percent discount for every day the contract isn’t completed. If honored, that deal would make her job free, if only she could get ahold of Mireles.

Mireles’ company’s website has since gone dark. We found a handful of reviews for the company online.

Three people reported similar issues as Saathoff. NBC 5 Responds called and emailed Mireles and his son Adam who was supposed to be a project manager, leaving messages for several weeks without a call back.

We never reached either of them.

"This was my dream. My dream was to have a nice master bathroom and you know what lady doesn’t dream of that," said Saathoff.

Saathoff's major mistake was that while she asked for references, she never actually got them.

She let the work move forward without actually making the phone calls to talk to people who did business with Mireles, make sure they’re real customers, and see the quality of work they received.

NBC 5 Responds suggest, don’t just take someone’s word or look at a bunch of photos of work they said they completed. Talk to previous customers, ask to see the work, make sure they’re not friends and family. Check out everything before you hand over several thousand dollars.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Helps Cowboys Fan Get Refund in StubHub Ticket Glitch]]>Wed, 15 Aug 2018 07:27:31 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz4-v-+cowboys+stubh_KXASIDEF_2018-08-15-05-13-09.jpg

Erin Hipps is not your typical Cowboys fan -- she's a self-proclaimed fanatic. So when her tickets to a preseason game wouldn't download, NBC 5 Responds looked into it.

Every year, Hipps and her husband attend at least one preseason game.

"I can get preseason tickets very affordable," she said.

Keeping the tradition alive, she went on StubHub.com in June and ordered two tickets to the Cowboys vs. Cincinnati Bengals game. 

The tickets weren't available for download on the day she ordered, but claimed they would be ready on July 18. When she checked that day, they weren't ready and they still weren't ready when she checked again a few weeks later, Hipps said.

She said she called StubHub and was told to give them 24 hours so they could look into the problem.

"They said give them 48 hours. I said wait a minute, 48 hours is going to puts us 10 days out," Hipps said. "That makes me very nervous that I can't get my tickets."

A StubHub representative told her that there were some changes with the NFL this year, and those changes were affecting ticket downloads.

That's when she asked for her money back and she was leery about the whole transaction, so she called NBC 5 Responds to look into it.

StubHub told us it did have technical issues with barcode uploading. In this case, the seller did upload the tickets to the site, but they were not visible to Hipps.

StubHub said customers should not experience any issues buying NFL tickets from them and the error has been fixed.

Not only did Hipps get a full refund, StubHub also sent her a $20 credit, which she used to secure tickets to the Cowboys' first preseason home game.

StubHub said all purchases on its site are backed by its "Fanprotect Guarantee."

If something goes wrong, StubHub will replace the order with comparable tickets or offer a full refund.

StubHub tips for buying tickets:

1. Set a price alert – To get the best deals on StubHub, we encourage you to set a price alert on the app. You will get notified when tickets are available at the price you choose. It’s a great way to score the best deals!

2. Always check that there is a guarantee in place – Regardless of where you buy tickets, we recommend that you check that the website you’re using has a guarantee in place to cover you for any issues. StubHub was the first ticket marketplace to introduce a guarantee, which call the FanProtect Guarantee. It covers all transactions on the site and StubHub will either replace your tickets or provide you with a full refund if something goes wrong.

3. Never post pictures of your barcode online – We know it can be exciting when your tickets arrive and you may want to post them on your social media channels. It is very easy to copy barcodes and fraudsters could find the picture of your tickets online and copy the barcodes. If they beat you to the gate, your tickets won’t work. If you want to post your tickets, cover up the barcode so it cannot be replicated and any other personal information to protect yourself.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Tips for Back to School Shopping on a Budget]]>Tue, 14 Aug 2018 09:01:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/bts-budget-consumer.jpg

Parents are shelling out a pretty penny this year to get their children ready for the school year.

According to the National Retail Federation, families can expect to spend an average of $684, per child.

"People struggle because they don’t have a plan in place," said Steve Ringo, financial expert at DeWitt & Dunn. He said hitting the stores with no direction will only lead to sticker shock and possibly regret when you check your next credit card statement.

Identifying the big ticket items should be your first step, Ringo advised.

"Start with technology first, whether it’s the tablets, the computers, the calculators. Those things are really expensive," he said.

Parents are expected to spend 7 percent more this year on back to school tech — an average of $200.

Laptops will cost from $150 to more than $2,000, so it’s important to understand which model your student will actually need. If you’re unsure, ask the school, and look for two-in-one models that double as a tablet and laptop.

"Also, don’t get carried away on the top of the line. Get exactly what you need for your family," said Ringo.

Shoes can also cost you big time, especially if your kids are into the latest trends and high end sneakers. If your student insists, Ringo said make them work for it.

"That’s always a good time to teach them about finances. If you want something, work hard and you’ll be able to get it. So if you have a budget of X amount of dollars, but if they want to pay the rest, they can earn that in the form of chores, or doing extra work," he explained.

Ringo also said parents shouldn't go overboard when it comes to classroom extras. Those are additional things that teachers need on an annual basis.

He recommends buying some of these items throughout the year, not at once.

And last, but not least, Ringo wants parents to put their budget on paper. It might sound silly, but creating a budget worksheet can really keep you on track.

If you’re not sure how to create a budget worksheet, or just don’t feel like creating one, see the one below.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds After Woman's New Car Has Trouble]]>Mon, 13 Aug 2018 17:36:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Nissan+Transmission.jpg

A Dallas woman says her new car started giving her problems after just one year and getting the manufacturer to help with repairs wasn’t easy.

Rose Ann Sanchez owned two Nissan Rogues.

"I just love the brand you know and I love the Nissan Rogue. I really do," said Sanchez.

Liking her car is important.

Rose Ann is behind the wheel a lot, she drives for Uber and says after seven months her new Rogue started having problems.

"It started doing all this coughing. Like it’s gonna stall on me."

She says the dealer told her she just needed a few “adjustments” and sent her on again, but the problems remained. She says she went back a total of 13 times.

"Every time I told them put in your notes that I think I’m having a transmission problem."

One Sunday afternoon her suspicions were confirmed.

"All of a sudden everything’s shaking you know it was crazy."

This time the dealer told her the transmission was dead, and yes it did need to be replaced but there was a problem, she had to pay for it now.

She was just 800 miles out of warranty and now a new transmission would cost her $4,000.

She called Nissan’s corporate offices. They offered to pay 80 percent of the repair leaving her on the hook for the rest.

"I said 'no no no' and I kept telling them at the corporate 'I’m telling you right now I’m not paying one penny.'"

She’s been going back and forth with them for three weeks over the repair.

She was borrowing cars to drive Uber here and there trying to make ends meet.

"I’ve seen you on Facebook and I started reading what you’ve done you know and I was like oh my God maybe Mr. Carter could help me," said Sanchez.

She called NBC 5 Responds and problem solved.

Nissan said considering all the documented trips Rose Ann made to the dealership and the fact that she had been a longtime customer they would replace her transmission at no cost and give a seven year /100,000 mile warranty on it.

The story doesn’t end there though. Rose Ann later found out the transmission wasn’t fully replaced, but repaired.

It still didn’t cost her anything, just as promised, and seemed to be running well after she got it.

She decided to trade in her Rogue. She bought another Nissan saying she was still pleased with how they eventually stepped up.

What really worked for Rose Ann was every single time she brought the car in she asked that it be documented in her file that she thought the transmission was broken.

It made it easier for Nissan to see how much she had tried to fix this.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Concerns Over 'Outrageous Water Bills' in Haltom City]]>Mon, 13 Aug 2018 07:08:49 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/haltom-city-water-bills.jpg

Melanie Montgomery used to take her time washing dishes. But lately, she feels rushed and paranoid about letting the water run too long.

"It’s very frustrating," Montgomery said. Back in January, her bill was $82. Fast forward to July — it nearly tripled.

"The last four years we’ve used same amount of water every year," said Montgomery.

But according to her bill, she used 349 more water this year compared to last year.

"There’s one day that I looked up that it shows 25 gallons of water every single hour. How is that possible?" she asked.

Montgomery said it all started when Haltom City took out the old water meters and hired a company, called Fathom, to install smart meters.

"When I called they just said, 'well, that’s what it shows so that’s what it is,'" said Montgomery.

NBC 5 Responds heard from more than 50 people in Haltom City whose bills have also skyrocketed.

"Our water bill went from $141 to $332 for two people," said Mary Hunter.

Bottom line: They do not trust these smart meters. The people we spoke with said there is no way their water usage could increase this much in a year’s time.

"We might as well just move out of Haltom City because we’re not going to be able to afford to live in Haltom City," Hunter said.

Rex Phelps, Haltom City's Assistant City Manager, said many residents have been undercharged on their water usage for decades. He said the old meters were simply inaccurate.

"You had a good situation for a long time because you simply weren’t paying all your water usage. And now, you are," he said.

The city brought in Fathom to manage the smart meters and its billing system, which Phelps said will ultimately save the city money.

"When water is used we had to pay Fort Worth for it," he said. "We were losing millions of gallons a year that we were having to pay Fort Worth, which probably translates to a million dollars a year, or more."

The city admits that the new system has not been all smooth sailing. Earlier this year, they experienced billing glitches that affected about 200 residents.

"We do empathize with them but we do know that the new meters are accurate," said Phelps.

But the residents we spoke with said they have little faith in the smart meters and want them out. The residents have started a petition to do away with this new smart meter system altogether.

Haltom City said it will continue to host town hall meetings and will meet with people one-on-one to help them understand the bills and regain their trust.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Back-to-School Fashion Trends: Guide for Parents]]>Fri, 10 Aug 2018 06:29:52 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/fashionpicture.jpg

Ahead of tax-free weekend, Reporter Samantha Chatman and fashion experts at the Galleria Dallas reveal some of the hottest back-to-school clothing trends for every age group.

Elementary Girls: Look From the Children’s Place

For little girls, SPARKLY is the key! The sequined top and sparkly shoes are both fun and functional. A sparkly backpack from Journeyz Kids is a great accessory that she’ll love to carry.

Prints are big in girls bottoms; even military-inspired camo print. You'll also see a lot of animal prints, too.

Elementary Boys: Look From Zara

For young boys, comfort is key, and that’s one of the reasons the athleisure trend is so big. Graphic print t-shirts are huge this year for all ages and allow a little personality to shine through. Fun sneakers are perfect for elementary school where you have to be prepared for PE and recess with closed toed shoes each day. The Gameboy backpack from Journeyz Kids is a big trend for boys as well.

High School Girls: Look From Apricot Lane

Fall florals are huge for fall. The floral kimono gives them the chance to wear one of her summer sleeveless shirts into the fall. Flat booties give a great sense of style while still comfortable enough to hurry across campus. Large tote bags like this function as a backpack or bookbag with a more stylish look.

High School Boys: Look from GAP

Denim on denim is BIG and this light denim jacket demonstrates this trend. Plaid is everywhere, and plaid shirts make a good layering piece. Sneaker inspired footwear gives a more stylish athletic appeal. The backpack is from Bag & Baggage and is functional and created with strong Cordura nylon just like luggage, so it really holds up.

ONLINE: Tax-Free Weekend rules

Photo Credit: NBC 5
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<![CDATA[Top Apps for Tax-Free Weekend]]>Fri, 10 Aug 2018 14:03:05 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/mall-sales-deals-generic.jpg

Since 1999, the state of Texas has given consumers the ultimate back-to-school gift: A full weekend of tax-free items to help ease your mind and your wallet.

Shoppers can expect to save about $8 for every $100 spent during the annual holiday.

Couponing expert Natalie Reid offered her help you save even more.

"What's great about this time of year is that most of the retailers have summer merchandise that they're trying to get out of there stores," Reid explained. "They usually have additional 40-50 percent off that already reduced merchandise, so you can really stock up," she said.

When it comes to stocking up, Reid said coupons are key. Before you reach for the scissors, grab your phone instead and download these apps.

"I'll pull up the Coupon Sherpa app. It'll show me every store in the mall that has a coupon available. I'll click on Ann Taylor Loft. It shows that coupon, has a bar code and I can show it to the cashier," said Reid.

There's also the Flipp app. It brings all of the local store sales right to your mobile device.

Need another? How about Shopkick?

"This one's fun," said Reid. "You open it up, you tell them where you are and you earn kicks. They can be redeemed for a gift card, a Starbucks gift card, Nike gift card."

But her advice doesn't stop at coupons.

Reid said you should also follow your favorite retailer's social media pages. Stores will sometimes offer special discounts and promotions exclusively for their followers.

Next, create a secondary email account. Retailers may ask you to join their loyalty program for an additional 10 percent off this weekend.

"But you don't want to use your primary email address. Instead, have a different Gmail or Yahoo account dedicated just for stores and sales," she explained.

If you're old school and don't want to deal with technology, check to see if there are any ads at the front of the store.

"Office Depot and Staples have these great penny sales: 15 cents for folders, or a penny for glue, and each week these are different," Reid explained.

If the crowds are just too much for you, keep in mind the tax-free weekend deal includes online shopping, too.

"You're not going to get the savings like shopping a clearance rack that has an additional clearance off. But you can compare prices a lot easier," she said.

For more tax-free weekend tips and a list of coupon apps, click here: http://modmomtv.com/apps

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Sales Tax Holiday Weekend is Here]]>Fri, 10 Aug 2018 16:55:21 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/080118schoolsupplies.jpg

The Texas annual sales tax holiday has been set for Aug. 10 - 12, just in time for families sending children back to school.

Shoppers can save money on certain items priced under $100 during the tax-free holiday weekend. Good news, our partners at The Dallas Morning News say there will be fewer out-of-towners shopping in North Texas this weekend.

Both Oklahoma and Louisiana copied Texas and already had their sales tax holidays last weekend.

The state law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced under $100 from sales tax.

Sales tax must still be paid on some items, such as luggage, computer bags, purses, wallets and watches.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar estimates shoppers will save nearly $87 million in state and local sales taxes during the Texas tax break weekend that's been an annual event since 1999.

More: Texas Sales Tax Holiday

CLICK HERE to read Six Things to Know About Tax-Free Shopping in Texas This Weekend from our media partners at The Dallas Morning News

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[2 Years in, Is IKEA's Furniture Recall Working?]]>Thu, 09 Aug 2018 06:47:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ikea-furniture-recall-responds.jpg

Two years after the largest product recall in history, is the IKEA furniture recall working?

Four national safety groups say they wish they could answer that question, accusing IKEA of keeping them, and consumers, in the dark about the current numbers.

In Pennsylvania, 2-year-old Curren Collas was found by his mom crushed under an IKEA dresser.

In Washington state, Camden Ellis, 2, was pinned under a similar dresser.

Their two deaths are on a list of eight children killed by toppled IKEA furniture since 1989.

But it wasn't until the 2016 death of Minnesota toddler Teddy McGee that the retailer announced a voluntary recall of millions of IKEA dressers and chests due to a serious tip-over hazard, urging consumers to anchor the furniture to the wall or get a refund.

Two years later, safety advocates say more needs to be done to get the risk out of homes.

"We think they're spending a lot of marketing dollars on other things. They need to spend the same marketing dollars they use to sell products to get these products out of homes," said Nancy Cowles of Kids in Danger.

IKEA did re-announce the recall in November 2017 after another child died. At that time, IKEA reported a total of 299 tip-over incidents and 144 injuries.

Safety groups say they can't gauge how effective the recall has been since.

"We're asking for those numbers. We put in a request a year ago asking for the recall file to find out what was going on - we still have not gotten that data," said Cowles.

One part of the controversy: the math.

Ikea says it's provided service for and/or refunded more than one million dressers. But safety groups point out the actual refund numbers in that equation are low.

"About 175,000 people have gotten the refund out of some 17 million people at the least, probably more," Cowles explained.

In a statement to NBC Chicago, IKEA defended the effectiveness of its recall, pointing out there is no way to determine how many of the affected chests or drawers — some more than 30 years old — are still in use today.

And, consumers "who attached their chest to the wall at the time of purchase...would have no need to participate in the recall," IKEA said.

"But this is very unstable furniture that we know tips over, that we know has been involved in deaths, and we recommend that everyone return it for the refund," Cowles said.

Anyone with an IKEA dresser that is part of this recall is eligible for a refund or repair kit. Take the dresser in or the company will come pick it up. We have a full list of the items involved here.

ONLINE: IKEA recall information

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[North Texas Man Can't Get Car Title After Dealer Goes Dark]]>Wed, 08 Aug 2018 16:28:33 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Magnum+Auto.jpg

A McKinney man bought a used car for his daughter, and more than a year-and-a-half later he still can't get the car registered. He says it's all because of the dealer.

"It's been sitting more than anything," Jermaine Sapp said.

The car has been sitting idle because the dealer where he bought the car hasn't given him plates or a title.

He says every time he asks Magnum Auto Group for help they send him an email with an attachment of a temporary tag.

"Like I said I have a bunch of temporary tags that I have gotten from him," Sapp said. "And here's two more."

Magnum Auto Group appears shut down. The doors are chained shut, and the garage in the back appears leased to another company. Neighboring businesses tell NBC 5 the owner shows up here and there but not regularly. We had no luck reaching anyone by phone either.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles says Magnum has lost its license, and they've heard many stories just like Sapp's of cars where the title was never received. Sapp said when he visited the dealership several months back, trying to get a title, the owner told him then that others were complaining, too.

The dealership has since closed, and Sapp hadn't been able to contact the owner any longer.

"He told me initially, out of his mouth, that I'm not the only person having a problem like this with him," Sapp said.

Sapp couldn't figure out why the dealer wouldn't provide the paperwork for cars they sell. He wondered if the car was stolen, but police checked the VIN and it appeared the car was not reported stolen.

Sapp then filed a complaint with the DMV against Magnum. The state is helping him get a title to finally get legal and his daughter's car on the road.

"Just simple, a title. I just want a title," Sapp said.

If you have a problem, make sure you file a formal complaint. The DMV has steps you can take to get a plate if your dealer walks off without giving you all the paperwork you need.

MORE: Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Expert Says Spyware Attacks Appear to Be Targeting Seniors]]>Tue, 07 Aug 2018 16:00:22 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Donna+Zimmerman.jpg

A Fort Worth woman says she was trying to look up customer service for her phone company when her computer was locked by hackers.

Donna Zimmerman, 74, loves technology and using her computer.

"It's my friend," she said, laughing.

Imagine her surprise when that friend appeared held for ransom.

"All of a sudden a big red screen, and squealing, and a notice across the top that said 'Microsoft security alert, your screen is locked. Call this number immediately,'" Zimmerman said.

What started as a simple Google search for the customer service number at her phone company ended with a call to the 800-number on that bright red screen telling her she had big problems.

"They had complete control of my computer," she said. "I said, 'So you want money, right?' And he said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Give me my computer back right now.'"

Zimmerman knew it was a scam, so she hung up the phone after giving the person on the other end a choice word or two. She ended up shutting down her computer and restarting it, and she hasn't had any trouble since then.

Still, she likely has spyware on her computer. It's a simple cookie that gets downloaded on your computer and pops back up from time to time.

Even though her computer is working fine now, the cookie might still be there

NBC 5 Responds is helping Zimmerman get a good anti-virus software that can usually find and clean it out.

A Dallas cybersecurity expert says lately spyware has been making a comeback on sites often visited by senior citizens.

Remember your computer manufacturer will never hijack your computer and charge money to get it back.

Hackers do.

Anti-virus software helps protect you from spyware, but there's another more complicated virus out there that does the same thing. It's called ransomware, and it's much harder to eliminate.

Microsoft has some tips to help you get rid of it here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Midlothian Homeowner Faces Fence Contractor Delays]]>Tue, 07 Aug 2018 07:13:53 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/condor-fence-contractor.jpg

Slowly but surely, Glenn DuBose's Midlothian home is coming together.

"We bought the house in January. It was in quite a need for work to get it back up to where it should be," he said.

DuBose said the house is about 75 percent complete. But the project that's really been a thorn in his side: the fence.

DuBose paid Condor Fencing a $1,700 deposit to build a privacy fence for his new home. "They assured me that they were gonna have a fence up by the 21st," DuBose said.

But on the 21st of June, DuBose said he started to worry.

"They didn't come. They didn't even show up," he explained.

He said the owner, Shawn Partain, assured him they'd be back the following week, but that didn't happen either. DuBose said he didn't see them again until the end of July, when they started drilling more holes in the ground.

Per the contract, DuBose is supposed to get a free fence stain if the work isn't finished by the deadline. But he said he's not counting on that either.

DuBose said a friend sent him an article from the Waxahachie Daily Light which read, "Midlothian fencing company scams Mesquite woman out of $1,500..."

In the article, the contractor in question is Shawn Partain of Condor Fencing. After seeing our report from February on the same company, DuBose said he believed he was getting "scammed."

We asked the owner, Shawn Partain, about complaints on his business. He told us he's fixing everything.

"That's all we can do. Been in business for 18 years and had a hiccup," he said.

As for the delays on DuBose's fence, he said the heat has been backing them up. Partain said he'd have the fence done by July 27, but DuBose said that didn't happen.

"Fix the fence. Just get the fence fixed," DuBose said.

About a week after our initial call to the contractor, DuBose said he got a call saying the contractor would be there later that day. By the end of the day, DuBose said Condor Fencing finally finished the fence and did a great job.

"You’ve done more for me at this point than anyone else could’ve ever done for me," he said.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Condor Fencing has the second highest number of complaints of any fence contractor in its database.

So before your next home project, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions: 

• Check reviews online.
• Include a start date and completion deadline on your contract.  DuBose only had a completion date.
• Remember, paying deposits up front, especially half, can be risky.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Skin Cream Confusion Costs Women Thousands of Dollars]]>Fri, 03 Aug 2018 15:38:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/skin+cream+mirror.jpg

Joan Pall thought she had found the fountain of youth on her Facebook feed.

An ad for a skin treatment called "Brio" promised clear and beautiful skin.

She followed the link to a free trial offer. It said only a $4.95 shipping fee was required.

 “I was going to sample it, that’s all I thought,” Pall said.

When several more creams with different names arrived, she returned them, assuming it was a mistake.

Three months later she noticed a problem.  

"My account was dwindling, and I didn’t know why," Pall said.

Her debit card statement showed 23 separate charges from nine different merchants, which totaled up to $1,300 spent on face cream.

It seems Pall hadn't reviewed the terms of the deal.

She had actually signed up for a 14-day trial and enrolled in an auto-shipment program for more lotions from various companies.      

“I felt really stupid. That I’d been had,” Pall said.

She's not the only one.

Judy Ray of Fort Worth says she clicked on an ad fore a free sample of skin cream and started getting more than she bargained for.

"One or two a month, and every time they sent a package there'd be two products in it at $100 each," Ray said. 

The packages came from different companies, all charging different amounts.

Ray can't even remember or track down who she ordered from in the first place. 

"It's so convoluted, when you see it on Facebook it will be under one name, the product, when you get it it's a different name, when you get the billing, it's yet a different name," she said.

We are working with Ray to dig through dozens of credit card charges and track down which company sparked all this.

NBC Responds also tried to track down the owners of the company behind Pall's auto shipment, Hydra Skin Sciences, but could only reach someone at a call center who couldn't explain all the charges on Pall's card.

"I think I’m too smart to get duped like this but no one is too smart," Pall said.

Pall's bank agreed to give her almost one thousand dollars back. Ray's gave about one hundred dollars back.

The banks suggest using a credit card rather than debit for anything you're unsure of because they offer more protection.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Problem Solved: Man Faces Bump in the Road for Car Stereo]]>Thu, 02 Aug 2018 15:45:10 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/car+sterio+generic.jpg

Many of us get behind the wheel and like to the blast the tunes a bit. So when a Dallas man's stereo system went out, he wanted it fixed fast. But the warranty company kept giving him roadblocks.

Willie Gupton bought the new car stereo in February, and just three months later he had an issue.

"It won't play discs anymore, and it stopped connecting to my phone," Gupton said.

He returned to Fry's Electronics, where they promised to upgrade him to the next model, but they weren't in stock that day.

"So he says, 'Well, it will take two days for one of them to transform from one of our other stores," Gupton said.

He called back after three days and says he was told they needed more time. After a week, he says he was told it would be yet another two weeks.

After that was up, he says he was told they had the stereo but no installation appointment.

"I spent $300. I ain't going to just walk away," Gupton said.

He called NBC 5 Responds for help.

In a statement, Fry's told us:

"Though there was initial confusion in communicating its availability to Mr. Gupton, Fry's had the replacement stereo ready when the KXAS Consumer Investigative Center contacted us. Our Arlington Fry's Store Manager immediately called Mr. Gupton and set up an appointment."

They weren't sure what went wrong but said there was clearly confusion or a miscommunication. But they were happy to get it worked out.

"I really like it better than the other one," Gupton said.

Now he's back to blaring his summertime tunes.

"It sounds better. Got a better sound," he said.

Gupton was patient. If you're not getting anywhere over the phone, walk in and ask to see a store manager. Gupton didn't go right to the top and explain his case. Fry's was happy to help once the right people knew what was going wrong.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Gift Card Scheme Targeting Cable, Satellite Customers]]>Thu, 02 Aug 2018 10:38:14 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-amazon-giftcard.jpg

An Arlington woman said she was the latest victim of a scheme that targets cable and satellite TV customers.

Tanisha Bell is just about ready for the new school year but the expenses are adding up.

"I teach at a low income school and there's so many different things that's needed for the classroom," she said.

But in the midst of her back to school shopping, Bell thought she found a great way to save.

"My phone rung and it said DirecTV."

The caller knew a lot about Bell: her name, address and the fact that she was a DirecTV customer. The caller said she could reduce her bill to $60 per month if she paid for six months up front with an Amazon gift card.

"He even told me that there would be a $100 VISA card rebate, which I know AT&T has done before," she explained.

Bell went to Walgreens and put $338 on the card, but she became more skeptical when she returned home. She called them back and asked to speak to a supervisor before giving them the gift card number. She said they transferred her to two managers, who confirmed it was all legitimate.

"They even gave me confirmation numbers," she said.

So she read off the numbers and was offered another promotion to save on her AT&T cell phone bill. All she'd have to do was buy another gift card for $300.

"I was ready to go and get the gift card and something told me, Tanisha, check this out," she said.  

Bell did an internet search for the words "DirecTV Amazon Gift Card" and was at a loss for words. She found several articles and complaints from consumers with the same story.

"It's happening in San Antonio, in Florida, in New York," she said. "I just started crying."

The number that called Bell even appears on DirecTV's website.

An AT&T official told us "if a customer feels a call or email is not legitimate, we encourage them to call the number on their bill. We monitor our network for potential fraud activity and provide information about fraud scams on our website. Customers should be skeptical about any promotion from any company where a third party money card is required."

Luckily for Bell, Amazon was able to put a block on the card before anyone could use it. She'll be using that gift card to buy the rest of her school supplies online.

If you ever get a call like this, here are Samantha Chatman's solutions:

• You should never pay anyone over the phone in gift cards. Legitimate companies will never ask for that. It's a huge red flag.
• Also keep in mind that crooks are using a method called spoofing to falsify what appears on your Caller ID.
• When in doubt, go by the number that's on your bill.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Suspending Internet Proved Difficult For Family]]>Wed, 01 Aug 2018 17:50:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/telephone-landline-robocall-04252016.jpg

There was construction going on at the Vega family home, so much work was going on they had to move out for a bit.

The Vega’s decided to stop paying for cable and internet while they were in a hotel. They called AT&T asking to cancel their service.

AT&T suggested suspending the account, instead of canceling, to make the process easier to start it back up.

The Vega’s agreed but kept getting bills.

They tell us they would call each month, get an apology, be told it would get handled… but the bills kept coming.

Eventually the account was mysteriously canceled altogether.

The Vegas said they spent hours trying to get someone to help sort it out.

They called NBC 5 Responds and after the Consumer Investigative Center reached out, AT&T gave them a zero balance and reinstated the account.

Mistakes happen and when it comes to things like cable, internet, and phone service, accounts can be coded incorrectly very easily.

Supervisors and managers can usually help but many companies also have special teams dedicated to solving problems when customer service doesn’t come through.

Ask the operator if any such department exists and if you can have their contact information.

If that doesn’t work you always have us. Just call NBC 5 Responds and we’ll do our best to help point you in the right direction.

Photo Credit: NBC7's Consumer Bob]]>
<![CDATA[Save Time, Space & Money Using College Registries]]>Wed, 01 Aug 2018 06:15:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/college-move-in-generic.jpg

Parents spend 18 years prepping for this big moment: College move-in day.

It's exciting for students, but nerve wracking for their families.

"The National Retail Federation says college students spend about $1,000 before they go to school, so it really can add up," said Natalie Reid, the couponing expert behind ModMomTV.

And every penny counts.

Retail experts say to save money, space and time, students should create a college registry.

Target allows its shoppers to create an account and select their favorite items online. It's a great way for students to manage their college checklist. Like other registries, friends and relatives can buy some of the items on the list, taking off some financial stress for mom and dad.

Plus, Target let's you save 15 percent on anything that was left on your registry.

Bed, Bath and Beyond offers its "Pack and Hold" option.

The process is quick. Scan all the items you want to buy and organize a pick-up date at the nearest store in your college town.

"You don't have to worry about packing your car, but you can still get great savings," Reid said.

Want even bigger savings? Then bundle! Roomify and Dormco let you buy packages — everything you need in one box from bedding, to storage, lights, fans. They take the guess work out of what to bring to college.

And of course, there's Amazon.

"Go online and just knock it all out in one fell swoop. Have it shipped directly to the school and it's there waiting for you," said Reid.

Also consider taking advantage of your college's bundle packages. Many schools team up with retailers and offer solid deals to get your kids off to a great start.

<![CDATA[Fall Is the Best Time to Travel: Experts]]>Tue, 31 Jul 2018 07:49:08 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-beach-walking-generic.jpg

During the summer and holiday travel seasons, flights, hotels and attractions can cost you an arm and a leg.

Instead, look for tickets during the period known in the travel industry as the “shoulder season.”

"It’s less crowded. You tend to have milder weather. You’re not waiting in line as long. You can get reservations easier at some of the in-demand sites," explained Leah Thrapp, who looks for low-key travel dates.

Between the second week of September and the first week of November, Thrapp said airlines, hotels and resorts are making significant price drops this fall.

"They’re just trying to motivate people to travel because once the kids go back to school, people travel less," Thrapp explained.

For example, a summer round-trip flight from DFW International Airport to Iceland came out to $579 on Wow Air.

From Sept. 11 to Sept. 17, the price dropped by more than $300.

If you think that’s a good deal, Thrapp says to check out Hawaii. You could be looking at saving $500 to $1,000 per person if you book in the fall.

"Their tourism is especially down right now with the volcano. It’s not affecting anything on the other islands, but people are just feeling discouraged from going," she said.

Believe it or not, Thrapp is also seeing good deals for trips to Paris.

"People think that Europe trips are super expensive, and typically for the summer you can pay $1,400-$1,500 per person for a ticket," Thrapp said. "But you can go to Paris, Madrid, Rome — all for about $1,000 with hotel and flights this fall."

Thrapp said the key to scoring these great prices is flexibility, especially with your dates.

It may take an extra vacation day or two, but she said traveling and returning mid week could help you save hundreds on your trip.

The main drawback to fall travel is that the best deals will occur when school is in session, which means the kiddos may have to take a couple days off school and do some homework on the plane.

But Thrapp believes it’s worth it.

"There’s a lot of valuable things you can learn in travel, too," she said.

You should also check out cruise lines if you’re not interested in flying. Cruises leaving from Galveston tend to be much cheaper in the fall compared to the summer.

We’re told you can find many of these deals on your own online, but consider hiring a travel agent. Many do not charge extra fees so they can do the bargain hunting for you!

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Prepared Meal Company Goes Under, Taking Couples Money]]>Mon, 30 Jul 2018 17:55:39 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Simply+Fit+Meals.jpg

Nathan and Britni McDaniel are both always on the go.

They’re “foodies” who love a good meal, but their fast pace lunch and dinners usually need to be something simple.

They found and loved “Simply Fit Meals” which sold prepackaged meals.

"It is a lot easier to get these prepackaged meals that you know have a good quantity of food in there for you, like you said, at the office where you don’t necessarily have to take an hour lunch," said Nathan.

Nathan pre-paid $1,000 to the company. In exchange for putting that much money on a house account, Simply Fit Meals promised to add an additional $500.

He’s been using the service for the past three years with no problems until this summer.

Nathan and Britni both visited the store to pick up a meal and all the food was on clearance.

The workers told them Simply Fit Meals was going out of business. Britni said she immediately asked about their account.

"We in fact asked, 'Should we spend this?' and they said no," said Britni. "He was like I can’t answer any questions technically but you’re gonna be fine like it’s going to move over to the new company."

The couple was told several of the managers were going to reopen the business under a new name, REFUL.

Same concept, new location, and their house account balance would transfer over to the new company.

They even stapled a brochure about Reful to their receipt showing the couple still had more than $390 in the account. But when Reful opened, they were told the company was under no obligation to honor Simply Fit Meal’s account.

There was no contract, no sales agreement, nothing outlining what would happen if the business shut down or was closed.

Just a receipt showing the purchase was made. NBC 5 reached out to Reful and got an email saying “REFŪL is a new and completely separate company; we are not obligated to make any offers.”

Legally they’re right. Reful is it’s own entity.

"I have a sneaky feeling that the heads of both companies are the same people," said Nathan.

He might be on to something. The email we received from “Reful” came from a man named Christopher Sanchez.

Which is also the name of the owner of Simply Fit Meals.

We emailed back asking Sanchez, repeatedly, to speak on behalf of Simply Fit Meals, and explain to his customers how they should get their money back.

We never got a response. The McDaniels aren’t holding up much hope that they’ll get their money back either.

In that first email, Christopher Sanchez did offer the McDaniels fifty dollars on a house account at Reful, something the couple isn’t interested in.

The McDaniels took Simply Fit Meal at their word and handed them $1,000 for the promise that the money would be there to use in their store.

If you pre-pay anything, get a contract, a written agreement which spells out what you’re buying and what happens if there’s a dispute or if the company is sold, or goes under.

This applies to any and everything. In Texas it’s perfectly legal for a business to shut down and open up the very next day with the same workers.

You can file a lawsuit but it can be costly and often times not worth it.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Harvey's Devastating Flooding Boosts Insurance in Texas]]>Mon, 30 Jul 2018 10:26:42 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Hurricane+Harvey+NBC.jpg

Little more than two months before Hurricane Harvey slammed the Gulf Coast of Texas, Alberto Castaneda let his home's flood insurance lapse. He had never filed a claim on the policy in 10 years and he needed the extra cash to expand his restaurant business.

Standing inside his suburban Houston home nearly a year later, Castaneda tallied the cost of the destructive floods to himself and his uninsured neighbors: one couple in their 70s let their home go into foreclosure; two people, overwhelmed by the difficulties of rebuilding, committed suicide; Castaneda, 52, ended up using nearly $135,000 from his business to cover repairs to his home that Harvey submerged under more than two feet of water.

"It's very devastating, especially if you don't have the insurance. You feel like, `What am I going to do?'" Castaneda tearfully explained.

Castaneda bought new flood insurance after Harvey, and many others in Texas have done the same. But data from states with a history of extreme weather suggests those numbers will eventually drop off, leaving residents once again vulnerable to flooding costs — a situation the Federal Emergency Management Agency says it's working to avoid.

Houston, in Harris County, suffered the brunt of Harvey when it pummeled Texas last August. Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches of rain on parts of the flood-prone city. The storm killed nearly 70 people, damaged more than 300,000 structures and caused an estimated $125 billion in damage.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the top elected county official, says more than 100,000 flooded homes in Harris County didn't have flood insurance. According to FEMA, 80 percent of all households affected by Harvey weren't covered for floods.

An AP analysis found fewer than one in five properties in high-risk flood zones had coverage.

Owners of commercial properties also found themselves in trouble.

"All of this was just a big lake," said Woody Lesikar, the manager of West Houston Airport, pointing to the runway and around 80 hangars that Harvey submersed under up to two feet of water. The terminal was swamped and almost a dozen planes were totaled.

He says the airport had never needed flood insurance in its more than 50-year history. A month after Harvey, the airport purchased a policy.

According to FEMA, Texas experienced a more than 18 percent increase in flood insurance policies from July 2017 to the end of May, reversing a long-term declining trend. Harris County, including hardest-hit Houston, saw a near 23 percent jump, while neighboring Fort Bend County, where Castaneda lives, saw a 54 percent increase. The number of properties insured against floods in Houston alone increased by 18 percent, rocketing it past Miami as the city with the most flood insurance policies in the country.

But experts warn the data doesn't mean a permanent upswing.

Residents tend to buy policies for a few years after big disasters then cancel because they feel the unused policy is an unnecessary expense, said Howard Kunreuther, co-director of the University of Pennsylvania's Risk Management and Decision Processes Center.

In Louisiana, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the number of flood insurance policies jumped from 380,000 to 490,000 in one year. That fell to 450,000 but then climbed again after catastrophic flooding in Baton Rouge and Lafayette in 2016. Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance James Donelon warns this may not last.

"Our experience over the past 10 years is that memories fade and people ... put their greatest asset at risk of being lost in the next severe rain event," Donelon said.

The year after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, flood insurance policies increased by two percent in New Jersey and 12.5 percent in New York. But since the end of 2013, policies have dropped by 7.4 percent in New Jersey and eight percent in New York.

FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program has come under criticism for not doing enough to persuade home and business owners to purchase coverage. Last year, the program announced its "moonshot goal" of doubling by 2022 the number of structures in the U.S. covered by flood insurance from 4 million to 8 million.

FEMA says it has targeted areas identified using high-tech mapping tools that narrowly missed being flooded during Harvey for insurance advertising, resulting in increased coverage in Texas.

"What we're trying to drive is really a culture of preparedness," said Paul Huang, the assistant administrator for federal insurance at FEMA.

But that goal might be hard to attain. Policies nationally had been declining since 2009, and despite the bump in Texas since Harvey, coverage has continued to drop in most states, according to an AP analysis of FEMA data.

Donelon says he doesn't think the FEMA program will boost its numbers unless coverage is required on all federally backed mortgages. And he warns that congressional reauthorization of the program, which is saddled with $20 billion in debt, could result in higher premiums.

Standing in his home, still without floors, cabinets or appliances, Castaneda hopes he can move back in by the end of July.

"We've bought the insurance and whatever happens, happens in the future," he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Consumers Warn Others About Tech Support Companies]]>Mon, 30 Jul 2018 07:24:35 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+tech+support+s_KXASI6US_2018-07-30-05-10-31.jpg

We love technology, and then we hate it, especially when something so simple turns so frustrating, like logging into email.

"It was just saying enter your password. And whenever we tried to enter our password, the box just kept popping up again. We couldn't get past in. So we couldn't get in," said consumer Dennis Moulton.

That's when Moulton called a tech support company for help.

He said the business told him his computer had a virus, something it could fix by remotely installing anti-virus software.

"When you have a virus on the computer, we've heard all kinds of horror stories of people getting their finances broken into and stuff like that," Moulton said.

So, Moulton ponied up $430 for the fix.

His computer seemed to work okay after his call with the tech company.

But he said he got a second opinion the next day from a local, brick and mortar company, and it told him there was no anti-virus software on his computer.

Suzanne Dougherty thought she was calling a Facebook tech support line.

"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 allowed the person over the phone to access her laptop remotely, and that's when he told her it'd cost $250 to fix her computer.

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

She didn't pay, but can only imagine what they installed on her laptop.

The FBI received 11,000 tech support complaints last year, losses totaled $15 million.

The FBI says the problem Moulton had is often an easy fix, something shutting down and restarting your computer will correct.

Our sister station in Los Angeles got a hold of the company Moulton paid.

The business insisted it did install software on Dennis' computer. Although it wouldn't say the name. The company then gave Moulton a full refund.

Moulton is simply happy his computer is working - and that his money is back in his pocket.

The FBI has some tips to keep in mind when looking for a tech support company.

-Don't trust anyone who cold calls you.

-Be cautious of support numbers you find online - especially ones listed in the "sponsored" section of a search.

-Pressure to act quickly is usually a red flag.

-And don't give unknown, unverified people remote access to your devices.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Movie App Back Up and Running ]]>Fri, 27 Jul 2018 18:10:33 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Photo00047.jpg

A popular movie ticketing app is up and running again after cutting off service to more than 3 million subscribers today. MoviePass temporarily ran out of money which lead to suspended service and some very angry customers.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Receives Fire Extinguisher After 8-Month Wait]]>Thu, 26 Jul 2018 10:41:31 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-fire-extinguisher-recall.jpg

Last year, we told you about a massive recall on nearly 40 million fire extinguishers. An Arlington woman thought she followed all the steps needed to get a replacement fire extinguisher, but it never came.

Barbara Barkley is still getting used to living by herself. But after her dad said his final goodbye, it’s now on her to remain vigilant.

Last year, she learned about a massive recall on Kidde fire extinguishers.

"I couldn’t believe it, because given the fact that this extinguisher was so old I didn’t expect it to be on the list. But, it was," she said.

Certain models can become clogged and fail to activate during a fire hazard. Barkley said she wasn’t taking any chances, so she filled out Kidde’s recall form to get a replacement.

"The information said that it would take about 10-15 business days to receive the new one," she explained.

After 15 days passed, Barkley said she contacted Kidde to make sure there weren’t any problems.

"They hadn’t received them yet from the manufacturer," Barkley said.

So she waited another month, but the fire extinguisher didn’t arrive. By March, her patience was running thin. She said Kidde told her that they were still waiting for replacement units.

Meanwhile, she was left with a recalled extinguisher.

"That, to me, is unacceptable, especially when they said 10-15 business days," Barkley said. "But I then thought, 'Wait a minute. Let me call NBC 5 first.'"

Kidde told NBC 5 they’re working hard to replace all affected fire extinguishers as quickly as possible.

As for the delay in Barkley's case, Kidde said her form was missing the date code, which prevented them from processing it.

But Barkley said she had a 1997 model, which didn’t have a date code, and per Kidde’s instructions, ”for units produced before 2007, a date code is not printed on the fire extinguisher.”

We asked Kidde about this and didn’t get a response to that question.

But a few weeks after we reached out, and more eight months after Barkley first reached out to us, she received two fire extinguishers from Kidde.

Barkley said she reached out to NBC 5 not just to get her fire extinguisher, but to make sure other consumers get theirs replaced, too.

Kidde responded to NBC 5 Thursday morning saying, “Shortly after Ms. Barkley submitted her claim the online submission form was updated so that a date code was not required for fire extinguishers purchased before 2007. As a result, the current website language is accurate. The safety of our customers is our priority, and we are working diligently to ensure the replacement process is as clear as possible.”

To check to see if your extinguisher has been recalled, click here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Fencing Contractor Takes Deposit and Never Returns]]>Wed, 25 Jul 2018 17:36:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Ricky-Shinn-fence-problems.jpg

There's a lot of energy and a lot of love in Shelley Underwood's yard full of puppies.

Rusty, a rescue, is the explorer who kept breaking through their fence to go check out the neighborhood.

"It was very necessary for us to have a safe fence and the fence we had was not safe," Underwood said.

Underwood got three quotes for a fence before she decided on RCS Fencing. She told us owner Ricky Shinn promised to get to work immediately.

"The original cost of the fence was $4,864, so we gave him half the money up-front so he could buy the fencing and the stain," Underwood said.

The day the work was to begin Shinn never showed up, but sent a text that said his truck broke down and he'd be there the next day.

The next day, another text that said the supplies wouldn't be ready for yet another day.

But he never showed up and then stopped answering Underwood's calls and texts, so she called NBC 5 Responds.

"I watch channel 5 and I see the news reports and that's how I knew about you guys," Underwood said.

Ricky's wife answered the number for RCS Fencing. She said it was her cell on his business cards, but they're separated and she had nothing to do with the business. She called Ricky and told him we wanted some answers.

Shinn didn't call us, but he did call Underwood.

"He asked me to give him three weeks to pay me, that somebody he trusted stole the money from him," Underwood said.

We waited, but Shelley's dogs were in danger of getting out so she hired someone else to come and build the fence she already paid RCS to put up.

"My dogs are extremely important to me. They're my children. I love them very much and if anything was to happen to my dogs I'd be devastated," she said.

She had to come up with the money all over again.

Meanwhile, NBC 5 Responds kept trying to get Shinn to give us an update on Underwood's refund. We called, and emailed and never heard back.

RCS Fencing has no listing with the Better Business Bureau and few reviews online. Underwood doesn't have much hope she'’ll hear from him again. She's worked several hours of overtime trying to rebuild her savings.

"I just want other people to know not to hire this guy," Underwood said. "He could possibly take your money too."

At this point, Underwood's only answer is to file a lawsuit against Shinn to get her money back. There were some warning signs with this company -- not having many reviews or a Better Business Bureau listing doesn't give consumers much to go on.

If a company wants money up front for materials, ask if you can go with the contractor and pay for the materials yourself. Use a credit card, which can give you more protection -- and at least you'll have the materials if something goes wrong.

Sometimes a contractor will want to get the materials themselves because they make more profit from charging you for materials. You could offer to pay a slightly higher price for the service, but still purchase the materials on your own.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Helps Traveler Get VRBO Deposit Back]]>Wed, 25 Jul 2018 07:12:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AM+PKG+N5R+-+VRBO+Deposit_2018-07-25-04-42-21.jpg

Aimee Hoelscher planned a fabulous family trip to Costa Rica earlier this year.

She rented a house through VRBO, an online vacation rental company.

"It had beautiful views. It was very spacious, had iguanas outside by the pool and so yeah the house was nice," she said.

For three nights, the rent came out to $613.

"And then there was a $500 damage deposit. A refundable damage deposit," Hoelscher said.

She wasn’t particularly fond of paying it, but the VRBO website put her at ease.

"100 percent of your security deposit is covered if it’s wrongfully withheld," she read. 

Overall she said the trip was a hit. They left the place nice and tidy and were looking forward to that $500.

But when they got back to Arlington, she said the money was not in her account.

"They (VRBO) at first told me that it had been deposited into my account on Feb. 1," Hoelscher said.

But she said it wasn't there. She contacted the owner of the home again to see if there was anything he could do.

He said he didn’t have the money and told VRBO there was no damage, so they could release the deposit.

She said that didn’t work either.

"They’re supposed to be this third-party that steps in and mediates for you and I was very angry because they weren’t doing their job," Hoelscher said. " I didn’t know what else to do and my husband said you should contact NBC 5."

We asked VRBO why Hoelscher couldn’t get her deposit back, and the parent company, HomeAway responded:

“Travelers who book directly through the HomeAway website are protected against things like double-bookings or wrongfully withheld deposits thanks to our book with confidence guarantee. In this case, a technical error delayed reimbursement but the error has since been resolved. We regret any inconvenience this delay caused.”

And after waiting five long months, Hoelscher finally got her $500 deposit back.

"I am very happy that I called NBC 5," she said.

If you’re going to rent a vacation home, or any home for that matter, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions: 

  • Take pictures of the house when you arrive and when you leave.
  • If you’re having problems getting back your security deposit, send the company your pictures showing how you left the place.
  • Make sure you read through the security deposit policy before handing it over
  • If that doesn’t work, contact the NBC 5 Responds team here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Millions of Phones Hosting 'Bad Bots' to Help Hackers]]>Tue, 24 Jul 2018 07:09:54 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AM+PKG+N5R+-+Mobile+Phone+Bots_2018-07-24-05-29-53.jpg

Tens of millions of mobile phones, tablets and other wireless electronics are being used discreetly by hackers to carry out criminal activity, and the owners of those devices don’t know it.

The eye-opening finding was announced in June by Distil Networks, an online threat mitigation firm with offices in San Francisco and clients worldwide.

Distil Networks gave NBC Bay Area early access to its study, “Mobile Bots: The Next Evolution of Bad Bots”. The data paints a bleak picture: as many as 5.8 percent of all mobile devices worldwide are infected with malicious automated software programs, known as “bots”.

“If you extrapolate that to the potential billions of mobile devices out there, that’s a pretty staggering number,” said Edward Roberts, Director of Product Marketing for Distil Networks.

The bots are secretly operating on millions of wireless mobile devices, such as phones. Hackers use infected devices to perform a variety of illicit tasks, such as account takeovers; gift card fraud; manipulating ticket prices; and even posting spam on social media.

“We were actually shocked”

Roberts said the discovery of widespread mobile bot networks came as something of a surprise to Distil Networks researchers.“We found it indirectly; we were looking at the abuse of accounts and account takeover,” Roberts said. “We suddenly realized that we were seeing a lot of mobile requests coming in -- up to eight percent of the bad bots traffic that we see is now coming from these mobile devices on cell towers, going and attacking businesses around the world today.”

That led Distil engineers to closely scrutinize data requests from 100 million mobile devices on six major wireless networks, over a 45-day period. Roberts said at first, researchers doubted their own findings.

“We were actually shocked,” Roberts said. “We looked at another slice of data, and we got exactly the same number. We said, is this a one-off? So we looked at another time-frame and we got the same number.”

That figure -- 5.8 percent -- may not seem like much at first. Roberts uses an everyday example to put it in perspective.

“If you’re in a coffee shop, and there are 17 people in that coffee shop, you know that one of them has, probably, a high likelihood that they are launching bot requests from their phone and attacking some business around the world,” Roberts said. “They wouldn’t know anything about it.”

Another way to consider the data: with more than 300 million wireless phones and tablets in use in the U.S. alone, per industry analysts at the CTIA, Distil’s findings would suggest at least 15 million of those phones are hosting bad bots.

Infected Phone Owners Left Unaware

What’s worse, the owners of those devices carrying mobile bots almost certainly have no idea their phones and tablets are being used by bad actors.

“That’s the scary part here,” Roberts said. “It’s really difficult to say you are in a bad bot net, and you’re making bad bot requests to businesses. Not knowing that’s happening is probably quite disturbing to most people.”

Mobile bots are designed to operate in relative secrecy. Distil Networks researchers say they typically issue 50 bad data requests or attacks per day -- a number too small to create a noticeable spike in the phone owner’s data. Even so, the billions of bots allow hackers to remotely conduct criminal acts without using any of their own bandwidth, instead stealing it from unwitting phone and tablet users.

Offloading the computing power to innocent phone owners is just one advantage bots give to hackers. Perhaps even more useful to cyber-crooks is the mobile bots’ ability to mask their intentions better than they might on a typical PC.

“They’re trying to appear human-like,” Roberts said. “if they’re on your phone, one of the behaviors of a phone is that it moves IP addresses. It moves from cell tower to cell tower, so it looks more human than other devices as well.”

This presents a challenge for online threat researchers and data security specialists, who look for specific patterns and other red flags to identify and stifle bot attacks.

“It’s another one of those techniques where the bot operators are trying to hide,” Roberts said. “It’s a problem that’s going to be very difficult to solve.”

Researchers say because wireless phone gateways handle so many requests, identifying and stopping attacks from mobile bots can be difficult.

A Billion-Bot Army

The problem is so widespread, Distil Networks says a whopping 21 percent of all internet traffic originates from bad bots. Eight percent comes from the mobile variety.

The bots aren’t just working by themselves. Most belong to an untold number of bot networks, enabling hackers across the globe to attack websites and servers.

Distil Networks identifies several potential uses for mobile bots:

• Identity Theft / account takeover (ATO). Bots can use information and passwords stolen in security breaches to test login sites for online accounts, allowing hackers to steal the owners’ identities.

• Gift Card Fraud. Mobile bots will look for online gift cards at retailer websites, then randomly try millions of card number and PIN combinations to find activated accounts -- and drain them of cash.

• Social media spamming. Bots can plaster Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with unwanted advertising, malicious links, and even fake news.

• Ticketing and Travel Price Manipulation. As NBC Bay Area reported earlier this year, bots have been detected in efforts to drive up airfare prices. Distil says bots are also being used to instantly buy up tickets to concerts and sporting events, handing them off to scalpers who resell tickets at exorbitant prices.

• Price Scraping. Bots can lift data from e-commerce sites, which can be used by competitors or thieves.

• Gambling. Distil says as much as half of all online bad bot activity is related to online gambling, targeting casinos and oddsmakers.

The end result, Distil says, is having a measurable effect on the global economy. “They’re committing fraud against businesses,” Roberts said. “They’re buying goods with stolen gift card numbers. They’re holding seats on airline tickets, so that they’re more expensive for real users who’re trying to get to it, or you can’t even get onto that plane, because a bot is holding that seat, trying to re-sell it somewhere else. They are performing all manner of tasks that are nefarious.”

Keeping Bots Off Your Phone

Phone and tablet users themselves are most often to blame for allowing bad bots to infect their devices.

Distil says malicious internet links or attachments in email, text messages, and on websites, open the door to malware. Once the trap is sprung, the bots are quietly installed and run in the background.

Aaron Cockerill, an executive with mobile device security provider Lookout, tells NBC Bay Area mobile phishing is the biggest unsolved problem in cyber-security.

“Phones are far more vulnerable to attack than most people realize,” Cockerill said. “The very fact we call them phones, and not computers, means you don’t think about it the same way as you do with a computer.”

Cockerill offers four steps to prevent malware, including mobile bots:

Set a passcode to lock and unlock your phone. Cockerill says it’s shocking how many phone users don’t do this.

Turn on auto-updates. Hackers exploit holes in apps and operating systems. Check your phone’s settings and user guide to learn how you can make sure everything is kept up-to-date.

Only install apps from the official store. The Apple App Store, Google Play, and Amazon perform rigorous security checks on all software. If you download an app directly from a website, chances are it did not clear that process.

Install security software. Lookout and other services offer real-time scans that warn you as soon as you click something shady.

“We jump in front and say, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t follow this link. We think it’s bad,’” Cockerill said.

Once your phone is infected, getting rid of bots can be nearly impossible -- if you can even detect them at all. Engineers told NBC Bay Area a full “factory reset” of the phone -- meaning the loss of all user data -- would likely be necessary.

Batting Bots for the Long Haul

Cockerill says the fight to keep bots off phones begins and ends with consumers, and understanding just how vulnerable our phones really are.

“We think it’s a phone,” Cockerill said. “We should think, it’s a computer that’s permanently connected, with a camera in your pocket, and a microphone in your pocket. I don’t want everyone to get scared; I love my phone, but you have to think seriously about it as a computer, and I need to maintain it as such.”

Ultimately, Roberts says fighting off the bad bots will take diligence by bot hunters.

“It is an arms race,” Roberts said. “We have to be vigilant in preparing our defenses, in order to stop whatever change they make in their attacks.”

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[How to Avoid 'Rental Property Scam']]>Mon, 23 Jul 2018 05:06:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/212*120/responds-craigslist-scam.jpg

For one North Texas family, it all started with an ad on Craigslist.

A house in Burleson was going for $900 a month with all utilities included.

The man who identified himself as the "landlord" sent the couple a code to a lockbox with the key inside so the family could see the home.

After they wired the man $1,800 and signed the lease, they moved in, thinking the home was theirs. But they were wrong.

"A lady had came to the door, and she said that she was the property manager of this house," said Elizabeth Jones.

It turns out that the property belonged to Streetlane Homes, and the manager knew nothing about the so-called landlord.

NBC 5 found at least two other ads on Craigslist that appeared to be from the same man. One was in Royse City, and the other in Temple, near Austin.

The ads all show the same phone number. When we called the number, the man who answered identified himself as "Mr. Thomas," the owner of the home.

He said he couldn't meet in person because his son was in the hospital. So, he sent NBC DFW a code to the lockbox. He said the house in Royse City was still available and we could see it as early as Monday. 

A quick Google search led me to the real owner: American Homes 4 Rent.

An employee with the company confirmed that the Craigslist ads we found were not legitimate.

NBC 5 Responds called the person posing as the landlord multiple times, and each time, he hung up the phone. 

"It's very common and it has been going on for several years," said Sherri Aaron, with the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors.

She said these scams aren't new, but technology is making it even easier for crooks to trick consumers.

And on top of that, the North Texas housing market is putting pressure on renters to act fast.

"Some of these landlords...They go to home depot to buy a fifty dollar combination, you know lockbox," Aaron said. "Somebody gets the combination. Then they can share it or if they know it, then all of a sudden they go over there, take the key out, and put it in their own lockbox. The technology has helped in a way, but it's hurt in a way."

If you or if someone you know is looking to rent, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• It's advised that you meet with a licensed realtor or the property owner in person. If they don't want to meet face-to-face, that's a red flag.
• You should also check with your county's appraisal office to verify who owns the property. You can do this online.
• Never wire any money to someone you've never met.
• Check the prices on nearby homes to see if the proposed rent is too good to be true. For instance, in the Royse City ad, the home was listed for $1,000 a month with utilities. In reality, that home is going for just under $1500 a month, with no utilities included.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Should You Buy Hard or Soft-Sided Luggage]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2018 18:04:32 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/right+luggage.jpg

Luggage has come a long way since the days of that old valise.

Nowadays your biggest decision when buying luggage is should you get soft-sided or hard?

Thanks to modern plastics like polypropylene, ABS or poly-carbonate, hard-sided luggage can be durable and light. Aluminum luggage is likely the most durable but a bit heavier.

Their strong construction makes it harder to slit through, and locks are usually built-in.

“They’re also a good option for traveling with more fragile items which can crush easily,” said Nikhil Hutheesing, Consumer Reports Money Editor.

And you’re guaranteed a no-bulge fit in the overhead bin - as long as you buy the right size.

There are some drawbacks: Taking up twice the space of soft suitcases when packing, they also lack flexibility.

Soft-sided luggage on the other hand is more flexible, works well in cars, and can compress into overhead bins. Extra pockets may mean more organized packing.

“But soft suitcases can be vulnerable when it comes to security and ripping. So, buy ones made of strong materials,” said Hutheesing.

Like nylon or polyester with a high denier - or “D” rating - an indicator of thickness and strength. 600 is a common number. The higher the number, the more wear and tear it can take.

Even the right luggage won’t make travel totally stress-free - but it can help take the edge off.

Consumer Reports said pay attention to the wheels. Suitcases with four wheels are more ergonomic and can spin in different directions. Two-wheeled suitcases only go backwards and forwards but are better when rolling on sidewalks or over uneven surfaces.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Video Doorbells Are Gaining Popularity]]>Fri, 20 Jul 2018 07:14:38 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/051718+Ring+Security+Doorbell.png

Most consumers buy the video doorbells and security cameras for the people who come to the door and snatch delivery packages.

There's more reasons though, such as seeing kids grab all the Halloween candy out of the bin in one big swoop. Another reason could be figuring out how that dent got in the bumper of the family minivan.

"I think it’s the all-knowing type feeling people have. They know every time someone comes down the street or walks up to the door," said Jonathan Lawless of Home Depot.

Lawless is a video camera guru. Not only does he sell them but he has them all over his home and checks the video feed all day.

"I was sitting on a beach on vacation with my wife. I got a notification [and noticed], 'Hey something is not right.' I contacted my mother-in-law and she contacted police," he said.

One Dallas family had a camera indoors which alerted them when burglars came inside. They scared the crooks off by talking to them through a speaker built into the camera.

The indoor versions can also help day-to-day.

"The kids can be running around playing, you can say, 'Hey don’t do that,' if they’re jumping on the couch," Lawless said.

The devices are simple to set up by plugging in the camera and downloading an app.

There are downsides. Your phone can ring and ding every time a bug flies by or a car goes down the street. As with any technology, it could make you vulnerable to hacks.

Some police departments even working with neighbors to use them when solving crimes.

"It's a ring of protection throughout the neighborhood from house-to-house, neighbor-to-neighbor. Talk about bringing neighbors together," Lawless said.

<![CDATA[What Kind of Helmet is Best for Bicyclists? New Rating Aims to Answer]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 17:41:20 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/bike+helmets+0705.jpg

For anyone who enjoys a bike ride, one crucial piece of information has long been missing. What kind of helmet should you buy?

No one has ever rated helmets for head injury protection -- until now. Researchers at Virginia Tech Helmet Lab and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety unveiled a new ratings system to better protect cyclists from the most common types of accidents.

“Our goal with these ratings is to give cyclists an evidence-based tool for making informed decisions about how to reduce their risk of injury,” Steve Rowson, director of the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab and an associate professor of bio-medical engineering and mechanics, said in a statement. “We also hope manufacturers will use the information to make improvements.”

According to the group, 835 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2016, the highest number since 1991. Of those, more than half were not wearing helmets.

For the ratings, the group tested helmets on six "commonly impacted locations," including two at the rim. Sensors estimate the risk of concussions during simulated crashes. The number of stars assigned to each helmet "represents how effectively that model reduces overall injury risk," according to a release on the tests.

You can click here to see how the new bike helmet rating system works.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Charity to Forgive More Medical Debt in North Texas]]>Thu, 19 Jul 2018 08:15:58 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/med-debt-foutch.jpg

Thanks to viewers' help and a donation from our parent company, NBC Owned Television Stations, about $215,000 has been raised for RIP Medical Debt, the nonprofit behind those little yellow envelopes.

The donation is enough to wipe out more than $21 million worth of medical bills in North Texas.

Craig Antico, founder of the charity, worked as a debt collector for years buying up as many medicals bills hospitals would sell and then trying to collect the money. He still searches for hospitals willing to sell debt, only now he throws away what he buys, sending out letters to let people know of the good news. He came to Texas last week with some news.

“There are gonna be more people getting envelopes," Antico said.

"The amount that you guys gave, of course, abolished almost $17 million. This next amount is going to abolish probably another $10 million," Antico said.

He says the donations kept coming in from NBC 5 viewers and he’s been setting it aside in the bank. Now he’s out there convincing medical providers to sell him their old bills.

"Only about 25 percent of the hospitals actually sell their debt. Most of them use collection agency after collection agency and there’s $75 billion of that debt out there in this country that’s just with collection agencies and debt buyers," he added.

The debt is being purchased now, letters should be going out in a couple of weeks. We will update you on when they're actually in the mail.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Receives More Complaints About Local Auto Parts Shop]]>Wed, 18 Jul 2018 20:04:37 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/A1+Engines+071818.jpg

After NBC 5 Responds' first story aired, more North Texas consumers said they, too, were ripped off by the owner of A1 Engines, Chris Nasrallah.

Ronnie Womack said he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Nasrallah on his TV screen.

He said he's been waiting on his transmission for more than a year.

Womack said he paid Nasrallah $600 after he borrowed the money from his cousin.

"My cousin passed away during all of this. He passed away," he said. "He just don't get what he's putting people through."

NBC 5 Responds heard from several people in North Texas with similar stories, including two men who were adamant about holding Nasrallah accountable.

After we got involved, every consumer we heard from got their money back.

After seeing our first story, Luis Gonzales said he paid Nasrallah $378 for a computer for his truck, and wanted his money back too.

Like the others, he said he got the wrong part.

"He's taken so much people's money and not even giving them what they pay for," Gonzales said.

Former Dallas County Judge Jim Foster said he's not surprised to see that Nasrallah is back in the headlines.

"He's moved from one sham to another sham," Foster said.

In 2008, Nasrallah faced felony theft charges after he allegedly ordered a man who worked for him to steal cars for their parts.

"That's the one (case) that went into the back drawer of the file cabinet, never to be seen again," Foster said.

The case was dismissed years later and Nasrallah has never been convicted of a crime related to his business.

But Foster said Nasrallah's business practices are questionable.

"He takes their money and he preys on them and they have no ability to do anything about it," Foster said.

As for Womack and Gonzales, we called the shop on their behalf and later that day, they both got their money back -- over $900 between the two.

Foster said he's happy for these consumers, but wants other potential customers to be careful.

"Will he continue to get away with it? I doubt it," he said.

When we first talked to Nasrallah, he said "no cash refunds" is posted on the receipt, but anyone with a legitimate complaint can come by and get a refund.

He said he was a business man and he knows what he's doing.

Nasrallah's business is located at 5900 West Davis Street in Dallas.

So far, we've helped consumers get back more than $8,500. 

Click here to contact NBC 5 Responds.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Another Local Driver Comes Forward After Her Kia 'Exploded']]>Tue, 17 Jul 2018 21:01:15 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/kia+catches+fire.jpg

NBC 5 has heard from another North Texas driver who says her car went up in flames. She believes Kia is not moving quick enough to address the problem.

Last October, Linda Creech and her son were driving down the LBJ freeway when another driver started flagging them down.

Creech said they pulled over and noticed flames coming from underneath her 2014 Kia Soul, so they ran.

"And the next thing the car just exploded," said Creech. "Like a mission impossible movie without Tom Cruise."

Creech said she took her car in a week before it exploded.

She said she noticed a pink light come on near her radio, so she took it in to her local Kia dealership.

"They had heard an irregular noise," she said. "They kept it almost five days and at that time they gave me the advice just drive it and see what happens."

But a week later, she said her Kia exploded in flames.

"I think that my story and the pictures speak for themselves," Creech said.

She called the NBC 5 Responds team after hearing Amy McDade's story.

"I open my door to get out and there were flames all underneath the car," McDade explained.

In a matter of seconds, her 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid was covered in flames.

"I was just shocked. I was like, how can this be happening. I just had this car fixed," she said. "I could have burned alive in that car."

Like McDade, Creech said she reported the incident to Kia but didn't get a response until months later.

In an email, the general manager at her local Kia dealership apologized for the delay and said it was being handled at the corporate level "…so our local people really don't have anything to do with it."

Creech said she also reached out to Kia's corporate office and was given a case manager and a number but didn't hear anything else from Kia.

"You are vacating. You are leaving your customers high and dry. What you are doing is so wrong," said Creech.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) expressed these concerns to Kia and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration earlier this year.

"We have asked NHTSA to get on the stick and find out what is the problem," said Nelson.

NHTSA responded. In a letter, NHTSA confirmed that it is currently investigating 618,000 Kia vehicles for engine failure issues, many of which were reported to NHTSA as having resulted in non-collision fires.

While Creech and McDade's vehicles are not currently a part of this investigation, NHTSA says it "will not hesitate to formally initiate a separate safety defect investigation and take action as warranted and based upon the data."

Kia claimed it didn't receive the information from Creech until after it informed her that they were closing her case due to lack of response.

Creech said that isn't true, and believes the automaker is turning a blind eye to a serious issue.

"Acknowledge it and take care of it and do something right by the people who have had a problem," Creech said.

Creech said her insurance ended up reimbursing her for the car, minus her deductible.

Kia said it contacted Creech's insurance and was told an inspection had been completed and they couldn't determine the cause of the incident.

As for McDade's vehicle, Kia sent someone to inspect her totaled vehicle on Tuesday.  McDade said she's anxious to hear about their findings.

Not all Kia models are part of NHTSA's investigation.  To see if your model car is on the list, click here.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Customers Want Prime Day Extension After Online Troubles]]>Tue, 17 Jul 2018 16:01:06 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dia-prime-day-de-amazon.jpg

Many Amazon customers are asking for Prime Day to be extended after experiencing problems with the site.

In response, Amazon said, “Some customers are having difficulty shopping, and we’re working to resolve this issue quickly. Many are shopping successfully – in the first hour of Prime Day in the U.S., customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year. There are hundreds of thousands of deals to come and more than 34 hours to shop Prime Day.”

As for a Prime Day extension, Amazon said "It wasn’t all a walk in the (dog) park, we had a ruff start – we know some customers were temporarily unable to make purchases. We still have hundreds of thousands of new deals today. Customers can check back often and download the free Amazon App to use the Watch A Deal feature."

Amazon said its Prime Day sales in the U.S. so far are bigger than ever. 

In the first 10 hours, Amazon said Prime Day grew even faster, year-over-year, than the first 10 hours last year.

Today.com has done a round-up of good deals and will keep updating this page as new top deals come in.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Crowdfunding a Home's Down Payment Now Possible]]>Mon, 16 Jul 2018 10:06:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/6a+p-n5r+crowdfund+your_KXASI1G0_2018-07-16-06-12-45.jpg

Ashley Casey and Heather Jackson are getting married this fall.

They're on the hunt for a new home as they combine families.

Their must-have's mixed with North Texas' hot real estate market have been a struggle.

"You have all these down payment requirements, and you have to have 1 percent earnest money depending on what range you’re looking in, plus all the option fees, all of it adds up," Casey said.

They had to put their search on hold when they realized they just didn't have the cash.

Jonathan Lawless from government-sponsored Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae, says it's a huge problem, not just in North Texas.

"When we survey millennials the number one obstacle between them and owning a home is down payments," Lawless said.

Lawless says lenders have a new solution: crowdfunding.

Just like people ask others to gift them money for vacations or start up businesses, Fannie Mae is working with a lender to let you crowdfund your home's down payment.

Until now if someone gave you cash to help with a down payment they had to do it six months before you buy the home, write letters explaining the gifts and submit their bank records to show the path of the money.

These new programs would eliminate some of those intrusive requirements.

HomeFundMe lets anyone chip in cash to help couples like Ashley and Heather make their down payment bigger to get the house they really want.

There's also Loftium which will give you money for a down payment if you let them rent out a bedroom or mother in law suite on AirBnB to make the money back.

Ashley and Heather --- they had a tough call to make in their search, they had to take a break from house hunting and save.

With any deal you have to look at the contract carefully Loftium requires you to rent that room out, if you don’t then you have to pay back that money to the company.

HomeFundMe forces you to use one lender, and you might find better interest rates with another.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Hackers Steal Home Buyer's $400,000 Down Payment]]>Fri, 13 Jul 2018 17:43:12 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/home-buyer-wire-money.jpg

Real estate professionals and the FBI have a warning for home buyers and sellers: You will be targeted by thieves and hackers.

"My down payment was about $400,000," a woman in the California Bay Area said.

The home buyer asked to remain anonymous, but she wanted us to share her story to make sure no one else suffers the same fate she did.

"I found similar stories are happening to people everywhere around the U.S.," she said.

The home buyer lives in San Jose and she is close to retirement. She found a nice home she could afford that meets her needs better than her current residence. Once the seller accepted her offer, she prepared to make the $400,000 down payment.

Online thieves had other ideas. Scammers sent the buyer counterfeit emails, which appeared to come from both the real estate agent and the title company.

"They asked me to wire all the money instead of a cashier's check," she said. "He said the seller changed [the purchase agreement]."

She wired the $400,000, as instructed. Then, she went to the real title company for closing. Not long after came terrible news.

"Two hours later, the title company called me and said they didn't receive the funds," she said.

Desperate to stop the transaction, she raced to her bank, but it was too late. Her down payment and hopes of buying a new home were long gone.

"I was so shocked," she said. "The [down payment] saving, it took me 10 years of my life."

She's not alone. The FBI says cyber-crime targeting home sales has exploded. The agency reports Americans lost $19 million to real estate wire fraud in 2016; a year later, the total skyrocketed to $969 million, a five-fold increase.

Put another way, that amounts to $2.65 million in real estate funds stolen from home buyers every day, some $110,000 per hour, every hour.

"One of the local county managers talked about getting almost 200,000 cyber-attacks a day on their servers," David Walsh said. "There's going to be roughly 410,000 [real estate] transactions this year, and my suspicion is all 410,000 are going to be targeted at some point, for some kind of wire fraud."

The Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors said this is a huge problem and it's growing rapidly.

The association said it's even seen more realtors operate via fax-only to avoid potential hacking.

The association is currently advising their members to warn their customers about this vicious scheme.

"If you just simply trust the wiring systems, based upon getting a single call or a single email, there could be problems," Walsh said.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Returns More Than $1M Back to North Texans]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 18:46:39 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/175*120/Responds-Team.jpg

KXAS’ consumer investigative unit, NBC 5 Responds, which is charged for standing up for consumers, has recovered more than $1,000,000 for North Texans. NBC 5’s consumer investigators Wayne Carter and Samantha Chatman along with the support of the station’s Consumer Investigative Center have responded to more than 16,000 consumer complaints since November 2015 when the unit first launched.

"Our consumer team has the knowledge and experience to deal with roadblocks that consumers may face when trying to fight businesses for the money or services they feel they are rightfully owed," said Mark Ginther, NBC 5 Vice President of News. "We have answered thousands of local consumers’ inquiries and launched hundreds of investigations that have resulted in real money going back to consumers. We are proud to stand up for our viewers by providing information and taking action to help them get the resolution they need."

In his latest consumer investigation, Carter advocated for a family facing multiple issues with their air conditioning service during the heat of summer. As a result of NBC 5’s investigation, Carter secured $1,700 from the warranty company so the family could quickly replace their A/C compressor. With this win, NBC 5 Responds surpassed the $1,000,000 mark for money returned to consumers.

NBC 5 Responds answers every consumer email and phone call. The unit also provides consumers with community resources and information. The consumer unit handles a variety of consumer investigations with the goal of getting the product or service providers to answer the consumers’ concerns.

NBC 5 Responds’ work can result in money repaid to the customer like the case of a Dallas man who originally couldn’t get a car dealership to fix or replace his new vehicle that had a recurring gasoline leak. As a result of NBC 5 Responds’ outreach to the car dealership, the viewer was able to get the manufacturer to issue a full refund.

Consumer investigations occasionally lead to uncovering a series of similar issues from the same company, as was the case Chatman pursued when a contractor accepted thousands of dollars from several customers across four North Texas counties. NBC 5 Responds managed to help this group of customers recoup $39,900 collectively.

Some investigations impact the community on a large scale. A woman who had alleged being denied a loaner car on multiple occasions during an airbag recall turned to NBC 5 Responds for help. KXAS’ consumer unit reached out to the auto company, and as a result of NBC 5 Responds’ work the auto company ultimately changed its policy, making loaner cars more readily available during the recall.

If you have a consumer issue and need assistance, call NBC 5 Responds at 844.573.7763 or visit NBC 5’s website for more information at www.nbcdfw.com/consumer-form.

<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds Gets Back More Than $1M for North Texans]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 18:45:51 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-one-million.jpg

The NBC 5 Consumer Investigative Team has gotten back more than $1 million for North Texas consumers.

When you think about all that money, you also should think about all the people we've met and the stories tied to them.

From vets trying to get unclaimed money to a man with mobility issues whose scooter stopped working — we've developed a reputation.

"Call NBC 5. They are the fixers," said Tony Romero.

It's a reputation we embrace, and we've gotten a lot of those, too.

Jimmie Florence was thrilled after Elite Asphalt stepped in and donated a new parking lot for her church.

Florence told us how she paid a man who knocked on her door to do it. Well, it didn't turn out so well, and she had no contract to hold them accountable.

"I just told them I messed up, I wasn't going to lie," said Florence.

Many consumers lost money by wiring cash to people for everything from classic cars that didn't exist to lotions and potions that promised the fountain of youth.

But we've been there focused on earning your trust and getting results.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Contractor Accused of Taking Deposits, Then Taking Off]]>Thu, 12 Jul 2018 09:56:47 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/patrick-hebert-accused-contractor.jpg

Gary Cox's Benbrook house gets an abundance of natural light thanks to the windows. But he admits, the windows are getting old.

"The seals are coming loose. The cold leaves and the heat comes in," Cox explained.

So Cox and his wife hired Patrick Hebert, of Master Windows, Doors, and Siding, to replace them. Cox said he showed him around the house and Hebert said he could get the job done without a doubt.

Cox signed a contract and paid Hebert $3,500 up front. But a few weeks later, Cox said Hebert never showed up and started coming up with excuses for not returning.

"I think that's his M-O, and he's a scammer, and that's what he does," said Cox.

That was the last time he said he saw Hebert and his $3,500.

Cox said his suspicions were confirmed when he found dozens of negative reviews online.

One comment in particular came from a woman named Leigh Ann Willis: "Scam - 8 weeks ago, Patrick Hebert gave us an estimate and took a 50 percent deposit. He is now MIA and, as of today, I am happy to provide additional details to other complainants if you contact me via email."

So, that's what Cox and his wife did, and they were stunned at how similar their stories were.

Back in October, Willis said Hebert's business name was Better Windows and Doors.

"The fact that he is still out there doing it to other people is just abominable to me," said Willis.

She and her husband paid Hebert $3,200, but they said he never came back to start the job.

After weeks of waiting, Willis said she contacted the Dallas Police Department.

"They absolutely agreed that it was a criminal case and, based on the amount, it is a felony," she said.

Before pressing charges, Willis said she spoke with Hebert's attorney to give him one last chance to pay but that he didn't come through.

NBC 5 Responds has learned that Hebert has been indicted on two felony theft charges, including Willis' case

The Dallas County District Attorney's office told NBC 5, "This case is ongoing and they are continuing to investigate other formal complaints as they are received."

"He needs to rot in jail," said Cox.

NBC 5 Responds has reached out to Hebert and his attorney but we have not heard back.

A spokesperson for the Dallas County Sheriff's Office confirmed to us that Hebert is out on bail. His next court appearance is Aug. 2.

The consumers on record in this report said their biggest regret was not doing enough research before handing over the deposit. Before you start any home project, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

  • Google the person's name online. Pair it with the words "scam" or "ripoff" and see what comes up.
  • Understand there are risks to paying so much money up front. See if you can get materials first before handing over half.
  • If you ever end up in a situation like this, file a police report with your local police department. These types of cases are often civil, but if the authorities can determine a pattern, they may explore criminal charges.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[App Alerts Parents When Child Is Left Inside a Car]]>Wed, 11 Jul 2018 07:05:52 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-hot-car-app.jpg

Texans know heat can be dangerous, but every year a child is left in a hot car and dies of heatstroke.

It happens in Texas more than anywhere else in the nation with 116 deaths in the past 10 years. Now there’s an app to help parents protect their kids.

The constant news stories prompted Erin O’Connor to work on a solution. He came up with The BackSeat app, which he hopes will make a difference.

“If it saves just one baby, one baby's life, that’s why I did this,” O'Connor said.

Ten months of building, designing and testing led to the simple download on your phone that senses when your car moves. When the app senses you’ve stopped, it makes your phone ring and vibrate, reminding you that your child is in the back seat.

We watched two moms try it out. Brittany’s daughter, Braylee, likes to nap in the car, and Braylee’s car seat faces the back.

"You can only reason see her hair," said Brittany.

If a parent forgets their child is with them and has this app, the phone will ring nonstop. The volume will increase, the flashlight will blink and if you don’t turn it off then the app will send emails and texts along with the GPS location of your car to three phone numbers you set up ahead of time.

“You can’t ignore it, it’s not something you can turn off,” said Jennifer.

"It actually happened to me today," recalled Brittany.

"I had her with me but I left my phone in the car and I came back to the car and my phone is blown up with alerts and it was like you need to unlock and go get your child."

Pressing a few buttons lets the app know you actually have your child and deactivates the app.

“I would rather a parent be embarrassed than devastated,” said O'Connor.

Police in Pantego have also started a campaign putting up signs around the area as a reminder to check for your kids as well.

One of the things Brittany told us is it’s especially great for the parent who doesn’t typically drive the kids around. You may be more likely to forget your child is back there — unthinkable for so many of us — but it happens far too often.

ONLINE: The BackSeat

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[When a Company Tries to Buy Your Silence]]>Tue, 10 Jul 2018 07:08:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/money+generic+Connecticut.jpg

NBC Responds to consumer complaints and holds companies accountable, but some businesses are firing back, silencing the consumers we assist.

Our stories are often about issues with products or services; the frustrated people who paid for them and how we helped. This story is about consumer disputes, too.

But you won't be reading about any of those consumers. They had to sign a confidentiality agreement, sometimes called a non-disclosure agreement or NDA, to get their refunds.

That meant no TV interview, no posts on social media — not even a word to their friends and neighbors.

Attorney Scott Kaufman sues automakers. Like us, he's seen companies hushing more consumers.

"It's horrible," Kaufman said. "What they're saying is 'Look, we've been cheating people and hurting people, but we don't want anyone to know.'"

Kaufman says agreeing to keep quiet forever puts the crosshairs on the consumer who agrees to the NDA.

"If you ever say anything to anybody," it could lead to legal trouble, Kaufman said. "What if you never did, and they say that you did? They can still sue you. You've got to hire a lawyer. It'll cost a fortune."

If you're ever faced with non-disclosure, what can you do about it?

Santa Clara University law professor Anna Han says consumers may be able to negotiate. Confidentiality is sometimes just one part of a written settlement.

"If you think about it, all this is to the benefit of the company," Han said. "The consumer can say, 'I won't agree to this provision.' You can cross it out. You can initial it, have the other party initial it — it's no longer in the contract."

It's possible a business might still insist on confidentiality.

University of San Francisco law professor Robert Talbot says this is where consumers can determine how much their silence is worth.

"Depends on the money," Talbot said. "Depends on how mad I am."

Kaufman agrees. He says consumers should tell the company to pay them above and beyond the refund in exchange for their silence.

"Ask for maybe $10,000 to sign [an NDA]", he said.

In addition to cash, Kaufman says consumers should weigh whether they're also signing away their right to file a complaint with the government.

New consumer protection laws arise from consumers' reports to regulators. Han says consumers could be signing away their chance to warn others about a defective product or a deceptive service.

"If it turns into something more than your particular case, like a massive class-action or a real product liability situation, you're silenced," Han said. "The manufacturer gets away with things that perhaps they shouldn't."

Attorneys we spoke with offered differing opinions, but they all agree on this: Get expert advice. If you're asked to keep something confidential, you probably want to have a lawyer look at it to make sure your silence is in your best interest.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Customers Say Local Auto Parts Shop is 'Ripping People Off']]>Mon, 09 Jul 2018 18:03:20 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/A1-engines.jpg

When Danny Williams bought his used truck he said he knew it needed some work but that he was up for the challenge to get it ready for Texas roads.

"I had a blown up engine and so I reached out to A-1 Engines," Williams said.

Based on the name of the business, he thought it would be a one-stop shop.

Williams said he paid $1,800 for an engine and was told it would be delivered to his mechanic the next morning. But the following day, he said the engine never came.

"No engine," Williams said. "I called back and they said, 'We had a problem with the engine, so it’s going to take another couple days for us to get another one.'"

That's when Williams said he got in touch with the owner, Chris Nasrallah.

"He started saying, the next day, the next day and the next day," Williams explained.

After two weeks, Williams said he finally got an engine -- but there was another problem.

"That’s not the right engine," said Williams.  "It was for a car, not for a truck.  So, I delivered it right back to A-1 Engines that afternoon.

He said the employees at the shop agreed that it wasn't the right engine.

Nearly two months after making his purchase, Williams told NBC 5 Responds the owner is still giving him the runaround about his engine.

"I’ve been in the store. One day there were 10 people waiting there that had the same problem as me," he said.

One of those people was Alejandro Hernandez, of Arlington, who said he worked with Nasrallah directly and paid him a $400 deposit for a transmission and another $500 when it was delivered.

But on delivery day, Hernandez said he got the wrong part. He sent the part back and eventually got another one that he said was the same transmission, cleaned and painted.

Hernandez said he went to the shop and confronted the owner about it, but he said Nasrallah told him to get out and told him, "No refunds."

"He don’t have a heart," Hernandez said. "Not on us. Not on you. Not on no customers that go in there. He thinking of himself."

NBC 5 Responds has received a total of five complaints from consumers who are demanding refunds from this business.

A-1 Engines, which we're told also goes by A-1 Parts Shop and A-1 Parts Stop, has an "F" with the Better Business Bureau and one star on Yelp.

One person online said, “Please save your time and money and go elsewhere !!!!!...The owner Chris is extremely rude and a blatant liar.”

Another consumer on Google reviews writes, “Be careful the owner Chris is a thief, do not buy anything here."

We called A-1 Engines and a woman confirmed the owner’s name is Chris.

Chris, the owner, returned NBC 5 Responds' call and said, "We sell used parts and when people buy parts there's an understanding that there's a no cash refund policy. It's posted on the receipt."

When asked about the negative reviews online, the owner said people can write whatever they want online and added, "We've been in business for 15 years."

He told us he was not the owner of A-1 Parts Stop. When we asked him if he was the owner of A-1 Engines and Transmissions, he said, "Don't worry about my title."

He said customers with valid complaints can come by and get their money back. "I'm a business man. I know what I'm doing," he said.

That same day, Williams and Hernandez went to the shop and got refund checks. But when they went to the bank later that week they said the checks wouldn’t clear.

"Everything he says is just a blatant lie," said Williams, who added that he tried calling the police. "They said, 'if you get in there and get in a fight you can call us. But it’s a civil matter.' This guy is just out to rip you off."

We called the shop and asked them about those checks that wouldn't clear. An employee told us to have the consumers call them and they’d handle it. A few hours later all of the people we heard from got their money back in cash.

That’s $4,841 recovered for those consumers.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Family Spends Days Going Back & Forth With Warranty Company]]>Mon, 09 Jul 2018 07:15:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/home-warranty-hvac.jpg

It’s so hot inside Ron McGuffey’s home, he would go outside just to catch a breeze.
"It was horrible I’ve got a heart condition," said McGuffey.
After his air conditioning unit broke his service provider sent a repairman.]]>
<![CDATA[Family Fights Warranty Company Over Failed HVAC]]>Mon, 09 Jul 2018 07:17:03 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/home-warranty-hvac.jpg

It’s so hot inside Ron McGuffey’s home, he would go outside just to catch a breeze.

"It was horrible I’ve got a heart condition," said McGuffey.

After his air conditioning unit broke his service provider sent a repairman.

"It wasn’t working because it wasn’t getting enough juice to kick it over," said McGuffey.

McGuffey says they replaced a starter and the unit came to life but a day later was just blowing warm air.

So, they called the company back and this time the tech reported that the compressor was broken and it would have to be rebuilt which is a long and costly process and something that needed approval from the warranty company.

"My son has spent about 20 hours on the phone begging and imploring just doing anything to try to get us out of this mess," he said.

They called NBC 5 Responds. We contacted the warranty company and a check for $1,700 was issued in a matter of hours.

The warranty company apologized and said due to the high temperature, and health concerns they would make the payment but said it was important to note the technician they sent out had been in business for nearly 10 years and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

They still cut the check letting McGuffey hire his own service company who did the job is less than an hour.

"All somebody has to do is go to a supply house and buy a compressor and put it in. It’s two copper pipes and four bolts. This is not that hard," said Dave Hendrickson.

The new company replaced the compressor with a certified used one. The old system hauled away and another one doing the work… and a more efficient unit at that.

Service contracts, and home warranties often have complex details about what’s covered and what’s not. The tech and the company usually have to go back and forth and figure out a way to fix things under your contract. Sometimes that takes time and doesn’t always allow for using used parts.

If you want the most control, consider a savings account so you can make choices on your own and if you’re in the middle of a service contract and things aren’t moving quickly.

Call and explain the current weather situation any health issues and ask how to resolve the matter immediately.

Many contracts will issue a cash payout to help you move things along more quickly.

<![CDATA[Ways to Reduce Your Electricity Bill in the Summer]]>Mon, 09 Jul 2018 04:39:46 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/electric+smart+meter.JPG

Chances are pretty good that your recent energy bill is a bit higher that you'd what you'd like, and the North Texas heat is likely to blame.

But believe it or not, there are some easy ways to save no matter what it's like outside.

If you find yourself getting hot at night, but you want to give your a/c a break, try reversing your fan so that it's spinning counter clockwise.

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," said Leticia Castellanos, Vice President of Energy at Stream Energy.

She said your cool 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.  But if you have pets, caulk may be a better option.

You'll also want to keep your home's blinds closed in the summer, and open in the winter.

This will reduce the amount of energy your HVAC system has to use.               

Also, items 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.

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

If the filters are dirty, it could take more energy to get the air through, costing you more money.

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

You can also clean the filters on your a/c window unit. Simply vacuum the heavy debris with an upholstery brush, rinse the filters with soapy water, allow them to dry and re-install for optimum air flow.

Consider getting a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats can lower or turn off the a/c when no one is home and set it so your home is comfortable when you return.

These adjustments can help lower your bills by as much as 10 percent.

Some models also offer sensors to prevent different parts of the house from getting too warm or too cold.

<![CDATA[Computer Warranty Expires During Dispute Over Repair]]>Fri, 06 Jul 2018 16:06:45 -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[Hackers Targeting Real Estate Transactions]]>Fri, 06 Jul 2018 06:35:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/WEBConsumer_3308269.JPEG

A sophisticated scam targeting homebuyers robbed a couple of their life savings, and real estate experts say everyone shopping for a place to live is at risk.

NBC Bay Area spoke with multiple homebuyers who fell victim to the same scheme: hackers, intercepting emails and spoofing agents, conned them into sending their down payments to the thieves' bank accounts. By the time the victim realizes what has happened, the money — and the crooks — are long gone.

Among the victims is Cindy Bernal. The San Jose grandmother told us she has had enough of the cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"Our rent is currently $1,500," she said. "They're going to raise it up, double."

Cindy's daughter and grandchildren live in Ohio, where housing is substantially cheaper. She found an ideal new home for herself and her husband: a three-bedroom, 980-square-foot house south of Cleveland. The asking price: about $28,000. Not enough for even a down payment in much of Northern California, but typical of the rural Midwest.

"I put in an offer the same day with the agent, and that was it," Cindy said.

To Cindy's delight, her offer of $25,400 was accepted. She decided to pay cash — one payment, with no mortgage — and it came from her retirement savings.

"I was just happy when I got the house," Cindy said.

On May 10, Cindy says she got an email telling her where to wire the down payment funds. She followed the instructions, transferring the $25,400 payment to an account at a bank in Mesquite.

Four days later, Cindy's life turned upside-down.

Her real estate agent called early the morning of May 14 with alarming news: she needed to head to her bank, immediately.

"I said, 'What's going on?'" Cindy told us. "He goes, 'It was a fraudulent account. The other Realtor's account was hacked. You need to run to the bank now, and stop the transaction.' I just ran out the door and ran to the bank and turned off the transaction, and I thought it was done from there."

Her ordeal was far from over. After days of back-and-forth with her bank in California and the bank in Mesquite, Cindy learned the funds were drained from the fraudsters' account. Less than $250 remained of her life savings.

"It's gone," Cindy said, between tears. "I have $244.39 out of $25,340. And that's all I had. That was my retirement fund. I pulled out all my money."

Cindy is not alone. Dave Walsh, Treasurer for the California Association of Realtors, says the problem of real estate wire fraud is growing.

"It is a horrible situation that's going on statewide," Walsh said. "It's going on nationally."

Walsh says hackers are now targeting virtually every homebuyer, seller, and agent — in an effort to capture the huge sums of money trading hands.

"When you realize that’s the depth of the thieves’ efforts to get into — to breach these data firewalls — it’s endless," Walsh said. "There's bots everywhere now, and they're simply attacking any server, including the real estate professionals' servers, for any kind of data they can get."

Using information they get from those private servers, scammers then fabricate documents that trick mortgage brokers, title agents, real estate agents, and consumers into wiring money to the wrong place.

The California Association of Realtors says home buyers need to protect themselves: 

Always call and verify everything, before sending any money.

Call your agent, the seller's agent, the escrow officer, and the title company — everyone!

Double-check account names and numbers.

Call everyone again immediately after the transfer.

"If you just simply trust the wiring systems based upon getting a single call or a single email, there could be problems," Walsh said.

As for Cindy, she hit a wall with banks, brokers, and even police. That's when she turned to NBC Bay Area.

We contacted both Cindy's real estate agent and the house seller's agent. Both firms blamed each other.

The seller's agent, Jeffrey First of First Realty, insisted he sent the proper financial instructions to Cindy's agent before Cindy received the bogus instructions.

By email, First told NBC Bay Area:

The selling agent Brent Karlen received my email in the morning and did not forward that to his client. He opened this email on his cell phone, I believe that is where the breach occurred. He did forward the fraudulent email he later received later in the afternoon.

Cindy's agent, Brent Karlen of RE/MAX Edge Realty, told Cindy that First was to blame. An attorney representing RE/MAX Edge Realty told NBC Bay Area by email:

Our preliminary investigation indicates that the fraudulent wire instructions were initiated by an unknown third party who was able to hack the email account of the listing agent, Jeff First of First Realty, and send a fraudulent email from this account to Brent Karlen. As the email came from Mr. First’s correct email address, Mr. Karlen had no reason to suspect that the email was not legitimate. 

NBC Bay Area asked both agencies what they will do to get Cindy her money back. Jeffrey First did not offer an answer. The attorney for RE/MAX Edge Realty provided this statement:

RE/MAX Edge has fully cooperated with Ms. Bernal and the authorities and will continue to provide any assistance it can as the investigation continues with the goal of helping Ms. Bernal be made whole by the party or parties responsible for the fraud.

<![CDATA[Alternatives to Home Warranties]]>Mon, 23 Jul 2018 17:46:11 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/HOME+WARRANTY+ALTERNATIVE.jpg

Their stories just keep coming in. People who bought home warranties, pay a monthly fee and say their warranty doesn't pay.

The producers in our consumer investigative center have investigated more than 50 complaints this year about home warranties not living up to their promises.

Connie Self knew she had a leak in a pipe in her wall, not under the house like her home warranty tech insisted.

She called someone else and paid out of her pocket.

"No digging under the house. It was exactly in the wall where I knew it was gonna be, like, exactly," Said Self.

Phylissia Clark with the Better Business Bureau suggests you do as much research as you can, including deciding if you even need a home warranty.

“We always say check to see if your appliances are still under warranty, the manufacturer may have a warranty, they may have an extended warranty you choose to get. Sometimes your credit card may warranty some items,” said Clark.

Many home warranties require both a monthly payment and a service fee you must pay every time you use the plan.

If you take that money and put it in a plain ole savings account in one year you could have enough money saved up to cover many expenses.

If you have a large number of older appliances, or an old a/c system a home warranty could still be a good choice.

There are things to look out for.

“The thing that causes most complaints with home warranties is a misunderstanding of what's actually covered,” said Clark.

The company Complete Appliance Protection spells out relatively clearly what's covered and doesn't charge fees or deductibles. They also say they will not turn you down for failing to maintain an appliance which is a common complaint with many companies.

There's a different company called Super which is more like an insurance plan, with a set spending limit for the year.

You know what you can spend on a covered item and they claim they're not big fans of repairing.

“We're looking to retain the customer over the entire lifespan of the home so we may replace earlier because it saves us money over a period of time,” said Jorey Ramer, CEO of Super.

Both of those companies can be more expensive than many other traditional home warranty companies.

Take the time to survey your home, examine the condition of your equipment, and then make a choice about what works for you.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Dozens of DFW Gas Stations to Refund Customers]]>Thu, 05 Jul 2018 20:56:23 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GAS+PUMP+GENERIC2.jpg

Dozens of North Texas gas stations accused of price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Harvey will pay refunds to consumers, attorney general Ken Paxton's office announced Thursday.

In a news release, Paxton's office said 48 businesses, most of which are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, will pay $162,592 in civil restitution in what Paxton called "Assurances of Voluntary Compliance."

All 48 gas stations charged $3.99 or higher for a gallon of gasoline or diesel, the release said. Some stations allegedly charged as much as $8.99 per gallon.

“The response to Hurricane Harvey showed the incredible generosity of Texans. These settlements should teach the few who take advantage of their fellow residents to follow the law in the future,” Paxton stated in a news release.

Each gas station listed below has agreed not to price gouge in the future and to pay restitution to consumers.

Customers who believe they were victims of price gouging should fill out and submit a claim form. Forms will be accepted until Sept. 10, 2018.

The payout amounts will vary depending on the gallons purchased, price paid for gas and the amount available in the restitution fund.

ONLINE: Download the Claim Form
ONLINE: Download the list of gas stations named in settlement

<![CDATA[NBC 5 Investigates Complaints Against Auto Insurance Company]]>Thu, 05 Jul 2018 06:07:19 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-accc-car-insurance.jpg

Consumers have told NBC 5 Responds that there’s one auto insurance company that’s leaving Texas drivers high and dry.

"I'm in a man’s world doing a man’s job and I do it really, really well," said Susan Phelan, who calls herself one heck of a driver.

But earlier this year she was involved in a car accident. Phelan said she was putting air in one of her tires when someone backed into her, putting a hole in her bumper. 

Phelan said the man had insurance through ACCC, a Texas-based insurance company, and he gave her his policy information. 

An adjuster came out to take pictures, but days later, Phelan said the company never followed up. 

When she called ACCC, she said she wasn’t getting answers.

"I tried to get in touch with the gentleman that hit me and ask him what he wants to do," Phelan recalled.

She said the driver agreed to meet with her, but he was a no show.

The following month, she got a letter from ACCC, informing her that they were "unable to honor her claim at this time." 

ACCC said it tried to make numerous attempts to contact their insured customer regarding the accident, but he’s unwilling to cooperate. 

Phelan said that’s not her problem. She feels the company should pay her claim, whether they can reach the man or not.

"I’m more angry than what I realized I was," she said.

And she’s not the only consumer angry with ACCC.

Jeremiah Samkpakra said another driver hit him in a parking lot, and that driver was also insured by ACCC. 

The company denied his claim because their insured driver “is not the proximate cause of this accident…”

Samkpakra went to small claims court and got a judgment against the other driver for $4,000, with interest. 

He said he sent it to ACCC, and was still denied.

When asked, an attorney for ACCC didn’t provide many details on the case, but said the company has been in contact with Samkpakra and is working toward a resolution. 

"They told me we are calling you because we have been contacted by NBC Samantha," Samkpakra explained.

Not long after, ACCC ended up offering Samkpakra $2,100.

He reluctantly took it, but said it’s still not enough to cover repairs.

"My car is still damaged. It’s a Lexus! Lexus is very expensive," he said.

The Texas Department of Insurance has received 141 complaints against ACCC, which they say is “above average.” 

ACCC currently has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas, with 49 complaints received in the last three years.

With Samkpakra's partial resolution and Phelan with no resolution at all, their warning to consumers is clear:

"Don’t deal with this company if you don’t have to. But we didn’t have a choice; I didn’t have a choice," warned Phelan.

ACCC told NBC 5 Responds, in Phelan's case, the adjuster will keep trying to contact the insured and they’ll follow up with her directly.

We asked ACCC about those negative reviews with the BBB and the Texas Department of Insurance, and we haven’t heard back.

If you’ve had problems with ACCC, the Texas Department of Insurance wants to hear from you. Please fill out the Consumer Complaint Form found online at nbcdfw.com/responds.

For more information from the Texas Department of Insurance, click here.

ONLINE: Consumer Complaint Form

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Impersonators Offer Mystery Shopper Jobs]]>Wed, 04 Jul 2018 13:57:37 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/new+money+gif.gif

Scammers are using offers for mystery shopper jobs to try to scam you out of your own money.

Dave Murray, a businessman, was interested in becoming a mystery shopper.

"I just look for things to do to stay busy," he said.

Murray received an email about a mystery shopping job that would pay him $500 for half a day of work.

"So it's called 'Secret Shopper,'" Murray said.

The company, Secret Shopper, is a legitimate company that hires mystery shoppers, but the email Murray received was fake and sent by someone using Secret Shopper's name.

There is an alert on the real Secret Shopper website warning people someone is falsely using the company's name to send counterfeit checks and have money sent back to them.

"A paycheck came in the mail, certified mail, for $3,955," Murray said. "I told them slow your roll — back your truck up a little bit. That's not how I work."

The fake company wanted Murray to buy gift cards at stores, and then give them the gift card numbers.

"I responded by saying, 'Well let's do this, I'm going to go ahead and cash this check, and once the money is in my account, then I'll go ahead,'" Murray said.

Murray wanted to wait until he received verification from the bank the check was real, and he never heard back from the fake company.

The real Secret Shopper company says it never reaches out to people via email, and people can only shop with them by applying online through the Secret Shopper website.

Murray said he wants to warn people from being scammed by the same fake company.

"Don't send any of your money until your bank can confirm you have that cash and there's no chance of return," Murray said.

<![CDATA[Woman Claims Airbnb Ignores Fake Listings]]>Tue, 03 Jul 2018 04:29:15 -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[Movers Dent Arlington Woman's Fridge, NBC 5 Responds to Help]]>Mon, 02 Jul 2018 17:41:46 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/refrigerator+repair.jpg

When a moving company dented an Arlington woman's refrigerator, she wanted answers, so she called NBC 5 Responds to help.

Janie Peddicord said she hired Two Men & a Truck to help her with a recent move. She said things went off without a hitch except for nine dents in the front of her refrigerator.

Peddicord looked over her contract with the company. She had paid for insurance to cover anything like this and reached out to the company for help.

She filed her claim and waited and waited. It turns out during that time the moving company was sold.

Her contract didn't specify what happened if something like that took place.

She said the new owners were trying to get in touch with the old to get them to handle the problem but she kept waiting with a dented fridge.

She then contacted NBC 5 Responds. That's when the new owners of Two Men and A Truck said even though this happened long before they owned the company, they stand by their moves and their word.

They bought Peddicord a new refrigerator and hauled away the old one as well.

Peddicord couldn't be happier. She said the new owners truly made it right and she wouldn't hesitate to do business with them again.

Here's what you should know if you end up in a similar situation. Companies can be sold at any point in time and when that happens your coverage could be sold to the new owner or stay with old. It depends on every individual deal.

It can’t hurt to ask a company what will happen if their business is sold. If they make you a promise get it writing.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Arlington Man Says Hertz Wrongfully Charged $129 for Fuel]]>Mon, 02 Jul 2018 07:54:10 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/hertz-gas-overcharge.jpg

Rick Longoria was involved in a minor crash that damaged his truck. But fortunately for him, the other driver was insured.

"I had to put my truck in the shop and her insurance set me up with a rental car to drive while my truck was getting fixed," he said.

He picked up a rental truck from Hertz in Arlington.

"When I picked it up, it was around three-quarters of a tank full," he explained.

And he said that's exactly how he returned the truck: three-quarters of a tank full.

Longoria said Hertz let him drop the truck off at the local auto shop where his vehicle was being serviced. He said there was no Hertz employee at the auto shop, but didn't think there would be any problems.

A few days later, he noticed a fuel charge on his account for $129.

Longoria went online and saw other complaints from consumers about Hertz fuel charges, so he called the company.

He said an agent told him to send a receipt proving he got fuel for the truck.

Longoria had a receipt, but said the burden of proof was on Hertz, so he asked the agent for a picture of the fuel gauge in exchange for his receipt.

He said the agent couldn't provide the picture.

"He said he was going to turn in the paperwork to get it reversed. Once I gave him a few days and called him back, nothing was ever done," Longoria explained.

He said he called Hertz back, only to find out the paperwork had never been filed.

And after several failed attempts to get the charge reversed, he called the NBC 5 Responds team.

We reached out to Hertz and the company emailed the consumer directly.

The company said "the employee who checked in your rental failed to document our records related to the fuel charge. The employee is currently on leave therefore they are unable to speak with him to get the details. In an effort to regain your confidence in Hertz and to bring this matter to a close, I have issued a refund for the fuel in the amount of $129.87."

We wanted to know how Hertz came up with that $129 for fuel in the first place.

The company said that when a customer doesn't refuel before returning the car, Hertz will refuel it for them until the vehicle is full. Hertz said the truck required 13 gallons of gas.

Hertz said the charge covers administrative, labor and product costs associated with refueling the tank for the customer.

Hertz confirmed that customers are not required to show a receipt for proof of fuel.

Here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

  • Keep your receipt, just in case something like this happens to you.
  • Take a picture of the gas gauge when you pick up and drop off the rental.
  • Always read your rental policy, or ask an employee to explain what you're signing.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[New Rule Helps Combat High-Interest Payday Loans]]>Fri, 29 Jun 2018 16:02:17 -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[Petition to Change HOA's Roof Ruling Gaining Signatures]]>Fri, 29 Jun 2018 07:18:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-homeowner-hoa-battle.jpg

Residents of the Tehama Ridge community are calling on their HOA to approve the Mike Luna's roof.

Luna purchased his Fort Worth home back in 2016. He said the North Texas storm season in 2017 showed no mercy on his roof, so he brought in his neighborhood roofer to make the repairs.

"When he was on the roof he had said he noticed that there is actually a lot more damage from some previous hail storms," he said.

Luna said he and his wife went over some colors for new shingles and decided to go with a shade of grey. But about a week later, he received a violation.

According to the Tehama Ridge HOA, Luna didn't get approval to alter his roof.

The second problem is the color he chose, which he said was a shade of grey.

He didn't see a problem with his choice.

"Especially since other homes in the neighborhood have a very similar colored roof," he said. "My own roofer, who lives in the community, has a very similar colored roof."

Luna said the bylaws are full of contradictions.

In one section, Luna said, the bylaws say property owners need prior approval for home alterations, but in another section it said for roof materials, like shingles, permission is "encouraged, but not required."

As for the color, per the bylaws, the HOA allows weatherwood or an earth tone color, which Luna thought he had.

"Grey is considered an earth tone color," he said. "If anyone searches weatherwood, they're going to find an array of different colors."

Nearly 200 homeowners have signed this petition on change.org. Many believe the color of the new roof is just fine and blends nicely with the other roofs in the community.

They are urging the HOA to approve his roof immediately.

Luna has sent the HOA another letter disputing its decision.

ONLINE: Petition to approve Tehama Ridge resident Mike Jason's new roof

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[New Federal Student Loans Will Get More Expensive July 1]]>Fri, 29 Jun 2018 06:58:00 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/RESPONDS+STUDENT+LOAN+DEBT+-+00012925_31002899.jpg

The cost of federal student loans will be more expensive.

The government sets annual interest rates on student loans every year, but this year’s increase was bigger than expected.

Starting on July 1, interest rates on new undergraduate loans will go from 4.45 percent to 5.05 percent.

Parent Plus loans are going from 7 percent to 7.6 percent.

"What this means for people taking out loans for their education is an increase over a 10-year period of time could be $1,000, $2,000, $3,000, $4,000," said financial expert Steve Ringo. 

He said students and parents should estimate their monthly payment and figure out how long it’s going to take you to start paying it off.

This increase doesn’t affect existing loans, just the ones that will be issued starting July 1.

For more information on how to plan, click here.

<![CDATA[Plano Couple Loses $17,000 In Online Car Scheme]]>Thu, 28 Jun 2018 17:49:31 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/online+car+scheme.jpg

The FBI is warning consumers nationwide of a surge in complaints regarding phony online car transactions.

Scott Sessions is a classic car guy.

"From Detroit, Michigan. Blue collar guy. Grew up around cars," said Sessions.

His grandpa had classic cars and when he saw a classified listing for this replica of a 66 Shelby Cobra he had to have it. Just ask his fiancé.

"It was basically a body over top of a nice engine that he liked. I don’t know," said Andrea Deniset.

She knows Scott and this was his dream car. The car was listed on the website hotclassicdeals.com.

Sessions contacted the seller.

The seller wanted to use a third party to conduct the business deal and deliver the car.

Elkhorn Express Transport Company was that third party. They have a website, and you can just dial the number and there’s a phone tree to get to various members of the staff.

The couple wired $17,000 to Elkhorn Express’ bank account. They received a confirmation, even a tracking map showing the car was headed to Texas.

The tracking map stopped moving after a few days and calls to Elkhorn Express were ignored.

"He (Sessions) was like 'what’s the matter' and then I said to him and it sort of just all came out and (I) said 'what if all of this is a scam,'" said Deniset.

They didn’t sleep well that night, wound up going online and researching the company more and found other people who bought cars and never got them.

One woman wrote she bought a 1955 Nash Metro. She said she wired the money to Elkhorn Express and never got her classic car.

As it all unraveled, it became clear how big of an operation this was.

The transport company with the fancy website and call tree system appears fake.

It’s listed address is a big open field with no registered business license.

There are other actual reputable transportation companies out there with similar names to “Elkhorn Express” but none of them are connected to this specific website.

The seller exists but whoever is behind this scheme was simply using his name and a phony email address.

The website where the ad was taken out for the car has many online complaints from others who say the cars they bought never showed up.

Every person connected to the deal has disappeared along with Scott and Andrea’s $17,000.

The FBI is also warning buyers about online car scams with more then 30,000 complaints and $54,000,000 stolen as thieves start taking car shoppers for a ride.

All cars should have a VIN number, even replicas, but there are reports these can be fake too.

So when buying a car out of state, invest the money to go and see it.

A $300 plane ticket gives you a chance to inspect the car, meet the seller, and know what you’re getting into.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[ICYMI: Scammers Get Grandma to Pay $4K in Gift Cards]]>Thu, 28 Jun 2018 04:55:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Mary-Joyce-Kirk.jpg

Most of us have heard of the Grandparent Scam, it's a scheme that tricks seniors into wiring money over the phone to get a relative out of harm's way.

While it's been around for years, some of the folks behind it aren’t just asking for credit card numbers to rip off your loved ones, they want gift cards too.

“I've just been a little honest girl all my life,” she said.

People in Springtown describe 80-year-old Mary Joyce Kirk as funny, kind and sweet as pie. She’s also very giving. So, when she got a call that her grandson was in trouble, she was determined to help rescue him.

“Joseph needs help, say that he's in jail. And I said where at? Fort Worth? Weatherford? Said he's Fort Worth.” she explained. “They wouldn't tell me what for or nothing else and they wouldn't let me talk to Joseph.”

The person on the phone was vague about what he'd done, but quite clear about what they needed to release him.

“I needed to go to Walmart and purchase a thousand-dollar gift card,” Kirk was told.

She went to Walmart and bought a gift card for $1,000.

“I got back home and they had me tear off this little card and read the number to them.  Then they said well, he's got more fines against him so that we need another thousand. So I went back and got another thousand,” she said.

She made four trips to Walmart, buying a total of $4,500 in gift cards and read the numbers off to the caller.

“Then I said well if you need anymore, you're out of luck. He just has to stay in jail cause memaw is out of money,” she said.

The person over the phone told her the fines were all paid off and that her grandson was being released.

“So I went out there and sat on that front porch on one of those chairs about two hours waiting for him,” said Kirk.

But her grandson never came.

“Oh thunder, this is a big lie too. They're not coming with Joseph,” she realized.

News about the scam traveled quickly and Kirk’s children were furious.

They filed a police report with the Reno Police Department in Parker County and reached out to Walmart, who said there was nothing they could do, according to the family.

“You know she doesn't do anything wrong. She walks on water,” Kirk’s daughter said of her mother. “I feel sorry for them because karma's not a good thing.”

But Kirk isn’t feeling sorry for herself.

“Well honey, it isn’t gonna do no good to cry, and if that's the worst thing that ever happened to me, I'll make it,” she said.

The FTC calls this the "Family Emergency Scam."

Samantha Chatman's Solutions to avoid being a victim of this scheme:

  • If you get a call saying a loved one is in trouble, don't act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine.
  • Check the story out with someone else in your family.
  • Don't wire money over the phone and don't pay anyone in gift cards.
  • Report possible fraud at FTC.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Security Risks From Your Internet Router]]>Tue, 26 Jun 2018 17:37:22 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/Malware_Could_Affect_Your_Router.jpg

You might have heard about the malware, believed to be Russia-linked, that is targeting WiFi routers around the world. The FBI is urging people to take immediate action by re-setting their routers. The malware has infected more than half-a-million routers, in at least 54 countries and the threat is potentially growing. It’s called VPN-Filter and even security experts cannot be sure who is vulnerable.

Consumer Reports says that one thing is certain, router security is more important than ever, because all the information from your computer and your devices flows right through it. That means your Facebook messages, your banking information, your credit card information, all of it goes through your router. So if there’s a breach, that’s really bad.

To fix the problem, the security team at Consumer Reports agrees with the Feds, start by resetting your router. Unplug it, wait 20 seconds or so and start it up again. But Consumer Reports says don’t stop there.

It’s also smart to reset your router’s administrative password, the password you use to log in to the router itself. Make it something strong. Also, go into the router’s settings and turn off the remote access feature.

And then, update your firmware. Unlike a laptop or a smartphone, most older routers don’t notify you if there’s an update available. So it’s really up to you to check, every three or four months, whether there’s an update available on your manufacturer’s website.

Too much of a hassle? Replace your old router with a new one that updates automatically. Routers from Netgear, Eero, Google, and Linksys all offer an option to take care of updates for you. A router with the latest updates is less vulnerable to malware.

As the story is evolving, it’s becoming clearer every day that this malware is more pervasive and more capable of damage than anyone first realized. Consumer Reports says if you want to be completely sure your system is clean and no longer housing nor spreading the malware, the best thing to do is a factory reset on your router. This will revert it back to the way it was when it came from the factory. But while this will be removing both the malware and the settings it was relying on to operate, it will also remove your settings. Which means you have to set-up your whole system again, passwords, wireless network and all.

<![CDATA[The Good, the Bad and the Ugly About Home Inspectors]]>Tue, 26 Jun 2018 07:12:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz5-home+inspectors_KXASHUGA_2018-06-26-05-45-35.jpg

National consumer group Checkbook.org put a dozen home inspectors to the test, watching undercover to see if they catch the 28 problems lurking inside and outside a home.

Some of the trouble spots were pre-existing like rodents, mold in the basement, rotting wood and a damaged roof.

Other issues intentionally created by Checkbook in a Northern Virginia home may be harder to spot, like a missing fire place damper and a clogged utility sink.

The results, according to the group, disappointing at best.

Checkbook said in many cases, the inspectors didn’t look at certain areas to begin with.

"It’s not that they missed that the window didn’t open and shut, it’s that they didn’t bother testing every single window. Very few of them raised a ladder to look at this roof, which was a second story roof that had all kinds of problems with it."

Among its findings, Checkbook says several did only cursory inspections of the furnace and water heater.

Five inspectors didn’t inspect all the window A/C units. Only three checked the filters, which Checkbook says were filthy.

Four inspectors failed to record obvious water damage to the living room ceiling.

Four didn’t bother to test every indoor electrical outlet.

While many home inspection companies say they're not responsible for inspecting chimneys, Checkbook says it was still surprising that four failed to spot the damper was missing.

What about cost?

Checkbook says it found big price differences among inspectors

"Some charged twice as much as others. Some spent a lot of time in the house, more than 2-3 hours in the house, some spent only 90 minutes there," a spokesperson said.

Bottom line: Paying more doesn't necessarily mean consumers will get more.

To avoid these issues, here are Samantha Chatman's solutions:

-Don’t rely solely on your realtor’s reference. Do your own research on the home inspector.

-That includes checking their license number with the Texas Real Estate Commission online.

-Ask for a sample report. We’re told good inspectors usually have long reports (50 plus pages) including pictures.

-Make sure you’re present during the home inspection so you can ask questions or raise concerns in person.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Contractor Paid Up Front, Doesn't Finish Pool]]>Mon, 25 Jun 2018 18:21:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/pool-problems-062418.jpg

Kirk Hardwick is remodeling his home and wanted to redo the backyard.

Last year he hired Ryan Gaston of DeckScapes to replace the concrete around his pool for $12,400.

Most of the job was done, but Hardwick said the crew drained his pool to get the work done and used it as a trash can to collect the old material they dug up.

They left chunks of concrete and other material in the pool.

There are little drops of concrete on the pool floor making it uneven. They are all things Hardwick said Ryan promised he would make right on the final walk through.

"We were going to meet, go through a couple checklist, punch list items and I haven't heard from him," Hardwick said.

Hardwick paid for the whole job, minus a final $500. But he said the repair work that needs to be done is much more than that amount.

"I've texted him, emailed him, I've got his business email," Hardwick said.

He called NBC 5 Responds and we found he wasn't alone.

Gaston owned two other companies, Gaston Concrete and Classy Crete.

Classy Crete has a D- from the Better Business Bureau and both businesses have reviews that sounded familiar.

One woman wrote, "There were large splashes of concrete on the brick."

She also said, "We have numerous cracks in the patio," and "the owner has refused to answer my calls, texts and emails."

We called Gaston about Mr. Hardwick's yard and he apologized saying he was working offshore on oil rigs and would make it right.

He came back, promised to finish the job and set a date to do it.

But the date came and went and further calls from us and Mr. Hardwick have been ignored for weeks.

Summer has come around again and Hardwick has no usable pool.

"I don't want any retribution or anything above and beyond, I just want it finished," Hardwick said.

We often hear complaints involving contractors where most of the money is paid before the job is completed and the contractor doesn't show up for the last little bit.

When signing contracts, pay close attention to the pay structure and try to pay for as much of the job as possible after all the work is completed.

Hardwick got recommendations from a friend about Gaston's company. He didn't take the time to research himself. A simple Google search would have turned up reviews, which may have given him second thoughts.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Denton Woman Escapes Burning Kia]]>Mon, 25 Jun 2018 07:10:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/kia-car-fires.jpg

Amy McDade was driving south on Interstate 35 when all of a sudden she said a woman started honking, waiving for her to pull over.

McDade said she figured it was road rage, so she continued driving. But the other woman on the road kept following her.

"She is relentless on trying to get me to pull over," McDade explained.

She eventually got off at the nearest exit to see what the woman wanted.

"I open my car door to get out and there’s flames all underneath the car," she said. "I was just terrified. I couldn’t believe it."

With the exception of a small burn on her leg, McDade said she got out safely.  But about 30 seconds later, her 2013 Kia Optima Hybrid was covered in flames.

"How could this be happening. I just had the car fixed," she said.

Three weeks before the incident, McDade said her car broke down on I-35. She said she had it towed to her local Kia dealership and was told it was an electrical issue. McDade said 10 days later, the dealership said car was good to go.

McDade believes she’s lucky to be alive.

"If you search online and look up Kia, you can find stories about fires," said McDade.

We found several reports online from consumers who say their Kia spontaneously caught on fire.

The Center for Auto Safety, an independent consumer advocacy organization, is also raising concerns with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about Kias going up in flames:

“There have been more than 100 consumer complaints of non-collision fires submitted to NHTSA regarding these vehicles and 200 complaints of melted wires in the engine bay, smoke, and burning odors…Altogether, more than 2.2 million of these vehicles were manufactured during model years 2011-2014.”

"I’m in disbelief because Kia had told us it must be an isolated incident. We’ve never heard of this happening before," McDade explained.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) Is also demanding answers.

"Can you imagine if you put your car in the garage and it burst into flames? It would engulf the whole house and if the family is sleeping might kill the whole family," said Senator Nelson. 

"This is a major concern, and that’s why we asked NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to get on the stick and find out what is the problem.

NHTSA tells NBC 5 it takes “all potential safety defects seriously. The agency is reviewing the issue and will take appropriate action to protect the American public.”

Meanwhile, McDade is still left with no car, no answers and a memory that haunts her every time she gets behind the wheel.

"I’m lucky I didn’t die," she said.

McDade tells us it’s been nine months and she still hasn’t been reimbursed for her car.

Kia tells NBC 5 in part, "Kia has been advised by Ms. McDade's insurance company that they have not completed their inspection of the vehicle nor have they sent a formal subrogation demand to Kia as of this date. However, Kia has requested permission to inspect the vehicle and is awaiting a response….A vehicle fire may be due to any number of complex factors which must be carefully evaluated by trained technicians to determine its cause. If the fire is determined to be the result of a Kia quality issue, KMA will work with the customer to reach a satisfactory resolution to the issue.”

We asked Kia if there was a widespread problem with its cars catching on fire. Kia simply told us that it is working with NHTSA.

Senator Nelson said Kia shouldn't wait for the consumer’s insurance company to complete its investigation before stepping in and doing its own.

NHTSA encourages consumers to report potential safety concerns to nhtsa.gov.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Man Claims HOA Preventing Him From Selling His Home]]>Fri, 22 Jun 2018 07:42:16 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dfw-hoa-roof-responds.jpg

A Fort Worth man said his homeowners association is preventing him from selling his home because they don't like the color of his new roof.

The homeowner, Mike Luna, said his homeowners association refused to give him a certificate to sell the house until he changes the roof, so he called NBC 5's Samantha Chatman to step in.

Luna purchased his Fort Worth home back in 2016. He said the North Texas storm season in 2017 showed no mercy on his roof, so he brought in his neighborhood roofer to make the repairs.

"When he was on the roof he had said he noticed that there is actually a lot more damage from some previous hail storms," he said.

Luna said he and his wife went over some colors for new shingles and decided to go with a shade of grey. But about a week later, he received a violation.

According to the Tehama Ridge HOA, Luna didn't get approval to alter his roof.

The second problem is the color he chose, which he said was a shade of grey. 

He didn't see a problem with his choice.

"Especially since other homes in the neighborhood have a very similar colored roof," he said. "My own roofer, who lives in the community, has a very similar colored roof."

Luna said the bylaws are full of contradictions.

In one section, Luna said, the bylaws say property owners need prior approval for home alterations, but in another section it said for roof materials, like shingles, permission is "encouraged, but not required."

As for the color, per the bylaws, the HOA allows weatherwood or an earth tone color, which Luna thought he had.

"Grey is considered an earth tone color," he said. "If anyone searches weatherwood, they're going to find an array of different colors."

A Google search of "weatherwood" reveals several different colors, including many shades of grey.

Luna said he brought this up to the HOA and appealed its decision, but he keeps getting denied.

He took a job in Waco and has been trying selling his home for months, but said he can't because the HOA won't hand over the certificate of resale.

"We need a blessing from the HOA to say there's no violations," he explained.

So Luna tried something else. He sent the HOA a list of color options, hoping one would work.

But he said one of the colors the HOA recently approved just so happens to be the same color that's already on his roof.

When he brought this to the their attention, he said they got mad and told him he still needs to replace that roof.

"It's taking resources away for my family because we can't sell our home," he said. "And there's no empathy whatsoever."

Luna called the NBC 5 Responds team and we called the HOA's board members. The vice president said she believes the roof is blue, not grey, but first and foremost, Luna didn't get even approval, so rules are rules.

She said 99 percent of the roofs in the community are shades of brown or grey, and in this case, Luna is wrong.

The Fort Worth man said it seems that he has two options: Take out a $5,000 loan to get a new roof or fight the HOA for as long as he can.

We brought in real estate attorney Robert Abtahi to look into this case. He said the HOA is overstepping its bounds.

"The rules that they're trying to enforce go against state law," he said. 

The attorney said it appears that the HOA is using their old 2005 bylaws to enforce the shingles issue, but other portions of the bylaws reflect current state law, and that explains the conflicting language.

He said as of 2011, HOAs cannot enforce a provision on shingles if the shingles resemble others in the community.

"Almost every HOA dispute that someone calls me about could have been resolved if there were different personalities involved. It's not a bad idea to go to a couple meetings and see what the personalities on your HOA board are like. They're going to be the ones in charge once you buy that house," he explained.

Luna said he is in contact with an attorney and hopes to have this settled soon.

Before you sign up to be a part of an HOA, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

  • Read the HOA bylaws before buying the home.
  • If you don't understand them, have an attorney walk you through it.
  • Talk to people in the community. Ask them what they think about the HOA and its rules.
  • See if you can attend an HOA meeting before you purchase the home.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![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['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[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[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.]]>